A crying shame: A brief overview of dacryphilia

“Lips that taste of tears, they say, are the best for kissing” (from Dorothy Parker’s 1926 poem ‘Threnody’)

Dacryphilia (also known as dacrylagnia) is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal from the sight of tears or seeing someone crying. However, some definitions appear to have been widened the definition of dacryphilia to include (i) sexual arousal from someone displaying strong emotion and/or (ii) sexual arousal from the emotional release that accompanies crying (i.e., an “emotional catharsis”).

In researching this blog, I was unable to find a single academic study on the topic. All of the material presented here comes from online sources. There are certainly individuals out there who get their kicks from people cying. Just check out sites like ‘Sad Little Girls’. My reading of these sites suggests there are two fundamentally different types of dacryphiles that I will call (i) sadistic dacryphiles and (ii) voyeuristic dacryphiles.

Sadistic dacryphiles: Watching someone else cry is not something that people want to see (as we do not usually gain gratification from seeing others psychologically suffer). Therefore, one particular paraphilia that dacryphilia is closely associated with is that of sexual sadism. Here, the dominant partner’s sexual arousal often results from seeing a submissive (who may or may not be a sexual masochist) in emotional distress. The emotional distress may result from psychological humiliation by the sexual sadist who may verbally taunt the submissive into crying. It is the elicitation of the tearful response by the submissive that results in the most sexual arousal for the dominant partner. In extreme cases, sexual sadists may physically torture their partners into crying. As one such dacryphile says:

Evoking tears is unequivocally one of the most satisfying to my sadistic tendencies. Other sexually controlling behaviors are often fun, but may lack a real visual representation to validate whether or not I’m truly controlling her emotionally

For the sadist, the psychological reinforcement lies in the power and control they have over their submissive and compliant partner (referred to as ‘power play’). Knowing that their direct (verbal and/or physical) actions have directly caused the crying is highly rewarding and reinforcing to the sadistic dacryphile.

Voyeuristic dacryphiles: There are also non-sadistic dacryphiles that get sexual pleasure by being a third party bystander that watches ‘power play’ leading to crying in the submissive. There are also voyeuristic dacryphiles who are sexually aroused by crying whatever the cause. As one male voyeuristic dacryphile said:

“I definitely have dacryphilia. I get extremely turned on physically and emotionally by crying women. When I see a woman crying, I want to hold her and soothe her, make her feel safe and comforted. For that reason I tend to date needy women. I enjoy their vulnerability because of sympathy, not sadism. I also enjoy making them feel better”

Another female who I would class as a voyeuristic dacryphile reported:

“It’s not ALWAYS more pleasurable for the dacryphiliac to cause the tears. I’m a dacryphiliac and I would prefer not to be the one making the other person cry. I’m also a woman, not a dominant man, and comforting the crier is a major part of the fetish for me, as it is for many dacryphiliacs I have interacted with online. Don’t be sad for us – we’re not all sadistic creeps. Just people who have the misfortune to have found that tears are the most arousing stimulus for us. Having realised I cannot change this, I’m learning to accept that I am always going to hope that the protagonist of a film will cry and that my sexual partner’s preferred form of release of frustration is crying. Hopefully you can see that it can actually be pretty harmless and non-sadistic? Fetishes can manifest in many different ways depending on the individual”

The roots of dacryphilia are unknown but are likely to be rooted in early conditioning experiences (both classical and operant conditioning). As one blogger (who appears to be a submissive in the BDSM community judging from their website domain name – One Sub’s Mission) talking about dacryphilia speculates:

“I wish I could get inside the head of someone with a [dacryphilic] fetish. I’m willing to wager there is an internal struggle between being the protector, and the bully. After all, some of the rawest, and most honest emotions come from dark places; intense pain, or psychological play (like degradation or humiliation – and not in that fun Who’s a dirty whore? way). For many criers, the tears simply will not come until a line has been crossed (as it was put in the Fetlife group ‘willing participants rarely cry’. But there is a difference between shoving someone over the line then pulling them back, and kicking them over that line, then metaphorically kick them when they’re already down. I wonder how easily can the top tell the difference between crying from a good place vs. a bad place, and at the time, do they even care? Do they feel guilt or shame for their arousal at the distress of another? Is this a type of play that requires after care for the top?  What if it’s in a non-sexualized context?”

As with other paraphilic behaviours, it would also appear that some people are very specific in how they are sexually aroused from crying. As one male confessing in an online fetish discussion group said:

“I’m turned on by women who cry with their bottom lip stuck out. I’ve had this weird fetish since I was five. When the bottom lip sticks out, gets bulgy or curls downwards and the chin goes upwards and wrinkles – that’s an immediate turn on. I’ve come across dacryphiliacs who are turned on by tears, or by submission – but for me, it’s about the bottom lip. I’m starting to think I’m the only person on this planet with this problem”

This quote clearly shows how very specific the sexual focus in dacryphilia can be (i.e., the crying having to be accompanied by the protruding bottom lip). This would certainly be indicative of a powerful classically conditioned response as the stimuli for the sexual arousal is so very specific. Given there is not a single case study in the academic literature, this is a paraphilic behaviour (which if you will excuse the bad pun) is crying out for research.

