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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ants in your pants? A beginner’s guide to formicophilia

In my blogs I have looked at a wide range of paraphilic behaviours. A quick look through my site statistics revealed that my previous blog on zoophilia has been the most read blog on my site (by quite some margin). Another paraphilia that has been conceptualized as a sub-type of zoophilia is that of formicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused by insects crawling and/or nibbling on the individual’s genitals). There also appear to some cultural variations such as Genki Genki in Japan. Genki Genki is a style of erotic art and pornography that features women with various creatures, many from the ocean but may also include insects.

According to Dr Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, other areas of the body can also be the focus. It is thought that the desired effect may come from a tickling or stinging sensation, or the infliction of psychological distress on another person. Nancy Butcher in a book on medical mysteries, curious remedies, and bizarre folklore also said that formicophiliacs may smear themselves with honey and have insects feed off them. She also claimed that some formicophiliacs may even place insects in various bodily orifices as they experience sexual pleasure from the insects trying to escape.

To date, only two academic papers have ever been published directly concerning formicophilia. Both of these papers were published in the 1980s by Ratnin Dewaraja (who at the time was at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka). The first paper (co-written with renowned paraphilic expert Professor John Money) was published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. It was in this paper that formicophilia was defined as paraphilia where the focus of sexual arousal is on small creatures, such as “snails, frogs, ants, or other insects creeping, crawling or nibbling on the body, especially the genitalia, perianal area or nipples”. Brenda Love has pointed out that formicophilia should only technically refer to sexual arousal from ants and that paraphilias concerning insects more generally should be named entomophilia. There are other specific insect-related paraphilias such as arachnophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from spiders)

Dewaraja and Money reported that formicophilia is very rare and presented the case of a young Buddhist male who had developed this particular type of paraphilia. In their paper, they suggested that it arises developmentally during childhood, but just how this occurs was unclear. It was also claimed that it is more common in developing countries, perhaps because houses there are more likely to be infested with insects. The desired effect may be a tingling or burning sensation, or the pangs of psychological distress of another person.

They argued that children whose species-specific, juvenile sexual rehearsal play is thwarted or traumatized are at increased risk for developing a compensatory paraphilia (such as formicophilia). Their young Buddhist exemplified what they considered to be a cross-cultural application of this principle. They reported that his paraphilia was endogenously generated without reference to or influence by commercial pornography. They concluded that a “complete causal explanation of [this] paraphilia will require both a phylogenetic (phylismic) and an ontogenetic (life-history) component”.

In a follow-up paper published in the American Journal of Psychotherapy, Dewaraja reported how the same Buddhist male formicophiliac was treated. Rather than trying to completely eliminate the sexual deviation, the man received both counselling and behaviour therapy in an attempt to alleviate his feelings of guilt and depression and improve his self-image. Dewaraja reported that the 12-week course of therapy was successful and resulted in a dramatic reduction of the paraphilic behaviour at one-year follow-up.

However, Brendan Kelly (University College Dublin, Ireland) says that when it comes to the treatment of psychological and psychiatric disorders among Buddhists, the appropriateness of treatment depends on factors related to the individual, the disorder and sociocultural setting in which they live. He specifically notes that sociocultural factors may be “particularly important in the context of psychosexual disorders, and individuals with a Buddhist background may benefit from counselling and cognitive-behavioural approaches that reflect an understanding of such concerns from a Buddhist perspective”.

In a 2005 book chapter by Dr Brenda Love examining some of the strangest sexual behaviours from around the world, she recounted this anecdote related to a man who got his sexual kicks from bee stings. Dr Love noted that:

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

Another insect-related fetish is a variant of crush fetishes. Crush fetishists get sexual pleasure from being walked and trod on and is itself a variant of sexual masochism. G.A. Pearson (North Carolina State University, USA), writing in the online journal Cultural Entomology described a fetish where people get sexual pleasure from watching insects, worms and spiders being squashed (particularly men watching women doing it). As Jeremy Biles notes in a 2004 essay on crush fetishists in Janus Head:

“Among the many obscure and bizarre sects of fetishism, few remain so perplexing or so underexamined as that of the “crush freaks.” At the cutting edge of the edgy world of sexual fetishistic practices, the crush freaks are notorious for their enthusiasm for witnessing the crushing death of insects and other, usually invertebrate, animals, such as arachnids, crustaceans, and worms. More specifically, crush freaks are sexually aroused by the sight of an insect exploded beneath the pressure of a human foot–usually, but not necessarily, a relatively large and beautiful female foot. Sometimes the insects meet their demise under the force exerted by a naked big toe. Other times, it is the impaling heel of a stiletto or the raised outsole of a platform shoe that accomplishes the extermination. The crush freak typically fantasizes identification with the insect as he or she masturbates, and savors the sense of sudden, explosive mutilation attendant upon the sight of the pedal extrusions”.

It’s also been reported that maximum sexual excitement comes the more frightened the woman, and the larger the feet doing the squashing. The preference can also be barefoot, high-heels, flip-flops (depending on the fetishist). Pearson concluded that crush fetishists represent a fascinating example of the human ability to eroticize just about any activity”. Interestingly, in her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates contextualizes crush fetishes as a subset of both foot fetishism and macrophilia (being sexually aroused by giants). Jeremy Biles argues differently and says that these practices are best understood as ambivalent manifestations of technophilia (sexual arousal associated with machinery). Personally, I’m more convinced by Gates’ arguments than those of Biles.

Finally, if you have managed to reach the end of this article and still remain unconvinced that formicophiliacs even exist, you could check out the lovebugz website, or two other websites here and here that have to be seen to be believed (you have been warned!)

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

Further reading

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Butcher, N. (2004). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. New York: Penguin Books.

Dewaraja, R. (1987). Formicophilia, an unusual paraphilia, treated with counseling and behavior therapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 41, 593-597.

Dewaraja, R. & Money, J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 139-145.

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

Kelly, B.D. (2008). Buddhist Psychology, Psychotherapy and the Brain: A Critical Introduction. Transcultural Psychiatry, 45(1), 5-30

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

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

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

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