Monthly Archives: November 2012

Turn on the eating: A beginner’s guide to sexual cannibalism

“People who have consumed human blood and flesh reportedly claim to experience an intoxicating euphoric effect. This reaction is similar to that experienced by anyone who satisfies a strong sexual craving that is not considered normal (exhibitionism, necrophilia, rape, etc.). However, in this case, it must have reinforced the beliefs of worshippers that indeed their god was present in the victim” (Dr. Brenda Love, Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices).

Today’s blog takes a brief look at sexual cannibalism in humans. I added “in humans” at the end of the sentence because sexual cannibalism is quite common in some animal species. As Dr. Brenda Love notes in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, sexual cannibalism is known to occur in some types of spider, praying mantis, scorpion, cricket, grasshopper, and fly. The Wikipedia entry also notes that sexual cannibalism has been observed in various types of crustacean (e.g., amphipods, copepods), slugs and snails (i.e., gastropods), and squids and octopuses (i.e., cephalopods). In the non-human species, it is typically the female that kills and eats the male before, during or after sexual union has taken place. Amongst humans, sexual cannibalism is extremely rare, and most humans who engage in cannibalistic acts for sexual purposes are generally considered sociopaths.

Of course, cannibalism for non-sexual purposes – known I more scientific circles as anthropophagy – has long been known among certain tribes and cultures. Throughout history, cannibalism has been practiced in many forms across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. Though rare today, it is believed to be still practiced in a few remote parts of Asia.  Cannibalism can be classed as either endocannibalism (i.e., consumption of another human being from within the same group or community) or exocannibalism (i.e., consumption of another human being from outside the group or community). Some acts of endocannibalism are actually acts of necro-cannibalism (i.e., the eating of flesh from dead humans also known as necrophagy) where dead people’s body parts are eaten as either part of the grieving process, as a way of guiding the souls of the dead into the bodies of the living, and/or as a way of imbibing the dead person’s ‘life force’ or more specific individual characteristics. Such endocannibalistic practices were common among certain tribes in New Guinea (which led to the prion disease kuru that I examined in a previous blog). However, it is known that many males among various tribes would not consume females for fear of emasculation. Exocannibalistic acts were most often carried out as part of a celebration victory after battles with rival tribes. There are various theories from many perspectives on why cannibalism may occur. These have included:

  • Religious theories (e.g., religious beliefs involving the need to eat human flesh as a way of sustaining the universe or as part of magical and ritualistic ceremonies).
  • Political theories (e.g., eating human flesh as a political tool to intimidate and control potential hostiles or subordinates).
  • Socio-psychological theories (e.g., eating human flesh due to unconscious factors such as a response to trauma).
  • Ecological theories (e.g., eating human flesh as a way of controlling the size of the population. The Aztecs were said to have eaten no less than 15,000 victims a year as – some have argued – a form of population control).
  • Dietary theories (e.g., eating human flesh as a source of protein).

There are of course other reasons (including sexual ones) that may be the root of someone’s cannibalistic desire to eat human flesh. One reason could be out of necessity. For instance, in 1972, a rugby team from Uruguay was in a plane crash in the Andes. Fifteen people died and the only way they prevented themselves starving to death was to eat the flesh of the deceased (which given the fact it took 72 days for them to be rescued, was one of the few viable options to prevent starvation). At its simplest level, human sexual cannibalism is usually considered a psychosexual disorder and involves individuals’ sexualizing (in some way) the consumption of another human being’s flesh. One online article claims that:

“This does not necessarily suggest that the cannibal achieves sexual gratification only in the act of consuming human flesh, but also may release sexual frustration or pent up anger. Sexual cannibalism is considered to be a form of sexual sadism and is often associated with the act of necrophilia (sex with corpses)”.

When it comes to sexual cannibalism in humans, there are arguably different subtypes (although this is based on my own personal opinion and not on something I’ve read in a book or research paper). Most of these behaviours I have examined in previous blogs (so click on the links if you want to know more:

  • Vorarephilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals are sexually aroused by (i) the idea of being eaten, (ii) eating another person, and/or (iii) observing this process for sexual gratification. However, most vorarephiles’ behaviour is fantasy-based, although there have been real cases such as Armin Meiwes, the so-called ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’.
  • Erotophonophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals have extreme violent fantasies and typically kill their victims during sex and/or mutilate their victims’ sexual organs (the latter of which is usually post-mortem). In some cases, the erotophonophiles will eat some of their victim’s body parts (usually post-mortem). Many lust murderers – including Jack the Ripper – are suspected of engaging in cannibalistic and/or gynophagic acts, taking away part of the female to eat later. Other examples of murderers who have eaten their victims (or parts of them) for sexual pleasure include Albert Fish, Issei Sagawa, Andrei Chikatilo, Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer.
  • Sexual necrophagy refers to the cannibalizing of a corpse for sexual pleasure. This may be associated with lust murder but Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices says that such cases usually involve “one whose death the molester did not cause. Many cases of reported necrophilia include cannibalism or other forms of sadism and it is believed that many others fantasize about doing it”.
  • Vampirism as a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal from the ingestion of blood from a living person
  • Menophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual (almost always male) derives sexual arousal from drinking the blood of menstruating females.
  • Gynophagia is (according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) a sexual fetish that involves fantasies of cooking and consumption of human females (gynophagia literally means “woman eating”). There is also a sub-type of gynophagia called pathenophagia. This (according to Dr. Brenda Love) is the practice of eating young girls or virgins. Several lust murderers were known to consume the flesh of young virgins, most notably Albert Fish). 

Added to this list, is something I would call ‘sexual autophagy’ which refers to the eating of one’s own flesh for sexual pleasure (and would be a sub-type of autosarcophagy discussed in a previous blog). I am basing this sub-type on an entry I came across in Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices and relating to a case study reported by Krafft-Ebing:

“Krafft-Ebing recorded the case of a man who at 13 [years of age] became infatuated with a young white-skinned girl. However, instead of desiring intercourse, he was overwhelmed by the urge to bite off a piece of her flesh and eat it. He began stalking women, and for years he carried a pair of scissors with him. He was never successful in accosting a woman, but when he came close he would cut off and eat a piece of his own skin instead. This act produced an immediate orgasm for him”.

This account seems to be confirmed by some online articles on sexual cannibalism claiming that cannibals feel a sense of euphoria and/or intense sexual stimulation when consuming human flesh. All of these online accounts cite the same article by Clara Bruce (‘Chew On This: You’re What’s for Dinner’) that I have been unable to track down (so I can’t vouch for the veracity of the claims made). Bruce’s article claimed that cannibals had compared eating human flesh with having an orgasm, and that flesh eating caused an out-of-body-experience experience with effects comparable to taking the drug mescaline. In another publication that I’ve failed to track down, the following snippet appears on at least 20 websites with articles on sexual cannibalism:

“Lesley Hensel, author of ‘Cannibalism as a Sexual Disorder’ [says] eating human flesh can cause an increase in levels of vitamin A and amino acids, which can cause a chemical effect on the blood and in the brain. This chemical reaction could possibly lead to the altered states that some cannibals have claimed to have experienced. However, this theory has not been substantiated by scientific evidence”.

As I’ve covered many of the cannibalistic sub-types in previous blogs, I tried to do some further research on gynophagia. There is almost nothing written from an academic or clinical perspective about gynophagia (in fact when I typed in ‘gynophagia’ only one reference turned up – a paper on ‘the psychophysical basis of feelings’ published by Dr. C.L. Herrick in an 1892 issue of the Journal of Comparative Neurology that only mentioned gynophagia in passing). However, there are quite a few dedicated gynophagia websites out there including dedicated pages on the Deviant Art website and an interesting set of cannibalistic links (that you can check out for yourself on the Indie Film website. There is also a reasonably lengthy article in the Urban Dictionary but it features little of any substance. The person writing the article makes the following observations:

“Gynophagia is the fetish of a person becoming food for someone else as a fantasy. As a fantasy it’s just as taboo as BDSM or other kinks…Gynophagia can really be a more gentle fetish than BDSM because torture is almost never applied. Honestly, when you boil it down to its essentials (no pun intended), gynophagia is an extension of the ‘Damsel in Distress’ scenario…Gynophagia is present in a lot of the older media we have, the most widely recognized being a helpless woman being boiled alive by a native tribe when the hero rescues her. Another example would be in Little Red Riding Hood where the wolf devours Red Riding Hood, but this could also be classified as a separate but similar fetish called Vorarephillia. One of the more widely known scenarios of gynophagia is known as the Dolcett method which usually centers around the main female character of a Dolcett comic being spit roasted alive and enjoying every moment of it. But again I must stress that gynophagia is one of those few fetishes that can only be a fantasy and should not be practiced in real life”.

If you really want to find out what gynophagia disciples are into, I suggest you check out the Carnal Consummations fetish website (but you’ve been warned!).

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.

Arens, William (1979). The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beier, K. (2008). Comment on Pfafflin’s (2008) “Good enough to eat”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 164-165.

Benezech, M., Bourgeois, M., Boukhabza, D. & Yesavage, J. (1981). Cannibalism and vampirism in paranoid schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 42(7), 290.

