Blind faith: A brief overview of amaurophilia
“I have a blindness fetish. It’s something I’ve been obsessed with it all my life. Also, I would consider my sexual orientation to be asexual. I’m really not at all turned on by guys and I have no interest in sex – in fact, it honestly disgusts me. However, when indulging in my fetish, I do masturbate” (Susan at All Experts)
According to Dr.Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices amaurophilia is a sexual paraphilia where the individual derives sexual pleasure and arousal “by a partner who is blind or unable to see due to artificial means such as being blindfolded or having sex in total darkness”. A similar definition of amaurophilia was provided by Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices who simply defined it as “a preference for a blind or blindfolded sex partner”. She also added one exclusion criterion that if both partners are blind, then it wouldn’t be classed as amaurophilia. Dr. Love also made reference to a similar paraphilia called lygerastia, which refers to those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal only in darkness. The critical similarity in both of these is that the individuals in question are sexually aroused by sexual partners who are unable to see them.
Amaurophilia is yet another paraphilia where there has been no academic and/or clinical research most probably because the focus of sexual arousal is fairly innocuous and it is highly unlikely people would come forward wanting any kind of treatment (i.e., amaurophiles are likely to live with their sexual preference without any problem). Most of what is known appears to be somewhat anecdotal. Brenda Love also wrote that:
“Amaurophilia usually manifests itself by an inhibition of sight with either one or both partners using a blindfold or having sex in total darkness. This might be caused by reasons such as religious guilt about nudity and sex, low self-esteem, or feelings of inadequacy. Other amaurophiles may have become conditioned to respond sexually only when a partner is asleep or has their eyes closed. They may have had childhood experiences of sex with siblings who were either sleeping or feigning sleep. Necrophiles also may be aroused by their partners keeping their eyes closed, but would further require a lack of movement”.
Much of this – while plausible – appears to be highly speculative. The comments about “childhood experience of sex with siblings” is unlikely to be a common factor among amaurophiles and in papers that I have read on sex between siblings, I have never seen a single reference to amaurophilia as a consequence. The comments in relation to sexual arousal while someone is asleep (i.e., somnophilia) and necrophilia again have no basis in empirical evidence (although I did talk about the psychological and behavioural overlaps between somnophilia and necrophilia in previous blogs). Dr. Love also notes that there may be other medical conditions that underlie amauarophilia. For instance:
“There is also a natural physical condition that causes people discomfort when attempting sex under bright lights. This discomfort can be great enough to interfere with some people’s sexual performance. An advantage of darkness is that tactile stimulation can reach the greatest sensitivity when all other senses are inhibited, particularly light”
Other online sources note that amaurophilia is extremely rare and that for some people, the simulation and/or role-playing of having sex with someone who is blind is also a sexual turn-on. This can be achieved with a wide range of accessories including sleep shades, blindfolds, eye patches, and/or or vision-restricting contact lenses. Furthermore, partners may swap roles. One short online article claimed that:
“Some amaurophiliacs may even extend this play outside of sex through the use of blindfolds or contact lenses in conjunction with a white cane for mobility. Some amaurophiliacs may choose to learn Braille in order to enhance their experience during play sessions”.
This type of behaviour (if true – and I have yet to find any empirical evidence that it is) is very similar to the psychology and behaviour of ‘pretenders’ of the ‘DPW’ typology (i.e., “devotees, pretenders and wannabes”) that I wrote about previously in relation to apotemnophilia (i.e., those who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from the thought of being an amputee). Much of the psychology here is about the one-to-one attention that being disabled can bring and has been linked to factitious disability disorders such as Munchausen’s Syndrome. Should amaurophiles be like apotemnophiles, and based on the research of Dr. Robert Bruno, Director of the Post-Polio Institute (New Jersey, US) I would expect the following DPW characteristics:
- Devotees would be non-blind people who are sexually attracted to people who are blind, typically those with obvious signs of blindness (i.e., use of white cane, guide dog, and/or dark glasses).
- Pretenders would non-blind people who act as if they are blind by using assistive devices (e.g., white cane). This may be done in private or in public so that they can ‘feel’ blind or are perceived by others as being blind.
- Wannabes would be people who actually want to become blind, going to extraordinary lengths to achieve it (e.g., self-enucleation). (There are clinical and medical cases of enucleation but none of those I have read are amaurophilia-related).
As with most other ‘niche’ fetishes and paraphilia, online communities of like-minded individuals have developed such as the Blind-Fetish Live Journal and the Blind One’s websites. Their page is “devoted to those with an interested in blindness and blindfolds from an erotic point of view”. The site’s founder informs readers that if they think amaurophilia “ is weird or sick, you don’t have to look at this page. I feel a bit weird about it myself, but for some reason I am really turned on by blind or blindfolded women”. Here are some insights I have come across online from self-confessed amaurophiles:
- Extract 1: “For me, although I do enjoy blindfolding and being blindfolded, I am specifically interested in blind people. I don’t know why I feel that way. I’ve read that people who are attracted to the disabled are trying to save people they perceive as helpless. I don’t feel that way, and I don’t treat blind people like they’re helpless. I know they’re not, and I probably screw up sometimes, because everything you do is bound to offend someone, but I try to treat everyone the same… At some point, though, when I was young, a blind person or fictional character probably just had a big effect on me. Blindness just became another trait that I enjoy, like dark hair, and blind people are just as likely to love sex and be kinky as someone with dark hair”
- Extract 2: “My particular interest deals with limitations of vision. All my life, I have found the experience of wearing a blindfold or some similar item to be very enjoyable. A couple of years ago, when I found that I needed glasses to see properly, I began to develop more of an interest in blindness”
- Extract 3: “I also have a blindness fetish. I would like to find someone who would agree to wear contacts that made them blind so that I could watch them try to make their way around without sight. I would also enjoy hurting them without them being able to see when it was coming. I might make him complete tasks for me blind so I could watch him struggle. With contacts instead of a blindfold I could still fully see their facial expressions, which are very important to me. Then I would be aroused enough to have sex with them. I would want them to still wear the contacts during sex so I was in complete control”
Unfortunately, very few of the accounts I have come across give any real indication as to how their blindness fetish developed. Should empirical research be carried out, the etiology and motivations for blindness fetishes would certainly be an obvious place to start.
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.
All Experts (2012). Fetishism/Amaurophilia. February 22. Located at: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Fetishism-2835/2012/2/amaurophilia.htm
Bruno, R.L. (1997). Devotees, pretenders and wannabes: Two cases of Factitious Disability Disorder. Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 15, 243-260.
Bukhanovsky, A.O., Hempel, A., Ahmed, W., Meloy, J.R, Brantley, A,C., Cuneo, D, Gleyzer, R., & Felthous, A.R. (1999). Assaultive eye injury and enucleation. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 27, 590-602.
First, M.B. (2005). Desire for amputation of a limb: Paraphilia, psychosis, or a new type of identity disorder. Psychological Medicine, 35, 919–928.
Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.
Wikibin (2012). Amaurophilia. Located at: http://wikibin.org/articles/amaurophilia.html
Posted on September 17, 2012, in Case Studies, Mania, Obsession, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged Amaurophilia, Blindness fetish, Darkness fetish, Lygerastia, Paraphilia, Sexual fetish. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.