Monthly Archives: August 2012
While researching previous blogs on the Furry Fandom (i.e., those individuals who derive sexual pleasure from dressing up as an animal and/or derive sexual pleasure from having sex with someone dressed as an animal) and objectum sexuality (i.e., those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to specific inanimate objects or structures), I kept coming across various online references to toonophilia.
Toonophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals are sexually and/or emotionally attracted to cartoon characters (including Japanese anime characters). There are a number of slightly different definitions found online some of which claim that toonophilia only applies to those individuals whose primary or exclusive sexual interest is in cartoon characters. There also appears to be other similar paraphilias such as fictophilia (in which individuals are romantically and/or sexually attracted to fictional characters in books) and gameophilia (in which individuals are romantically and/or sexually attracted to fictional video game characters such as Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft). One website claimed that toonophilia is seen as a life-style and that “due to the absence of physical contacts between humans and cartoon characters” most toonophiles’ sexual activity (unsurprisingly) comprises masturbation.
I’ve only come across one academic reference to toonophilia and that was in a comprehensive list of paraphilias in the 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices by Dr.Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India). However, there is nothing more than a one-line definition. The same book also notes that tooniphilia is also known by another name – schediaphilia. I also checked out Brenda Love’s (normally very reliable and all encompassing) Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices but there was nothing on toonophilia at all.
One of the most infamous toonophiles is cartoonist and comic book artist Robert Crumb who has gone on record saying that as a youngster he was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny when he was dressed in drag. More specifically he said:
“When I – what was it – about five or six? – I was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny. And I – I cut out this Bugs Bunny off the cover of a comic book and carried it around with me. Carried it around in my pocket and took it out and looked at it periodically, and – and it got all wrinkled up from handling it so much that I asked my mother to iron it on the ironing board to flatten it out, and – and she did, and I was deeply disappointed ’cause it got all brown when she ironed it, and brittle, and crumbled apart”
In one of the regular polls carried out on the Deviant Art website, 58 “deviants” responded to the poll “Do you have toonophilia?” with 60% responding that they did (n=35), 14% responding “not really” (n=14), and 16% responding “sort of”. Yes, I know it’s not scientific and it’s a very small number of respondents, but that was the only numerical data of any description I could find. An article in a 2008 issue of the Huffington Post reported that some toonophiles wanted to make their relationships with cartoon characters official. They reported that the Toonophile Planet website were offering marriage certificates (assuming the character was not already married to another toonophile). At the Go Petition website, there is a genuine petition asking for relationships and marriages between humans and cartoon characters to be made legal. The petition said:
“Toonophilia is a growing belief. Not only do our kind love cartoon/videogame characters, we feel their presence and our love for them are as real as you and I. Toonophiles are registering marriages to their virtual lovers on the Internet and the number of virtual marriage certificates are growing. An example of toonophile oriented websites are: www.sonic-passion.com, www.toonophilia.net. These marriage certificates sadly are only virtual. We desire to have “legal” marriage certificates with our name and loved one’s name written on it. I have never been interested in relationships with real people and am only interested in virtuality. This petition will be sent to the BBC as soon as enough signatures have been signed. We the undersigned request that you allow the marriage between Humans and virtual cartoon/videogame characters be permitted in the UK”
The Huffington Post article also noted that other websites (like the ToonsPortal) featured obscene and/or pornographic images and videos of many different cartoon characters (like The Flintstones) having sex. In March 2012, Willow Monroe wrote an online essay about toonophilia. There was nothing to back up what was written but she claimed that:
“Sexy for the Toonophile need not be a blatantly erotic character like Jessica Rabbit, or Betty Boop, rather, the subject of affection and desire can be any animated or sketched figure from Bugs Bunny, to Ms Pacman. Toonophiles are known to carry pictures of their adored character and even collect the plush toy and figurine versions of them. Some Toonophile friendly sites even allow members to wed their preferred character, provided that character is unspoken for.There is an abundance of sites on the web that cater to this fetishist’s fantasies. A range of characters can be watched performing pretty well every – and any – kind of sexual act imaginable. By far the most popular form of cartoon pornography on the internet is served up courtesy of the Japanese anime market. The pornographic cartoons in the anime style are casually called Hentai. The word’s etymology gives insight into what the original artists of this style thought of their work, as the word can be translated as ‘perversion’”
I spent an idle hour scouring toonophile forums and I came across dozens of people claiming to be in love and/or having longstanding sexual relationships with cartoon characters.For instance, here are a few (genuine) confessions and just the tip of the iceberg:
- “I think I have schediaphilia because whenever I watch a show with the particular anime character I like, my heart beats like crazy. I can almost hear it beat and my stomach does a flipping thing, and I even have sexual dreams about that character. I have a full on crush on this anime character”
- “I’m the neighborhood toonophile. I’ve known I’m one for a good 4 years now, but even long back into my childhood days when I didn’t even realize it. I’ve always had a fascination with cartoon characters, and it just grew in my adulthood. Can’t really explain it to most people because they’ll be like ‘whaaa?’ and some don’t even think it’s a real thing, but it really is honestly. I can’t really find attraction in real people. I honestly get sick to the stomach at the thought of having sex with a real person, it’s just not my thing, but with a certain character like Beast from Beauty and the Beast, it’s a real turn on for me”
- “Ever since I was 15 I fell in love with a cartoon character by the name of Amy Rose [a character in the Sonic The Hedgehog video game]. To this day I am still in love with her and share my life with her. Most of you will think ‘what a loser, loving a fictional character. Get a real girlfriend’. But Amy makes me happy, so let’s leave it at that”
- “I am a Toonophiliac or should I say fictosexual since I’m attracted to fictional characters and not just toons. I just noticed that I wasn’t attracted to real people but that I had sexual and relationship fantasies about fictional characters. I imagine myself with a fictional character, having a relationship then having sex. Depending upon the character, it might be more sexual or more relationship based. One day it’s one, the other day it’s another. It’s like polygamy, but none of them are jealous and there’s no risk of getting a disease or ending up pregnant”
- “I have no idea how it finally clicked, other than a strong fascination with cartoon characters since childhood that sort of matured with me. It’s physical for me too, of course – things like ponies or Beast or cartoon dragons or Pokemon or Digimon. They’re literally physically attractive to me in their base state. I think part of the appeal to me is that, by being attracted to characters that by definition don’t necessarily confine to reality like that, it lends itself to more ‘creative’ or ‘unrealistic’ fetishes too”
From my research into video game playing, I can certainly see echoes of toonophilia among younger players when looking at video game characters such as Lara Croft. In previous articles, I have asked myself what explains Lara’s immense popularity. At one level this may seem fairly obvious – she’s a big-breasted digital icon. However, most Tomb Raider players aren’t lusting adolescents. I questioned a group of players and asked them about why Tomb Raider was such a good game. The single most important factor appeared to be the problem-solving component as part of the treasure hunt genre. Her physical attributes didn’t seem to be important for most players apart from the youngest teenagers. Maybe it’s among this group of teenage video game players where some toonophile tendencies begin to develop?
