Category Archives: Compulsion
As someone who is academically interested in sexual paraphilias, it never ceases to amaze me how people working in the sexology field (myself included) love to categorize and sub-categorize every nuance of human sexual behaviour. One of the ways in which sexual behaviour has been categorized relates to the age of the person to which the person has a sexual paraphilia. Most of you reading this blog will probably be thinking that when it comes to age preference, the world is broadly split into the minority of individuals who are involved in paedophilia (i.e., individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from children) and those whose sexual preference is geared towards sex with adults. In fact, in researching this article I was surprised to learn that I am a teleiophile. Teleiophilia (and occasionally called ‘adultophilia’) refers to adult individuals whose primary sexual focus is other adult individuals. (As Dr. Anil Aggrawal reassuringly notes in his book, Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices teleiophilia is not a sexual paraphilia). Those individuals whose primary sexual preference is for elderly adults are said to be engaging in gerontophilia (and sometimes called graeophilia).
According to the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), paedophilia is described as a form of sexual paraphilia whereby individuals experience intense sexual urges towards children (aged under 16 years of age), and experiences recurrent sexual urges towards (and fantasizes about) children that the individual has acted upon and/or causes distress and interpersonal difficulty. Technically, many child abusers would not be defined as paedophiles according to the DSM criteria as the behaviour may not be causing the abusers any psychological problems themselves. However, in day-to-day language, most people would define any adult who engages in any form of sexual behaviour with a minor as paedophilia.
Apologies for what you are about to read because anyone reading it is likely to feel revulsion by what I am about to write. One of the most disturbing and horrific cases that I am aware of involved two children who were systematically abused by their grandfather and their grandfather’s friends. The grandfather had sexually abused his daughter throughout her childhood, and then began abusing his daughter’s children from an early age. After the grandfather died, a video was played at the reading of the will that the family thought contained the grandfather’s verbal reading of his last will and testament. What the video actually contained was a short film of the grandfather having sexual intercourse with his two-year old granddaughter and his four-year old grandson.
The reason I recounted this story is that this is an example of what is known as nepiophilia (or infantophilia) and refers to individuals that have a sexual preference for very young children (usually aged between birth and three years). In the upcoming DSM-V, the term paedohebrephilia refers to the expansion and reclassification of paedophilia into subgroups such as the distinctions between paedophiles that prefer pubescent or post-pubescent children. More specifically, hebephilia refers to those individuals who have a sexual preference for pubescent youths (i.e., typically adolescents aged around 11 to 14 years of age). However, some authors – such as Dr. Anil Aggrawal – claim that hebephilia is a preference for pubescent children between 11 and 14 years for females and 11-16 years for males.
Ephebophilia refers to those individuals sexual preference for post-pubescent youths (mid-to-late adolescents aged around 15 to 19 years of age). Other researchers in the sexual studies field (such as Kurt Freund) have used the term ‘adolescentophilia’ as referring to individuals who have a sexual preference of pubescent and/or adolescent youths. According to the Wikipedia entry on hebephilia:
“In 1914, physician Kurt Boas described hebephilia as ‘an alleged form of female fetishism’. Anthropologist and ethnopsychiatrist Paul K. Benedict uses the term to distinguish pedophiles from sex offenders whose victims were adolescents. Forensic psychologist Karen Franklin traced the history of use of the term in a 2010 article. She states that it is a variation of ephebophilia used by Magnus Hirschfield in 1906 to describe homosexual attraction to males between puberty and their early 20s, who considered the condition normal and nonpathological. Historically, criminal hebephilic acts where victims were ‘biologically ready for coitus’ (i.e. statutory rape) were considered distinct from other forms of criminal sexuality such as rape and pedophilia, with wide variations within and across nations regarding what age was acceptable for adult-adolescent sexual contacts. Bernard Glueck, Jr. conducted research on sex offenders at Sing Sing prison in the 1950s, using ‘hebephilia’ as one of several classifications of subjects according to offense…The prevalence of hebephilia within the general population is unknown”.
In relation to ephebophilia, the Wikipedia entry notes that:
“Because mid-to-late adolescents usually have physical characteristics near (or in some cases, identical) to that of full-grown adults, some level of sexual attraction to persons in the age group is common among adults. Ephebophilia is used only to describe the preference for mid-to-late adolescent sexual partners, not the mere presence of some level of sexual attraction. Generally, the preference is not regarded by psychologists as a pathology when it does not interfere with other major areas of one’s life, and is not listed by name as a mental disorder in the [DSM-IV] or as a paraphilia”.
This also raises questions such as ‘Are some kinds of paedophilic behaviour worse than others?’ For instance, is a 25-year old man that has consensual sex with a 15-year old girl engaging in a sexual behaviour that is as morally repugnant as a 50-yer old man who has non-consensual sex with an 8-year old girl? Such questions have come to the fore over the last year concerning the sexual behaviour of radio and television presenters Jimmy Savile and John Peel. As Dr. Michael Seto notes in a 2008 book chapter on paedophilia in Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment:
“An interesting theoretical question is whether sexual age preferences can be represented on a continuum, such that most adults are attracted to sexually mature persons, but some individuals are attracted to pubescent children, prepubescent children, or infants in varying degrees. These age preferences may instead represent different “taxa” (plural of “taxon” – i.e., natural group), and it is possible that each taxon involves a different etiological pathway. Thus the causes of pedophilia may differ from the causes of hebephilia, nepiophilia or gerontophilia. It is also plausible that there are multiple etiological pathways for atypical age preferences such as pedophilia, including the genetic transmission of predispositions, poor maternal health, fetal exposure to toxins or infections, and early head injuries”.
Encompassing all of these different types of age-related sexual paraphilias is the term chronophilia. This term was coined by Professor John Money in his 1986 book Lovemaps, and was defined as a form of sexual paraphilia in which individuals experience a sexual preference that is limited to individuals within particular age ranges. However, despite the fact the term was coined by one of the world’s best known sexologists, the term has arguably not been generally accepted, adopted and/or used by most people working in the field of abnormal sexual behaviours.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Blanchard, R. Blanchard, R., Lykins, A. D., Wherrett, D., Kuban, M.E., Cantor, J.M., Blak, T., Dickey, R., & Klassen, P. E. (2008). Paedophilia, hebephilia, and the DSM–V. Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Kaul, A. & Duffy, S. (1991). Gerontophilia: A case report. Medicine, Science and the Law, 31, 110-114.
Seto, M.C. (2008). Pedophilia: Psychopathology and Theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 164-182). New York: Guildford Press.
Money, J. (1984). Paraphilias: Phenomenology and classification. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 38, 164-78.
Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical Concepts of Sexual/Erotic Health and Pathology, Paraphilia, and Gender Transposition of Childhood, Adolescence, and Maturity. New York: Irvington Publishers.
Wikipedia (2012). Ephebophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephebophilia
Wikipedia (2012). Hebephilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebephilia
In a previous blog, I examined Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). At its simplest level, BDD is a distressing, handicapping, and/or impairing preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in body appearance that the sufferer perceives to be ugly, unattractive, and/or deformed. BDD sufferers can think about their perceived defect for hours and hours every day. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) criteria for BDD is:
- Persistent belief in the presence of at least one serious physical illness underlying the presenting symptom(s), even though repeated investigations and examinations have identified no adequate physical explanation, or a persistent preoccupation with a presumed deformity or disfigurement.
- Persistent refusal to accept the advice and reassurance of several different doctors that there is no physical illness or abnormality underlying the symptoms.
One particular body part that has been the focus of some research in the BDD field is that of genitalia. Many men worry about the size of their penis and think it is too small. This is perfectly normal and the worry or concern is highly unlikely to be a symptom of BDD. In a 2004 issue of the Postgraduate Medical Journal, British psychiatrist Dr David Veale reported that although there are broad similarities between the genders in BDD, there are some differences. For instance, men with BDD show a greater preoccupation with their genitals, and women with BDD are more likely to have a co-morbid eating disorder. Dr. David Sarwer (writing in a 2006 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery) asserted that the rate of body dysmorphic disorder should be examined among patients re-questing atypical procedures and cites the example of those individuals requesting genital surgery.
Back in 2008, Channel 4 in the UK had a television series called Penis Envy. The first episode (The Perfect Penis) featured a US psychology student who paid $4000 to have his penis lengthened by cutting the ligament in his pubis. Such actions might be indicative of BDD but the programme didn’t explore this facet. Following such operations, men then have to spend the following weeks suspending a weight from their penis for at least eight hours a day. For all the financial and physical burdens faced, the average increase in length is only 0.5-3cm (with official statistics being closer to 0.5cm than 3cm). Other methods of increasing genital size include the injection of silicon into the penis (although this is dangerous and can result in a silicon embolism).
