“People who have consumed human blood and flesh reportedly claim to experience an intoxicating euphoric effect. This reaction is similar to that experienced by anyone who satisfies a strong sexual craving that is not considered normal (exhibitionism, necrophilia, rape, etc.). However, in this case, it must have reinforced the beliefs of worshippers that indeed their god was present in the victim” (Dr. Brenda Love, Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices).
Today’s blog takes a brief look at sexual cannibalism in humans. I added “in humans” at the end of the sentence because sexual cannibalism is quite common in some animal species. As Dr. Brenda Love notes in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, sexual cannibalism is known to occur in some types of spider, praying mantis, scorpion, cricket, grasshopper, and fly. The Wikipedia entry also notes that sexual cannibalism has been observed in various types of crustacean (e.g., amphipods, copepods), slugs and snails (i.e., gastropods), and squids and octopuses (i.e., cephalopods). In the non-human species, it is typically the female that kills and eats the male before, during or after sexual union has taken place. Amongst humans, sexual cannibalism is extremely rare, and most humans who engage in cannibalistic acts for sexual purposes are generally considered sociopaths.
Of course, cannibalism for non-sexual purposes – known I more scientific circles as anthropophagy – has long been known among certain tribes and cultures. Throughout history, cannibalism has been practiced in many forms across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. Though rare today, it is believed to be still practiced in a few remote parts of Asia. Cannibalism can be classed as either endocannibalism (i.e., consumption of another human being from within the same group or community) or exocannibalism (i.e., consumption of another human being from outside the group or community). Some acts of endocannibalism are actually acts of necro-cannibalism (i.e., the eating of flesh from dead humans also known as necrophagy) where dead people’s body parts are eaten as either part of the grieving process, as a way of guiding the souls of the dead into the bodies of the living, and/or as a way of imbibing the dead person’s ‘life force’ or more specific individual characteristics. Such endocannibalistic practices were common among certain tribes in New Guinea (which led to the prion disease kuru that I examined in a previous blog). However, it is known that many males among various tribes would not consume females for fear of emasculation. Exocannibalistic acts were most often carried out as part of a celebration victory after battles with rival tribes. There are various theories from many perspectives on why cannibalism may occur. These have included:
- Religious theories (e.g., religious beliefs involving the need to eat human flesh as a way of sustaining the universe or as part of magical and ritualistic ceremonies).
- Political theories (e.g., eating human flesh as a political tool to intimidate and control potential hostiles or subordinates).
- Socio-psychological theories (e.g., eating human flesh due to unconscious factors such as a response to trauma).
- Ecological theories (e.g., eating human flesh as a way of controlling the size of the population. The Aztecs were said to have eaten no less than 15,000 victims a year as – some have argued – a form of population control).
- Dietary theories (e.g., eating human flesh as a source of protein).
There are of course other reasons (including sexual ones) that may be the root of someone’s cannibalistic desire to eat human flesh. One reason could be out of necessity. For instance, in 1972, a rugby team from Uruguay was in a plane crash in the Andes. Fifteen people died and the only way they prevented themselves starving to death was to eat the flesh of the deceased (which given the fact it took 72 days for them to be rescued, was one of the few viable options to prevent starvation). At its simplest level, human sexual cannibalism is usually considered a psychosexual disorder and involves individuals’ sexualizing (in some way) the consumption of another human being’s flesh. One online article claims that:
“This does not necessarily suggest that the cannibal achieves sexual gratification only in the act of consuming human flesh, but also may release sexual frustration or pent up anger. Sexual cannibalism is considered to be a form of sexual sadism and is often associated with the act of necrophilia (sex with corpses)”.
When it comes to sexual cannibalism in humans, there are arguably different subtypes (although this is based on my own personal opinion and not on something I’ve read in a book or research paper). Most of these behaviours I have examined in previous blogs (so click on the links if you want to know more:
- Vorarephilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals are sexually aroused by (i) the idea of being eaten, (ii) eating another person, and/or (iii) observing this process for sexual gratification. However, most vorarephiles’ behaviour is fantasy-based, although there have been real cases such as Armin Meiwes, the so-called ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’.
- Erotophonophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals have extreme violent fantasies and typically kill their victims during sex and/or mutilate their victims’ sexual organs (the latter of which is usually post-mortem). In some cases, the erotophonophiles will eat some of their victim’s body parts (usually post-mortem). Many lust murderers – including Jack the Ripper – are suspected of engaging in cannibalistic and/or gynophagic acts, taking away part of the female to eat later. Other examples of murderers who have eaten their victims (or parts of them) for sexual pleasure include Albert Fish, Issei Sagawa, Andrei Chikatilo, Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer.
- Sexual necrophagy refers to the cannibalizing of a corpse for sexual pleasure. This may be associated with lust murder but Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices says that such cases usually involve “one whose death the molester did not cause. Many cases of reported necrophilia include cannibalism or other forms of sadism and it is believed that many others fantasize about doing it”.
- Vampirism as a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal from the ingestion of blood from a living person
- Menophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual (almost always male) derives sexual arousal from drinking the blood of menstruating females.
- Gynophagia is (according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) a sexual fetish that involves fantasies of cooking and consumption of human females (gynophagia literally means “woman eating”). There is also a sub-type of gynophagia called pathenophagia. This (according to Dr. Brenda Love) is the practice of eating young girls or virgins. Several lust murderers were known to consume the flesh of young virgins, most notably Albert Fish).
Added to this list, is something I would call ‘sexual autophagy’ which refers to the eating of one’s own flesh for sexual pleasure (and would be a sub-type of autosarcophagy discussed in a previous blog). I am basing this sub-type on an entry I came across in Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices and relating to a case study reported by Krafft-Ebing:
“Krafft-Ebing recorded the case of a man who at 13 [years of age] became infatuated with a young white-skinned girl. However, instead of desiring intercourse, he was overwhelmed by the urge to bite off a piece of her flesh and eat it. He began stalking women, and for years he carried a pair of scissors with him. He was never successful in accosting a woman, but when he came close he would cut off and eat a piece of his own skin instead. This act produced an immediate orgasm for him”.
This account seems to be confirmed by some online articles on sexual cannibalism claiming that cannibals feel a sense of euphoria and/or intense sexual stimulation when consuming human flesh. All of these online accounts cite the same article by Clara Bruce (‘Chew On This: You’re What’s for Dinner’) that I have been unable to track down (so I can’t vouch for the veracity of the claims made). Bruce’s article claimed that cannibals had compared eating human flesh with having an orgasm, and that flesh eating caused an out-of-body-experience experience with effects comparable to taking the drug mescaline. In another publication that I’ve failed to track down, the following snippet appears on at least 20 websites with articles on sexual cannibalism:
“Lesley Hensel, author of ‘Cannibalism as a Sexual Disorder’ [says] eating human flesh can cause an increase in levels of vitamin A and amino acids, which can cause a chemical effect on the blood and in the brain. This chemical reaction could possibly lead to the altered states that some cannibals have claimed to have experienced. However, this theory has not been substantiated by scientific evidence”.
As I’ve covered many of the cannibalistic sub-types in previous blogs, I tried to do some further research on gynophagia. There is almost nothing written from an academic or clinical perspective about gynophagia (in fact when I typed in ‘gynophagia’ only one reference turned up – a paper on ‘the psychophysical basis of feelings’ published by Dr. C.L. Herrick in an 1892 issue of the Journal of Comparative Neurology that only mentioned gynophagia in passing). However, there are quite a few dedicated gynophagia websites out there including dedicated pages on the Deviant Art website and an interesting set of cannibalistic links (that you can check out for yourself on the Indie Film website. There is also a reasonably lengthy article in the Urban Dictionary but it features little of any substance. The person writing the article makes the following observations:
“Gynophagia is the fetish of a person becoming food for someone else as a fantasy. As a fantasy it’s just as taboo as BDSM or other kinks…Gynophagia can really be a more gentle fetish than BDSM because torture is almost never applied. Honestly, when you boil it down to its essentials (no pun intended), gynophagia is an extension of the ‘Damsel in Distress’ scenario…Gynophagia is present in a lot of the older media we have, the most widely recognized being a helpless woman being boiled alive by a native tribe when the hero rescues her. Another example would be in Little Red Riding Hood where the wolf devours Red Riding Hood, but this could also be classified as a separate but similar fetish called Vorarephillia. One of the more widely known scenarios of gynophagia is known as the Dolcett method which usually centers around the main female character of a Dolcett comic being spit roasted alive and enjoying every moment of it. But again I must stress that gynophagia is one of those few fetishes that can only be a fantasy and should not be practiced in real life”.
If you really want to find out what gynophagia disciples are into, I suggest you check out the Carnal Consummations fetish website (but you’ve been warned!).
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.
Arens, William (1979). The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Beier, K. (2008). Comment on Pfafflin’s (2008) “Good enough to eat”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 164-165.
Benezech, M., Bourgeois, M., Boukhabza, D. & Yesavage, J. (1981). Cannibalism and vampirism in paranoid schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 42(7), 290.
Cannon, J. (2002). Fascination with cannibalism has sexual roots. Indiana Statesman, November 22. Located at: http://www.indianastatesman.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/11/22/3dde3b6201bc1
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.
Pfafflin, F. (2008). Good enough to eat. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 286-293.
Pfafflin, F. (2009). Reply to Beier (2009). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 166-167.
Prins, H. (1985). Vampirism: A clinical condition. British Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 666-668.
