Blog Archives

Tickled pink: A brief look at knismolagnia

“My friend’s sister always asked me to tickle her, and I would. Then one day I was tickling her and she climaxed and kissed me. It freaked me out because I wasn’t tickling near her private parts. I thought that maybe it was a one time thing, so I tickled her two more times on different occasions, and she climaxed both times” (posting on the Is It Normal? website)

There are hundreds of sexual paraphilias of which little is known. One of the most obscure paraphilias but which is definitely known to exist is knismolagnia. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, knismophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from tickling or being tickled (and is also known as titillagnia). The Right Diagnosis website claims the symptoms of knismolagnia are (i) sexual arousal gained from being tickled, (ii) sexual interest in tickling, (iii) recurring intense sexual urges involving tickling, and (iv) sexual arousal associated with tickling. A knismolagnia article on another online site (Gay Fetish Goth) claims that different individuals may find tickling of virtually any region of the body to be pleasurable, and that knismolagnia can also involve sexual arousal from simply watching others being tickled. The same article also noted (but without any supporting evidence) that:

However, people who claim to have a tickling fetish are likely to enjoy this activity to the exclusion of other pre-sex activities. For some, the focus is entirely on the tickling, with full intercourse less important or not included at all. People whose sexuality is based almost solely on tickling can be said to have a tickling fixation. This fixation may also exist outside of sexual contexts”.

As far as I can ascertain, there is almost nothing in the academic literature on knismolagnia. However, there are a number of online articles and writings about the sexual side of tickling although there is a common mistake I have spotted which may both have arisen from a single source. Many online sources – including the Acarophilia and Kinky Sex Questions websites – appear to include tickling as part acarophilia (the deriving of sexual arousal and pleasure from scratching or being scratched) when in fact it is not (although there is clearly a fine line between hard tickling and scratching).

In 2006, Dr. Lisa Shaffer and Dr. Julie Penn developed a comprehensive paraphilia classification system and published it as a book chapter in Dr. William Hickey’s book Sex Crimes and Paraphilia. In this chapter, Shaffer and Penn made specific reference to both acarophilia and knismolagnia although these mentions (while in an academic context) were part of a wider theoretical point noting that some paraphilias (specifically acarophilia and knismolagnia – although they used the term ‘titillagnia’ for the latter) were completely “innocuous” and that this demonstrated that not all sexual paraphiliacs were sex offenders (and vice-versa). This appears to be supported by the Right Diagnosis website which claims that treatment for knismolagnia is generally not sought and that individuals with the condition “simply learn to accept their fetish and manage to achieve gratification in an appropriate manner”.

According to a small article on the Kinky Sex Questions website (which also wrongly interchanges acarophilia and knismolagnia), sexual tickling is most “frequently done by fingers, feather and other objects or by licking”. It claims that initially, the person being tickled enjoys and encourages the tickler, but then turns into “helpless laughter”. The article also claims that the preferred tickling areas are “feet, armpits, navel, ribs, breasts and genitals” (although no evidence is given to support the claim). If this is true there is likely to be some crossover with other sexual paraphilias and fetishes including podophilia (i.e., foot fetishes) and maschalagnia (i.e., armpit fetishism).

The Acarophile website also contains an “Acarophilia Dictionary” which appears to relate acarophilia to a more specialized and idiosyncratic sub-type of sexual sadism and sexual masochism (in fact there appear to dozens of websites that cater for ‘tickle torture’ pornography if you do a quick Google search). The website uses the word ‘ticklephile’ to define “anyone, including adults and children of both sexes who have an acute interest, or fetish, about tickling or being tickled”. It also features some more specialized definitions including the ‘Tickle Top’, the ‘Tickle Bottom’, ‘Tickle Torture’ and a ‘Douhini’. These are the verbatim definitions from the Acarophilia Dictionary rather than my own re-wording:

  • Tickle Top: 
This refers to “the person who tickles, or tickle tortures another with the object of forcing the victim, usually restrained and helpless, to laugh hysterically, cry, scream, urinate, ejaculate and even pass out from prolonged intense tickling. Usually done with consent for erotic sexual gratification, but sometimes used as effective torture of prisoners”.
  • Tickle Bottom: 
This refers to “the victim, usually restrained, of tickle torture, either with consent by a tickle top for exercise or sexual gratification or by others as torture to obtain information or for sadistic pleasure. If very ticklish, the ‘bottom’ suffers acute agony from the body’s automatic reflexes, such as hysterical laughter, screaming, crying, muscle spasms, urination, ejaculation, and even convulsions and loss of consciousness. Common in BDSM, (bondage sado-masochism) practice, the tickle bottom should be in good physical health because severe tickling can cause strokes and seizures”.

  • Tickle Torture: 
This refers to a tied-up victim “be it in a rack or with ropes or hand-cuffs, in a strategic method, and tickled mercilessly. Usually, words are written on the victim’s feet, and pictures are taken, both still and moving. Rarely does sex occur, although erections and urination may”.

  • Douhini: 
This refers to a “tickle of the inside of an exposed armpit. The Douhini-er must then yell Douhini to further surprise the victim. Usually accompanied by a slight wave of the pointer finger. In other cases a Douhini can also be a jab to the armpit but that technique is usually frowned upon”.

According to most online sources, the main reason why sexual tickling is popular among those in the BDSM community is because the person is usually already restrained. The dominant partner may also blindfold their victim to enhance the sexual pain/pleasure. However, one online gay fetish site claims it is not popular. It asserted that “although some consider [knismolagnia] a BDSM activity, tickling is not fully recognised by the community and is relatively unknown in the mainstream. In dominance and submission scenarios, sexual partners may agree upon a safeword to signal that the tickling should stop”. According to a Wikipedia entry on tickling games, knismolagnia is derived from the term ‘knismesis’:

“Knismesis refers to the light, feather-like type of tickling. This type of tickling generally does not induce laughter and is often accompanied by an itching sensation. The knismesis phenomenon requires low levels of stimulation to sensitive parts of the body, and can be triggered by a light touch or by a light electrical current. Knismesis can also be triggered by crawling insects or parasites, prompting scratching or rubbing at the ticklish spot, thereby removing the pest”

Knismolagnia also includes ‘gargalesis’ which according to an article on knismolagnia in the (admittedly non-academic) Him and Her Sex Blog refers to:

“…harder, laughter-inducing tickling, and involves the repeated application of high pressure to sensitive areas. This ‘heavy tickle’ is often associated with play and laughter. The gargalesis type of tickle works on humans and primates, and possibly on other species. Because the nerves involved in transmitting ‘light’ touch and itch differ from those nerves that transmit ‘heavy’ touch, pressure and vibration, it is possible that the difference in sensations produced by the two types of tickle are due to the relative proportion of itch sensation versus touch sensation. While it is possible to trigger a knismesis response in oneself, it is usually impossible to produce gargalesthesia, the gargalesis tickle response, in oneself”

This short article also claims that varying forms and varying degrees of knismolagnia “from the pleasure experienced when tickled by a partner, to the sexual need to be tickled to reach orgasm”. It is also one of the few articles to note that knismolagnia doesn’t include non-tickling behaviours such as scratching and cutting. Of all the paraphilias I have examined in my blog, knismophilia appears to have been one of the least researched (academically or clinically).

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

Further reading

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

Hickey, E. (2006). Sex Crimes and Paraphilia. Prentice Hall, New Jersey: Pearson.

Him and Her Sex Blog (2012). Knismolagnia. February 12. Located at: http://himandhersexblog.tumblr.com/post/17661996177/knismolagnia

Right Diagnosis (2012). Knismolagnia. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/k/knismolagnia/intro.htm

Shaffer, L. & Penn J. (2006). A comprehensive paraphilia classification system. In E.W. Hickey (Ed.), Sex Crimes and Paraphilia (pp. 69-93). Prentice Hall, New Jersey: Pearson.

Wikipedia (2012). Tickling game. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tickling_game

The Great Defecator: The (maybe not so) secret sex life of Adolf Hitler

In a previous blog I briefly looked at some of the psychological research that had been carried out examining Adolf Hitler’s personality. I briefly mentioned in that blog some of the more salacious speculations about his sexuality. It’s not my usual style to speculate on the sex lives of people who are not around to defend themselves (although I did make an exception in a previous blog about the television personality Jimmy Savile).

Hitler’s sexuality has been the subject of scholarly (and not so scholarly) debate for decades. The vast majority of material has concerned Hitler’s sexual orientation and whether in fact he was gay (not that it bothers me whether he was or wasn’t). For instance, much media coverage was given to Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams’ book The Pink Swastika about Hitler’s (and other leading Nazi Party members’) homosexuality. Other scholars (such as the German historian Dr. Lothar Machtan) have tried to put the case forward that he was bisexual (which would make more sense given the five women he was alleged to have had sexual liaisons with above and beyond his longstanding 16-year relationship with Eva Braun) or that he was asexual – although I’ve yet to come across any scholarly evidence of this apart from a brief 1998 online essay by American Dr. Jack Porter. He wrote:

“Did Hitler despise homosexuals? Was he ashamed of his own homosexual identity? These are areas of psychohistory that are beyond known knowledge. My own feelings are that Hitler was asexual in the traditional sense and had bizarre sexual fetishes. All these things were of course kept highly secret from the German people”.