Dr. Stephen Snyder (Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, US) was interviewed about (so-called) ‘Penile Dysmorphic Disorder’ (PDD) in an online Psychology Today article. He was quoted as saying:
“I don’t know of any statistics on [PDD]. Anxiety or insecurity about penis size is extremely common in men. It would be difficult to determine how frequently the more serious condition of penis-focused BDD occurs. People with BDD tend to avoid mental health specialists…It’s much more likely I think that a man with penile BDD will purchase penis enlargement equipment or consult a surgeon than consult someone like me…Some people seem to have an innate tendency for obsessive thinking. Why some of these people develop BDD, and others OCD or Anorexia Nervosa is unknown…A man who begins to obsess about the size of his penis may begin to compulsively and repeatedly measure his erections, and to avoid dating because he’s convinced he’ll be humiliated. Then the whole thing can spiral out of control, until ultimately he’s online studying penis enlargement techniques”.
A 2006 study led by Dr. J. Lever and published by Psychology of Men and Masculinity reported that in an online survey of over 52,000 participants, most male participants rated their penis as average (66%) and only 22% as large and 12% as small. Among the female participants, around 85% of women were satisfied with their partners’ penile size, while only 55% of men were satisfied, with 45% wanting to be larger (and 0.2% to be smaller).
Just recently, Dr. Warren Holman highlighted the case of ‘Sam’, a 17-year-old white male from a middle-class Jewish family living in Midwest USA with penile dysmorphic disorder (in a 2012 issue of Social Work in Mental Health). As Dr. Holman reported:
“Sam had stopped attending school several weeks earlier, and on many days would not even leave his home. He said he wanted to remain at home and away from school because, ‘My penis is shrinking and people can tell.’ Sam reported he had had his anxiety about his penis for about a year, but until recently had been able to reason himself out of it…Sam was well related, and his mental status was unremarkable except for his belief about his penis”.
Dr. Holman believed that Sam’s conviction that his penis was shrinking (and people could tell) suggested three possible diagnoses (i.e., social phobia; BDD and/or delusional disorder of the somatic type; or schizophrenia). Holman eventually reached the conclusion that Sam’s beliefs were due to BDD although did say that it “may be in a prodromal phase of schizophrenia”. Sam was treated via a form of psychodynamic counselling (which much to the disappointment of Holman ultimately failed perhaps because of initial misdiagnosis).
In 2007, British urologists Dr. Kevan Wylie and Dr. Ian Eardley published a review on penile size in BJU International. They summarized all of the studies on penile size that have examined flaccid penis length, stretched penis length, erect penis length, flaccid penis girth and erect penis girth. They reported that:
“Stretched penile length in these studies was typically 12–13 cm, with an erect length of 14–16 cm. For girth, there was again remarkable consistency of results, with a mean girth of 9–10 cm for the flaccid penis and 12–13 cm for the erect penis…Concern over the size of the penis, when such concern becomes excessive, might present as the ‘small penis syndrome’ [SPS], an obsessive rumination with compulsive checking rituals, body dysmorphic disorder, or as part of a psychosis”.
However, they did also assert that more research was required on the effects of race and age on penile length. Wylie and Eardley speculate that SPS (or ‘locker room syndrome’ as they also call it) originates in childhood following the sight of their father’s, elder sibling’s and/or older friend’s penis. This appears to have support from a 2005 study (also published in BJU International). Dr. N. Mondaini and Dr. P. Gontero surveyed men who thought they had a small penis at an andrology clinic and reported that nearly two-thirds said their SPS had begun in childhood (63%) with the rest saying it began in adolescence (37%).
Wylie and Eardley also examined the treatment options of men with SPS and also examined the evidence of commercial penis extending techniques. They concluded that:
“It is recommended that the initial approach to a man who has SPS is a thorough urological, psychosexual, psychological and psychiatric assessment that might involve more than one clinician…Conservative approaches to therapy, based on education and self-awareness, as well as short-term structured psychotherapy [cognitive-behavioural therapy] are often successful, and should be the initial interventions in all men. Of the physical treatments available, there is poorly documented evidence to support the use of penile extenders. More information is need on the outcomes with these devices. Similarly, there is emerging evidence about the place of surgery and there are now several reports suggesting that dividing the suspensory ligament can increase flaccid penile length”.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Goodman, M.P. (2009). Female Cosmetic Genital Surgery. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 113, 154-159.
Holman, W.D. (2012). “My Penis Is Shrinking and People Can Tell”: A Confusing Case of Apparent Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Social Work in Mental Health, 9, 319-335.
Morrison, T.G., Bearden, A., Ellis, S.R. & Harriman, R. (2005). Correlates of genital perceptions among Canadian post- secondary students. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 8. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume8/GenitalPerceptions.htm
Lever, J., Fredereicjk, D.A. & Peplau, L.A. (2006). Does size matter? Men’s and women’s views on penis size across the lifespan. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 3,129-143.
Mondaini, N. & Gontero, P. (2005). Idiopathic short penis: myth or reality? BJU International, 95, 8–9.
Sarwer, D.B. (2006). Body Dysmorphic Disorder and cosmetic surgery. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, December, 168e-180e.
Snyder, S. (2011). When size obsession gets out of hand. Psychology Today, June 11. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sexualitytoday/201106/when-size-obsession-gets-out-hand
Sondheimer, A. (1988). Clomipramine treatment of delusional disorder-somatic type. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27, 188-192.
Veale, D. (2004). Body dysmorphic disorder. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 80, 67-71.
Wylie, K.R. & Eardley, I. (2007). Penile size and the ‘small penis syndrome’. BJU International, 99, 1449–1455.
According to both Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices and Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, odontophilia is a sexual paraphilia that refers to individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal involving teeth. The online Urban Dictionary goes a little further and describes it as a sexual fetish where individuals are sexually aroused by (i) licking a sexual partner’s teeth, (ii) leaving the imprint of teeth on their lover’s skin (or vice versa), (iii) pulling out a sexual partner’s teeth (or anything concerning dentistry). The online medical website Right Diagnosis defines odontophilia as referring to sexual urges, preferences or fantasies involving teeth. Given these definitions (particularly the one in the Urban Dictionary) they suggest an overlap with sexual biting fetishes (i.e., odaxelagnia, which I covered in a previous blog).
Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices spends quite a lot of time looking at odontophilia from a historical and literary perspective and recounts the work of the Marquis de Sade. It is said that de Sade based his writings on the sex life of others, and Dr. Love selected one of de Sade’s passages to exemplify odontophilia relating to a tooth extraction:
“The passion of Bonifice is also singular. He loves pulling out the teeth of his victims, while fucking them and being simultaneously sodomized. One who becomes the victim of these gentlemen is Fosine, fourteen years old, with a beautiful form, and a rich family. She promises the ideal combination of lust and profit. Both Boniface and Chrysostome wish to indulge themselves with her, and after pulling out her thirsty two beautiful teeth, she is subjected to the Superior, who immolates her in his own fashion”.
Dr. Love then goes on to say that it’s highly doubtful whether anyone today would practice odontophilia in the form described by de Sade. She then says:
“However, it is possible that an occasional tooth extraction scene occurred in 1797 when de Sade wrote his book. Nitrous oxide and ether were not used to extract teeth until 1840 and Novocain was not produced until the beginning of this century; therefore people during de Sade’s lifetime were accustomed to having their teeth removed without effective painkillers. The pulling of teeth may be arousing even with the advent of anesthesia as noted in Erich von Stroheim’s film Greed. Here the beautiful patient is kissed by her dentist as the blood still flows from her mouth”.
In researching this blog, I only located a couple of articles on the topic. The Everyday Entropy website features a first-hand account by someone who claims that “teeth get me hot” but after reading their story, it was quite clear that the person writing the article is far from being an odontophile. A better article on odontophilia was written by Billie Rosie who links the condition with vampirism. He noted:
“Perhaps the closest we get to identifying an obsession with teeth is through vampire stories and films. These equate teeth, especially long canine teeth with danger. The vampire will pierce your vein and sip your blood straight from the jugular – if the vampire takes too much you will die and according to some vampire lore, you will become a vampire, roaming the night in search of prey. Vampires are sexy. Anne Rice, I think, made them sexy. Following the predatory Lestat, came True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries – the list goes on”.
“[Egaeus] suffers from a type of obsessive disorder, a monomania that makes him fixate on objects. She, originally beautiful, suffers from some unspecified degenerative illness, with periods of catalepsy a particular symptom, which he refers to as a trance…One afternoon, Egaeus sees Berenice as he sits in the library. When she smiles, he focuses on her teeth. His obsession grips him, and for days he drifts in and out of awareness, constantly thinking about the teeth. He imagines himself holding the teeth and turning them over to examine them from all angles. At one point a servant tells him that Berenice has died and shall be buried. When he next becomes aware, with an inexplicable terror, he finds a lamp and a small box in front of him. Another servant enters, reporting that a grave has been violated, and a shrouded disfigured body found, still alive. Egaeus finds his clothes are covered in mud and blood, and opens the box to find it contains dental instruments and ‘thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances’ – Berenice’s teeth”.
I’ve only come across one academic research paper that makes any mention of odontophilia. In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be considerably more). Their results showed that there were 1697 fetishists (2% of all fetishists) with a sexual interest in odontophilia on the websites they studied (although their definition of odontophilia not only included teeth but also mouth and lips so the number of ‘true’ odontophiles was likely to be a lot lower).
