Category Archives: Sex addiction
“I love your blonde hair/I kiss your pigtails/And I could not share/The scratch of your nails/And though you mark me/Your eyes so glassy/Oh why did you have/To be so Nazi?/Remember the curls/Of the Deutscher Girls?/A love of mine/From down on the Rhine” (Deutscher Girls, Adam and the Ants).
The first time I ever associated Nazism with sexuality was as a young teenager listening to Adam Ant sing Deutscher Girls in Derek Jarman’s 1978 punk rock film Jubilee. The punk rock movement – and particularly the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees – were arguably the architects of ‘Nazi chic’ (defined by Wikipedia as “the approving use of Nazi-era style, imagery, and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture, especially when used for taboo-breaking or shock value rather than out of genuine sympathies with Nazism”) when one of the Pistols’ entourage appeared on the London-region only television show Today (December 1, 1976) wearing a swastika armband. The Wikipedia entry on Nazi chic notes:
“In the 1970s punk subculture, several items of clothing designed to shock and offend The Establishment became popular…[Johnny] Rotten wore the swastika another time with a gesture that looked like a Nazi salute. In 1976, Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees was also known to wear a Swastika armband with fetish S and M clothing, including fishnets and a whip. These musicians are commonly thought to have worn such clothing for shock value…rather than being genuinely associated with any National Socialist or fascist ideologies”.
As an avid Adam and the Ants fan, I devoured every lyric of every song. One of Adam Ant’s heroes was Dirk Bogarde – as evidenced by the first album being named after him – Dirk Wears White Sox. The song Dirk Wear White Sox (a live favourite at their early gigs) wasn’t actually on the album and was never actually released on any official Ant recording. One of the reasons for this may have been because of the controversial lyrical content that also linked sex and Nazism via concentration camps:
“You gotta concentrate on kink/In a concentration camp/All dressed up like little David/In a concentration camp…You can get a uniform for free/Shiny boots of soft black leather/Oh how proud your mum will be”.
The inspiration for the song may well have been the controversial film The Nightporter starring Bogarde as a former Nazi SS officer (Maximilian Theo Aldorfer) and his “ambiguous” relationship with concentration camp survivor Lucia Atherton (played by Charlotte Rampling). As the Wikipedia entry on the film notes:
“Flashbacks show Max tormenting Lucia, but also acting as her protector. In an iconic scene, Lucia sings a Marlene Dietrich song ‘Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte’ to the concentration camp guards while wearing pieces of an SS uniform, and Max ‘rewards’ her with the severed head of a male inmate who had been bullying the other inmates, a reference to Salome. Thirteen years after World War II, Lucia meets Aldorfer again; he is now the night porter at a Vienna hotel. There, they fall back into their sadomasochistic relationsip relationship…The film depicts the political continuity between wartime Nazism and post-war Europe and the psychological continuity of characters locked into compulsive repetition of the past. On another level it deals with the psychological condition known as Stockholm Syndrome”.
“Somebody who becomes sexually aroused when seeing someone of the Aryan race in an SS Nazi, Third Reich uniform or Holocaust/Hitler related uniforms. Charlotte Rampling in ‘The Night Porter’ would be a Nazi Fetish for some men or women”.
Academically there has been little written on Nazi fetishism. I went searching online and found dozens of confessions by people claiming to enjoy and be fans of Nazi fetishism (as well as lots of websites – such as the uniform fetish site at Live Journal – that feature lots of sexually provocative Nazi fetish clothing). Here are some of the online admissions that I found. Obviously I can’t guarantee their veracity but they all seemed genuine to me:
- Extract 1: “Don’t get me wrong. I DO NOT IN ANY WAY support their murders, torture, or anything of the sort. I would never support such heinous actions. That being said…I like Nazis. I like the uniform, the boots (Yesss, the boots), the fact that they’re German/speak German, as well as the whole ‘Aryan’ look. Neatly combed blonde hair, blue eyes. My friends think I’m insane, because I’m half black and I like blonde Nazis. Anyway, I love the masculinity they seemed to have. It’s very attractive. It’s a fetish I have”.
- Extract 2: “I am a girl and I am turned on by The Nazi look blonde hair blue eyes and uniform, I can’t help but have thoughts about it is there something wrong with me? I think the holocaust was awful and I hate what the Nazis did but I just can’t help it, am I normal to have a weird fetish?”
- Extract 3: “Nazi fetishes are actually fairly common in BD/SM. There used to be tons of Nazi-themed pornography and general exploitation movies although as the years following WW2 pass it is becoming more uncommon…The taboo and violence attached to Nazis makes them a popular fetish for people of many races, religions, and sexual orientations. Nazi fetishism is currently most popular in Asian and in gay pornography”.
- Extract 4: “Lately, I’ve found myself getting a little too excited thinking about what most would call Nazi fetishism. I already had a bit of a German fetish, what with the accents and appearances, but when the SS uniforms started sneaking into my fantasies, when the idea of a little Nazi roleplay started to really appeal, things were different. I even fantasize about my love interest in the uniform (which is ironic because he is quite far from being an Aryan)!…I’ve uncovered other fetishes I have and now see how this fits in. (i) German accents are extremely sexy to me, (ii) I have always liked uniforms and nice clothes. (iii) taboo appeals to me quite a bit, [and] (iv) power and being dominated appeals to me” (z0mbiequeen)
- Extract 5: “I have a fetish for uniforms and I don’t blame someone for having a Nazi fetish, people who are sharply dressed do look pretty sexy, especially the women’s clothing. I don’t have a fetish for the accents and everything German…It could also be how Nazis are frowned upon, so having a fetish for something so controversial and wrong makes it dirty?” (lovingpegasister)
- Extract 6: “[Nazi] fetish is so common in many circles, from anime cosplay to gothic culture. They had the most badass uniforms at the time and they still look hot on just about anyone” (derBunker)
The Nazi clothing appears to be a fundamental part of the fetish and would appear to be a sub-type of uniform fetishism (that I outlined in a previous blog). In 2007, Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry appeared to praise the Nazi style (both in fashion and architectural terms) when he was quoted in a German newspaper as saying: ‘The way that the Nazis staged themselves and presented themselves, my Lord!…I’m talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl…And the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags – just fantastic. Really beautiful”. However, Ferry’s comments caused huge controversy and he then clarified his comments by saying: “I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective”. This type of apology is very similar to the caveats made by Nazi fetishists online in justifying their like of Nazi imagery from a sexual perspective.
Arguably the most high profile case of Nazi fetishism was Max Mosley (youngest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the former leader of the British Union of Fascists and former head of Formula One’s governing body) who was caught in 2008 on video with five prostitutes playing concentration camp fetish games. One article quoted [unnamed] “experts” saying: “While the Nazi concept is not unusual in sadomasochistic circles, playing both sides in such a kinky ritual is unusual”. Another (less high profile) case was that of Gareth Meade, a senior council officer in London (UK), who lost his job for gross misconduct after his involvement in Nazi fetishism was exposed by a Sunday newspaper. Photos of Meade posing in Nazi regalia was found on a gay sex website. Meade claimed in the newspaper interview that he was “not a racist” and that his sexual activity was “a private fetish”.
A recent 2013 paper published by Dr. David Lopez and Dr. Ellis Godard in the journal Popular Culture Review studied Nazi fetishism using online forum data (a method that I have also been using to study rare paraphilic behaviours and which I have recently published a couple of papers on – see ‘Further Reading’ below). They also view the fetish as a type of uniform fetish. Their paper notes that:
“Nazi uniform fetishists and role-players represent the diversity of BDSM subculture as it is a very unique activity with a specific form of expression. The most salient form of this expression is seen in the style and fashion of these fetishists and role-players. Style and fashion express autonomy, proclaims messages, establishes boundaries, and generates definitions of a subculture (Hebdige, 1979). For uniform fetishists, the uniform creates a context for the BDSM scene. A Nazi uniform is just one type of uniform fetish. We suggest for these participants, they are attracted to Nazism as a movement steeped in violence and evil and the uniform is representative of this movement. BDSM practitioners use the term ‘scene’ when referring to erotic power exchange”.
Lopez and Godard collected data from a BDSM site that had over 900,000 members. They then focused on specific discussion groups within the main site. One of these groups comprised individuals that were interested in ‘Nazi Uniform Fetish and Roleplaying’ [NUFR] and had 617 members. They also noted that there were at least 12 other similar groups with an interest in Nazi fetishism including ‘Females of the Third Reich’ (114 members) and ‘SS [Shutzstaffel] Protection Squad] Uniforms and Those Who Love Them’ (162 members). The NUFR group was chosen as the site to study as it had the biggest number of members and the most detailed postings from its members about Nazi fetishism. The data were content analysed and comprised over 300 threads (approximately 10,000 comments). The authors reported that members discussed the uniforms themselves, including where to acquire them and pointedly disavowed white supremacy and anti-Semitism, emphasizing only the erotlcism associated with the uniforms. They also reported that many posts commented on the sex appeal of the uniforms. In response to a post asking “What makes a sexy Nazi?” one respondent noted that:
“A well cared for athletic, mature female body, subtly made up fair skin and hard steely blue eyes, long dark hair gathered up carefully in a high ponytail. She is very stylish and well groomed, a pristine women’s tailored Black SS uniform laid out for her on the bed beside her as she sits gracefully at her dressing table in her delicate, demure lingerie and Fully fashioned seamed and Cuban heel Nylons leaning elegantly forward and to the side to pull up the zips on her gleaming almost mirror polished Black Leather 5″ heel knee boots. Her visor cap, Black Leather Gloves, 4ft bull whip and SS officer’s belt on her pillow along with the heavy Leather holster that shrouds her 9mm P38. The interest in Nazi role-playing and the Nazi fetish is for most people (I can’t vouch for everyone), is a stimulating response to strong imagery, well tailored uniforms, and notions of power and fear”.