Many academics have disputed the allegations made in The Pink Swastika although Dr. Machtan published (what seems to me at least) a well researched German book on Hitler in 2001 (the title of which translates as Hitler’s Secret: The Double Life of a Dictator). He claimed that Hitler had many gay friends in Munich who helped Hitler win over the intellectuals in various social circles during his rise to power. This included Ernst Hanfstaengt (a business man and close friend of Hitler), Dietrich Eckart (a journalist and politician who helped Hitler form the Nazi Party), Ernst Röhm (one of Hitler’s closest confidants, and an officer in the Bavarian Army who later became the Nazi leader of the Sturmabteilung – the Assault Division), and Edmund Heines (Röhm’s deputy leader in the Sturmabteilung). He personally ordered the killings of both Heines and Röhm for their “immoral sexual behaviour”. The Wikipedia entry on Hitler’s sex life claimed that:

“There is considerable evidence that he had infatuations with a number of women during his lifetime, as well as overwhelming evidence of his antipathy to homosexuality, and no evidence he engaged in homosexual behavior”.

The American journalist Ron Rosenbaum (and author of the 1998 book Explaining Hitler:  The Search for the Origins of Evil) has been very critical of Dr. Machtan’s research and went as far as saying in a 2005 article for the Southern Poverty Law Center, that Machtan’s “evidence falls short of being conclusive and often falls far short of being evidence at all”. However, Hitler’s persecution of homosexuals was as abhorrent as his treatment of Jewish people (sending them to their deaths in the Nazi concentration camps – some of who were experimented upon in Hitler’s quest to identify what he believed was a biological basis for homosexuality). The Wikipedia article on Hitler’s sexuality cites the work of American historian Jonathan Zimmerman who claimed that:

“Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis arrested roughly 100,000 men as homosexuals. Most convicted gays were sent to prison; between 5,000 and 15,000 were interned in concentration camps, where they wore pink triangles to signify their supposed crime. A study by Rüdiger Lautmann found that 60% of gay men in concentration camps died, as compared to 41% of political prisoners and 35% of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The study also shows that survival rates for gay men were slightly higher for internees from the middle and upper classes and for married bisexual men and those with children”.

Irrespective of whether Hitler had homesexual tendencies, no-one denies that during World War II, the allies did their best to cast Hitler as a sexual deviant with claims that he was a urophile (i.e., sexually aroused by being urinated upon in Hitler’s case). However, much of this can be dismissed as nothing more than anti-Hitler propaganda. Ernst Hanfstaengl (who was for quite some time a member of Hitler’s ‘inner circle’) was one of the few who openly spoke of issues surrounding Hitler’s sex life (after Hitler had committed suicide). In his 1957 book Hitler: The Missing Years, he wrote:

“Hitler was a case of a man who was neither fish, flesh nor fowl, neither fully homosexual nor fully heterosexual… I had formed the firm conviction that he was impotent, the repressed, masturbating type”.

In my previous blog on Hitler’s personality, I mentioned the two independent reports that were commissioned by the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) by psychologists Dr. Walter Langer (A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler: His Life and Legend) and Dr. Walter Murray (Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler: With Predictions of His Future Behavior and Suggestions for Dealing with Him Now and After Germany’s Surrender) during the World War II in an attempt to get inside the mind of Hitler. German politician Otto Strasser (a member of the left-wing National Socialist German Workers’ Party) claimed that Hitler had forced his niece Geli Raubel to urinate and defecate on him. In relation to his sexuality, this ‘evidence’ – I use the term tentatively – was used by Dr. Langer’s to assert that Hitler was an “impotent coprophile [and] possibly even a homosexual streak in him”. However, the report did conclude that the evidence surrounding Hitler’s alleged homosexuality was weak. Dr. Murray’s report briefly dealt with Hitler’s alleged coprophilic tendencies but was more concerned with Hitler’s probable schizophrenia (which I covered in my previous blog). In 2007, Dr. Frederick Coolidge and his colleagues published a paper examining the psychological profile of Adolf Hitler. Summarizing the work of Dr. Langer, they wrote that:

“Using sources only available up until 1943, Langer diagnosed Hitler as a neurotic bordering on psychotic with a messiah complex, masochistic tendencies, strong sexual perversions, and a high likelihood of homosexuality”.

More recently, Hitler’s alleged coprophilia was alluded to in a 2011 biography of Hitler’s lover Eva Braun by Heike B. Görtemaker. However, other recent books on Hitler have been more explicit. For instance, Greg Hallet in his chapter ‘Hitler’s Sexuality’ (from his 2008 book ‘Hitler was a British Agent’) wrote:

“Hitler’s close boyhood friend from Linz, August Kubizek, wrote Adolf Hitler, Mein Jugendfreund (My Youth Friend), ‘Adolf did not engage in love affairs or flirtations. He always rejected the coquettish advances of girls or women. Women and girls took an interest in him but he always evaded their endeavours’…During deconstruction, it is customary that the person is sexually abused in the manner which is most embarrassing to that person. In Hitler’s case, he was sodomised, creating a submissive distant respect for homosexuals like his bodyguards and some of his highest-placed leaders. His natural bent was developed into coprophilia (being shat on)…With each deconstruction an embarrassing addiction is developed and filmed. With Hitler it was sadomasochism, coprophilia and homosexuality. That is, he liked to be verbally abused and slapped around, to have his head urinated on, his chest shat on, and to have sex with men”.

None of this is definitive proof that Hitler was a coprophile but some would argue that there are enough indirect pieces of evidence to suggest that ‘there’s no smoke without fire’. As far as I am concerned it is never likely to be proven given any new evidence that is likely to have come to light would have probably come to light by now (but you never know).

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

Further reading

Coolidge, F., Davis, F. & Segal, D. (2007). Understanding Madmen: A DSM-IV Assessment of Adolf Hitler. Individual Differences Research, 5(1), 30-43.

Görtemaker, H. (2011). Eva Braun: Life with Hitler. New York: Knopf.

Hallett, G. (2008). Hitler was a British Agent. London: Progressive Books.

Hanfstaengl, E. (1957). Hitler: The Missing Years. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.

Lively, Scott; Abrams, Kevin (1995). The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. Founders Publishing. Corporation

Moser, R. (2005).  Anti-Gay Religious Crusaders Claim Homosexuals Helped Mastermind the Holocaust. Southern Poverty Law Center, 117. Located at: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/spring/holy-war/making-myths

Plant, R. (1986). The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt.

Porter, J.N. (1998). Genocide of homosexuals in the Holocaust. October 10. Located at: http://chgs.umn.edu/educational/homosexuals.html

Porter, J.N. (1998). Sexual Politics in Nazi Germany: The Persecution of the Homosexuals during the Holocaust. Newton, MA: The Spencer Press.

Rosenbaum, R. (1998). Explaining Hitler:  The Search for the Origins of Evil. New York: Random House.

Rosenbaum, R. (2001). Queer as Volk. Slate, December 3. Located at: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2001/12/queer_as_volk.html

Wikipedia (2012). Sexuality of Adolf Hitler. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexuality_of_Adolf_Hitler

Womb raiders: A brief look at ‘unbirthing’

In a previous blog on vorarephilia and ‘vore’ (individuals who are sexually aroused by the thought of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification; sometimes referred to phagophilia), I noted that one of the sub-categories of this sexually paraphilic behaviour was ‘vaginal vore’ in which an individual is sexually aroused by the thought of being consumed by the vagina and taken into the womb. This is commonly referred to as  ‘unbirthing’ or a ‘reverse birth’ if the participants are human. Among the Furry Fandom who dress up and fantasize about being animals, the process is known as being ‘re-whelped’). A short article on unbirthing at the Oh Internet website claims that unbirthing fetishes are most commonly found in the furry community” (although there is no evidence to support the claim).

The simplest definition of unbirthing is that it is a sexual paraphilia that involves being ‘swallowed’ alive by female genitalia. As with most forms of vorarephilia, the paraphilia is fantasy-based as it is not humanly possible to be unborn. Most unbirthing websites feature masses of fan art and fan fiction (such as the Mindless Consumption website). However, there are also some very specialist types of unbirthing website such as the Pony Inside Story website that (predictably) only features unbirthing pony stories and art. According to the Wikifur article on unbirthing:

“A less-common but still significant minority also practice UB-Vore, wherein the female unbirther’s body ultimately consumes the unbirthed. Another variant on this is males absorbing others (generally other males) as a form of male pregnancy. This is known as cock vore and often involves hypertrophilia and/or macrophilia”.

[Macrophilia – which I covered in a previous blog – refers to individuals that are sexually aroused by giants. Hypertrophilia describes individuals – usually macrophiles – who are sexually and/or emotionally attracted to ‘hyper-endowed’ characters. Hypertrophic individuals typically feature over-exaggerated (and impractically large) sexual and erogenous characteristics]. The article on unbirthing in the online Encyclopedia Dramatica says that US grunge group Nirvana may have unwittingly started the fetish in their 1993 hit single Heart-Shaped Box from their final studio LP In Utero when they sang “Broken hymen of ‘Your Highness’/I’m left black/Throw down your umbilical noose/ So I can climb right back”. However, I know of no academic research on unbirthing although there are a number of online articles that examine the phenomena and its underlying motivation and meaning. For instance, the Wikifur article makes a number of interesting observations:

“For many, unbirthing is attractive in its symbolic meaning. The opportunity to trust someone quite literally with one’s entire life, to be nurtured and protected, is what attracts the unbirthed. On the other side, the unbirther can demonstrate her care for another in a deep, trusting way, and enjoy something living inside her, a sensation often attractive in and of itself”.

