Autoerotic sex drives! What is the relationship between sex and cars?

“I have a friend that get’s sexually excited by cars and rims, I’ve seen her melt down at the sight of a nice car and big rims. Funny – her mom is like that too, and I always thought she was just a gold digger!”

This opening quote hopefully highlights that for some there is a relationship between sex and cars. This relationship has been written about in both academic and non-academic books for many years (and no, this blog will not be looking at the car as a phallic symbol). However, in the world of paraphilias there are much fewer writings. There are a number of different paraphilias that have some association with cars. These include:

  • Mechanophilia: Sexual arousal from cars or other machines (and sometimes referred to as ‘mechasexuality’).
  • Symphorophilia: Sexual arousal from witnessing or staging disasters such as car accidents. (The main characters in the 1973 novel Crash by British author J.G. Ballard, and the subsequent 1996 film adaptation of the same name, are therefore symphorophiles).
  • Amomaxia: Sexual arousal from having sex in parked cars.

(There’s also case study evidence in a 2003 American Journal of Psychiatry review paper by Dr Jennifer Pate and Dr Glenn Gabbard on infantilism [where people get sexual arousal from being ‘adult babies’] that some ‘adult babies’ enjoy playing with toy cars – but even I think that’s stretching it a bit!). Cars have also been central to other paraphilic behaviours – such as hypoxyphilia – but I’ll return to that later.

In 1992, Dr Padmal De Silva and Dr Amanda Pernet (at the time both at the Institute of Psychiatry, London) published a case study in the journal Sex and Marital Therapy. The case involved an unusual sexual deviation in a young 20-year old British man (‘George’) who had little social interaction and was incredibly shy. They reported that his main sexual interest and excitement was from cars – particularly Austin Metro cars. George’s family belonged to a strict religious sect who strongly disapproved of any sexual involvement by their son with women. Things changed for George when his parents bough an Austin Metro car (the front of which reminded George of a smiling child-like face). George began masturbating inside the car, and then outside masturbating outside the car while crouching down next to the car’s exhaust pipe. Although he occasionally engaged in masturbating over scantily dressed pictures of women, he was far more sexually aroused by the Metro photographs in his bedroom.

So that he couldn’t be caught masturbating, he would go to great lengths to find deserted places to engage in his sexual activity with the car. He also became sexually excited by cars that resembled the look of the Metro (including the Fiat Uno, Ford Fiesta, and various makes of Vauxhall cars including the Astra and the Nova). George used to become very sexually excited when the car’s exhaust pipe was running and pumping out car fumes. This aspect of “elimination” – according to De Silva and Pernet – was an important central element in George’s other sexual preferences – particularly his fascination of urination. As a very young child he had an unusual interest in dogs urinating. After the age of 10 years, he was more interested in children and adult women urinating. The authors also speculated there may have been an increase in George’s arousal due to a “reduction of oxygen intake and related asphyxiation”. This was possibly seen as a mild form of hypoxyphilia.

George was eventually treated by a classical conditioning technique known as orgasmic reconditioning. This technique provided the opportunity for George to change the focus of his sexual arousal from cars to women. However, despite the therapy, he still retained a strong sexual interest in Metro cars. This type of therapy has been used in the treatment of other sexually fetishistic behaviours, but as reported in a number of published papers, overcoming the main fetish is very difficult for affected individuals.

More recently, there was worldwide media interest following a television programme in which Edward Smith, a 57-year old man from Washington State in the US, admitted to having had sex with over 1,000 cars. He also claimed he no longer had sexual interest in humans. His last normal relationship had been an unconsummated affair with a woman when he was 45-years old but he had not had sex since he was a young man. At the time of the programme, Smith was living with ‘Vanilla’ (a white Volkswagon Beetle) but was also having sexual relationships with ‘Cinnamon’ (an Opal GT) and ‘Ginger’ (a Ford Ranger Splash). His previous relationship to ‘Vanilla’ was another VW Beetle called ‘Victoria’. Smith went on to comment:

“I appreciate beauty and I go a little bit beyond appreciating the beauty of a car only to the point of what I feel is an expression of love. I’m a romantic. I write poetry about cars, I sing to them and talk to them just like a girlfriend. I know what’s in my heart and I have no desire to change. I’m not sick and I don’t want to hurt anyone, cars are just my preference. It’s something that grew as a part of me when I was a kid and I could not shake it. I just loved cute cars right from the beginning, but over the years it got stronger once I got into my teenage years and was my first having sexual urges. “When I turned 13 and the famous Corvette Stingray came about, that car was pure sex and just an incredible machine. I wanted it. I didn’t fully understand it myself except that I know I’m not hurting anyone and I do not intend to. There are moments way out in the middle of nowhere when I see a little car parked and I swear it needs loving. There have been certain cars that attracted me and I would wait until nighttime, creep up to them and just hug and kiss them. As far as women go, they never really interested me much. And I’m not gay”

At the age of 15 years, Smith first had sex with a car but had also had sex with other forms of transportation. In fact Smith claimed that his best sexual experience was having sex with a helicopter from the US television series Airwolf. Smith went on to claim he is part of a global community of more than 500 mechasexual “car lovers” that communicate via online forums. Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York City sex therapist commented that in general “there is an exhibitionistic element for the person being stimulated by machine, as well as general submission/domination themes”.

In a 2010 issue of the Internet Journal of Human Sexuality, Amy Marsh described what she claims is the first ever research study conducted on a group of 40 “objectophiles” (i.e., “people who experience emotional, romantic, affectionate and/or sexual relationships with objects”), of which 21 shared their experiences. One of those who shared their experiences of ‘mechasexuality’.

He had been aware of his mechasexuality for one to five years.

“I’ve been in love with my mom’s car and my own car since I got it bought. My car’s appearance is what attracts me the most. [I enjoy intimacy with the cars] between twice a week and once every three weeks [and] involves cuddling and such affectionate activity, and sometimes masturbation…However, I’d like to mention that although there can be a little amount of mental role play, I am fully aware that objects are inanimate and that this mostly is a one-sided relation. Although I may consider a human relationship eventually, it has not happened yet.”

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the case of the 40-year old US male airline pilot (and also married and father of two children). His case was recounted in the Journal of Forensic Sciences by Dr J.C. Rupp (County Examiner’s Office, Texas, USA). The man left his home at 6am in the morning and told his wife that he was going shooting in the country. He was found naked except for a large-link 10-foot chain harness secured around his body. (The harness was tied around the man’s neck in a moderately tight loop and bolted. The chain then went down his chest and was tied into another loop around his waist. This was tied to the bumper of the car) at 7.30am in the morning in a remote area crushed against the left fender of his car (equivalent of a VW Beetle). The engine was still running, ignition was on and the driver’s door was still open. The steering wheel was tied so that it would go round in anti-clockwise circles. His clothes were in the boot of the car. Reconstruction of the events leading to his death showed that he was either being dragged round by the car or following the car producing feelings of asphyxia. When he had finished his sexual turn-on he had tried to approach the car door but had forgotten to undo the chain from the bumper. The chain had got tangled up in the car’s axle and the man was found strangled to death by the chain. This is clearly a case of a car being used to facilitate another paraphilia (i.e., hypoxyphilia). Clearly, this is a very extreme case, but like the other cases outlined in this article, they do at least show that for some people, cars are an integral part to their sexuality and sex life.

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

Further reading

Daily Telegraph (2008). Man admits having sex with 1,000 cars. May 21. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2000899/Man-admits-having-sex-with-1000-cars.html

De Silva, P. & Pernet, A. (1992). Pollution in ‘Metroland’: An unusual paraphilia in a shy young man. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 7, 301-306.

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm

Pate, J. & Gabbard, J.O. (2003). Adult baby syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1932-1936.

Rupp, J.C. (1973). The love bug. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 18, 259-262.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on April 1, 2012, in Compulsion, Obsession, Paraphilia, Popular Culture, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Gives “Pimp my ride” a whole new meaning.

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