Unlimited Blog (2007). Sexual cannibalism and Nithari murders. November. Located at: http://sms-unlimited.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/sexual-cannibalism-and-nithari-murders.html
Wikipdia (2012). Cannibalism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibalism
Wikipedia (2012). Human sacrifice in Aztec culture. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sacrifice_in_Aztec_culture
Wikipedia (2012). Sexual cannibalism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_cannibalism
“I don’t think there’s any point in doing anything unless you push yourself. When in doubt – be extreme” (Genesis P-Orridge)
“[We] were interested in taboos. What the boundaries were, where sound became noise and where noise became music and where entertainment became pain, and where pain became entertainment. All the contradictions of culture” (Genesis P-Orridge)
Today’s blog is a little leftfield and as I write this, I’m not quite sure where it’s going to end up. Regular readers will know from some of my previous blogs that I am a bit of a music obsessive and that music is one of the most important things in my life. Given that one of the things I like to examine in my blog is extreme behaviour, I thought I would have a brief look at one of the most extreme bands of all time – Throbbing Gristle (TG) – who coincidentally happen to be one of my all-time favourite groups. (In fact, I have surreptitiously snuck in TG references in previous blogs, the most blatant example being my blog on sexual sadism that I entitled Entertainment Through Pain – the name of TG’s most recent ‘best of’ album).
I have no idea how much any of you reading this knows about TG, and if you do know about them, you will no doubt be aware that listening to them is an experience (to say the least) and they were the first (and best) group to make ‘industrial music’ (in fact they coined the term and formed their own record label Industrial Records). TG’s live shows (which incidentally were all recorded and all made commercially available to buy albeit in limited editions) were notorious and highly confrontational. They featured highly provocative and disturbing imagery including hard-core pornography and scenes from Nazi concentration camps. TG continually said that that their mission was “to challenge and explore the darker and obsessive sides of the human condition rather than to make attractive music”. This they did to great effect!
I’ll start with a brief history. TG grew out of the ‘performance art’ group COUM Transmissions in the mid-1970s. COUM Transmissions comprised Genesis P-Orridge (born Neil Megson in 1950) and Cosey Fanni Tutti (born Christine Newby in 1951), and both took a great interest in radical counter-culture. TG officially formed in 1975 when Chris Carter (born 1953) and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson (1955-2010) joined Genesis and Cosey. The final performance by COUM Transmissions was the highly controversial show Prostitution at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Gallery in September 1976. The final show featured transvestite guards, a female stripper, and used tampons in glass. In the print media, Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairburn famously called the group “wreckers of civilisation” (which eventually became the title of their 1999 biography by Simon Ford). Even their name is subversive – ‘Throbbing Gristle’ is actually Yorkshire slang for a penile erection. Roni Sarig in the 1998 book The Secret History of Rock: The Most Influential Bands You’ve Never Heard, notes that in relation to their propensity to shock audiences:
“[Throbbing Gristle] spent a number of years shocking and provoking even the most open-minded members of the avant-garde art world with shows featuring body fluids, dead animal parts, and nude photos of Cosey (a part-time stripper), that pushed the limits of obscenity and taboo. By the mid-‘70s, the group…determined that the best avenue for continuing their cultural assault was music. [They used] an array of instruments (most of which they couldn’t play), as well as tape machines and various electronic effects”.
There are dozens of TG recordings available but the most well known LPs are arguably The Second Annual Report, D.o.A. – The Third and Final Report, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, and Heathen Earth (and if you want to just dip in and see what all the fuss is about try The Taste of TG featuring on the front cover a manipulation of a still from the Pasolini film adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom). They broke up in 1981 and reformed again in 2004 (until 2010).
Their musical performances were often improvised but there were certainly sonic soundscapes that could be described as actual ‘songs’. Most of the fans’ favourites covered extreme, controversial and/or provocative subjects and lyrics including (but not limited to): sado-masochism (Discipline), masturbation (Five Knuckle Shuffle), ejaculation (Something Came Over Me), sexual manipulation (Persuasion), the Moors murderers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady (Very Friendly), the gassing of Jews in Nazi Germany (Zyklon B Zombie), Nazism (National Affront), misogyny (We Hate You Little Girls), school bullying (Blood On The Floor), burns victims (Hamburger Lady), ultra-violence (Subhuman, Dead Ed, and Hit By A Rock), castration and foetus eating (Slug Bait), and suicide (Weeping). A really good paper written by Dr. Danielle Kirby in a 2011 issue of Literature and Aesthetics highlighted the cultural space that TG’s music inhabited:
“[Throbbing Gristle] both musically and magically, constitute an integral element of what Christopher Partridge calls ‘occulture’. Occulture, a neologism attributed to Genesis P-Orridge, has come to express a socio-spiritual milieu encompassing ‘those often hidden, rejected and oppositional beliefs and practices associated with esotericism, Theosophy, mysticism, New Age, [and] Paganism’ amongst other subcultural ideas and lifestyles”.
Psychologically they are simply one of the most interesting groups I have ever come across. They lived life on the fringes, and much of their performance whether it was art, drama and/or music was extreme and morally provocative. In one interview, Genesis P-Orridge revealed perhaps one of his most depraved artistic improvisations:
“I used to do things like stick severed chicken’s heads over my penis, and then try to masturbate them, whilst pouring maggots all over it…At the ICA I did a performance where I was naked, I drank a bottle of whiskey and stood on a lot of tacks. And then I gave myself enemas with blood, milk and urine, and then broke wind so a jet of blood, milk and urine combined shot [out and] then [I] licked it off the not-clean concrete floor. Then I got a 10-inch nail and tried to swallow it, which made me vomit. Then Cosey helped me lick the vomit off the floor. And she was naked and trying to sever her vagina to her navel with a razor blade and she injected blood into her vagina which then trickled out, and we sucked the blood from her vagina into a syringe and injected it into eggs painted black, which we then tried to eat. And we vomited again, which we then used for enemas. Then I urinated into a large glass bottle and drank it all while it was still warm. This was all improvised. And then we gradually crawled to each other, licking the floor clean. ‘Cause we don’t like to leave a mess, y’know; after all, it’s not fair to insult an art gallery. Chris Burden, who’s known for being outrageous, walked out with his girlfriend, saying, ‘This is not art, this is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, and these people are sick’.”
I have no idea if my brief look into the world of Throbbing Gristle has totally put you off exploring their art and music, but as a group, their artistic mission and philosophy complements much of the more extreme academic material that I have featured in my blog.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Cooper, D. (2012). Sypha presents … Music from the Death Factory: A Throbbing Gristle primer. Located at: http://denniscooper-theweaklings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/sypha-presents-music-from-death-factory.html?zx=c19a3a826c3170a7
Ford, S. (1999). Wreckers of Civilization: The Story of Coum Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle. London: Black Dog Publishing.
Kirby, D. (2011). Transgressive representations: Satanic ritual abuse, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, and First Transmission. Literature and Aesthetics, 21, 134-149.
Kromhout, M. (2007). ‘The Impossible Real Transpires’ – The Concept of Noise in the Twentieth Century: a Kittlerian Analysis. Located at: http://www.mellekromhout.nl/wp-content/uploads/The-Impossible-Real-Transpires.pdf
Sarig, R. (1998). The Secret History of Rock: The Most Influential Bands You’ve Never Heard Of. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.
Walker, J.A. (2009). Cosey Fanni Tutti & Genesis P-Orridge in 1976: Media frenzy, Prostitution-style, Art Design Café, August 10. Located at: http://www.artdesigncafe.com/cosey-fanni-tutti-genesis-p-orridge-1-2009
Wells, S. (2007). A Throbbing Gristle primer. The Guardian, May 27. Located at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2007/may/29/athrobbinggristleprimer
In a previous blog I examined the Furry Fandom (FF) and the people who like to dress up as animals and have sex dressed as animals. One particular subset of the FF is a group of people who engage in ‘pony-play’ (PP). PP is overtly more sexualized than FF and is a form of bondage that involves a person dressed as a ‘pony’ and a ‘rider’. The human pony (the submissive partner) can comprise ‘ponyboys’ or ‘ponygirls’ typically wears stylized horse adornments including riding straps, a leather saddle, reins, and a bit in the mouth. The human rider (the dominant) also wears stylized riding accessories such as a riding crop or a horse-whip. The riders may sit on the human pony and/or get the pony to cart them around. In his 2010 book, Pony training: Five case studies on pony play, ownership and kinky submission, Dr. Garth Mundinger-Klow notes that “Ponygirl, Ponyboy” was:
“A classic [sadomasochistic] fantasy immortalized in the drawings of of John Willie and used in the Sleeping Beauty Triology by Anne Rice. Typical pony garb includes a horsehair tail attached to a butt plug, a bit gag and/or bridle head harness, and reins. Often very high heels, a corset, and feather plumes in the hair are added. The arms are typically bound behind the back”.
However, many people’s views of PP (if they even have them) may have come from the documentary film Born In A Barn. This film was:
“An intimate and occasionally humorous look into the extraordinary erotic lives of four seemingly ordinary people. Born In A Barn takes us deep into the world of pony play, a fetish in which enthusiasts role-play as human ponies and handlers. Revealing the complex motives that drive each character to pursue this unusual passion and following them as they each confront the questions that being an erotic equine present, Born In A Barn is a film about finding an identity in the pursuit of an unconventional desire”.
