Crash and turn on: A brief look at chremastistophilia and symphorophilia

“Okay so I was chatting on a website and this guy approached me saying he wanted to be blackmailed for money. He told me he would give me $100 on Thursday if I logged into his Facebook account and humiliated him. I’m a little freaked out, but what should I tell him??” (query from ‘‘)

In a previous blog I examined hybristophilia (a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from having a sexual partner who is known to have committed serious crimes, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery). Another criminally-related paraphilia is chremastistophilia. In this paraphilia, the individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from being robbed, conned, cheated, blackmailed and/or being held up by the individual’s sexual partner (or in a few cases, a complete stranger). Some websites (such as colloquially refer to it as the “hold-up kink”.

Some have speculated that the strong emotions of frustration, fear, annoyance, rage, and/or submission are subconsciously drawn upon by chremastistophiles and then focused into sexual arousal/gratification. This could be viewed as ‘edge play’ (i.e., rough and deviant sexual play enjoyed by sexual masochists and sexual sadists) as the behaviour can be life threatening for chremasistophiles to actively seek out someone to steal from them purely for sexual kicks.

The reciprocal condition where the sexual focus is on charging or robbing one’s sexual partner has not been given a name. Those people who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from breaking and entering a property (and then stealing) is known as kleptophilia (which I overviewed in a previous blog). In my research into chremastistophilia, I have yet to come across a single piece of empirical research on the topic. Most of the evidence appears to be anecdotal. For instance, the cult novelist and multi-media artist Kris Saknussemm has noted:

“I’ve met several chremastistophiles, all of whom had been arrested on petty charges at some point in their lives – drug possession, minor theft, etc. All expressed a strong libido, but also a climax dysfunction. They got aroused, they just didn’t get off easily. What magical thing finally provided that long-awaited release? The experience of being taken advantage of – which is different from out-and-out assault. It’s a variation on biastophilia, the perverse attraction to being raped, but the key distinction seems to lie in the impending threat itself. “Give me your wallet and nobody gets hurt” – that kind of thing. One British gentleman proudly displayed the scar he received from a knife wound in the course of a mugging – an event which he said led to a spontaneous ejaculation, the most powerful and substantial he’d ever experienced”

Dr Billi Gordon and Dr James Elias claim that chremastistophilia is accepted as potentially lethal alongside other criminally related paraphilias such as hybristophilia and autassassinophilia (where the individual derives sexual arousal by the by the risk of being killed). Unfortunately, I cannot find a single academic or clinical study that has ever been published in a peer reviewed journal so this is clearly an area that is crying out for some empirical research. There was a theoretical paper published in 2004 on autassassinophila by Lisa Downing (Queen Mary, University of London). She used used the case of Sharon Lopatka, a Maryland woman who instigated her own sexual murder in 1996. She said:

“It demonstrates that the phenomenon of being murdered for pleasure problematizes commonplace assumptions about the legitimacy to consent. The discussion recalls and refreshes existing debates in feminism and the politics of sadomasochism and reads them alongside the rhetoric surrounding the ethics of medically assisted suicide. Consenting to murder for pleasure is revealed as a formulation that exceeds the terms of informed consent as it is currently understood and thereby constitutes an ethical and logical aporia”.

Another strange paraphilia with a potentially criminally-based sexual focus is symphorophilia. This is a paraphilia that Professor John Money said related to individuals who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from witnessing and/or stage-managing a “disaster, such as a conflagration or traffic accident, and watching for it to happen”. Again, I have yet to come across any empirical research on the topic although I did briefly examine this paraphilia in relation to sex and cars in one of my previous blogs (and another blog I wrote on objectum sexuality). It has been alleged that in very rare cases, an accident that may injure or even kill someone may bring the symphorophile to the point of orgasm quicker. The condition is probably better known in popular culture than in academic terms. For instance, the main characters in the 1973 novel Crash by British author J.G. Ballard (and the subsequent 1996 film adaptation of the same name) were symphorophiles. Part of the Crash Wikipedia entry on Ballard’s Crash novel motes:

“The story is told through the eyes of narrator James Ballard, named after the author himself, but it centers on the sinister figure of Dr. Robert Vaughan, a ‘former TV-scientist, turned nightmare angel of the expressways’. Ballard meets Vaughan after being involved in a car accident himself near London Airport. Gathering around Vaughan is a group of alienated people, all of them former crash-victims, who follow him in his pursuit to re-enact the crashes of celebrities, and experience what the narrator calls ‘a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology’. Vaughan’s ultimate fantasy is to die in a head-on collision with movie star Elizabeth Taylor”.