As with the online posts I found online, Lopez and Godard noted that their participants were “very careful and go to great lengths to establish that they are not anti-Semitic or supremacists”, and were fully aware that confusion is possible. For instance, some respondents noted:
- Example 1: “People tend to automatically assume that someone who finds the uniform or the role-play sexy, is actually a Nazis themselves. Which I’m sure can be the case from time to time but couldn’t be further from the truth for me. I’m actually the exact opposite”
- Example 2: “There are a lot of Jews in this group, like me. Except we’re clever enough to know the difference between a fetish and actually committing racist acts”
- Example 3: “The biggest fan of my ex’s SS-uniform was a friend of ours who is Jewish”
- Example 4: “Jews like to play Nazis and Nazis like to play Jews”
- Example 5: “I’m a Jew who likes to keep being a Jew in my Nazi torture role-playing”
The authors also noted that not one post they examined expressed explicit anti-Semitism. It was the violent nature of Nazism, not anti-Semitism that motivated the self-presentation of individuals as ‘Nazis’ among Nazi uniform fetishists. They also added that it was the image of violence that was being portrayed, more than the actual violence. This is because BDSM play is highly controlled (as evidenced by, consensual scene negotiation and the use of safe-words). Based on the (mainly) qualitative data collected, Lopez and Godard concluded that:
“Nazi uniform fetish and role-play is just that, the playing of a role. The fetish serves to enhance the BDSM experience and has little to do with white supremacy or anti-Semitism. The world of BDSM is an erotically charged arena that incorporates a variety of interests, desires, and tastes. It is the association with evil that participants in Nazi uniform fetish and role-play find appealing. The self-presentation of erotic evil serves to contribute to the quality of the BDSM experience and allow participants in this subculture a safe and accepting environment in which to explore and express their fetish. This suggests, as oxymoronic as it sounds, that evil isn’t all that bad. The incorporation of evil symbols in a safe, non-harmful, consensual manner to enhance one’s pleasure suggests some performances (i.e., role-playing) serve a purpose in popular culture; it allows us to be bad”.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Betts, P. (2002). The new fascination with fascism: The case of Nazi modernism. Journal of Contemporary History, 37, 541-558.
Fuchs, M. (2012). Of Blitzkriege and Hardcore BDSM: Revisiting Nazi Sexploitation Camps. In Elizabeth Bridges, Kristin T. Vander Lugt, & Daniel H. Magilow (Eds.), Nazisploitation: The Nazi Image in Low-Brow Film and Culture (pp. 279-294. New York: Continuum.
Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilia: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.
Griffiths, M.D., Lewis, A., Ortiz de Gortari, A.B. & Kuss, D.J. (2013). Online forums and blogs: A new and innovative methodology for data collection. Studia Psychologica, in press.
Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The Meaning of sSyle. New York: Methuen & Co.
Lopez, D. A., Godard, E. Nazi (2013). Uniform fetish and role-playing: A subculture of erotic evil. Popular Culture Review, 24(1), 69-78.
Rocker, S. (2010). Council officer sacked for Nazi ‘fetish’. Jewish Chronicle, March 22. Located at: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/29730/council-officer-sacked-nazi-fetish
Wikipedia (2013). Nazi chic. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_chic
While researching previous blogs on harmatophilia (i.e., individuals who derive sexual arousal from those who are sexually incompetent), parthenophilia (i.e., individuals who derive sexual arousal from virgins), cuckold fetish (i.e., individuals – usually men – that derive sexual arousal from the knowledge that their wife is having sex with another man), and veil fetishism (i.e., individuals who derive sexual arousal from those who wear veils), I came across various references for bride fetishism. This fetish does not appear in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. However, a short article on the London Fetish Scene (Wipipedia) website claims that:
“A bride fetish is a sexual fetish in which either a woman (or possibly a man) enjoys dressing in the typical outfit worn by a bride, or someone derives sexual pleasure from viewing women (or possibly men) dressed in this manner. A bride may be regarded as the archetype of a virgin ready and waiting to have sexual intercourse. A bridal outfit can be considered to be full of fetishistic imagery. Brides often wear lingerie such as basques or corsets, stockings and thongs; they also wear stileto shoes. Generally, a bridal dress and lingerie are white or nearly white, denoting purity. For a transvestite, bridal wear may be the ultimate female apparel”.
Similarly, a short piece on bride fetishes at a telephone sex site (Fone Fetish) claims that:
“Bride Fetish is sometimes known as a virgin fetish, where the ideal woman is pure and uninitiated, making her a safe partner in many ways. The bridal fetish extends to the image of an innocent appearing virginal bride being your own total whore, willing and anxious to do anything to please you sexually”.
As far as I am aware there is no academic research on bride fetishism but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that (a) it exists, and (b) that there are specific sub-varieties. For instance, there are dozens of bespoke webpages devoted to bride fetishism including the Deviant Art website page on ‘Bridal Fetish’, the Behance website page on ‘Fetish Bride’, the Goddess Narcissa webpage on ‘Black Fetish Bride’, the Hot Wife Allie website (with a myriad of bride fetish postings such as ‘The Great Wedding Porn Gallery’ and ‘Wedding Night Cuckold’), and the Jim Roe webpage on ‘Nude Bride Fetish’. I also came across dedicated webpages on ‘fetish vampire brides’, ‘mature bride fetish’, ‘bondaged brides’, and ‘bride face sitting fetish’ (please be warned that most of these sites contain very sexually material). In addition to this there are also dedicated websites that make fetish bridal wear (such as the Adixxtion website) and provide online dating services to match up fetish bride and grooms. I’m the first to admit that none of this is in any way academic, but it does at least point to the fact that there appears to be a niche (sexual) market for bride fetishism.
The online articles that I have managed to locate are short and speculative and provide absolutely no facts on the incidence of prevalence of the behaviour or its etiology. For instance, a 2010 entry on the Venus O’Hara website (where the website author dressed herself as a fetish bride) claims that:
“Plenty of men are into the bridal fetish. Traditionally, a bride, dressed in white silks and satins, is a visual metaphor for virginity and exclusivity. Her imminent sexual unavailability isn’t the end of the story…To some, her new status becomes highly attractive and doesn’t put them off of the hunt at all, quite the opposite in fact. In this set [of photos] I wanted to portray myself as a kind of bride who permits those men to lust after me and gives license to their desires because I, and they, are aware that there is no groom to watch over me. Although I felt like a princess when I was dressed-up I understood, quite quickly, that I couldn’t walk very fast while wearing the dress, neither could I sit down easily; my freedom of seductive movement was restricted. Perhaps, I thought, that was the whole point. I don’t like wearing anything that prevents me from flaunting my charms so I began to subvert the dress and its meaning. I didn’t need to clutch a bouquet to pose in it. I found out that I’m more comfortable being provocative and available when I wear white. Modern bridal wear is much more revealing and adaptable these days. Each new pastel-coloured design emphasises the curve of exposed shoulder and the slimness of bare neck instead of hiding them. I approve totally”
In my research for this blog, I have to admit that I didn’t come across a single dedicated online bride fetish forum group, although I did come across discussions on fetish sites where some individuals claimed they had bride fetishes (although not very many). For instance:
- Extract 1: “Any out there with a bridal fetish? Get turned on by a lovely young woman in a bridal outfit? Would you like to watch a bride and her groom make love? Would you like to JOIN in, making it a threesome? Would [you] like to cuckold the poor bridegroom, making love to the bride on the ‘happiest day of her life’? Making love to the bride in front of the groom and all the guests? Too ridiculous? I’ve seen stranger happenings! Has this ever been discussed? Please discuss!”
- Extract 2: “Hell yeah, [brides] drives me crazy! Have you got any photos, or do you know how to get any? Brides are so sexy!”
- Extract 3: “I have a total fetish over Brides! I love it when there all done up and have their wedding dress on, it’s so sexy. There isn’t a single Bride that doesn’t turn me on! Is anyone out there with me or is it just me? Also if any of you out there have got any Wedding day/night photos that you could upload for me then that would blow my mind, naughty or not. What do you think?”
- Extract 4: “I used to belong to a yahoo group that specialized in brides but it seems to have dissipated”.
These few extracts again appear to give credence to the idea that bride fetishism exists but there may (for some people) be an overlap with cuckold fetishes. More recently, there have been a number of online articles that have talked about ‘foreign bride fetishes’. Almost all of the articles I came across (such as one in the New York Times by Mike Hale entitled ‘Foreign Bride as Fetish and a Person’) relate to the television documentary ‘Seeking Asian Women’ directed by Debbie Lum.
“Steven is a 60-year-old parking-garage attendant who lives in a small apartment above a store in the Northern California suburbs. He’s white, which is significant because he has what is politely known as an Asian fetish and popularly known as yellow fever. ‘They’re all so beautiful,’ he says, looking at a display of thumbnail images of prospective Asian brides…Steven manages to persuade Sandy, a 30-year-old office worker from Shenzen, China, to come to the United States to marry him. [The program] profile[s] a man obsessed with Asian women in order to understand a phenomenon…The nature of Asian fetishism remains as mysterious, or perhaps as obvious, as ever. As Steven and Sandy make wedding plans — her K-1 visa gives them four months to marry — fights erupt over money (he doesn’t have much) and whether he’s still infatuated with an earlier Chinese pen pal…The dramatic arc of Steven and Sandy’s relationship is mildly suspenseful but also pretty familiar”.
Personally, this is another instance of using the word ‘fetish’ as meaning ‘intense like for’ rather than its’ meaning within sexology. My own (online) research (relying on non-academic and anecdotal sources) suggests that bride fetishism is a niche sexual market that appears to have at least a handful of genuine adherents. I can’t really see this subject ever being the topic of serious academic research but I’d be happy to be proved wrong.
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.
Blank, H. (2007). Virgin: The Untouched History. New York: Bloomsbury.
Hale, M. (2013). Foreign bride as a fetish and a person. New York Times, May 5. Located at: http://tv.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/arts/television/seeking-asian-female-on-pbs-shows-an-internet-order-bride.html?_r=2&
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Mathonnet-VanderWell, S. (2012). Virgin fetish. The Twelve, April 24. Located at: http://the12.squarespace.com/steve-mathonnet-vanderwell/2012/4/24/virgin-fetish.html
Venus O’Hara (2010). Bridal fetish, July 1. Located at: http://venusohara.org/montjuic-bride.html
Wipipedia (2011). Bride fetish. London fetish Scene, September 6. Located at: http://www.londonfetishscene.com/wipi/index.php/Bride_fetish
One of the recurring questions I am often asked to comment on by the media is whether celebrities are more prone to addiction than other groups of people. One of the problems in trying to answer what looks like an easy question is that the definition of ‘celebrity’ is different to different people. Most people would argue that celebrities are famous people, but are all famous people celebrities? Are well-known sportspeople and politicians ‘celebrities’? Are high profile criminals celebrities? While all of us would say that Hollywood A-Listers such as Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts are ‘celebrities’, many of the people that end up on ‘celebrity’ reality shows are far from what I would call a celebrity. Being the girlfriend or relative of someone famous does not necessarily famous.