Role-play is nothing new and the Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle is alleged to have loved being ridden like a horse. In fact, PP is (in some circles) referred to as ‘The Aristotelian Perversion’. In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates makes reference to the fact that ponyplay was depicted in Assyrian art dating back to 2000 B.C. More recently Gates notes that in the 19th century human ponyplay existed as an erotic amusement for the upper classes in British colonies.
As mentioned in my previous blog on the FF, the primary theme of such animal role-play is often the voluntary (and sometimes) involuntary reduction (or transformation) of human beings to animals, and a subsequent focus on the altered mind-space created by the transformation. The ponies in PP comprise three different groups although the activities are not mutually exclusive for the participants.
- Cart ponies: These are human ponies that pull a sulky with their rider (A sulky is a lightweight two-wheeled cart with a seat for the rider). These ponies wear bit-bridles and harnesses, blinkers, walk standing up, and have their hands secured behind their backs.
- Riding ponies: These are human ponies that are ridden on while they are on all fours or partly standing up on two legs by their rider (custom made saddle or bareback). Some (usually male) ponies prefer their riders to be on their shoulders. Riding ponies are harnessed, bridled and may wear blinkers.
- Show ponies: These are human ponies that show off their skills in dressage (e.g., choreographed pony-dance, cantering, etc.), can walk standing up or on their hands and knees, and typically wearing ornate and elaborate harnesses, plumes, etc.).
For the human pony, the sexual thrill rarely involves normal sexual contact. The sexual thrill is the fantasy of actually being a horse under the control of their dominant rider. The only time that actual sex takes place in PP is when the human ponies are engaged in a ‘stud service’ and one pony is bred to another. This requires explicit permission from the human pony’s “owner”. The practice of stud farming may also be role-played and fantasy-based (i.e., no real sexual intercourse taking place). It is believed that many submissive human ponies and their dominant riders are in a romantic, emotional and/or sexual relationship outside of PP although some only know each other in the context of PP.
In an online essay on PP, Malfouka makes the point that this particular fetish is “not for the lazy” as the preparation involved for all PP participants (i.e., trainers, owners, groomers and riders) is time intensive. Malfouka gives a detailed description of the main PP protagonists.
- Trainers: These are the people who actually train the human pony (and may train many such people). The trainer is responsible for turning those who wish to be pony into an actual pony. Malfouka says “this distinction is important in that in the world of ponyplay, there is protocol to follow”. The most important thing to take on board is that no-one is a pony simply because they pretend to be one. It takes a long time of training for the human pony be taught the appropriate stance, demeanour, behaviour, showmanship and submission. Trainers can also be owners, riders, and/or groomers.
- Owners: These are the people who “own” the human pony and are typically the riders too (i.e., the masters or mistresses). Owners plan the pony’s schedule, dress, and all associated activities (including which other riders can access the pony). Owners can also be trainers, riders, and/or groomers.
- Groomers: These are the people (often trainers and/or owners) who take charge of pony care (washing, bathing, petting, massaging, brushing hair), bathing.
- Riders: These are the people who ride the pony. Riders can comprise anyone that the owner and/or trainer have given permission to ride.
To date, there has been little empirical research on the topic of pony-play. An anthropological paper by Margot Weiss (Wesleyan University, US) in a 2006 issue of Anthropologica, examined the BDSM community in the San Francisco Bay Area (US). Her interviewees included people who identified themselves primarily as a pony (within a BDSM context). She argued that BDSM sexuality (including those who self-identified as a pony) should be conceptualized as a form of ‘working at play’ (WAP). WAP recognizes the ways that BDSM practitioners move between registers of work (productive labour) and play (creative recombination). Weiss’ analysis situates BDSM (and other sexualities) within “the shifting cultural geography of U.S. late-modernity, drawing attention to the ways sexuality blurs boundaries between individual-social, real-pretend and leisure-labour)”.
At the end of 2011, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) published an interesting paper on zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine (which I examined in a previous blog) and categorized those into pony-play as Class I zoosexuals (i.e., human-animal role-players). According to Aggrawal, Class 1 zoosexuals never have sex with actual animals but become sexually aroused through wanting to have sex with humans who pretend to be animals and who engage in pseudo-zoophilic acts (e.g., pet play, pony play, ponyism or pup-play). Personally, I don’t class this as a type of zoophilia at all but I can see Aggrawal’s logic in including the Furry Fandom and PP communities.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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.
Malfouka (undated). My Little Pony: The Aristotelian Perversion. Maximum Awesome. Located at: http://www.maximumawesome.com/pervfriday/ponypeople.htm
Mundinger-Klow, G. (2010). Pony training: Five case studies on pony play, ownership and kinky submission. Olympia Press.
Weiss, M.D. (2006). Working at Play: BDSM Sexuality in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anthropologica, 48, 229-245.
In previous blogs I have examined many different bodily substances that have formed the basis of paraphilic and/or fetishistic behaviour including urine (urophilia), faeces (coprophilia), blood (menophilia and clinical vampirism), and breast milk (lactophilia). One bodily fluid that has not really been the subject of scientific research is saliva in relation to saliva fetishes and spit fetishes. In fact, the only purely academic reference I could find was from sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel who suggested in a 1991 book that many Americans seem to find sex “morally repugnant” and that it is because of the bodily fluids associated with sex (i.e., saliva and semen) are sticky, a liminal category between solid and liquid.
From my reading on this topic, there appears to be a difference between saliva fetishes and spit fetishes (which I will explain below). In researching this blog I came across two cases of saliva fetishes (one from New Zealand and one from Japan) that were both very similar.
- Case 1: Back in 2007 in Christchurch (New Zealand), a 28-year old male vineyard worker – Jared Simmonds – was jailed for 32 months because of his “deviant sexual arousal” towards saliva from young girls. He was arrested following an indecent sexual attack on an 11-year old girl. Simmonds had been previously convicted in 2005 for obtaining saliva from four pre-pubescent girls that he would use as a lubricant for masturbatory purposes. He had also been trying to do the same thing with the 11-year old girl. The court was told that Simmonds was incapable of relating to women of his own age and therefore targeted young girls to help maintain his sexual saliva fetish. The court was also told that Simmonds’ behaviour was premeditated as he approached the girls with plastic cups and chewing gum, and pretending to the girls that he was conducting a scientific survey and that their saliva would be analysed at Christchurch Polytechnic. He would give the girls gum to chew to stimulate salivation, and then get the girls to spit into the cup. As soon as the spittle was collected, he would rush back to his house to masturbate using the girls’ saliva as a lubricant.
- Case 2: More recently, at the end of 2011, there was a news report of a 55-year old Japanese man with an alleged saliva fetish. The man in question – Toshiko Mizuno – was arrested after approaching young women, and asking them to spit into a jar. While they spat into the jars, Mizuno filmed them and then kept their saliva to drink at a later point. To get them to spit in the jar, Mizuno used a cover story that he was doing research on saliva. After searching Mizuno’s house, they found over 200 video taped recordings of women spitting into jars, and dozens of empty jars that had once had women’s saliva in them. The police also found other videos of Mizuno masturbating and using the female saliva as a masturbatory lubricant. The man was charged with indecency as he had not actually caused any knowing harm to the women he had approached.
The online Urantia Book claims that (historically) saliva was a potent fetish. Apparently, “devils could be driven out by spitting on a person” and “for an elder or superior to spit on one was the highest compliment”. Furthermore, it could perhaps be argued that saliva plays a (direct or indirect) role in a lot sexual behaviour that raises the question of how “deviant” saliva fetishes actually are. However, in the case of Simmonds, the use of saliva from prepubescent girls suggests that the behaviour was a paedophilic precursor. There are also cultural variations that need to be taken into account. Few Westerners would disagree that kissing can be erotic and enjoyable. However, other cultures view kissing as simply the human exchange of saliva. For instance, the Amazonian Mehinaku tribe view kissing as disgusting and a sexual abnormality.
The saliva fetishists above don’t really appear to share much in common with spit fetishes that appear to be more a part of sadomasochistic sexual activity. For instance, at the ‘All Experts’ website, one of the female “experts” (“Hollie”) wrote speculatively about spit fetishes in response to one man’s question about what spit fetishes actually involved. Her perspective was clearly from those with an interest in sexual sadism and sexual masochism. She wrote:
“A spit fetish could manifest itself in a number of ways…either partner could have a fetish to be spat on, usually this is always closely linked to that individual seeking domination from the spitter, making the person being spat on submissive. it may also be part of sexual humiliation and other aspects of BDSM [Bondage, Discipline, Submission, Masochism]. Or, an individual could have the need to spit on someone, that would probably make them dominant and to want to control and/or humiliate their partner sexually. Or…both people could either enjoy to be spat on or to be the spitter…this could work both ways and simultaneously”.
In fact much of the online literature on spitting fetishes (as opposed to saliva fetishes) appears to be rooted in BDSM and is usually referred to as ‘spitting domination’. The dominant partner may spit into their submissive partner’s face and/or mouth. The submissive partner may also be forced to swallow the liquid spit if their mouth is spat into. Many of the online articles about spitting fetishes see parallels between the act of spitting and the act of ejaculation – particularly in relation to ‘facials’ (i.e., the act of men ejaculating onto someone’s face) and the practice of bukkake (i.e., the act of many men simultaneously ejaculating onto someone’s face and/or body).