For others, unbirthing has dominant, controlling and almost sadistic elements where the person being unbirthed becomes dependent upon the vaginal enveloper for oxygen and sustenance. Those undergoing unbirthing become restricted in what they can do as movement is almost totally inhibited and the senses are all but redundant having been enveloped and swallowed. For some, the age regression aspect and returning to the womb is said to be sexually arousing. As the Wikifur article notes:

“Returned to the womb, an unbirthed creature grows younger; the unbirther may choose to rebirth their guest at any point or simply regress the unbirthed past the point of conception, effectively erasing their existence. There are many variations on this theme, some overlapping with the oviposition [paraphilia]. [For others there an] overlap between fans of unbirth and those of vore lies in the endosomatophilia paraphilia, or attraction to fantasies involving complete encapsulation of a living thing within the body of another living thing. A second overlap between the two lies in absorbing or digesting an unbirthed creature: a form of genital vore”.

According to the online Nation Master encyclopedia, the term endosomatophilia (and sometimes shortened to ‘endosoma’) was coined in 2004 (although it doesn’t say by who and in what context), and is a sexual attraction to “fantasies involving complete encapsulation of a living thing within the body of another living thing” and is therefore a critical part of unbirthing and other similarly related behaviours such as vorarephilia and ‘insertion fantasies’. [According to a Wikipedia entry, ‘insertion fantasies’ refer to “the sexual desire or fantasy of having something inserted into a person in the pelvic region; usually referring to something out of the ordinary like specifically shaped foods, abnormal objects, or even people”]. The Nation Master entry also claims that:

“Due to its relative youth as a fetish term, there are currently no known websites or references with focus on endosoma. Because of this, many vore sites host endosoma material unrelated to vorarephilia itself. Because vore fantasies often involve violence and/or snuff, endosomaphiles are often daunted by the overwhelming presence of vore, as opposed to other forms of endosoma. The term was created in the hopes of forming more endosoma-oriented web content, communities, and chat rooms. Endosoma is often associated with macrophilia and microphila [which I also covered in a previous blog] as a large size difference can facilitate bodily containment. Currently, endosomatophilia is most well known among furries…Endosomatophilia is sometimes misdefined as soft vore in which the prey is not digested. Also, it was originally coined as endosomaphilia, which was later found to be incorrect”.

Compared to other sexual paraphilias that have not been researched empirically, the number of online forums that cater for vorarephilia in all its sub-varieties (including unbirthing) appears relatively large with relatively large numbers of members. It is certainly an area that I would personally like to carry out some research.

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

Further reading

Encyclopedia Dramatica (2011). Unbirthing. August 14. Located at: https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Unbirthing

Oh Internet (2012). Unbirthing. Located at: http://ohinternet.com/Unbirthing

Nation Master (2012). Endosomatophilia. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Endosomatophilia

Nation Master (2012). Unbirthing. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Unbirthing

Wikifur (2010). Hypertrophilia. November 11. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Hypertrophilia

Wikifur (2009). Unbirth. March 19. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Unbirth

Wikipedia (2011). Insertion fantasies. September 4. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Xomic/Insertion_fantasy

Having a stab at it: A beginner’s guide to piquerism

Back in June 2007, a 25-year-old American (Frank Ranieri) was arrested in New York on charges of assault. He was accused of paying large amounts of money to at least five young females in exchange for poking their buttocks with sharp objects (e.g., pens, pins, nails, etc.) while masturbating. An online article reported that:

“In one instance, Ranieri offered to help get a 15-year-old girl a newspaper delivery route if she would let him take a jab at her. In others, he posed as a cop to dupe his victims into trusting him, she added…Ranieri was charged with two counts of second-degree assault as a sexual felony for paying a 17-year-old Richmond Valley teen about $6,000 to be his erotic pincushion for about a year and a half…Ranieri ‘liked to see pins go through muscle and flesh…He didn’t see much wrong with it. Prosecutors are saying that Ranieri suffers from an affliction known as piquerism…Here in New York, there was a notorious example of piquerism in 1990: a guy managed to shoot darts at the asses of 53 midtown babes before the police finally collared him. The local tabloids dubbed him Dart Man”.

There are numerous examples of such practices. For instance, more recently in the summer of 2011, people in a Fairfax shopping mall (Virginia, USA) were terrorized by someone the press dubbed the ‘Serial Butt Stabber’ and the ‘Butt Slasher’ (a man who repeatedly stabbed females on their bottoms through their clothes). One online article noted that:

“The so-called butt-slasher has been pricking women in the rear end with sharp objects, in malls in Fairfax Virginia.  Six women have reported being victimized so far, shopping at T.J. Maxx, and another 18-year old at a Forever XXI store, who felt a ‘sharp pain” and believed a hanger had stuck her, though she noticed a man binding down to pick up clothes supposedly fallen off a rack”

Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, defines piquerism as sexual arousal from penetrating another person’s body with sharp objects (such as pins, razors, knives, etc.). Other definitions on various online websites define it as sexual excitement from stabbing/blood letting” (which in my opinion, and based on more academic writings, is too wide ranging to be clinically useful). The Wikipedia definition (which appears to have been based on that found in M.S. Davis’ 2002 book The Concise Dictionary of Crime and Justice) notes that:

“Piquerism or picquerism (from the French piquer – “to prick”) is sexual interest penetrating the skin of another person, sometimes serious enough to cause death. Piquerism is a paraphilia and form of sadism. The most frequently targeted areas of the body are the breasts, buttocks, or groin”.

Given the relatively regular incidence of piquerism in the popular media, I was quite surprised to find next to nothing academically. There are passing references to piquerism in the clinical and forensic science literature but nothing (as far as I could find) on the prevalence or etiology of the disorder. Dr. Wade Myers has a short section on piquerism in his 2002 book Juvenile Sexual Homicide. In one of the chapters, Myers recounted the case of two teenage murderers (‘Frank’ and ‘Andy’) who killed and mutilated a pregnant teenage girl they had both previously had a sexual relationship with. As Myers wrote:

“Regardless of who first came up with the idea of the murder, [Frank and Andy] took her to a remote area in some nearby woods. Andy first had consensual sex with the girl. When Frank approached her for sex, she rebuffed his advances. The attack on the girl started after this interaction. Each of the boys attributed the cascade of murderous actions to the other. The victim was initially choked manually and strangled with a radio cord. Unconscious, she was carried further into the woods. She regained consciousness and attempted to run. She was bludgeoned with a piece of lumber, a tree branch and a concrete block. The bludgeoning with the concrete block…detached part of the scalp. One of the boys tried to cut her throat with a knife, and her arm revealed defensive wounds from trying to protect herself during the knife attack”.

The medical examiner reported that the girl had been repeatedly stabbed and that the boys had done it for the “heck of it”. Dr. Myers claimed that offender behavior was “an expression of the perversion known as piquerism”. Dr. Myers admitted he knew little about piquerism (and wrote “little is known about piquerism in adults, and even less so in children”), so he contacted Dr. Richard Walters (Omega Crime Assessment Group, and former prison psychologist for the Michegan Department of Corrections). Based on his colleagues’ expertise, Dr. Myers subsequently noted:

“Piquerism is sometimes performed post-mortem. It generally refers to the penetration of human flesh, although it is sometimes practiced against animals. The piquer’s range of activities for sating his or her needs can be a purposeful single prick with a pin or knife, multiple stab wounds to an eroticized area, or elaborate cutting, stabbing, biting and mutilation of a victim. Piquerism becomes part of the repertoire of many sadists, depending on their progress along the ‘sadistic learning curve’. Often the sexual mechanisms inherent in piquerism are ignored during the assessment of sexually sadistic crimes. The prevalence rate of piquerism is unknown”.

Many authors note the link between piquerism and sexual sadism. In an online article on sexual sadism. Dr Stephen Hucker reviewed the characteristics and predominate features of what he described as “major sexual sadism”. 
Dr. Hucker noted that this type of sexual sadism was typically non-consensual and usually culminates in major injury or death. He also noted the types of behaviour that accompanied major sexual sadism as including: (i) severe beatings, (ii) torture, (iii) burning and cutting, (iv) stabbing in the breast or buttocks (piquerism), (v) rape, (vi), murder, (vii) vampirism, and (viii) necrophilia. This is also confirmed by Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2011 book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects, where he examines lust murders:

Lust murders are homicides in which the offender stabs, cuts, pierces, or mutilates the sexual regions or organs of the victim’s body. The sexual mutilation of the victim may include evisceration, piquerism, displacement of the genitalia in both males and females, and the removal of the breasts in a female victim (defeminization). It also includes activities such as ‘posing’ and ‘propping’ of the body, the insertion of objects into the body cavities, anthropophagy (consumption of blood and/or flesh), and necrophilia”.

A particularly gruesome case involving piquerism was described by Vernon Geberth (former Commander, Bronx Homicide, NYPD) in an article ‘The Anatomy of Lust Murder’ in a 1998 issue of Law and Order magazine. He wrote:

The two victims were a mother and her fourteen-year-old daughter…Once his victims were unconscious and dead he engaged in hours of sexual deviance with their bodies. His intention was to knockout the fourteen-year-old and then torture her to death. However, he had hit her with such force that she died. He eviscerated both of his victims. He had sex with their corpses and drank their blood before posing and propping them with their body parts and inserting a baseball bat into the daughter’s vagina. He removed the breasts from the mother and placed them in the bedroom on end tables on either side of the bed where the daughter’s body was found. He incised the skin of the pubis from the mother and placed the tissue into her mouth. He incised the skin of the pubis from the daughter’s body and placed it upon the right side of her face. He then engaged in postmortem piquerism by stabbing into the daughter’s throat a total of sixteen times…His admitted fantasy was to torture and kill young girls as another male anally sodomized him. All of the cutting, mutilation and overkill type wound structures were directed towards those parts of the body that the offender found sexually significant to him and these activities served as his sexual stimulus. 