According to the Right Diagnosis website, treatment is generally not sought for odontophilia unless it becomes problematic for the individual and they feel compelled to address the condition. As I have noted in my previous blogs, the majority of sexual fetishists and paraphiliacs simply learn to accept their condition and manage to achieve sexual gratification in an appropriate manner with no problem for the individual or their sexual partners.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Everyday Entropy (2009). Odentophilia. July 12. Located at: http://www.everydayentropy.com/2009/07/odontophilia-mouthful-of-blood.html
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Rosie, B. (2012). Odontophilia: A fetish for teeth. November 30. Located at: http://billierosie.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/odontophilia-fetish-for-teeth_30.html?zx=e29fd1eddbccbd8c
Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.
In my previous blogs I have examined various human-animal sexual relationships including zoophiles that have sexual relationships with horses, lizards, dolphins, birds and insects. Today’s blog examines something I am calling ‘porcinophilia’ (i.e., a sexual paraphilia where humans are sexually attracted to and aroused by pigs). Although there are a number of scientific papers that have made reference to humans having sexual relationships with pigs (both sows and boars), the behaviour has (surprisingly) never been given a name.
I don’t know about you, but before I researched the material for this blog, my only “evidence” that humans would want to have sex with a pig was an infamous scene in the 1972 film Deliverance starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, and Ned Beatty. In the film, the scene concerns Ned Beatty’s character (Bobby Trippe) being violently and anally raped by a two shotgun-wielding hillbillies and Bobby being forced to “squeal like a pig” as it was happening. However, this is nothing compared to the Belgian film Vase de Noces.
Vase de Noces is arguably one of the most disturbing and controversial movies ever made (known as Wedding Trough in the UK and often referred to as The Pig F**king Movie), and concerns the sexual relationship between a man and his pig. A number of film censors (including those in Australia) have labeled the film as an obscenity because of its animal killings (some real, some simulated) and depictions of coprophagia and urophilia (i.e., the eating of faeces and drinking of urine which I examined in previous blogs). The film revolves around an autistic man who becomes fixated on a female pig and ends up having a sexual relationship with it, and is psychologically devastated when the pig dies.
In my search for literature relating to porcinophilia, I came across a book chapter entitled ‘The Sex Lit You Probably Haven’t Read: Obscure and Expunged Material Dealing With Everyone’s Favorite Activity’ by Russ Kick. He made reference to the ‘feminist classic’ Our Bodies, Ourselves and described by Kick as “perhaps the most important women’s health book ever published”, and is currently in its eighth edition. Kick managed to track down some of the deleted fantasies from the original 1973 edition that presented sexual fantasies in the women’s own words. One of the extracts, mentioned sexual activity with pigs although in the context of being lower down the bestial hierarchy. The deleted quote read: “I fantasize about making love with horses, because they are very sensuous animals, more so than cows or pigs. They are also very male animals – horse society is very chauvinist”.
A paper written by Margret Grebowicz concerning online bestiality pornography entitled “When Species Me(a)t” in a 2010 edition of the online journal Humanalia (the journal of human/animal interface studies). Grebowicz made a passing reference to bestiality involving pigs in a section on ‘animal rape’ based on what she had found on the internet. More specifically she claimed:
“Numerous sites advertise photo galleries accompanied by narratives of dogs ‘raping’ innocent girls or other ‘first timers’. In all of the sites classified as ‘animal rape’, the animal, usually a dog, is present as the perpetrator, not the victim, of a rape. This rape narrative sometimes depends on claims about the animal’s intelligence, as in http://www.zooshock.com, which shows photos of a woman having intercourse with a pig. The accompanying narrative states that she was raped by the pig in a shed, a claim which is then supported by the following sentence, which explains that pigs are among the most intelligent animals on the planet, comparable to dogs. The trajectory from intelligence to sexuality is clear: the more intelligent the animal, the more credible the narrative in which the animal is a sexual agent”.
But now for something a little bit more academic. Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices reported that the first ever legal reference concerning the punishment for bestiality was in the Hittite compendium of laws. These laws stated that bestial acts carried out by men (but not women) with pigs, sheep, cattle, and/or dogs were punishable with death. He also noted that court records available in Europe and the USA between the fourteenth century and the present day, nearly always show males (as opposed to females) as most likely to be charged with bestial offences, and that the most common animals that humans had engaged in sexual activity were in these court cases were horses, pigs and sheep.
In the scientific literature there are a couple of case studies relating to human-porcine sexual relationships. In 1976, Dr. P. H. Blondel reported in a French medical journal that a 46-year old French farmer had to undergo surgery for peritonitis after anal sex with a boar (i.e., a male pig). Later in 2002, Dr. G.K. Kirov and his colleagues reported in Injury (the International Journal of the Care of the Injured) that a 62-year old Bulgarian farmer was treated for a torn rectum after sex with a male pig. The authors noted that: “A transmural tear occurred when pressure exceeded the rectal wall compliance at a fixed point of contact”. The farmer had presented at hospital suffering from abdominal pain. Following medical tests, it was discovered that the cause of the pain was a small (half a centimetre) ragged tear of the rectal wall. Initially, the farmer was understandably reluctant to tell the medical staff how the injury had been obtained, but eventually he revealed that one of his male pigs had anally penetrated him. Science writer Darren Naish (in an article covering this case on his Tetrapod Zoology blog) described the anatomy of a pig’s penis, and from this description it is easy to see how being anally penetrated by a pig would cause a rectal tear:
“The pig penis is somewhat different from the sort of anatomy that we’re more familiar with. For one thing, the organ is twisted, with the right corpus cavernosum more strongly developed than the left. The retractor muscle is also attached asymmetrically…Believe it or don’t, by contracting its retractor muscles, a boar makes its penis move in a semi-rotary fashion, and by causing this movement a mating boar can achieve ejaculation even when not thrusting the pelvis in the normal fashion. A glans is absent, and instead the tip of the organ is twisted with a curved and pointed end”.
I also read in Frances Twinn’s book The Miscellany of Sex that the pig’s corkscrew-shaped penis can provide orgasms that last for 30 minutes. Finally, a 2000 study of 32 male zoophiles by Dr. Andrea Beetz (and also reported in a number of her later publications including the 2002 book Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals) reported that 14% of her participants were most attracted to pigs. However, compared to other form of animal sexual attraction, pigs were the least sexually attractive animals when compared to dogs (87%), horses (81%), cows (32%), goats (28%), sheep (27%) and cats (15%).
Both court reports and scientific medical papers prove the existence of humans having sexual relationships with pigs, and Dr. Beetz’ research with self-confessed zoophiles also shows that among the zoophile community, pigs are among a number of household pets and farm animals that humans have had sexual relationships with. We know nothing about the prevalence or etiology of such behaviour, but the incidence is likely to be very low.
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.
Beetz, A.M. (2000, June). Human sexual contact with animals: New insights from current research. Paper presented at the 5th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology, Berlin.
Beetz, Andrea (2002). Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals. Germany: Shaker Verlag.
Beetz, A. M. (2004). Bestiality/zoophilia: A scarcely investigated phenomenon between crime, paraphilia, and love. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice, 4, 1-36.
Bering, J. (2012). Porky pig. Slate, January 6. Located at: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/01/when_bestiality_gets_blamed_on_the_animals.html
Blondel, P. H. 1976. Perforations digestives d’etiologie insolite: deux cas. Nouv Presse Med 5, 915.
Grebowicz, M. (2010). When species Me(a)t: Confronting bestiality pornography. Humanalia, 1(2). Located at: http://www.depauw.edu/humanimalia/issue02/grebowicz.html
Kick, R. (2005). The sex lit you probably haven’t read: Obscure and expunged material dealing with everyone’s favorite activity. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.260-267). New York: The Disinformation Company.
Kirov, G. K., Losanoff, J. E. & Kjossev, K. T. (2002). Zoophilia: A rare cause of traumatic injury to the rectum. Injury, 33, 367-368.
Naish, D. (2008). Traumatic anal intercourse with a pig. Tetrapod Zoology, February 22. Located at: http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2008/02/22/he-loved-pigs-too-much/
Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.
“Sixty-four million people do it at least once a week. Nabokov wrote about it. Bill Clinton even did it in the White House” (Marc Romano, 2005).
I’m sure many of you reading this opening quote will think that it refers to sexual infidelity but it doesn’t. I was also deliberately obtuse in the title of today’s blog to throw you off the scent of what today’s blog is about. Well, to put some of you out of your misery, the topic under the microscope today is crossword puzzles. For those who don’t know, a cruciverbalist is an enthusiast of word games (especially of crosswords). According to Michael Quinion in his excellent World Wide Words website:
“[The word ‘cruciverbalist’] seems to have appeared in English about 1980 (the first reference I can find is to the Compleat Cruciverbalist of 1981 by Stan Kurzban and Mel Rosen, subtitled ‘how to solve, compose and sell crossword puzzles for fun and profit’). However, Stan Kurzban tells me that Mel Rosen had encountered the word some years earlier in the title of a directory of crossword puzzle notables that was not widely circulated. Whatever its origin, cruciverbalist has spread into the wider language as a result of their efforts to the extent that it now appears in some larger recent US dictionaries. The word is a modern mock-Latin invention, being a translation back into Latin of the English crossword (using Latin crucis, cross, as in words like cruciform, plus verbum, word, as in verbose or verbatim).There is also cruciverbalism, for the art of crossword compilation or crossword fandom generally, but that is much rarer”.