In an online article on “Spit feeding [and] eating”, the [anonymous] writer examines spit fetishes, and asks whether spitting is an aggressive act of degradation, and if being spat on is always humiliating. The response was:
“Like any sex act, it all depends upon the attitudes of those involved. A slap can be aggressive or playful, hurtful or stimulating. Likewise, a wad of spit can be contemptuous or loving, depending on the intention. There’s nothing inherently demeaning about wanting to devour your lover’s liquid essences”.
In researching this blog I came across various people’s experiences of spit fetishism. The following quote was typical:
“I actually was in a relationship with a individual who had a spit fetish. He longed for me, while we were having intercourse, to spit on him, his face all over him, he didn’t mind where but he especially liked it if I was dominant with him in doing so, maybe called him names at the same time, played a Dom to him. His fetish for spit also extended into dribbling, where he liked for me to dribble on myself, preferably across my chest, and for him to rub his face in it, in the spit. He loved the moistness physically, but it was more mental for him, the control aspect, the humiliation of it all, the dominance”.
Compared to all other paraphilic and fetishistic behaviours concerning sexual arousal to human bodily fluids, there is significantly less written about saliva and spitting fetishes. Whether academic and/or clinical research is needed is – at present – debatable.
All Experts (2004). Fetishism/Spit fetish. January 14. Located at: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Fetishism-2835/spit-fetish.htm
Backdrop.net (2007). Spitting fetishism. Located at: http://www.backdrop.net/sm-201/index.php?title=Spitting_fetishism
Dahmer, J. (2011). The Guy with the Creepiest Fetish Ever! WDRG, December 14. Located at: http://wgrd.com/the-guy-with-the-creepiest-fetish-ever-yuk-bar-stool/
New Zealand Herald (2007). ‘Deviant saliva fetish’ led to attack, court told. July 30. Located at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10454692
Pervscan (2007). Deviant saliva fetish led to attack. August 19. Located at: http://pervscan.com/2007/08/19/deviant-saliva-fetish-led-to-attack/
UB The News (undated). Fetishes, charms and magic. The Urantia Book (Paper 88). Located at: http://www.ubthenews.com/UrantiaBook/papers/p088.htm
World of Sexual Fetishes (2012). Swapping spit. March 5. Located at: http://worldofsexualfetishes.com/wordpress/?p=158
Zerubavel, E. (1991). The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
There has long been an association between eating and sexual behaviour on many different levels. Eating and sex are both basic human needs and sometimes interact more directly. Many would also agree that eating (in and of itself) can be a sensual activity. There are also some foods that are considered to be aphrodisiacs. For example, foodstuffs such as oysters and chocolate are considered to have aphrodisiac properties (even if there is a lack of empirical evidence). The important factor is that if people believe the food in question has such arousing properties then there is likely to be some kind of a placebo effect.
In previous blogs I have looked at both feederism (in which sexual arousal and gratification is stimulated through a person gaining body fat) and vorarephilia (in which people are sexually aroused by the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification). Another eating-related sexual behaviour is sitophilia. This is a sexual paraphilia in which the individual has an erotic attraction to (and derives sexual arousal from) food. Sitophilia can also include sexual arousal caused by erotic situations involving food. This may comprise many different types of activity including those who:
- Eat one particular foodstuff from the body of another (e.g., licking chocolate mousse off the breasts of a naked partner).
- Eat a variety of foods or a whole meal off somebody’s naked body (such as the Japanese practice of nyotaimori – see below).
- Use a foodstuff to enhance a particular sexual act (e.g., sucking on a lime before engaging in oral sex to swell the taste buds and create more sensitivity when licking genital tissue). This could also technically involve the use of a foodstuff to enhance genital lubrication (e.g., use of olive oil).
- Use food as a method of control and/or flagellation in sadomasochistic activity (e.g., the throwing of oranges at the buttocks as a from of sexual humiliation or punishment). Dominant partners can also choose to control their submissive partner’s eating habits and food intake as a regular part of their sex play. Some dominant individuals will restrain their submissive partner’s hands, and order them to eat from a dish on the floor. This can be a highly sexually charged situation for those into erotic humiliation.
- Use food as a masturbatory aid. This may include males hollowing out foodstuffs (such as a pumpkin) into which they simulate intercourse, and females using phallic shaped foods as a penis substitute (e.g., cucumbers).
- Drink bodily fluids (such as semen) after it has been blended into other foods (e.g., mashed potato) following masturbation.
- Drink bodily fluids as part of another drink (e.g., adding ice cubes made of semen to a pina colada where the saltiness of the semen counteracts the sweetness of pineapple).
- Use food as an enhancement to sexual intercourse (e.g., the use of a slitted plum placed over an erect penis and then inserted into a partner’s vagina to add volume and pressure to the sexual act for both partners.
- Use food to aid sexual stimulation and erotic pleasure (e.g., the insertion of grapes into the rectum). This latter type of act also includes particular foodstuffs such as the insertion of ginger into the rectum (called ‘figging’ – check it out on Wikipedia if you find this hard to believe). The use of ginger has also been documented as being inserted into the vagina and urethral opening.
There are also various sub-types of sitophilia (such as botulinonia that involves the sexual use of sausages). Similarly, as mentioned in the list above, those who use various foods as dildo substitute masturbatory aids (e.g., cucumbers, aubergines, carved out melons, butternet squash, etc.) may also be sitophiles.
Sitophilic acts have appeared in popular films and books. The most infamous are probably (i) the lead character Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) in the film American Pie is caught masturbating into a pie after being told that third base (i.e., fellatio) feels like “warm apple pie”, (ii) the sex scene in the film 9½ Weeks where John Gray (Micky Rourke) spoon feeds Elizabeth McGraw (Kim Basinger) various kinds of food while blindfolded, and (iii) the Philip Roth book Portnoy’s Complaint that features detailed depictions of masturbation – the most infamous being the use of a piece of liver steak by the male protagonist (Alexander Portnoy) to masturbate into and which is later served at a family dinner. However, one of the weirdest sitophilic acts I have come across is in Seijun Suzuki’s film Branded to Kill (1967) where the leading man Goro Hanada (Joe Shishido) has a food fetish where he has to sniff boiling rice in order to become sexually excited.
I have also come across descriptions of food orgy parties. These are:
“Organized by individuals where friends bring either an erotic arrangement of food on a dish to share, or food that feels sensuous when rubbed onto a partner and licked off. Afterwards, everyone soaks in a hot tub. There are also all-male games such as ‘Shoot the Cookie’ and ‘Soggy Biscuit’ where males stand in a circle around a cookie and masturbate. The rule dictates that the last one who ejaculates on the cookie has to eat it”.
There are also those who use foodstuffs to make the sexual act messier (i.e., “sploshing” – a form of salirophilia) that I briefly examined in a previous blog on salirophilia (in which individuals experience sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire). Sitophilia can also play a part in the activity of ‘food play’ (which doesn’t always have sexual connotations so should not be used synonymously). For instance, nyotaimori and nantaimori (the obscure Japanese practice of ‘female body presentation’ and ‘male body presentation’ respectively) is not usually seen as either fetishistic or paraphilic for those who participate. This practice is also known as “body sushi” and involves people eating food from the body of a naked person). Some websites (such as Muki’s Kitchen) have turned such behaviour into an art form.
Some reports claim that the person covered in food has to learn to withstand the coldness of the food and is trained to lie and keep still for hours while those around eat off their body. However, the Guardian journalist Julie Bindel who attended a nyotaimori platter in London says that the women she ate off were models with no prior training.
I have yet to read a single academic or clinical paper that has been published on the topic although there is a lot of online activity surrounding those who get sexually aroused by food (check out the links in the ‘Further reading’ section). For instance, here is one story I found from a homosexual man into both feederism and sitophilia.
“I love to eat. I am a chubby guy, 5’4″ and currently 200 lbs. I attempt to maintain around 200 lbs if I can manage it. Along with sitophilia I am also attracted to other chubby guys. Well I get extremely turned on by food. I love the look of food, the smell of food, the taste of food. The act of eating food also is such a turn on. Feeling food in my mouth, chewing it and the act of swallowing food and feeling it slide down to my stomach gets me totally aroused. I love to indulge in buffets. Going to a buffet is better than any porn I could ever watch. Usually there are lots of chubby men there for me to watch and satisfy my chubby guy fetish too. I have spent several hours at a buffet indulging. I usually walk around half hard the whole time. In private I love to include food in sex. Just earlier I had a piece of chocolate cheescake. It was a very rich, dense and decadent cheescake. I took it out of the fridge and took it into my bedroom. I got naked and laid on the bed. My cock was instantly hard. I took the slice of cheesecake in one hand and my cock in the other hand. I started to masturbate while slowly tasting the cake. I became so aroused that I began to furiously pound my cock and I just stuffed the whole piece of cheesecake into my mouth. It was a huge piece and I could almost not fit it all in. My mouth was stuffed and my cheeks puffed out totally filled with the cheesecake. As I chewed and felt the creamy chocolate cheesecake in my mouth, I felt my arousal build and that familiar sensation of being close to an orgasm. I pounded my cock even harder and then I took one swallow…feeling the bit of cheesecake sliding down my throat brought me just to the edge of orgasm. I could not stand it any longer. I began to chew and swallow all of the cheesecake and I erupted in a very powerful and intense orgasm”
Here are two confessions from female sitophiles. They wrote:
Extract 1: “Something about watching a man eat turns me on like crazy. I like to cook for men just so I can watch them eat my food. When men eat, they attack, and I find it incredibly sexy. If any professional might know the reason for this, I would greatly appreciate your insight. It is not getting in the way of my everyday life, it is just something that gets me going”.
