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Messing around: A beginner’s guide to salirophilia and mysophilia

Salirophilia – sometimes called saliromania – is a paraphiic sexual fetish in which individuals experience sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire (typically an attractive person). Salirophilic behaviour may include a range of activities such as tearing or damaging the desired person’s clothing, covering them in mud or filth, or messing their hair or makeup. The fetish never involves harming or injuring the person in any way, only messing up how they look in some way, shape or form. The fetish was thought to be mainly heterosexual in origin although a 1982 book (Human Sexuality, by James McCary and Stephen McCary) said that it was known to occur within same sex relationships.

It is sometimes related to other fetishes and paraphilias including urophilia (deriving sexual pleasure from urine), coprophilia (deriving sexual pleasure faeces), mysophilia (deriving sexual pleasure from filth), sploshing (deriving sexual pleasure from wet substances – but not bodily fluids – being deliberately and generously applied to either naked or scantily clad individuals, and sometimes referred to as ‘wet and messy’ fetishism), bukkake (the act of many men ejaculating over a man or women simultaneously; there are also variations of this where men ejaculate over photographs and pictures and referred to as ‘face painting), and omorashi (deriving sexual pleasure from having a full bladder and/or feeling sexually attracted to someone else who has a full bladder). Salirophilia may also extends to other areas such a forcing a sexual partner to wear torn or poorly fitting clothing that make the person look more unattractive.

Other variations of the fetish may also include people become sexually aroused from acts of vandalism and defacement of statues, photos of attractive people (including celebrities). Videos of individuals ejaculating over celebrity photographs are known as “tributes” within the fetish community.

As far as I have been able to establish, there is not a single piece of empirical research directly on salirophilia. Not even a single case study. All the information, I have compiled in this blog comes from online sources and books on sexuality and sexual paraphilias (where salirophilia is only mentioned in passing, if mentioned at all). Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York City sex therapist, says that salirophilia often involves domination and submission fantasies. McCary and McCary noted that although salirophilia has been described as a category separate from sexual sadism, they claim that most cases of saliromania would meet the criteria for sexual sadism, as described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. However, as Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified, it is unclear whether cases exist in which the salirophilic behavior (e.g., the act of damaging clothing) is distinct from a focus on the suffering and humiliation of the sexual partner. They also noted that the extent of overlap of salirophilia with fetishism, bukkake, mysophilia, urophilia, and coprophilia is unknown.

Like salirophilia, there is little empirical data on mysophilia. As mentioned above, mysiophiliacs derive sexual pleasure from filth and unclean items such as soiled knickers (but may also include related activities such as sexual arousal from seeing people wearing the same clothes for days or weeks on end). Magazines such as the Penthouse Forum: The International Journal of Human Relations has (for many years) contained classified advertisements for soiled women’s underwear for mysophiliacs to buy. According to Professor John Money, this focus may involve the “smelling, chewing or other-wise utilizing sweaty or soiled clothing or articles of menstrual hygiene”.  Back in the late 1940s, the American psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Karpman put forward a number of psychodynamic speculations on the etiological factors associated with mysophilia in a couple of papers that focused on coprophilia. One of Karpman’s analytic interpretations concerning mysophilia was that it involves a symbolic association of sex with something that is dirty (i.e., bad). He said that the pairing of sex and filth was functional, because any guilt associated with sexual behavior could be washed away.

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). Their results showed that body part fetishes were most common (33%), followed by objects associated with the body (30%), preferences for other people’s behavior (18%), own behavior (7%), social behavior (7%), and objects unrelated to the body (5%). Feet (and objects associated with feet) were by far the most common fetishes. They also reported that some of the sites featured references to mysophiliacs but that this particular fetish accounted for less than 1% of all fetishes

As with salirophilia, case studies of mysophilia appear hard to come by. In a paper by Dr John White published in a 2007 in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, he examinedevidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. Two of the cases he reported involved mysophilia. In the first case, the offender was engaged in multiple paraphilias including mysophilia, picquerism (stabbing or cutting victims of sexual attacks), and attempted paraphilic rape intended to degrade the victim. In the second case, the offender manifested an even wider range of paraphilias including mysophilia, pogophilia (fascination with women’s buttocks), paedophilia, masochism, and urophilia. In both of these cases, the mysophilic tendencies did not seem to be central to the crimes committed, and mysophilia was clearly part of a much wider range of paraphilic behaviour.

There are also first person accounts of salirophilia and/or mysophilia on the internet. I came across this account (which I have edited down from a much longer posting on a psychology bulleting board:

“First of, let me say I’m not a dangerous or mean person. I really almost never hurt other people, and I really don’t want to. I’ve never really told anyone about this. When I was younger, I don’t know how young exactly, I had kind of unusual sexual fantasies. I think I was 6/7/8/9 [years old]. I don’t really remember. I used to think about them while lying in bed before I was going to sleep. Things I fantasized about, and this is a really hard part to type out for me, is people wearing diapers, people wearing clothes in weird ways, and people that got messy. Please don’t think I’m a sick person or something. If I could change it, I would, although it didn’t really harm anyone. When I got a little older, I think I was 9 or 10, maybe 11, I searched on the internet for people that got messy. I don’t know if that was because of fetish, or just because of normal interest in that. [After that] I mostly watched videos of game shows in which people got messy. Sometimes they were my age, sometimes they were younger, sometimes they were older. Only recently I started to realize that the fantasies I had when I was younger weren’t normal, and that I could have had a fetish. It kind of shocked me. Sometimes, I dream about it. I start watching those videos again. In others, I get messy myself, and in those dreams, I get aroused by that. Did I do anything wrong? Do I need to get help? Am I a bad person? Will this affect the rest of my life badly? I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just really had to tell this somewhere on some moment”.

Treatment for salirophilia and mysophilia is rarely sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the individual in some way. Although the individual may feel compelled to engage in the paraphilic behaviour, anecdotal evidence suggests that the great majority manage to integrate their fetishistic behaviour within their day-to-day life without harm to anyone (including themselves).

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

Further reading

Butcher, Nancy (2003). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. New York: Avery.

Holmes, R. M. (2009). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Karpman, B. (1948). Coprophilia: A collective review. Psychoanalytic Review, 35, 253–272.

Karpman, B. (1949). A modern Gulliver: A study in coprophilia. Psychoanalytic Review, 36, 260–282.

McCary, J.L. & McCary, S.P. (1982). McCary’s Human Sexuality (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

White, J.H. (2007). Evidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 52, 1194-1201.

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