Cannon, J. (2002). Fascination with cannibalism has sexual roots. Indiana Statesman, November 22. Located at:

Krafft-Ebing, R. von (1886). Psychopathia sexualis (C.G. Chaddock, Trans.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.

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

Pfafflin, F. (2008). Good enough to eat. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 286-293.

Pfafflin, F. (2009). Reply to Beier (2009). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 166-167.

Prins, H. (1985). Vampirism: A clinical condition. British Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 666-668.

Unlimited Blog (2007). Sexual cannibalism and Nithari murders. November. Located at:

Wikipdia (2012). Cannibalism. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Human sacrifice in Aztec culture. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Sexual cannibalism. Located at:

Called up for navel duty: A beginner’s guide to alvinophilia

Alvinophilia – according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices – is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from the navel and bellies (although he refers to it as ‘alvinolagnia’). He also notes that:

“[Navel fetishism is] a strong attraction to the human navel (often called the belly button). Navel fetishists are sexually aroused by viewing, licking, tickling, sucking, sniffing, or kissing the navel of another person, or by having any of this activity done to their own navel by partner or to a lesser extent, by themselves. Some navel fetishists engage in outercourse (non-penetrative or dry sex as opposed to intercourse) involving the navel. Navel fetishism often co-exists with stomach fetishism”.

I have yet to come across a proper definition so for the purposes of this blog but some sources say it includes any sexual pleasure or arousal from any aspect of a belly or a navel (but this particular blog will just examine bellies as including navels will take me into the whole world of body piercing which I will leave for another blog).

I have only come across one academic paper that makes a specific reference to ‘alvinophilia’ and that was a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. I have made reference to this study in previous blogs on paraphilias such as lactophilia, mysophilia, and stigmatophilia. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). They reported that some of the sites featured references to belly and/or navel fetishes (3%). However, there was no further information as to whether the belly/navel fetish was connected to piercing, pregnancy, and/or belly inflation.

In a previous blog, I looked at fat fetishism. Obviously belly size is one of the most important aspects of a fat fetishist’s sexual focus. Many fat admirers are ‘feeders’ who deliberately over-feed their sexual partners (i.e., ‘feedees’) on their way to becoming a ‘big beautiful woman’ (BBW). Within the context of their sexual relationship, feeders obtain sexual gratification from the encouraging and gaining of body fat through excessive food eating. For many, it is the increasing stomach size that becomes the primary sexual focus. The bigger the stomach, the more sexually aroused the feeder becomes.

There are also fat fetishists who are turned on my ‘gut-flopping’. This involves masochistic elements involving female domination (“femdom”) and has to be seen to be believed. In an article on the world’s strangest fetishes, the Pop Crunch website reported:

“Femdom + masochism + BBW = gut flopping. A heavily obese woman comes up to you, usually on all fours, and drops her belly on you with full force. It combines the pain and control of your run of the mill dominatrix with the obsession and fetishization of fat that accompanies chubby chasers and feeders. The scariest thing about this fetish in particular, is the potential for damage. These ladies are large. Their stomachs are large. They’re hitting your back with a significant amount of speed and force, and you’re in a position where there’s not much support. Imagine someone dropping a bag of oranges on your back, while you’re in that position. Yeah…that’s all kinds of screwed up”.

It would also appear that another behaviour related to alvinophilia is pregnancy fetishism (i.e., maieusiophilia). In a previous blog I outlined the various attractions of maieusiophilia including belly size. Some maieusiophiles prefer an abdominal bump that is “just showing” whereas others – seemingly the majority of maieusiophiles – prefer “the bigger the better”). As I also noted in that article, for a small minority, the belly is so big that all thoughts are fantasy-based as the source of sexual arousal can become “a belly with a girl attached”. In fact, one online website (Bastion Works) claims that some maieusiophiles “have been known to enjoy the concept of stomachs grown to the size of vehicles, buildings, or even planets”. This would seem to indicate that there is a crossover with macrophilia (which I also examined in a previous blog).

There is also a related sexual fetish that involves belly inflation which I would argue is subsumed within alvinophilia. Belly inflation is also part of the wider practice of body inflation, and involves the practice of inflating (or sometimes pretending to inflate) a part of one’s body (in this case the belly), typically for sexual gratification. For some, this may be connected with sexual arousal from the receiving of enemas (i.e., klismaphilia). There are a number of websites dedicated to this practice such as the Body Inflation website. Here are a few online accounts I came across:

Extract 1: “Somewhere in my pre-teen years I became captivated with the look of full, pregnant-like bellies and began “experimenting” with large balloons under my shirt and pants. Then after noticing the female profile of very pregnant models wearing girdles and pantyhose in mail order catalogs, I got a girdle. One night I placed a large punching type balloon between it and my belly and started pumping up the balloon until it was incredibly huge. Needless to say I was really hooked now! Then I became curious about actually trying to inflate my belly; and so one night inserted the pump hose and soon I had my abdomen pumped up rock hard. Now I was even more hooked. Over the years I experimented with using water until today – some 40+ years later – I now regularly ‘fill-up’ with 2+ gallons of saline water, creating an incredible very pregnant looking profile. Why do I do it, well I guess it’s the incredible rush that I get every time!

Extract 2:I have an inflation fetish myself. Every now and then – which is starting to become daily – I usually inflate my stomach with air or water. I occasionally chug [almost] a gallon of milk or water with salt in it – chugging too much water can be poisonous, so always put some salt in it to balance your electrolytes. I find it very arousing to get a rock-hard stomach and I want to continue to make my stomach bloat bigger and rounder, yet maintain my abs. It’s a fun challenge”.

This next one makes a connection between fat fetishism, feeders, and belly inflation:

Extract 3: “I have the same fetish. I’m a gay guy, and I prefer belly expansion in particular. I think this fetish is somehow tied to the weight gain fetish that the internet and media has exposed in recent years. I, too, have a weight gain fetish. However, I enjoy helping or watching a partner partake in weight gain, but not myself. Getting back on the subject, though I do enjoy inflating myself. Whether it be through bloating with water, air enemas, or water enemas. Water enemas have become my personal favorite method, plus they’re actually healthy and cleanse your colon. I have noticed a lot of people with similar fetishes though. Everyone has their own niche of what turns them on”.

Given the lack of research into alvinophilia, online accounts such as the ones above are about all that academic theorizing has to go on. This is definitely an area that the research community would benefit from knowing more about.

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.

Bastion Works (2012). Maieusiophilia. Located at:

Gates, K. (1999). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. Juno Books.

Pop Crunch (2010). The 17 Most WTF Fetishes Imaginable. May 11. Located at:

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Swami, V. & Tovee, M.J. (2009). Big beautiful women: the body size preferences of male fat admirers. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 89-96.

Terry, L.L. & Vasey, P.L. (2011). Feederism in a woman. Archives of Sexial Behavior, 40, 639-645.

Wikipedia (2012). Body inflation. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Pregnancy fetishism. Located at:

Sexual healing: A brief examination of medical fetishism‬

I’m sure most of us can remember playing ‘doctors and nurses’ when we were kids but there are some people who never seem to grow out of it and engage in what has been termed ‘medical fetishism’. The fetish appears to be quite inclusive and wide ranging because the activity can comprise those (i) individuals who are sexually attracted to people in the medical profession, (ii) people (usually heterosexual males) who derive sexual pleasure from their female sexual partners to dress up in a nurse’s uniform, and/or (iii) individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from actually being the recipients of a medical or clinical procedure (usually some kind of bodily examination). Some of these behaviours may be paraphilias or specialized fetishes such as klismaphilia (i.e., sexual pleasure from the receiving of enemas) that I examined in a previous blog. There are also those whose fetish only concerns a very particular branch of medicine (such as dentistry).

The types of activity that have been reported as medical fetishes include genital and urological examinations (e.g., a gynecological examination), genital procedures (e.g., fitting a catheter or menstrual cup), rectal procedures (e.g., inserting suppositories, taking a rectal temperature, prostate massage), the application of medical dressings and accessories (e.g., putting on a bandage or nappy, fitting a dental retainer, putting someone’s arm in plaster), and the application and fitting of medical devices (e.g., fitting a splint, orthopedic cast or brace).

Some of these activities such as having a nappy, catheter, or orthopedic brace fitted may overlap with other sexual paraphilias listed in Dr. AnilAggrawal’ Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, such as infantilism (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from being an adult baby), catheterophilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from catheters), and apotemnophila (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from the thought of being an amputee). In the most extreme cases of medical fetishism, more invasive medical acts may be performed for sexual pleasure including giving injection, anaesthesia, and actual surgery. The sexual pleasure and arousal may occur in the giver and/or receiver, and much of the activity may be in the form of sexual role-play. As one online essay on medical fetishism noted:

“People with an extreme medical fetish use torturous medical devices, speculums, mouth and anal spreaders, enema kits, probes etc. They may even consent to false operations where they are surgically opened, and with nothing fixed or removed, sutured closed. An extreme medical fetish can be a dangerous thing…A medical fetish can include a sexual attraction to medical people. Doctor and nurse porn movies, people receiving medical examinations and so on. Most are simply role play”.