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Griffiths, M.D. (1998). Shrink Rap: The Croft Report. Arcade, 1 (November), p. 49.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
McCombs, E. (2008). Toonophilia: Is it porn? Huffington Post, October 1st. Located at: http://www.asylum.com/2008/10/01/toonophilia-is-it-porn/
Monroe, W. (2012). Fetish of the Week: Schediaphilia (Toonophilia). ZZ Insider, March 12. Located at: http://www.zzinsider.com/blogs/view/fetish_of_the_week_schediaphilia_toonophilia
A couple of months ago, the print and broadcast media were full of reports about the inquest of Gareth Williams, the British spy who was found dead in his rented London flat, naked, and padlocked inside a North Face duffel bag in August 2010. However, some of the reports concentrated on whether the fact he was found dead in a small bag, was an indication that he was a claustrophile. The inquest heard that he had an interest in bondage websites, but this was only a very small part of his internet browsing history. The coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, declared his death as “unnatural”.
According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, claustrophilia is a paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from being confined in small places. The online Urban Dictionary defines claustrophlia slightly differently as individuals deriving sexual gratification from sexual intercourse in tight spaces. There are other sources that use the word ‘claustrophilia’ simply to mean “a love of small spaces” without any sexual element attached to it. For instance, the science fiction author Isaac Asimov was a self-confessed claustrophile. Citing from Asimov’s autobiography (I, Asimov: A Memoir), Asimov’s Wikipedia entry noted that:
“He enjoyed small, enclosed spaces. In the first volume of his autobiography, he recalls a childhood desire to own a magazine stand in a New York City Subway station, within which he could enclose himself and listen to the rumble of passing trains while reading”.
In the wake of the Gareth Williams story, Anneli Rufus was asked to write an article on claustrophilia for both Psychology Today and The Daily Beast. Rufus’ article in Psychology Today (‘Turned on by tight spaces’) described claustrophilia as “an extreme form of bondage whose adherents are aroused by total encasement in tight spaces such as boxes, bags, cages, caskets, and car trunks”. The press started to speculate whether Williams’ death was a claustrophilic sexual misadventure that went wrong (and according to Rufus’ article, there was some evidence that Williams was “interested in this fetish”). Rufus’ first asked Carol Queen (a sex educator from San Francisco, US) speculated that the sexual thrill in claustrophilia “could stem from a sense of helplessness (a staple among the bondage-discipline-submission-masochism set), or from altered breathing, which gives a sense of being high”. Alternatively, she said it could be associated with proprioception (“the body’s experience of itself in space”).
Rufus then interviewed Cornell University’s Professor Cary Howie (whose book 2009 book – Claustrophilia: The Erotics of Enclosure in Medieval Literature – I first came across over a year ago). As a literary academic, Professor Howie examined the fetishistic elements of claustrophilia in relation prose and poetry. Professor Howie told Rufus that the motivation for claustrophilia concerned “the use of space to intensify desire [and] small spaces from which we cannot escape make us hyperaware that we have bodies”. I’m not convinced that this would explain sexual desire in claustrophiles but given he’s written a book about this (and I haven’t) I’m not really in a position to criticize.
For the article in The Daily Beast (“Did claustrophilia kill U.K. spy Gareth Williams?”), Rufus used slightly different quotes from the same interview with Carol Queen.
“Gas masks and hoods could be considered related, I think. I once attended a fetish party in the Hollywood Hills at which a dominatrix put her client into a full-body cast, clearly a variant of claustrophilia…There’s helplessness: the neurological turn-on is probably related to proprioception, the body’s experience of itself in space…And there is likely a rush from doing it because it’s extreme. It would also powerfully alter the breath, which would give a feeling like being high…It’s even possible that part of the thrill [is] being left by that other person and then the idea would be that they’d return to let him out. Clearly this could go wrong. Having someone to monitor you would be imperative. As with autoerotic asphyxiation, there’s a level of altered state with this kind of play, as well as physical stress, that could leave a participant doing it alone unable to save him – or herself if necessary. Prior discussion about how to communicate if the claustrophilic individual couldn’t speak would also be very important”.
Rufus also contacted the American [bondage-wear company Winter Fetish (WF) based in Seattle who make and sell straitjackets, vinyl hobble dresses, and Spandex ‘sleepsacks” (“sock-like skintight enclosures that zip up in back from the shins to the top of the head”). Those who buy sleepsacks use them to facilitate feelings of helplessness – one of the bedrocks of BDSM (i.e., bondage, discipline, submission, sado/masochism). Tonya Winter, one of the WF designers told Rufus that:
“The sleepsacks have internal sleeves so that the captive cannot protect or pleasure themselves. There are also access zippers that make the captive’s most sensitive areas available, should the captor desire. [Also] the tight fit can cause some people to experience a sense of calm”.
Rufus claims that the type of closed space preferred by claustrophiles varies from person to person but that getting into enclosed from which it may be impossible to escape is the primary goal. Rufus also writes about an online forum for claustrophiles called ‘Trunk Stories’ (TS). Rufus made the following observations in relation to the TS website:
“[The TS forum] features pictures of smiling people curled up in car trunks, waiting eagerly to be locked inside. The “Locker Fun” group asks potential members: ‘Were you ever locked in a locker at school? Or did you think it fun to lock others inside lockers?…Would you like to relive those fun school locker pranks?” The ‘Bagged’ group beckons fans of ‘the romance, escape artistry, or kidnap fantasy of being put into a burlap or canvas sack. Perhaps bound and gagged and spirited off to some hideaway’”.
Another closely related paraphilia to claustrophilia would appear to be taphephilia, Dr. Aggrawal defines taphephilia as deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from being buried alive. I have to say that when I first read about this paraphilia I had major doubts about it’s existence until I came across groups such as the Six Feet Under Club and the Buried Stories website. As the home pages of these sites assert:
- Extract 1: “Buried or burial whilst still alive is a nightmare to some but a joy or fetish to others. The desire to be boxed, bagged and buried is a great turn on for many. The feeling of utter helplessness as the sounds of the first shovel of dirt hits the top of their coffin. The fantasy may also involve being placed in a casket, bodybag, or other enclosure before being buried either on the beach, in dirt or even in quicksand. Encased or entombed, enclosed or just bagged. ‘Buried Stories’ contains stories of people being buried, sunk in quicksand or encased within an enclosure. Some may have acted out their desires whilst others have written about their fantasy to share with you”
- Extract 2: “Even though a sexual nature is one of the few things most humans share in common, our social convention is to push all trace of it out of the public sphere. The ‘Six Feet Under Club’ offers attendees a unique opportunity to experience the warping of public and private intimate space. At [the Monochrom] conference, couples can volunteer to be buried together in a casket beneath the ground. The space they occupy will be extremely private and intimate. The coffin is a reminder of the social norm of exclusive pair bonding ‘till death do us part’”.
