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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

It’s the pits: A brief look at maschalagnia

Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices defines maschalagnia as a fetish for armpits, and also defines maschalophilous (slightly differently) as arousal from armpits – although a quick internet search will highlight that most sources use these two words interchangeably to mean the same thing. According one (gay) fetish website, the attraction to armpits can be based on a number of factors and senses, but claims it is the olfactory (smell) and visual components are the most common sensory factors involved when it comes to armpit sexual arousal.

Other armpit related sexual practices include hircusophilism (a sexual preference for underarm hair), and axillism (the use of the armpit for sex, and known more colloquially as ‘bagpiping’). There are a surprising number of fetishistic websites purely devoted to the sexual allure of armpits (e.g., Armpit FetishArmpit Sex, Armpit Licking, Girl Pits [‘The Original Underarm Fetish Forum”], Man On Man Armpits). Most of these people enjoy kissing, tasting, smelling their partner’s armpits during sexual foreplay. Sometimes they ask their sexual partners not to shower, bathe or wash their armpits, so that the smell is as strong as possible. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices claims that sexual arousal from armpits:

“…is more common in Europe where women allow their armpit hair to grow. This area is very sensitive to the flicker the tongue or the warmth of a penis. Unshaven hair is also said to retain pheremones, the sex hormones that cause arousal when inhaled. The advantages of axillism for men are that of a tight fit, friction against the penis, close proximity to the breasts, and no risk of pregnancy or disease. Axillism, when engaged in within a day of shaving, produces more sensation but later underarm stubble can cause irritation of the penile skin”.

As far as I am aware, there is no empirical evidence suggesting that armpit fetishism is more prevalent in Europe and my feeling that this is educated guesswork on Dr. Love’s part. In Volume 4 of his Studies in the Psychology of Sex from the early 1900s, the British psychologist and early sexologist Havelock Ellis made many references to armpits and sex. For instance, he notes that:“Before coitus the sexual energy seems to be dissipated along all the nerve-channels and especially along the secondary sexual routes, the breasts, nape of neck, eyebrows, lips, cheeks, armpits, and hair”. He then goes on to say later in the book how the focus of sexuality can shift:

“The odour of the body, like its beauty, in so far as it can be regarded as a possible sexual allurement, has in the course of development been transferred to the upper parts. The careful concealment of the sexual region has doubtless favoured this transfer. It has thus happened that when personal odour acts as a sexual allurement it is the armpit, in any case normally the chief focus of odour in the body, which mainly comes into play, together with the skin and the hair”.

He also cites a case study from Féré’s 1902 book L’Instinct Sexuel. Féré is arguably the first academic to mention the fetishistic properties of armpits when he wrote:

“Sometimes the odour of the armpit may even become a kind of fetish which is craved for its own sake and in itself suffices to give pleasure. Féré has recorded such a case, in a friend of his own, a man of 60, with whom at one time he used to hunt…On these hunting expeditions he used to tease the girls and women he met…when he came upon them walking in the fields with their short-sleeved chemises exposed. When he had succeeded in introducing his hand into the woman’s armpit he went away satisfied, and frequently held the hand to his nose with evident pleasure. After long hesitation Féré asked for an explanation, which was frankly given. As a child he had liked the odour, without knowing why. As a young man women with strong odours had stimulated him to extraordinary sexual exploits, and now they were the only women who had any influence on him. He professed to be able to recognize continence by the odour, as well as the most favourable moment for approaching a woman”.

Ellis’ book also contains a section where he claims that some men can detect menstruating women from the smell of their armpits. Although this is not sexual in and of itself, more those men who engage in menophilia (a sexual paraphilia where individuals derive sexual arousal from menstruating females), the armpits may be an indirect sexual stimulus Ellis argues that the attraction is mostly directed towards the “strong pungent odour of the armpit” as it is the most powerful in the body, sufficiently powerful to act as a muscular stimulant even in the absence of any direct sexual association. As one website’s description of armpit fetishism notes:

Armpit odour is an aphrodisiac for some people. The smell acts as a muscular stimulant, naturally encouraging arousal, reminding armpit lovers of their favourite part of the opposite sex’s body. Compared to other fetishes, it’s not that weird. But don’t tell that to people in Singapore, where an armpit-loving man was recently sentenced to sentenced to 14 years in jail and 18 strokes of the cane”

One online essay at an “adult” site (you’ve been warned if you click on the link) has briefly examined armpit fetishes and had a small section entitled ‘psychological aspects’. However, it really didn’t give any psychological insight at all. The anonymous author speculated that:

“I think the act of licking another person’s armpit or breathing in their odour are a means of striving for intimacy, on a very base level. A person’s musk is very distinctive; very much a product of that individual and how their body processes various consumables…Or it could be a physical reaction having to do with the taste and smell of a man’s underarms, in their natural form: minus cologne, antiperspirant, and the like. Pheromones, commonly believed to trigger a social response in members of the same species, are produced by the skin’s apocrine sebaceous glands, secreted via armpits and found in sweat”