The opening quote comes from Marc Romano’s 2005 book The Crossword Obsession: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Popular Pastime who asserted that: “the crossword puzzle has arguably been our national obsession since its birth almost a century ago”. Seeing the word ‘obsessive’ was enough to make me think it was a topic worthy of consideration of writing a blog about it (especially when reading the accompanying blurb for Romano’s book):
“Saying this is a book about puzzles is to tell only half the story. It is also an explanation into what crosswords tell us about ourselves – about the world we live in, the cultures that nurture us, and the different ways we think and learn. If you’re a puzzler, Crossworld will enthrall you. If you have no idea why your spouse send so much time filling letters into little white squares, Crossworld will tell you – and with luck, save your marriage”.
On a personal note, I ought to declare a vested self-interest in that I been doing cryptic crosswords since I was taught to do them by my father in my mid-teens. In the early 1990s until the late 1990s I did (or rather attempted) The Guardian’s cryptic crossword almost every day (the birth of my daughter put a stop to daily crosswords and what little spare time I had outside of my job). On the way to a conference in Bristol in 1998, I had a race on the train with one of my departmental colleagues (Bob Rotheram) as to who could complete that day’s Guardian crossword first. I even got a letter in The Guardian (November 26, 2002) about a crossword puzzle set by my favourite crossword setter (John Galbraith Graham, better known under his crossword compiling pseudonym ‘Araucaria’). Many of the clues in the prize crossword I had just completed related to an anagram of the word ‘presbyterians’. The letter I had published said:
“I don’t know what is worse. The fact that some clues in the prize crossword related to Britney Spears and her hit singles, or the sad fact that I knew the answers to them all!”
The fact that ‘presbyterians’ is an anagram of singer ‘Britney Spears’ I found amazing (although my favourite anagram in one of Araucaria’s crosswords was ‘synthetic cream’ being an anagram of the football team ‘Manchester City’). I am also a huge fan of crossword homophones (words that are pronounced the same but are completely different in definition and meaning) and on which most forms of punning are based. This includes many of my blog titles such as my articles on body dysmorphic disorder (‘Flaw management’), biting fetishes (‘Bit sighs’), pandrogyny (‘A gender setting’), and gambling spending (‘Stake and chips’), as well as my blogs on the psychology of revulsion (‘Disgust discussed’), Exploding Head Syndrome (‘A noise that annoys’) and Jerusalem Syndrome (‘Wholly holy’). I love crosswords so much that I even have an all-time favourite clue (“Late opening” [seven letters]; Answer: AUTOPSY). Total genius!
Doing crosswords appears to be a very popular hobby. According to Dean Olsher in his 2009 book, From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords, about 50 million American people do crosswords. Olsher says that for some, crosswords are a pastime and for others it is a form of escapism (suggesting that crosswords may produce psychological feelings and motivations associated with addictive behaviours). Olsher noted that some people like the film director Alfred Hitchcock “didn’t get” crosswords. Hitchcock told film actor, director and screenwriter Francois Truffaut that:
“I don’t really approve of whodunits because they’re rather like a jigsaw or crossword puzzle. No emotion. You simply wait to found out who committed the murder”
Olsher claims Hitchcock fell prey to a common false dichotomy that thinking and feeling are an either/or proposition. Olsher claims they are inextricable, and that cerebral and emotional satisfaction are not at odds with each other. For Olsher, crosswords can be an exhilarating experience and akin to seated meditation. However, he also notes that doing crosswords (based on his own personal experience) could be an addiction:
“It is more honest, though, to think of crosswords as a habit, like smoking. It’s just something to do, every day, because it’s there. When finished with a puzzle, I don’t pump my fists in triumph or congratulate myself for my perseverance. I solve crosswords because they bring on a feeling of emptiness, and paradoxically, that feeling seems to fill a hole deep inside. It’s not a release, it’s not a flushing out, although both those terms grasp at some aspect of it. Norman Mailer said that for him, solving the crossword every day was like combing his brain. This simile is strong because it has nothing to do with usual mental fitness. It’s not about intelligence or holding onto memory. Crosswords bring about a focused state of mind, the elusive ‘flow state’. Then there are days when I decide that this is all an elaborate self-deception. That the puzzle is indeed an escape mechanism. The crossword addiction is not a metaphor but a destructive literal truth”
I was surprised to find there has been quite a lot of academic research on the benefits of doing crosswords (although very little on whether doing crosswords can be obsessive and/or addictive). However, the psychologist Dr. Howard Rachlin does mention in a number of his writings on addiction that there are many activities that could be described as ‘positive addictions’ including “listening to classical music, collecting stamps, exercise, reading novels, doing crossword puzzles”. Dr. Rachlin also noted in a paper published in a 2002 issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS):
“Patterns of behavior may be maintained without extrinsic rewards. For example, on a relatively small scale, activities such as solving jigsaw or crossword puzzles are valuable in themselves. People, like me, who like to do crossword puzzles, find value in the whole act of doing the puzzle. When I sit down on a Sunday morning to do the puzzle I am not beginning a laborious act that will be rewarded only when it is completed. Yet, despite the lack of extrinsic and intrinsic reward for putting in that last particular letter, completing the puzzle is, for me, a necessary part of its value. Like listening to symphonies, the pattern is valuable only as a whole. Extrinsic rewards may initially put together the elements of these patterns but the patterns, once formed, are maintained by their intrinsic value. The cost of breaking the pattern is the loss of this value – even that of the parts already performed”.
However, Rachlin is not without his critics. In responses to the BBS paper, Dr. Stephen Kaplan and Dr. Raymond De Young claimed that Rachlin’s interpretation of intrinsic motivation as arising from a string of habits was far from convincing. More specifically, they noted that the “fascination with crossword and jigsaw puzzles seems far more likely to be an expression of the human inclination to solve problems, a tendency humans share with nonhuman primates”. Another response to the BBS paper by Dr. Thomas R. Zentall claimed that the concept of intrinsic reinforcement is needed to explain the variety of behaviour that has no extrinsic material or social reward, such as crossword puzzle solving. He argues that:
“Intrinsic reinforcers are difficult to assess. They are what [are] left once you have ruled out extrinsic reinforcers, and in the case of humans, typically we assess them by means of verbal behavior (e.g., ‘I just like doing it’). But this sort of definition can easily become circular, especially when we are talking about behavioral patterns that are themselves not clearly defined. One can hypothesize that extrinsic reinforcers become internalized, but that does not explain, it only describes”.
Doing crosswords may even be of psychological and practical benefit. For instance, Dr. Mike Murphy and Dr. Roisin Cunningham published a paper last year in the Irish Journal of Psychology claiming that: “a crossword a day improves verbal fluency”. More specifically they examined ‘semantic verbal fluency’ (SVF) an important contributor to general communication ability. In their study, 34 final year students completed a daily crossword for one month and compared this to a control group of 40 students who did not do any crosswords. Their results indicated that the crossword group experienced greater improvement in SVF than the control group. They concluded that doing simple crosswords may be a relatively straightforward way improving SVF among students who are about to enter the job market and need good transferable skills.
Dr. Graham Pluck and Dr. Helen Johnson writing in a 2011 issue of Education Science and Psychology claim that stimulating curiosity (with activities such as crosswords) can enhance learning. They drew on the work of Dr. Ludwig Lowenstein who noted that many features of human behaviour appear counter-productive on the surface but are not. For instance:
“Lowenstein discusses the interest that many people have in completing puzzles such as crosswords, or why soap operas end on cliff-hangers. According to the theory, the information gaps that people are exposed to act to motivate them to obtain the missing information, either by persevering to complete the puzzle or tuning in to watch the next episode of the soap opera”.
Another study led by Dr. Joshua Jackson and published in a 2012 issue of the journal Psychology and Aging claimed doing crosswords could change some aspects of personality among old-aged people. More specifically, they examined whether an intervention aimed to increase cognitive ability in older adults (i.e., doing crossword and Sudoko puzzles) affected the personality trait of openness to experience (i.e., being imaginative and intellectually oriented). In their study, old-aged adults completed a 4-month program in inductive reasoning training that included weekly crossword and Sudoku puzzles. They were then assessed continually over the following 30 weeks. Their findings showed that those who did crossword and Sudoko puzzles increased their openness scores compared to the control group. The authors claimed that this study is one of the very first to demonstrate that personality traits can change through non-psychopharmocological interventions.
Although there are a number of people online who have confessed as to being ‘crossword addicts’, (including the US rock singer and record producer Todd Rundgren in a June 2013 interview with Uncut magazine), I have yet to find any empirical evidence that it is negatively detrimental in people’s lives. For most, even those who describe themselves as ‘crossword obsessives’, it is a behaviour that adds to and enhances their lives.
Amende, C. (2001). The Crossword Obsession: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Popular Pastime. New York: Berkeley.
Davis, T.M., Shepherd, B. & Zwiefelhofer, T. (2009). Reviewing for exams: Do crossword puzzles help in the success of student learning? Journal of Effective Teaching, 9, 4-10.
