Monthly Archives: December 2012

Stats entertainment: A review of my 2012 blogs

My last blog of 2012 was not written by me but was prepared by the stats helper. I thought a few of you might be interested in the kind of person that reads my blogs. I also wanted to wish all my readers a happy new year and thank you for taking the time to read my posts.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 180,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 3 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

Riding high: Can cycling be addictive?

One of the many music books I got for Christmas this year was David Buckley’s excellent 2012 biography of Kraftwerk. Given the media shyness of the band since their official formation in 1970, I was surprised that there was enough material to even fill a chapter, let alone a whole book. However, I read the whole book by December 27th and one of the things I found most fascinating was the claim that the two key founding members of the band – Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider – were obsessed with cycling. Cycling was so much a part of their daily lives from the early 1980s that – according to the other members of the ‘classic’ line-up, Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür – it partly explains (along with the band’s perfectionist nature) the relatively low number of albums they released between 1981’s seminal Computer World and the present day. Even the most casual of Kraftwerk observers are probably aware of the band’s love of cycling as they released a single in 1983 about the Tour De France, and then 20 years later released their  2003 album Tour De France Soundtracks (their most recent album of original music).

People often talk about the ‘cycle of addiction’ but rarely about ‘addiction to cycling’ except occasional academic references in relation to exercise addiction (including some papers I have published myself). For instance, Dr. John Kerr in his 1997 book Motivation and Emotion in Sport speculated on the likely meta-motivational style of those people who are addicted to exercise. Dr. Kerr noted that it was the endurance type exercise activities (e.g. running, cycling, swimming, aerobics and weight training) that are most often associated with exercise addiction and dependence.

David Buckley devotes a whole section in his Kraftwerk biography to Hütter and Schneider’s obsession with cycling. He notes that “there is something compulsive about cycling; and this is not simply based on anecdotal evidence”, something with which I would concur based on the small amount of scientific evidence examining various types of exercise addiction. Most of the section on ‘cycling addiction’ relates to Hütter (although Schneider appears to be as equally enthusiastic about the joy of cycling). Buckley reported that:

“Ralf Hütter…the man-machine became the human bicycle. There is no denying that cycling was, and indeed still is, very important for Ralf Hütter…It is probably inaccurate to describe his passion for cycling as a hobby…it became more like a second (unpaid) job…The main problem with the [cycling] was, firstly, it took a huge chunk out of the conventional working day, and secondly, the effect of the work-out on the motivation of the individual”.

As Buckley then noted, after six hours cycling, the last thing Hütter wanted to do was work when he finally got to their infamous Kling Klang studio. He then went on to note:

“As [Hütter’s] fitness levels increased, he began attempting harder and harder climbs, longer and longer routes…[Hütter] estimated that at his peak, he was cycling around 200 kilometres a day. It had been reported that on occasion on Kraftwerk tours, the bus would drop [Hütter] off around 100 kilometres from the venue, and [Hütter] would complete the final stretch on his bike”.

To those of us who work in the addiction studies field, this description of engaging in ‘harder and harder [cycling] climbs’ by Buckley appears to be an example of ‘tolerance’ in all but name (i.e., the needing of more and more of an activity to gain the desired mood modification effect). Ralf Dorper, founder member of another of my favourite 1980s bands, Propaganda, said that in the mid-1980s:

“The only chance to meet Kraftwerk…would have been at one of these cycling shops. But then [Hütter and Schneider] got more and more into it, and they went to the really specialist shops outside of Dusseldorf…They would probably easily do 50 to 100 kilometres a day”.

Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür noticed his band members shift their focus away from music and on to cycling. He said that his colleagues became “fanatics” and “insane” about their cycling, and he also claimed in an interview with Buckley that cycling was an addiction and “became a kind of drug” for Hütter. Buckley also recounts Hütter’s cycling accident that left him in a coma. The most amusing anecdote was that on coming out of his coma, Hütter’s alleged first words were “Is my bike OK? What happened to my bike?” (something that Hütter denied in a June 2009 interview with British newspaper The Guardian). Hütter doesn’t deny his cycling passion and noted in one online interview I came across that:

Cycling is the man-machine, it’s about dynamics, always continuing straight ahead, forward, no stopping. He who stops falls over. There are really balanced artists who can remain upright at a standstill, but I can’t do that. It’s always forwards”

If newspaper reports are to be believed, Hütter may not be the only pop musician with a cycling addiction. An article in an October 2009 issue of The Guardian claimed that Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet was “now a road cycling addict” based on his new-found enthusiasm for cycling. The article then went on to talk about Ralf Hütter and that “his obsession with [cycling] reportedly became so all-encompassing it threatened the group”.