The piquerism inflicted on the body of the sixteen-year-old was substitutive for his “torture” fantasy”.

A number of infamous murderers are known to have carried out major acts of piquerism. Arguably the most infamous was Jack the Ripper. A paper by Dr. Robert Keppel and his colleagues in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling concluded that “the injuries sustained by the victims displayed the signature characteristic of piquerism”. The Russian mass murderer Andrei Chikatilo (‘The Butcher of Rostov’) was known to be impotent but derived sexual satisfaction from stabbing and cutting his many victims. American serial killer Albert Fish (also known as ‘The Brooklyn Vampire’ and ‘The Moon Maniac’ amongst many other names) was known to have engaged in piquerism with many of his victims (and also had a penchant for self-piquerism – particularly the sticking of pins into himself).

The reasons as to how and why people engage in piquerism have yet to be researched in any depth. Most of the theorizing is speculative at best. The Freudian psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky in an online essay entitled ‘Piquersim Pervert’ (and in direct reaction to the mall ‘butt slasher’ in Fairfax Virginia) speculated that:

“His proclivity was an attack on the butt.  A boy can be subjected to a mother taunting him, ‘you’re a bad boy’ and going to be punished and then giving him a rear end beating, which is sexually stimulating.  He then associates being attacked on the rear with sexual turn-on.  Add to this, that he gets satisfaction from mother’s attention, albeit negative.  And he comes very angry at her, which explains how he then projects his punishment urges onto women.  Such a paraphiliac perversion also means that the man is incapable of a healthy relationship with a real woman, and can only focus on a body part. The perversion can also come from being beaten by the father with a belt to the point of drawing blood.  There is always a danger that such a paraphiliac already acting on aggressive urges can become a lust murderer”.

In an online article entitled ‘Explaining Mutilation and Piquerism’, the anonymous author notes that the motives behind piquerism mutilation of female victims still remain a mystery. The author claims that piquerism acts are:

“…largely perpetrated by angry heterosexual males on females or homosexual males on males – in other words, an act directed by males onto the object of their sexual desire…The preference to use a knife for mutilating a victim beyond what is necessary to kill is called piquerism. The killer expresses his sexuality by penetration the victim with a knife. The victim’s screams, the bloodletting, and the odors all create for the murderer a harmonic sexual experience. Some killer’s ejaculate uncontrollably without touching their genitals as they stab or hack at their victims. Some experts associate piquerism with cultural construction of femininity, with its association with the body, bleeding, birth, which link women with a mortality that provokes a dual reaction: anxious fear accompanied by erotic desire. If the duality slips out of control, the consequences can be horrific”.

Perhaps the most parsimonious explanation of piquerism is a quote from the fictional character George Huang, an FBI psychiatrist in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In Episode 2.20 (called ‘Pique’), the head of personnel at a software company is found raped and stabbed to death. In court, Huang simply says:

He suffers from piquerism, counselor. The knife represents his penis. It is not disposable

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

Further reading

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

Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Davis, M.S. (2002). The Concise Dictionary of Crime and Justice. London: Sage.

Dean, P. (2011). Serial butt stabber stabbed more butts in Virginia. Mommy’s Dirty Little Secret, August 12. Located at: http://mommysdirtylittlesecret.com/2011/08/12/serial-butt-stabber-stabbed-more-butts-in-virginia/#more-14511

Geberth, V.J. (1998). Anatomy of a lust murder. Law and Order, 45(5). Located at: http://www.practicalhomicide.com/Research/lustmurder.htm

Hucker, S. (2011). Sexual sadism. Located at: http://www.forensicpsychiatry.ca/paraphilia/sadism.htm

Keppel, R.D., Weis, J.G., Brown, K.M. & Welch, K. (2005). The Jack the Ripper murders: A modus operandi and signature analysis of the 1888-1891 Whitechapel Murders. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 2, 1-21.

Kuriansky, J. (2011). Piquerism pervert. August 16. Located at: http://www.drjudy.com/latest-posts/2011/8/16/piquerism-pervert.htm

Meloy, J.R. (2002). The ‘polymorphously perverse’ psychopath: Understanding a strong empirical relationship. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 66, 273-289.

Myers, W.C. (2002). Juvenile Sexual Homicide. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Neumann, S., Alley, D., Paclebar, A.M., Sanchez, C. and Satterthwaite, B., Frotteurism, piquerism, and other related paraphilias. In Sex crimes and paraphilia, 1st ed. Hickey, E.W., (Ed.), Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2006, chapter 26, pages 237-248.

PervScan (2007). Piquerism in New York. June 12. Located at: http://pervscan.com/2007/06/12/piquerism-in-new-york/

Bite sighs: A beginner’s guide to odaxelagnia‬

In a previous blog on vampirism as a sexual paraphilia, I briefly mentioned the related behaviour of odaxelagnia. Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices and Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices define odaxelagnia as a sexual paraphilia concerning individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal through biting or being bitten. Obviously, odaxelagnia is sometimes associated with sexual vampirism but it would appear that most forms of sexual biting do not involve bloodletting.

In her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love included a relatively lengthy entry on sexual biting and reported that “biting is used by some to sexually excite their partner. It is done on the neck, ears, lips, nipples, back, buttocks, genitals, inner thighs, etc. The pressure used depends on their partner’s pain tolerance”. She also notes that sexual biting is one of the “easiest and most accepted methods” in sexual sadism and sexual masochism. She also claims that sexual biting produces an “increased sensation [and] brings some individuals who are emotionally stressed out of their physical numbness, back into touch with their bodies”. In the 2007 book, Miscellany of Sex, Frances Twinn reported that on the islands of Trobriand (off the east coast of New Guinea), the biting off of a woman’s eyelashes is viewed by the people who live there as a passionate activity!

Three separate books (Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, and Arlene Russo’s Vampire Nation) all make reference to the fact that sexual biting has it’s own separate section in the Kama Sutra (written by the Indian philosopher Mallanaga Vatsyayana in the 4th century). As Aggrawal notes:

“The Kama Sutra goes so far as to name all the different kinds of [sexual] bites and scratches, including those focused on the breasts and nipples. Eight kinds of bites are described in the chapter ‘On Biting, and the Means to be Employed with Regard to Women of Different Countries’ These are (i) the hidden bite, (ii) the swollen bite, (iii) the point, (iv) the line of points, (v) the coral and the jewel, (vi) the line of jewels, (vii) the broken cloud, and (viii) the biting of the boar”.

The earliest published empirical research concerning sexual biting was arguably reported by the US sexologist Alfred Kinsey. He and his colleagues reported that about half of all the thousands people they surveyed said they had been sexually aroused from being bitten during sex. However, earlier academic references to sexual biting were made by [British psychologist and sexologist] Havelock Ellis in his 1905 book Studies in the Psychology of Sex. He wrote that:

The impulse to bite is also a part of the tactile element which lies at the origin of kissing. As Stanley Hall notes, children are fond of biting, though by no means always as a method of affection. There is, however, in biting a distinctly sexual origin to invoke, for among many animals the teeth (and among birds the bill) are used by the male to grasp the female more firmly during intercourse. This point has been discussed in the previous volume of these Studies in reference to ‘Love and Pain’…The heroine of Kleist’s Penthesilea remarks: ‘Kissing (Küsse) rhymes with biting (Bisse), and one who loves with the whole heart may easily confound the two”.

In Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Aggrawal made a number of references to sexual biting in relation to both sadism and necrophilia. In the former, he noted that oral sadists manifest “fantasies of chewing, biting, or otherwise using the mouth, lips, or teeth aggressively or destructively”. In the latter, he noted that one particular type of necrophiliac (so-called ‘role-playing necrophiles’) sometimes have vampire fantasies where “the lover simulates a killing by biting the neck”. Aggrawal reported the case of a woman who imagined she was a vampire. “She would ask her husband to pretend he was dead and then stimulate his organ with her mouth. She would then pretend that the resulting erection was rigor mortis, and this would give her erotic pleasure”.

Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. Eugene Levitt surveyed 225 sadomasochists (178 men and 47 women recruited via an advert in a sadomasochistic magazine) about their sexual behaviour and published their findings in the Journal of Sex Research. Among their sample, the most common sadomasochistic activities were bondage and flagellation and bondage (50% to 80% of the sample). Painful activities (biting, use of ice or hot wax, and face slapping) were less common (37% to 41% of the sample). The most painful activities engaged in (piercing, branding, burning, tattooing, insertion of pins) were the least common (7% to 18% of the sample). These results suggest that biting (among the S&M community at least) is relatively commonplace.

