Monthly Archives: July 2012

Blown away: A brief overview of balloon fetishism

Balloon fetishes are (unsurprisingly) sexual fetishes that feature balloons as the source of sexual arousal and pleasure. Such individuals are known as ‘looners’. David Kerekes (editor of Headpress – The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion) wrote that some balloon fetishists “revel in the popping of balloons and [others] may become anxious and tearful at the very thought of popping balloons”. In her book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates also notes that other looners enjoy particular aspects of balloons such as blowing them up and/or interacting with them (e.g., rubbing up against balloons, sitting and/or lying on balloons, etc.). A quick look at a few balloon fetish websites also indicates that some looners like watching people inflate them until they burst whereas others like gigantic balloons that they can stick their head inside them (for instance, check out the pictures here which also claim that the smell or the colour of the balloon may be an important part of the fetish).

There has been very little empirical research carried out on looners and much of what is known is based on anecdotes and hearsay. Anecdotal case studies suggest that the etiology of the fetish varies from one person to the next although some claim that the behaviour can be explained by sexual imprinting where specific sexual preferences may be acquired through exposure to particular stimuli during a specific period early in life. Some looners recall that in childhood they remember being sexually aroused when they saw balloons being popped by the opposite sex (or people they had a crush on). It has also been alleged that – somewhat paradoxically – looners may have phonophobia (i.e., a fear of loud sounds) as a result of being in the vicinity of balloons popping loudly. As Dr. Ilana Simons claims in a Psychology Today article, there is an unexplained link between fetishes and phobias:

There is a deep connection between phobias, fetishes, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In each, someone has an emotion that threatens to overwhelm her… A person with a fetish handles the monster of desire by focusing not on whole people but on parts – just a shoe, or the butt, or the slit in skirts. Focus on one thing organizes or restrains multiple feelings. A person with a phobia is similarly able to contain anxiety by condensing emotion to one target”.

In an online essay (So hot and ready to pop: The world of looners), balloon fetishists comprise poppers (where popping the balloon is essential to the fetish) and non-poppers (who avoid the bursting of balloons in all instances). Katherine McIntyre recently published a paper on balloon fetishes (Looners: Inside the world of balloon fetishes) and interviewed a number of looners. One of her interviewees claimed that poppers are generally more dominant and non-poppers more submissive. However, sex therapist Paul Abramson claimed the distinction was trivial and “like trying to distinguish Miller from Bud drinkers”. McIntyre also noted that:

“The balloon fetish community extends beyond porn. Looners share stories and ask questions about their fetish on Facebook, Twitter and other Internet sites. About 1,200 people are regular members of Balloon Buddies, a popular listserv in the looner community where otherwise uncomfortable and often ashamed balloon people gather and discuss their preoccupation. Balloon Buddies was started as a pen pal group in the 1970s by a man from Maine nicknamed Buster Bill. Several thousand people have circulated through over the years”.

Even among looners who don’t have a balloon phobia, it has been claimed that may have no desire to burst the balloon because they have an anthropomorphized emotional attachment to the balloon (i.e., they attribute human characteristics to the balloon). The article also claims that balloon fetish is indirectly related to latex fetishes. Just like latex, balloons are “tactile and supple and imitate the consistency of human skin”. However, balloons have extra properties such as the ability to expand and is said to be akin “the swelling of primary and secondary sexual organs during arousal”. A Wikipedia entry on looners also claims that:

“One hallmark of the distinction between poppers and non-poppers may be in seeing balloons’ bursting either as a metaphor for orgasm, or as a metaphor for death…for fetishists the adrenaline rush associated with the ‘danger’ that a balloon will pop produces a sexual response. This helps to explain why even non-poppers who have an intense phobia of balloons popping in non-sexual contexts may be aroused by the possibility within safe sexual contexts. It may even suggest that balloon fetish, for poppers and non-poppers alike, is part of the BDSM [Bondage, Dominance, Submission, Masochism] spectrum of fetishes in which a controlled amount of danger is used to elicit a pleasurable fight or flight in participants”.

In an article for The Wave Magazine, entitled “Fetish Confessions”, Sandy Brundage interviewed self-confessed looner ‘Mike D’ about his balloon fetish. Brundage simply wanted to know why looners are so sexually aroused by balloons. Mike D – who now runs the balloon fetish video site Mellyloon that has sent out over 1,000 balloon fetish films to the Middle East, Asia, South and North America – said:

 “I’m not sure I have the answer to that. There’s always something that goes back to your childhood. Like your babysitter blew up a balloon or your mother popped your balloon. Then along comes puberty and these things that made such an impression on you as a child turn into something erotic….I’m still phobic [about balloons]. That’s where my whole fetish derived from, that fear”.

McIntyre interviewed another male looner (Shaun) who was particularly aroused by balloons because of their smell. He said:

“The smell of a room that has a lot of balloons, especially after they have oxidized over a period of a couple days, is nearly indescribable. Each brand possesses a smell as distinct to looners as perfume. The odor is subtly sweet with a hint of rubber. One sniff can identify a Rifco brand product because its latex smells slightly of chocolate chip cookies. The aroma adds to the experience, as does the feel and sound of balloons. The sensation of swimming through hundreds of balloons in my bedroom was overwhelming and amazing”.

McIntyre also noted that some looners care more about the balloon’s size, colour and brand. Some prefer solid colored balloons and others prefer transparent balloons. One looner said that size was crucial (“the bigger the better”). This particular looner claimed he could orgasm simply by blowing up a balloon until it popped.

McIntyre also interviewed Lynda, a 55-year-old teacher from Los Angeles who said that balloons were “more sensual than sexual” for her. She and her partner own three helium tanks and they sometimes fill their bedroom, living room or shower with balloons. Lynda says she traps herself in a cage she built with balloons, turns on a large fan, and allows the balloons to move around her. This she says stimulates “her senses to invigorating heights” and equates the feeling to a junkie’s high (“so intense, so wild and awesome”), and “collapses in ecstasy afterward like one does after incredible sex”. Lynda says her partner accepts her balloon fetish because “it’s not immoral, not fattening, it’s relatively cheap and brings a smile to her face”.

McIntyre also claimed in her article that most looners grew up ashamed with the belief that no-one else in the world had their sexual fetish. It was only when they found other like-minded people online that they realized they were “not alone”. This helps eliminate the looner’s feelings of isolation. This then becomes easier to tell potential partners about their fetish and helps looners to keep their behaviour under control.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Brundage, S. (2002). Fetish Confessions: Telling loved ones about your fetish is as easy as solving fractured quadratic equations. The Wave Magazine, July 31. Located at: http://web.archive.org/web/20071110095616/http://thewavemagazine.com/pagegen.php?pagename=article&articleid=22026

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.

Kerekes, D. (2010). Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 21, 142.

Malfouka (undated). So hot and ready to pop: The world of looners. Maximum Awesome. Located at: http://www.maximumawesome.com/pervfriday/looners.htm

McIntyre, K.E. (2011).  Looners: Inside the world of balloon fetishism. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, 27 April. Located at: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/40c3h6kk

Simons, I. (2009). On fetishes and clean pencil tips. Psychology Today, March 8. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-literary-mind/200903/fetishes-and-clean-pencil-tips

Wikipedia (2012). Balloon fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balloon_fetish

A crying shame: A brief overview of dacryphilia

“Lips that taste of tears, they say, are the best for kissing” (from Dorothy Parker’s 1926 poem ‘Threnody’)

Dacryphilia (also known as dacrylagnia) is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal from the sight of tears or seeing someone crying. However, some definitions appear to have been widened the definition of dacryphilia to include (i) sexual arousal from someone displaying strong emotion and/or (ii) sexual arousal from the emotional release that accompanies crying (i.e., an “emotional catharsis”).

In researching this blog, I was unable to find a single academic study on the topic. All of the material presented here comes from online sources. There are certainly individuals out there who get their kicks from people cying. Just check out sites like ‘Sad Little Girls’. My reading of these sites suggests there are two fundamentally different types of dacryphiles that I will call (i) sadistic dacryphiles and (ii) voyeuristic dacryphiles.