Another problem in trying to answer this question is what kinds of addiction are the media actually referring to? Implicitly, the question might be referring to alcohol and/or illicit drug addictions but why should other addictions such as nicotine addiction or addiction to prescription drugs not be included? In addition to this, I have often been asked to comment on celebrities that are addicted to sex or gambling. However, if we include behavioural addictions in this definition of addiction, then why not include addictions to shopping, eating, or exercise? If we take this to an extreme, how many celebrities are addicted to work?
Now that I’ve aired these problematic definitional issues (without necessarily trying to answer them), I will return to the question of whether celebrities are more prone to addiction. To me, when I think about what a celebrity is, I think of someone who is widely known by most people, is usually in the world of entertainment (actor, singer, musician, television presenter), and may have more financial income than most other people I know. When I think about these types of people, I’ve always said to the media that it doesn’t surprise me when such people develop addictions. Given these situations, I would argue that high profile celebrities may have greater access to some kinds of addictive substances.
Given that there is a general relationship between accessibility and addiction, it shouldn’t be a surprise if a higher proportion of celebrities succumbs to addictive behaviours compared with a member of the general public. The ‘availability hypothesis’ may also hold true for various behavioural addictions that celebrities have admitted having – most notably addictions to gambling and/or sex. It could perhaps be argued that high profile celebrities are richer than most of us (and could therefore afford to gamble more than you or I) or they have greater access to sexual partners because they are seen as more desirable (because of their perceived wealth and/or notoriety).
Firstly, when I think about celebrities that have ‘gone off the rails’ and admitted to having addiction problems (Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr, Alec Baldwin) and those that have died from their addiction (Whitney Houston, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse) I would argue that these types of high profile celebrity have the financial means to afford a drug habit like cocaine or heroin. For many in the entertainment business such as being the lead singer in a famous rock band, taking drugs may also be viewed as one of the defining behaviours of the stereotypical ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ lifestyle. In short, it’s almost expected. In an interview with an online magazine The Fix, Dr. Scott Teitelbaum, an American psychiatrist based at the University of Florida:
“Some people who become famous and get put on a pedestal begin to think of themselves differently and lose their sense of humility. And this is something you can see with addicts, too. Famous or not, people in the midst of their addiction will behave in a narcissistic, selfish way: they’ll be anti-social and have a disregard for rules and regulations. But that is part of who they as an addict – not necessarily who they would be as a sober person. Then there are some people who are narcissists outside of their disease, who don’t need a drug or alcohol addiction to make them feel like the rules don’t apply to them – and yes, I have seen in this in many athletes and actors. Of course, you also have non-famous people who struggle with both…People with addiction and people with narcissism share a similar emptiness inside. Those who are famous might fill it with achievement or with drugs and alcohol. That’s certainly not the case for everyone. But when you see people who are both famous and narcisstic – people who struggle with staying right-sized or they don’t have a real sense of who they are without the fame – you know that they’re in trouble… People with addiction and people with narcissism both seek outside sources for inside happiness. And ultimately neither the fame nor the drugs nor the drinking will work”.
The same article also pointed out that there is an increase in the number of people who (usually through reality television) are becoming (in)famous but have no discernable talent whatsoever. In my own writings on the psychology of fame, I have made the point that (historically) fame was a by-product of a particular role (e.g., country president, news anchorman) or talent (e.g., captain of the national sports team, a great actor). While the Andy Warhol maxim that everyone will be famous for 15 minutes will never be truly fulfilled, the large increase in the number of media outlets and number of reality television shows suggests that more people than ever are getting their 15 minutes of fame. In short, the intersection between fame and addiction is on the increase. US psychiatrist Dr. Dale Archer was also interviewed for The Fix article and was quoted as saying:
“Fame and addiction are definitely related. Those who are prone to addiction get a much higher high from things – whether it’s food, shopping, gambling or fame – which means it [the behavior or situation] will trigger cravings. When we get an addictive rush, we are getting a dopamine spike. If you talk to anyone who performs at all, they will talk about the ‘high’ of performing. And many people who experience that high report that when they’re not performing, they don’t feel as well. All of which is a good setup for addiction. People also get high from all the trappings that come with fame. The special treatment, the publicity, the ego. Fame has the potential to be incredibly addicting”.
I argued some of these same points in a previous blog on whether fame can be addictive in and of itself. Another related factor I am asked about is the effect of having fame from an early age and whether this can be a pre-cursor or risk factor for later addiction. Dr. Archer was also asked about this and claimed:
“The younger you are when you get famous, the greater the likelihood that you’re going to suffer consequences down the road. If you grow up as a child star, you realize that you can get away with things other people can’t. There is a loss of self and a loss of emotional growth and a loss of thinking that you need to work in relationship with other people”.
I’m broadly in agreement with this although my guess is that this only applies to a minority of child stars rather than being a general truism. However, trying to carry out scientific research examining early childhood experiences of fame amongst people that are now adult is difficult (to say the least). There also seems to be a lot of children and teenagers who’s only desire when young is “to be famous” when they are older. As most who have this aim will ultimately fail, there is always the concern that to cope with this failure, they will turn to addictive substances and/or behaviours.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Griffiths, M.D. & Joinson, A. (1998). Max-imum impact: The psychology of fame. Psychology Post, 6, 8-9.
Halpern, J. (2007). Fame Junkies. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
McGuinness, K. (2012). Are Celebrities More Prone to Addiction? The Fix, January, 18. Located at: http://www.thefix.com/content/fame-and-drug-addiction-celebrity-addicts100001
Rockwell, D. & Giles, D.C. (2009). Being a celebrity: A phenomenology of fame. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 40, 178-210.
In a previous blog I examined clothes fetishism and in doing that research, I soon realized that some people’s fetishistic desires are very specific when it comes to clothing (e.g., particular types of uniform or particular types of footwear). One of the more unusual clothing fetishes is ‘veil fetishism’. From the online articles that I have come across, veil fetishism appears to be an almost exclusively male fetish in which the individuals have a fetishistic sexual desire for women wearing veils over their faces (although paradoxically, most women who wear veils for religious reasons do so to stop others lusting after them). A few online articles claim this has lead to tension among online communities where Muslims and veil fetishists share the same virtual space (although I’ve not come across this myself – and I did go looking for it!).
A number of online articles claim that one of the main reasons that veils have permeated into Western consciousness is the increase in the number of media images of veiled women in the news following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the US ‘War on terrorism’. However, as far as I am aware, there is no academic research on veil fetishism although there is much speculation as to the motivational roots including an article on Wipipedia that says it may be a result of “mystery, bondage and the preservation of virginity” and that such fetishists “may be interested in niqabs, burkas and harem-style veils” while “some are attracted to women who wear all-covering Muslim-style veils, while others are attracted to women wearing translucent veils”. A Nation Master online article develops some of these ideas and claims that:
“Control may be behind veil fetishism…Arab and other Muslim women are often seen in the Western world as being veiled against their will; they are only doing it for religious or social reasons (though many contend otherwise). Such control issues may be seen in other fetishes and paraphilias, such as bondage fetishism”.
This is partly confirmed by Professor Mohja Kahf in his 1999 book Western Representations of the Muslim Woman that noted:
“Veiled, secluded, submissive, oppressed – the ‘odalisque’ image has held sway over Western representations of Muslim women since the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Yet during medieval and Renaissance times, European writers portrayed Muslim women in exactly the opposite way, as forceful queens of wanton and intimidating sexuality”
A short online article on the Venus O’Hara website about veil fetishes also makes some bold claims:
“Veil fetishists understand and enjoy the significance of veils and the women who wear them, the effect that this piece of material can have on them is phenomenal. By covering, disguising and obscuring the female face, a sense of importance, power and the thrill of an ancient taboo is brought into focus for them. If the features of the woman can only be guessed at through the veil, the psychological need of a spectators mind to discover them becomes overwhelming. The fantasy of unveiling then becomes the idealised intimate act-not unlike the imagined removal of the clothes of someone desired but out of reach. If the veil remains in place then that understanding is postponed and the pleasure of erotic anticipation is preserved…Women may become sexually aroused by veiling themselves as well. They may feel protected, or experience an enjoyment that is similar to women with more explicit bondage fantasies”.
Despite all this pop psychology insight, I couldn’t find a single piece of evidence (empirical or otherwise) to support any of the speculations made by academics or non-academics. It was also claimed in a couple of the articles that I read that veil fetishists are not from a particular religion and can comprise both Muslims and non-Muslims. In a Wikiquote article on the ‘Hijab’, the British writer Shabbir Akhtar was quoted as saying that the Hijab is creating “a truly erotic culture in which one dispenses with the need for the artificial excitement that pornography provides”.
Of course, veiled woman and sexual lust have been a staple of films and television shows for decades but the situations in which women typically wore veils were often sexually provocative (such as the Dance of the Seven Veils, or the heroines in the Italian films of director Tinto Brass who often wear veils and showcase them as fetishistic objects). An article in Seven Oaks (“a magazine of politics, culture and resistance”) by Rebecca Manski interviewed Middle Eastern Studies scholar Elizabeth Warnock Fernea who was quoted as saying:
“Because ‘western’ men had no access to the female sphere in Middle Eastern society, they were inclined to exoticize or devalue it. Generally the perception of the Middle Eastern woman involved a secluded odalisque – a lazy, sexy lady in a harem veiled from all men but her husband”.
An online essay on the Venus O’Hara website makes some further interesting observations:
“Most people imagine that veils are a way of hiding erotic potentials and alluring features but I know, after making this set, that veils can be ultimate fetish…Sometimes veils would have been used, as an alternative to a mask, as a simple method of hiding the identity of a woman who was traveling to meet a lover, or doing anything she didn’t want other people to find out about…In Judaism, Christianity and Islam the concept of covering the head is or was associated with propriety…An occasion on which a Western woman is likely to wear a veil is on her wedding day, if she follows the traditions of a white wedding. Brides used to wear their hair flowing down their back at their wedding to symbolise their virginity, now the white diaphanous veil is often said to represent this. The lifting of the veil was often a part of ancient wedding ritual, symbolising the groom taking possession of the wife, either as lover or as property, or the revelation of the bride by her parents to the groom for his approval. In ancient Judaism the lifting of the veil took place just prior to the consummation of the marriage in sexual union. The uncovering or unveiling that takes place in the marriage ceremony is a symbol of what will take place in the marriage bed. Just as the two become one through their words spoken in wedding vows, so these words are a sign of the physical oneness that they will consummate later on. The lifting of the veil is a symbol and an anticipation of this”
Additionally, a 2003 book by Faegheh Shirazi (The Veil Unveiled: The Hijab in Modern Culture) highlights that:
“The veil, the garment known in Islamic cultures as the hijab, holds within its folds a semantic versatility that goes far beyond current clichés and homogenous representations. Whether seen as erotic or romantic, a symbol of oppression or a sign of piety, modesty, or purity, the veil carries thousands of years of religious, sexual, social, and political significance”.