Apart from Professor Howie’s book, I know of no academic that has written or examined either claustrophilia or taphephilia. Furthermore, despite the many academic merits of Howie’s research, I wouldn’t describe it as in any way empirical (particularly as most of the source material is from English, French and Italian readings from the thirteenth and fourteenth century). Interesting but hardly contemporary.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Howie, C. (2009). Claustrophilia: The Erotics of Enclosure in Medieval Literature (New Middle Ages).Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Littlejohn, R. (2012). So that’s why they’re called the Funny People. Daily Mail, May 3. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2139141/Gareth-Williams-death-claustrophilia-So-thats-theyre-called-Funny-People.html#ixzz1xraBYdXY
Rufus, A. (2012). Did claustrophilia kill U.K. spy Gareth Williams? The Daily Beast, April 30. Located at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/30/did-claustrophilia-kill-u-k-spy-gareth-williams.html
Rufus, A. (2012). Turned on by tight spaces. Psychology Today, May 2. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stuck/201205/turned-tight-spaces
Wikipedia (2012). Isaac Asimov. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov
Back in 1986 when I was still an undergraduate psychology student, an optional part of our degree allowed some of us to attend a training course on hypnosis. As a consequence of taking the course, I became very interested in the clinical applications of hypnosis and (along with one of my fellow students Cheryl Gillett, and our supervisor Dr. Peter Davies) carried out some research using hypnosis and aversive classical conditioning techniques. Our undergraduate work was eventually published in a number of scientific journals back in the late 1980s and although I stopped researching in the area I never lost my academic interest in all things hypnotic.
Given my personal interest in both hypnosis and sexual paraphilias, today’s blog briefly examines the relationship between hypnosis and sexual behaviour, and more specifically hypnophilia and hypnofetishism. According to a short article on hypnofetishism at the Health Explores website, seduction through mind control (i.e., erotic hypnosis) has a long history in Western culture dating back to the sirens in Greek mythology who are portrayed in Homer’s Odyssey as having a “bewitching” song that lured sailors to their deaths. The article also claimed that Middle Ages witches had a “hypnotic aspect” to their sexuality. Despite the long history, the hypnotic aspects of sex have not been widely researched.
In collating material for this article, I came across a number of references to hypnophilia although most references to it are more concerned with sleep rather than hypnosis. For instance, Dr. Anil Aggrawal (in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) defines hypnophilia as being sexually aroused by the thought of sleeping (which for me suggests the condition is more akin to somnophilia which I wrote about in a previous blog). More recent online sources such as the Write World website define hypnophilia as an ”abnormal affection towards sleep or of being hypnotized”. Peter Masters, author of the book Look Into My Eyes: How to Use Hypnosis to Bring Out the Best In Your Sex Life defines hypnofetishism as “the use of hypnosis or images of hypnosis, to cause or increase sexual arousal”. Lady Izabelle, arguably the most infamous ‘hypnodomme’ (a BDSM dominatrix specializing in hypnotic sex play) and a practitioner of sexual hypnofetishism has written a number of online articles about the practice of hypnofetishism. She claims that:
“On its own, the hypnofetish involves the use of hypnosis for an erotic thrill, that only a fetish can bring. This should not be confused with hypnotic submission, which is the BDSM or [dominance and submission] version of hypnofetish…A hypnofetishist can be intensely aroused by watching someone be hypnotized, acting as a hypnotist, or as a hypnotic subject. Some hypnofetishists are interested in erotic hypnosis, in which post hypnotic suggestions of a sexual nature are given to the subject, but no explicit sexual content is necessary in hypnofetishism”.
When it comes to sex and hypnosis, there are other areas of interest outside of paraphilias and fetishes. For instance, Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices has a whole section on sex and hypnosis that does not mention either fetishes or paraphilias. Her entry concentrated on the use of hypnosis for improving sexual health and the treatment of sexual problems, and the use of hypnosis as a seduction technique (of which some is non-consensual and would be classed as a sexual assault). She noted that:
“There are historical records of cases where hypnotists were able to use hypnotic suggestions to facilitate intercourse. [Dr. Magnus] Hirschfield was consulted during a trial where an impotent husband filed sexual assault charges against a wife’s physician. The doctor confessed that he’d ordered her to ‘raise her skirt, lie down, spread her legs, take out his penis, introduce it into her vagina, then, during the act, perform parallel movements until mutual orgasm occurred’. Suspicion was aroused when she became pregnant and a detective was hired by the husband, who confirmed his fears”.
Dr. Love also makes reference to the fact that hypnosis has occasionally been used in the treatment of sexual problems and dysfunctions. One paper that Dr. Love makes heavy reference to is a 1989 paper by Dr. Douglas Ringrose in the British Journal of Sexual Medicine. In this paper, a young adult male sought treatment for his overwhelming sexual attraction to his mother-in-law. Dr. Ringrose used hypnosis and an aversive conditioning technique to pair thoughts of his mother in law with both an aversive smell (ammonia) and an aversive taste (castor oil). The treatment was said to be successful as following treatment as the man no longer had sexual feelings toward his mother-in-law. I tried to track this paper down (particularly because my own research career began with my work on aversive conditioning) but it doesn’t appear in any academic databases and the journal’s website only has papers dating back to 2002 (even though the journal was founded in 1973). Therefore, I can only go on Dr. Love’s reading of the paper and the fact that I have no methodological details of the therapy utilized.
There are countless claims that erotic hypnosis can include suggestions intended to improve overall sexual health. Various online sources claim that hypnosis can be utilized to help enhance sexual libido, increase confidence around sex, reduce sexual inhibitions, overcome apprehension about sex, enhance sensuality, enhance sexual role-play, and even increase breast size (for instance, check out the Contouring and To Sleep websites. Dr. Love – citing from a 1963 book called Perverse Crimes in History (by Robert Masters) – also claimed that:
“People who experience sexual phobias (impotence or frigidity) have sometimes been successfully hypnotized to overcome this fear and thus experience orgasms. Others have used autohypnotic suggestions to induce orgasms for themselves. Cases are mentioned in the annals of hypnosis that describe hypnotist-induced hallucinations that are visual, auditory, and tactile. These hallucinations are said to said to be of seductive women who sing, dance, and provide tactile stimulation needed for orgasm”.
A Wikipedia article on recreational hypnosis (which it claims is just another name for ‘erotic hypnosis’) notes that hypnosis for sexually recreational activities are utilized mostly in sexual sadism and sexual masochism practices. More specifically (but without any supporting evidence), the article claims that:
“The placement of trigger words in the subject’s mind as post-hypnotic suggestion to produce actions and experiences on-demand is a common practice…Hypnosis can be used within a dominance and submission relationship to reinforce power exchange and as a form of play. This ranges from hypnotically-induced orgasms to long-term conditioning. The act of hypnosis itself is erotic and relationship-affirming for many power exchange couples as the subject surrenders control and opens themselves to mental vulnerability…People who identify with the submissive side of erotic hypnosis often fantasize about being freed from responsibilities or inhibitions and transformed into someone who can freely enjoy sexual pleasures. Such sexually submissive personae include the slave, female stereotypes like the bimbo, slut, stripper and fictional characters from popular media”.
Hypnofetishism certainly appears to have a small but significant following online as there are lots of bespoke online sites containing hypnofetish (and hypnotic dominance and submission) stories (both fictional and autobiographical that sometimes include elements of telepathy and subliminal messaging), and hypnofetish images, photographs, and videos, as well as various discussion groups and forums (for instance, check out the Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive).
Peter Masters (author of Look Into My Eyes, and self-proclaimed expert on hypnofetishism) notes on his website that:
“The preparation for a hypnosis-based sex escapade is usually arousing initially through the fetish aspect, and then once the hypnotist has guided his or her partner into a trance, both can gain the benefits from the enhanced and stronger sexual experience of the hypnotised subject…The use of a shiny pendant, a pocket watch on a chain, or a ticking wooden metronome as the object of focus for doing the hypnosis can add significantly to the excitement and anticipation”.