Sadistic dacryphiles: Watching someone else cry is not something that people want to see (as we do not usually gain gratification from seeing others psychologically suffer). Therefore, one particular paraphilia that dacryphilia is closely associated with is that of sexual sadism. Here, the dominant partner’s sexual arousal often results from seeing a submissive (who may or may not be a sexual masochist) in emotional distress. The emotional distress may result from psychological humiliation by the sexual sadist who may verbally taunt the submissive into crying. It is the elicitation of the tearful response by the submissive that results in the most sexual arousal for the dominant partner. In extreme cases, sexual sadists may physically torture their partners into crying. As one such dacryphile says:

Evoking tears is unequivocally one of the most satisfying to my sadistic tendencies. Other sexually controlling behaviors are often fun, but may lack a real visual representation to validate whether or not I’m truly controlling her emotionally

For the sadist, the psychological reinforcement lies in the power and control they have over their submissive and compliant partner (referred to as ‘power play’). Knowing that their direct (verbal and/or physical) actions have directly caused the crying is highly rewarding and reinforcing to the sadistic dacryphile.

Voyeuristic dacryphiles: There are also non-sadistic dacryphiles that get sexual pleasure by being a third party bystander that watches ‘power play’ leading to crying in the submissive. There are also voyeuristic dacryphiles who are sexually aroused by crying whatever the cause. As one male voyeuristic dacryphile said:

“I definitely have dacryphilia. I get extremely turned on physically and emotionally by crying women. When I see a woman crying, I want to hold her and soothe her, make her feel safe and comforted. For that reason I tend to date needy women. I enjoy their vulnerability because of sympathy, not sadism. I also enjoy making them feel better”

Another female who I would class as a voyeuristic dacryphile reported:

“It’s not ALWAYS more pleasurable for the dacryphiliac to cause the tears. I’m a dacryphiliac and I would prefer not to be the one making the other person cry. I’m also a woman, not a dominant man, and comforting the crier is a major part of the fetish for me, as it is for many dacryphiliacs I have interacted with online. Don’t be sad for us – we’re not all sadistic creeps. Just people who have the misfortune to have found that tears are the most arousing stimulus for us. Having realised I cannot change this, I’m learning to accept that I am always going to hope that the protagonist of a film will cry and that my sexual partner’s preferred form of release of frustration is crying. Hopefully you can see that it can actually be pretty harmless and non-sadistic? Fetishes can manifest in many different ways depending on the individual”

The roots of dacryphilia are unknown but are likely to be rooted in early conditioning experiences (both classical and operant conditioning). As one blogger (who appears to be a submissive in the BDSM community judging from their website domain name – One Sub’s Mission) talking about dacryphilia speculates:

“I wish I could get inside the head of someone with a [dacryphilic] fetish. I’m willing to wager there is an internal struggle between being the protector, and the bully. After all, some of the rawest, and most honest emotions come from dark places; intense pain, or psychological play (like degradation or humiliation – and not in that fun Who’s a dirty whore? way). For many criers, the tears simply will not come until a line has been crossed (as it was put in the Fetlife group ‘willing participants rarely cry’. But there is a difference between shoving someone over the line then pulling them back, and kicking them over that line, then metaphorically kick them when they’re already down. I wonder how easily can the top tell the difference between crying from a good place vs. a bad place, and at the time, do they even care? Do they feel guilt or shame for their arousal at the distress of another? Is this a type of play that requires after care for the top?  What if it’s in a non-sexualized context?”

As with other paraphilic behaviours, it would also appear that some people are very specific in how they are sexually aroused from crying. As one male confessing in an online fetish discussion group said:

“I’m turned on by women who cry with their bottom lip stuck out. I’ve had this weird fetish since I was five. When the bottom lip sticks out, gets bulgy or curls downwards and the chin goes upwards and wrinkles – that’s an immediate turn on. I’ve come across dacryphiliacs who are turned on by tears, or by submission – but for me, it’s about the bottom lip. I’m starting to think I’m the only person on this planet with this problem”

This quote clearly shows how very specific the sexual focus in dacryphilia can be (i.e., the crying having to be accompanied by the protruding bottom lip). This would certainly be indicative of a powerful classically conditioned response as the stimuli for the sexual arousal is so very specific. Given there is not a single case study in the academic literature, this is a paraphilic behaviour (which if you will excuse the bad pun) is crying out for research.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UKFurther reading

Further reading

Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unususal Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press

Holmes, S.T. & Holmes, R.M. (2002). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Monroe, W. (2012). Fetish of the week: Dacryphilia. February 23. Located at: http://www.zzinsider.com/blogs/view/fetish_of_the_week_dacryphilia

Wikipedia (2012). Dacryphilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dacryphilia

High interest: Is jenkem hokum?

While I was researching a previous blog on “cremainlining” (i.e., people who allegedly snort the ashes of dead people), I came across a number of press stories (all from the end of 2007) that American teenagers were allegedly using ‘jenkem’ and that it was becoming an epidemic in terms of its usage. Since the 2007 reports surfaced in the US, many further press reports and stories have questioned whether there is any evidence of jenkem use at all.

For those who have no idea what I am talking about, jenkum is a street drug (allegedly an auditory and visual hallucinatory inhalant) that is made from fermented human faeces and urine and according to users is more potent than cannabis and (according to news reports) gives “a powerful high” and has dissociation properties. The effects are alleged to last for about an hour, and it is sometimes known by the name ‘butthash’. Emma Guest describes jenkem as:

“Fermented human sewage, scraped from pipes and stored in plastic bags for a week or so, until it gives off numbing, intoxicating fumes” (from her 2003 book Children of AIDS: Africa’s Orphan Crisis)

Reports of its use first surfaced during the 1990s when news stories (including one by the BBC) started appearing about its use by Zambian children and teenagers living in Lusaka because it cost next to nothing to make. The correspondent who covered the story for the BBC (Ishbel Matheson) witnessed the practice first-hand:

At the Lusaka sewage ponds, two teenage boys plunge their hands into the dark brown sludge, gathering up fistfuls and stuffing it into small plastic bottles. They tap the bottles on the ground, taking care to leave enough room for methane to form at the top. A sour smell rises in the hot sun, but the boys seem oblivious to the stench and the foul nature of their task. They are manufacturing ‘Jenkem’, a disgusting, noxious mixture made from fermented sewage. It is cheap, potent and very popular among the thousands of street-children in Lusaka. When they cannot afford glue or are too scared to steal petrol, these youngsters turn to Jenkem as a way of getting high… Nobody knows exactly where the idea for making Jenkem came from, but it has been used by street-children in Lusaka for at least two years. Nason Banda of the Drug Enforcement Agency is not proud when he says that it is unique to Zambia. He shudders when he sees the boys at the sewage ponds, scavenging for faecal matter to make Jenkem”.

Jenkem derives its name from an African brand of glue named ‘Genkum’ which became the generic name for all types of glue used by African teenage glue sniffers. According to an interview conducted by Jamie Pietras in Salon magazine, Fumito Ichinose (an American expert on anesthesia was quoted as saying that “the inhalation of gases like those produced from jenkem could result in hypoxia, a lack of oxygen flow to the body that could be alternately euphoric and physically dangerous”. Pietras also reported that:

“Psychedelic researchers are unconvinced that huffing fecal fumes ever caught on in the U.S. ‘It is potentially believable to me that a handful of extremely experimental people have tried this, but it is also quite easy for me to believe that no one in the U.S. has actually produced and inhaled sewage gas of their own,’ says Earth Erowid, co-creator of Erowid.com, a repository of documented narcotic experiences, in an e-mail. The communications director for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, Jag Davies, is equally skeptical. Davies says no one at MAPS, which supports research into the medical use of hallucinogens, has heard of jenkem use and certainly not jenkem research in the United States”.