Shirazi uses examples from both the East and West (including American erotica) and argues that the veil has become a ubiquitous titillating marketing tool for diverse enterprises, from pornographic magazines like Penthouse and Playboy to advertising companies. She argued that the perceptions of the veil change both with the cultural context of its use as well as over time. Obviously ‘veil fetishism’ has been little studied scientifically (and maybe it never will). However, the phenomenon clearly exists although the prevalence of such behaviour may be very rare (although the incidence may well be on the increase given the number of dedicated websites to such practices are growing).
Kahf, M. (1999). Western Representations of the Muslim Woman: From Termagant to Odalisque. Texas: University of Texas Press.
Manski, R. (2005). Lifting the veil between women East and West. Seven Oaks, September 20. Located at: http://www.sevenoaksmag.com/features/79_feat1.html
Nation Master (2008). Veil fetishism. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Veil-fetishism
Shirazi, F. (2003). The Veil Unveiled: The Hijab in Modern Culture. Florida: University of Florida Press
Steele, V, (1996), Fetish, Fashion, Sex and Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Tales Of The Veils (2012). The lure of the veil: A History and Examination of the practice and pleasures of veiling. September 30. Located at: http://www.talesoftheveils.info/lure/lure.html
Venus O’Hara (2010). Veil fetish. November 20. Located at: http://venusohara.org/veil-fetish.html
Venus O’Hara (2012). Veil fetish. Located at: http://venusohara.org/c/fetish-glossary/veil-fetish-fetish-glossary
Wipipedia (2012). Veil fetishism. Located at: http://www.londonfetishscene.com/wipi/index.php/Veil_fetishism
In a previous blog on exhibitionism (i.e., individuals who expose their genitals to other people), I briefly mentioned a sub-type called candaulism that I defined as referring to people who expose themselves to their sexual partners (e.g., a wife or husband) in a sexually explicit way. Since writing that blog I had an email from one of my regular blog readers saying that the definition I provided wasn’t as detailed as it could have been. In response to my (friendly) critic, I decided to take a more detailed look.
The first place I looked was Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Interestingly she defined candaulism as “a group of three people where only two of them engage in sex and the other watches, sometimes from a closet”. She then spent the rest of her text basically discussing troilism where three people typically comprise a sexual couple and a third person where one of the three (typically the husband or male partner of the couple) watching the other two have sex. Nothing of what was written was based on anything I would call empirical and research-based (although it was an interesting read).
Next it was on to my favourite text on sexual deviation – Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Dr. Aggrawal described candaulism as a “variation of exhibitionism [where] persons do not exhibit themselves but their spouses – usually a male exhibiting his wife”. He also cited the work of Polish psychiatrist Dr. Z. Marten who published a case study in 1986 on candaulism in a Polish psychiatric journal. On the basis of this, Aggrawal said that candaulism also involves “getting sadomasochistic pleasure when the husband exposes his wife, or pictures of her, to other voyeurist people.” I have no idea how representative this case study is of candaulism as this paper appears to be the only academic case study that has ever been published and was published in the author’s native language (so all I have to go on is Aggrawal’s second-hand account). Dr. Aggrawal had also researched where the word ‘candaulism’ was derived. He reported that:
“The term derives its name from Candaules, king of the ancient kingdom of Lydia from 735 to 718 BC, who was so proud of the beauty of his wife, and so much did he want to impress others, that he made a plot to show his unaware naked wife to his bodyguard, Gyges of Lydia. Discovering Gyges while he was watching her naked, Candaules’ wife obviously became enraged and ordered him to choose between killing himself or her husband in order to repair the vicious mischief. Gyges chose to kill the king. The queen married Gyges subsequently and fathered the Mermnad Dynasty”.
It was the German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing that then coined the term in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. Aggrawal claimed that husbands (which I am assuming covers all male sexual partners within a heterosexual couple) take the “paraphilia to the extreme and enjoys other people having sex with his wife” (which I am assuming would include a female partner within a heterosexual couple). Aggrawal then adds that: “This practice can take the form of swinging, in which husbands exchange wives for sexual intercourse and watch each other. In certain cases the relation evolves into a stable union of these persons, known as troilism”.
In the third edition of Dr. Ronald Homes and Dr. Stephen Holmes’ Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behaviors, the authors discussed candaulism in their chapter on ‘nuisance sex behaviours’. Holmes and Holmes link candaulism to ‘swinging’ (i.e., the swapping of sexual partners). More specifically, they noted:
“Swingers, or mate swappers, are often termed triolists, and at other times it is termed candaulism. In candaulism, a man exposes his partner, or pictures of her, to others. Sometimes women are coerced into the swinging scene to fulfill the desires of their husbands (Bowman, 1985; Jenks, 1998; McCary, 1978)…There are other triolists who seek pleasure by sharing a sexual partner with another person while the triolist looks on. An estimated 8 million couples have experienced this type of sexual behavior (Avery & Johannis, 1985). Triolism may also take the form of two couples having sexual relations at the same time in sight of each other. While there are single swingers, usually when one speaks of swingers in this con- text we are speaking of married or committed couples (Cargan, 1986)”.
In the description of candaulism by Holmes and Holmes, it is turned into a nuisance sexual behaviour by the addition of coercion (something that isn’t explicitly mentioned in other definitions that I have come across). Having said that, the Wikipedia entry on candaulism has a more negative take on what the behaviour involves and is also the most detailed I have come across:
“Candaulism is a sexual practice or fantasy in which a man exposes his female partner, or images of her, to other people for their voyeuristic pleasure. Such a practice is widely regarded as a breach of implicitly placed by the female in her sex partner. The term may also be applied to the practice of undressing or otherwise exposing a female partner to others, or urging or forcing a female partner to engage in sexual relations with a third person, such as during a swinging activity. There have also been reports of a woman’s partner urging or forcing her into prostitution or pornography such as in the case of Karen Lancaume and others. Similarly, the term may also be applied to the posting of personal images of a female partner on the Internet or to urging or forcing a female partner to wear clothing which reveals her physical attractiveness to others, such as by wearing very brief clothing, such as a microskirt, tight-fitting or see-through clothing or a low-cut top”
Dr. R. Jenks in a review of the ‘swinging’ literature in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that swingers are “generally nondescript members of the community” but had a number of common characteristics including the fact that they: (i) had moved often in the past five years, (ii) were relatively new to the community, (iii) were members of the middle class, (iv) were conservative in their political views, (v) identified little with religion, and (vi) belonged to more community groups than non-swingers.
One online list of the ‘most disturbing fetishes lists an alleged fetish they called ‘cuckold fetish’. The snippet of text notes that although the adultery is commonplace “fetishized infidelity is a lot less common”. Cuckold fetish appears to be a form of candaulism as cuckold fetish is “when a man becomes sexually aroused by the knowledge that his wife is having sex with another man. In some cases, this may involve him setting up the affair, but not being around while it occurs, but in other cases, he may watch or even join in”. There is also a fair amount of sexual slang associated with cuckold fetishes. For instance, a ‘Jack Gagger’ is a husband that procures other men to have sex with his wife. Such fetishes may overlap with another sexual paraphilia known as zelophilia (i.e., individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from jealousy or being jealous).
From this brief overview it is clear that although there has been some academic research on ‘swinging’, and a little academic writing on candaulism. However, empirical research into candaulism is close to non-existent. As with other sexual behaviours that I have covered in my blog, one of the first issues to untangle is a more precise and agreed upon definition – particularly around the issue of whether candaulism is a coercive or non-coercive sexual beahviour.
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Avery, C., & Johannis, T. (1985). Love and marriage. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Bowman, H. (1985). Marriage For Moderns (7th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Cargan, L. (1986). Stereotypes of singles: A cross-cultural comparison. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 200–208.
Harness, J. (2010). The 12 most disturbing fetishes to keep you up at night. Oddee, September 12. Located at: http://www.oddee.com/item_97279.aspx
Holmes, S.T. & Holmes, R.M. (2009). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behaviors (3rd Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Krafft-Ebing, R. von (1886). Psychopathia Sexualis (C.G. Chaddock, Trans.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Jenks, R. (1998). Swinging: A review of the literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 507–521.
Marten, Z. (1986). Candaulesism – Case report Psychiatrica Polska, 20, 235-237.
McCary, J. (1978). McCary’s Human Sexuality. New York: Van Nostrand.
Wikipedia (2012). Candaulism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candaulism
In a previous blog I looked at hair fetishism. While researching that blog, I came across what might be considered the opposite (i.e., depilation fetishes – those who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from lack of body hair). The fetish appears to take many different forms and might include being sexually aroused by (i) the sight of a shaved area of the human body such as a bald pubic area, (ii) the sight of someone actually shaving an area of their body (e.g., their pubic region), and/or (iii) the actual act of shaving someone’s body parts. The fetish may overlap with other sexual paraphilias such as olfactophilia (i.e., deriving sexual arousal and pleasure from certain smells) as those individuals with a depilation fetish may find the odour of shaving cream or aftershave products additionally attractive.
Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices devoted a reasonably large section on sexual depilation and claimed that in some countries, the origins of sexual depilation preferences are conditioned by early pre-adolescent experiences. She claimed that:
“Shaving or removal of the pubic hair was practiced in Rome, the Middle East, Japan, China, India, and North Africa. Sex in many of these countries began during pre-pubescence before either partner had developed pubic hair. The male and female became conditioned to respond sexually to bald genitals. Some later in life became impotent at the sight of pubic hair on a partner”.
She also referred to the act of pulling out clusters of pubic hair produce an orgasm in some men. Her research had indicated that this particular type of sexual service was offered in Moorish baths in North Africa, by women who were skilled at this art. A short article on the Alternative Lifestyle website claims that depilation fetishes are usually genitally based and may overlap with those into sexual sadism and sexual masochsim. More specifically:
“Men especially are often attracted to a shaved public area and enjoy watching or performing depilation on a partner. The entire act is often very sensory and erotic. In cases of both female and male depilation, shaving creams usually are applied and lathered which can cause arousal from touch. There is a huge aspect of trust involved in depilation as a fetish too because razors or scissors are in such close proximity to the sensitive genitals. Depilation can also be a fetish is a much different way, especially in BDSM. Because hairstyle is very important in many cultures, dominants often shave the heads of their slaves. This is particularly true in cases when a female is in the submissive role”.