Arguably the most infamous ‘cycling addict’ was the 55-year old American man ‘Tom’ from Mt. Pleasant (Texas) who appeared on the US television show My Strange Addiction who cycles eight hours a day, seven days a week (over one million miles in a 25-year period). According to the show, Tom rides his bike at home, outside, and even in his office as he works. It was also revealed that Tom was in constant stress from his cycling, and that his constant cycling had made it painful for him to stand, and can barely walk. Alternatively, there is also an amusing 2010 article by Diana North listing ‘26 signs of cycling addiction’ (e.g., ‘Have you seriously considered building a second bike room addition to your home?’, ‘Are there more than three bike-related tattoos on your body?’, ‘Do people leaving messages on your voicemail start with “I know you’re on your bike right now, but…?”, etc.). There are also a variety of online accounts (mostly by cyclists) questioning whether their passion is an addiction such as an article by Scott Saifer in the magazine Road: The Journal of Road Cycling and Culture, an e-zine article by Nebojsa Djekanovic, and a personal account by ‘Doug’ who runs the Cycle Hub blog).

Although there is a fairly established scientific literature on exercise addiction in general, there is almost nothing on cycling addiction specifically (although I did come across one online article where a professional cyclist had adapted the Internet Addiction Test for other cyclists to self-diagnose whether they are addicted to cycling). A fairly recent 2007 book entitled Exercise Dependence edited by Drs. John Kerr, Koenraad Lindner and Michelle Blaydon had about 20 mentions of cycling in the context of exercise addiction (although again almost nothing specific). Most of the references were in relation to cycling being one of the endurance sports that can also be engaged in individually, and that individual endurance sports are more highly associated with exercise addiction.

There are also occasional references to triathletes (who run, cycle and swim) being dependent and/or addicted to exercise. There was also reference to research examining eating disorders among different professional athletes (as there is a relationship between exercise addiction and eating disorders that I reviewed in a previous blog). Kerr and colleagues quoted a group of 1990s studies by Dr. J. Sundgot-Borgen showing that the prevalence of eating disorders among elitist cyclists was 20% compared to cross-country skiers (33%), middle and long distance runners (27%), swimmers (15%) and orienteers (0%). Interestingly, one of the traits that appears to be associated with exercise addiction is perfectionism according to a 1990 paper by Dr. Caroline Davis that appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (which when linked back to Ralf Hütter’s experiences in Kraftwerk made me raise an eyebrow).

There is also some preliminary evidence that professional cyclists may be more prone to drug addictions than other groups of people. Although I was unable to fully read a French paper by Dr. J.C. Seznec in a 2002 issue of the Annales Medico-Psychologiques Revue Psychiatrique, the author claimed that sportsmen were specifically vulnerable to addiction. Seznec – a psychiatrist and sports doctor – highlighted there are some factors (predisposing factors, initiation factors and maintenance factors) that explain the association. Seznec concluded that:

“These addictions seem to be in direct relation with the brutal transformation that high-level sport towards professionalism suffered. This study makes us conclude that the practising of a professional sport predisposes to the development of an addiction and that it requires a specific preventive help”.

I’m certainly of the opinion that it is theoretically possible to be addicted to cycling, although the number of people genuinely affected is likely to be small. This is one area that I might consider doing some personal research into – especially if it meant I could interview the members of Kraftwerk!

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

Further reading

Allegre, B., Souville, M., Therme, P. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Definitions and measures of exercise dependence, Addiction Research and Theory, 14, 631-646.

Berczik, K., Szabó, A., Griffiths, M.D., Kurimay, T., Kun, B. & Demetrovics, Z. (2011). Exercise addiction: Symptoms, diagnosis, epidemiology, and etiology. Substance Use and Misuse, 47, 403-417.

Buckley, D. (2012). Kraftwerk Publication. London: Omnibus.

Davis, C. (1990). Weight and diet preoccupation and addictiveness: The role of exercise. Personality and Individual Differences, 11, 823-827.

Griffiths, M. D. (1997). Exercise addiction: A case study. Addiction Research, 5, 161-168.

Griffiths, M. D., Szabo, A., & Terry, A. (2005). The exercise addiction inventory: a quick and easy screening tool for health practitioners. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(6), e30-31.

Kerr, J. H. (1997) Motivation and Emotion in Sport: Reversal Theory. Hove: Psychology Press.

Kerr, J.H., Lindner, K.J. & Blaydon, M. (2007). Exercise Dependence. Oxford: Routledge.

Seznec, J. C. (2002). Toxicomanie et cyclisme professionnel [Drug addiction and professional cycling]. Annales Medico-Psychologiques Revue Psychiatrique, 160, 72-76.

Sundgot-Borgen, J. (1993). Prevalence of eating disorders in female elite athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 3, 29-40.

Sundgot-Borgen, J. (1994). Eating disorders in female athletes. Sports Medicine, 17, 176-188.