An article on jenkum in Wikipedia reported that:

In 2002, Project Concern International Zambia and Fountain of Hope released a report entitled ‘Rapid Assessment of Street Children In Lusaka’ where jenkem is listed as the third most popular drug among Lusaka’s street children, following Dagga (cannabis) and “glue and Dagga” but ahead of ‘Ballan’ (uncured tobacco) and petrol”.

It wasn’t until September 2007 that alleged use of jenkem by American adolescents first emerged following a bulletin about jenkem use issued by Corporal Disarro at Collier County’s Sheriff’s Department in Florida. The bulletin was instigated following an email to Disarro from a concerned parent regarding “a new drug called Jenkem”. The parent told Disarro that her child had learned about Jenkem through various conversations with several students at Palmetto Ridge High school. Disarro then researched the existence of the drug including a report on the TOTSE website.

However, the bulletin distributed across many US states was based on information from the dubious TOTSE website, and later admitted as a hoax by the person who posted the original article. (The TOTSE – Temple of the Screaming Electron – website was based in San Francisco and published on controversial and/or unusual subjects). However, the story spread and was reported by many major US news outlets including the Washington Post newspaper and the Fox News television channel. The story eventually spread to other countries including national television coverage in Australia.

From all my own reading on the topic it would appear that some American teenagers have tried jenkem (most likely as a result of hearing about it on the news) and even video recorded the experience. There are certainly videos on YouTube of jenkem being made and used. However, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence for widespread jenkem use except perhaps in Lusaka where the story originated.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 

Further reading

Guest, E. (2003). Children of AIDS: Africa’s Orphan Crisis. London: Pluto Press.

Matheson, I. (1999). Children high on sewage. BBC News, July 30. Located at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/406067.stm

Mikkelson, B. & Mikkelson, D. (2011). Jenkum. Snopes.com, July 28. Located at: http://www.snopes.com/crime/warnings/jenkem.asp

Morgan, S. (2007). Drug Scare: Kids in Florida are Getting High by Sniffing Feces. Stop The Drug War, November 5. Located at: http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy/2007/nov/05/drug_scare_kids_florida_are_gett

Pietras, J. (2007). Smoke this! Salon, November 9. Located at: http://www.salon.com/2007/11/09/jenkem/

Wikipedia (2012). Jenkem. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenkem

Gerbil remedies: The fact and fiction of felching

I apologize for what I am about to write as some of you reading this may be disturbed by what you read in this blog about the alleged practice of felching. In the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love defines felching as a sexual practice in two very different ways. The first variant is said to refer to the act of sucking semen from the anus of a sexual partner following anal sex. The second variant is said to refer to the stuffing of small animals, typically rodents (e.g., gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats) into the vagina or anus for sexual stimulation. No-one doubts the existence of the first variant. However, there are countless online debates about whether the practice of inserting small animals into bodily orifices really exists. (If felching does exist, it could possibly be a sub-type of musophilia that Dr. Anil Aggrawal defines in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices as involving sexual arousal from mice but makes no reference as to how this sexual arousal might actually occur).

The most infamous felching story involves US actor Richard Gere. An untrue story started circulating in the mid-1980s that Gere had checked into the Cedars-Sinai Hospital in California for an emergency ‘gerbilectomy’. In fact, the Gere story has become so well known that it has been alluded to in popular both mainstream films (e.g., Scream in 1996, and Urban Legend in 1998) and television comedy programmes (e.g., The Vicar of Dibley when Dawn French’s character on commenting on the sex appeal of Richard Gere says she wouldn’t have minded being the hamster). In 2006, US actor Sylvester Stallone stated in public that he believed Richard Gere personally blamed him for starting the rumour. Before this, a Philadelphian KYW TV newscaster (Jerry Penacoli) was rumored to have visited an emergency room to dislodge a gerbil from his colon. Same story, different person.

Jan Harold Brunvand, the author of The Encyclopedia of Urban Legends – and citing an academic paper published by Becky Vorpagel in a 1988 issue of International Folklore Review (“A rodent by Any Other Name: Implications of a Contemporary Legend”) – says the ‘gerbilling’ story began in 1984 started out as a story involving an unknown gay man and a mouse. Over the subsequent years, the unknown gay man became Richard Gere, and the mouse became a gerbil.

There were then two stories that did the rounds online, dating back to as early as 1993. These “news” stories (the first one having constantly been attributed to the Los Angeles Times but no such story ever appeared) have been repeated in many online articles about felching (and here I am repeating them yet again):

  • News story 1: “In retrospect, lighting the match was my big mistake. But I was only trying to retrieve the gerbil,” Eric Tomaszewski told bemused doctors in the Severe Burns Unit of Salt Lake City Hospital. Tomaszewski, and his homosexual partner Andrew “Kiki” Farnum, had been admitted for emergency treatment after a felching session had gone seriously wrong. “I pushed a cardboard tube up his rectum and slipped Raggot, our gerbil, in,” he explained. “As usual, Kiki shouted out ‘Armageddon,’ my cue that he’d had enough. I tried to retrieve Raggot but he wouldn’t come out again, so I peered into the tube and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him.” At a hushed press conference, a hospital spokesman described what happened next. “The match ignited a pocket of intestinal gas and a flame shot out the tube, igniting Mr. Tomaszewski’s hair and severely burning his face. It also set fire to the gerbil’s fur and whiskers which in turn ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the intestine, propelling the rodent out like a cannonball.” Tomaszewski suffered second degree burns and a broken nose from the impact of the gerbil, while Farnum suffered first and second degree burns to his anus and lower intestinal tract”
  • News story 2: “A 26-year-old male arrives at the ER complaining of rectal bleeding. He is too embarrassed to provide an accurate history but provides the examining doctor a clue: “There might be something stuck in my rear end.” Examination reveals a non-tender abdomen, but a rectal exam shows blood coming from his anus. A speculum exam reveals bloody stool and a dead gerbil. Apparently, through the cardboard tubing from a paper towel roll, the rodent had been forced into his rectum. Once the animal was in, the tube was pulled out. The idea is that as the gerbil suffocates, it scratches and claws at the lining of the rectum, providing an intense sensation to the patient. The rodent should then have been defecated, but the swelling and bleeding had caused the retention of the animal. The patient required pain medication and antibiotics after the animal was removed, but was then allowed to go home”.

I carried out a full literature search on academic databases and couldn’t find one example of somebody seeking treatment to remove a rodent from their rectum. However, Dr Siu Fai Lo and colleagues (at the Kwong Wah Hospital, Hong Kong) reported the case of a 50-year old man who had to have a live eel removed from his rectum (If you really don’t believe this, you can check the reference below). The authors specifically stated that the insertion of a live animal into the rectum causing rectal perforation has never been reported in the medical literature previously. It is also worth mentioning at this point that a paper on anorectal trauma in a 1989 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology by Dr. W.G. Eckert and Dr. S. Katchis. They commented on felching. More specifically they said: “A sexual practice has been mentioned recently where living rodents, including gerbils and mice, have been inserted into the rectum; the animal’s futile efforts to claw its way to safety result in mucosal tears in the rectum”. However, they didn’t present any evidence for its existence.

There’s always the chance that the sexual practice has occurred but had never gone awry. Other journalists have tried to find evidence for the practice. For instance, an online essay on felching reported:

“Researchers, including Mike Walker from the National Enquirer, strove in vain to document an instance of gerbil-stuffing by anyone, anywhere. A promising lead popped up in a book published in 1992 by the American Hospital Association. The Hospital Emergency Department: A Guide to Operational Excellence, edited by Theodore A. Matson, included the entry “rectal mass – gerbils” under the category of emergency-room procedures that require 25 minutes to perform. But when an investigator contacted John A. Page, the author of the section in question, he claimed that the proofreader at the AHA obviously had a sense of humor”

My research into the topic came across a 2010 story in the Huffington Post about a convicted cocaine smuggler (Douglas Spink) who was arrested for running a “bestiality farm” in Washington State. State officials found dozens of dogs, horses and pet mice along with thousands of images of bestiality. The report said the mice were euthanized, had their tails cut off, were smothered in Vaseline and had string tied around them. Given the mice were covered in Vaseline and had string tied round their bodies suggests that they were for used for inserting into bodily orifices and for easy retrieval. A case of necro-felching perhaps?