Extract 2: “I used to be bulimic in high school (that’s when I realized I like sticking my fingers in food) and now I’m on a strict diet and my sitophilia is worse than ever! I love watching people eat fatty foods and I want to know what sploshing is like. I lay awake at night fantasizing about being covered in cake batter or spaghetti-o’s and rubbing it onto my skin. I’ve been weird about food since my eating disorder, but sitophilia was not in my vocabulary until very recently”.
Despite such online confessions, sitophilia appears to be one of many paraphilias that have passed the academic and clinical world by. This may be because food play is quite common among ‘normal’ and ‘experimental’ sex, and/or may be seen as academically and/or clinically trivial.
Bindel, J. (2009). ‘I am about to eat sushi off a naked woman’s body’. The Guardian, February 12. Located at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/feb/12/nyotaimori-eating-sushi-naked-woman
Sense and Sensuality Website (Education and Discussion website). Located at: http://sensesensuality.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/sex-ed-paraphilia-sitophilia.html?zx=879c2fb6531ed60d
Spiritual BDSM (2011). What is sitophilia? December 6, Located at: http://www.spiritualbdsm.com/2011/12/what-is-sitophilia.html?zx=69b8151a4d2896e3
Crush fetishism is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from watching (or fantasizing about) someone of the opposite sex crushing items (e.g., toys, cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops), food (e.g., fruit), and (in extreme cases) small animals and insects, and/or being stepped on, sat upon, and/or crushed on by a person. The latter variant is a type of sexual masochism. There are also dedicated phone sex services that cater for crush fetishism suggesting overlaps with telephonicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused from telephone sex talk).
Another similar fetish appears to be ‘trampling fetishism’. This comprises paraphilic fantasies and/or practices of being trampled underfoot by another person (and is found in both homosexual and heterosexual acts). As the trampling often produces pain, trampling fetishes are considered a variant of sado-masochism.
Crush fetishism has also been associated with formicophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from insects. For instance, in the journal Cultural Entomology, G.A. Pearson (North Carolina State University, USA), described the fetishistic behaviour where people get sexual pleasure from watching insects, worms and spiders being squashed (particularly men watching women doing it). If the fantasy or behaviour involves giant people, it is often considered a variant of macrophilia (i.e., a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants). 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”
Crush fetishes comprise two types – hard crush and soft crush. Soft crush fetishes are apparently more common and typically refer to the crushing of invertebrates (e.g., spiders, beetles, worms, etc). Hard crush fetishes typically refer to the crushing of larger (vertebrate) animals (e.g., reptiles, birds, mammals). Some crush fetishists are very specific about how they like to see the insects and/or animals crushed (i.e., some prefer the person doing the crushing to be wearing particular types of footwear [e.g., high heels, flip-flops, etc.] or no footwear at all). Hard crush fetish videos have recently attracted worldwide media attention and have prompted criminal actions in a number of jurisdictions.
For instance, back in August 2011, police in the Philippines arrested Vicente Ridon and Dorma Ridon, a married couple that had filmed dozens of ‘crush fetish’ videos (often referred to as ‘animal snuff’ films). These films showed six female teenagers (aged between 12 and 18 years) torturing and killing animals before being posted onto online “crush fetish” websites all over the world. The case was initiated by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who helped track the couple down over the course of a year’s detective work. Mr and Mrs Ridon were eventually charged with animal cruelty, child abuse and human trafficking.
This is by no means an isolated incident and is not the product of mentally ill people. Earlier this year in Milan (April 2012), a 40-year old mother of three children (“Anna B”) was given a $5400 fine and a four-month suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of being sexually aroused by crushing animals while wearing stockings and stiletto heels. She had posted dozens of online videos of herself crushing rabbits, mice and chicks. Following the banning of crush videos in 2010, this case was the first prosecution under the new law in Italy Paolo Iosca, the lawyer representing the Italian Anti Vivisection League said:
“This case was brought to our attention following a tip off to us and we acted immediately to bring this woman to justice. The videos she posted showed her semi-naked, wearing tights and high heels and crushing innocent animals such as rabbits, chicks and mice to death. They were particularly crude and offensive. This woman, who is a mother of three children, was clearly enjoying herself as she was slaughtering these animals and filming their agony”.
The legality of erotic crush films and the actual practice of crushing animals vary by region and country. For instance, China does not have any animal cruelty laws, and therefore no criminal acts are being violated in that jurisdiction. Here in the UK, crush videos are illegal. However, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there are currently no laws forbidding the crushing of insects in any country. In November 2010, a Chinese crush fetish video was posted online featuring a young attractive girl, sitting on the rabbit, and crushing it to death. In a journalistic investigation by China Hush, an online user with the pseudonym “Sound of Heaven” (天堂之音) said that:
“People who like Crush Fetish are not promoting and encouraging violence and murdering people, but it is an extension to [sadomasochism], a state, crushed to death by a woman, a spirit of sacrificing oneself for her”.
Other similar videos including the abusing and killing of cats and dogs have also appeared online. Although these acts of killing could be viewed as acts of zoosadism (because of the sexual element), the person doing the killing of the animals is usually paid for their “services” and does not appear to get any sexual satisfaction from the act itself. It is the person watching the ‘hard crush’ videos that typically derive the sexual pleasure from it. In this sense, the act could be described as a type of ‘zoosadism by proxy’ (at least that’s my own take on this).
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
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.
Inquirer Global Nation (2011). Police nab Filipino ‘crush fetish’ couple. Located at: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/8219/police-nab-filipino-crush-fetish-couple
Intentious (2011). Rabbit crushing outrage – Animal snuff film offends. December 9. Located at: http://intentious.com/2011/12/09/rabbit-crushing-outrage-animal-snuff-film-offends/
Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).
Pisa, N. (2012). Animal crushing fetish mum fined. Herald Sun, April 25. Located at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/animal-crushing-fetish-mum-fined/story-e6frf7lf-1226337848931
Zoosadism refers to the pleasure – often sexual – that individuals attain by causing sadistic cruelty to animals. In many people’s minds, violence towards the animal is often automatically implied when they think of bestial acts. However, as I pointed out in a previous blog, recent academic research indicates that sex with animals by zoophiles is often considered by them as “sensual and loving” and does not necessarily include force, violence and/or sadism. In fact, in her book Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals, Dr. Andrea Beetz said that: “zoophilia itself does not represent a clinically significant problem and is not necessarily combined with other clinically significant problems and disorders, even if it may be difficult for some professionals to accept this”.
Despite such research, links between sadistic sexual acts with animals and subsequent behaviour such as human sexual sadism and sexual murder has been much researched. Those who inflict pain and suffering on animals are more likely than those who don’t to be violent towards humans. It has been well documented that some rapists and murderers have sadistically hurt and/or killed animals in their childhood, and that some have engaged in bestial acts. Furthermore, some studies have shown that around a third to a half of all sexual murderers have abused animals during childhood and/or adolescence (although sample sizes of such studies are usually relatively small). However, most research has reported that one of the most important ‘warning signs’ and risk factors (specifically relating to the propensity for sex offending), is animal cruelty if accompanied by a sexual interest in animals. In a study of psychiatric patients who tortured cats and dogs published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development by Alan Felthous, he reported that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people including one patient who had murdered a boy.
In Dr. Louis Schlesinger’s 2004 book Sexual Murder, he provided in great detail some particularly gruesome stories of compulsive homicide killers. One such case was Peter Kürten, who terrified Düsseldorf, Germany.
“At age nine, Kürten committed his first murder by throwing a boy off a raft and preventing another youngster from rescuing the child. Kürten was also a thief and a burglar, and he spent a number of years in prison for assorted offenses. While there, he poisoned several inmates in the prison hospital. After his release, the offender attacked 29 people and killed several others including a 5-year-old girl. He also broke into the home of a 13-year- old girl, strangled her, and killed her by cutting her throat with a knife… Until he was apprehended, the compulsion to kill became overwhelming. Kürten attacked men, women, and children, killing them by knifing, choking, and cutting their throats”.
Kürten’s background was also disturbing. As Schlesinger wrote:
“Kürten had sex with his sisters; however, his preferred form of sexual activity in his developing years was bestiality. He became friendly with a dog catcher who taught him how to torture and masturbate animals. From ages 13 through 15 he engaged in numerous sexual acts with pigs, sheep, and goats, sometimes stabbing the animals to death while having intercourse with them”.
In Germany, there have been an increasing number of violent crimes against horses. This offence of “horse ripping” (i.e., violently cutting, slashing and/or stabbing of horses) has been accepted as a criminal phenomenon in Germany and has led to a number of studies on the topic. Horse ripping has been defined as a destructive act “with the aim to harm a horse or the acceptance of a possible injury of a horse, especially killing, maltreatment, mutilation and sexual abuse in sadomasochistic context”. In 2002, German researchers Dr, Claus Bartmann and Dr. Peter Wohlsein (Institut für Pathologie der Tierärztlichen Hochschule, Hannover) reported a study examining 193 traumatic horse injuries over a four-year period. They reported that at least ten of the injuries (including wounds from knives, spears, and guns) were acts of zoosadism. Also in 2002, Dr. Alexandra Schedel-Stupperich (Georg Elias Müller Institute for Psychology, Göttingen) examined all the incidents of horse injuries from 1993 to 2000 (of which there were 1,035). One-quarter of all the injuries (mostly cuts and stabs using knives or spears) involved the horses’ genitals and another quarter involved injuries to the horses’ necks and/or heads. Most of the horses injured were female and which Schedel-Stupperich described as rape.