As noted in a previous blog, there has been some clinical research on sexual vampirism (i.e., the rare phenomenon that involves the letting of blood by cutting or biting and accompanied by sexual arousal). In relation to this sort of sexual biting, there has been a lot of psychological theorizing, particularly from a psychodynamic perspective. Dr. P. Jaffe and Dr. F. DiCataldo (1994) published a paper on clinical vampirism and made a number of speculations. Basing some of their thinking on a 1972 paper by Lawrence Kayton in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, they wrote:

“Kayton considers that the vampire myth gives ‘a unique phenomenological view of schizophrenia’ and indeed overt vampiristic delusions have been associated most notably with this disorder. The connection is particularly salient in the more gruesome cases involving cannibalistic and necrosadistic behavior that resemble the content of schizophrenic delusional material acted out. These cases generally present massive disorganized oral sadistic regressions, depersonalization, confused sexuality, multiple concurrent delusions, and thought disorder in content and form. Psychodynamic explanations draw attention to Karl Abraham’s biting oral stage during which the infant uses his teeth with a vengeance to Melanie Klein’s description of children’s aggressive fantasies’ and to W.R.D. Fairbairn’s notion of intense oral sadistic libidinal needs formed in response to actual maternal deprivation”.

I can’t say I’m convinced by any of these explanations but as there is a paucity of good data, no better theories have been put forward on this behaviour specifically (although there are alternative behavioural theories involving classical and operant conditioning that help in explaining paraphilic behaviour more generally).

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

Further reading

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

Criminal Justice Degrees Guide (2008). 10 unusual fetishes with massive online followings. November 10. Located at: http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-unusual-fetishes-with-massive-online-followings.html

Ellis, H. (1905). Studies in the Psychology of Sex (Volume 4). Located at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13613/13613-h/13613-h.htm

Jaffe, P., & DiCataldo, F. (1994). Clinical vampirism: Blending myth and reality. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 22, 533–544.

Kayton, L. (1972). The relationship of the vampire legend to schizophrenia. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1, 303-314.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Moser, C., & Levitt, E.E. (1987). An exploratory descriptive study of a sadomasochistically oriented sample. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 322–337.

Russo, A. (2008). Vampire Nation. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide.

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

Vatsyayana, M. Kama Sutra, Lancer Books, New York, 1964 (originally written 4th Century AD).

Step on it: A beginner’s guide to trampling fetishes

While researching a previous blog on crush fetishes, I came across an article by Kirk Semple in the New York Times about ‘trampling fetish’ known simply as ‘trampling’ among those engage in the activity. A Wikipedia entry on ‘trampling’ defines it simply as the sexual activity that involves being trampled underfoot by another person or persons…common enough to support a sub-genre of trampling pornography”. The online Urban Dictionary is a little more specific and defines ‘trampling’ as the act of standing or walking on one’s body and face as part of a submissive foot fetish”. Most online sources that discuss trampling note that because the act of being trampled upon can be very painful, it has close links and associations with sexual sadism and sexual masochism. The Wikipedia entry claims that:

“The most common form of trampling is done by a female walking on a male submissive and is usually done barefooted, in socks, nylons, or shoes. The trampler will predominantly walk, jump and stomp on the person’s back, chest, stomach, genitalia, face and in some rare instances, the neck”.

As far as I am aware, no empirical research has ever been carried out on trampling fetishes so we have no idea how prevalent or widespread the activity is. There are certainly a number of online discussion groups, and if you type ‘trampling fetish’ into YouTube (well, have a look for yourself but be warned!).

The New York Times article highlighted the case of Georgio T., a 48-year old Maltese immigrant who calls himself ‘The Human Carpet’ because he gets his sexual kicks from people walking and trampling all over his body. Typically, he walks into a public meeting place (such as a bar or nightclub) carrying a carpet under his arm. He then proceeds to wrap the carpet around himself, lies down on the ground, and places a nearby sign next to himself with the simple instruction for people to ‘Step on carpet’ (the more the better he claimed in the article with a particular preference for women with stiletto heels). The edges of his customized carpet are sewn together in the shape of a cylinder. This allows Georgio to slip in and out of the carpeted tube easily.

He then stays wrapped up inside the carpet for up to four hours at a time (the longest stint being 11 hours). He is now a regular ‘performer’ at sex fetish parties and charges around $200 a session but insists he does it for pleasure not profit. He knows of only one other person in the New York area (“Kevin Carpet’) who also makes a living from being trampled upon. His largest ‘customer’ was a 390-pound man. He claims he is “motivated by a desire to push his own boundaries and those of others [and] likes intense parties where the flow of body-stompers is constant”.Georgio told Semple that his fascination for being trampled up began in early childhood and became of central part of role-playing games he engaged in as a child:

“I loved to have weights on me…I liked having my cats walk over me. [If] somebody wanted to be the carpenter, and I would want to be the carpet. …It’s my fun [and] people are [now] paying me to have fun. The more people who pile on [me], the better. The higher they jump, the better. There’s hardly any middle ground. [People] are either shocked and don’t want to do it or they’re thrilled to do it”.

Georgio claims the behaviour only becomes a sexual fetish when beautiful women step on him. When men or plain looking women stomp on him he still finds it enjoyable but not sexually stimulating. Semple said:

“[Georgio] spoke rhapsodically about one woman who spent nearly two hours standing on him at Lotus, a club in the meatpacking district, and toying with his face using the heels of her shoes. After she was done, the woman leaned down and thanked him, and said that she never thought she would be able to do something like that…These sort of personal connections are what make it all worth it, he said”

Georgio’s experience is in no way unique as I cam across countless online stories and admissions about the sexual desire to be trampled upon including an interesting interview with a foot trampler at the Sexy Tofu website. Here are a few admissions that I collated:

  • Extract 1: “Ever since I was a small boy I used to fantasize about older girls or women stepping on my stomach. Why? I don’t know! …My baby sitter used to put her foot on my stomach and push down to play with me. I even got her to stand on me once. However this, after some research appears to be a fetish that some people are into, although rare”
  • Extract 2: I wish I knew as to why I like to be trampled, but I have no answer…I have had the intense desire for woman to walk on me longer than I can remember. My desire goes further though. I liked to be wrapped up like a mummy with my arms to the side and have a pretty, sexy, thick ankled women standing barefoot on my chest. I desire her to jump on my chest, stomp my chest, and drive her toes or her heels into the center of my chest. I also like her knees and rear-end on top of my chest”
  • Extract 3: “My fetish originated when I was little. You see, my sister had some older friends over and they used me as a trampoline. That’s when I realized that I loved it. From then on it just took off. I currently have a girl trampling me right now. As much as I like the idea of bare feet, shoes are awesome!”
  • Extract 4: “I like to be trampled, but as part of wanting to be dominated. I like the idea of being literally beneath women, like a doormat. I’ve had a few experiences with bare feet, but with shoes is better, on one occasion high heels”
  • Extract 5: “I have had a foot and trampling fetish along with a fascination for being controlled by a dominant female since early childhood. I was never exposed to any of these ideas and have no idea why I have them…I met my wife in college when I was 23. We dated for two before she discovered my fetishes by surfing my computer and coming across some articles, stories and videos I had saved. She had never even heard of trampling and certainly hadn’t experienced any type of fetish play…Well my secret that I had kept hidden for the past 20 years was now out of the bag…It was very humiliating but in a way it was a relief. Now I didn’t have to hide it…Now, I’m 33. She usually tramples me at least three times a week, sometimes more. She forces me to worship her feet and shoes while she tramples me. She even has me lay under her feet while she sits on the couch watching TV or reading. Sometimes with her high heels on, sometimes barefoot…she decides…My thighs, stomach and chest are covered in bruises and heel marks and I love every minute of it”

These accounts are typical of those I came across and many simply do not know how or why their fetish started. Others relate it back to very specific childhood incidents and suggest the fetish developed as part of a behavioural conditioning process (i.e., classical and/or operant conditioning). The fetish also appears to have behavioural and psychological overlaps with crush fetishism and macrophilia (deriving sexual pleasure and arousal by the the thought of being stepped on by a giant). However, crush fetishists and macrophiles claim their fetishes and paraphilic interests are distinct from trampling fetishes. This appears to be confirmed by potential Wikipedia authors debating the entry on crush fetishes. As one contributor asserts:

“Please make trampling a separate article. It is NOT similar to or derived from the crush fetish. While it may be related, it is CERTAINLY not a subcategory of crush fetish. 99% of crush fetishists do not have a trample fetish, and vice versa. The psychology behind it is fairly different, and trampling should not be considered as a subcategory of crush, but rather its own category or a subcategory of foot fetishism”

More specifically, a (non-scientific) survey carried out on the Mistress Destiny website asked its readers: Are trampling and crush fetish the same?” There were four responses that participants could select from and the results were that they are: (i) ‘absolutely different, shouldn’t even be in the same article’ (26.53%), (ii) ‘a little similar, but different enough to have two separate articles’ (54.04%), (iii) ‘very similar, enough to be in the same article’ (11.22%), and (iv) ‘pretty much the same fetish’ (8.16%). No information was given as to how many people participated but the very precise percentages suggests that hundreds if not thousands of people responded to the survey (although the respondents were self-selected and we have know way of knowing how representative the participants were of either the general public or a particular fetishistic sub-group). I suspect that the only way that trampling fetishes will be studied empirically is part of a wider study on sadomasochistic practices.

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

Further reading

Semple, K. (2009). Bartender, make it a stiletto. New York Times, June 10. Located at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/fashion/14carpet.html?_r=2&sq=carpet%20man&st=cse&adxnnl=1&scp=1&adxnnlx=1347984561-aHeCVlJANdIr6KwsZQrfvw

Sexy Tofu (2012). National Fetish Day: Interview with a trampler. January 20. Located at: http://sexytofu.com/tag/trampling/

Wikipedia (2012). Talk: Crush fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ACrush_fetish

Wikipedia (2012). Trampling. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trampling

The Velvet Revolution: Is ‘Venus in Furs’ the most radical song in popular music?