Masters also makes some interesting observations in relation to the “strict, dictionary definition of fetish” and erotic hypnosis. As I noted in a previous blog on sexual fetishism, fetishes are typically body parts (e.g., feet, hair, noses, etc.), inanimate objects (e.g., shoes, masks, etc.), or conditions (e.g., obesity, pregnancy, etc.) that in and of themselves have a non-sexual focus. Masters noted that “hypnosis appears to be completely non-sexual” but then cites work by Dr. Craig Hill and Dr. Leslie Preston published in a 1996 issue of the Journal of Sexual Research showing that:
“Over 20% of young adults look at sex as being an opportunity to experience the power of their partner, and over 20% look at sex as an opportunity to exert power over their partner. Clearly hypnosis is one way they can experience this power because hypnosis is explicitly one person taking control of another and using that control”.
One thing I know about hypnosis from my own research over 25 years ago is that among humans there is a wide range of hypnotic susceptibility. Hypnofetishism is always likely to be a minority sexual interest because the degree to which people can be hypnotized depends on many factors including (i) the confidence and trust that someone has in letting someone else hypnotize them, (ii) the general fears people have about being hypnotized in any capacity, (iii) the level of previous experience someone has of being hypnotized, and (iv) the level of experience of the hypnotist. (I, for one, have never been able to be hypnotized by anyone).
There are also many ethical questions. For instance, Dr. Don Gibbons in a short article on hypnophilia (on his Hypnothoughts blog) wondered to what extent hypnophilia occurred amongst professional hyphotherapists and how many in the profession are sexually obsessed with the use of hypnosis and use their skill as an instrument of serial seduction? As yet, we simply don’t know, but as highlighted in Dr. Magnus Hirschfield’s case study above, it certainly appears to have occurred. There are also ethical questions concerning informed sexual consent. Just because someone allows another to perform hypnosis on them, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are fully consenting to sexual acts engaged in while in a hypnotic trance.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Gibbons, D. (2011). Does hypnophilia exist? October 13. Located at: http://www.hypnothoughts.com/forum/topics/does-hypnophilia-exist
Gibbons, D. (2011). Hypnosis, seduction and hypnophilia. October 28. Located at: http://hyperempiria.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/hypnosis-seduction-and-hypnophilia.html
Gillett, C.A., Griffiths, M.D. & Davies, P. (1989). The hypnotic suppression of conditioned electrodermal responses. In D. Waxman, D. Pederson, I. Wilkie & P. Mellett (Eds.). Hypnosis (pp.60-66). London: Whurr Publishers.
Griffiths, M.D., Gillett, C.A. & Davies, P. (1989). The hypnotic suppression of conditioned electrodermal responses. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 69, 186.
Griffiths, M.D., Gillett, C.A. & Davies, P. (1989). An experimental investigation of ideational and exteroceptive conditioning. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 69, 494.
Health Explores (2011). Hypnofetishism. Located at: http://www.healthexplores.com/wiki/hypnofetishism
Hill, C.A. & Preston, L.K. (1996). Individual differences in the experience of sexual motivation: Theory and measurements of dispositional sexual motives. Journal of Sex Research, 33, 27-45.
Hirschfeld, M. (1948). Sexual Anomalies and Perversions. New York: Emerson.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
James, W.E. (1974). Stimulation of breast growth by hypnosis. Journal of Sex Research, 10, 316-326.
Lady Izabelle (undated). Hypnofetishism and erotic hypnosis. Located at: http://erotichypnosis.ladyizzabelle.com/
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Masters, P. (2001). Look Into My Eyes: How to Use Hypnosis to Bring Out the Best In Your Sex Life. Eugene, Oregon: Greenery Press.
Masters, P. (2011). Look Into My Eyes. May 6. Located at: http://www.peter-masters.com/hypno/index.php/Hypno_fetish
Wikipedia (2012). Recreational hypnosis. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recreational_hypnosis
In previous blogs I have examined various sub-types of zoophilia including ornithophilia (sexual attraction to birds) and formicophilia (sexual attraction to insects). It wasn’t until very recently, that I came across an article on herpetophilia that according to the online Urban Dictionary is “the sexual attraction to reptiles, commonly dinosaurs or anthropomorphic lizards”. There is a fairly active online community of herpetophiles including herpy.net (with lots of discussion topics such as “How to please a reptile”). The dinosaur-loving herpetophiles can be found interacting with each other on sites like Lava Dome Five where there is an overt crossover between herpetophilia and macrophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from giants – in this case giant lizards in the form of dinosaurs).
One 2012 online essay I read on the Vivid Random Existence (VRE) website claimed that there was a new emergent form of zoosexuality – human sexual attraction towards lizards (and in particular, monitor lizards) – a subcategory of herpetophilia. It was claimed by VRE that the “lizards of choice” for herpetophilic zoophiles were either the Varanus Salvator (a water monitor lizard) and the Nile Monitor. So you can get an idea of the person putting forward these views, the unnamed VRE author is a 20-year old man who describes himself as the following:
“I am bisexual and zoosexual – I am sexually attracted to multiple genders and multiple species (in other words, I am sexually attracted to male humans, female humans, male non-human animals and female non-human animals). When it comes to sexual attraction, the creature’s gender and species are irrelevant to me. However, I am only attracted to a few species (maybe about 7 or 8)”.
The VRE essay then goes on to talk about the sexual ethics of lizard relationships. VRE claims that lizards do not pair bond in the way that many mammals do and asks the very specific question:
“Is it ethical for a human to have sex with a monitor lizard, even if that lizard only ‘tolerates’ the sex and neither enjoys nor dislikes it? From a utilitarian perspective (a perspective adopted by philosophers such as Peter Singer), there is nothing wrong with having sex with a monitor lizard, so long as no harm occurs…With large animals like horses, such human-horse sexual interactions are clearly acceptable under this philosophy – for example, even if a horse has a neutral opinion regarding sexual encounter with a human, the fact that the horse is larger than the human automatically means that physical ‘abuse’ is less likely to occur to the horse”.
The VRE website also claimed in a previous 2010 online essay (Zoosexuality: Should it be considered acceptable?) that the smaller the animal is, the less ethical the activity becomes. VRE then goes on to say that Nile monitor lizards and Komodo dragons are big enough to accommodate human genitalia but that humans having sex with smaller lizards would be unethical due to anatomical incompatibility. A 2011 VRE essay also claims that there are a sub-group of zoophiles that are sexually attracted to alligators and crocodiles, and that some owners of pet alligators or crocodiles have active sexual relationships with them. The “proof” of this claim was based on a video circulating among online zoophile forums (but I’ve not seen it myself). VRE describes the film’s contents:
“The human in the video is male, and the alligator in the video is also male. The human male is seen anally penetrating the male alligator, who is flipped upside down; the fact that the gator has an erection (and the fact that the gator is not tearing the man to pieces) suggests that the alligator is tolerant of (or possibly even enjoys) the sexual relationship with the human”
The issue of whether it is ethically wrong to have sex with a crocodile is again raised (along with the issue of how dangerous the activity is to start with. In the 2012 essay, VRE then says:
“Many have claimed that zoosexuality is wrong on the grounds that it is physically abusive. Although sex with animals can be abusive depending on the size of the animal, it can also not involve any abuse. In other words, it all depends on the size of the animal, and whether or not it is compatible with a human…When considering other species, it is important to realize that some species are too small for humans to engage in sex with”.