Another German study by Wochner and Klosinski (University of Tübingen, Germany), examined 1502 aggressive children and adolescents requiring treatment at their Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit. They reported that 25 (all boys) of them had engaged in zoosadistic activities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the incidence of zoosadistic acts increased with age. The authors speculated that the zoosadistic acts may have been connected to problems of puberty and proving virility.
A recent 2011 paper by Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine proposed a new classification of zoophilia including ‘sadistic bestials’ and ‘homocidal bestials’. Unsurprisingly, ‘sadistic bestials’ derive sexual pleasure from the torturing of animal. According to Dr. Aggrawal, sadistic bestials use animals for sexual excitement but do not engage in sexual intercourse with them. Dr Aggrawal defined homocidal bestials as zoophiles that need to kill animals in order to have sexual intercourse with it (i.e., what he also described as necrozoophilia). According to Aggrawal, homicidal bestials are capable of having sexual intercourse with live animals, but their need for sexual intercourse with dead animals is greater.
In a 2006 book chapter on paraphilic crime signatures, Hickey reported that the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994) collected animal roadkill, dissected the remains, and masturbated over the animals he had cut up, because he “found the glistening viscera of animals sexually arousing”. In Schlesinger’s book on sexual murder, it was reported that: “Dahmer dissected roadkill, butchered small animals, nailed cats and frogs to trees behind his house, and once put a dog’s head on a stick”. Aggrawal also reported the case of 20-year old Bryan Hathaway from Minnesota (USA) who was arrested for having sex with a deer carcass. He had been cycling and by chance came across the dead deer. He was later charged with violating a law against “sexual gratification with an animal” and fits Aggrawal’s classification as a necrozoophile (although Hathaway didn’t actually kill the animal himself).
Finally – and as I noted in my previous blog on zoophilia – there have also been papers and editorials published in the Veterinary Journal (VJ) about the violent sexual abuse of female calves. Vets – who often have to deal with the animals that have been sexually abused by humans – do not like the term ‘zoophilia’ as it tends to focus on the human perpetrator, with no attention being paid to the harm that might result for the animal. A 2006 editorial in the VJ claimed that the sexual abuse of animals is almost a last taboo – even to the veterinary profession. As Piers Beirne (University of Southern Maine, USA) argues, the sexual abuse of an animal should be understood as sexual assault because: (i) human–animal sexual relations almost always involve coercion; (ii) such practices often cause pain and even death to the animal; and (iii) animals are unable either to communicate consent to us in a form that we can readily understand, or to speak out about their cause.
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Bartmann, C.P. & Wohlsein, P. (2002). Injuries caused by outside violence with forensic importance in horses. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, 109, 112-115.
Beetz, Andrea (2002). Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals. Germany: Shaker Verlag.
Beirne, P., 1997. Rethinking bestiality: towards a concept of interspecies sexual assault. Theoretical Criminology, 1, 317–340.
Felthous, A.R. (1980). Aggression against cats, dogs, and people. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 10, 169-177.
Hickey, E.W (2006). Paraphilia and signatures in crime scene investigation. In Hickey, E.W. (Ed.), Sex crimes and Paraphilia (pp.95-107). New Jersey: Pearson
Ressler, R., Burgess, A., & Douglas, J. (1988). Sexual homicide: Patterns and motives. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Schedel-Stupperich, A. (2002). [Criminal acts against horses--phenomenology and psychosocial construct]. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, 109, 116-119.
Schlesinger, L. (2004). Sexual Murder. New York: CRC Press.
Wochner, M. & Klosinski, G. (1988). Child and adolescent psychiatry aspects of animal abuse (a comparison with aggressive patients in child and adolescent psychiatry). Schweiz Arch Neurol Psychiatry, 139(3), 59-67.
Vorarephilia – usually shortened to vore – is a sexual paraphilia in which people are sexually aroused by the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification. Since the behaviour is unlikely to actually be carried out by the vorarephiliac, the behaviour is more likely to be fantasy-based via different media (e.g., fictional stories, fantasy art, fantasy videos, and bespoke video games). The behaviour doesn’t necessarily involve digestion and/or pain. Probably because it is both rare and fantasy-based, it doesn’t appear in any psychiatric manuals such as the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Vorarephilia can sometimes co-exist with other fetishistic behaviour such as masochism (sexual arousal from receiving pain), hypoxyphilia (sexual arousal from suffocation and oxygen restriction), and ‘snuff’ fetishes (sexual arousal from seeing someone die). In some cases vorarephilia has been argued to be a variant of macrophilia (i.e., sexual fascination and/or fantasy relating to giants). Most of the fantasies of vorarephiliacs involve the person being the ones being eaten (i.e., the ‘prey’, although a few like to be the ‘pred’ taken from the word ‘predator’). Some vorarephiliacs are known to derive pleasure – sometimes sexual – from watching some animals (e.g., snakes) eating other animals whole.
There have been many different types of vorarephilia documented including ‘hard vore’ and ‘soft vore’. Being primarily fantasy-based, almost any orifice or body part can be capable of vore (e.g., ‘vaginal vore’, ‘anal vore’ and ‘cock vore’). Very briefly:
- Hard vore (sometimes simply called ‘gore’) is where the person is often subjected to horrific injuries and involves lots of blood because of the ripping, cutting, biting, tearing and/or chewing of flesh. It is not typically thought of as either sensually or sexually motivated.
- Soft vore is where the person (that may not necessarily be a willing victim) is consumed alive and whole and is typically unharmed before reaching the stomach but then may be asphyxiated and/or digested. Compared to ‘hard vore’, soft vore is usually seen as more sensual and sexually oriented because of its relatively non-violent nature.
- Female genital vore (vaginal vore) is where the person is consumed by the vagina and taken into the womb (and often referred to as ‘unbirthing’ or a ‘reverse birth’).
- Male genital vore (cock vore) is where the person is consumed by the urethral opening of the penis and taken into the scrotum, prostate, or bladder.
- Anal vore is where the person is consumed by the anus and taken into the rectum, colon, or stomach.
- Breast vore is where the person is consumed by the nipples and taken into the breast.
Here’s a confessional piece I found on a psychology forum discussion group:
“I’m almost 17 now. But since I was really young, I’ve been a phagophile (with a specific interest in being swallowed whole). I’ve had a few girlfriends now, but my present one is by far the most engaging and interesting person I have ever met. She’s the only one I’ve engaged in any real sexual contact with. After meeting her, my interests expanded somewhat; she’s the only person I’ve ever been interested in eating. Fortunately this was impossible, for obvious reasons: I was still thinking in terms of “soft vore”, in which no damage is done to either party. This is where things get difficult. We’ve been together a while now and within the past few weeks, I’ve begun to shift towards “hard vore”. This includes cannibalism: I’ve been attracted especially to biting at her neck, hands, and nose. I feel that I’ve done a good job at communicating this to her, so I haven’t crossed any lines because I’ve controlled myself.”
The motivational driving force underlying vorarephilia is some ways appears to resemble that of sadomasochism from a dominance and submission perspective. Devouring someone could be viewed as the ultimate act of dominance by a predator, and the ultimate act of submission by the prey. Paradoxically, most vorarephiliacs have no real interest in cannibalism, although a few do. Possible vorarephiliacs include the Japanese man (Issei Sagawa) who in 1981 killed and then ate a Dutch woman (Renée Hartevelt), and the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer who killed 17 men and boys and engaged in both cannibalistic and necrophilic acts with his many victims between 1978 and 1991.
However, the most infamous vorarephiliac is arguably the German Armin Meiwes. His case was referred to at length in a 2008 essay in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, by Dr Friedemann Pfafflin (a forensic psychotherapist at Ulm University, Germany). Meiwes, a computer technician, gained worldwide media attention as the ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’ for killing and eating a fellow German male victim (also a computer technician). Meiwes had allegedly been fantasizing about cannibalism since his childhood and frequented cannibal fetish websites and posted around 60 advertisements asking if anyone would like to be eaten by him. Meiwes claimed around 200 men responded to his request but only one finally met face-to-face.