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Adams, C. (1986). Is it true what they say about gerbils? The Straight Dope, March 28. Located at: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/478/is-it-true-what-they-say-about-gerbils

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Brunvand, J.B. (2001). The Colo-Rectal Mouse. In Encyclopedia of Urban Legends. London: W.W. Norton & Company.

Eckert, W.G, & Katchis, S. (1989). Anorectal trauma: Medicolegal and forensic aspects. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 10, 3-9.

Emery, D. About that Thing with Richard Gere and the Gerbil. Urban Legends. http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/celebrities/a/richard_gere.htm

Homosexinfo (2007). Rectal insertion of foreign bodies by male homosexuals. December 7. Located at: http://www.homosexinfo.org/Sexuality/RectalObjects

Huffington Post (2010). Douglas Spink arrested in bestiality case: Mice in Vaseline, dogs, horses Found At Exitpoint Stallions Limitee. June 16. Located at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/16/douglas-spink-arrested-in_n_541379.html

Lo, S.F., Wong, S.H., Leung, L.S, et al. (2004). Traumatic rectal perforation by an eel. Surgery, 135, 110-111.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Mikkelson, B. & Mikkelson, D. (2001). From Gere to Eternity. Snopes, November 18, Located at: http://www.snopes.com/risque/homosex/gerbil.asp

The Sneaky Badger (2005). Gerbil felching. October 26. Located at: http://badgerbob.blogspot.co.uk/2005/10/gerbil-felching.html

Vorpagel, B. (1988). A rodent by any other name: Implications of a contemporary legend. International Folklore Review, 6, 53–57.

Wikipedia (2012). Gerbilling. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerbilling

Hit and myth: What should punters really know when gambling?

Yesterday, I appeared on a number of BBC radio programmes and in a number of papers talking about a blog I wrote for my university Olympic website about betting on Olympic sports. Today’s blog is it’s sister piece and can be read alongside that separate article. This particular blog came about when I was scouring the Internet and looking at a number of ‘Top Tips’ articles for gamblers. All of them claimed they would improve your chances of winning at a casino. On the surface, these common sense tips seemed reasonable enough but when I started to read them I realised the advice given was not based on any empirical evidence – just speculation, hearsay, and the writer’s own personal opinion. I thought I would use today’s blog to try and debunk a few of these myths!

Myth 1: Read all the books and advice you can: There is absolutely no harm in reading all you can on your chosen game as any of them will give you some basic information on the game, some betting techniques, and most likely some sound money management ideas. However, there is no evidence that reading on it’s own will help you win more. When learning a new game there is no substitute for making mistakes in the “school of hard knocks.” You will learn far more quickly while gambling than simply reading about it.

Myth 2: Practice makes perfect - Many ‘experts’ claim that when it comes to learning and practicing your game, you should do it at home or at one of the free ‘learn to play’ casino sessions. While it is clearly a lot cheaper to learn a new game from the comfort of your own home or a free session, nothing can prepare a punter for the psychological pressure than to practice under the circumstances and conditions in which the game is played for money. There has been a lot of research into what psychologists call “state dependent learning” which demonstrates that it is best to recall skills and information in the same environment and mood state that you practiced and learned under. The theory of state dependent learning also has implications for smokers and drinkers. If you practice while smoking and/or drinking at home, you are most likely to remember the skills and tricks you learned when in the same psychological state. This is particularly important in gambling environments that either bar smoking and/or drinking from the gaming tables. Another mistake commonly made by online poker players is where they believe their success on the ‘practice tables’ is a guide to their level of skill. In reality, players on the practice tables often play in a wreckless way, so even very poor players can appear successful.

Myth 3:  Have a winning attitude - When it comes to gambling, punters are advised not to gamble if they don’t have a positive attitude about winning. Firstly, just being positive is unlikely to significantly increase winnings although appearing confident in games like poker is clearly an advantage. However, having a positive outlook about losing may actually be disadvantageous and maladaptive in the long run. Our own research here at Nottingham Trent University has shown that positive thinking when losing acts as a guilt-reducing mechanism and is likely to result in such behaviours as ‘chasing’ which are financially detrimental in the long run.

Myth 4: Gamble in the small hours – One piece of advice I see cropping up again and again is that the best time to play is when no one else is there. Gamblers are advised to play very early in the morning from 2am until 5am. According to these ‘experts’, dealers and floor supervisors will be tired and looking to end their shift and may be prone to making more mistakes. Well, the same is true of the punter. Our inbuilt circadian rhythms mean that no human was meant to be awake or work through the night. The punter is just as likely to make mistakes as the casino staff. Card counting through the night without a break is likely to lead to as many mistakes as the dealer. What’s more, the dealers may change more often than you.

Myth 5: “Hide” your winnings – Casinos don’t like winners (except when they can be exploited for marketing purposes of course). Punters are therefore advised to disguise their wins and to prevent casino management from knowing how good players they really are by “hiding” their winnings. For instance, players are advised to get friends to cash out some of their chips for them when leaving the casino. There is also a view that cashiers take less notice of female players and are less likely to inform the pit bosses what they cashed out. However, any good casino knows its clientele, and knows who the winners are. There is no evidence to suggest that these tips on disguising your winnings have any benefit at all. Sure, if you are a card counter, be alert to casino counter-measures. If the casino is suspicious of you, they will use a number of measures such as premature shuffling, moving the cut card up towards the top of the deck to reduce penetration, and/or changing the cards, dealers or table limits only at your table. In short, casinos spot winners a mile off and little tricks to “hide” winnings are unlikely to help the punter.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 351-369.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). Beating the fruit machine: Systems and ploys both legal and illegal. Journal of Gambling Studies, 10, 287-292.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Gambling psychology: Motivation, emotion and control, Casino and Gaming International, (3)4 (November), 71-76.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Casino design: Understanding gaming floor influences on player behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 5(1), 21-26.

Griffiths, M.D., Parke, J., Wood, R.T.A. & Rigbye, J. (2010). Online poker gambling in university students: Further findings from an online survey. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 82-89.

Parke, J., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, A. (2007). Positive thinking among slot machine gamblers: A case of maladaptive coping? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5, 39-52.

Getting high: A beginner’s guide to acrophilia

In his comprehensive list of sexual paraphilias in the 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr.Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) defined acrophilia as sexual pleasure and arousal from heights, high altitudes or being in high places. Dr. Brenda Love has briefly overviewed acrophilia in both her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices and a 2005 book chapter on “Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing” (in Russ Kick’s book Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong). She begins her overviews by claiming:

“Skydiving and bungee-cord-jumping are high-altitude activities that elevate one’s adrenalin. This excitement can then be transferred to passion and sex. Both of these activities include a form of bondage, vertigo, and suspension”

My own research on bungee jumping published in a 2004 issue of the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, certainly suggests that the activity is a ‘risky but rewarding’ behaviour that some people view as potentially addictive. However, in our interviews with bungee jumpers we didn’t find any crossover to their sex lives (although we I ought to mention we didn’t specifically ask).

Brenda Love says that another acrophile behaviour is having sex at a high altitude (the most obvious example being where people have sex on aeroplanes an become a member of the ‘Mile High Club’). Although some people are likely to want to engage in such an activity just to say they have done it, for some people it may be genuinely sexually arousing. Rob Woodburn writing on “sex at altitude” in the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that:

“Sigmund Freud said that images of flying often symbolize sex in our dreams. Does this mean that actually having sex when wide awake and while in the air subconsciously completes some sort of mental circuit? [Sex educator] Dr. Susan Block says that, physiologically speaking, being in an aircraft during flight is like being in a giant vibrator. So passengers, especially men, are easily aroused. This dovetails neatly with comedian Billy Crystal’s observation that “women need a reason to have sex, men just need a place”. 