The article also quotes from philosopher Peter Singer’s online essay Heavy Petting (published on the nerve.com website) in which Singer (Princeton University, US) reviews Midas Dekkers’ Dearest Pet. Singer wrote that:
“Some men use hens as a sexual object, inserting their penis into the cloaca, an all-purpose channel for wastes and for the passage of the egg. This is usually fatal to the hen, and in some cases she will be deliberately decapitated just before ejaculation in order to intensify the convulsions of its sphincter. This is cruelty, clear and simple…But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty. Who has not been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? The host usually discourages such activities, but in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop”
I can’t say I agree with any of these arguments, as my own view is that sex should always be consensual and inter-species sexual activity is always non-consensual. Being “cruelty-free” does not make sexual activity with animals an acceptable activity. Singer’s arguments suggest that some animals (e.g., dogs) can engage in cruelty-free sex with humans and that no party is harmed. I can think of (admittedly extreme) scenarios where sex between humans could take place where neither party is harmed but it doesn’t mean it is morally acceptable. For instance, a human who has sex with a deceased person (i.e., a necrophile) technically does no harm to either party but that doesn’t make it acceptable. There is also the scenario that appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill where men had sex with Uma Thurman’s character while she was in a coma. Again, this might be perceived by some as “cruelty-free”, but the common denominator in both these extreme situations is that the sex was non-consensual.
Another related paraphilia to herpetophilia, and sub-category of zoophilia, is that of ophidiophilia that is defined in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices as a sexual attraction to snakes). There are some really quite bizarre snake sexuality websites including those where there is a crossover with vorarephilia (i.e.. sexual arousal from the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification). This seems a logical crossover given that snakes swallow their prey whole (check out the Snake Eats website if you don’t believe me).
An act often associated with ophidiophilia is ophidicism. This is where women voluntarily insert snakes (and sometimes eels) tail first into their vagina to get sexual pleasure as it wriggles free. There are also stories of both men and women allegedly receiving sexual pleasure from snakes wriggling free following anal insertion. Acts of ophidicism have been documented going back to Ancient Greek times. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices also says the practice was prevalent in Roman times except the women put snakes into their vaginas head first. There are more recent references to the activity in the psychological literature including a case study reported in a 1964 issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis by Austrian psychoanalyst Dr. Melitta Sperling.
VRE claims that in the case of animals like snakes, only certain sexual acts with them would be considered abusive. VRE asserts that ophidicism is unethical, and that penile penetration of snakes that are physically incompatible with humans (in terms of size) is animal abuse. However, there are some acts that VRE believes could still be ethical involving snakes (e.g., oral sex – although it wasn’t clear whether that was a human performing oral sex on a snake, vice-versa, or either).
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Singer, P. (2001). Heavy petting. Located at: http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/2001—-.htm
Sperling, M. (1964). A case of ophidiophilia: A clinical contribution to snake symbolism. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45, 227-233.
Vivid Random Existence (2010). Zoosexuality: Should it be considered acceptable? July 20. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/zoosexuality-should-it-be-considered-acceptable-or-not/
Vivid Random Existence (2011). Crocodilian zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to alligators and crocodiles. December 5. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/crocodilian-zoosexuality-or-zoophilia-the-sexual-attraction-to-alligators-and-crocodiles/
Vivid Random Existence (2012). Lizard zoosexuality (or zoophilia): The sexual attraction to lizards. January 13. Located at: http://vividrandomexistence.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/lizard-zoosexuality-or-zoophilia-the-sexual-attraction-to-lizards/
Frotteurism (originally called frottage) is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals (typically male and occasionally females) derive sexual pleasure and arousal from non-consensually rubbing up against other people (typically but not always female strangers) particularly with their erect penis and/or pelvis. Given that frotteurs like to carry out their activity relatively undetected by their victims, they frequent public places where individuals are crowded close together such as in underground tube trains, lifts, and anywhere where there are crowds (music gigs, sporting events, etc.). Most acts of frotteurism are carried out from behind the selected victim and without eye contact. The act itself is viewed as a criminal offence (i.e., a sexual assault) in most Westernized cultures but when reaching the criminal justice system is more typically classed as a misdemeanor. Frottage now tends to indicate consensual rubbing between two individuals.
Frotteurism was first recognized as a specific paraphilia in the revised third edition of revision of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R). The current criteria for the diagnosis of frotteurism are: (i) over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving touching and rubbing against a nonconsenting person, and (ii) the person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
Much of the academic and clinical literature on frotteurism comprises single case studies and individuals that have been studied are characterized as being pathological opportunists. In a 2008 book chapter review on frotteurism by criminologists Dr. Patrick Lussier and Dr. Lynn Piche, they noted that it is “difficult to draw a valid and reliable epidemiological picture” because of (i) the paucity of literature on frotteurism, (ii) the relatively recent inclusion of frotteurism as a disorder in the DSM, and (iii) the conceptual and definitional problems of frotteurism. Despite these limitations, Lussier and Piche examined prevalence surveys among four different groups (i.e., non-clinical samples of children; clinical samples of children and adolescents; non-clinical samples of adults; clinical samples of adults). There are many problems with the data collected particularly as to whether the rubbing and touching by children really constitutes frotteurism. Furthermore, there only a limited number of studies on which to base prevalence estimates coupled with the fact that the studies have used different methodologies to collect the data. The main problem is the lack of a standardized diagnostic definition of frotteurism meaning no firm conclusions can be drawn. Given these many caveats, the findings on the prevalence of frotteurism can be summarized as follows:
- Non-clinical samples of children: Between 4% and 10% of US children commit activities of frottage, while between 6% and 8% have touched others’ sexual parts. There may be cultural differences, as rates of sexual touching in Swedish children (aged 3 to 6 years) were as high as 25%.
- Clinical samples of children and adolescents: Between 26 and 46% of sexually victimized children have committed acts of sexual touching with between 22% and 34% having committed acts of frottage. Between 6% and 19% of juvenile sex offenders have a history of sexual touching or frotteurism against a non-consenting partner.
- Non-clinical samples of adults: Based on some fairly large-scale surveys, approximately 30% of the general population of adult men has committed at least one act of frotteurism.
- Clinical samples of adults: Based on a number of studies comprising various paraphilias and paraphilia-related behaviours, approximately 10% have committed acts of frotteurism.
A few studies have attempted to examine the frequency of frotteurism among those who engage in the behaviour. However, the evidence base is very small and based on self-selected samples of either those incarcerated for sexual offences and/or those seeking treatment for their behaviour. A 1993 study by Dr. J.A. Shaw and colleagues published in the Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law reported that of the 25 juvenile sex offenders they examined, a total of 15 acts of frottage had been committed, for a mean number of about 0.6 acts per sex offender. A 1987 study by Dr. Gene Abel and his colleagues published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, found that their sample of 62 frotteurs had a mean of 849 acts of frotteurism but a median of only 29. A later 2001 study also published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence by Dr. S.C. Zolondek and colleagues included about 80 frotteurs. They reported that the mean number of victims as 9 and the mean number of acts as 15.
Paraphilic comorbidity is common among frotteurs. For instance one study by Dr. Kurt Freund and colleagues on 144 frotteurs found that 68% also had at least one other paraphilic behaviour (with exhibitionism and voyeurism being the most common). Another 1991 study of 60 men published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by Dr. T. Templeman and Dr. R. Stinnet reported similar results.