In March 2002, Bernd Jürgen Brandes responded to Meiwes’ advertisement on the Internet. At their one and only meeting at Meiwes’ house, their first cannabilistic act was for Meiwes to bite off Brandes’ penis and then jointly cook and eat it. Brandes then drank lots of alcohol, cough syrup, and took sleeping pills, and was stabbed to death by Meiwes in his bath (and videotaped). The body was then stored and over time, Meiwes ate large amounts of it (about 20 kg). The one aspect that shocked most people was not the fact that Meiwes ate a lot of Brande’s body but that Brandes appeared to consent to being eaten. Email exchanges between Meiwes and Brandes were later shared in the court case:
Brandes: “Thanks for your mail. You really turn me on…Winter with the temperature at around 5 to 15 degrees below freezing is good weather for slaughter. Great to be naked and tied in weather like that and to be driven to the slaughter. Where you then stun me and I collapse. You then hang me up, jerking, and cut my carotid artery. Warm blood flows. Everything goes routinely. I don’t have any chance to escape my slaughter at the last moment. It’s a real turn-on, the feeling of being at your mercy being in your possession. Having to give up my flesh”
Meiwes: “It’ll be awesome, anyway. Your tasty body on show like that. Spicing it…Tying you up will be no problem, I’ve got rope and some cuffs for your hands and feet. I’ll really enjoy the bit with the needles. I’ll see if I can get hold of some really long ones. I can’t wait for you to be here”
It wasn’t until about 18 months after Brande had been killed that the German police started to investigate Meiwes. An Austrian student had seen Meiwes boasting that he had successfully killed and eaten another man. The police then arrested Meiwes and found human body parts in the freezer and the videotape of the killing. In court, Brandes’ consent to being killed was accepted by the jury and Meiwes was given an eight and a half year prison sentence for manslaughter. Neither Meiwes or Brandes were deemed mentally ill by the court appointed psychiatrists. Dr Klaus Beier (Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine, Free and Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany) was the expert witness who twice provided forensic expertise on Miewes. He said that:
“Armin suffered neither from a psychosis nor any other mental illness or any personality disorder. Quite the contrary, he had a normal IQ and his social competence was high. To everybody who had private or professional contact with him, Armin seemed to be an open-minded and friendly contemporary man who, in the forming of contacts, appeared pleasant-natured, flexible, and socially competent, even agile. Even extremely experienced police officers, who could not believe what he had done, had to put on record that, if they had not known about the offence, Armin M. never offered anything conspicuous during the entire period of investigation.”
A later paper by Dr Beier in response to Dr Pfafflin noted that:
“Before the age of 11 years [Armin] was preoccupied by the idea of incorporating another male by eating his flesh. This paraphilia caused him to seek unsolicited partners who pretended to mirror his desire insofar that they should have the wish of being incorporated. It took him years to find such a counterpart using the frighteningly developed subculture on the internet for that purpose, where people with this special inclination can encourage each other.”
Dr Pfafflin outlined some other cases of German cannibalism including cases he was personally involved in. he said that:
“From my intensive knowledge of both these case histories just referred to, I have no doubt that every form of cannibalism, excepting at most those which happen in times of extreme hunger and whose only purpose is to secure survival, has a pathological, perverse background.”
Little is known about how prevalent this type of behaviour is although Meiwes claimed that based on his internet activity on cannibal fetish websites that there were at least 800 Germans that shared his passion for wanting to eat another person. The number of people that have a desire to be eaten and actually go through with it is likely to be incredibly small – but the internet helped Meiwes locate a willing victim.
Adams, C. (2004). Eat or be eaten: Is cannibalism a pathology as listed in the DSM-IV? The Straight Dope, July 2. Located at: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2515/eat-or-be-eaten
Beier, K. (2008). Comment on Pfafflin’s (2008) “Good enough to eat”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 164-165
Brundage, S. (2002). Fetish confessions. The Wave Magazine 2(15). Located at: http://web.archive.org/web/20070927061721/http://www.thewavemag.com/pagegen.php?articleid=22026&pagename=article
Pfafflin, F. (2008). Good enough to eat. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 286-293.
Pfafflin, F. (2009). Reply to Beier (2009). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 166-167.
In a previous blog, I briefly examined the psychological literature on sexual sadism. Today’s blog looks at its counterpart – sexual masochism – often viewed as two sides of the same coin. Sexual masochists comprise those individuals who derive sexual gratification from receiving physical and/or psychological pain. The sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing coined the term ‘masochism’ in his 1886 sexology book Psychopathia Sexualis deriving the name from the 19th-century novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose book Venus in Furs (well known to us that are big Velvet Underground fans) depicts a man’s humiliation and suffering by a female dominatrix. There are other names for the same phenomenon – such as ‘algolagnia’ – that refer to those people who have a craving for pain. Algolagnia was coined by the German physician in the late 1880s but never caught on in the same way as the term ‘masochism’.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) acknowledges the overlap between masochism and sadism but they are classed as two distinct entities. The DSM-IV defines masochism as when the individual experiences “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer” over a six-month period. To distinguish it as a disorder rather than a non-problematic sexual preference, the masochistic sexual urges, fantasies and/or behaviours have to cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”. Interestingly, other paraphilic behaviours such as hypoxyphilia (examined in a previous blog) come under the rubric of sexual masochism.
Early empirical studies such as those published in the Kinsey Reports in the late 1940s and early 1950s reported that a quarter of both males and females had experienced sexual arousal from being bitten by their partner during sex although later studies have reported much lower figures of around 3% to 5%. In a late 1980s, a study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, by Dr Ethel Person (Columbia University, New York, USA) and colleagues surveyed college students about their sexual behaviours and fantasies. Results showed that around 4% had been tied up or sexually degraded during sex, and that 1% had spanked, whipped, or hit a consenting partner during sex (although ‘consenting partner’ does not necessarily mean they enjoyed being smacked, whipped or beaten). Dr Charles Moser (Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, California, USA) claims about 10% of the adult population engages in sadomasochistic activity.
Masochistic fantasies are not uncommon. For instance, in a 1980s study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Dr Claude Crépault and Marcel Couture (University of Quebec, Canada) reported that 46% of men had sexual fantasies of being kidnapped and raped by a woman, 12% had fantasies relating to being humiliated, and 36% fantasized about being bound and sexually stimulated by a woman.
Although there is a lot of evidence showing that sexually masochistic desires, fantasies and behaviours are relatively common among men, there has been some dispute about women’s interest in sexual masochism. Research certainly indicates that consensual sexually masochistic behaviour by females can occur and some authors argue that there is a biologically based tendency towards submissiveness in females. However, some claim that it is very rare in women. Back in 1977, Dr Andreas Spengler (University of Hamburg, Germany) has claimed that almost all women who participate in sadomasochist activities are prostitutes that have no personal preference for such activity. However, a number of more recent studies among sadomasochists (1985-2002) have all indicated that a small but significant minority of women engage in both sexually masochistic and sadistic activities (13% to 30%) – very few of which were prostitutes. However, when compared to male sadomasochists, female counterparts were less likely to need sadomasochist activity to fulfil their sexual satisfaction.
Research has also indicated that men are more likely than women to experience masochistic desires during adolescence although a significant minority of male masochists do not express an interest in such behaviour until they have reached adulthood. Studies of sadomasochists show little difference in sexual orientation. For instance, Spengler’s study of 245 male sadomasochists reported that 30% were heterosexual, 31% were bisexual and 38% homosexual. Other studies have found much higher levels of heterosexuality although amongst female sadomasochists there tends to be higher levels of bisexuality than in the study by Spengler.
In a 1985 study carried out by academics at California State University and led by Dr Norman Breslow, 182 sadomasochists (of which 52 were women) were surveyed. One-third of the men (33%) were dominant, 41% were submissive, and 26% were both. Similar results were found among the females. Spanking and ‘master-slave relationships’ were the most preferred sexual activities for both male and female sadomasochists although there were some minor differences. More females preferred bondage and restraint whereas more men preferred pain and whipping. Klismaphilia may also have been a co-morbid paraphilia as 33% men and 22% of females made sexual use of enemas.
A more recent Finnish study led by Dr Laurence Alison reported in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that flagellation and bondage were among the most popular activities among sadomasochists. However, there was a wide range of lesser activities that carried greater risk of physical harm including piercings, hypoxyphilia, fisting, knifeplay, and electric shocks. There were also major differences depending upon sexual orientation (for instance, gay men were more likely to engage in activities such as “cock binding”). Most interestingly, the research team identified four sadomasochistic sub-groups based on the type of pain given and received. These were:
- Typical pain administration: This involved practices such as spanking, caning, whipping, skin branding, electric shocks, etc.
- Humiliation: This involved verbal humiliation, gagging, face slapping, flagellation, etc. Heterosexuals were more likely than gay men to engage in these types of activity.
- Physical restriction: This included bondage, use of handcuffs, use of chains, wrestling, use of ice, wearing straight jackets, hypoxyphilia, and mummifying.
- Hyper-masculine pain administration: This involved rimming, dildo use, cock binding, being urinated upon, being given an enema, fisting, being defecated upon, and catheter insertion. Gay men were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in these types of activity.
There are many theories on why people engage in such behaviours from traditional learning theories (based on both operant and classical conditioning) through to psychoanalytic interpretations. Most of these theories place the origins of the behaviour within a developmental framework and argue that the root of the paraphilic behaviour begins in childhood. Somewhere in childhood and adolescence, the individual starts to associate pleasure with pain, and then become sexualized in adulthood.
In a 1995 paper published by the sexologist Kurt Freund and colleagues, they noted there was a distinct difference between commonplace consensual and play-oriented sadomasochistic activities and more dangerous and potentially fatal practices of a small minority of hardcore sadomasochists. As with many paraphilias, sexual masochism would only classified as a mental disorder if it causes significant psychological and physical impairment (that in very extreme circumstances may be life threatening). This has been echoed by Dr Richard Krueger (New York State Psychiatric Clinic, USA) who noted in a 2010 review on the diagnostic criteria for sexual masochism that the main criticisms and concerns surrounding this behaviour (and paraphilias more generally) is that they “should not be included in the DSM because they are not mental disorders, they are unscientific, they are unnecessary, and to do so pathologizes groups who engage in alternative sexual practices” (p.348).
However, in 2006, Dr Charles Moser and Peggy Kleinplatz (Carleton University, Canada) argued in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality that there is no evidence that sadomasochists more often need emergency services “than practitioners of other sexual behaviours” (p. 106), although this has been disputed by others in the field. The review by Dr Krueger concludes that:
“While masochistic and/or sadomasochistic behavior occur with some frequency in the population and is associated with generally good psychological or social functioning, there are a very small number of cases where masochistic fantasy and behavior result in severe harm or even death. These cases clearly indicate a sexual interest pattern that has become pathological. Since so little is know about this behavior, further research is indicated, and inclusion in the DSM would facilitate this” (p.353).