As regular readers of my blog will know, my overriding passion in life is music, and as a music lover my record and CD collecting (at times) borders on obsession. In a previous blog I looked at the extreme music of Throbbing Gristle. In today’s blog I want to make the case that the song Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground is perhaps the most radical song in the history of popular music. It also happens to be one of my all-time favourite songs and is arguably the song that (along with most of Adam and the Ants’ early recorded output) got me academically interested in sexual paraphilias.

Behavioural and psychological extremes run through the core of the Velvet Underground’s musical philosophy. For those who know nothing about them, the first thing to know is that they named themselves after a 1963 book by the journalist Michael Leigh about the secret sexual subculture in America (there was also a 1968 follow-up book called The Velvet Underground Revisited). In 1967, the book was republished in the UK (although the name of the book had changed to Bizarre Sex Underground). As the Wikipedia entry on the book notes:

“Leigh investigates aberrant sexual behavior between consenting adults, that is, everything other than simple intercourse conducted in privacy by a heterosexual couple, e.g., husband and wife swapping, group sex, sex orgy parties, homosexual activities, sado-masochism. The author reports on the various ways in which such practices are solicited (newspaper advertisements, clubs, etcetera), and by following these leads, manages to get into touch with many of its participants, usually through written correspondence. The book liberally treats us with quotations from this material. This is complemented with quotes from various magazines. The author’s general aim is to establish that a shift in attitude toward sexuality is taking place in society that not only allows a large cross-section of the American population to partake in such non-standard sexual practices, but also allows them to believe that what they are doing is perfectly healthy and normal”

The band was formed in New York in 1965 and grew out of the ‘fictional’ band The Primitives (comprising Lou Reed, John Cale, Walter De Maria, and Angus MacLise) who had a local hit with ‘The Ostrich’ (penned by Reed). They had various names including The Warlocks and The Falling Spikes before settling on The Velvet Underground (suggested by MacLise after finding a copy of Leigh’s book in the street). Following the departures of De Maria and MacLise, Reed and Cale recruited Sterling Morrison and Maureen (‘Mo’) Tucker and it is this incarnation of the band that features what most people consider the ‘classic’ line-up (although even after Cale left and was replaced by Doug Yule, I liked that line-up’s LPs too). Their first manager was the pop-artist Andy Warhol who parted ways with the group after the recording of their first (1967) album The Velvet Underground and Nico (that featured the German chanteuse Nico singing on three of the songs). As ‘non-musician’ Brian Eno once said of the Velvet Underground – they didn’t sell many records [in their lifetime], but everybody who bought their first album went out and formed a band.

During their short career, Reed and Cale penned some of the best and most extreme rock songs of all time. The topics of their songs included sado-masochism, bondage and submission (Venus in Furs), scoring drugs (I’m Waiting For The Man), heroin use (Heroin), amphetamine use (White Light, White Heat), transexualism (Candy Says), death (The Black Angel’s Death Song), accidental death (The Gift), murder (The Murder Mystery), sex-change operations (Lady Godiva’s Operation), female sexual problems (Here She Comes Now), and even one song that features drug use, violence, sexual orgies, homosexuality, transvestism, and fellatio (Sister Ray). Most music commentators often point out that the group’s provocative lyrics presented a nihilistic outlook on life.

Brian Duguid, in his 1995 A Prehistory of Industrial Music, said that the release of the Velvet Underground’s first album was a turning point for rock music as they were the first band to incorporate the avant-garde into their music (thanks to John Cale’s scholarship with La Monte Young and the influence of his ‘drone’ music). Duguid claims that the Velvet Underground combined avant-garde with one of the most alienated, hostile attitudes rock had so far developed”.

Venus in Furs (written by Reed) appeared on the Velvet’s first album and is arguably the group’s greatest and most sexually provocative song, and was based on the 1870 novella of the same name written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (whose name is the basis for the word ‘masochism’ as the book was semi-autobiographical; Sacher-Masoch considered himself the ‘slave’ of Baroness Bogdanoff, his mistress). Most of Sacher-Masoch’s stories featured a woman in furs. As Dr. Anil Aggrawal notes in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices:

“The term masochism was coined in 1886 by the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902), after a contemporary writer, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895), whose partially autobiographical novel Venus in Furs (1870) tells of the protagonist Severin von Kusiemski’s desire to be whipped and enslaved by a beautiful woman. Wanda von Dunajew. Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality”.

The song basically tells Sacher-Masoch’s story in music form. As the Wikipedia entry on the Venus in Furs novella notes:

“Wanda von Dunajew, the novel’s central female character, was modelled after Fanny Pistor, who was an emerging literary writer. The two met when Pistor contacted Sacher-Masoch, under assumed name and fictitious title of Baroness Bogdanoff, for suggestions on improving her writing to make it suitable for publication. [The story] concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while she wears furs. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severin, who tells him how to break him of his fascination with cruel women by reading a manuscript, Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man. This manuscript tells of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, who is so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he asks to be her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways. At first Wanda does not understand or accede to the request, but after humouring Severin a bit she finds the advantages of the method to be interesting and enthusiastically embraces the idea, although at the same time she disdains Severin for allowing her to do so. Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality. Severin and Wanda travel to Florence. Along the way, Severin takes the generic Russian servant’s name of ‘Gregor’ and the role of Wanda’s servant. In Florence, Wanda treats him brutally as a servant, and recruits a trio of African women to dominate him”

Around the time of the song being written, Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’ crowd were making movies with sadomasochistic themes such as 1965’s Vinyl (in which Edie Sedgwick played a dominatrix and Gerard Malanga played a masochist. Sterling Morrison claimed the song was “the closest [the Velvet Underground] ever came in my mind to being exactly what I thought [they] could be”. A contemporary review of the song in a 1967 issue of Vibrations magazine by Timothy Jacobs noted:

“’Venus in Furs’ is perhaps the best example of the severity of the music. The texture of the song is pure sado-masochism. The music is remarkable in its expression of this message; the words speak of a life of sheer pain and misery, with frequent mention of Severin, a sadistic monk from Justine [sic], by the Marquis de Sade”.

In his 1967 book Coldness and Cruelty, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze described both sadism and masochism as entire philosophical systems. To Deleuze, Sacher-Masoch and the Marquis de Sade are “great artists in that they discover new forms of expression, new ways of thinking and feeling and an entirely new language”. The same could perhaps be said of the Velvet Underground’s music. In The Post-subcultures Reader, David Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (like me) noted the sexually paraphilic overlap in the music of the Velvet Underground and Adam and the Ants:

Musical genealogies of American punk performance often begin with the Velvet Underground (Henry 1989), a band whose name is taken from a masochistic text, and whose song ‘Venus in Furs’ invokes Sacher-Masoch’s (1991) novel of the same title. In London, a decade later, it is Adam and the Ants who bring punk’s masochistic imagery to the fore. Having abandoned his art-college thesis in rubber and leather fetishism, Adam introduced S/M into his stage performances with songs such as ‘Whip my Valise’ and ‘Rubber People’ (Home 1988; Sabin 1999)”.

As far as I am concerned, Venus in Furs is the song that changed rock music forever. It featured subject matter that was so extreme in the 1960s that it sent out a message to any band that rock lyrics don’t have to follow a formula and that no topic is taboo. It let every band know that artistic merit had no boundaries and that record sales are not the be all and end all of musical success (something that John Cale echoed in his speech when the Velvet Underground were inducted into the US Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1996). If you’ve not yet discovered the delights of the Velvet Underground, then hopefully this blog will tempt you into sampling some of their musical wares.

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

Further reading

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

Deleuze, G. (1991). Coldness and Cruelty. In Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty & Venus in Furs (translated by J. McNeil). New York: Zone Books.

Duguid, B. (1995). A Prehistory of Industrial Music. London: ESTWeb.

Henry, T. (1989), Break All Rules! Punk Rock and the Making of a Style, Ann Arbour MI: UMI Research Press.

Heylin, C. (2005). All Yesterday’s Parties – The Velvet Underground In Print 1966-1971. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Hogan, P. (2007). The Rough Guide To The Velvet Underground. London: Penguin.

Home, S. (1988), Assault on Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War, London: Aporia Press and Unpopular Books.

Muggleton, D. & Weinzierl, R. (2003). The Post-subcultures Reader. Oxford: Berg

Sabin, R. (1999), ‘Introduction’, in R. Sabin (ed.), Punk Rock: So What? The Cultural Legacy of Punk, London and New York: Routledge.

Sacher-Masoch, L. von. (1989). Venus in Furs. New York: Zone Books.

Sexual healing: A brief examination of medical fetishism‬

I’m sure most of us can remember playing ‘doctors and nurses’ when we were kids but there are some people who never seem to grow out of it and engage in what has been termed ‘medical fetishism’. The fetish appears to be quite inclusive and wide ranging because the activity can comprise those (i) individuals who are sexually attracted to people in the medical profession, (ii) people (usually heterosexual males) who derive sexual pleasure from their female sexual partners to dress up in a nurse’s uniform, and/or (iii) individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from actually being the recipients of a medical or clinical procedure (usually some kind of bodily examination). Some of these behaviours may be paraphilias or specialized fetishes such as klismaphilia (i.e., sexual pleasure from the receiving of enemas) that I examined in a previous blog. There are also those whose fetish only concerns a very particular branch of medicine (such as dentistry).