In the film, the Wikipedia entry notes:

“Ballard becomes one of Vaughan’s followers who fetishise car accidents, obsessively watching car safety test videos and photographing traffic accident sites. Ballard drives Vaughan’s Lincoln convertible around the city while Vaughan picks up and uses street prostitutes, and later Ballard’s wife. In turn, Ballard has a dalliance with one of the other group members, Gabrielle a beautiful woman whose legs are clad in restrictive steel braces, and who has a vulva-like scar on the back of one of her thighs, which is used as a substitute for a vagina by Ballard. The film’s sexual couplings in (or involving) cars are not restricted to heterosexual experiences. While watching videos of car crashes, Dr. Remington becomes extremely aroused and gropes the crotches of both Ballard and Gabrielle, suggesting an imminent ménage a trios”.

As with chremastistophilia, I have been unable to find a single clinical or academic study published in a peer-reviewed journal so it wouldn’t be too much an educated guess that such a paraphilia is incredibly rare.

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

Further reading

Downing, L. (2004). On the limits of sexual ethics: The phenomenology of autassassinophilia. Sexuality and Culture, 8, 3-17.

Gordon, W.A. & Elias, J.E. (2005). Potentially lethal modes of sexual expression. Paper presented at the 2005 Western Region Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Wikipedia (undated). Crash (1996 film). Located at:

Wikipedia (undated). Crash (J.G. Ballard novel). Located at:

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 8, 2012, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Crime, Mania, Obsession, Paraphilia, Popular Culture, Psychiatry, Psychological disorders, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I got an email from DeryckT who said

    “I enjoyed this post since it named a fetish that I have long been aware but didn’t know it had a ‘proper’ name. It is disappointing that it is a subject not covered in academic research since I do not think it is as rare as you suggest. Chremastistophilia seems to incorporate ‘financial domination’. This is an ‘established’ fetish usually involving women (dominatrices) extracting money from men. This involves dominatrices (usually operating online or via telephone encouraging, cajoling or even threatening men to give them gifts or money. At it’s least malevolent this could simply mean maintaining a web based wish list (either on their own site or on Amazon) of things they would like to own. More sophisticated would be the use of an online payment system. Usually the male chats to the female and is encouraged to make donations, gifts or tributes. At the more extreme end of the spectrum the male is coerced into handing over money after having deliberately or inadvertently handing over information about himself that could compromise him. The starts to border on another BDSM fetish, TPE (total power exchange). In addition to websites specializing in financial domination (sometimes called financial exploitation) many dominatrices who provide the more usual range of BDSM services also incorporate a facility to accept such ‘gifts’.

    I first became aware of it in 1998. It seemed to quickly become more prevalent (probably because of the lure of ‘free money’) and it ‘peaked’ in the 2000’s. It has seemed to decline after that, possibly because companies like Paypal stopped allowing ‘adult’ transactions (although there are ways to circumvent this) and perhaps because the credit crunch has meant that people have less disposable income. It’s a fetish that lends itself to the online world; someone can get aroused via an online chat and then be tempted into transferring money via various online means whilst in the “thrall” of the dominatrix. The behaviour lends itself to various addiction models and I would argue that financial domination can become an addiction with very real consequences. I have avoided posting links that could be seen as salacious but to illustrate my last point I provide this link which also includes more information about the fetish:

    You refer to sources that feel that this is eroticising strong negative feelings. Do you have a reference for that? It is an argument that I have heard before and I am always sceptical of it; for example, people having fetishes about their dentist would surely be more common if this theory were true. My own pet theory is that low self-esteem plays a significant role in this. People who feel that they do not deserve the successes that they have had in life (and presumably people with income to dispose of in this way are successful, financially at least) may be susceptible to giving it away in this fashion. Perhaps less of a theory and more of a shaky hypothesis!”

  1. Pingback: 17 Surprising & Weird Fetishes

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