Such practices were also noted in Dr. Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices as she noted that depilation or shaving is used in sex play as part of body worship and bondage. She reported that dominant partners “shave their slaves to put them into a psychological role of submission, exposure, humiliation and shame”. It was also noted that depilation may be a necessary for aesthetics in transvestism, infantilism, and/or body painting.
As far as academic research goes, I have only managed to find one study that has specifically examined depilation practices. A paper published in a 2008 issue of the journal Body Image led by Dr. Yolanda Martins (“Hair today, gone tomorrow”) and compared body hair removal practices among gay and heterosexual men. The team based at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia) A sample of gay (n=106) and heterosexual men (n=228) participated in a survey assessing “whether they had ever removed their back, buttock or pubic hair, the frequency with which they did so, the methods used and their self-reported reasons for removing this hair”. The results showed that most men had engaged in hair removal practices but that heterosexual men (33%) were much less likely than gay men (63%) to have removed their back and/or buttock hair at least once in their lives. In relation to removal of pubic hair, heterosexual men (66%) were again much less likely than gay men (82%) to have removed their pubic hair at least once.
The authors also reported that the frequency of hair removal “was also associated with the motivational salience component of appearance investment”. In laymen’s terms, men basically removed their back, buttock and pubic hair to improve their appearance (either for themselves or others). The men surveyed also reported that they preferred the feeling and sensitivity of smooth skin. Results also showed that the removal of back and buttock hair was never done for sexual and/or fetishistic reasons. However, in relation to pubic hair removal, 9% of gay men and 20% of heterosexual men had removed their pubic hair for sexual and/or fetishistic reasons. It was also reported that 14% of gay men and 10% of heterosexual men had removed their pubic hair to make their genitals look bigger and/or more appealing. Dr. Martins and her colleagues concluded that their findings offered further support to the premise that gay and heterosexual men exhibit similar body image concerns.
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 a lot more). Their results showed that there were 864 fetishists (less than 1% of all fetishists) comprising non-head body hair fetishes including depilation sites, beards, and pubic hair.
As far as I can ascertain, there have been no case studies published examining depilation fetishes. The Sexy Tofu website interviewed ‘Adam’, a 45-year old male depilation fetishist from Illinois (US) about his sexual interest in depilation. Adam was asked about when his interest first occurred:
“It started when I first got pubic hair. I’m not sure why, but my first thought was ‘Shave it’. I did, but I had to be careful as a teenager — having shaved pubes in the boys’ locker room back then would have made me pretty ‘out there’, and I wasn’t ready for that. So I’d shave only during the summers. I didn’t have much chest hair back then but once I got to college and it started growing, I would shave it fairly often. I finally took the plunge and shaved my entire body about 15 years ago. I have remained mostly hairless since…It’s both the act of shaving, changing my body look, and being smooth skinned. I have done some shaving as part of sex. Once I let a woman tie me up and she shaved my pubic hair and my head. That was really a hot scene…Sadly, I have not been able to find too many partners willing to shave me or be shaved”.
Unfortunately, there is too little information provided by Adam in his interview to make any informed speculation as to the causes and/or motivations for his depilation fetish. They obviously started in early adolescence and has developed over the subsequent thirty years. Clearly the visual element is crucial for sexual arousal (but that is the case with most paraphilias and fetishes). Adam’s account also suggests it is a minority interest based on the fact that the number of willing and/or reciprocal partners has been minimal. Like many other fetishes and paraphilias that I have examined in my blogs, this is yet another one where there is a great need for further research.
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
The Bedpost (1999). Depilation for the terrified. Located at: http://www.cleansheets.com/archive/archarticles/bdsm_3.10.99.html
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Martins, Y., Tiggemann, M. & Churchett, L. (2008). Hair today, gone tomorrow: A comparison of body hair removal practices in gay and heterosexual men. Body Image, 5, 312-316.
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.
Sexy Tofu (2011), Fetish Friday: Trichophilia. December 2. Located at: http://sexytofu.com/2011/12/02/fetish-friday-trichophilia-hair-fetish/
There are various websites that list hundreds of different types of sexual paraphilias. Many of these paraphilias are simply the names of specific phobias with the suffix ‘-phobia’ replaced by the suffix ‘-philia’. Examples of this include: agoraphobia and agoraphilia (fear of the outdoors; sexual arousal from the outdoors), cremnophobia and cremnophilia (fear of steep cliffs and precipices; sexual arousal from steep cliffs and precipices), and kynophobia and kynophilia (fear of getting rabies; sexual arousal from getting rabies). Another sexual paraphilia that often appears in these lists is coulrophilia (sexual arousal from clowns) that I assumed was just based on the opposite phobia (coulrophobia – fear of clowns) and didn’t really exist (especially as it doesn’t appear 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. Furthermore, there is not a single reference to coulrophilia in any academic article or book that I am aware of. The most in-depth piece of text that I came across was this snippet from the online Urban Dictionary that notes:
“Coulrophilia is the paraphilia involving sexual attraction to clowns, mimes and jesters. The most likely reason behind this is because of lack of childhood, but some say the attraction is because the person behind the face paint could be anybody that you may or may not know”
I had all but given writing up a blog on coulrophilia until I (by chance) stumbled upon an online forum where a group of people were discussing their respective clown fetishes. I’ve picked out some of the more interesting admissions and have attempted to provide a little commentary on each extract and then a more general summary at the end of the blog. Obviously I have no way of knowing how truthful any of these accounts are, but they appeared genuine to me (particularly given the detail that some of them go into).
Case 1 (Gay male): “I think my fetish started out as more of a fetish for face painting, which has turned me on [for] as long as I can remember…Until I found this [paraphilia] site I always thought I was pretty much alone. Most of the comments I’ve seen elsewhere revolve around scary clowns. Not for me. My face paint interest has always been about silly, the sillier the better! That goes for clowns too, the clown face always seemed like the goofiest, silliest face paint you could possibly put on. One thing led to another and I went from painting my face to buying a clown nose, to the whole deal, costume, paint, wig, gloves, bow tie, shoes, you name it. I think for me the turn on comes from the willingness to look silly. I’ve always been very stoic and uptight to a fault, I find it very hard to let my hair down and relax. So, I think it’s the fear of being silly in front of other people that gives me a rush. To see someone not only look goofy in front of other people, but to actually want to do it, and enjoy it, is overwhelming to me…Although most people don’t find this stuff sexual and would never know the difference, in my mind I’d be doing something private out in the open. My partner has been wonderful with this. I got up some incredible courage one day and put on a clown nose in front of him and to my surprise he wasn’t the least bit put off. I eventually felt him out a bit more here and there and then just told him everything, since then he’s been very supportive and helped me embrace my fetish and the happiness it brings me”.
Commentary: This person notes that their initial sexual arousal dates back (presumably) to childhood, and was for face painting rather than clowns. It appears there was a gradual generalization process that changed the sexual focus from face painting to clowns. In addiction terminology, this individual seems to have developed a kind of ‘tolerance’ over time as the sexual focus went from just buying a clown nose to gradually buying the whole costume to satisfy their sexual needs. The ‘high’ or ‘buzz’ came from the silliness associated with wearing clown’s clothing although I am unsure as to whether it is genuinely just the ‘silliness’ or whether it might be some sort of feeling humiliated (but that’s pure speculation on my part). Given the partner supports the fetish, there is no problem with the behaviour. The fetish only appears to be manifested when the individual wears the clown outfit himself.
Case 2 (Heterosexual male): “I am a very lucky man. Roughly ten years ago, I completely opened up to my then girlfriend of a few months, admitting everything to her…That I loved seeing girls get pied in the face and have buckets of slime dumped on their heads. And that what I promoted as an irrational fear of clowns was to hide the fact that I actually was heavily aroused whenever I saw a female clown. That I really just wanted to dress in baggy pants, wear greasepaint and a big red nose, hurl pies, spank with rubber chickens and have a good silly ****. She said ‘okay’. It was no big deal. Years of repression and guilt and I had nothing to fear. She loved me and was willing to indulge in my fetish sparingly. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world”.
Commentary: As with Case 1, the partner was supportive of the fetish (following an ‘opening up’ conversation) and therefore there is no problem. Interestingly, the person pretended to be afraid of clowns as a way of masking his true feelings (and is something that is not unusual in the more general fetish literature). The most interesting observation is the fact that there is also a crossover with ‘pie fetish’ (the throwing of pies at people) that is a form of salirophilia (sexual arousal for messiness) that I outlined in a previous blog. The reference to spanking with ‘rubber chickens’ may also suggest (at least in part) a spanking fetish. The fetish appears to be located in the visual attraction to women in clown’s clothing rather than wearing it himself.
Case 3 (Bisexual male): “I have always had a clown fetish as long as I can remember. Even before I knew what arousal was, or fetishes for that matter, any of it, I have been strangely interested in clowns. I used to think of clowns before I went to sleep at night…I honestly thought it was because I hated clowns and wanted to fight them, but I realize it was the other way around. I would imagine myself at an entire circus surrounded by clowns and going on adventures to fight them…So I don’t remember thinking about clowns that much after I was really young until puberty hit…Throughout my teens and beyond, I’ve fantasized about clowns. I’ve also have always liked both sexes of clowns, male and female. My fetish can work with both, honestly…I’ve always been into a classical clown look, circus type, hilarious and silly…In my late teens and early adulthood, when the internet was becoming more common, I would talk to others that had clown feelings like me. It was a shock, at the time, to log online to look up pictures of clowns and suddenly realize that others had your fetish. As tame as my fetish is, it honestly takes up the primary desire of my sexuality and to meet others that felt the same way, it was cool. Clowning also introduced me to the pie fetish, which I like as well but honestly, it’s the clowning that does it for me”.
Commentary: This person’s clown fetish again began at an early age and appears to have built through thinking about clowns before going to sleep every night (and thus sexualizing the content even if the individual was unaware that the content was sexual. There appears to be what Sigmund Freud would call a latent period (the years before puberty) when the sexualization of clowns all but disappeared only to re-appear in his teenage years (i.e., am adolescent ‘awakening’). Like Case 2, it appears the individual is sexually aroused by watching clowns (irrespective of gender) rather than dressing up as a clown himself. Also like Case 2, he mentions an associated ‘pie fetish’ (i.e., a possible salirophilia crossover fetish). He describes is love of clowns as his “primary desire” indicating that it may well be a true fetish rather than just a strong liking for clowns. It appears he has met other like-minded coulrophiles on the internet, and as I argued in one of my recent papers on paraphilias, it is the rise of the internet that has facilitated the growth of this little known paraphilia.