There are also sub-branches of medical fetishism that may have overlaps with sadomasochism and BDSM where (for instance) a female dominatrix may inflict a medical procedure on their willing submissive individual. Such activity often centres on sexual and/or sensitive body parts including the penis, testicles, nipples and anus. The instruments used may also be heated or cooled to heighten the pain/pleasure sensations. Given the potential danger involved in some of the activities performed and the fact the person administering the procedure (e.g., anaesthesia, surgery) may not have any formal medical training, the risk of permanent body damage – or in extreme cases, death – is a possibility. Here, the risk of something going wrong may also be sexually stimulating to the person, and there appears to be both physical and psychological overlaps with paraphilias such as hypoxyphilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from restricting oxygen supply to heighten sexual arousal).

Medical fetishism within sadomasochistic activity would therefore constitute ‘edgeplay’. This is a term used within the BDSM community that refers to sexual activities that push the boundaries of safety and are sometimes referred to as RACKs (Risk-Aware Consensual Kinks). Those involved in edgeplay are fully cognizant of the fact that their sexual behaviour may result in serious bodily harm and permanent damage.

In the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love notes that some people are sexually aroused by exposing themselves to medical practitioners, and that this is called ‘iatronudia’.  She claims that such people will pretend to be ill just so that they can undress in front of a doctor. This echoes with some online sources claim that those with medical fetishes may also feign injury and illness, or give themselves self-inflicted wounds just so that they can receive genuine medical help. Such activity would appear to have psychological overlaps with Factitious Disability Disorders such as Munchausen Syndrome (i.e., feigning illness to draw attention or sympathy from others). This type of behaviour may be considered somewhat safer for the medical fetishist (as the procedures would be carried out by someone who is medically trained) but is an abuse of others’ time and expertise.

Although there is almost no empirical research on medical fetishism, it would appear that most fetishes – particularly when they are very specific and specialized – are rooted in early childhood experiences and most likely caused by behavioural conditioning processes. For instance, those individuals who are only sexually turned on by being anaesthetized not only enjoy the act itself but will usually be sexually aroused by the sight of all the aneasthetic equipment and accessories (e.g., black rubber anaesthetic masks).

As with many other fetishes, the internet has fostered whole online communities of medical fetishists (such as the Gynecology and Medical Examination Fetish Forum or the My Male Medical Fetish; please be warned that these are sexually explicit sites). There is little scientific research on the etiology and psychology of medical fetishism although Dr. Brenda Love speculates that sexual games involving medicine are popular because of the anxiety connected with visiting a GP that “leads to a natural increase in energy in a sexual experience”. I can’t say I’m overly convinced by this explanation, but in the absence of anything more empirical, it’s one of the few views that a clinician has put forward.

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.

Bizarre Magazine (2010). Medical fetishism. December 1. Located at:

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

Midori (2005). Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink Educational, Sensual, And Entertaining Essays. Daedalus Publishing.

Streetsie (2011). Disability fetish and medical fetish. August 19. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at:

Leader’s digest: A brief psychological profile of Adolf Hitler

Over the last few weeks I have been watching the television series The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler (here in the UK’s BBC2). Not only am I psychologically fascinated with one of the world’s most infamous dictators, but I’m also interested in the concept of ‘charisma’ (a topic on which I have actually carried out some research with Dr. Mark Shevlin, Dr. Mark Davies and Phil Banyard within academic settings – see ‘Further reading’ section below). I’ve also made reference to Hitler’s alleged sexually paraphilic behaviour in my previous blog on coprophilia (and I am going to cover this as a separate blog in the coming months).

In 2007, Dr. Frederick Coolidge (along with Felicia Davis, and Dr. Daniel Segal) published a paper in the journal Individual Differences Research examining the psychological profile of Adolf Hitler. The study was based on Davis’ Master’s thesis research and attempted to posthumously investigate Hitler’s personality. As Coolidge and his colleagues note: “The name Adolf Hitler conjures-up images of a madman in power, Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Europe, and an evil of such magnitude that millions of Jewish people and others were subjected to unimaginable torture, terror and death”. The paper also made references to previous psychological profiles of Hitler. For instance, they summarized the work of psychoanalysts Dr. Walter Langer and Dr. Henry Murray who both assessed Hitler for the US Office of Strategic Services during World War II:

“Using sources only available up until 1943, Langer diagnosed Hitler as a neurotic bordering on psychotic with a messiah complex, masochistic tendencies, strong sexual perversions, and a high likelihood of homosexuality. He also stated that Hitler had many schizophrenic tendencies and that the most plausible outcome for Hitler would be that he would commit suicide…Murray thought Hitler exhibited all the classic symptoms of schizophrenia including paranoia and hypersensitivity, panic attacks, irrational jealousy, and delusions of persecution, omnipotence, megalomania, and ‘messiahship’. Murray also thought Hitler was extremely paranoid and suffered from hysterical dissociation”.

The paper also makes reference to the work of Dr. J.D. Mayer published in a 1993 issue of the Journal of Psychhistory. Mayer proposed something he called ‘dangerous leader disorder’ and compared six world leaders (Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and George Bush Sr.) on three major categories:

“(1) indifference, manifested by murdering rivals, members of one’s family, citizens, and genocide, (2) intolerance, manifested by censoring the press, secret police, and condoning torture, and (3) grandiosity, manifested by seeing oneself as a ‘uniter’ of people, increases in military and overestimation of military power, identification with religion/nationalism, and promulgating a grand plan…He found, of course, that Hitler, Stalin, and Hussein all met far more of the criteria than their counterparts, although a ‘promulgating plan’ was characteristic of all six leaders”.

The study by Coolidge and colleagues used the “informant version of the Coolidge Axis II Inventory (CATI)” that assesses personality, and clinical/neuropsychological disorders. The CATI was completed by five historians (all of who were experts on Hitler – academicians who had published books or articles about Hitler were chosen to evaluate Hitler”) and the inter-rater reliability between the responses of the five of them was high. The authors’ hypothesized (before the experts filled out the CATI) that Hitler would be diagnosed with schizophrenia (paranoid type). They noted that:

“This hypothesis was based upon his frequent preoccupation with delusions of persecution (e.g., by his disapproving father, those unwilling to recognize his ‘talents’, and Jewish protagonists), and grandiosity (e.g., fantasies of unlimited success and recognition, his “prophesies”, etc.), hisearly academic / interpersonal / occupational dysfunction, [and] his extremely virulent and paranoiac delusions about Jews”.

The CATI is actually a whole battery of tests. Rather than miss anything out, the following paragraph sets out in detail everything that the authors included:

“The CATI is a 225-item self-report inventory with each item assessed on a 4-point true-false Likert scale ranging from (1) strongly false, (2) more false than true, (3) more true than false, to (4) strongly true. The CATI measures 12 personality disorders in DSM-IV and 2 personality disorders from DSM-III-R (self-defeating and sadistic). The CATI also measures selected Axis I disorders (e.g., Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia [with a Psychotic Thinking subscale] and Social Phobia [with a Withdrawal subscale]). The CATI also has a scale for the assessment of general neuropsychological dysfunction (with three subscales assessing Memory and Concentration Problems, Language Dysfunction, and Neurosomatic Complaints). The CATI also has an 18-item scale measuring executive function deficits of the frontal lobes (with three subscales assessing Decision-Making Difficulties, Planning Problems, and Task Completion Difficulties). There are five scales measuring personality change due to a general medical condition. They are Emotional Lability, Disinhibition, Aggression, Apathy, and Paranoia. There are three hostility scales measuring Anger, Dangerousness, and Impulsiveness. Finally, there is one non-clinical scale on the CATI measuring Introversion-Extroversion. In addition, critical items are included to assess drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual identity and orientation”.

The authors acknowledged that such clinical diagnoses should ideally be done face-to-face but given that Hitler died in 1945 this was not possible. The authors also note that the length of time since his death means that the number of people who are still alive and had social interactions with Hitler are very few. However, all of the expert informants had at least interviewed people who had known Hitler personally.

The results of the study found that on Axis I, the highest meanscores were for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotic Thinking and Schizophrenia. On Axis II, the highest meanscores were Paranoid Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Sadistic Personality Disorder. In short, the hypothesis that Hitler would be classed as a schizophrenic was broadly supported (although other personality disorders scored more highly). The findings suggested there was little or no evidence for neuropsychological dysfunction. They also noted:

“It could, of course, be questioned whether someone with a schizophrenic disorder could rise to such a high position of power and control of others, given that schizophrenia is generally such a debilitating disease, particularly socially and occupationally. However, there are other documented cases of murderous schizophrenic persons who have had extraordinary influence on groups of others (e.g., Charles Manson, James Jones, etc.)”.

There are of course many limitations to the study including the reliance on expert opinion and small sample size. The authors also added that another limitation was the possibility of the five raters focusing on Hitler’s later life as opposed to his life before he became Germany’s Chancellor. Finally, the authors concluded that:

“The prediction, understanding, and control of such individuals’ behaviors could benefit generations. As Mayer (1993) has noted, there are international citizens’ groups that monitor human rights. Perhaps, an international group of mental health professionals could identify, assess, and monitor the activities of dangerous current world leaders, and the analysis of previous dangerous leaders, such as Hitler, might be a fruitful place to begin”.