Others may be sexually excited at the thought of being caught having sex on a plane, while others may have sexual fantasies about the people who work on planes (i.e. the pilots and flight attendants). Keith Lovegrove in his book Airline: Identity, Design and Culture notes that some people actually develop a fetish for the planes themselves. Such people are into ‘objectum sexuality’ (where people develop romantic and/or sexual feelings of inanimate objects or structures, and which I discussed in a previous blog). For what appears the vast majority, the appeal of joining the mile high club appears to be the thrill of engaging in an activity that is taboo. Brenda Love then provides the following story from some personal communication she received in 1980:

“There was a group of pilots in New York that had its own version of a Mile High Club. The requirements were that the pilot and passenger go up in an open-cockpit bi-plane, and when they reached an altitude of 6,500 feet, the passenger would disrobe, climb out onto the wing and into the back seat, returning to the front seat after having sex with the pilot. All without falling off!”

Brenda Love also claims that for some people aerobatics can be sexually arousing. Based on more “personal communication” she had received, she wrote that:

“Stunts in a small plane offer 4-5 negative G-forces and 3-4 positive G’s. These affect the body by pushing the blood into either the head or the lower body, resulting in feelings of lightheadedness, floating, or sinking, depending on the maneuver. There is a tremendous adrenalin rush and a simultaneous sense of power over the airplane and submission to it. The feeling of being bound is greater in stunt flying than with other sports because the belts have to hold both body weight and the chute through every maneuver. There are very few sensations that compare with hanging upside down while one’s weight pulls one toward the glass bubble that separates the pilot from the rapidly approaching ground. This feat provides enough sexual stimulation to cause at least one female pilot to experience spontaneous orgasm”.

Brenda Love (citing a lecture by J.C Collins on ‘Terror’) claims that some sexual sadists who know their masochistic sexual partners suffer from acrophobia, are sometimes forced to wear blindfolds and then made to climb a ladder. She then claimed that if this is done often enough, the phobia eventually dissipates and then being at height becomes sexually arousing. Finally, Love also briefly talks about alien abductions and implicitly argues these are examples of acrophilic activity. There are clearly some people who claim to have had sex in spaceships (check out my previous blog on exophilia that examined the fetish for having sex with aliens). In a 2001 book Extra-terrestrial Sex Fetish by “Supervert”, he argues that:

“Exophilia should be understood as an abnormal desire for that which is outside earth…It is characterized by arousal in the presence of aliens or, less directly, representations of aliens…The exophile is rarely apprehended in the very act of satisfying his fetish. Evidently the reason for this is not the scarcity of exophiles but the lack of extraterrestrials themselves”

However, even if you are someone who actually believes that instances of inter-galactic sex has taken place and/or that there are genuine alien sex fetishes, the source of the sexual arousal is unlikely to be the altitude at which sex took place. Therefore, even at a theoretical level, such activity could not be classed as truly acrophilic.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Larkin, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Dangerous sports and recreational drug-use: Rationalising and contextualising risk. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 14, 215-232.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Lovegrove, K. (2000). Airline: Identity, Design and Culture. New York: Te Neues Publishing Company

Supervert (2001). Extra-terrestrial Sex Fetish (self-published book). Available at: http://supervert.com/

Woodburn, R. (2006). Sex at high altitude. Sydney Morning Herald, May 24. Located at: http://blogs.smh.com.au/lostintransit/archives/2006/05/sex_up_in_the_a.html

Death tally: How can necrophilia be classified?

In 2009, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) published an interesting paper on necrophilia (i.e., a person obtaining sexual gratification by viewing or having sexual contact and/or intercourse with a corpse) in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. As I mentioned in a previous blog on a new typology of zoophilia, Aggrawal has been writing about various paraphilic behaviours for over a decade and has carved out a productive niche in creating new paraphilic taxonomies. His 2009 paper outlined a new classification of necrophilia that I thought I would take a more detailed look at as I only mentioned it in passing in my previous blog on ncrophiles. Further expansion of the new necrophiliac typology can also be found in Dr. Aggrawal’s latest book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects (published in 2011). As with Aggrawal’s classification of zoophilia, his new classification of necrophilia also contains ten different types (Classes I to X) and is closely related to his zoophilia typology.

  • Class I necrophiliacs: This type comprises role players who according to Aggrawal are only mildly pathological and could be described as engaging in simulated and/or symbolic necrophilia. These individuals never have sex with dead people, but get very sexual aroused when having sex with someone pretending to be dead (i.e., sexual role play). Some paraphilia experts such as Shaffer and Penn (2006) described such acts as pseudonecrophilia. I also argued in a previous blog on somnophilia (i.e., a person obtaining sexual satisfaction with someone who is asleep) that such a practice could be a form of pseudonecrophilia.
  • Class II necrophiliacs: This type comprises romantic necrophiles who according to Aggrawal display only “very mild necrophilic tendencies”. This type of necrophile typically comprises people whose loved ones have just died and who do not seem to fully believe or psychologically appreciate that the person they love is dead. Therefore, the sexual contact may not (in the person’s view) be seen as necrophilic as they still believe the person is alive to them. Aggrawal claims that in some cases, romantic necrophiles may mummify the body (or body parts) of their partner. The necrophilic activity is typically short-lived and is something that stops once the person fully accepts that their loved one is dead.
  • Class III necrophiliacs: This type comprises necrophilic fantasizer who according to Aggrawal simply fantasize about having sexual contact with dead people but never actually engage in the activity for real. Aggrawal claims that such people may become sexually aroused when seeing dead people and may engage in activities that increase their likelihood of seeing the dead (e.g., visiting funeral parlours, cemeteries, etc.).
  • Class IV necrophiliacs: This type comprises tactile necrophiles who according to Aggrawal erotically touch dead bodies to achieve orgasm. They seek out jobs in which they come into regular contact with the dead (e.g., mortuary assistants) and according to Aggrawal “enjoy touching, stroking parts of the dead body, such as genitalia or breasts or perhaps licking them”.
  • Class V necrophiliacs: This type comprises fetishistic necrophiles (also known as “necrofetishists”) who according to Aggrawal do not have sexual intercourse with dead people but who will (if the chance arises) “cut up some portion of the body – perhaps a breast – for later fetishistic activities” or may “keep some portion of the dead body – pubic hair or a finger perhaps – in the pocket for continuous erotic stimulation, or sometimes may wear it as an amulet for similar pleasure”. Aggrawal says that although necrofetishists may preserve body parts of the dead like romantic necrophiles, the motivations are very different (as the latter type of necrophile only keeps body parts of someone they love “in order to fill up a psychosexual vacuum that their death has caused”.
  • Class VI necrophiliacs: This type comprises necromutilomaniacs who according to Aggrawal do not engage in sexual intercourse with dead people but gain sexual pleasure from masturbation while simultaneously mutilating dead bodies. Included within this type of necrophile are those who get sexual pleasure from eating part of the corpse (i.e., necrophagy).
  • Class VII necrophiliacs: This type comprises opportunistic necrophiles who according to Aggrawal are people that typically engage in ‘normal’ sexual behaviour but would have sexual intercourse with a dead person “if an opportunity arose” 
  • Class VIII necrophiliacs: This type comprises regular necrophiles who according to Aggrawal are the ‘‘classical” necrophiliacs as most people would understand. Aggrawal claims that this type of necrophile doesn’t enjoy sexual intercourse with people that are alive and has a distinct preference for sexual activity with the dead. Regular necrophiles will go to extreme lengths to engage in their sexual preference including stealing dead bodies from graveyards or mortuaries.
  • Class IX necrophiliacs: This type comprises homicidal necrophiles (the behaviour of which is sometimes referred to as homicidophilia or ‘lust murder’) who according to Aggrawal are the most dangerous type of necrophile (and are sometimes referred to as ‘necrosadists). These people will go as far as killing people just so as they can have sex with the dead. Aggrawal also says that the behaviour may be described as ‘‘warm necrophilia” because sex typically takes place immediately after the killing while the bodies are still warm.
  • Class X necrophiliacs: This type comprises exclusive necrophiles who according to Aggrawal are arguably the rarest necrophile sub-type. These people are psychologically and physiologically incapable of having sex with the living and therefore are only capable of having sex with the dead. Aggrawal claims that because dead bodies are the prerequisite for sexual behaviour to occur, the person may go to any lengths to acquire a dead body (and therefore, like homicidal necrophiles, can be extremely dangerous).