Case 4 (Heterosexual female): “I’m an 18 year old chick and well I’m not sure how it all started. But I’ve always thought of clowns as being so sexual and crazy. I get turned on by the way they act and make perverted jokes. The make-up and clothes are really fun and exciting. Recently I went to Halloween horror nights and had a blast. At the center of the amusement park there were these clowns just messing with people and scaring them…The main clown was on a podium…I went to go get a picture with him and…he said ‘hey how about me and you go behind that ice-cream truck and I give u a little popcicle treat eh?’…He pulled me closer to him with the cane and I almost went crazy. I wanted to **** that guy in the costume so bad. I don’t see clowns as innocent childhood ideas. I see them more as erotic fantasy sex trips”
Commentary: This person is unsure of how her clown fetish began but appears to suggest it started back in her childhood given she “always thought of clowns as sexual”. It is unclear whether this person’s experiences of coulrophilia have gone beyond masturbatory fantasies but does seem to have a clown fetish rooted in make-up and dressing-up (two activities that she may have enjoyed as a child and more likely to be encouraged by parents as she was female rather than male).
Case 5 (Bisexual male): “Well, at first I never really liked clowns. In fact, I hated them but I was never afraid of them…One day, I went to my granny’s house after school. I had this one massage ball/stress ball or whatever and occasionally put it close to my nose and looked in the mirror and thought it looked like a clown nose. But this particular day, I had this odd thought that my math teacher wanted me to dress up as a clown and entertain some younger kids to bring out my happiness or some crap like that. The thought seemed stupid to me at first, but at my granny’s house I was known for being mischievous, curious, overly imaginative, and above all weird. So I had to try it and pretend. I made a hole in the ball so it could fit on my nose, got some of my granny’s old baggy scrubs, some fluff, and markers. I sort of looked like a clown so I danced around a bit and made silly faces in the mirror then I put the costume away. A couple days later I was at my granny’s house again and I had the ball on my nose again and I had the urge to masturbate…After I would go to my granny’s house every now and again and I had the urge to masturbate but with the ball on my nose. It never occurred to me that I needed the ball to masturbate with but without it, it wouldn’t feel as good. Eventually, I started picturing myself in a full clown suit with make-up on when I masturbated…I realised that I had a sexual attraction to clowns and I would fantasise about them…I fought this fetish for years…[At school] in the drama room…I found a real clown nose in there…and I had so much fun with it but I would always feel guilty afterwards…Now I can be attracted to someone without being a clown but if they are dressed as clowns, it turns me on waaaay more. So now I’m bisexual and I have a clown fetish”.
Commentary: This person’s sexual interest in clowns doesn’t appear to have begun until the onset of puberty, and even then it was only through associative arousal where the masturbatory spherical stress ball eventually represented a clown’s nose. The clown’s nose is then becomes central to all masturbatory fantasies so much so that it has to be present for sexual arousal to manifest itself (and thus a true fetish). As with Case 1, there is a kind of ‘tolerance’ behaviour where more and more aspects and items of a clown’s clothing have to be present to feed the sexual fantasies. There also appears to have been some associative pairing (i.e., a classically conditioned response) between an attractive teacher and the thought of him as a clown entertaining the children in his class.
Case 6 (Gay male): “I honestly do not recall when I started liking clowns, I was not a big fan of the circus and I do not remember seeing lots of clowns on TV or in real life… Somewhere in high school, I remember seeing some guys with their faces painted (I recall being at some sort of carnival or fair). One of these guys had his face painted like a clown…I remember being mesmerized by his painted clown face. I started fantasizing about myself painted up like a clown. Then I started having fantasies about a guy dressed up like a clown coming up to me and painting my face like a clown. These fantasies stuck with me for years. I knew they excited me, but was not ready to admit to myself that I found clowns sexy…A couple years later I was in some store, around Halloween…Suddenly my eyes focused on a clown makeup set…I painted my face up like a clown – it was amazing! There is just something about becoming a clown, your face underneath all that makeup, it’s silly, exciting, humiliating, liberating, and sexy all at the same time, at least for me…Several times during college I grew a beard, but I would always end up shaving it off, so I could paint my face up like a clown…I find it is such a turn on to think of a guy protesting, adamantly refusing to wear clown makeup and a clown costume, swearing up and down he is not a clown, will NOT dress up like a clown, yet somehow he ends up dressed and painted up like a clown anyway…Somewhere in my childhood I also discovered I love seeing guys hit in the face with a nice, thick cream pie (and of course getting hit in the face with a pie or twenty myself)…Becoming a clown and being pied is a big turn on for me…I would love to find a guy someday who understood this, who loved to take or throw a pie, loved clowns or loved being a clown”.
Commentary: This person does not recall how his clown fetish developed but given he did not like circuses or clowns in childhood it is something that developed during adolescence. There was clearly a key incident of seeing someone with a painted face and feeling sexually attracted towards that person which initiated the fetish (again through associative pairing). As with Cases 2 and 3, there is also a salirophilic pie fetish and he loves to dress up as a clown himself as well as finding other people dressed as clowns sexually arousing. He also describes the act of dressing in clown’s clothes as simultaneously “silly, exciting, humiliating, liberating and sexy”. Again, this suggests there are some sexually masochistic desires underlying the behaviour. He also says that “being pied” is a sexual turn-on (which again has sexually masochistic undertones).
Case 7 (Male, unknown sexual orientation): “I loved clowns ever since I was about 5 [years old]. I don’t know exactly how it started (probably me seeing them on TV)…but one night I decided that I really wanted to be a clown. This gradually grew into a full-blown fetish as I got older, and I would create fantasies about them and masturbated whenever I had time alone…Above all things, I had always wanted a clown nose. For some reason, that part of the costume just turned me on the most (especially the honking ones)…Oddly enough, when I’m not thinking about clowns, I am a VERY serious, nerdy, and down-to-earth student…After a trip to the grocery store in my mom’s car, I decided to take a detour to a party/costume place nearby and pick up everything clown-related that I wanted. Ironically, most of my fantasies involve other people laughing at my stupidity, despite the fact that my friends are convinced in real life that I can’t take a joke…The few friends who actually know about my fetish are generally supportive”.
Commentary: This person’s clown fetish appears to have started in early childhood as they “loved” clowns from an early age. As with other cases discussed here, masturbatory fantasies appear critical to the development and maintenance of the fetish through repeated associative pairing of fantasies about clowns and sexual arousal. Interestingly, this person appears to use the dressing up in clown’s clothing as an escape from his day-to-day life. As with Case 1, the clown’s nose appears pivotal in the development of their sexual fetish. This person appears to only derive sexual arousal from dressing in clown’s clothing himself (as a form of escape) rather than watching other people dressed as clowns. There is also a masochistic element to the behaviour as he admits that he enjoys others laughing at his “stupidity” at wearing a clown’s outfit.
Looking at all the cases as a whole, there are some commonalities – even among such a small number of cases. On the whole, coulrophilia appears to originate from a young age, mostly male-based, and arguably there appear to have been associative pairings from this young age (between sexual arousal and clowns) resulting in classically conditioned behavioural responses (i.e., sexual attraction to clowns). There also appear to be overlaps with other sexually paraphilic behaviours (i.e., salirophilia in the form of ‘pie fetishes’ and transvestic dressing-up). Also, Halloween appears to be a time that some enjoyed as an annual opportunity to engage in their preferred sexual behaviour. There didn’t seem to be any association between coulrophilia and sexual orientation as even among such a small number of cases, there were homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual orientations. Whether any empirical or clinical research into coulrophilia will ever be carried out remains debatable, but these few cases at least suggest the paraphilia may exist.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
In a previous blogs I have examined both Celebrity Worship Syndrome and whether fame can be addictive. Another behaviour allied to both of these is celebriphilia. There has been no scientific research on celebriphilia and I have only come across a few passing references to it in academic texts. In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal describes it as a sexual paraphilia where a “pathological desire to have sex with a celebrity”. The online Medical Dictionary is slightly different and defines celebriphilia as “an intense desire to have a romantic relationship with a celebrity” (and is therefore slightly different is the focus on this second definition is romance rather than sex, although there is an implicit assumption that having romantic relationship would involve sex). Finally, the only other definition that I have come across is in the online Nation Master encyclopedia that was a bit more padded out and claimed that:
“Celebriphilia is the sexual fetishism and obsession with sex with a celebrity or famous person. Celebriphiliacs may stalk these celebrities and either observe them for sexual pleasure voyeuristically or try and approach them and have sex with them. Some may simply masturbate to images of them”
Despite this more in-depth definition, it actually complicates matters as it brings in other behaviours such as voyeurism and stalking that are separate entities in and of themselves. As far as I can tell, the first reference to ‘celebriphilia’ appeared in an article written by journalists Benjamin Svetkey and Allison Hope Weiner for Entertainment Weekly. Their article was about Bonnie Lee Bakley, the wife of American actor Robert Blake (star of shows like Baretta and films such as In Cold Blood), who was shot in 2001 (May 4) while sitting outside a Los Angeles restaurant in Blake’s car. (Blake was eventually charged with his wife’s murder but was found not guilty. The murder remains officially unsolved although Bakley’s grown-up children from previous relationships took out a civil suit on Blake and was later found guilty of wrongful death).
The focus of the article by Svetkey and Weiner was Bakley’s celebriphilia and her ‘celebrity obsession’ (more specifically, her long-term history of pursuing relationships with celebrities). Bakley’s close friends all stated that her aim in life was to marry someone famous and all of her actions were geared around achieving this goal. Bakley was quoted as saying “being around celebrities makes you feel better than other people”. Her pursuing of celebrities began in 1990 when she became obsessed with wanting to marry rock ‘n’ roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis. She even moved to Memphis where Lewis was living, met him, and befriended Lewis’ sister as a way of getting closer to him. Bakley may have had a brief sexual relationship with Lewis, and in 1993 she gave birth to a daughter and claimed Lewis was the father (and even went as far as to name the baby Jeri Lee). Paternity tests later proved that Lewis was not the father of Bakley’s daughter. Following a move from Memphis to California, she continued her celebrity obsession by pursuing many different celebrities including actor Gary Busey, singer-songwriter and guitarist Chuck Berry, singer Frankie Valli, actor Robert De Niro, singer-songwriter Lou Christie, publisher Larry Flynt, entertainer Dean Martin, and musician Prince, before having a relationship with Marlon Brando’s son, Christian (following his release from prison in 1996).