Jackson, J.J., Hill, P.L., Payne, B.R., Roberts, B.W., & Stine-Morrow, E.A. L. (2012). Can an old dog learn (and want to experience) new tricks? Cognitive training increases openness to experience in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 27, 286-292.
Kaplan, S. & De Young, R. (2002). Toward a better understanding of prosocial behavior: The role of evolution and directed attention Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 263-264.
Murphy, M. & Cunningham, R.K. (2102). A crossword a day improves verbal fluency: A report of an intervention study. Irish Journal of Psychology, 133, 193-198.
Olsher, D. (2009). From Square One: A Meditation, with Digressions, on Crosswords. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Pluck, G. & Johnson, H. (2011). Stimulating curiosity to enhance learning. Education Science and Psychology, 2(19), 24-31.
Rachlin, H. (2002). Altruism and selfishness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 239-250.
Rachlin, H. (2003). Economic concepts in the behavioural study of addiction. In R.E. Vuchinich & N. Heather (Eds.), Choice, Behavioural Economics and Addiction. (pp.129-149). Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press.
Romano, M. (2005). Crossworld: One Man’s Journey into America’s Crossword Obsession. Blackpool: Broadway.
Underwood, G., Deihim, C. & Batt, V. (1994). Expert performance in solving word puzzles: From retrieval cues to crossword clues. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 8, 531-548.
Zentall, T.R. (2002). A potentially testable mechanism to account for altruistic behavior Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 282.
In the 2000 film American Psycho, the anti-hero Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) contains a scene in which while having sex with two female escorts, looks at himself in the mirror admiringly. Even when one of the escort girls tries to attract his attention, he seemingly prefers to look at himself rather than the women he is making love to. Quite clearly a narcissist, Bateman may have also been a kataptronophile. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, katoptronophilia is a sexual paraphilia defined as sexual pleasure and arousal from having sex in front of mirrors.
Having said that, somewhat confusingly, Aggrawal also says that individuals who derive sexual arousal “from looking at oneself in a mirror [and] arousal from image in mirrors” is called spectrophilia. (However, I examined this in a previous blog and most credible sources state that spectrophilia relates to those who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from having sex or sexual thoughts about ghosts). A short online article on katoptronophilia on the Wikipedia website goes a little further and defines it as:
“…a paraphilia for mirrors (the Greek word for mirror is katoptron). It may include activities such as having sex in front of mirrors, masturbating in front of mirrors, enacting other paraphilias in front of a mirror, having an orgy in front of a mirror, or enacting stripping fetishism in front of mirrors. Enacting katoptronophiliac fantasies may involve constructing environments for erotic activity in which one is completely surrounded by mirrors, sometimes including even on the ceiling. A person who is a katoptronophiliac may put mirrors all over their house so they can have sex in any room in the house”.
On first look, katoptronophilia appears to be a sub-type of voyeurism where the key distinguishing feature is the use of mirrors as part of the voyeuristic act. However, voyeurism is usually defined as the act of gaining sexual arousal from the watching of others either naked and/or engaging in sexual behaviour. I stressed the word ‘others’ as katoptronophila involves the watching of oneself having sex via the use of mirrors. Technically, kataptronophilia is a sub-type of scoptophilia (sometimes called scopophilia). According to Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology, scoptophilia/scopophilia is
“A paraphilia of the solicitational [and] allurative type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to, and contingent on watching others engaging in sexual activity, including sexual intercourse [from Greek, skopein, to view + -philia]. The condition in which a person is dependent on looking at sexual organs and watching their coital performance in order to obtain erotic arousal and facilitate and achieve orgasm. It is not surreptitious, as in voyeurism. The reciprocal paraphilic condition is sometimes also referred to as scoptophilia; or by its own name, autagonistophilia. Synonyms, mixophilia; mixoscopia; scopophilia”.
Just complicate things a little further, many online definitions of mixophilia (which as in the definition by Dr. Pranzarone above appears to be another word for scoptophilia) often mention mirrors in the definitions. For instance, the Fetish List website defines mixophilia as gaining sexual arousal and pleasure from watching “their partner or themselves engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves in a mirror”. This is similar to the definition for mixophilia in the online Gay Slang Dictionary that notes:
“A person with this fetish [mixophilia] likes to watch his partner or the both of them engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves perform in a mirror. A common theme in gay porn pictures is the presence of a mirror in which part or all of the action is reflected”
I’ve yet to come across a single academic article on the topic and most of the theorizing is speculative to say the least. In 2003, Mark Pendergrast published his cultural history of mirrors (Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection), but did not specifically examine katoptronophilia (although did mention the sexual use of mirrors). The one thing I learned was that the Etruscans [an ancient Italian civilization originating around what is now known as Tuscany] often featured sex scenes painted on the back of their mirrors). In relation to why katoptronophilia exists, one online snippet I came across claimed that:
“Theories suggest that katoptronophilia is fed from a basal narcissistic instinct. It is a combination of narcissism and degradation and a feeling of over powering dominance. It’s like watching a live porno of yourself. The most advanced stage of voyeur there is”
This appears to be somewhat corroborated by the Wikipedia entry (and the fictionalized account that opened this blog) that notes that:
“Many pornographic films show porn stars having sex in front of mirrors. Many people enjoy having sex in front of mirrors and have mirrors in their bedrooms in which they can watch themselves have sex. They sometimes engage in this activity for their personal enjoyment. On a deeper level this could relate to the person’s need to reflect and critique themselves, and also being on a mental state of narcissism. The person often is solely absorbed in themselves and likes to watch their actions so as to admire”.
A 2007 online article on kataptronophilia at the Journals of an Intelsexual website argues that the fetish is evolving and that “technology is also expanding on this fetish; live stream cameras, multiple cameras, big screen monitors…the possibilities are limitless”. I’m not convinced that evolving technology providing more ways to watch yourself having sex is actually katoptronophilia as the key distinguishing feature of the paraphilia is the use of mirrors (not the watching of yourself). I seriously doubt if this type of paraphilic behaviour (and I have some doubts as to whether it is a paraphilic behaviour anyway) will ever be the subject of serious academic research as it’s highly unlikely that such behaviour is problematic un any way.
DeMure, K. (2007). Word of the week: Katoptronophilia. Lust Puddle, November 6. Located at: http://lustpuddle.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/word-of-week-katoptronophilia.html
Forbidden Light (2007). Katoptronophilia: Love for mirrors. Journals of an Intelsexual, December 4. Located at: http://intelsexualism.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/katoptronophilia-love-for-mirrors.html?zx=ac769a5283ebf462
Milner, J.S., & Dopke, C.A., & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and theory. In D. R. Laws & W. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, assessment, and treatment (2nd ed., pp. 384-428). New York: Guilford.
Pendergrast, M. (2003). Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection. New York: Basic Books.
Pranzarone, G.F. (2000). The Dictionary of Sexology. Located at: http://ebookee.org/Dictionary-of-Sexology-EN_997360.html
Wikipedia (2012). Kataptronophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katoptronophilia
Recently, I was sent an email by one of my regular blog readers saying that there were “two obvious” topics” that I had not covered in my writings so far. The first one was paedophilia (which I have mentioned in passing but have never devotes a whole article to) and the second one was on semen fetish. I’m not going to go into my reasons why I have yet to devote a blog to the topic of paedophilia but the topic of ‘semen fetish’ was honestly not something that had crossed my mind. The email I was sent pointed out that my blog had covered paraphilias and fetishes concerning almost every other bodily fluid (i.e., urine, faeces, blood, menstrual blood, saliva, tears, breast milk, snot, phlegm, vomit, pus and earwax) “apart from the most obvious – namely semen”. Therefore, today’s blog looks ‘semen fetish’ although I know of no academic research or clinical studies on the topic (so not a lot of material to work with).
There is a lot of talk on the internet about almost mythical status that semen has been afforded. This is typified by a story I came across while researching this blog. In April 2010, the BBC reported the case of an Israeli man – Nissim Aharon – who was jailed for 10 years after tricking five women of various ages into various sexual acts (including rape and sodomy) by claiming that his semen was “holy and had healing powers”. Aharon pretended to be a holy rabbi and other authority figures (such as working for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency) and claimed to the unsuspecting women that his “holiness” could be passed to those who touched him physically, cleansing their bodies. He was eventually arrested in August 2009. A statement by the Israeli Justice Ministry reported that:
“Over many years [Aharon] presented himself as a righteous man, as a saint with healing powers, who exploited the naïvity of women and teenage girls, while carrying out appalling sexual acts and obtaining large sums of money by fraud. He would claim to be a rabbi, and impersonate figures in authority who would then refer women and teenage girls to himself. He would give these people different explanations: among others, that a holy scent comes from him, and that his semen is a holy fluid, which by contact could heal body and soul”.
Another seemingly relevant topic that I found online in relation to semen fetish was talk on various sexual forums about the love of ‘bukkake’ and ‘gokkun’ in pornographic films. I’m aware that some of you reading this will be well aware of these semen-related sexual acts but for the benefit of those who have no idea what I am talking about, I feel duty bound to tell you (but please be warned that my descriptions are sexually explicit).