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

Further reading

Coolidge, F., Davis, F. & Segal, D. (2007). Understanding Madmen: A DSM-IV Assessment of Adolf Hitler. Individual Differences Research, 5(1), 30-43.

Coolidge, F., & Segal, D. (2007). Was Saddam Hussein Like Adolf Hitler? A Personality Disorder Investigation Military Psychology, 19 (4), 289-299.

Coolidge, F., & Segal, D. (2009). Is Kim Jong‐il like Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler? A personality disorder evaluation Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 1 (3), 195-202.

Langer, W.C. (1972). The Mind of Adolf Hitler. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Mayer, J.D. (1993). The emotional madness of the dangerous leader. Journal of Psychohistory, 20, 331-348.

Murray, H.A. (1943/2005). Analysis of the personality of Adolf Hitler with predictions of his future behavior and suggestions for dealing with him now and after Germany’s surrender. A report prepared for the Office of Strategic Services, October 1943. Located at:

Shevlin, M., Banyard, P., Davies, M.N.O.  & Griffiths, M.D. (2000). The validity of student evaluations in higher education: Love me, love my lectures? Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 25, 397-405.

Shevlin, M., Banyard, P., Davies, M.N.O.  & Griffiths, M.D. (2004). The validity of student evaluations in higher education: Love me, love my lectures. In M. Tight (Ed.), The Routledge Falmer Reader Reader in Higher Education. pp.99-107.  London: Routledge.

Wear you bin? A brief look at trash bag fetishism

Sex and bin liners (plastic trash bags for my North American readers) are probably two things that rarely occur in the same sentence let alone an individual’s sexual behaviour. However, I was surprised to find that fetishistic behaviour concerning trashcans and bin liners is more common than I ever thought. I’ll start with a true story from here in the UK.

Back in February 1993, Karl Watkins, a man who was 20 years old at the time, appeared at Hereford Crown Court charged with five counts of outraging public decency. The first set of charges related to making love to pavements. Although his defence claimed a case of mistaken identity, Watkins was found many times by by-passers face down on the pavement with his underpants and trousers around his ankles, thrusting up and down into the ground. He was sentenced to go to prison and served 18 months. However, in April 1995, Watkins was back in court this time charged with simulating sex with black plastic bin bags in front of adolescent girls. In court he revealed a nine-year fetish with the plastic sacks in which he stated that he loved the “feel and touch of the bin liners”. The court heard how he went out nights and spent his time in rubbish piles. He was also found having simulated sex inside wheelie bins, and the back of dustbin lorries. He admitted that his “ultimate sexual fantasy” was to be in a dustbin lorry as the bin bags were being crushed. Once again he was convicted of outraging public decency, but was put on probation for three years and ordered by the judge to seek psychiatric help for his sexual proclivities.

Obviously, this is an extreme case and is someone that was caught engaging in his preferred sexual behaviour. However, this may be just the tip of the iceberg. To further highlight what I am talking about, here are a few self-confessions that I have found online (from people who have presumably never been caught in public having sex with a bin bag:

  • Extract 1: “I am a 22-year old male from the UK and I was wondering if it is normal to have a fetish for bin bags or what you Americans call ‘Hefty Bags’? I have had this fetish since I was a little boy and have often wondered if this is normal?”
  • Extract 2: For some reason I have always liked the look of black trash bags, of course not ones that actually have trash in them (trash is disgusting). I have always liked how the bags themselves are shiny, soft and I love the sound of the plastic. Is this normal?”
  • Extract 3:I’m a 24-year old guy. I just wondered is my fetish OK. I love the feel of plastic it feels so nice (plastic sheets + wearing plastic bin bags etc) and I like to see girls wearing bin bags as well. Also I like girls having paint poured over them too whether it ruins their clothes or not, and one girl I know says she will get wrapped in a plastic sheet and have paint poured over her. Am I a freak?”
  • Extract 4: “I have a sexual fetish that seems quite unique (I would be pleased if anyone else told me otherwise). I like to put my penis through a bin bag and thrust until I climax. I have no idea where this came from or how it developed. I think it may be the mystery of what my penis is rubbing against (Oh! What’s that broken glass or some ash?)…I have a healthy relationship with my girlfriend who has no idea (an ex girlfriend caught me once but I pretended I was sleepwalking). Sometimes I don’t wash my penis after bin bag sex and then enjoy the thought of my dirty penis entering my girlfriend during sex. I even think of bin bags while having sex with her (she is very pretty). What’s wrong with me?”
  • Extract 5: “I’m a single straight twenty-something-year old guy who loves wearing clean unused plastic garbage/trash/bin bags as shirts in private. I’m even wearing one right now as I write this. I wear them because I like the feel of them on my skin. They’re more comfortable to wear than others think. I also think they turn me on if worn by the opposite gender. I’m totally serious about all of this”.

When I first started looking into this sexual practice, I thought confessions like the ones above would be a rarity, but I was surprised to find quite a number of online sites and discussion forums dedicating to the practice of ‘trashbagging’. For instance, one site that appears to get a lot of traffic is the Trash Can Stories site. There is a helpful FAQ page that includes some operational definitions of their practices including ‘trashbagging’,  ‘bagging’ and ‘trash fetish’:

  • Trashbagging: “This is where people love to enclose themselves; be enclosed or enclose someone else in plastic garbage bags (or several), they love the feel of the smooth, slippery plastic. Sometimes involving breath-play, others more into messy situations with food or garbage thrown in with them. The fantasy may also involve being placed in a trashcan; garbage-bin or dumpster, to await their fate at the hands of the garbage truck”
  • Bagging: “Enclosing either yourself (solo) or being enclosed inside one or more plastic garbage or trash bags. Possibly bound, gagged or made immobile, or just left inside naked and left as trash. This may also involve breathplay, or the moving of the bagged person to another loacation of even to a dumpster for disposal as trash”
  • Trash Fetish: “The appeal of being enclosed inside a trashbag or several, dumped with rubbish or have rubbish dumped in with them, and/or just left sometimes just inside the bags themselves or disposed of inside a dumpster”

Sites such as the Choc Mess website also have pages devoted to “Plastic Trashbag Play” that seem to be closely related to trashbagging. They define ‘trashbag play’ as:

“Using the polyethylene bags you find in a grocery store for fetish clothing and for bondage purposes. Folks with plastic fetishes, folks who love encasement play, and folks who just like to see shiny material on a body get into this a lot. You can find plenty of people wearing trash bags by searching Flickr and DeviantArt websites!”

As fetish outfit material, Choc Mess assert that trashbags are “glossy and thin, clinging to curves and sensual on the skin”. For encasement play, the trashbags “provide a wonderful sense of confinement, one that has a certain feel of permanence to it even when it really won’t be”. They also make the point that trash bags have the advantage of being cheap and disposable, and that little is lost if one is cut or torn.

The descriptions of trashbagging suggest overlaps with other fetishistic and/or paraphilic behaviour such as salirophilia (in which individuals experience sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire). Another obvious overlap is with hypoxyphilia (in which individuals experience sexual pleasure from having their oxygen supply restricted which heightens their sexual arousal). Both the high profile autoerotic asphyxiation deaths in the UK of journalist and Tory politician Stephen Milligan (in 1994), and television presenter Kristian Digby (in 2010) involved plastic bin liners being found over their heads at the scene of death. Whether trash bag fetishism ever becomes the topic of serious scientific investigation remains to be seen. There are certainly no academic studies on the topic that I am aware of.

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

Further reading

Choc Mess (2012). Trashbag Play FAQ. Located at:

Daily Mail (2010). Millionaire BBC TV presenter Kristian Digby suffocated to death accidentally ‘when sex game went wrong’. December 29. Located at:

Montgomery, R. (undated). True weird sex stories. Located at:

Trash Can Stories (2012). FAQ papge. Located at:

Turtle shell shock: Emysphilia and the paraphilia that never was

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have written a number of blogs on zoophilia-related topics. This has included blogs on zoophilia in general, zoophilia classification, zoosadism (sexual pleasure from being sadistic to animals), necrobestiality (sex with dead animals), and very specific forms of zoophilia including delphinophilia (sex with dolphins), herpetophilia (sex with lizards), ophidiophilia (sex with snakes), ornithophilia (sex with birds including avisodomy), musophilia (sexual stimulation from mice including felching), formicophilia (sexual stimulation from insects), and melissophilia (sexual stimulation from bees and bee stings).

There are also loads of specific types of zoophilia that I have yet to devote a whole blog to. Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices list of zoophilia subtypes also includes (in alphabetical order) aelurophilia (sex with cats), arachnephilia (sexual arousal from spiders), batrachophilia (sexual arousal from frogs), cynophilia (sex with dogs), and phthiriophilia (sexual arousal from lice). However, while I was idly researching another blog, I came across a Wikipedia reference to emysphilia. I repeat it here in full:

“Emysphilia (or Turtle Fetish) is a rare sexual fetish in which the practitioner experiences sexual arousal from visual and tactile stimuli relating to turtles and tortoises. It was first discovered by Dr. Daniel Schechner of the University of Hawaii in 1959. Dr. Schechner dedicated a brief portion of his monograph The Varieties of Sexual Experience to this fetish. In the book, he mentions a native Hawaiian islander, known to the reader as ‘Mr. Gor’ who confesses ‘a strong sexual attraction to creatures belonging to the order Testudines’ (2 Schechner 387). Dr. Schechner’s encounter with ‘Mr. Gor’ also finds a brief place in his autobiography No Dull Flesh (1 Schechner 261). Since Dr. Schechner’s discovery, little research has been done on this disorder. As of yet, the American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), has not recognized the turtle fetish as a legitimate disorder. References: Schechner, Daniel, M.D. No Dull Flesh. Honolulu: UH Press, 1974. Schechner, Daniel, M.D. The Varieties of Sexual Experience. Honolulu: UH Press, 1959. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Emysphilia”. This Link may die if entry is finally removed or merged”.