Alison, L., Santtila, P., Sandnabba, N. K., & Nordling, N. (2001). Sadomasochistically oriented behavior: Diversity in practice and meaning. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 1–12.
Baumeister, R. F. (1988). Masochism as escape from self. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 28–59.
Breslow, N., Evans, L., & Langley, J. (1985). On the prevalence of roles of females in the sadomasochistic subculture: Report of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 303–317.
Crépault, C., & Couture, M. (1980). Men’s erotic fantasies. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 9, 565–576.
Donnelly, D., & Fraser, J. (1998). Gender differences in sado-masochistic arousal among college students. Sex Roles, 39, 391-407.
Freund, K., Seto, M. C., & Kuban, M. (1995). Masochism: A multiple case study. Sexuologie, 4, 313-324.
Hucker, S. J. (2008). Sexual masochism: Psychopathology and theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 250-263). New York: Guildford Press.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Krueger, R.B. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for sexual masochism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 346–356.
Moser, C., & Kleinplatz, P. J. (2006). DSM-IV-TR and the paraphilias: An argument for removal. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 17, 91-109.
Ormerod, D. (1994). Sado-masochism. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 5, 123–136.
Paclebar, A. M., Furtado, C., & McDonald-Witt, M. (2006). Sadomasochism: Practices, behaviors, and culture in American society. In E. W. Hickey (Ed.), Sex crimes and paraphilia (pp. 215–227). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Person, E.S., Terestman, N., Myers, Goldberg, E.L. & Salvadori, C. (1989). Gender differences in sexual behaviors and fantasies in a college population. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 15, 187-198.
Sandnabba, N. K., Santtila, P., Alison, L., & Nordling, N. (2002). Demographics, sexual behaviour, family background and abuse experiences of practitioners of sadomasochistic sex: A review of recent research. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17, 39–55.
Sandnabba, N. K., Santtila, P., & Nordling, N. (1999). Sexual behavior and social adaptation among sadomasochistically oriented males. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 273–282.
Spengler, A. (1977). Manifest sadomasochism of males: Results of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 441–456.
Sadism (the act of obtaining sexual arousal through the giving of physical or psychological pain) and masochism (the act of obtaining sexual arousal through the receiving of physical or psychological pain) are paraphilias that are often viewed as two variations of the same phenomenon. However, this blog briefly examines sexual sadism in isolation.
The psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing is often credited with introducing the term “sadism” in his 1886 sexology book Psychopathia Sexualis deriving the name from the Marquis de Sade, whose French novels often featured such behaviour. Despite the increase in knowledge of (and theorizing about) sexual sadism, the psychopathology of the behaviour is still uncertain, and an all encompassing theory of the etiology of sexual sadism has yet to be developed and empirically tested. Furthermore, the labelling and defining of sexually sadistic behaviour is further complicated by the fact that many people enjoy some form of aggressive behaviour during sex (e.g., spanking, the gentle biting of nipples, love bites) making the label sadomasochism seem somewhat inappropriate.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that sexual sadists require “psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation)” of their victims to induce sexual excitement, whereas the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases defines sadism as the “preference for sexual activity that involves bondage or the infliction of pain or humiliation”. However, those that have carried out research in the field claim that such definitions are difficult to apply in practice, resulting in experienced clinicians interpreting screening criteria inconsistently in the diagnosis of sexual sadism.
The situation was complex even when Krafft-Ebing first wrote on the topic. For instance, he described what he believed were distinct subtypes of sexual sadism including (i) lust murder (where sexual arousal is integral to the act of killing), (ii) necrophilia (discussed in a previous blog), (iii) injury to women through flagellation or stabbing, (iv) defilement of women; (iv) other types of assaults on women, such as cutting off their hair; (v) whipping of boys; (vi) sadism toward animals; and (vii) sadistic fantasies without the occurrence of any actual sadistic acts. Another sadistic act that has been reported in more recent times is ‘piqeurism’ where the assailant stabs a female victim (typically breasts or buttocks) and then runs away.
The true prevalence of sexual sadism among the general population is unknown. Alfred Kinsey’s seminal studies of human sexual behaviour in the late 1940s and early 1950s reported that 22% of the males and 12% of the females responded erotically to stories with sadistic themes. Other research studies estimate that 10-20% of couples have engaged in sadomasichistic activities during sex but that much of this is symbolic. However, most of the little research that has been published on sexual sadism tends to be based on sex offenders and sexual killers.
Among sex offenders, the prevalence of sexual sadism is estimated to occur in between 2% and 5% of offences. However, these estimates have been reported to be much higher (as much as 50%) depending upon the criteria that are used to define and diagnose sexual sadism in the first place. Prevalence estimates are further complicated because some in the area note that sadism and masochism are complementary disorders or separate poles of the same disorder. There is certainly a lot of empirical support that sadism and masochism often co-occur such as psychiatrist Dr Andreas Spengler’s study of 245 German sadomasochists published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Spengler’s study reported that among his sample, 30% were heterosexual, 31% bisexual and 38% homosexual. Just under a half (43%) developed their sadomasochistic desires after adolescence, and – perhaps surprisingly given the link to compulsive behaviour – sado-masochism was low frequency activity (with a median average of only five SM experiences per year among the respondents).
In a study led by Dr Gene Abel (now Director of the Behavioral Medicine Institute of Atlanta, US), it was reported that 18% of sadists were also masochistic, 46% had raped, 21% had exposed themselves, 25% had engaged in voyeurism and frottage, and 33% had molested children. Similarly, other researchers the Institute of Psychiatry, London) have noted an overlap among various paraphilias. Their sample comprised 87 rubberites, 38 leatherites, 133 sadomasochists, 205 transvestites (including transsexuals) and 25 dominant females. They found that 4% of sadomasochists were also transvestites, 29% of sadomasochists were also fetishists, and 35% of sadomasochists were also fetishists and transvestites. Gosselin and Wilson also reported that the most common objects used by sadists to inflict pain on their sexual partners were belts, whips, canes, shoes and paddles.
There is a wide variety of psychological explanations relating to the etiology of sexual sadism although most recent reviews have claimed there has been little new contemporary theorizing. Most branches of psychology (psychophysiological, psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioural) have developed their own theories but little research has confirmed them. Psychobiological explanations of sexual sadism (including serial sex murderers) that have examined chromosomal, endocrine, hormonal, and/or neurological abnormalities have typically been based on single case studies or very small samples. Therefore results remain tentative and inconclusive.
Early behaviourist theories argued that sexual sadism begins during childhood development. Through both operant and classical conditioning, sexual urges, excitation, and/or arousal are consistently paired with aggressive stimuli. Sexual fantasy and masturbation then reinforce and maintain the sadistic behaviour. Other psychologists claim that personality may play a role in the conditioning process, along with social modelling and disinhibition.
More recently, Dr Malcom MacCulloch (probably best know as Moors murderer Ian Brady’s psychiatrist) claimed that behavioral explanations of the development of sadistic sexual fantasy don’t adequately explain the initial development of sadistic sexual fantasy. McCullogh and his colleagues attempted to explain the initial development of sexual sadism using research on early childhood abuse and animal models of conditioning. They claimed that sadistic fantasies resulted from a combination of early childhood abuse, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning.
Back in 1986, Katie Busch and James Cavanagh (who were both at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, US) stated that most of the work in this area consisted of unfounded statements unsupported by data, unevaluated case reports lacking rigorous evaluation of other contributory factors, and scientific case reports of individuals or small groups. A recent literature review by Canadian consultant Dr Pamela Yates and colleagues of the current research concluded that: “Regrettably, the same can be said today, over 20 years later”.
Abel, G. G., Becker, J., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M., & Rouleau, J. (1988). Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 16, 153–168.
Busch, K.A., & Cavanagh, J.R. (1986). The study of multiple murder: Preliminary examination of the interface between epistemology and methodology. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1, 5–23.
Gosselin, C. C. (1987). The sado-masochistic contract. In G.D. Wilson (Ed.), Variant sexuality: Research and theory (pp. 229–257). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Gosselin, C. C., & Wilson, G. D. (1980). Sexual variations. London: Faber & Faber.
Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Langevin, R. (2003). A study of the psychosexual characteristics of sex killers: Can we identify them before it is too late? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 47, 366–382.
MacCulloch, M., Gray, N., & Watt, A. (2000). Brittain’s sadist murderer syndrome reconsidered: An associative account of the aetiology of sadistic sexual fantasy. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 11, 401–418.
MacCulloch, M., Snowden, P., Wood, P., & Mills, H. (1983). Sadistic fantasy, sadistic behavior, and offending. British Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 20–29.
Marshall, W. L., & Kennedy, P. (2003). Sexual sadism in sexual offenders: An elusive diagnosis. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 8, 1–22.
Marshall, W. L., & Yates, P. M. (2004). Diagnostic issues in sexual sadism among sexual offenders. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 10, 21–27.
Spengler, A. (1977). Manifest sadomasochism of males: Results of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 441–456
Yates, P.M., Hucker, S.J. & Kingston, W.A. (2008). Sexual sadism: Psychopathology and theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment. pp.213-23o. New York: Guildford Press.