Bukkake is a sexual act (most commonly seen in hard core pornographic films) where a group of men all simultaneously ejaculate over a women or man. Original bukkake videos are Japanese in origin and date back to the advent of videos in the 1980s. However, bukkake videos (while still arguably a minority market) have been made for both European and American audiences (with an increasing number of such films made for the gay market). The Wikipedia entry on bukkake claims that the sexual act involves “the implied or overt humiliation of the person ejaculated upon” because typically the receiving person is a passive recipient and not sexually stimulated. Some commentators have pointed out that the recipients in Japanese films tend to be much more passive and submissive than the recipients in American films. Feminist campaigner Gail Dines says the act of bukkake “marks the woman as used goods”, conveys a sense of ownership and is “one of the most degrading acts in porn”. Other reactions to bukkake were summarized in the Wikipedia entry:
“A number of authors have described bukkake as premised on humiliation. Forensic psychologist Karen Fanklin has described bukkake as symbolic group rape, characterising its primary purpose as the humiliation, degradation and objectification of women. Lisa Jean Moore and Juliana Weissbein view the use of ejaculation in bukkake as part of a humiliation ritual, noting that it generally does not involve any of the female participants experiencing orgasm”.
Gokkun is also a sexual act that is Japanese in origin and is where a man or woman consumes the semen of one or more men from a drinking receptacle (e.g., cups, glasses, beakers, etc.). The Wikipedia entry on gokkun claims that as the makers of hard-core pornography attempt to outdo each other, the number of men participating in gokkun videos has increased to as many as 140 in American films and 200 on Japanese films.
While there is much written about bukkake, references to semen fetish appear to be rare. The following extract from a self-confessed semen fetishist is one of a few that I have come across online. I chose the following quote because of the level of reflective introspection at the end of the quote. (Again, I also need to point out that the quote is sexually explicit):
“I have come to terms with the fact that I have a semen fetish. This manifests itself in many ways. Obviously, it is important in my sex life. My current girlfriend is quite open-minded, so she doesn’t have a problem with facials and swallowing. She is also open to some semen play, for example drinking it from a spoon or a wine glass. I have dozens of other semen-related fantasies which I want to try out too…Another manifestation of this fetish is my taste in porn. It’s almost exclusively semen-related movies that I watch because they are the biggest turn on for me. I mostly watch bukkake, gokkun and regular facial movies…I know that I’ll probably be heckled as being gay or whatever, but I don’t mind. The fact is that guys don’t turn me on, but girls do. Perhaps the fact that I like to see girls covered in sperm is more to do with my own desire for women to accept my own semen. I’ve thought that through a lot and it seems likely. Humans tend to associate the face with the identity. And I think on some level, men associate their semen with their personal manhood and identity. To have a girl let you shoot semen onto her face is a symbolic act of acceptance of your identity. There is almost certainly a domination aspect to the act too”
One online article on semen entitled ‘A Modern Craving’ talked about “semen addiction”, “semen fetish” and those “obsessed” with semen. The article claimed it was written to “raise issue and bring to the floor the concept of semen addiction”. Without any apparent empirical support the article claimed that:
“In order to relate with semen addiction, it’s important to understand the mentality of those obsessed. Semen addiction is not the pleasure of having your lover swallow your semen following oral sex, nor is it simple pleasure from pornography involving it. Instead, it is a very real sexual necessity for semen, be it digestion, foreplay or a combination of both. Why those who crave semen do so is widely a mystery. The taste, while enjoyable for some, seems not so important as the act, the eroticism, involved in swallowing semen from a man’s sexual organ. In addition, semen fetishes are not by any means limited to a single gender. While it’s debatable of which group is more outspoken of their semen obsession, it’s not such with reference to the fact they can develop in anyone; from homosexual males to heterosexual females to even heterosexual males, to a lesser extent. The insatiable desire for semen is often so unrelated to ordinary sexual addiction that while it’s possible for someone with the condition to enjoy sex without semen, the true climax of the experience can often be better represented as the reception of semen from one’s lover than as the orgasm of his or herself”
As I noted above, there is almost no empirical research on semen fetish, and the “evidence” I have collated in this blog is (at best) anecdotal. The fetish may well exist, but compared to other bodily fluid fetishes, semen fetish appears to be either much more rare or just much less reported both online and in academic journals. Finally, by my reckoning, the only bodily fluids I have left to write about are sweat, bile, and vaginal secretions.
BBC News (2010). Israel jails man for ‘holy semen’ sex abuse. April 26. Located at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8644637.stm
Kuro5hin (2002). A modern craving. August 5. Located at: http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/8/5/71044/01543
Wikipedia (2012). Bukkake. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bukkake
Wikipedia (2012). Gokkun. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gokkun
It was only a few months ago that I watched the 2006 film Bug for the very first time. Directed by William Friedkin, it tells the story of a mentally ill drifter called Peter Evans (with a great performance by Michael Shannon). Evans ends up having a sexual relationship with Agnes White, a bisexual alcoholic junkie (played surprisingly well by Ashley Judd). During the film, Peter confides in Agnes his belief that he has a colony of microscopic bugs infested one of his molar teeth (and then in one ‘memorable’ scene starts pulling his own teeth out). Evans’ paranoia becomes increasingly erratic and becomes a shared belief with White (who also comes to believe that they are both infested with microscopic bugs; this sharing of a delusional belief is known as a ‘folie à deux’ [French for ‘a madness shared by two people’, a shared psychosis] and would make a good blog topic). However, today’s blog focuses on imagined bug infestation (i.e., delusional parasitosis) that is known in psychological and psychiatric terms as Ekbom’s syndrome (named after the Swedish neurologist Karl Ekbom who first described the condition in a number of published papers in the late 1930s).
As you have probably gathered from my quick film synopsis above, Ekbom’s syndrome (ES) is a type of psychosis in which sufferers have a vehement delusional belief that they are infested with parasites that those affected describe as bugs or insects crawling around under their skin (when in reality they simply do not exist). I ought to add that the characters in Bug also appeared to be suffering from ‘delusory cleptoparasitosis’ (DC) another type of insect psychosis in which the sufferer thinks the place where they live is infested with parasites (rather than from within their body). As a consequence, both ES and DC sufferers are more likely to seek the help of skin specialists (e.g., dermatologists) and insect specialists (e.g., pest control, entomologists) than psychologists.
In essence, ES is a tactile hallucination and is also known as ‘formication’ (which is the word that describes the feeling of insects crawling and/or burrowing underneath the skin’s surface. Formication is also one form of parasthaesia (of which other examples include the ‘pins and needles’ tingling sensations that many people experience regularly). Parasthaesia includes any non-permanent skin sensation including tickling, pricking, tingling, numbness, and/or burning. ES sufferers will focus on any unusual body mark on their skin as ‘evidence’ that they have a parasitic infection. It is not uncommon for obsessive and/or compulsive checking of the body to occur. The prevalence of ES is unknown although Dr. J. Koo and Dr. C. Gambla reported in the journal Dermatologic Clinic that they see around 20 new cases per year in the large US referral clinic.
In some psychological circles, ES has been used synonymously with Wittmaack-Ekbom syndrome that is more associated with ‘restless leg syndrome’ (RLS; something that I myself have suffered from due to a chronic spinal condition that I have). When I get my bouts of RLS, it really does feel as though I have tiny insects moving about inside my right leg. The difference between ES and RLS is that RLS is a real physical condition that has bona fide physical basis whereas the basis for ES is an imaginary delusion. Clinical and medical research has shown that ES is associated with a number of comorbid conditions including affective psychosis, paranoid schizophrenia, organic brain disease, neurosis, and anankastic/paranoid personality disorder. It has also been reported in some people undergoing alcohol withdrawal, cocaine misuse, cerebrovascular disease, senile dementia, and thalamic brain lesions.
There can also be medical complications for ES sufferers. The fictional example of someone pulling their teeth out is not unknown although the gouging or digging out of the perceived parasites is more common. However, a paper by Dr. M. Nel and colleagues in the Journal of the South African Veterinary Association, most ES sufferers are able to function normally in all other aspects of their lives, in spite of their fixed parasitic delusions. They also noted that:
“The typical history often describes numerous attempts at eradicating the infestation. These could include taking medication, applying topical treatments, using pesticides, making use of exterminators, discarding clothing and possessions and even relocating…In a study of 94 patients (Ohtaki, 1991), most patients complained of itching and/or a tickling sensation. In order to rid themselves of the so-called parasites, patients often scratch, pick and wash frequently or use caustic agents on their skin, almost invariably leading to traumatic skin lesions”.
According to one meta-analytic study of 1,223 ES cases (published by Dr. W. Trabart in the journal Psychopathology), the occurrence of ES as a shared psychotic disorder is an uncommon phenomenon. He reported only about 5-15% of such cases were found. It was also reported that ES was more common amongst females (two-thirds female, one-third male), and is more prevalent in those over the age of 40 years. The symptoms had lasted three to four-and-a-half years. ES can be classified into three sub-types (primary; secondary-functional; and secondary-organic) based on the presenting symptoms:
- Primary ES refers to individuals that have the delusional parasitic infestation but no other comorbid conditions (i.e., other mental functioning is normal). Those where ES occurs by suggestion from another individual (e.g., the folie a deux case mentioned above) would be included in this ES sub-type. (It’s also worth noting that at least three studies have reported either the folie à deux or folie à trois among family members or loved ones including papers in the British Journal of Psychiatry and Dermatologica). Treatment is usually pharmacotherapy-based and utilizes drugs that are used in the treatment of other delusional-based syndromes (e.g., atypical antipsychotic drugs such as risperidone and olanzapine.