It all sounded very convincing including hyperlinks to the author and his university. However, when I tried to examine this particular paraphilia more closely, I soon discovered that there was no such paraphilia as emysphilia and that it’s existence had been faked. I then read a really interesting article on the topic written by June Torbati in a 2007 issue of the Yale Daily News. She provided the background to the fake paraphilia and tied it to a story about student “dependence” on Wikipedia.

Torbati tracked down the author – Johan Behan – of the Wikipedia entry on emysphilia who admitted it was “totally absolutely fake”. The names of the people in the article were his college room-mates (Dan Schechner and Ankit Gor). Behan claimed to have invented the word ‘emysphilia’ (allegedly basing it on the Greek word for turtle, although I checked this out and that doesn’t seem to be the case although the suffix ‘emys’ does appear in many turtle names such as ‘Chubutemys’, ‘Hangaiemys’ and ‘Judithemys’). Torbarti also reported that:

“Behan said he has created many fake articles for Wikipedia, the most successful of which was the entry on emysphilia. To ensure others would find the article believable, Behan said, he had to do more than just write one entry on ‘emysphilia’ including creating several others relating to the fake fetish. ‘It’s an art of creating a web of phoniness’ he said. Additionally, striking an academic tone was important to creating an air of legitimacy. ‘You need to write it in a way that makes it sounds like it’s something possible’ Behan said. “If you write it like an authoritative pronouncement it tends to work better”.

Torbati claimed that Wikipedia’s editorial system (or rather lack of it) had American professors “concerned that students are citing incorrect information in their academic work”. Torbati interviewed a Yale history professor – Michael Gasper – who had banned the use of Wikipedia as a source of information for his students’ essays.

Any of my regular blog readers will know that I often use Wikipedia as a source of information (although I typically quote verbatim from it and allow readers to make there own judgment about the veracity of any claims made). Personally, I think Wikipedia is a great starting place but wherever possible I like to cite from academically published journal papers. It’s also worth noting that what starts off as a joke may take on legitimate academic currency. For instance, ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’ was originally proposed as a psychiatric disorder by Dr. Ivan Goldberg in the mid-1990s. However, his original online article was a satirical hoax.

I was one of the academics who cited Goldberg’s hoax criteria in a paper I published in Clinical Psychology Forum back in 1996. I was criticized for this by Dr. Susan Hansen in a paper she published in a 2001 issue of the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy. However, in my reply to her paper, I did point out that I had been writing about internet addiction a year before Goldberg published his hoax criteria, and that the hoax criteria had created a lot of academic debate which subsequently led to a lot of research in the area. I have absolutely no idea if ‘emysphilia’ will ever gain academic or clinical legitimacy, but based on the case of Ivan Goldberg’s hoax, you never know.

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.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Internet addiction: An issue for clinical psychology? Clinical Psychology Forum, 97, 32-36.

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). The pathologification of excessive internet use: A reply to Hansen. Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, 1, 85-90.

Torbati, J. (2007). Profs question students’ Wikipedia dependency. Yale Daily News,February 27. Located at:

Wikidumper (2006). Emysphilia. December 29. Located at:

Trading flaw: Is excessive stock market speculation another form of addictive gambling?

Earlier today, the news was dominated by the story that British city trader Kweku Adoboli had been jailed for seven years after he defrauded £1.4bn while day trading at the Swiss bank UBS. (the largest trading loss in British banking history). The phrases that kept recurring on most of the television reports that I saw was that Adoboli was “a gamble or two away from destroying Switzerland’s largest bank” after losing money in “unprotected, unhedged, incautious and reckless” day trading, and that he claimed he “lost control over his trades” during a period of market turbulence in the latter half of 2011. The question I am always asked by the media is whether day trading is just gambling by another name – and in a nutshell, my answer is a resounding ‘yes’. The prosecution seemed to concur with my own opinion as they claimed Adoboli was a gambler who believed he had a “magic touch”. Detective Chief Inspector Perry Stokes gave evidence and said that Adoboli was “running completely out of control”. More specifically he said:

“He did so, by breaking the rules, covering up and lying. In any business context, his actions amounted to fraud, pure and simple.The amount of money involved was staggering, impacting hugely on the bank but also on their employees, shareholders and investors. This was not a victimless crime. To all those around him, Kweku Adoboli appeared to be a man on the make whose career prospects and future earnings were taking off. He worked hard, looked the part and seemingly had an answer for everything. But behind this facade lay a trader who was running completely out of control and exposing UBS to huge financial risks on a daily basis. When Adoboli’s pyramid of fictitious trades, exceeded trading limits and non-existent hedging came crashing down, the repercussions were felt in financial centres around the world”.

The words ‘trader’ and ‘trading’ could easily be swapped for ‘gambler’ and ‘gambling’ as all the consequences are the same. Here is someone who lost all control of his behaviour, thought he had the ‘magic touch, and lied and deceived to cover his tracks. As someone that as spent over 26 years studying problem gambling, the media accounts sound all too familiar. (I ought to add that the prosecution alleged that outside of his job, Adoboli was taking extra bets with his own money and was accused of being “addicted to gambling”). The press coverage also made much reference to the fact that Adoboli engaged in the classic ‘double or quits’ strategies used by many hardcore gamblers (where, after a big loss, gamblers will double their bet in an attempt to recoup their lost money as quickly as possible). Again, this is further evidence that trading is just gambling under another name.

And of course, Adoboli was not the first trader to do this. Nick Leeson – you may remember, the so-called ‘Rogue Trader’ – was the man who in 1995 single-handedly brought down the UK’s oldest investment bank (Barings). Leeson was a derivatives broker whose fraudulent gambling caused the spectacular collapse of one of the UK’s most established financial institutions. From the early 1990s, Leeson made countless speculative (and unauthorized) gambles on the stock market that at first made large profits for his employers. However, as with most gamblers, his ‘beginner’s luck’ soon ran out and he started to lose huge amounts of money. To cover up his losses, he began to hide his large losses in an ‘error account’ (i.e., accounts that are used by financial companies to correct their mistakes made in trading). It was on 16 January 1995 that one national disaster (the Kobe earthquake) led to a disastrous financial one (the collapse of Barings Bank).

Things went tragically wrong when Leeson – using his employer’s money in an effort to recoup some of the money he had lost – placed a bet that the Japanese stock market would not move significantly overnight. However, on the morning of January 17, the Kobe earthquake occurred and it sent the Asian financial markets into turmoil. To try and retrieve the lost money, Leeson made a series of increasingly risky gambles by betting that the Nikkei Stock Market would recover quickly – but it didn’t. Leeson’s losses eventually reached £827 million (which was more than twice the bank’s available trading capital). After a failed bailout attempt, Barings Bank was declared insolvent just over five weeks later (February 26 1995). Leeson fled but was eventually caught in November 1995 and was charged with fraud. He received a jail sentence of six-and-a-half years. Interestingly, Leeson (and others) went on to blame Baring’s own poor auditing and risk management practices (just as Adoboli claimed in his trial too).

Most companies probably do not have policies in place to prevent one individual employee gambling away all of the company profits. However, Leeson’s and Adoboli’s (albeit somewhat extreme) antics demonstrate that organizations need to acknowledge that gambling with company money can be disastrous for the company if things go horribly wrong. While no company expects an employee gambling to bring about their collapse, the cases of Leeson and Adoboli do at least highlight gambling as an issue that companies ought to think about in terms of risk assessment.

Earlier today, BBC News published an article by Laurence Knight on ‘the psychology of the rogue trader’. Knight worked for six years for an investment bank. Although Knight wasn’t a trader, he interacted daily with traders. Knight said:

“For many traders, their sense of self-worth is defined almost uniquely by their ‘P&L’ – the profit and loss they make for the bank – and, by implication, the size of their bonus. Making a profitable trade shows that they are right. And the bigger the profit, the more right they are. As for the enormous bonuses…their importance is not so much in the material wealth they bring, so much as the recognition of the trader’s status and success…Adoboli specifically denied being motivated by personal gain in the form of a bonus, and the jury appear to have believed him. But he does nonetheless seem to have suffered from a fixation on profit above all else, which he claimed was because he felt under pressure to produce results”.

Knight’s former trainer at the investment bank where he worked – Bruno Curnier – claimed many traders suffer from ‘Gekko syndrome’ (named after the fictitious “greed is good” film character Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street). Curnier claimed:

“[Some traders] lack self-awareness – the ability to understand their own emotions and how they affect others. The aggressive, risk-taking, boundary-pushing, ‘high-roller’ image of the trader tends to attract exactly that kind of applicant. This self-selection effect can then be reinforced by a recruitment process in which the successful candidates are ultimately picked by the traders they will work for. I don’t think some traders have any clue how to manage people. They recruit people they like – if they see the same drive”.

