Water meeters: An overview of aquaphilia

Following a previous blog I wrote on psychrocism and sexual arousal from ice, it got me wondering what other sexual behaviours might involve water. In a comprehensive list of paraphilias in the books Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices (by Dr.Anil Aggrawal) and the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices (by Dr. Brenda Love), a number of water-related paraphilias and sexual behaviours were listed. The list included:

  • Aquaphilia: Sexual arousal from water and/or watery environments including bathtubs or swimming pools (and sometimes called hydrophilia)
  • Albutophilia – Sexual arousal from water
  • Ablutophilia – Sexual arousal from baths or showers
  • Antiohilia – Sexual arousal from floods
  • Coitobalnism —Sex in a bath tub
  • Coitus a unda – Sex under water
  • Bidetonism – The use of water spray from a bidet as a genital sexual stimulant for women while masturbating.

In her sex encyclopedia, Brenda Love has a section devoted to having sex in and/or under water (i.e., coitus à unda) and can include masturbation, oral sex and/or penetrative sex in any number of water-based situations (e.g., bath, shower, swimming pool, lake, ocean, etc.). She also says that such activities can include fellatio where the partner holds hot water in his or her mouth. She also highlights a number of other activities that come under the generic banner of ‘water sex’. These include:

  • Sexually based ‘entertainment’ hosted in pubs, bars and/or restaurants (e.g., wet T-Shirt or jock-strap competitions, naked women swimming inside large aquariums)
  • The use of water as a lubricant to facilitate insertion of bodily parts (e.g., fingers, toes) or sex toys into various bodily orifices
  • The use of baby baths along with the addition of child’s bath toys for those who derive sexual pleasure from being an adult baby (i.e., infantilism).

She also claims that Tiberius Caesar had a passion for aquatic sex. She claims Caesar trained young boys (that he called ‘minnows’) to swim after him and come up from below to nibble and suck on his genitals. Other cultures aren’t so liberal. For instance, Dr. Aggrawal notes that in Hinduism – and according to the ‘Laws of Manu’ (i.e., the words of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation – A man who has committed a bestial crime, or an unnatural crime with a female, or has had intercourse in water, or with a menstruating woman shall perform a Samtapana Krikkhra” (i.e., a 24-hour fast where no food can be consumed whatsoever).

Other psychologists and scientists (e.g., Dr. Viren Swami and Dr. Adrian Furnham in their book The Psychology of Physical Attraction; Dr. Katherine Ramsland and Dr. Patrick McGrain in their book Inside the Minds of Sexual Predators) define aquaphilia (like Dr. Aggrawal and Dr. Love) as a form of sexual fetishism that involves sex in (or under) water but extends the definition to include images of people swimming or posing underwater. According to Wikipedia, the term “aquaphile” was “first used by Phil Bolton, when he created the ‘Aquaphiles Journal’ – an online magazine for followers of the underwater erotica scene published in the 1990s”.

Another more unusual water-related paraphilia is hypoxyphilia. Autoerotic asphyxiates use a variety of methods to restrict their oxygen supply including partial hanging, the use of plastic bags or masks over the face, chest compression, and submerging under water (known in the clinical and forensic literature as “aqua eroticum”). Reports of water-related hypoxyphilic deaths are exceedingly rare but have been documented.

The term “aqua-eroticism” was first used in a 1984 paper – in the journal Medicine, Science and the Law – by Dr. S. Sivaloganathan. However, the use of the term here solely related to hypoxyphilia (i.e.. autoerotic asphxiation). While there have been hundreds of papers and articles about hypoxyphilia, to my knowledge only two papers have been published involving submersion under water. These very rare occurrences have come to light when things have gone drastically wrong (i.e., death for the person engaging in the activity). As with hypoxyphilic activity more generally, underwater submersion while holding one’s breath produces the same effects of oxygen deprivation via other methods (e.g., hanging, self-strangulation).

In the case documented by Dr. Sivaloganathan, a man was found drowned with a stone tied to his ankle (to weigh him down in the water). He was also assumed to have transvestite tendencies as he found dressed in women’s clothes. It was assumed to be an example of autoerotic asphyxia given that it seemed to be a very peculiar way to be swimming or committing suicide. The act of swimming in the opposite sex’s clothes with a weight tied to the leg also had many key features of deliberately induced danger as a method of increasing the arousal level. There is always the possibility that other similar types of incident may have occurred but have been labelled as suicide rather than death by misadventure.