As with many of the paraphilias and fetishes that I’ve examined of late, there is little empirical research on maschalagnia or armpit sexual practices more generally. Reference to sexual aspects of armpits sometimes crop up in the academic literature on gay sexual preferences. For instance, in a 1987 issue of the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, Dr. David  Moskowitz and Dr. Michael Roloff examined sexual practices in relation to ‘bug chasing’ (relating to a small group of gay men who attempt to voluntarily contract the HIV virus). They noted that among gay BDSM (bondage, dominance, submission, (sado)masochism) practitioners, a small but significant minority were into dominant and/or submissive ‘armpit play’.

Maybe the area is just too trivial for academic and/or clinical study as it’s not a condition that requires medical, psychiatric and/or psychological intervention. In fact, the only snippet I came across was a 2006 book chapter in Key Topics in Sexual Health by Steve Baguley on ‘pediculosis pubis’ (crab lice) reminding readers that such lice (as part of a sexually transmitted disease) can be found in armpit hair as well as pubic hair.

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.

Baguley. S. (2006). Pediculosis pubis (crab lice). In S. Baguley, S. Kumar & R. Persaud (Eds.), Key Topics in Sexual Health (pp.150-162). London: Taylor and Francis.

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

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

Moskowitz, D.A. & Roloff, M.E. (1997). The ultimate high: Sexual addiction and the bug chasing phenomenon. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 14, 21-40,

Wonderland Burlesque (2011). Acquired Tastes, Chapter II: Armpits, January 22. Located at: http://wonderlandburlesque.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/acquired-tastes-chapter-2-armpits.html

Sacred hearts: What is the relationship between sex and religion?

“I have a sexual attraction and fetish for religious objects and people who get off on having sex or masturbating while in a religious setting. People might think that this type of fetish is an act of deliberate blasphemy, complete with visions of Linda Blair ramming a crucifix into herself while mocking a priest” (quote supplied by ‘The Goddess’)

Sex and religion have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship. When the two intersect there is often controversy, heated debate, and/or scandal. A book chapter by David Steinberg on sexologist Alfred Kinsey (in Russ Kick’s 2005 edited collection Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong) noted that:

“The publication of Kinsey’s study in 1948 [on male sexual behaviour] was the opening salvo of a monumental battle that has been raging ever since between science (factual information) and religion (moral judgment) on the subject of sex. [There is an] ongoing conflict between secular and theological forces for control of sexual desire and behavior in America”

In the same book, Joseph Slade also made the interesting observation that talking about pornography is a lot like talking about religion: Nearly everyone brings to the subject assumptions that color the debate”. When I started researching material for this article I came across a really interesting historical aside in relation to religion and fetishes. Dr. AnilAggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices wrote that the word ‘fetishism’:

“…arose from ‘fetish’, a term used in anthropology for an object believed to have supernatural powers. Early Christians frequently attributed magical and metaphysical powers to such objects as skulls, bones of saints, severed and mummified fingers and arms, etc. These objects were referred to as ‘fetiches’ (sic). When 15th century Portuguese explorers arrived in West Africa and discovered that local people had their own fetiches in the form of religious carvings and other inanimate objects, they began to refer to those inanimate objects as fetiches too. The French writer Charles de Brosses (1709-1777) coined the term fetishism in 1756 (in an anthropological sense) and developed the concept of religious fetishism in his 1760 [book] Duculte des Dieux Fétiches, where he discussed the worship of material objects such as amulets and talismans among ancient and contemporary African populations. De Brosses called this cult ‘fétichisme’ after ‘fétiche’ derived from the Portuguese trading term ‘feitiço’, which designated the small objects and charms on which European merchants would take oaths in sealing commercial agreements with Africans”.

Dr. Aggrawal then noted that when early sexologists were looking for a term to describe sexual fixation on inanimate objects, they borrowed from the Portuguese term because – like a religious fetish – an erotic fetish “also possessed magical powers” (i.e., it had the capability to sexually arouse emotions in those who otherwise seemed asexual).

“If a person who could not be aroused by normal erotic stimuli (say, a nude woman) could be aroused by an inanimate object, say, a sandal or a shoe, the object did have a kind of magical power on that person, and was thus a fetish”.