Knight claims the traders he knew fell into one of three types (‘flow traders’, ‘quant traders’ and ‘elephant hunters’). These three types are not based on any scientific research, just on Knight’s sex-year experience of working with such people. More specifically he claimed:

“The most stereotypically aggressive are the “flow” traders – people who work in the simplest, most competitive and fast-moving markets, such as currencies or shares…The traders had rigged their computers to blare out noises or tunes every time they bought or sold. Then there were the ‘quant’ traders – those dealing with financial options or complicated transactions know as synthetic CDOs. They were brainy types, who needed to have an intuitive grip on the complex maths involved, and occasionally blew up when they got their maths wrong. Finally, there were the ‘elephant hunters’. These characters might spend months on one big transaction earning millions of dollars in profit. They too were deep thinkers, but their thoughts were turned to negotiating tactics, complex legal documents and accounting issues. They also seemed to be mostly likeable family men. Nearly all of the traders that I have heard of losing millions or billions (including two minor cases that never became public) fit somewhere between the first two types”.

Knight also made reference to a fascinating study that I tracked down quite easily. The study examined the biology of traders by measuring their levels of testosterone and cortisol among 17 traders while working. The study was carried out by Dr. John Coates and Dr. J. Herbert and published in a 2008 issue of the Proceedings of the Natlonal Academy of Sciences. The authors reported:

“Little is known about the role of the endocrine system in financial risk taking. Here, we report the findings of a study in which we sampled, under real working conditions, endogenous steroids from a group of male traders in the City of London. We found that a trader’s morning testosterone level predicts his day’s profitability. We also found that a trader’s cortisol rises with both the variance of his trading results and the volatility of the market. Our results suggest that higher testosterone may contribute to economic return, whereas cortisol is increased by risk. Our results point to a further possibility: testosterone and cortisol are known to have cognitive and behavioral effects, so if the acutely elevated steroids we observed were to persist or increase as volatility rises, they may shift risk preferences and even affect a trader’s ability to engage in rational choice”

Knight interviewed Coates who reportedly said:

“What I firmly believe is that financial risk-taking is a profoundly physical act. It’s a bit like an army gearing up for a cavalry charge. If we are doing well, the body tells us: ‘Go for it, there’s fruit everywhere’.The downside is that it makes the winner stupidly reckless – when traders blow up, it typically comes at the end of a long winning streak.And this is what seems to have happened with Adoboli”

Gambling is a popular leisure activity and recent national surveys into gambling participation show that around two-thirds of adults gamble annually and that problem gambling affects around 1% of the British population (as measured by our most recent national gambling prevalence survey. There are a number of socio-demographic factors associated with problem gambling. These included being male, having a parent who was or who has been a problem gambler, being single, and having a low income. Other research shows that those who experience unemployment, poor health, housing, and low educational qualifications have significantly higher rates of problem gambling than the general population.

It is clear that the social and health costs of problem gambling can be large on both an individual and societal level. Personal costs can include irritability, extreme moodiness, problems with personal relationships (including divorce), absenteeism from work, family neglect, and bankruptcy. There can also be adverse health consequences for both the gambler and their partner including depression, insomnia, intestinal disorders, migraines, and other stress-related disorders. “Addicted’ traders are likely to experience similar (if not exactly the same) effects.

Problem gambling can clearly be a hidden activity and the growing availability of internet gambling is making it easier to gamble from the workplace. Thankfully, it would appear that for most people, gambling is not a serious problem. For those whose gambling starts to become more of a problem, it can affect both the organisation and other work colleagues (and in extreme cases, such as Leeson and Adoboli, cause major problems for the company as a whole). Managers clearly need to have their awareness of this issue raised, and once this has happened, they need to raise awareness of the issue among the work force. Gambling is a social issue, a health issue and an occupational issue. Although not high on the list for most employers, the issues highlighted here suggest that it should at least be on the list somewhere.

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

Further reading

BBC News (2012). Kweku Adoboli jailed for fraud over £1.4bn.  November 20. Located at:

Coates, J. & Herbert, J. (2008). Endogenous steroids and financial risk taking on a London trading floor. Proceedings of the Natlonal Academy of Sciences, 105, 6167-6172.

Griffiths, M.D. (2000). Day trading: Another possible gambling addiction? GamCare News, 8, 13-14.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Internet gambling in the workplace. In M. Anandarajan & C. Simmers (Eds.). Managing Web Usage in the Workplace: A Social, Ethical and Legal Perspective. pp. 148-167. Hershey, Pennsylvania: Idea Publishing.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Betting your life on it: Problem gambling has clear health related consequences. British Medical Journal, 329, 1055-1056.

Griffiths, M. D. (2006). Pathological gambling. In T. Plante (Ed.), Abnormal Psychology in the 21st Century. pp. 73-98. New York: Greenwood.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Internet gambling in the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21, 658-670.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The hidden addiction: Gambling in the workplace. Counselling at Work, 70, 20-23.

Knight, L. (2012). The psychology of the rogue trader. BBC News, November 20. Located at:

Wardle, H., Moody. A., Spence, S., Orford, J., Volberg, R., Jotangia, D., Griffiths, M.D., Hussey, D. & Dobbie, F. (2011).  British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010. London: The Stationery Office.

Wind in the pillows: A brief look at vaginal flatulence and queefing fetishes

I have a feeling I may have broken one of the last taboos in today’s blog by examining vaginal flatulence – also known more colloquially as ‘varting’ (an amalgam of ‘vaginal farting’), ‘queefing’ (based on the onomatopoeic sound made by vaginal flatulence) and (in the UK at least) ‘fanny farting’. A short entry on queefing as part of the ‘Fetish University’ series of articles at the Masturbation Fascination website notes that:

“A queef is a vaginal fart. A queef is the expulsion of wind from the vulva – normally during sexual intercourse or other sexual activities…Truth is, it’s highly, highly embarrassing. I think most women have experienced it at least once in their lifetime and this is really no sexy way to brush it off. Unless of course, your partner has a queef fetish”.

The Wikipedia entry on vaginal flatulence notes that it simply involves an expulsion or emission of air from the vagina that typically occurs during or after sex, or during stretching exercises. Aurally, the sound is similar to anal flatulence but does not smell. Unfortunately, vaginal flatulence that smells usually indicates serious medical conditions. This can include colovaginal fistula (i.e., a tear between the colon and vagina) that can be caused by a range of different things including childbirth, surgical accidents, and Crohn’s disease. If left untreated, it can lead to serous urinary tract infections. More seriously it can be a consequence of another condition that can be caused by childbirth – genital prolapse. According to the Nation Master website, the vaginal flatulence after sexual intercourse “appears to be due to the decrease in the size of the vagina as it returns to a quiescent state when arousal ends”.

As far as I am aware, the first academic paper to examine vaginal flatulence was by Dr. Haim Krissi and colleagues in the journal International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (in 2003). In fact, the editors of the journal commented:

“The authors describe a rare but extremely embarrassing problem in women. Although vaginal air has been described with other conditions, such as enterovaginal fistula, inflammatory bowel disease, radiation therapy and pelvic malignancy, this is the first report of this problem in women with pelvic floor dysfunction. Further studies are needed to determine the true prevalence of this condition and the best modality of therapy”.

Their small study (comprising just six British women aged 21-52 years) evaluated the risk factors, investigations and treatments for vaginal wind. The women were surveyed about vaginal flatulence, prolapse, urinary, bowel and sexual symptoms. They reported that vaginally delivered childbirth was the most important risk factor for the occurrence of vaginal flatulence. All the women completed a course of pelvic floor physiotherapy. They also reported that for these women, vaginal flatulence “causes significant distress and embarrassment to sufferers”.

A very short article in 2007 by Dr. Sylvia Hsu also in the journal International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (and in part a response to the paper by Krissi and colleagues), reported a patient with severe vaginal flatulence bit had never given birth to a child vaginally. The 31-year old woman had had two caesarean sections and no prolapse. Dr. Stephen Jeffrey and his colleagues also reported in the same journal (responding to Dr. Hsu), the case of a 55-year old woman who suffered from severe vaginal flatulence and also had no obvious pelvic prolapse. They also reported that the use of cubic pessary, improved the condition.

A large-scale 2009 study by Dr. Marijke Hove published in the International Urogynecology Journal examined the prevalence, bother and risk factors of “vaginal noise” in a general population of 1,397 Dutch women (aged 45-85 years). They noted that previous research had indicated that vaginal noise (VN) is a symptom of pelvic floor (PF) dysfunction. They claimed that no other risk factors had been identified in previous studies apart from parity and pelvic organ prolapse (POP). They reported a prevalence of VN was 13% and that just under three-quarters of these women (72%) reported VN to be of little bother and was strongly related to many symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Dr. Firoozeh Veisi and colleagues have just published a (2012) paper examining vaginal flatulance and the associated risk factors in Iranian womenin the journal ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors claimed that “vaginal flatus is embarrassing to Iranian women, because it leads to their isolation from public and it is in contrast to their religious customs”. They speculated that compared to other pelvic disorders, vaginal flatulence has received less much less attention in the medical literature “perhaps due to not being uncomfortable or life threatening”. They noted:

“Vaginal flatus has been described as an uncomfortable situation with a negative impact on the quality of life of women of all ages, which not only creates social and psychological problems, but also causes impairment in religious duty practice. There have been few studies in this area and each may use a different term to describe it including vaginal wind, vaginal flatus, vaginal noise, or noisy vagina”.