The second case in the academic literature was reported by Dr. A. Sauvageau and Dr. S. Racette in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Here, the evidence for autoerotic asphyxiation was more clear cut. During the summer, a man aged 25 years was found dead in a lake, submerged underneath his boat. Despite being the height of summer, he was wearing a hockey helmet, a snowmobile suit, and ski boots. However, underneath these clothes he was found to be wearing a self-constructed plastic bodysuit over his naked body from head to toe with a separate plastic tube wrapped around his genitals. Furthermore, there were clear bondage elements. Around his wrists, ankles, knees and waist he was tightly bound in a mixture of mesh and chains (all of which were padlocked to his groin). The only air supply was a black tube joined to his mouth and sealed to the suit by silicone. The man’s air supply system comprised an open plastic container floating on the lake to his mouth.

Although such elaborate bondage suggests a second party may have been involved, the crime scene investigators established that the man could have put on the harness. The victim’s clothing and water submersion appeared to facilitate a masochistic scenario. The investigation also established that the dead man had been an active member of an online hypoxyphiliac website. The authors noted:

“The victim was found completely submerged, with an air tube running from his mouth to a floating plastic container. However, he’d apparently miscalculated, using a tube too narrow for both the intake and expulsion of air. Rather than giving him the right degree of hypoxia for a heightened erotic experience, his air supply was significantly fouled with carbon dioxide, killing him”.

The coroner ruled the death as accidental (i.e., autoerotic asphyxia from re-breathing, caused by the faulty self-constructed air-supply device). Clearly this latter case has overlaps with sadomasochism and bondage. In fact, there are dedicated websites for ‘water bondage’ (where women are gagged and bound and submerged into “helpless submission”). For instance, at waterbondage.com:

“Water bondage is where rope bondage, fetish and BDSM meet breath control, immersion, water sex, predicament bondage, and more. Women are bound, dunked, sprayed and drenched, then dildo fucked and tortured with vibrators until they cum. With the most elegant rope bondage around, Water bondage has extreme bondage, breath play, punishment, domination, BDSM, fetish, submission, pain, and real female orgasms”

The only other sexually related water fetish or paraphilia that I have come across is liquidophilia. Various online articles (such as the not-so-imaginatively-titled Dirty Mag website) mention this behaviour and all define it as a paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from immersing their genitals in some kind of liquid. Although most liquidophiles use water (e.g., taking a bath would be highly erotic for such people), any liquid can apparently be used. It has also been claimed that some liquidophiles have a preference for liquids that resemble bodily secretions (e.g., milk).

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

Further reading

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

Dirty Mag (2011). Fetish fix: Liquidophilia. September 12. Located at: http://dirtymag.com/fetish-fix-liquidophilia/

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

Sauvageau A. & Racette S. (2006). Aqua-eroticum: An unusual autoerotic fatality in a lake involving a home-made diving apparatus. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51, 137-9.

Sivaloganathan S. (1984). Aqua-eroticum – A case of auto-erotic drowning. Medicine, Science and the Law, 24, 300-302.

Swami, V. & Furnham, A. (2008). The Psychology of Physical Attraction. London: Routledge.

Ramsland, K.M. & McGrain, P.N. (2010). Inside the Minds of Sexual Predators. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Wikipedia (2012). Aquaphilia (fetish). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaphilia_(fetish)

About drmarkgriffiths

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

Posted on October 1, 2012, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Mania, Paraphilia, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I just watched a very disturbing documentary about the smiley face killer theory in the USA many very similar adolescant males dissapearing under curious similar circumstances presumed drownings, seems to be evidence and good reason for suspicion that this is water fetish turned murder, someone, or a gang drugging, ? raping? killing these beautiful souls, send in the FBI. No one seems to be taking this seriously. Sad World, each to their own desires i am not judging harmless sexual preference. There are pedophile rings, murder and abduction, why not this?…These young men are victims, RIP

  1. Pingback: An A to Z of Kink | King Kinky blog

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