Aggrawal’s typology ranges from minimal to maximal severity, appears to be instinctive, relatively intuitive, and based on clinical case studies, forensic crime data, and anecdotal evidence. Typing in the term ‘necrophilia’ into one of the main academic literature databases produced a total of only 37 publications ever. Ideally, Aggrawal would like his new classification to facilitate “uniform statistical compilation of data from around the world, epidemiological surveys, calculation of incidence and prevalence of this phenomena, and treatment”.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2009). A new classification of necrophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16, 316-320.

Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Rosman, J.P. & Resnick, P.J. (1989). Sexual attraction to corpses: A psychiatric review of necrophilia. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 17, 153-163.

Shaffer, L. & Penn, J. (2006). A comprehensive paraphilia classification system. In E.W. Hickey (Ed.), Sex crimes and paraphilia. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Stein, M.L., Schlesinger, L.B. & Pinizzotto, A.J. (2010). Necrophilia and sexual homicide. Journal of Forensic Science, 55, 443-446.

Bump start: An overview of delusions of pregnancy

Delusions of pregnancy are relatively rare and have been reported in both males and females (although it is more common in men). The first documented case of delusional pregnancy was reported by Esquirol at the turn of the nineteenth century. Among women it can occur right across the age range including virginal young women and post-menopausal women. It has been associated with a variety of different disorders including general delusional disorders, organic brain syndromes (e.g., senile dementia), mental retardation, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, epilepsy, metabolic syndrome, neuroendocrine abnormalities, sexual identity confusion, cerebral syphilis (following encephalitis), polydypsia, and drug-induced lactation.

A 1996 paper by Dr. Shabari and Dr. G.K. Vankar published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, made the important distinction between delusions of pregnancy and four other related – but psychologically different – disorders. Exactly the same observations were made in a 2009 issue of the European Journal of Psychiatry by a Hungarian team led by Dr. Maria Simon. The four pregnancy-related disorders were:

  • Pseudocyesis (whereby false ‘pregnancy’ occurs in either women or men with marked bodily signs of pregnancy but where the individuals are not actually pregnant).
  • Couvade Syndrome (whereby the male partners of pregnant women experience empathetic pregnancy-like symptoms including loss of appetite, morning sickness, constipation, etc. The male knows he is not pregnant)
  • Malingering (whereby individuals – male or female – claims to be pregnant knowing that they are not).
  • Pseudo-pregnancy (whereby a somatic state resembling pregnancy occurs in women that is triggered by organic factors, such as ovarian tumours causing endocrinal changes leading to pregnancy-like symptoms).

In a 1994 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. A. Michael and his colleagues reported five cases of pregnancy delusion (three females and two males) that included one case where the delusion had lasted 20 years. Other case reports by Dr. K.N. Chengappa and colleagues – also in the British Journal of Psychiatry – found that he same individuals can have multiple delusional pregnancies over long periods as well as believing they are having multiple births. There doesn’t seem to be any common characteristics among those with pregnancy delusions as demonstrated by these four reports from various cases reported in psychiatric journals.

  • Report 1: A 51-year old American man turned up to a hospital insisting he was pregnant. The man was said to have no organic cerebral pathology but had a 20-year history of chronic delusional disorder. He even inserted a knife into his anus to facilitate delivery of the “baby”. The delusion of pregnancy subsided over a four-month period following a course of chlorpromazine (reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 1991).
  • Report 2: Delusions of pregnancy were reported in five women aged over 64 years. All five women were reported as having major depressive episodes with mood-congruent delusions. The symptoms were discussed in relation to other delusions such as Cotard’s Syndrome (reported in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 1995).
  • Report 3: While on chlorpromazine medication, a psychotic 15-year old female developed a delusion of pregnancy. The delusions were initiated because the girl developed galactorrhea (breast milk production) – one of the side effects of taking high doses of chlorpromazine. It was concluded that the incidence of pregnancy delusions may be higher among female institutionalized patients treated with chlorpromazine (reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 1971).
  • Report 4: A 43-year old man presented with a persistent pregnancy delusion. The man suffered from chronic schizophrenia and was described as coming from a background of poor sexual adjustment (reported in the journal Psychopathology, 1995).

A 2002 study by Dr. D.S. Rosch and his associates published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine was the first to utilize a standardized mental disorder assessment tool (the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale) to compare a group of 11 women with delusional pregnancy with a group of 11 female controls. Compared to the control group, women with pregnancy delusions had significantly higher levels of hostility, higher rates of prescribed poly-pharmacy, and a trend toward higher antipsychotic medication dosages. The authors reported that their findings may be suggestive of greater resistance to treatment in women with pregnancy delusions.

A more recent 2008 study published in the journal Psychosomatics by Dr. N. Ahuja and colleagues looked at the association between pregnancy delusions and antipsychotic-induced hyperprolactinemia. Among 12 patients taking such medication, six of them had erroneous ideas of being pregnant (four delusional and two non-delusional).

Most of the literature comprises case studies and therefore the literature base is limited by relatively few cases and by those who present for treatment. As Dr. Maria Simon and her colleagues concluded in their paper in the European Journal of Psychiatry:

“Case reports usually reveal demographic characteristics, describe response to treatment, and/ or suggest etiology. Patients with delusional pregnancy have been reported to be more hostile and treatment resistant compared with matched controls. Possible etiological factors in delusion of pregnancy are typically limited to neurophysiologic, endocrine and traditional psychodynamic factors. Given the growing evidence of cognitive and affective models of delusion formation, an integrated, individualized model of delusion of pregnancy can advantageously contextualize the phenomenology and course of the illness”.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Adityanjee, A.M. (1995). Delusion of pregnancy in males: A case report and literature review. Psychopathology, 28, 307-311.

Ahuja, N., Moorhead, S., Lloyd, A.J. & Cole, A.J. (2008). Antipsychotic-induced hyperprolactinemia and delusion of pregnancy. Psychosomatics, 49, 163-167.

Ali, J.A., Desai, K.D. & Ali, L.J. (2003). Delusions of pregnancy associated with increased prolactin concentrations produced by antipsychotic treatment.International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 6, 111-115

Bitton, G., Thibaut, F. & Lefevre-Lesage, I. (1991). Delusions of pregnancy in a man. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 811-812.

Camus,, V., Schmitt, L., Foulon, C., De Mendonça Lima, C.A. Wertheimer, J. (1995).Pregnancy delusions in elderly depressed women: A clinical feature of Cotard’s syndrome? International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 10, 1071-1073.

Chengappa, K.N., Steigard, S., Brar, J.S., & Keshavan, M.S. (1989) Delusion of pregnancy in men. British Journal of Psychiatry 155, 422-423

Cramer, B. (1971). Delusion of pregnancy in a girl with drug-induced lactation. American Journal of Psychiatry, 127, 960-963.

Dutta, S. & Vankar, G.K. (1996). Delusions of pregnancy – A report of four cases. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 38, 254-225.

Manjunatha, N. & Saddichha, S. (2009). Delusion of pregnancy associated with antipsychotic induced metabolic syndrome. World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 10, 669-670.

Michael A., Joseph A., Pallen A. (1994) Delusions of pregnancy. British Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 224-246.

Rosch, D.S., Sajatovic, M. & Sivec H. (2002). Behavioral characteristics in delusional pregnancy: A matched control group study. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 32, 295-303.