The aim of their study was to determine the prevalence of vaginal flatulence in 948 Iranian women aged 18-80 years (which as far as I can ascertain is actually the first ever academic study to have examined this). One in 25 of the participants were virgins. Following a physical gynecological examination all the participants were asked questions about vaginal flatulence and the frequency and time of occurrence. One in five of the women (20%) admitted to have experienced vaginal flatulence. Just under 6% of the sample said that it was embarrassing. For those that had experienced vaginal flatulence, just under half of the sample (45%) had first experienced it after the birth of vaginally delivered child. A third of the sample (33%) said it had started spontaneously. However, some women who had had cesarean sections and a variety of pelvic operations also reported vaginal flatulence. The most common activity that resulted in vaginal flatulence was having sexual intercourse with just over a half of the sample (54%) claiming this had happened. The activity that led to the most inconvenience when it occurred was engaging in physical exercise (92%). The authors concluded that factors that were most associated with “the incidence of a noisy vagina” were vaginal childbirth, low body mass index, and young age.

Non-academically, there are numerous online forums discussing vaginal flatulence including the ehealth Forum website and a ‘Queefing 101’ guide on the website. (other sites have dedicated pages discussing “noisy lady parts”). Such discussions have loads of women writing about their experiences and what they believe cause it most often – sex and exercise (including yoga). The men’s forums that discuss queefing are typically more derogatory (such as the forum website).

I have to admit that the initial idea for this blog came when I ran across the following snippets while researching my previous blogs on eproctophilia (i.e., sexual pleasure and arousal from flatulence) and ‘fartomania’ (i.e., farting addiction). Unlike all the academic and medical literature, there appears to be some women who are sexually aroused by vaginal flatulence:

  • Extract 1: “I have this secret fetish. I like to prop myself onto leg press machines when there is a person opposite of me on another machine, and then force myself to expel air out of my vagina making a ‘fart’ noise. I pretend to be embarrassed but secretly I am very turned on. I enjoy the fact that a stranger has seen me in my most vulnerable states and that they have heard such an intimate burst of air come out of my secret honey hole. I have done this for the past 10 years. Most strangers pretend not to hear but I still do it in hopes that someone will come talk to me. What should I do?”
  • Extract 2: “You need to start doing this in more public places, your chances of getting someone to notice will sky rocket! I go to the grocery store in shorts, with no undies. I knock things off the shelf just so I can get on all fours to pick it up. I try to induce the air up into my secret honey hole, then I stand up really slow and smile and flip my hair at the nearest person to look extra sexy” 

I also came across various online articles with advice on how to facilitate vaginal flatulence. For instance, the Girls and Corpses website recommends that women should:

“Lie on your back on a comfortable surface. (A pool table will do just fine – though preferably not one in play). Next, gulp air like a goldfish out of the bowl, or, suck on a vacuum cleaner going in reverse. Next, gently press down on your diaphram with the palms of your hands. Now, squeeze your stomach muscles, like you are pooping Arnold Schwartzenneger until seat beads pop onto your forehead And, if you’re lucky, a mighty wind will expel from your inner bagpipe and blow out a candle half way across the room. Congratulations ladies – you have queefed”.

However, all my research leads me to conclude that fetishized vaginal flatulence appears to be relatively rare although there are certainly pornographic films where queefing has been eroticized (the most notable being ‘Amber the Lesbian Queefer’ starring Amber Rose and directed by Mimi Miyagi from the Philippines, and which has found itself in at least one ‘Worst Porn Movie Titles of All Time’).

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

Further reading

Hsu, S. (2007). Vaginal wind – A treatment option. International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, 18, 703.

Jeffery, S., Franco, A. & Fynes, M. (2008). Vaginal wind – The cube pessary as a solution? International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, 19, 1457.

Krissi, H., Medina, C. & Stanton, S.L. (2003). Vaginal wind – A new pelvic symptom. International Urogynecology Journal and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, 14, 399–402.

Hove, M.C., Pool-Goudzwaard, A.L., Eijkemans, M.J., Steegers-Theunissen, R.P., Burger, C.W. & Mark E. Vierhout, M.E. (2009). Vaginal noise: prevalence, bother and risk factors in a general female population aged 45-85 years. International Urogynecology Journal, 20, 905–911.

Nation Master (2012). Queefing. Located at:

Veisi, F., Rezavand, N., Zangeneh, M., Malekkhosravi, S. & Mansour Rezaei, M. (2012). Vaginal flatus and the associated risk factors in Iranian women: A main research article. ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology, doi: 10.5402/2012/802648.

Wikipedia (2012). Vaginal flatulence. Located at:

Wise Geek (2012). What is vaginal flatulence? November 13. Located at:

Identity floored: Can gambling addicts be identified in gambling venues?

Although the behavioural characteristics of problem gamblers have been studied for several decades, it has only been the in last decade that there has been interest in studying gambling within the gambling venue itself. Along with my research colleagues Dr. Paul Delfabbro and Dr. Daniel King at the University of Adelaide, we have just published a paper in the journal International Gambling Studies reviewing all the studies that have examined whether problem gamblers and gambling addicts can be identified as having problems based on their gambling within gambling environments.

For instance, a 2004 study published in the journal Gambling Research by Dr. Tony Schellinck and Dr. Tracy Schrans obtained data from a population sample of 927 video lottery terminal (VLT) gamblers in Nova Scotia (Canada) of whom 16.5% were problem gamblers (as measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index. Based on their analyses, the authors found that the most common experiences or behaviours reported by problem gamblers in terms of frequency were spending three-quarters of their time gambling, gambling for more than 180 minutes in one session, feeling angry, and sweating. Feeling sick or sad or gambling for over 180 minutes in one session were the factors that most strongly differentiated problem gamblers from other gamblers. For example, a person was around three times more likely to be a problem gambler as compared with the base-rate in the sample if they reported feeling sick while gambling. Some indicators (using credit cards, shaking, going out to get cash) were more commonly reported by problem gamblers, but did not occur very often when problem gamblers played VLTs.

A Swiss study carried out by Dr. Jorg Hafeli and Dr. Caroline Schneider in 2006 carried out qualitative interviews with a sample of 28 problem gamblers, 23 casino employees and seven regular gambling patrons in an attempt to develop a range of indicators that might be used to identify problem gamblers within Swiss casinos. Material from these interviews was content analysed and classified into meaningful categories. Only statements that were simple and concise, and which referred to concrete examples of behaviour were included. Problem gamblers were perceived as those who gambled more intensely and frequently, who were compelled to find many different ways to raise funds to defray the costs of gambling, and whose social and emotional responses differed from other gamblers. Problem gamblers were seen to be more socially withdrawn, angry, anxious, depressed, but also more immersed in the activity. Most of these items appeared to have good face validity as indicators of problem gambling.

A similar Australian study undertaken by Dr. Paul Delfabbro and his colleagues in 2007, but which also drew upon material from the two studies outlined above. Unlike the previous studies, attempts were made to develop indicators that were not so specifically focused on particular activities (e.g., casino table games), but which could be applied to venue-based gambling more broadly. Once again, there were items that referred to the statistically unusual frequency or intensity of gambling; evidence concerning gamblers’ need for funding while gambling; variations in social and emotional responses, but also evidence that gamblers had lost control over their gambling urges.

In an initial stage of this research, a list of indicators was provided to both venue staff (n=120) and counsellors (n=20) recruited from several different parts of Australia. Both groups of respondents were asked to indicate whether each item in the checklist was a valid indicator of problem gambling. The main component of the research was a detailed survey of almost 700 regular gamblers recruited either from the general community or from outside gaming venues. Participants were eligible to participate if they gambled at least fortnightly on electronic gaming machines, casino games or sports and race betting, although the principal focus was on gaming because this is largely venue-based. All respondents completed the Problem Gambling Severity Index with 20% classified as problem gamblers.

Their analyses were based on the proportion of problem and non-problem gamblers who reported producing the particular behaviour rarely or more often. There was one group of indicators that occurred relatively quite commonly in problem gamblers, but which were also reported by a moderate proportion of other regular gamblers. A second group were more rarely reported, but typically only by problem gamblers. Some activities, such as using ATMs on several occasions, playing very fast, or try very hard to win on one machine were relatively common amongst problem gamblers (similar to observations reported by an observational study I carried out way back in 1991 and published in the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology in his longitudinal study of British amusement arcade players), but also reported by a modest proportion of other gamblers. By contrast, very strong emotional responses or attempts to disguise one’s gambling were rarely reported by non-problem gamblers. The strongest predictors for males appeared to relate to impaired control (i.e., an inability to stop gambling) and emotional responses, whereas strong emotional responses and a preoccupation with gambling appeared most indicative when considering female problem gamblers.