The review by Lussier and Piche asserts there are two types of theory that attempts to explain manifestations of frotteurism. These are the ‘social incompetence’ hypotheses and the ‘sex drive’ hypotheses. Social incompetence hypotheses speculate that frotteurism arises because of certain psychological disturbances (e.g., extreme shyness, mental retardation, psychopathology, etc.) that lead to social incompetence, and therefore limit access to consenting partners. Sex drive hypotheses speculate that frotteurism arises because of high sex drives and/or the inability to control sex drives explain frotteurism. Both of these theories could operate simultaneously but, to date, there is no empirical evidence that supports either theory. Therefore, Lussier and Piche suggests that a theoretical model attempting to explain frotteurism should address the following empirical observations:
“(1) It can start very early in childhood, especially when sexual victimization is part of an individual’s childhood experiences; (2) activities associated with frotteurism tend to co-occur with a wide range of other sexually inappropriate behaviors in childhood; (3) those youth who are sexually aroused by activities of frotteurism are also aroused by other paraphilic activities as a function of age; (4) there is some preliminary evidence that different paraphilias first occur at different ages, with acts of frotteurism first occurring in early adulthood, on average; (5) a later onset of activities of frotteurism has been noticed after individuals have sustained brain injuries; (6) in adulthood, acts of frotteurism tend to co-occur with more specific paraphilic activity (namely, exhibitionism and voyeurism), as well as with other nonsexual criminal behavior; and (7) a small number of individuals appear to commit a great many acts of frotteurism”
Lussier and Piche argue that researchers and clinicians need to take a broader approach to frotteurism where age and development are taken into account. They claim that the emergence of frotteurism behaviour in one developmental period or another may reflect various difficulties in successfully completing these developmental tasks:
“(1) Shifting to a more covert expression of sexual activities in childhood as the child grows older and become more aware of parental and cultural norms; (2) developing internal inhibitors to control sexual urges while experiencing a shift from parental vigilance and influence to peer influence and opportunities in early adolescence; (3) learning to develop trusting and intimate relationships with peers in middle and late adolescence; and (4) learning to communicate effectively with an intimate partner in adulthood. The continuity of the manifestations of frotteurism may be attributable to the persistence of those excess and deficits over time”.
In summarizing Lussier and Piche’s main argument, Dr. Niklas Langstrom said in a 2010 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior that “frotteurism is strongly reinforced behaviourally by immediate sexual gratification with very little cost and investment (albeit at the expense of another person)”.
Abel, G. G., Becker, J. V., Mittelman, M., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Rouleau, J. L., & Murphy, W. D. (1987). Self-reported sex crimes of nonincarcerated paraphiliacs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 3-25.
Bezeau, S. C., Bogod, N. M., & Mateer, C. A. (2004). Sexually intrusive behaviour following brain injury: Approaches to assessment and rehabilitation. Brain Injury, 18, 299-313.
Freund, K., Seto, M. C., & Kuban, M. (1997). Frotteurism and the theory of courtship disorder. In D. R. Laws & W. T. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (pp. 111-130). New York: Guilford Press.
Horley, J. (2001). Frotteurism: A term in search of an underlying disorder? Journal of Sexual Aggression, 7, 51-55.
Krueger, R. B., & Kaplan, M. S. (2008). Frotteurism: Assessment and treatment. In D. R. Laws & W. T. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (pp. 150-163). New York: Guildford Press.
Langstrom, N. (2010). The DSM Diagnostic criteria for exhibitionism, voyeurism, and frotteurism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 317–324.
Lussier, P. & Piche, L. (2008). Frotteurism: Psychopathology and theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp.131-149). New York: Guildford Press.
Myers, W.A. (1991). A case history of a man who made obscene telephone calls and practiced frotteurism. In G.I. Fogel & W.A. Myers (Eds.), Perversions and near perversions in clinical practice: New psychoanalytical practice (pp. 109–123). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Shaw, J.A., Campo-Bowen, A.E., Applegate, B., Perez, D., Antoine, L.B., Hart, E.L., et al. (1993). Young boys who commit serious sexual offenses: Demographics, psychometrics, and phenomenology. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 21, 399-408.
Templeman, T. N., & Stinnet, R. D. (1991). Patterns of sexual arousal and history in a “normal” sample of young men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20, 137–150.
Zolondek, S.C., Abel, G.G., Northey, W.F., Jr., & Jordan, A. (2001). Self-reported behaviors of juvenile sexual offenders. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16, 73–85.
As someone who has spent over 25 years carrying out research into behavioural addiction, I have published a fair amount on exercise addiction over the years. One question I am often asked when the Olympics comes around is to what extent athletes are addicted to exercise. One of the problems answering this question is that in spite of the widespread usage of the term ‘exercise addiction’ there are many different terminologies that describe excessive exercise syndrome. Such terms include (i) exercise dependence, (ii) obligatory exercising, (iii) exercise abuse, and (iv) compulsive exercise.
In a review on excessive exercise that I co-wrote with colleagues at Eotvos Lorand University (Budapest) and to be published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse, we argued that the term ‘addiction’ is the most appropriate because it incorporates both dependence and compulsion. Based on research carried out internationally, we believe that exercise addiction should be classified within the category of behavioural addictions. The resemblance is evidenced not only in several common symptoms (e.g., salience, mood modification, withdrawal symptoms, tolerance, conflict, relapse, etc.), but also in demographic characteristics, the prognosis of the disorder, co-morbidity, response to treatment, prevalence in the family, and etiology.
However, when it comes to Olympic athletes, we all know that they engage excessively in exercise and spend hours and hours every single day either training and competing. For many Olympians, their whole life is dominated by the activity and may impact on their relationships and family life. But does this mean they are addicted to exercise? In short, no! Why? Because the excessive exercise is clearly a by-product of the activity being their job. I would not call myself an internet addict just because I spend 5-10 hours a day on the internet. My excessive internet use is a by-product of the job I have as an academic. In short, the excessive internet use is functional.
However, just because I don’t believe Olympic athletes are addicted to exercise, it could perhaps be argued that they are addicted to work (and in this case, their work comprises the activity of exercise). I’m often asked what the difference is between a healthy enthusiasm and an addiction. In short, healthy enthusiasms add to life but addictions takes away from it. On this simple criterion, maybe there are some Olympic athletes who are ‘addicted’ to their work.
The term ‘workaholism’ has been around for over 40 years since the publication of Wayne Oates’ 1971 book Confessions of a Workaholic, and has now passed into the public mainstream. Despite four decades of research into workaholism (and like exercise addiction), no single definition or conceptualization of this phenomenon has emerged. Workaholics have been conceptualized in different ways. For instance, workaholics are typically viewed as one (or a combination) of the following:
- Those viewed as hyper-performers
- Those viewed as unhappy and obsessive individuals who do not perform well in their jobs
- Those who work as a way of stopping themselves thinking about their emotional and personal lives
- Those who are over concerned with their work and neglect other areas of their lives.