However, there are small numbers of people who are allegedly sexually aroused by religious artefacts, rituals, and/or behaviour. For instance, hierophilia was defined by Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices as a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from religious and sacred objects. He also made reference to teleophilia (i.e., those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from religious ceremonies). Aggrawal reported that elements of sexual sadism were present in several Western European medieval religious ceremonies involving flagellation. For instance, in an early 15th-century Catalan painting (The Flagellation of Christ), those inflicting pain on Jesus appeared to be deriving sexual pleasure from their activities.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices described hierophilic acts as including masturbating with crosses or masturbating on church pews. She also notes that someone from Austin, Texas (US) wrote to her to say they had broken into churches at night to have sex on the altar. She also reported that:

‘Many of the early goddess religions revered sex and included it as part of their worship. Statues, animals, priests, and priestesses were all provided for congressants’ sexual gratification at one time or another”.

A 2005 book chapter by Dr. Jenny Wade (also in Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong) makes some interesting connections between transcendent sex and religion. More specifically she says:

“The fact is, the ordinary act of lovemaking can be the most widely available path to higher consciousness for most people. People who have experienced a transcendent episode during sex usually believe they have tapped into divine forces, even if they are atheists or agnostics. These experiences are so extreme, they change people’s views of sex and spirituality…This provides an explanation for the sexual-spiritual basis of most ancient religions by showing that mystical experiences happen every day in the bedroom to a significant portion of the population. Sacred sex is still going on…The act of lovemaking can trigger intense episodes that feature the identical characteristics found in the highest spiritual states documented in such diverse religions as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as those cited in the annals of yoga and recent research on shamanism”.

In a previous blog examining genital self-mutilation (GSM), I noted that some research had indicated that some males who engage in GSM do so for religious reasons. GSM as part of a religious belief are typically diagnosed as having Klingsor Syndrome. This was derived from the character Klingsor in Parsifol (a Wagner opera) who engaged in an act of self-castration to gain entry into the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Holy Grail. According to Samir Shirodkar and colleagues in the Saudi Medical Journal, group genital mutilation is a custom of a sect of Australian Aborigines where the blood is drunk by the infirm (who believe it restores their health).

A speculative online essay abut hierophilia written by ‘The Goddess’ made a number of claims about the behaviour although there was no empirical support to support her claims. The said that:

“The majority of those who reportedly practice hierophilia are in fact deeply devoted to their religion. Theories as to why a person may develop this unusual fetish go to both biological and psychological levels. Frequent churchgoers are often subjecting themselves to a very highly charged atmosphere (such as a religious revival) that tends to get emotions running high among the congregation. These joyous emotions can often manifest themselves into sexual arousal, especially if the members of the congregation have very close bonds to one another…It is not difficult for one to make the connection between religious settings and sexual arousal. Over a period of time, a hierophiliac becomes conditioned to respond to religious icons or locations with feelings of sexual excitement, or even begin to associate the act of sex itself as a religious experience”.

The article also claims that hierophilia is far less common among atheists. She also speculates that the hierophile derives sexual pleasure from the objects or in the places of their particular religion, but is simultaneously overwhelmed with the guilt that their sexual behaviour is sinful and that they are an evil person for having such thoughts. Because of this, the hierophilic behaviour is claimed to be sexually masochistic.

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.

Gibson, I. (1978). The English Vice: Beating, Sex and Shame in Victorian England and After. London: Duckworth.

The Goddess (undated). My strongest proclivities: Religious sexuality. http://www.angelfire.com/vamp2/kinkygoddess/Religion.html

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

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

Shirodkar, S.S., Hammad, F.T. & Qureshi, N.A. (2007). Male genital self-amputation in the Middle East: A simple repair by anterior urethrostomy. Saudi Medical Journal, 28, 791-793.

Steinberg, D.  (2005). Everybody’s sin is nobody’s sin: Alfred Kinsey and the breaking of sexual silence. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.57-60).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Wade, J. (2005). Transcendent sex. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.13-17).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Crash and turn on: A brief look at chremastistophilia and symphorophilia

“Okay so I was chatting on a website and this guy approached me saying he wanted to be blackmailed for money. He told me he would give me $100 on Thursday if I logged into his Facebook account and humiliated him. I’m a little freaked out, but what should I tell him??” (query from ‘answers.yahoo.com‘)

In a previous blog I examined hybristophilia (a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from having a sexual partner who is known to have committed serious crimes, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery). Another criminally-related paraphilia is chremastistophilia. In this paraphilia, the individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from being robbed, conned, cheated, blackmailed and/or being held up by the individual’s sexual partner (or in a few cases, a complete stranger). Some websites (such as kinkify.com) colloquially refer to it as the “hold-up kink”.

Some have speculated that the strong emotions of frustration, fear, annoyance, rage, and/or submission are subconsciously drawn upon by chremastistophiles and then focused into sexual arousal/gratification. This could be viewed as ‘edge play’ (i.e., rough and deviant sexual play enjoyed by sexual masochists and sexual sadists) as the behaviour can be life threatening for chremasistophiles to actively seek out someone to steal from them purely for sexual kicks.