Although these studies found theoretical support for the notion that there are valid indicators available to identify problem gamblers in venues, there are a number of caveats that need to be applied to these findings. The first difficulty is that all of the studies described involved only single samples. For models to be usefully applied to support harm minimisation policies, it would be important to show that models developed in one sample can be replicated using another. A second difficulty is that survey-based responses do not provide a lot of information concerning the practical reality of observing and consolidating information in a venue environment. Even if the same staff members are available in the venue over a protracted period, it does not necessarily follow that they will have the ability to observe the same patrons all the time.

Another potential challenge for the identification process is that studies are based on aggregate results. Although problem gamblers are likely to share many similarities, it is also known that different subgroups of gamblers very likely exist. These views suggest that the significance of particular indicators may, therefore, differ depending upon the type of gambler. For example, in a number of these models or typologies, a distinction is often drawn between gamblers who are emotionally vulnerable and gamble to escape from feelings of anxiety or depression and those who gamble because of the excitement or ‘action’. Those gamblers who are more emotionally vulnerable may be more likely to display emotion when they gamble and be detectable because of these characteristics, whereas there may be others whose behaviour is distinctive because of stronger externalised behaviours (e.g., displays of anger, large bet sizes, histrionics, etc.). At present, based on existing research evidence, it is difficult to determine whether visible indicators cluster according to these subtype models, but it will be important for this possibility to be considered in future research.

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

Additional contributions from Dr. Paul Delfabbro and Dr. Daniel King

Further reading

Delfabbro, P.H., Osborn, A., McMillen, J., Neville, M., & Skelt, L. (2007). The identification of problem gamblers within gaming venues: Final report. Melbourne, Victorian Department of Justice.

Delfabbro, P.H., Borgas, M., & King, D. (2011). Venue staff knowledge of their patrons’ gambling and problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 27, 1-15.

Delfabbro, P.H., King, D.L & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Behavioural profiling of problem gamblers: A critical review. International Gambling Studies, 12, 349-366.

Ferris, J. & Wynne, H. (2001). The Canadian Problem Gambling Index Final Report. Phase II final report to the Canadian Interprovincial Task Force on Problem Gambling.

Griffiths, M.D. (1991). The observational study of adolescent gambling in UK amusement arcades. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 1, 309-320.

Hafeli, J. & Schneider, C. (2006). The early detection of problem gamblers in casinos: A new screening instrument. Paper presented at the Asian Pacific Gambling Conference, Hong Kong.

Schellinck, T., & Schrans, T. (2004). Identifying problem gamblers at the gambling venue: Finding combinations of high confidence indicators. Gambling Research, 16, 8-24.

Tat’s life: A brief look at extreme tattooing on film

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t mind a bit of ‘pop psychology’ every now and again (and have even wrote articles defending it – see ‘further reading’ section below). I’m also someone who believes that art not only imitates life, but life can sometimes imitate art. This has led me to write academic articles on films (such as The Gambler) to see what extent the film represents the reality of psychological conditions. I’m also someone who uses film clips as teaching aids as sometimes film or a two-minute film clip says more than any academic paper about a particular psychological concept. (For instance, I think the film 12 Angry Men probably says more about the psychology of minority influence than any paper I’ve read on the topic). All this preamble is by way of saying there’s not a lot of academic research in this blog, and is one of the few times I will just write about whatever is on my mind.

Anyway, I was travelling back from a work trip to South Korea recently and caught up with a lot of films that I had been meaning to watch for some time. I watched four particular films on one plane flight – Eastern Promises, (released in 2007), Tattoo (2002), Red Dragon (2002), and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) – where (quite by coincidence) tattoos were a fundamental part of three of the four story lines (perhaps somewhat ironically, the plot of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has little to do with tattoos). Soon after after I got back from my South East Asia trip, Channel 4 then screened a television documentary called My Tattoo Addiction. This got me thinking about how tattoos have become part of the mainstream and how for some people it borders on the obsessive. In a previous blog I briefly looked at the sexually paraphilic side of tattoos when I wrote about stigmatophilia (i.e., individuals being sexually aroused by scarring but now seems to include those who are sexually aroused by tattoos and piercings). However, today’s blog takes a brief look at the non-sexually obsessive elements of tattoos.

In the film Eastern Promises (directed by one of my favourite directors David Cronenberg), the actor Viggo Mortensen plays the character Nikolai Luzhin who is the driver of a man who used to be of high standing in the Russian mafia. I’m not going to reveal any of the story line but all the tattoos in the film tell the life stories of incarcerated Russian criminals who typically have dozens of tattoos all over their bodies. Here, the constant adding of tattoos is part of the subculture and has a purpose that has nothing to do with style or fashion, and is more to do with life history and psychological identity.

To acclimatize to his role, Mortensen researched and studied Russian gangsters (called the ‘vory’) and their tattoos. More specifically, he worked with Dr Gilly McKenzie (a Russian Mafia/organized crime specialist who worked for the United Nations) and watched relevant documentaries like The Mark of Cain that contains an in-depth examination of Russian criminal tattoos. For instance, in researching this blog I have since learned that among Russian prisoners (i) an upwards-facing spider tattoo refers to an active criminal, (ii) a pair of eyes on the underside of the abdomen refers to the person being homosexual, and (iii) a skull inside a square (as a finger ring) refers to a robbery conviction. Mortensen’s tattoos were incredibly realistic (so much so that when making the film, he had dinner in a Russian restaurant in London and the other diners stopped talking out of fear!). Mortensen also admitted that:

“I talked to [real Russian gangsters] about what [the tattoos] meant and where they were on the body, what that said about where they’d been, what their specialties were, what their ethnic and geographical affiliations were. Basically their history, their calling card, is their body.”

Given the title of the film, it’s not surprising that the film Tattoo (directed by German film director Robert Schwentke) features tattoos as fundamental to the story plot. The main underlying story involves a serial killer who is obsessively murdering people for their tattoos (i.e., the body tattoos are viewed as a work of art by thekiller). The subject of killing people for their tattoos has been covered in other stories (most notably by Roald Dahl in his short story Skin) but the film is very good and unlike Eastern Promises where the seemingly obsessive motivation for the tattoos is a statement about life history and belonging to their cultural group (the vory), in this film the people who have all over body tattoos are a walking piece of art and the obsession is with the unseen protagonist.

I ought to mention there is another (1981) film called Tattoo (directed by Bob Brooks) that is about tattoo obsession. In this earlier film, Bruce Dern plays the character Karl Kinsky, a mentally unstable tattoo artist who makes his living by creating temporary tattoos for models. Kinsky becomes obsessed with a model (Maddy), kidnaps her, and forces her to wear ‘his mark’ (i.e., a full body tattoo). He keeps her captive as he creates his masterpiece on her body. The strapline on all the film posters says it all: “Every great love leaves its mark”.

In the film Red Dragon, (based on Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name), one of the film’s main characters (Francis Dolarhyde) has a huge tattoo of (surprise, surprise) a red dragon on his back because of his extreme obsession with William Blake’s painting The Great Red Dragon and what he feel it represents. The tattoo covered all of Dolarhyde’s back, and extended onto his upper arms and down onto his buttocks and legs (although this doesn’t win the prize for the most tattooed man in a film – that surely must be ‘Carl’ played by Rod Steiger in the 1969 film The Illustrated Man).

What I find fascinating about all these films is the different ways that psychological obsessions can manifest themselves, and how the stories involving tattoos are totally believable because tattoos have become so much part of Westernized culture over the last decade. Not only that but tattoos have become ‘normalized’ and call into question academic research into excessive tattooing. For instance, I recently read a 2002 case report by Dr. Harpreet Duggal on repetitive tattooing as an obsessive-compulsive disorder that talked about excessive tattoos being linked to those with an anti-social personality disorder and being a “self-mutilatory behaviour”. Their report (which was only written a decade ago):

“Tattooing has been viewed as an act of self-mutilation (Raspa & Cusack, 1990), the latter being a characteristic of borderline personality disorder. The noteworthy aspect of this case is that tattooing initially represented an act of self-mutilation in consonance with the underlying personality disorder. However, later it became repetitive and had a ‘compulsive’ quality to it, though not a true compulsion by definition. There are rare reports of self-mutilation taking on a compulsive pattern but this mostly occurs with cutting and burning acts”.

This leaves me wondering how heavily tattooed celebrities like David Beckham, Johnny Depp, Robbie Williams, and Angelina Jolie would feel if they read how their behaviour might be pathologized by psychologists and psychiatrists alike?

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

Further reading

Duggal, H.S. & Fisher, B. (2002). Repetitive tattooing in borderline personality and obsessive- compulsive disorder. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 44, 190–192.

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). ‘Pop’ psychology. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 8, 455-457.

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Pop psychology and “aca-media”: A reply to Mitchell. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 8, 537-538.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Media literature as a teaching aid for psychology: Some comments. Psychology Teaching Review, 5(2), 90.

Griffiths, M. (2004). An empirical analysis of the film ‘The Gambler’. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1(2), 39-43.

Raspa, R.F. & Cusack, J. (1990) Psychiatric implications of tattoos. American Family Physician, 41,1481-1486.