Some of these may indeed be applied to Olympic athletes (particularly the reference to ‘hyper-performers’ and the fact that other areas of their lives may be neglected in pursuit of the ultimate goal). Some authors note that there is a behavioural component and a psychological component to workaholism. The behavioural component comprises working excessively hard (i.e., a high number of hours per day and/or week), whereas the psychological (dispositional) component comprises being obsessed with work (i.e., working compulsively and being unable to detach from work. Again, these behavioural and psychological components could potentially be applied to Olympic athletes.
There are also those scholars who differentiate between positive and negative forms of workaholism. For instance, some view workaholism as both a negative and complex process that eventually affects the person’s ability to function properly. In contrast, others highlight the workaholics who are totally achievement oriented and have perfectionist and compulsive-dependent traits. Here, the Olympic athlete might be viewed as a more positive form of workaholism. Research appears to indicate there are a number of central characteristics of workaholics. In short, they typically:
- Spend a great deal of time in work activities
- Are preoccupied with work even when they are not working
- Work beyond what is reasonably expected from them to meet their job requirements.
- Spend more time working because of an inner compulsion, rather than because of any external factors.
Again, some or all of these characteristics could be applied to Olympians. Hopefully, very few Olympic athletes are addicted, but if they are addicted, I would argue that it is more likely to be to their work rather than the exercise itself.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Allegre, B., Souville, M., Therme, P. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Definitions and measures of exercise dependence, Addiction Research and Theory,14, 631-646.
Allegre, B., Therme, P. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Individual factors and the context of physical activity in exercise dependence: A prospective study of ‘ultra-marathoners’. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5, 233-243.
Andreassen, C.S., Griffiths, M.D., Hetland, J. & Pallesen, S. (2012). Development of a Work Addiction Scale. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 53, 265-272.
Berczik, K., Szabó, A., Griffiths, M.D., Kurimay, T., Kun, B. & Demetrovics, Z. (2012). Exercise addiction: symptoms, diagnosis, epidemiology, and etiology. Substance Use and Misuse, 47, 403-417.
Griffiths, M.D. (1997). Exercise addiction: A case study. Addiction Research, 5, 161-168.
Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Workaholism is still a useful construct Addiction Research and Theory, 13, 97-100.
Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Workaholism: A 21st century addiction. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 24, 740-744.
Griffiths, M.D., Szabo, A. & Terry, A. (2005). The Exercise Addiction Inventory: A quick and easy screening tool for health practitioners. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39, 30-31.
Mónok, K., Berczik, K., Urbán, R., Szabó, A., Griffiths, M.D., Farkas, J., Magi, A., Eisinger, A., Kurimay, T., Kökönyei, G., Kun, B., Paksi, B. & Demetrovics, Z. (2012). Psychometric properties and concurrent validity of two exercise addiction measures: A population wide study in Hungary. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 13, 739-746.
Oates, W. (1971), Confessions of a Workaholic: The Facts About Work Addiction, World, New York.
Szabo, A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Exercise addiction in British sport science students. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5, 25-28.
Terry, A., Szabo, A. & Griffiths, M. (2004). The Exercise Addiction Inventory: A new brief screening tool, Addiction Research and Theory, 12, 489-499.
I’ve only come across one academic reference to plushophilia and that was in a comprehensive list of paraphilias in the 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices by Dr.Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India). I also checked out Dr. Brenda Love’s (normally very reliable and all encompassing) Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices but there was nothing on plushophilia at all. Dr. Aggrawal defines plushophilia as a “sexual attraction to stuffed toys or people in animal costume, such as theme park characters”. However, other online sources simply define plushophilia as a sexual paraphilia involving stuffed animals. Sexual and pornographic activities involving animal anthropomorphism (including plushophilia), is known among the plushophile community as ‘yiffing’.
Plushophiles are often referred to as plushies, although as I noted in a previous blog on the Furry Fandom, the term can also refer to stuffed animal enthusiasts who have no sexual interest at all (i.e., people who just love cuddly toys). Because of an infamous 2001 article by George Gurley in the magazine Vanity Fair, plushophilia is often assumed to be a common practice among members of the Furry Fandom. However, survey research has shown this not to be the case. For instance, an old and unpublished survey from data collected in the late 1990s by David J. Rust of 360 members of the furry community (325 respondents from furry conventions and 25 respondents online) suggested less than 1% of them were plushophiles (0.3%).
In a more recent attempt to replicate Rust’s study, Kyle Evans carried out a survey in 2008 on 276 people who self-identified themselves as being furries and who were recruited from furry or furry-related online message boards and forums. Evans reported a much higher prevalence rate of plushophilia (7%) than the study by Rust (although this was still a low prevalence rate suggesting that the overlap between plushophilia and the Furry Fandom is minimal). Evans claimed that because the majority of Rust’s survey was conducted in person at conventions, participants were susceptible to the social desirability bias when it came to plushophilia. Many plushies do not want any association with furries whatsoever.
Many plushophiles are avid collectors of cuddly toys and many began accumulating their collections in childhood (although some have already reached adulthood before their interest in stuffed toys begins). Some plushies are said to be totally obsessed with their hobby and may share behavioural similarities with pathological hoarders. Among a small minority of plushies, the collecting may border on being an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Like many collectors, plushies may focus their collecting behaviour on very specific types of cuddly toy such as teddy bears. For some plushies, their passion for collecting may lead them to careers that involve making and/or trading plush toy animals. The online Wiki Fur website claims that:
“A common practice among plushophiles who are serious collectors is to purchase two of each plushie; one for display and use, and another for safe keeping and preservation. Many plushophiles consider their toys very dear and rarely trade or sell them, even when there are concerns such as limited space and storage”.
As mentioned earlier, a small number of furries consider themselves plushophiles. Some furries and/or plushies have specific animistic beliefs (i.e., a set of beliefs concerning the existence of non-human “spiritual beings”) that cross over into their love of toy animals. Furthermore, for some furries, toy animals are said to serve as representations of totem animals. The Wiki Fur website defines an animal totem as:
“An important symbolic object in furry spirituality used by a person to get in touch with specific qualities found within an animal which the person needs, connects with, or feels a deep affinity toward. Some Furry lifestylers find they draw spiritual energy from a totem animal which guides their lives and causes them to imitate behaviors of that animal”.
Role players among Furry Fandom members may also create characters based on the idea of living toys and stuffed animal characters. Plushies frequently enjoy interacting with furries whose primary avatar is a toy character. However, as the Wiki Fur website asserts “not everyone who enjoys playing as or with such an avatar is necessarily a plushophile or collector of stuffed animals in real life”.
The sexual element of plushophilia has been overplayed and sensationalized by both the print and broadcast media. However, there are plushie sex and dating sites (such as Plushie Love and Plush Yiff), and for those plushies where sex is an important part of their activity, their behaviour has been argued by the Wiki Fur website to be a genuine sexual paraphilia.
“Depending on the individual, sexual stimulation and plush toys may arise from purely sensual enjoyment, may act as an aid for fantasy gratification and physical or mental stimulation alone or with another person, or may have an animistic and spiritual component. For example, some plushophiles who make use of their toys in intimate ways do so with a partner, while others only experience such feelings toward a plush animal that they view as more than an inanimate object. A common practice among sexual plushophiles is to modify a plush toy in order to make it sexually accessible or to minimize damage to it from such use”.