- Secondary-functional ES refers to individuals that have the delusional parasitic infestation and are associated with another psychiatric condition (e.g., clinical depression, schizophrenia).
- Secondary-organic ES refers to individuals that have the delusional parasitic infestation that is caused by another medical illness (e.g., cancer, diabetes, tubercolosis, hyperthyroidism, vitamin deficiency, cerebrovascular disease, neurological disorders). Other conditions can also facilitate ES including drug abuse (including stimulant psychosis), various allergies, and the menopause). Treating the primary disorder will often lead to a reduction or elimination of the ES symptoms.
The most recent review of the literature I came across was by Dr. Andrea Boggild and colleagues, and published in a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, they concluded that:
“In summary, [delusional parasitosis] is one of the more challenging entities that infectious diseases specialists will be enlisted to help treat. Unfortunately, optimal therapeutic regimens leading to sustained remission are lacking, and assurances on the part of the clinician do little to ameliorate patient suffering”.
Berrios GE (1985). Delusional parasitosis and physical disease. Comprehensive Psychiatry 26, 395-403.
Boggild, A.K., Nicks, B.A., Yen, L., Voorhis, W.V., McMullen, R., Buckner, F.S., & Liles, W.C. (2010). Delusional parasitosis: six-year experience with 23 consecutive cases at an academic medical center. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 14, e317–e321.
Bourgeois, M.L., Duhamel, P. & Verdoux, H. (1992). Delusional parasitosis: Folie à deux and attempted murder of a family doctor. British Journal of Psychiatry, 161, 709-711.
Frances, A. & Munro, A. (1989). Treating a woman who believes she has bugs under her skin. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 40, 1113–1114.
Freinhar, Jack P (1984). Delusions of parasitosis. Psychosomatics, 25, 47-53.
Gieler, U. & Knoll, M. (1990). Delusional parasitosis as ‘folie à trois’. Dermatologica, 181, 122-125.
Goddard J (1995). Analysis of 11 cases of delusions of parasitosis reported to the Mississippi Department of Health. Southern Medical Journal 88, 837-839.
Gould, W.M. & Gragg, T.M. (1976). Delusions of parasitosis. Archives of Dermatology 112, 1745–1748.
Grace, K.J. (1987). Delusory cleptoparasitosis: Delusions of arthropod infestation in the home. Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 63, 1-4.
Koblenzer, C.S. (1993). The clinical presentation, diagnosis and treatment of delusions of parasitosi: A dermatologic perspective. Bulletin of the Society of Vector Ecologists 18, 6-10.
Koo, J. & Gambla, C (1996). Delusions of parasitosis and other forms of monosymptomatic hypochondriacal psychosis. General discussion and case illustrations. Dermatologic Clinic, 14, 429-438.
Morris, M. (1991). Delusional manifestation. British Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 83-87.
Hinkle, N.C. (2000). Delusory parasitosis. American Entomologist 46, 17-25.
Ohtaki, N. (1991). Ninety four cases with delusions of parasitosis. Japanese Journal of Dermatology, 101, 439-446.
Rasmussen, J.E. & Voorhees, J.J. (1990). Psychosomatic dermatology. Archives of Dermatology, 126, 90-93.
Nel, M., Schoeman, J.P. & Lobetti, R.G. (2001). Delusions of parasitosis in clients presenting pets for veterinary care. Journal of the South African Veterinary Association, 72, 167-169.
Trabert, W. (1995). 100 years of delusional parasitosis. Meta-analysis of 1,223 case reports. Psychopathology, 28, 238-46
Webb, J.P. (1993). Case histories of individuals with delusions of parasitosis in southern California and a proposed protocol for initiating effective medical assistance. Bulletin of the Society of Vector Ecologists 18, 16-24.
“A dreaded sunny day/So let’s go where we’re happy
And I meet you at the cemetry gates/Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side
A dreaded sunny day/So let’s go where we’re wanted
And I meet you at the cemetry gates/Keats and Yeats are on your side
But you lose /’Cause weird lover Wilde is on mine”
I’m sure some of you reading this will have immediately spotted these deliberately misspelled lyrics by Morrissey are from the song ‘Cemetry Gates’ on arguably The Smiths’ best album The Queen Is Dead. I’m a massive fan of The Smiths (almost to the point of obsession) and have a bulging collection of books, magazines, vinyl, and CDs. They would be one of my specialist subjects should I ever appear on BBC television programme Mastermind. Anyway, I’ve started today’s blog with these lyrics because in his youth, one of Morrissey’s self-confessed hobbies was to visit the cemeteries in Manchester with his lifelong friend Linder Sterling (artist and singer with the band Ludus, and sleeve designer of the single ‘Orgasm Addict’ by the Buzzcocks).
Anyway, this rambling introduction is by way of introducing the topic of coimetromania (aka koimetromania) and coimetrophilia (aka koimetrophilia). Coimetromania (according to the English Word Information website) is defined as (i) an abnormal attraction to and desire to visit cemeteries, (ii) a compulsion to examine the various graves and other burial aspects of cemeteries, and/or (iii) in some situations in psychiatry, someone who has a morbid attraction to graves and cemeteries. The name comes from the Greek word ‘koimeterion’ which roughly translates to “sleeping-room, burial-place; grave, grave yard; final resting place”.
If you’ve read any of the biographies of The Smiths and Morrissey (by Johnny Rogan, Simon Goddard and Tony Fletcher), all of them make reference to the cemetery walks by Morrissey and Sterling, and Morrissey appears to have had a morbid fascination with gravestones and cemeteries (at least in his early 20s), so much so that he penned one of his most (in)famous songs about them. This appears to be a close cousin of the sexual paraphilia coimetrophilia that the English Word Information website defines as (i) a special fondness and interest in cemeteries or graveyards; especially, in collecting epitaphs that are written on the tombstones, and/or (ii) a fascination with seeing gravestones and sarcophagi (plural of sarcophagus). The Centre for Sexual Pleasure and Health (an organization that provides adults with a safe, space to learn medically accurate, sex positive information about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues) also has a small entry on coimetrophilia:
“Love getting it on in spooky places? Think graveyards are pretty sweet? Perhaps you get turned on by things that are dead, but not actually to things are dead. Not to be confused with necrophilia, coimetrophilia is the love of cemeteries. Aside from there being a lot of history in cemeteries, some are downright beautiful. Throughout history cemeteries have been spiritual places, and that might help!”
Given that coimetrophilia doesn’t make an appearance in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices suggests that if such a sexual paraphilia exists, it is incredibly rare. It would also seem to be related to placophilia (which I briefly mentioned in a previous blog on non-researched sexual paraphilias). Placophilia is where individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from tombstones (which does make it into Dr. Aggrawal’s book but not Brenda Love’s encyclopedia). As I mentioned in a previous blog, after finding out what placophobia was, the musician and author Julian Cope claimed he must be a placophile on a post at his Head Heritage website (although my guess is that his love for tombstones is not sexual).
Literature on coimetrophilia (and placophilia) is almost non-existent and there had certainly been no academic or clinical research on the topic. Given that coimetrophilia is yet another word that was derived from the opposite phobia (i.e., coimetrophobia, a morbid fear of cemeteries and graveyards), it could well be that coimetrophilia is a hypothetical paraphilia rather than a real one. My online search for articles on coimetrophilia threw up only one article on the Are We There Yet?? website entitled ‘I’m a coimetrophiliac – who knew?’ However, none of this first person account was sexually based but just someone (called Linda) talking about their love and fascination of graveyards and tombstones”
“So there we have it, I’m a Coimetrophiliac and now that I know that I guess it’s easy to understand why I go to so many cemeteries and take pictures! And here all these years I thought I was just slightly morbid or something! Truth be told, there are some absolutely gorgeous cemeteries with wonderful tributes to loved ones who have passed on as well as some cemeteries with a lot of interesting history in them so who wouldn’t find them fascinating?”
In a previous blog on human fascination with death, I wrote about Luis Squarisi a Brazilian man who claimed he was ‘addicted to funerals’. Many newspaper stories claimed that Squarisi (who was 42-years old at the time) had attended every funeral in his hometown of Batatais for more than 20 years. The story also claimed that in order to attend every funeral, Squarisi had given up his job to “feed his addiction to funerals”. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t consider Mr. Squarisi’s activity an addiction at all (although the habitual daily ringing of the hospitals and funeral parlour combined with the giving up of his job might potentially be indicators for some types of addiction or compulsion), but from the little I have read about him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s now developed coimetromania.
Fletcher, T. (2013). A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths. London: William Heinemann.
Goddard, S. (2009). Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths. London: Ebury Press.
Goddard, S. (2004). The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life (Revised & Expanded Edition). Reynolds & Hearn Ltd
Rogan, J. (1992). Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance. London: Omnibus.