It was in 1999, that Bakley met American actor Robert Blake while still dating Brando. She became pregnant again (telling both Blake and Brando that they were the father of the baby). She believed Brando was the father of the daughter she gave birth to (naming the child Christian Shannon Brando). However, later paternity tests showed it was Blake who was the father (and the baby was then re-named Rose). In November 2000, Bakley and Blake married (and Blake became Bakley’s tenth [!!!] husband). When I first read about Bakley’s attempts to have a relationship with someone famous, the first words that sprang to mind was ‘groupie’ and ‘stalker’. However, the article by Svetkey and Weiner specifically stated that:
“People who attempt to make themselves ”feel better” by romantically pursuing the famous [are] not groupies: Groupies are merely overzealous, oversexed fans. They’re not stalkers, either. Bakley’s relationship with Blake wasn’t imaginary…nor is she known to have ever threatened him with physical harm. And although her past was hardly squeaky-clean…she wasn’t simply a grifter. What Bakley pursued with meticulous and methodical precision wasn’t so much cash as cachet, the reflected glory of being with a star. Any star would do — even one like Blake, who hasn’t shone for the better part of a decade. Unlike stalkers and groupies, people like Bakley generally don’t develop crushes on the stars they pursue — it’s fame itself that flames their desires, regardless of whom it’s attached to. Sometimes they don’t even seem to like those they’re chasing. While Bakley was attempting a relationship with Blake, for instance, she was also apparently involved with Marlon Brando’s son Christian”.
Most of the famous people that she pursued most actively (i.e., Blake, Brando, Lewis) had careers that were on the wane. She chose people that wanted validation that they were still famous. Both Bakley and the ‘stars’ she chased appeared to be yearning validation, attention and wanting to be perceived as special. An American psychotherapist – Donald Fleming – was interviewed for the article by Svetkey and Weiner. He speculated about celebriphiles:
”Often these people have serious identity problems. They lack a centered sense of self. They’re usually people that have not developed any particular skills or abilities in life. They never developed out of their grandiose childhood wishes and fantasies to be important. The only way they can feel important or special or unique is through famous people being part of their life…People who follow stars often have the obsessive-compulsive trait. They can fool almost anybody. They become so acute at reading how to meet another person’s needs that they can pick up on their vulnerabilities and play them like a violin”.
Dr. David Giles who wrote one of the best books on the psychology of fame – Illusions of Immortality: A Psychology of Fame and Celebrity – explains the relationships that people have with celebrities as a parasocial interaction:
”One of the things about fame is how incredibly new it is to human experience. It started with mass communication, which is only about 100 years old. And the speed with which it’s developed – radio and then TV – has been astonishing. In an evolutionary sense, we may not have caught up with the phenomenon of fame as a species”.
Celebrity (and therefore celebriphilia) is as Dr. Giles would argue a completely modern, man-made phenomenon. In typical journalese, Svetkey and Weiner wrote that celebrity has “been injected into the cultural bloodstream like an untested drug – with a similar rush of disorienting results”. They also speculate about other people that display celebriphilia:
“Courtney Love may have once suffered a touch of it. (‘Become friends with Michael Stipe’, Kurt Cobain’s widow supposedly jotted in a journal years ago, mapping her road to fame)…And certainly Whitney Walton – known around Hollywood as the mysterious ‘Miranda’ – has something like it. She became infamous for charming her way into telephone friendships with Billy Joel, Warren Beatty, Quincy Jones, Richard Gere, and…other celebrities [including] Robert De Niro”.
As noted above, there has been no empirical research on celebriphilia unless you include the small amount of research on ‘celebrity stalking’ (although very few academics who have written on the topic use the word ‘celebriphilia’). However, there are a few exceptions. For instance, Dr. Brian Spitzberg and Dr. Michelle Cadiz wrote a paper on the media construction of stalking stereotypes and described one of the types as ‘stalking as celebriphilia’ in a 2002 issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture (although the authors didn’t actually define what celebriphilia was in this context). In a 2006 book (Constructing Crime: Perspectives on Making News and Social Problems) edited by Dr. Victor Kappeler and Dr. Gary Potter, the authors briefly noted (in what seems a follow on from the paper by Spitzberg and Cadiz) that “media reports eventually moved away from a dominant image of stalkers as exclusively experiencing ‘celebriphilia’”.
Giles, D. (2000). Illusions of Immortality: A Psychology of Fame and Celebrity. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kappeler, V.E. & Gary W. Potter, G.W. (2006). Constructing Crime: Perspectives on Making News and Social Problems. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
King, G. (2011). Who murdered Bonny Lee Bakley? (part 7: Bony the celebriphiliac). Crime Library, Located at: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/family/bakley/7.html
Medical Dictionary (2012). Celebriphilia. Located at: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Celebriphilia
Nation Master (2012). Celebriphilia. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Celebriphilia
Spitsberg, B.H. & Cadiz, M. (2002). The media construction of stalking stereotypes. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 9(3), 128-149.
Svetkey, B. & Weiner, A.H. (2001). Dangerous game. Entertainment Weekly, June 22. Located at: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,256019,00.html
Wiktionary (2012). Citations: Celebriphilia. Located at: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Citations:celebriphilia
“The rhythm, the feel, the vibrations – god it felt good. Imagine the most static, heated thrill of shivers running through your body right now. Do it. That is what I was feeling in that moment” (from Cubicle Dancing, Literotica website).
The association between dancing and sex has long been known, and many forms of dancing including belly dancing, pole dancing, lap dancing, and (obviously) striptease are erotic and/or sex-based. Furthermore, there are specific types of dance that are thought to be ‘sexy’ in and of themselves (e.g., salsa, rumba, tango, cha-cha, etc.). According to an old aphorism on the Fetipedia website, dance is “the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalised by music” (a quote usually attributed to George Bernard Shaw by jazz musician and journalist George Melly in an article in the New Statesman magazine on dancing and discotheques dating back to March 1962).
In a previous blog I examined dancing as an addiction, but for some people, a desire for dancing may form the basis of a sexual paraphilia (i.e., choreophilia). Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices book and Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices define choreophilia simply as “sexual arousal from dancing” (although this in and of itself does not necessarily seem to indicate that the behaviour is a sexual paraphilia).
Other definitions of choreophilia appear a little more specific and/or expand on this basic definition. For instance, the online Urban Dictionary add that choreophilia involves dancing to orgasmic release and classes it as a form of masturbation. This is similar to the online Community Dictionary that defines choreophilia as the condition of being sexually aroused when dancing and/or dancing for orgasmic, ecstatic, or spiritual pleasure. The Right Diagnosis online medical site says that choreophilia refers to sexual urges, preferences or fantasies involving dancing including: (i) sexual interest in dancing, (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving dancing, and/or (iii) recurring intense sexual urges. A more niche online website (Gay Pop Culture) defines choreophilia as ranging from feeling sexual arousal at seeing someone dancing to achieving an orgasmic like response to your own dancing. They also claim that the latter “though often disguised, has been a part of ecstatic rituals for millennia. Skilled and flexible people may include dance moves during sexual penetration”.
Dr. Brenda Love notes in an entry on choreophilia in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices that sex and dance have long been associated as many historical dancing rituals from around the world were performed as worship to fertility gods (of which the modern day Hawaiian hula dance is a typical example). She also notes that music and dance are often combined to enhance erotic excitement and that such behaviours were often prohibited during times of repressive religious rule. She also quoted some text from the French pastor and theologian Jean Calvin (1509-1564) who denounced dancing by claiming it was the ‘chief mischief of all mischiefs’ and that dancing ‘stirreth up lust’. There are also historical accounts suggesting that people who danced for sexual reasons at festivals were demonically possessed. As Dr. Love noted:
“Many ancient festivals such as Dionysia, Bacchanalia, May Day, Saturnalia, feast of Fools, and Carnival, encouraged people to dance until they reached a state of euphoria. Catholic clergy often condemned dancing and other forbidden games in their churchyards during these festivals. (It seems that missionaries made a practice of building their churches over pagan altars, therefore during festivals people would naturally gather to these sites). The Arab Sufis, or whirling dervishes, Wiccans, American Indians, various African tribes, and the Sadhus of India, all use dancing to induce a euphoric trance. Christian groups such as the Quakers and Shakers did this as well”.
In a separate entry on ‘belly dancing’, Dr. Love notes that this form of dancing is a modern version of an ancient religious dance signifying sex and childbirth (i.e., another form of fertility dance). Her research indicated that belly dancing can be traced back through history in places such as Greece, Turkey, and various African countries (e.g., Egypt). In the US, it is widely believed that belly dancing was introduced at the Chicago World Fair in 1893 by New York politician Sol Bloom (and re-named the ‘hoochie-coochie’ dance). Based on the 1963 book Cradle of Erotica (by Allen Edwardes and R.E.L. Masters), Dr. Love also pointed out:
“One of the earlier forms of the belly dance was called the ‘awalem’ and was used as sex education for newlyweds in Egypt. The dancer(s) would stand on one spot and imitate the different sexual movements required for coitus. A second ancient dance, the ‘ghaziyeh’ had only dancers with a scarf or piece of cloth that they would swirl around and pull back and forth against their genitals until orgasm. The dancers were females who had clitoridectomies performed while young and therefore had to stimulate their genitals by intense and prolonged rubbing. Unlike silent belly dancers, these women would scream and moan like wild beasts until orgasm was reached; it was not until then that the dance ended and the orgy began”.
In the entry on belly dancing, Dr. Love also unearthed an interesting nugget from an 1898 book by Jacobus X called Untrodden Fields of Anthropology that outlined another form of sexual dancing performed by Senegalese people in Africa:
“In the anamalis fubil, the dancer in his movements, imitates the copulation of the great Indian duck. This drake has a member of a corkscrew shape, and a particular movement. The woman, for her part, tucks up her clothes, and convulsively agitates the lower part of her body by the motion of her haunches; she alternatively shows her partner her vulva, and hides it from him, by a regular movement, backwards and forwards, of the body”.
In more contemporary times, Dr. Love claimed that modern dance halls had their roots in sexual practices. The first US dance halls were founded by bar owners that hired females to dance with their clients (as a way of attracting new and larger numbers of clientele). Some of the hired women were prostitutes who then used the opportunity provided by the bar owners to offer additional sexual services.