However, Wiki Fur is quick to point out that not all plushies who relate to their toys sexually modify them, and not plushies actually make direct contact with their stuffed toys for intimate stimulation. One infamous plushophile is FoxWolfie Galen who has his own website was interviewed for Salon magazine. He was first asked how he had sex with a stuffed animal:
“Well, none of [my toy animals] have an SPA [strategically placed appendage]. It’s been thought of a couple of times, but part of the difficulty would be constructing one and not having it fall off the plushie. That’s a problem people have dwelled on for a long time. It’s usually just cuddling and rubbing with me. There’s usually no need for the penetration. Most of [my toy animals] don’t have an SPH [strategically placed hole], but some do. It’s not a requirement for me – if’s there I’ll use it, and if not, I’m just as happy without it. It all depends on what you allow happen to them. Some people wear condoms for complete protection”.
Galen has more than a 1000 stuffed animals and he was asked how he chooses his “sexual partners”. He said:
“It’s basically the same as with people,” Galen says in explaining how he chooses his lucky winners. Some you’re attracted to sexually and some you’re not. I’m not interested in just human-human [sex]; it’s gotta be human-plushie-human. The person would have to be interested in plush”.
Academic research is beginning to be carried out on plushophilia (but only in relation to Furry Fandom and/or zoophilia). There are some aspects of plushophilia that might have psychological resonance with pathological collecting and hoarding, but most research is likely to examine the more sexual elements of plushophiles’ lifestyle.
Evans, K. (2008). The furry sociological survey. Located at: http://www.furrysociology.net/report.htm
FoxWolfie Galen’s Plushie Page (2012). Definitions. Located at: http://www.velocity.net/~galen/furrydef.html
Gerbasi, K. C., Paolone, N., Higner, J., Scaletta, L. L., Bernstein, P. L., Conway, S., & Privitera, A. (2008). Furries from A to Z (anthropomorphism to zoomorphism). Society & Animals, 16(3), 197-222.
Hill, D. (2000). Cuddle time: In the world of plushophiles, not all stuffed animals are created equal. Salon, June 19. Located at: http://www.salon.com/2000/06/19/plushies/
Rust, D.J. (2001). The sociology of furry fandom. Located at: http://www.visi.com/~phantos/furrysoc.html
Wiki Fur (2012). Animal totem. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Animal_totem
Wiki Fur (2012). Plushophilia. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Plushophilia
In a previous blog I looked at the practice of urethral manipulation where men insert objects into their urethra for sexual stimulation. Another similar sexual practice is the insertion of ‘foreign bodies’ into the rectal passage. Most of what is known academically and clinically is from people (almost always male) who turn up to hospital emergency department requiring treatment (i.e., removal of the foreign object that has become trapped inside their rectum). A 2010 review by Dr. Joel Goldberg and Dr. Scott Steele in the Surgical Clinics of North America noted that “retained rectal foreign bodies have been reported in patients of all ages, genders, and ethnicities, more than two-thirds of patients with rectal bodies are men in their 30s and 40s”.
There are dozens and dozens of papers on the topic of rectal foreign bodies and the list of objects and items that have been removed by doctors is almost as long as the number of papers and includes (but not restricted to): vegetables (e.g., potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, turnips, onions), fruit (e.g., bananas, apples), other foodstuffs (e.g., salami, hard boiled eggs), food and drink containers (e.g., glass bottles, plastic bottles, peanut butter jars, glass tumblers), sporting items (e.g., baseballs, tennis balls), household and kitchen objects (e.g., candles, light bulbs, broomstick handle, spatulas, mortar pestle), sex toys (e.g., vibrators, dildos), and improvised objects (e.g., a sand-filled bicycle inner tubing, plastic fist and forearm, shoehorn, axe handles, aluminium money tube, whip handles, soldering irons, glass tubes, frozen pigs tail). Some of these can become very dangerous (e.g., light bulbs that break with broken glass bits causing perforation of the rectum and/or colon), and in one case reported in the American Journal of Surgery led to peritonitis. Despite the many published case studies, there are no estimates of the incidence of rectal foreign body insertion among the population as almost all that is known is only based on the people that end up seeking medical intervention.
Many of the people seeking treatment are gay men although some of the literature features females who have been rectally assaulted. Object removal by the medical team can sometimes be difficult. For instance, one case in the American Journal of Proctology described an instance where a light bulb was lodged in the rectal cavity and the medical team had to improvise to remove the foreign body. They had to attach a light bulb socket to the end of a stick, insert the ‘homemade’ devise into the patient’s rectum, screw the socket onto the lodged light bulb, and then pull it out the same way as it went in. In the same paper, the authors described how they removed a glass tumbler from one man. Here, they managed to pour molten plaster into the tumbler along with some rope placed into the molten plaster. When the plaster has set and stuck to the inside of the glass, they pulled the tumbler out using the rope that had set in the hardened plaster.
There are also cases in the literature where the foreign body has remained inside the rectal cavity for long periods. For instance, one case published in the Medical Journal of Australia reported that a man had a vibrator removed after six months of it being inside him. The published papers also report the many alleged non-sexual reasons as to how such objects came to be lodged in the rectum. Common ones include accidentally falling on the specified object or item after showers or baths, and deliberate insertion of the object or item to dislodge constipated fecal mass. Some stories are a little more elaborate such as one published in the Southern Medical Journal where the man who said he had slipped on a glass jar while washing his dog in the shower. In the same paper, another man who was found to have a vibrator stuck in his rectum claimed to have been abducted and sexually assaulted by a group of men rather than admit that the incident was self-inflicted.
One of the most bizarre cases was reported in a 2004 issue of the journal Surgery. Here the authors described what they believed was the very first case of something living lodged in the rectal passage. After reporting abdominal pain, and being diagnosed with peritonitis, an X-ray revealed that the 50-year-old man had a 50cm long eel stuck inside his abdomen (claiming he had inserted it to relieve his constipation. The authors even provided all the photographic evidence in their paper. It is also worth mentioning at this point that a paper on anorectal trauma in a 1989 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology by Dr. W.G. Eckert and Dr. S. Katchis. They commented on what has now come to be called felching (and which I covered in a previous blog). More specifically they said: “A sexual practice has been mentioned recently where living rodents, including gerbils and mice, have been inserted into the rectum; the animal’s futile efforts to claw its way to safety result in mucosal tears in the rectum”. However, as I noted in my previous blog, no actual cases have ever been reported in the medical literature.
In a previous blog I wrote on klismaphilia (a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal and pleasure from the receiving of enemas), I reported a case by Dr Peter Stephens and Dr Mark Taff in the American Journal of American Pathology. They wrote about a young man who turned up at the hospital complaining of rectal pain. After an examination by the doctor, it became apparent that there was a stony hard mass lodged in the man’s rectum. Upon further questioning, the patient revealed that four hours earlier, he and his boyfriend had been “fooling around” and that after stirring a batch of concrete mix, the patient had laid on his back with his feet against the wall at a 45 degree angle while his boyfriend poured the mixture through a funnel into his rectum. The concrete had set and had to be removed by the medical team. On removal, a ping-pong ball was also found. The reason a ping-pong ball was also found in the rectum was because klismaphiliacs use the ball as a plug to promote retention and increase stimulation. The use of such a device suggests the person was an experienced klismaphiliac. As Dr Anil Hernandas and colleagues conclude “as the exploration of anal eroticism increases in popularity, more and more cases of complications as a direct result of their abuse are likely to be encountered”.
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