The types of activity that have been reported as medical fetishes include genital and urological examinations (e.g., a gynecological examination), genital procedures (e.g., fitting a catheter or menstrual cup), rectal procedures (e.g., inserting suppositories, taking a rectal temperature, prostate massage), the application of medical dressings and accessories (e.g., putting on a bandage or nappy, fitting a dental retainer, putting someone’s arm in plaster), and the application and fitting of medical devices (e.g., fitting a splint, orthopedic cast or brace).

Some of these activities such as having a nappy, catheter, or orthopedic brace fitted may overlap with other sexual paraphilias listed in Dr. AnilAggrawal’ Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, such as infantilism (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from being an adult baby), catheterophilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from catheters), and apotemnophila (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from the thought of being an amputee). In the most extreme cases of medical fetishism, more invasive medical acts may be performed for sexual pleasure including giving injection, anaesthesia, and actual surgery. The sexual pleasure and arousal may occur in the giver and/or receiver, and much of the activity may be in the form of sexual role-play. As one online essay on medical fetishism noted:

“People with an extreme medical fetish use torturous medical devices, speculums, mouth and anal spreaders, enema kits, probes etc. They may even consent to false operations where they are surgically opened, and with nothing fixed or removed, sutured closed. An extreme medical fetish can be a dangerous thing…A medical fetish can include a sexual attraction to medical people. Doctor and nurse porn movies, people receiving medical examinations and so on. Most are simply role play”.

There are also sub-branches of medical fetishism that may have overlaps with sadomasochism and BDSM where (for instance) a female dominatrix may inflict a medical procedure on their willing submissive individual. Such activity often centres on sexual and/or sensitive body parts including the penis, testicles, nipples and anus. The instruments used may also be heated or cooled to heighten the pain/pleasure sensations. Given the potential danger involved in some of the activities performed and the fact the person administering the procedure (e.g., anaesthesia, surgery) may not have any formal medical training, the risk of permanent body damage – or in extreme cases, death – is a possibility. Here, the risk of something going wrong may also be sexually stimulating to the person, and there appears to be both physical and psychological overlaps with paraphilias such as hypoxyphilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from restricting oxygen supply to heighten sexual arousal).

Medical fetishism within sadomasochistic activity would therefore constitute ‘edgeplay’. This is a term used within the BDSM community that refers to sexual activities that push the boundaries of safety and are sometimes referred to as RACKs (Risk-Aware Consensual Kinks). Those involved in edgeplay are fully cognizant of the fact that their sexual behaviour may result in serious bodily harm and permanent damage.

In the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love notes that some people are sexually aroused by exposing themselves to medical practitioners, and that this is called ‘iatronudia’.  She claims that such people will pretend to be ill just so that they can undress in front of a doctor. This echoes with some online sources claim that those with medical fetishes may also feign injury and illness, or give themselves self-inflicted wounds just so that they can receive genuine medical help. Such activity would appear to have psychological overlaps with Factitious Disability Disorders such as Munchausen Syndrome (i.e., feigning illness to draw attention or sympathy from others). This type of behaviour may be considered somewhat safer for the medical fetishist (as the procedures would be carried out by someone who is medically trained) but is an abuse of others’ time and expertise.

Although there is almost no empirical research on medical fetishism, it would appear that most fetishes – particularly when they are very specific and specialized – are rooted in early childhood experiences and most likely caused by behavioural conditioning processes. For instance, those individuals who are only sexually turned on by being anaesthetized not only enjoy the act itself but will usually be sexually aroused by the sight of all the aneasthetic equipment and accessories (e.g., black rubber anaesthetic masks).

As with many other fetishes, the internet has fostered whole online communities of medical fetishists (such as the Gynecology and Medical Examination Fetish Forum or the My Male Medical Fetish; please be warned that these are sexually explicit sites). There is little scientific research on the etiology and psychology of medical fetishism although Dr. Brenda Love speculates that sexual games involving medicine are popular because of the anxiety connected with visiting a GP that “leads to a natural increase in energy in a sexual experience”. I can’t say I’m overly convinced by this explanation, but in the absence of anything more empirical, it’s one of the few views that a clinician has put forward.

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

Further reading

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

Bizarre Magazine (2010). Medical fetishism. December 1. Located at: http://www.bizarremag.com/fetish/fetish/10393/medical_fetish.html?xc=1

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Midori (2005). Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink Educational, Sensual, And Entertaining Essays. Daedalus Publishing.

Streetsie (2011). Disability fetish and medical fetish. August 19. Located at: http://www.streetsie.com/disability-fetish-medical-fetish/

Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_fetishism

Shrink rap: A beginner’s guide to microphilia

Microphilia appears to be an increasingly popular sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with small (miniaturized) people and/or a sexual fantasy involving small (miniaturized) people. It is the opposite to macrophilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from giants or giantesses) that I examined in a previous blog. Such fantasies appear to include the microphiles thinking of others shrinking in front of them (male or female, but shrinking women appears to be more popular based on the content I have looked at on dedicated websites). Alternatively, microphiles may fantasize about their sexual partner shrinking to an abnormal height while the microphiles themselves remain unchanged.

A small article on Wikifur claims that microphilia may be associated with masochism as opposed to sadism and also closely allied with other paraphilias such as vore [vorarephilia]”. The Urban Dictionary’s definition of microphilia claims that it is a fetish for unrealistically tiny people or the shrinking of” and that it is “popular in the furry fandom but not exclusive to [it]”. All of these alleged associations are anecdotally based as there has been no empirical research on microphilia whatsoever. As with macrophilia, the reason that this particular paraphilia appears to have increased massively over the last decade is because the internet has played a crucial role in helping create and facilitate the paraphilia. Because the paraphilia is almost totally fantasy-based, much of the material from which microphiles gain their sexual gratification is placed and distributed online. There is a wide range of microphile artwork, photographs, and video on the internet. Applications such as Photoshop are widely used to create collages of fake miniaturized people.

The term ‘microphilia’ is rarely used amongst the microphilic community. They prefer to use the acronym ‘SW’ (shrinking women). I presume there is also an ‘SM’ (shrinking men) community out thee too but they probably don’t use the SM acronym as in sexual circles that is far more likely to be see  as meaning ‘sadomasochism’. Arguably one of the best online forums that cater for those into all things sexually miniature is The Minimizer website. The person that runs the site says of microphilia that:

“It is one of those secret fantasies that’s rarely discussed publicly, sort of like bondage or domination but far less known, probably because it is not something that can be realized in reality. Mostly it’s enjoyed through the imagination, on film or photos/drawings, via writing, or through roleplaying (typically with oversized clothes).

 Basically, the fantasy centers around women being reduced in size. Everyone seems to have their own favorite height. Personally, I like around three inches, where they fit neatly in the palm but aren’t so small you can’t appreciate them. Others like them smaller, but the majority seem to enjoy seeing women at Barbie doll height. This allows them to be used in a variety of sexual ways”.

He also claims that there’s no specific size that seems to be favoured by the SW community, and that in general SW fans “can appreciate a tiny lady at any height, simply for the fact that she’s really small”.

 The sexual fantasies of microphiles appear to be well thought out and elaborate including the specific ways of how the person is shrunk in the first place. Many of these methods appear to have been influenced by film and television portrayals of shrinking humans and (according to The Minimizer’s website include “shrink rays, strange radiation, magic spells or potions, collapsed space, teleportation gone awry, science experiments, [and] alien abduction”.

The Minimizer also claims that not all SW fans are men and that there is a significant minority of women who are microphiles (although he claims that this is more the case of women wanting to be miniaturized themselves for sexual pleasure rather than deriving sexual pleasure from seeing other miniaturized people. There are many facets and dimensions to microphilic sexual fantasies. For instance, there are ethnic preferences for the type of women that microphiles like to see shrunk (such as those who are sexually aroused by a miniature Japanese woman (known as a ‘koonago’).  There are differences in the shrinking process as to whether the woman’s clothes shrink along with the body or whether the woman shrinks and the clothes remain the same size (causing her to be suddenly naked).

There are those that like to help the women (so the SW fan becomes a ‘gentle giant’) but there are those who do the opposite and want to hurt the shrunken woman. Here, there are crossovers with other sexually paraphilic behaviours such as sadism and masochism (including verbal and sexual humiliation). For instance, some male microphilic fantasies involve sexual violence against shrunken women who they hold as a captive and/or prisoner. Here, the microphiles may also be sexually aroused by the fact that the shrunken women may be in a distressed psychological state (e.g., scared, frightened, horrified, in shock, etc.) as a result of being miniaturized. There also appear to be crossovers with those people who are into transformation fetishes (which I covered in a previous blog).

There is very little written – even anecdotally – about the psychology behind microphilia. The Minimizer gave his own personal insight and claimed:

“A psychologist would tell you that a fantasy about shrinking women down to tiny size suggests some kind of subconscious hatred of women or a desire to dominate them. This may be true, I wouldn’t know…It’s unfair to generalize in this way, of course, because not everyone has the same SW fantasy. While some would indeed enjoy humiliating a tiny woman in a variety of nasty ways, just as many would see a miniature girl as something to be protected and taken care of, and would do anything they could to help one if they found one. Does that show a desire for domination? I doubt it.

 It’s really not fair to psychoanalyze a SW fan anyway. Shrinking is not something that can happen in real life”.

