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Top trumps: A brief look at ‘fartomania’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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