Monthly Archives: November 2012
“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
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: http://www.indianastatesman.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/11/22/3dde3b6201bc1
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: http://sms-unlimited.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/sexual-cannibalism-and-nithari-murders.html
Wikipdia (2012). Cannibalism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibalism
Wikipedia (2012). Human sacrifice in Aztec culture. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sacrifice_in_Aztec_culture
Wikipedia (2012). Sexual cannibalism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_cannibalism
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
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: http://bastionworks.com/Mikipedia/index.php?title=Maieusiophilia
Gates, K. (1999). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. Juno Books.
Pop Crunch (2010). The 17 Most WTF Fetishes Imaginable. May 11. Located at: http://www.popcrunch.com/the-17-most-wtf-fetishes-imaginable/
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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_inflation
Wikipedia (2012). Pregnancy fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pregnancy_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
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: http://www.bizarremag.com/fetish/fetish/10393/medical_fetish.html?xc=1
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: http://www.streetsie.com/disability-fetish-medical-fetish/
Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_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.
Choc Mess (2012). Trashbag Play FAQ. Located at: http://chocmess.com/trashbag/trashfaq.htm
Daily Mail (2010). Millionaire BBC TV presenter Kristian Digby suffocated to death accidentally ‘when sex game went wrong’. December 29. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1327843/BBC-TV-presenter-Kristian-Digby-died-accidentally-sex-game.html
Montgomery, R. (undated). True weird sex stories. Located at: http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com/download/weirdsex.htm
Trash Can Stories (2012). FAQ papge. Located at: http://www.trashcanstories.net/trashcanstories_faq.html
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.
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: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2007/feb/07/profs-question-students-wikipedia-dependency/
Wikidumper (2006). Emysphilia. December 29. Located at: http://wikidumper.blogspot.co.uk/2006/12/emysphilia.html
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 Gurl.com 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 Bodybuilding.com 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’).
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: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Queefing
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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaginal_flatulence
Wise Geek (2012). What is vaginal flatulence? November 13. Located at: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-vaginal-flatulence.htm
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?
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.