Until there is some empirical research undertaken, we can only speculate as to the psychological motivations underlying microphilia. Given that microphilia and macrophilia appear to be the psychological and behavioural opposites of one another (or at either end of the same continuum), it’s easy to speculate that if macrophiles’ enjoy the behaviour for it’s dominating aspects, then microphiles will enjoy the behaviour for it’s submissive aspects.

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

Further reading

The Minimizer (2012). What’s this SW thing, anyway? Located at: http://www.the-minimizer.com/

Wikifur (2012). Microphilia. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Microphilia

Smoker face: A brief overview of capnolagnia

Watch any film or television programme made before 2000 that features a post-coital couple in bed, and odds on, one (if not both) of them will be smoking a cigarette. I started with that anecdotal observation just by way of establishing that sex and cigarette smoking are (quite literally) not so strange bedfellows. However, for a small minority of people, smoking in and of itself can be sexually arousing and for some may even be a sexual paraphilia (called capnolagnia). Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices defines capnolagnia as a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from watching others smoke. The Collar ‘n’ Cuffs website adds in an article on smoking fetishism that the smoking can either be normal cigarettes or the smoking of marijuana spliffs.

The defining features of capnolagnia are outlined at the Right Diagnosis website. It is claimed that people who experience one (or more) of the following symptoms are considered to have a smoking fetish: (i) sexual interest in watching other people smoking, (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving watching other people smoking, and (iii) recurring intense sexual urges involving watching other people smoking. As far as I am aware, there is almost no empirical or clinical research on capnolagnia. Given that there are no treatment papers in the clinical and medical literature it suggests that either capnolagnia is rare and/or people who have the fetish live with it happily without feeling the need to seek treatment.

Arguably, it wasn’t really until the advent of the internet in the 2000s that people were even aware that smoking fetishes even existed. As with many other fetishes, like-minded people began to meet on online newsgroups (such as early groups like alt.smokers.glamour and alt.sex.fetish.smokers) and then escalated to trading stories, pictures, videos, and (now) DVDs. The overview on Wikipedia (arguably the most in-depth overview I’ve seen on smoking fetishism) claims that (like most fetishes) it has its roots in early childhood classical conditioning where smoking becomes paired with sexual response and/or psychodynamic theories rooted in Freud’s oedipal complex.

“These could include seeing the smoker as a stereotypically sweet, innocent individual behaving in ways that are considered taboo. For others, it stems from an attraction to more worldly people whose smoking epitomizes their strength and self-confidence. Within gay culture, this fetish often stems from the image of masculinity… Another cultural source for the fetish may be eroticized depictions of women who smoke that come from older motion pictures, especially from the film noir era… it has also been speculated that men who have smoking fetishes are more likely to have mothers who smoked, going back to the old belief that all men are secretly attracted to women who are just like their mothers”.

In a short article on “bizarre” fetishes, the Religious Sex website claims that there is a “darker and more extreme version” of capnolagnia found among the BDSM [bondage, dominance, submission, masochism) and female domination subcultures in which submissive partners may be treated like a human ashtray and forced by their dominant partner to swallow cigarette ash, have cigarette smoke blown continually into their face, and/or have cigarettes stubbed out on their naked flesh. The use of the submissive here as an inanimate item has overlaps with the humiliating and masochistic world of forniphilia (i.e., use of people as human furniture for sexual pleasure) that I examined in a previous blog.

The article in Wikipedia claims most smoking fetishists are heterosexual males but that there are significant minorities of gay men and bisexual men that also enjoy the behaviour (and an even smaller number of heterosexual women). More specifically, the article claims:

“Among heterosexual men, the fetish is often associated with oral fixations and fellatio and it is rather caused by the image of the woman smoking, than by the smell. It seems that the smell and taste of the cigarettes have a greater role to play in women’s smoking behavior than in that of men. Some fetishists have a fascination with the addictive properties of nicotine, and its ability to cause harm, and there is a sub-fetish relating to women being harmed by smoking, sometimes called “the dark side”, “black lung fetish” or “lung damage”. This has been interpreted as an element of misogyny in the community’s psychology”

The article on Wikipedia claims capnolagnia among gay men differs from that among heterosexual men. It is claimed that gay men become aroused at either ‘dominant’ men smoking or young (“innocent”) men initiating smoking for the first time. According to some online female domination sites, there are other sub-types of capnolagnia (described online as “sub-fetishes”), particularly in nicotine’s potential to cause harm and sometimes called “lung damage”.

For women this is seen in videos showing women smoking and coughing, suggesting self-destructiveness. More common videos are those showing a woman or a man in bondage, being forced to smoke or to inhale smoke. ‘Glamor’ smoking and ‘dark side’ smoking are the major divisions within the fetish. The glamor aspect of the fetish emphasizes the way smoking visually enhances women’s sexual appeal; the dark side links smoking to female domination, bondage and domination, and sadism/masochism. Both elements may be related to the appeal of the “bad girl” and the fantasy that even a “girl next door” type who smokes may be a tigress in the bedroom. A handful of producers specialize in videos appealing to one or both sides of the fetish…Ironically, as mainstream society has recognized the dangers of smoking, the effect has been to heighten interest in smoking fetishism. The more we recognize that smoking is bad for our health, the truer it becomes that only ‘bad’ girls smoke, and the more attractive they become to the smoking fetishist”.

I did a literature search on psychological databases for empirical research into capnolgania and identified only one paper that had even mentioned it. This was in a 2012 issue of the journal Tobacco Journal where the authors Dr Mary Carroll, Dr Ariel Shensa and Dr Brian Primack (all at the University of Pittsburgh, US) systematically analyzed YouTube videos with cigarette-related content. Their systematic search online yielded 66 cigarette-related videos for qualitative analysis. The researchers coded the overall portrayal of smoking as positive if the smoking was largely portrayed as attractive, fun, powerful, pleasurable, relaxing or sexy. Their findings showed that 9% of the videos analyzed contained fetishistic smoking content. Given the small sample size and the selective search methods used by the research team, we have no way of knowing if the results can be generalized.

However, I realized that after reading this paper that this was the latest in a number of studies that have looked at smoking and smoking fetish videos on YouTube (except in the previous studies no-one called it capnolagnia). For instance, an earlier study published in a 2010 issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research, by Dr. Susan Forsyth and Dr. Ruth Malone (both at the University of California, US) examined 124 of the most popular YouTube videos about cigarette use. They reported that the videos they analyzed frequently associated cigarettes with sexual themes and commonly portrayed cigarette smoking in a positive light (however, smoking fetishism wasn’t studied in isolation).

In a 2002 issue of the Journal of Health Commerce, Dr. T. Hong and Dr. M.J. Cody conducted a content analysis study of 318 pro-tobacco websites and examined the models in the photographs displayed on these websites. They reported that female models were most often portrayed in sex/fetish sites and were slim and attractive. Similarly, in 2003 in the journal Health Education and Behavior, Dr. Kurt Ribisl and his colleagues in North Carolina (US) also conducted a content analysis of over 1600 photographs displayed on 30 smoking websites and examined the amount of smoking and nudity displayed. Five of the websites mentioned smoking fetishes and 7% of the photographs contained nudity and smoking.

Another study, in a 2007 issue of Tobacco Control by Dr. Becky Freeman and Dr. Simon Chapman (University of Sydney, Australia), examined YouTube videos with smoking content and identified those videos were most commonly watched. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most watched pro-smoking videos were the smoking fetish and female smoking videos. Similarly, in a 2010 issue of the journal Health Communication, Dr Kyongseok Kim and colleagues conducted a content analysis of the smoking fetish videos on YouTube. Among the 139,000 videos that were located, a total of 2,220 (1.6% of all smoking videos) were smoking fetish videos. Although none of these studies tell us much about the etiology and psychology of smoking fetishes, they do tell us that there are a significant minority of smoking fetish sites out there, and that maybe capnolagnia is not as rare as first believed.

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

Further reading

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

Amos, A., & Haglund, M. (2000). From social taboo to “torch of freedom”: the marketing of cigarettes to women. Tobacco Control, 9, 3-8.

Carroll, M.V., Shensa, A. & Brian A Primack, B.A. (2012). A comparison of cigarette- and hookah-related videos on YouTube. Tobacco Control, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050253.

Collar ‘n’ Cuffs (2010). Smoking fetishism (capnolagnia). February 19. Located at: http://collarncuffs.com/resources/doku.php?id=capnolagnia

Forsyth, S.R. & Malone, R.E. (2010). I’ll be your cigarette-Light me up and get on with it”: Examining smoking imagery on YouTube. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 12, 810e16.

Freeman, B., & Chapman, S. (2007). Is ‘YouTube’ telling or selling you something? Tobacco content on the YouTube video-sharing website. Tobacco Control, 16, 207-210.

Hong, T., & Cody, M. (2002). Presence of pro-tobacco messages on the Web. Journal of Health Commerce, 7, 273-307.

Kim, K., Paek, H.J. & Lynn, J. (2010). A content analysis of smoking fetish videos on YouTube: regulatory implications for tobacco control. Health Communication, 25, 97-106.

Religious Sex (2012). “Bizarre” fetishes (Part 1). Gothic Fetish, May 8. Located at: http://www.religioussex.com/bizarre-fetishes/

Ribisl, K.M., Lee, R.E., Henriksen, L., & Haladjian, H.H. (2003). A content analysis of Web sites promoting smoking culture and lifestyle. Health Education and Behavior, 30, 64-78.

Right Diagnosis (2012). Capnolagnia. February 1. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/c/capnolagnia/intro.htm

Wikipedia (2012). Smoking fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_fetishism

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,558 other followers