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

Further reading

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

Holmes, S.T. & Holmes, R.M. (2002). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

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

Monroe, W. (2012). Fetish of the week: Dacryphilia. February 23. Located at: http://www.zzinsider.com/blogs/view/fetish_of_the_week_dacryphilia

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

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished 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”. In 2013, he was given the Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 800 research papers, five books, over 150 book chapters, and over 1500 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 3500 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 July 27, 2012, in Case Studies, Obsession, Paraphilia, Psychiatry, Psychological disorders, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Great post. Shocked at how little research there is into fetishes generally. It appears that they seem most often to be crystallized by some childhood experience and then becomes internally tied to their sexuality, often permanently. I think the sheer range of fetishes seems to be a reflection of the range of possible life experiences. Surely life long fixations are a worth area of study. I also wonder if they might form out of some kind of developmental or neural abnormality, it would be hard to argue that there is anything useful about many of these fetishes in regards to adaptation. From an evolutionary perspective anything that minimizes or makes difficult the opportunity for sexual intercourse would surely be somewhat counter productive.

  2. I really want to find a woman who is into dacryphilia. I have masochistic fantasies of being sadistically made to cry and also of being comforted after crying. I wish I could first have a partner who is into the sadistic side who would push me over the edge for her own pleasure. Then I would want a partner who would get off from getting me to cry out all my internal pain and then really get off on soothing and comforting me. I kind of know where this comes from. When I was younger my mother would call me names and insult me until I finally broke down and cried. Once I started crying she would say she was sorry, hug me and comfort me. I guess I’m looking for the same thing now from a woman. Sick, I know.

    • That’s very interesting, actually, and thanks for saying it. In a sense it’s totally harmless; I couldn’t imagine intentionally hurting someone to that point of psychological distress, for my pleasure or his, but it makes total sense.

      • You’re welcome. I know it would be hard to find a partner that was into it, but in a sense I think it would be theraputic. Do you have this kind of fetish?

    • I have that fetish:)

    • I am a woman who is IMMENSELY aroused by comforting and soothing crying men. I’m not very good at making people cry- but when people are crying, you better believe I will hold them, rub their back, stroke their hair, whisper soothing words into their ear and cuddle the day lights out of them. I think about comforting people on a daily basis and have been this way since I was five. I’ll think of random scenarios where I accidentally make someone cry and rush over to them to comfort them or scenarios of comforting someone who was already crying. I’ve probably thought of every crying scenario out there because I have to fantasize about comforting every single night in order to sleep peacefully. Sometimes, I’ll roll my blanket up in a ball and hold it close to me, pretending it’s a man crying in my arms. Even typing this out is turning me on so much, I’m so obsessed. It makes me really, really, really happy to know that there are men out there who are aroused by being comforted. I really hope I get the honor to meet a likeminded man in person so he knows who to go to when he wants a good cry. Sorry for the rambling, just my gosh I love comforting people!

    • Well, i have dacryphilia. And, i am sadist too. We seem to be a heavenly match,aren’t we?

  3. Wow… So THAT’S what it’s called. I thought I was the only one who had that fetish, and I didn’t even know it was an actual fetish! I always dismissed it as sadism! XD ever since I was a kid I enjoyed hitting boys and making them cry. And now that I’m grown I usually restrain my partner, then ‘play with’ his body, calling him all sorts of nice things, then hurting him JUST to make him cry, and then I comfort him, kiss/lick his tears away, indulge in really weird ‘historical/mythical/artistic/literary’ role-play…etc. bonus points if he’s an androgynous/feminine kinda dude, mmmmm~<3 I like hurting girly-boys then making them feel better for some reason.
    dang, I need help XDDD

    • BM2011 you should like my kind of partner. Are you female? If so damn I would love to meet you because I’m sort of what you’re looking for. Its not sadism if its consensual so you don’t need help.

  4. I sure hope you two at least meet (Chris & BM2011). Such a rare find it would be a shame if you didn’t at least go for the possibilities. Good luck!

  5. I absolutely adore guys who have a savior complex/weird boner for this, but it really is creepy because I attract more guys who are sadistic about creating emotional distress because they just enjoy inflicting pain and getting away with it. I attract the truly intellectual emotional sadists; they would never hit a woman and risk being thought of as ungentlemanly, they’re much too smart for that. They are connoisseurs of nonviolent cruelty and they really believe they’re too clever to be held responsible; they are usually right.

  6. William O. West

    OK. There is at least one more category.
    We have hearing people cry and seeing people cry. There is also SMELLING people crying.
    If a woman emits a little cloud of tears of gratitude or relief in my presence, I may well get an instant erection. It comes with one brief sob and this little puff of tears. I am convinced that it is pheromonal in nature.

  1. Pingback: Weird!!! There are people who get wet from women crying – Dailygist.Net

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