The reciprocal condition where the sexual focus is on charging or robbing one’s sexual partner has not been given a name. Those people who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from breaking and entering a property (and then stealing) is known as kleptophilia (which I overviewed in a previous blog). In my research into chremastistophilia, I have yet to come across a single piece of empirical research on the topic. Most of the evidence appears to be anecdotal. For instance, the cult novelist and multi-media artist Kris Saknussemm has noted:

“I’ve met several chremastistophiles, all of whom had been arrested on petty charges at some point in their lives – drug possession, minor theft, etc. All expressed a strong libido, but also a climax dysfunction. They got aroused, they just didn’t get off easily. What magical thing finally provided that long-awaited release? The experience of being taken advantage of – which is different from out-and-out assault. It’s a variation on biastophilia, the perverse attraction to being raped, but the key distinction seems to lie in the impending threat itself. “Give me your wallet and nobody gets hurt” – that kind of thing. One British gentleman proudly displayed the scar he received from a knife wound in the course of a mugging – an event which he said led to a spontaneous ejaculation, the most powerful and substantial he’d ever experienced”

Dr Billi Gordon and Dr James Elias claim that chremastistophilia is accepted as potentially lethal alongside other criminally related paraphilias such as hybristophilia and autassassinophilia (where the individual derives sexual arousal by the by the risk of being killed). Unfortunately, I cannot find a single academic or clinical study that has ever been published in a peer reviewed journal so this is clearly an area that is crying out for some empirical research. There was a theoretical paper published in 2004 on autassassinophila by Lisa Downing (Queen Mary, University of London). She used used the case of Sharon Lopatka, a Maryland woman who instigated her own sexual murder in 1996. She said:

“It demonstrates that the phenomenon of being murdered for pleasure problematizes commonplace assumptions about the legitimacy to consent. The discussion recalls and refreshes existing debates in feminism and the politics of sadomasochism and reads them alongside the rhetoric surrounding the ethics of medically assisted suicide. Consenting to murder for pleasure is revealed as a formulation that exceeds the terms of informed consent as it is currently understood and thereby constitutes an ethical and logical aporia”.

Another strange paraphilia with a potentially criminally-based sexual focus is symphorophilia. This is a paraphilia that Professor John Money said related to individuals who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from witnessing and/or stage-managing a “disaster, such as a conflagration or traffic accident, and watching for it to happen”. Again, I have yet to come across any empirical research on the topic although I did briefly examine this paraphilia in relation to sex and cars in one of my previous blogs (and another blog I wrote on objectum sexuality). It has been alleged that in very rare cases, an accident that may injure or even kill someone may bring the symphorophile to the point of orgasm quicker. The condition is probably better known in popular culture than in academic terms. For instance, the main characters in the 1973 novel Crash by British author J.G. Ballard (and the subsequent 1996 film adaptation of the same name) were symphorophiles. Part of the Crash Wikipedia entry on Ballard’s Crash novel motes:

“The story is told through the eyes of narrator James Ballard, named after the author himself, but it centers on the sinister figure of Dr. Robert Vaughan, a ‘former TV-scientist, turned nightmare angel of the expressways’. Ballard meets Vaughan after being involved in a car accident himself near London Airport. Gathering around Vaughan is a group of alienated people, all of them former crash-victims, who follow him in his pursuit to re-enact the crashes of celebrities, and experience what the narrator calls ‘a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology’. Vaughan’s ultimate fantasy is to die in a head-on collision with movie star Elizabeth Taylor”.

In the film, the Wikipedia entry notes:

“Ballard becomes one of Vaughan’s followers who fetishise car accidents, obsessively watching car safety test videos and photographing traffic accident sites. Ballard drives Vaughan’s Lincoln convertible around the city while Vaughan picks up and uses street prostitutes, and later Ballard’s wife. In turn, Ballard has a dalliance with one of the other group members, Gabrielle a beautiful woman whose legs are clad in restrictive steel braces, and who has a vulva-like scar on the back of one of her thighs, which is used as a substitute for a vagina by Ballard. The film’s sexual couplings in (or involving) cars are not restricted to heterosexual experiences. While watching videos of car crashes, Dr. Remington becomes extremely aroused and gropes the crotches of both Ballard and Gabrielle, suggesting an imminent ménage a trios”.

As with chremastistophilia, I have been unable to find a single clinical or academic study published in a peer-reviewed journal so it wouldn’t be too much an educated guess that such a paraphilia is incredibly rare.

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

Further reading

Downing, L. (2004). On the limits of sexual ethics: The phenomenology of autassassinophilia. Sexuality and Culture, 8, 3-17.

Gordon, W.A. & Elias, J.E. (2005). Potentially lethal modes of sexual expression. Paper presented at the 2005 Western Region Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

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

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

Wikipedia (undated). Crash (1996 film). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crash_(1996_film)

Wikipedia (undated). Crash (J.G. Ballard novel). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crash_(J._G._Ballard_novel)

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