“When I got to pre-school, I discovered that thumb sucking was not the social norm. Other kids teased me: ‘Only babies suck their thumbs!’ This was terrible news. I didn’t want to be a baby, but there was no way for me to stop doing the only thing in the world that soothed me; the one thing I could do, in a violent home, to comfort myself and feel safe. So I compromised: I stopped sucking my thumb in public…But at home, or during any moment of privacy…my left thumb went automatically into my mouth. Rather than tapering off as I aged, my thumb sucking intensified, and I added a small swatch of cotton blanket to the ritual, rubbing it against my upper lip until it was soft and grey. My parents had split up, and I was moving from place to place with my mother and stepfamily, so nobody really had the energy to monitor my behavior. If anybody did notice and say something to me (‘Stop that, you’re going to ruin your teeth!’), I just popped the thumb out and waited 30 seconds before the coast was clear again” (Janice Erlbaum)
The opening quote is taken from Janice Erlbaum’s blog article “I was an adult thumbsucker” (a habit she managed to kick when she was 26 years old). From Erlbaum’s full account, I wouldn’t class the behaviour as an addiction although depending on what definition of addiction is used, an argument could perhaps be made. I have to admit that adult thumb sucking is something which I have often thought about as someone I know well has sucked her right thumb all her life. She’s now in her early forties and has two completely different shaped thumbs (one ‘normal’ and the other flat and very elongated) as a result of four decades of constant thumb sucking. She also tells me that her upper mouth palate has also changed shape and her thumb fits perfectly into the upper groove in her mouth. She also has a number of little routines she performs while sucking her thumb including the caressing of her eyelashes with her right index finger which when thumb-sucking is close to her eyes. She only ever does it when relaxing (such as when she’s watching television) and has learned not to do it in public. During her junior years and early adolescence, her parents tried to get her to stop, and at one point she was given a substance to coat her thumb in (which tasted disgusting when she put her thumb in her mouth). It didn’t work. She still sucked her thumb and put up with the horrible taste.
Most parents reading this will be aware that thumb-sucking tends to emerge in infancy (although there is some evidence that babies can suck their thumbs inside the womb. For instance, Professor Peter Hepper and his colleagues [Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland) have followed up children who were known to have sucked their thumbs as fetuses). Constant thumb-sucking is not necessarily problematic but depending on how the thumb is sucked, it can cause protruding teeth and other dental problems such as anterior open bite, malocclusion (i.e., misalignment of teeth or incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches), and mucosal trauma. Other problems include deformity of the thumb (something which I have seen for myself first-hand) and speech problems. Thumb-suckers are also more prone to infections such as impetigo around the mouth (i.e., a highly contagious bacterial infection of the surface layers of the skin, which causes sores and blisters), and paronychia of the thumb (i.e., a skin infection that occurs around the nails). Basically, as children get older, the more of a problem thumb sucking is from a medical perspective. As one review of thumb sucking in the American Family Physician journal concluded:
“Major complications of thumb sucking, usually corrects spontaneously if thumb sucking ceases by six years of age. Thumb sucking in a child less than two years of age requires no treatment. In a three- to four-year-old child, thumb sucking may be secondary to changes in the child’s emotional environment, and treatment should be directed at correcting the underlying problem. Thumb sucking that persists beyond the age of six years should be treated”.
An article on thumb-sucking in Psychology Today by psychologist Dr. Susan Heitler looked at the topic of thumb-sucking. Dr. Heitler had been a thumb-sucker herself until she was nine-years old and had to endure “years of orthodonture” because of her childhood thumb-sucking. Her own daughter was also a thumb-sucker and her dentist told her that “trying to end thumbsucking will do more harm than good”, advice that she was not happy with given her own experiences. In her article, she wrote:
“Looks are hugely important to one’s success in life. Allowing thumbsucking to damage facial appearance is wrong advice. By the time a child is four or five, with the habit no longer socially appropriate and permanent teeth coming shortly, the risks of continuing to thumb or finger suck clearly outweigh the benefits…When does a bad habit qualify as an addiction? Usually it’s a function of how much the habit has become physiologically essential so that people feel craving when it is missing. That definitely happens with thumbsucking”.
Dr. Heitler’s article referred to empirical research that had been carried out on thumb-sucking although none of the main findings had any detail as to who had carried out the work, where the research was published, or what methodologies were employed (apart from very general information). Here are some of the main things she reported:
“In a study with premature infants, researchers found that infants who sucked their thumbs or a pacifier had shorter hospital stays. That was because rhythmic sucking soothed them so that they spent less energy in crying. In addition, sucking re-optimized their heart beats and breathing patterns if they were beginning to get upset…In studies of children who do or do not suck a thumb, finger or pacifier, it turns out that the suckers become emotionally more independent at a younger age. Researchers put a child and mom on one end of a long room. On the far end were appealing toys. The suckers ventured further and played with the toys away from Mom longer than the non-suckers…They just had higher self-confidence in being able to handle independent play, knowing that if they felt stressed they could suck for a bit, feel better, and resume playing on their own. It’s generally not until they become toddlers that the downsides of thumbsucking begin to outweigh the gains. Kids then tend to suck when they are trying to fall asleep, when they bored, when they are idling between activities, or to self-soothe when they are upset”.
One online article on thumb-sucking reports that it is a common activity among infants (30%-40% of those yet to start school) and around 10%-20% of children aged over six years. In a more academic source, Dr. Sherry Ellington and colleagues (in a 2000 issue of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis reported that thumb sucking is estimated to occur in 23% to 46% of children aged 1 to 4 years. As with the article by Dr. Heitler, it claims that thumb-sucking may have a psychological benefit for young children as it “allows them to consolidate emotions and handle their stresses”.
In a 1953 paper in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, the Dr. Donald Winnicot presented his theory of transitional objects and phenomena. Dr. Winnicott compared thumb sucking with the use of external objects such as children’s use of comfort blankets drawing parallels between the two. He also a claims that childish actions like thumb sucking and objects like cuddly toys are the source of manifold adult behavior, amongst many others sexual fetishism. It is also claimed (particularly by psychodynamic psychologists) that such actions stem back to childhood trauma and that behaviours like thumb-sucking help facilitate the need to feel comforted and secure. Another early longitudinal study by Dr. Marjorie Honzik and Dr. John McKee published in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that after the first year of being born, girls more likely to suck their thumbs than boys. The main reason was speculated that “girls’ greater orality may involve greater pleasure from tactile stimulation”.
There doesn’t appear to be much empirical research on adult thumb sucking. A small 1996 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry led by Dr. F. Castellanous found that in 12 intellectually normal adults with stereotypic movement disorder, eight of them displayed thumb-sucking and/or rocking behaviour (and 11 of them had an affective anxiety disorder suggesting that behaviours such as thumb-sucking may be engaged in to help reduce anxiety). A 2008 literature review by Dr Orlando Tanaka and colleagues in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics reported some evidence that thumb-sucking might turn into nail biting. This might explain why there is such a seemingly low prevalence of thumb-sucking in adults. All the evidence suggests that thumb sucking in adults is not an addiction but in some people may be symptomatic of other underlying disorders.
Articles 2day (2012). Tic disorder and thumb sucking. July 2012. Located at: http://www.articles2day.org/2012/07/tic-disorder-and-thumb-sucking-other.html
Batista, E. (2012). Adult thumb sucking, January 12. Located at: http://www.edbatista.com/2012/01/adult-thumb-sucking.html
Castellanous, F.X., Ritchie, G.F., Marsh, W.L. & Rapoport, J.L. (1996). DSM-IV stereotypic movement disorder: persistence of stereotypies of infancy in intellectually normal adolescents and adults. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 57, 116-122.
Ellington, S.A., Miltenberger, R.G., Stricker, J.M., Garlinghouse, M.A., Roberts, J. & Galensky, T.I. (2000). Analysis and treatment of finger sucking. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 33, 41-52.
Erlbaum, J. (2012). It happened to me: I was an adult thumb sucker. August 2. Located at: http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/it-happened-me-i-was-adult-thumbsucker
Friman, P. C. (1987). Thumb sucking in childhood. Feelings and Their Medical Significance, 29, 11-14.
Heitler, S. (2012). Lessons from thumbsucking, the earliest addiction. Psychology Today, January 26. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201201/lessons-thumbsucking-the-earliest-addiction
Hepper, P., Wells, D.L. & Lynch, C. (2004). Prenatal thumbsucking is related to postnatal handedness. Neuropsychologia, 43, 313-315.
Honzik, M.P. & John P. McKee, J.P. (1960). The sex difference in thumb-sucking. Journal of Pediatrics, 61, 726-732.
Leung, A.K. & Robson, W.L. (1991). Thumb sucking. American Family Physician, 44, 1724-1728.
Luke, L. S., & Howard, L. (1983). The effects of thumb sucking on orofacial structures and speech: A review. The Compendium of Continuing Education, 4, 575–579.
Tanaka, O.M., Vitral, R.W.F., Tanaka, G.Y., Pulido A. & Guerrero, & Camargoe, E.S. (2008). Nailbiting, or onychophagia: A special habit. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, 134, 305-308.
Winnicott, D. (1953) Transitional objects and transitional phenomena. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34, 89-97.