An interesting 2012 article by Dr. Peter Lovatt in Psychology Today examined the relationship between sex and dancing, and reported that Charles Darwin believed dance was part of the mate selection process. As empirical evidence for this, Dr. Lovatt also noted that:
“Two groups of researchers (Brown et al., 2005 and Fink et al., 2007) suggest that the way we dance might be influenced by our hormonal and genetic make up, such that we use dance to communicate the quality of our genes to potential mates. In my own lab I have observed similar findings. I filmed people dancing naturally in a real nightclub and I found that men with high levels of the sex hormone testosterone dance differently to men with low levels of testosterone and, most importantly, women prefer the dancing of high testosterone men. Now, if we couple this with the finding that the female sexual partners of high testosterone men report having more orgasms during sex than the sexual partners of low testosterone men we can see how dancing style is well worth looking at when we are looking for a mate”.
As far as I am aware, there is no empirical research on choreophilia although there would appear to be some overlaps with other little researched sexual paraphilia such as melophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from music), podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism in relation to high-heeled dancing shoes), and various types of clothing fetishes. The Right Diagnosis website says that treatment for choreophilia is “generally not sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way and they feel compelled to address their condition”. As with many sexual fetishes and paraphilias, it would appear that choreophiles learn to accept their sexual preference and manage to achieve sexual gratification in a way that is non-problematic.
Cuascud, T. (2012). Dancing could improve your sex life. Mamiverse, July 5. Located at: http://www.mamiverse.com/dancing-could-improve-your-sex-life-10192/
Fetipedia (2012). Choreophilia. December 10. Located at: http://www.fetbook.it/wiki/index.php?title=Choreophilia
Lovatt, P. (2012). Sex and Dancing. Psychology Today, March 12. Located ar: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dance-psychology/201003/sex-and-dancing
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Masturbation Mistress (2012). C is for cock stroking and choreophilia. June 6. Located at: http://www.masturbationmistress.com/blog/2012/06/06/c-is-for-cock-stroking-and-choreophilia/
Right Diagnosis (2012). Choreophilia. November 6. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/c/choreophilia/intro.htm
While researching a previous blog on squashing fetishes I came across an online account from a dominatrix talking about ‘queening’ fetishes. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, queening is a BDSM practice in where one sexual partner sits on or over another person’s face “typically to allow oral-genital or oral anal contact, or to practice ass worship or body worship”. In the book’s glossary of sexual terms, Dr. Aggrawal simply defines queening as “sitting on the side of a person’s face as a form of bondage”. A 2005 book chapter by Dr Brenda Love (in Russ Kick’s Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong) examined some of the strangest sexual behaviours from around the world and included a short section on queening. She wrote:
“The term queening refers to the European practice of a dominant female using a man’s head as her throne. The woman sits in one of several positions, either on the side of the man’s head or so that his nose is near her anus with his eyes covered by her genitals. The object of queening is bondage or breath control, not cunnilingus. The man may wear supplemental restraints on the wrists and ankles. A slightly comparable American sex scene is where a stripper completely disrobes and stands over a sitting male with his head titled back so that her genitals are only a couple of inches above his face. She stays in this position, moving her pelvis to the music for about five minutes. The male is not permitted to touch her in any manner during this exhibition”.
According to the Wikipedia entry on ‘facesitting’, within a sadomasochistic and dominance/submission context, the practice can be an “especially intense form of erotic humiliation”. The article also claims the practice is commonplace among sadomasochists. Although this would appear to have good face validity, I have yet to come across an empirical piece of research that either confirms or disconfirms this. The article differentiates facesitting from ‘smothering’ (i.e., the complete obstruction of the airways for sexual purposes) because the person being sat is not totally deprived of oxygen. The article also claims:
“The full-weight body-pressure, moisture, sex odors and darkness can be perceived as powerful sexual attractions or compulsions. The person sat upon may be in bondage, sexually submissive, or simply held down by the body-weight of the other person. Sometimes special furniture is used, such as a ‘queening stool’ or ‘smotherbox’. A queening stool is a low seat which fits over the submissive’s face and contains an opening to allow oral-genital and/or oral-anal stimulation of the domme while seated. In modern BDSM vernacular, the queening stool allows open access to the crotch while seated…The queening stool is also related to a ‘smotherbox’ which also allows the person under the seat to be locked in place, restrained by the neck as in a set of stocks”
This description also suggests there may be overlaps between queening and other sexual paraphilias and fetishes such as squashing fetishes, amaurophilia (where individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal by a partner who is blind or unable to see due to artificial means such as being blindfolded or having sex in total darkness), and osmophilia (where individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal caused by bodily odours such as sweat and urine).
An online article about queening on the Toilet Duck website (that ‘celebrates and questions watersports and toilet games’) begins by asserting that defining the act of queening is “difficult to say the least without leaving readers wondering why”. Unlike the Wikipedia article, it does not differentiate between facesitting and smothering:
“[Queening is a] very erotic act in which a woman sits on a man’s face and is satisfied sexually while dominating her man and the man is incredibly turned on by the act as well…Also referred to as face sitting or smothering, queening is most often accomplished by a dominant woman sitting on her submissive man’s or slave’s face and deriving sexual pleasure by riding his face or forcing him to lick, suck, bite, or orally massage his domme’s vaginal and anal area until she climaxes. During a queening session a submissive experiences the sensation of his mistress’s weight on his face as she squats on top of his face. The smell of her, the moistness, and the slow erotic motion as she moves around on his face to gain pleasure from her submissive mixed with the urgency to breathe is what turns the sub on…Sometimes queening is accompanied by the infliction of pain, verbal humiliation, or water sports (the act of urinating on a sexual partner) depending on the couple and how deep into the BDSM scene they are into. Nipple twisting or flogging are also great additions to smothering as is a little cock and ball torture. However, Queening is most often used as a form of reward for submissives that have been very good”.
Although most of the claims made here are unsubstantiated empirically, the Toilet Duck article is at least written by proponents who actually engage in the practices they write about. This extract also suggests there are yet more overlaps with other sexual paraphilias including urophilia, masochism, and hypoxyphilia.
In my research for this blog I came across the Informed Consent website (“The UK’s BDSM website”) which highlighted queening as its ‘fetish of the week’ back in September 2010. As a consequence, it featured people writing about their queening experiences. I have collated a few extracts here to provide a flavour of what people enjoy about queening from a personal standpoint:
- Extract 1: “I practice [queening] and regard it more in [an orally erotic] way than as a means of breath play. Although I know for some the oral element doesn’t feature at all. For me, the breath play aspect is a fairly insignificant part of it”
- Extract 2: “I love all aspects of it. The sheer enjoyment of someone dominating me by pushing their body down on my face; the oral sex; the worshipping of an anus; the smells and tastes; the inability to control my breathing; being pushed right to the edge, gasping for the slightest bit of air. I love it when Mistress losses herself ‘in the moment’ so much that she forgets about me, and I literally have to protect my own breathing/life”
- Extract 3: “It’s one of my favourites, yet very rarely practiced…it encompasses so much…from total control to total intimacy”
- Extract 4: “Personally, I love [queening] and just can’t get enough of it. I seem to never get bored of it. The ultimate for me is for Mistress to sit on my face and conduct some nipple torture or candle wax on my chest. I think this is proper pain and pleasure mixed up perfectly”
The only other article of any length I have come across on queening is one on the Kinky Britain website. Their main take on queening is that it is a form of body worship but also sees the behaviour has having other sexual attractions including the darkness, the weight pressure, the smells, and the wetness (echoing some of the aspects outlined above). The article claims that it is not only engaged in by dominant women and submissive men, but also by “vanilla couples who use this highly-enjoyable position for woman-superior cunnilingus”. Like the Wikipedia article, smothering and queening are viewed as two different forms of sexual activity. The anonymous author notes:
“Smothering is NOT like regular cunnilingus. In fact, at times the guys can’t even lick because they’re just trying to inhale a breath of fresh air. Sure, that overpowering smell of [the vagina] is great, but oxygen is what they really want at times. Facesitting is very erotic in essence and may be practiced by non-BDSM (vanilla) couples for sexual pleasure. However, when applied in the context of female domination it symbolizes the Mistress superiority over the sub. There is a slight difference between facesitting to smothering or queening, which is associated with the deprivation of air, yet in the BDSM world these terms are often regarded as one”.
The other aspect to this article that is not mentioned in any others I have read concerns the type of submissive man (i.e., ‘the slave’) that engages in queening. The article claims it is the woman who chooses who the submissive male is, and it appears there is no commonality amongst the type of man who participate. The article claims (and I have no empirical evidence to counter them) that:
“She may wish to have a wimpish male twit under her. She may find more delight in subduing a macho strong male. She may have a cuckolded husband to humiliate, taunt and sit on. Some women like to have a mouth-dildo attached to their slave’s head, sticking up from his open mouth as a rideable accessory. This provides pleasant, full, vaginal passage orgasms, but prevents sucking and licking by the male victim. Other women blindfold their prone slaves, thus deleting any possible visual pleasure they might obtain. A few cruel ladies inevitably urinate on to his face after having orgasmed. Others enjoy demanding mouth service right after enjoying satisfactory adultery with a lover, thus making the victim more humiliated. Most queening ladies humiliate, taunt, torment, degrade and tease their victims before and after this enforced cunnilingus”.
The bottom line (no pun intended) about queening fetishes is that almost all the information we have appears to have been written by those who actually engage in the practice and that there is nothing written academically except passing references in academic books on unusual sexual practices. There is also the question of whether those who engage in the behaviour view it as fetishistic, and whether academics such as myself would class the behaviour as a fetish. Based on what I have read, queening appears to be an adjunct to other types of sexually paraphilic behaviour such as sexual masochism rather than a stand alone fetish although for some people, it may well be a genuine fetishistic sexual activity.
Charland, V. (2010). Fetish furniture in art (queening chairs, bondage, facestting, etc.). Cuckold Journal, November 27. Located at: http://cuckold-journal-wet-options.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/fetish-furniture-in-art-queening-chairs.html
Kinky Britain (2010). Questions and answers about facestiing/queening. August 25. Located at: http://kinkybritain.co.uk/kinky/2010questions-answers-about-facesitting-queening
Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129). New York: The Disinformation Company.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
McGuire, C. (1989). Perfect Victim. New York: Dell.
Murray, T. (1989). The Language of Sadomasochism. Westport: Greenwood Press.
The Toilet Duck (2011). Queening – Can this be enjoyable for both parties? August 7. Located at: http://thetoiletduck.com/20/queening-can-this-be-enjoyable-for-both-parties/
Wikipedia (2012). Facesitting. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facesitting