See you later alligator: A beginner’s guide to herpetophilia

In previous blogs I have examined various sub-types of zoophilia including ornithophilia (sexual attraction to birds) and formicophilia (sexual attraction to insects). It wasn’t until very recently, that I came across an article on herpetophilia that according to the online Urban Dictionary is “the sexual attraction to reptiles, commonly dinosaurs or anthropomorphic lizards”. There is a fairly active online community of herpetophiles including herpy.net (with lots of discussion topics such as “How to please a reptile”). The dinosaur-loving herpetophiles can be found interacting with each other on sites like Lava Dome Five where there is an overt crossover between herpetophilia and macrophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from giants – in this case giant lizards in the form of dinosaurs).

One 2012 online essay I read on the Vivid Random Existence (VRE) website claimed that there was a new emergent form of zoosexuality – human sexual attraction towards lizards (and in particular, monitor lizards) – a subcategory of herpetophilia. It was claimed by VRE that the “lizards of choice” for herpetophilic zoophiles were either the Varanus Salvator (a water monitor lizard) and the Nile Monitor. So you can get an idea of the person putting forward these views, the unnamed VRE author is a 20-year old man who describes himself as the following:

“I am bisexual and zoosexual – I am sexually attracted to multiple genders and multiple species (in other words, I am sexually attracted to male humans, female humans, male non-human animals and female non-human animals). When it comes to sexual attraction, the creature’s gender and species are irrelevant to me. However, I am only attracted to a few species (maybe about 7 or 8)”.

The VRE essay then goes on to talk about the sexual ethics of lizard relationships. VRE claims that lizards do not pair bond in the way that many mammals do and asks the very specific question:

“Is it ethical for a human to have sex with a monitor lizard, even if that lizard only ‘tolerates’ the sex and neither enjoys nor dislikes it? From a utilitarian perspective (a perspective adopted by philosophers such as Peter Singer), there is nothing wrong with having sex with a monitor lizard, so long as no harm occurs…With large animals like horses, such human-horse sexual interactions are clearly acceptable under this philosophy – for example, even if a horse has a neutral opinion regarding sexual encounter with a human, the fact that the horse is larger than the human automatically means that physical ‘abuse’ is less likely to occur to the horse”.

The VRE website also claimed in a previous 2010 online essay (Zoosexuality: Should it be considered acceptable?) that the smaller the animal is, the less ethical the activity becomes. VRE then goes on to say that Nile monitor lizards and Komodo dragons are big enough to accommodate human genitalia but that humans having sex with smaller lizards would be unethical due to anatomical incompatibility. A 2011 VRE essay also claims that there are a sub-group of zoophiles that are sexually attracted to alligators and crocodiles, and that some owners of pet alligators or crocodiles have active sexual relationships with them. The “proof” of this claim was based on a video circulating among online zoophile forums (but I’ve not seen it myself). VRE describes the film’s contents:

“The human in the video is male, and the alligator in the video is also male. The human male is seen anally penetrating the male alligator, who is flipped upside down; the fact that the gator has an erection (and the fact that the gator is not tearing the man to pieces) suggests that the alligator is tolerant of (or possibly even enjoys) the sexual relationship with the human”

The issue of whether it is ethically wrong to have sex with a crocodile is again raised (along with the issue of how dangerous the activity is to start with. In the 2012 essay, VRE then says:

“Many have claimed that zoosexuality is wrong on the grounds that it is physically abusive. Although sex with animals can be abusive depending on the size of the animal, it can also not involve any abuse. In other words, it all depends on the size of the animal, and whether or not it is compatible with a human…When considering other species, it is important to realize that some species are too small for humans to engage in sex with”.

The article also quotes from philosopher Peter Singer’s online essay Heavy Petting (published on the nerve.com website) in which Singer (Princeton University, US) reviews Midas Dekkers’ Dearest Pet. Singer wrote that:

“Some men use hens as a sexual object, inserting their penis into the cloaca, an all-purpose channel for wastes and for the passage of the egg. This is usually fatal to the hen, and in some cases she will be deliberately decapitated just before ejaculation in order to intensify the convulsions of its sphincter. This is cruelty, clear and simple…But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty. Who has not been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? The host usually discourages such activities, but in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop”

I can’t say I agree with any of these arguments, as my own view is that sex should always be consensual and inter-species sexual activity is always non-consensual. Being “cruelty-free” does not make sexual activity with animals an acceptable activity. Singer’s arguments suggest that some animals (e.g., dogs) can engage in cruelty-free sex with humans and that no party is harmed. I can think of (admittedly extreme) scenarios where sex between humans could take place where neither party is harmed but it doesn’t mean it is morally acceptable. For instance, a human who has sex with a deceased person (i.e., a necrophile) technically does no harm to either party but that doesn’t make it acceptable. There is also the scenario that appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill where men had sex with Uma Thurman’s character while she was in a coma. Again, this might be perceived by some as “cruelty-free”, but the common denominator in both these extreme situations is that the sex was non-consensual.

Another related paraphilia to herpetophilia, and sub-category of zoophilia, is that of ophidiophilia that is defined in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices as a sexual attraction to snakes). There are some really quite bizarre snake sexuality websites including those where there is a crossover with vorarephilia (i.e.. sexual arousal from the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification). This seems a logical crossover given that snakes swallow their prey whole (check out the Snake Eats website if you don’t believe me).

An act often associated with ophidiophilia is ophidicism. This is where women voluntarily insert snakes (and sometimes eels) tail first into their vagina to get sexual pleasure as it wriggles free. There are also stories of both men and women allegedly receiving sexual pleasure from snakes wriggling free following anal insertion. Acts of ophidicism have been documented going back to Ancient Greek times. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices also says the practice was prevalent in Roman times except the women put snakes into their vaginas head first. There are more recent references to the activity in the psychological literature including a case study reported in a 1964 issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis by Austrian psychoanalyst Dr. Melitta Sperling.

VRE claims that in the case of animals like snakes, only certain sexual acts with them would be considered abusive. VRE asserts that ophidicism is unethical, and that penile penetration of snakes that are physically incompatible with humans (in terms of size) is animal abuse. However, there are some acts that VRE believes could still be ethical involving snakes (e.g., oral sex – although it wasn’t clear whether that was a human performing oral sex on a snake, vice-versa, or either).

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

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

Singer, P. (2001). Heavy petting. Located at: http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/2001—-.htm

Sperling, M. (1964). A case of ophidiophilia: A clinical contribution to snake symbolism. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45, 227-233.

Vivid Random Existence (2010). Zoosexuality: Should it be considered acceptable? July 20. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/zoosexuality-should-it-be-considered-acceptable-or-not/

Vivid Random Existence (2011). Crocodilian zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to alligators and crocodiles. December 5. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/crocodilian-zoosexuality-or-zoophilia-the-sexual-attraction-to-alligators-and-crocodiles/

Vivid Random Existence (2012). Lizard zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to lizards. January 13. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/lizard-zoosexuality-or-zoophilia-the-sexual-attraction-to-lizards/

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About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Gambling Studies at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 430 research papers, three books, over 120 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on August 13, 2012, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Obsession, Paraphilia, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Lachlan Hodson

    I thought your what you said was very true and interesting, I have the same condition that we’re talking about, but it doesn’t get in the way my life. I believe if a person likes something like a crocodile then they should be able to express the love without discrimination.

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