Simon, M., Vörös, V., Herold, R., Fekete, S., Tényi, T. (2009). Delusions of pregnancy with post-partum onset: An integrated, individualized view. European Journal of Psychiatry, 23, 234-242.

Tényi, T., Herold, R., Fekete, S., Kovács, A., & Trixler, M. (2001). Coexistence of delusions of pregnancy and infestation in a male, Psychopathology, 34, 215-216.

Bee-rotica: A beginner’s guide to insect sting fetishes

In a previous blog I briefly examined formicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused by insects crawling and/or nibbling on a person’s genitals). According to both the Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices (by Dr.Anil Aggrawal) and the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices (Dr. Brenda Love), there is a specific sub-type of formicophilia that relates to being sexually aroused by bees (i.e., melissophilia). To date, there has not been a single academic or clinical study examining melissophilia. However, what there has been are many historical, cultural, and/or academic references to the use of bee and wasp stings for sexual purposes (including the books by Dr. Aggrawal and Dr. Love that specifically make passing reference to melissophilia).

The most common reference to the use of bee and wasp stings is their use as a method of penis enlargement. There are many cults that are devoted to the phallus. Furthermore, it is known that many ancient religions (especially those that are polytheistic such as Hinduism and Greek mythology) have gods with gigantic penises. Similarly, there are also some monotheistic religions (e.g., Judaism) that make reference in the Tanakh (i.e., the canon of the Hebrew Bible) to promiscuous females that desire males with very large penises. Consequently, men belonging to these religions in various different countries have used a variety of methods for penis enlargement including penis gourds, stretching methods, and bee stings. Arguably one of the oldest reference to insect stings as a way of enlarging the penis was in the Kama Sutra (the fourth century Hindu love manual). It suggested:

“To increase the size and potential of the penis: Take shuka hairs – the shuka is an insect that lives in trees – mix with oil and rub on the penis for ten nights…When a swelling appears sleep face downwards on a wooden bed, letting one’s sex hang through a hole”
 (Vatsyayana).

Shuka insects are a form of wasp and the hairs are the shuka’s stingers. The Kama Sutra claims that the “swelling caused by the shuka lasts for life” (although I haven’t seen any evidence that this would actually be the case). In the 2007 book on The Miscellany of Sex, Francesca Twinn also noted that there is an Amazonian wedding ritual that involves covering the penis with bamboo that is filled with bees as an aid to penis enlargement. This very same ritual was allegedly tried by the Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger (after one of his former girlfriends – Janice Dickinson – criticized how small his penis was). The film maker Julien Temple was quoted as saying:

“It involved putting bamboo over the male member and filling it with stinger bees so that the member attained the size of the bamboo. Mick spent months in the jungle in Peru”

The medicinal effects of bee venom and stings have long been known but there are also inherent dangers. A recent 2011 paper on bee stings in the World Journal of Hepatology by Adel Nazmi Alqutub and colleagues summed the situation up concisely when they noted that:

“The use of bee venom as a therapeutic agent for the relief of joint pains dates back to Hippocrates, and references to the treatment can be found in ancient Egyptian and Greek medical writings as well. Also known as apitherapy, the technique is widely used in Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America. The beneficial effects of bee stings can be attributed to mellitinin, an anti-inflammatory agent, known to be hundred times stronger than cortisone. Unfortunately, certain substances in the bee venom trigger allergic reactions which can be life threatening in a sensitized individual. Multiple stings are known to cause hemolysis, kidney injury, hepatotoxicity and myocardial infarction”.

Despite the possible dangers, there are very few reports in the literature of penile wasp and bee stings. The few that have been reported tend to be on young children stung while playing naked in the summer. (I came across a particularly gruesome case – with photos – of a three-year old with a penile bee sting in a 2011 issue of the Turkish Archives of Pediatrics that you can check out if you have the stomach for it). However, a few academic medical papers make the point that if the penile bee stings are self-inflicted and things go wrong, such people may be just too embarrassed to seek medical help.

In a 2005 book chapter by Dr Brenda Love (in Russ Kick’s Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong) examined some of the strangest sexual behaviours from around the world. She wrote that bee stings have been used by men to extend the duration of orgasm, enhance sensations of the penis, and increase its circumference. She also recounted this anecdote related to a man who got his sexual kicks from bee stings:

“Bee stings were once used as a folk remedy for arthritis sufferers. The insects were captured and held on the affected joint until they stung. The poison and the swelling it caused alleviated much of the pain in their joints. One male, having observed his grandparents use bees for this purpose, and later having a female friend throw a bee on his genitals as a joke, discovered that the sting on his penis extended the duration and intensity of his orgasm. Realizing that the bee sting was almost painless, he developed his own procedure, which consisted of catching two bees in a jar, and shaking it to make the bees dizzy to prevent their flying away. They were then grabbed by both wings so that they were unable to twist around and sting. Each bee was placed each side of the glans and pushed to encourage it to sting.  (Stings to the glans do not produce the desired swelling and the venom sac tends to penetrate the skin too deeply, causing difficulty in removing them)…Stings on the penis, unlike other areas, resemble the bite of a mosquito…The circumference of the man’s penis increased from 6.5 inches to 9.5 inches. Swelling is greatest on the second day”

This account is by no means an isolated incident as I have come across a number of similar stories online. For instance, in response to a man’s question about whether bee stings have a demonstrable effect on virility and sexual performance, one person responded:

“My boyfriend would [use bee stings] all the time and it would turn me on so much. You squeeze the abdomen of the bee to trigger it into combat mode, so it will sting and get the stinger out. You put the stinger in the urethra and keep on pinching the bee until it releases the venom and stings the penis. The reasons this works is because the venom from the bee makes your penis swell, and well, that just seems to make it harder and larger”

The next account is just an excerpt from the full account and I want to stress that I personally do not advocate trying this – I’m merely reporting this account to demonstrate that the practice appears to exist.

“After reading the text for the Kama Sutra [I] have come up with a plan to increase girth using the common paper wasp… To catch and manipulate the wasps I use a type of lab tweezers…Once I find the nest I select a worker that is alone and catch it by the wing with the tweezers. Then I place it in a small jar with small holes in the lid…After I have three wasps then I can rotate them out in a sting session. [With] a partial erection [I] use a pen to mark 1/2″ circles every 1″ around the base and a second ring of circles 1″ apart. These are your targets. Put the jars in your fridge for a minute or two. NO LONGER! You want to slow them down not kill them. Select your first wasp and grab her wing near the middle with your tweezers…Manipulate your wasp/tweezer combo to target the circle. Once you have a single sting move on to the next circle target…When you finish you WILL jump around for awhile, but the reward is worth the five minutes of discomfort…You will need to [rub your penis with] olive oil for a few minutes just after the sting treatment…After ten nights do another treatment…Do not use hornets or yellow jackets in place of paper wasps they hurt a lot more but don’t produce any better results. Do not use anything containing caffeine or aspirin during this treatment as they can retard the swelling that you want”

I should also point out there are also variations on a theme as some online accounts that I came across involved other types of insect sting being used to increase penis size and girth such as those who used the stinging properties of fire ants. In fact, I did come across some interesting academic papers from South America (by Jose Marques and Eraldo Costa-Neto, Universidade Estadual de Feim de Santana, Brazil) by examining the use of insects and animals for “medicinal purposes” and there was an example of the sting of great ants (Dinoponera) being used for “strengthening a flaccid penis”. There are also other sexual practices that use stinging insects (mainly ants and wasps) but these used in the case of sexual sadism and sexual masochism (such as those practices outlined on sites like the Slave Farm).

I’ll leave you with this final snippet. The most remarkable sexual bee stung story I have come across is that of Chloe Prince, a transgender woman from Jackson, Ohio (US) who was born male. As a male (called Ted) he married his wife, had two children, and then claimed in the national press and broadcast media that as a result of a severe reaction to a bee sting, his testosterone level dropped significantly. Prince claimed that after she had been stung, her male body developed a more womanly shape, and eventually underwent gender reassignment surgery. (However, I no of no evidence that bee stings can cause changes in testosterone levels, and Prince was diagnosed with Klinefelter’s Syndrome – a genetic condition in which human males have an extra X chromosome and that can result in the development of female sexual characteristics such as increased breast tissue [i.e., gynecomastia])

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Alqutub, A.N. Masoodi, I., Alsayari, K. & Alomair, A. (2011). Bee sting therapy-induced hepatotoxicity: A case report. World Journal of Hepatology, 27, 268-270.

Bonnard, M. (2001). The Viagra Alternative: The Complete Guide To Overcoming Erectile Dysfunction Naturally. Rochester: Healing Press.

Abraham, T. (2012). My husband became my wife: Transgender woman reveals how a bee sting led to her sex change… and how the woman she had married stood by her. Daily Mail, February 9. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2098442/My-husband-wife-Couple-reveal-extraordinary-story–started-bee-sting.html#ixzz1xba6y0eA

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.

Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Özkan, A., Kaya, M., Okur, M., Küçük, A. & Turan, H. (2011).  Three-year-old boy with swelling and ecchymosis of the penis. Turkish Archives of Pediatrics, 46, 259-60.

Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.

Top trumps: A brief look at ‘fartomania’

“I’m only interested in heavy metal [music] when it’s me playing it. I suppose it’s a bit like smelling your own farts” (quote by John Entwistle, bassist with The Who)

Despite the fact that the average person breaks wind 14 times a day, farting is one of those subjects and behaviours that tend to elicit two main responses – laughter or disgust (and embarrassment if someone farts in a situation that they would rather not have). In my early teens I remember watching a drama on television in 1979 about a professional farting entertainer starring comic actor Leonard Rossiter (i.e., it was about a guy who could fart at will and who made his professional living as an entertainer). I later found out that Rossiter was playing Joseph Pujol (1857-1945), the French flatulist (i.e., professional farter sometimes referred to as ‘fartiste’ or ‘farteur’) who performed under the stage name Le Pétomane. Pujol’s stage name literally means “fartomaniac” (as it combines the French verb ‘to fart’ [péter] alongside the French word for ‘maniac’ [-mane]). Pujol was able to control his farting via a rectal ‘inhalation’ method that allowed him to control the air with his anal sphincter muscles.

In researching this article, I only came across one academic reference to ‘fartomania’. In a 2002 issue of the Journal of the History of Sexuality, Dr. Frank Proschan wrote a paper about Paul Michaut, a French physician and member of the Société d’anthropologie de Paris. Dr. Proschan recounted that Michaut had spent the late nineteenth century studying medical, erotic, and scatological matters in South East Asia. One of the topics that Michaut wrote on was “fartomania” but Proschan’s paper did not give any details as to what Michaut had uncovered on this subject.

Perhaps the most infamous ‘fartomaniac’ was Adolf Hiter. I wrote about Hitler in a previous blog on coprophilia but according to his medical reports, Hitler is believed to have suffered from “uncontrollable flatulence”. The reason for this is thought to have been Hitler’s regular and seemingly relentless diet of prescription drugs and illicit drugs. His medical records also indicated that he took up to 28 different drugs to attempt to restrain his excessive flatulence. An article in Intelligent Life magazine noted that:

“Medical historians are unanimous that Adolf was the victim of uncontrollable flatulence. Spasmodic stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea, possibly the result of nervous tension, had been Hitler’s curse since childhood and only grew more severe as he aged. As a stressed-out dictator, the agonising digestive attacks would occur after most meals”.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the novelist James Joyce who appeared to have many sexually paraphilic interests including somnophilia and coprophilia. However, I have since come across references to Joyce’s obsession with farting in his many letters to his wife (Nora). For instance, one of his letters to Nora said:

 “I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have”.

There are also a number of reports that claim Mozart was “obsessed” with farting and scatalogia (which biographers attribute to alleged Tourette’s Syndrome), and which made many appearances in his “excrement-obsessed” letters. He even wrote a song called Lick Out My Arsehole. However, for some people, flatulence appears to be something that borders on the excessive and/or obsessive. The word ‘fartaholic’ appears in the online Urban Dictionary and is defined as one who is addicted to farting, passing gas, breaking wind, fumigating the room, etc.”

While I was researching my previous blog on eproctophilia (i.e., individuals who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from flatulence), I came across these confessions online (click on the ‘extract’ number to go to the original source of each quote):

  • Extract 1: “My name is Phil Philups. I am 105 years old, and I am addicted to smelling my own farts. It all started 40 years ago when my first grandchild was born. Whenever I changed her diaper, she would always fart. I soon realized that I love the smell. I would always offer to change her diaper, just so I could get a whiff of it. Ah, the sweet smell of gassy fumes. But eventually she grew up. I no longer had a diaper to change. As I had no more grandchildren, much to my dismay. That’s when it really started. Eventually, I realized that my own farts smell just as good. As soon as the fumes drifted up my nose, I was happy again. I would go into a closet and just let rip. I would sit there for hours, engulfing the scent…At night, I would stick my head under the covers and take in the sweet scent, so I was satisfied until morning. When I was alone, I found jars and let out my precious juices into them, so I could use them later, when I could not force myself to fart. I know this is weird, so I would like help”.
  • Extract 2: “This sounds like a silly problem and some of you may laugh, but I love the smell of farts. If someone farts I have to go over and smell it, and I especially love smelling farts in the bath. I know this sounds disgusting or crude or whatever, but I think I need help. I’m the only person I know who enjoys this. I confided in my friend and she looked at me like I was psycho. Is there something wrong with me? Please help”
  • Extract 3: “Is it normal to think that my fart smells really good? Every time I fart, I wait for it to get to my nose and I sniff it really hard. It smells fine for me. It only happens to my own fart. I think other people’s fart smells gross. I wait for my fart and I smell it every time! It smells good and I feel like I’m addicted to it! I couldn’t help but sniff it in”
  • Extract 4: “My guy farts so much and when we are round his house he decides to fart on his cat’s head and then he sometimes does it up against the wall so it sounds louder. I’m getting scared. Sometimes he farts on me too. I don’t know how to stop him”
  • Extract 5: It’s killing me, everywhere I go if someone farts I’m right there sniffing it. How do I stop my addiction to fart sniffing?”

These short accounts did make me ask to what extent can farting be considered an addiction. In my eproctophilia blog (examining individuals who are sexually aroused by flatulence), there certainly seemed to be some evidence that some individuals seem to be obsessed with farting, and the self-confessed online admissions above (if true, and I can’t guarantee that they are) are suggestive of some people’s enjoyment of farting – beyond what most people would see as normal. However, I can’t ever imagine that the topic would become a topic of psychological research unless it leads to a negative psychosocial impact on the individual’s day-to-day life.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 

Further reading

Gore-Langton, R. (2004). I know what made Mozart tic. Daily Telegraph, October 13. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3625399/I-know-what-made-Mozart-tic.html

The Inquisitor (2012). Adolf Hitler was a farting coke head, study finds. May 4. Located at: http://www.inquisitr.com/230386/adolf-hitler-was-a-farting-coke-head-study-finds/#pRE7dLhQKcyh9DEe.99

Intelligent Life (2007). The madman at the breakfast table: Hitler was even sicker than you thought. November 7. Located at: http://moreintelligentlife.com/node/399

Jameson, C. (2010). 6 famous geniuses you didn’t know were perverts. Cracked.com, June 1. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_18559_6-famous-geniuses-you-didnt-know-were-perverts.html

Proschan, F. (2002). Syphilis, Opiomania, and Pederasty: Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese (and French) Social Diseases. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 11, 610-636.

Wattpad (2012). My strange addiction (4: Gassy fumes). Located at: http://www.wattpad.com/4112339-my-strange-addiction-4-gassey-fumes

Wikipedia (2012). Le Pétomane. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Pétomane

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