Sundgot-Borgen, J. (1994) ‘Risk and trigger factors for the development of eating disorders in female elite athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26, 414-419.

Sundgot-Borgen, J., Torstveit, G. and Klungland, M. (2004). Prevalence of eating disorders in elite athletes is higher than in the general population. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 14, 25-32.

Terry, A., Szabo, A., & Griffiths, M. D. (2004). The exercise addiction inventory: A new brief screening tool. Addiction Research and Theory, 12, 489-499.

Freak speak or lingo star? A beginner’s guide to Foreign Accent Syndrome‬

Today’s Daily Telegraph featured the story of Englishman Alun Morgan who following a stroke now speaks fluent Welsh. Doctors diagnosed the 81-year old Mr Morgan with aphasia, a form of brain damage that causes a shift in the brain’s language centre. Mr Morgan is now being taught to speak English again.

Although often treated as a joke, ‘Foreign Accent Syndrome’ (FAS) is a very rare speech disorder but now medically recognized condition. FAS is typically characterized by the (sometimes sudden) appearance of a new speaking accent, identifiably different from the person’s native language. Prior exposure and knowledge to the newly acquired accent is not needed for it to occur and it is usually perceived as foreign or dialectical by fellow natives and, usually, by the person themselves. Published case studies have reported that it is impossible to fake FAS. However, the FAS sufferers don’t suddenly acquire a foreign language (vocabulary, grammar, syntax, etc.) just the accent (although the Wikipedia entry on FAS made reference to a news report that coming out of a coma, a 13-year old Croatian girl allegedly gained the ability to speak fluent German). However, as far I am aware, there are no proven cases where someone with improved their language skills following the development of FAS.

FAS typically occurs following a traumatic brain injury (e.g., head trauma, stroke, cerebral haemorrhage) although other conditions (such as multiple sclerosis) have also led to the development of FAS. Those with FAS often suffer in other ways including poor concentration span, poor memory, and feelings related to loss of identity. Research examining the brain structures of those with FAS have highlighted there are commonalities in relation to specific parts of the brain that are (unsurprisingly areas that control various language functions). More recently, there is growing empirical evidence that the cerebellum (which controls motor function) appears to be critical in the development of some cases of FAS. For instance, Dr. D.A. Cohen and his colleagues published a case study in a 2008 issue of the journal Neurology and concluded that their case demonstrated “that abnormal right cerebellar activity can play a causal role in perpetuating the FAS rather than being merely an epiphenomenon of damage to the reciprocally connected left hemisphere”. A series of papers published by a team led by Dr. P. Mariën have all conformed the role of the cerebellum in the acquisition of FAS (Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, 2006; Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 2007; Cortex, 2009).

The disorder was first described over 100 years ago (in 1907) by Dr. Pierre Marie (a French neurologist). This was followed by a Czech case study published in German by Dr. A Pick in 1919. (Unfortunately, these first two cases were not written in English so I have been unable to gain any details of either of the two cases described)

The first published case study written in English is believed to be one dating back to 1947 by the neurologist Dr. Monrad-Krohn. He described the case of a 30-year old female (Astrid L) from Norway who was hit on the head by shrapnel during a German air raid on Oslo in 1941. The injury led to aphasia, hemiplegia, and seizure disorder. This caused speech problems but within a year of the injury, the woman’s speech began to improve but it was different to how she had spoken before her head injury. Monrad-Krohn described how the woman’s ‘rhythm and melody’ of her voice had dramatically altered and that she sounded like she had a foreign (German sounding) accent (even though she had never travelled outside of Norway). Consequently, she was shunned and/or ridiculed by many of her native Norwegians. Since these three early published case studies, around 60 cases of FAS have been documented worldwide including people who went from speaking British to French, American to British, Japanese to Korean, and Spanish to Hungarian. A 2006 article by Diane Garst and William Katz highlighted the common features of FAS. The ‘classic’ characteristics are:

  • Monolingual patient is frequently mistaken for being a non-native speaker.
  • Speech changes are not triggered by psychiatric or psychological problems.
  • Idiosyncratic speech errors contribute to appearance of a cohesive ‘accent’
  • Patient is aware of accent and unhappy about it.
  • Voicing changes occur in both prosody (syllable-by-syllable timing, and abnormal pitch patterns) and segmentals (consonant distortions, substitutions, deletions; frequent problems with alveolar tap/flap; omplex or unusual vowel substitutions)

Writing in a 2007 issue of the Annals of General Psychiatry, Stéphane Poulin and colleagues noted that:

Different explanations of the functional origin of FAS have been suggested, one of the more frequent being impaired access to verbal-motor patterns or a mild form of apraxia of speech. Clinical manifestations are heterogeneous among FAS patients but usually include segmental (e.g., changes in vowel length and tenseness) and prosodic (e.g., inappropriate word and sentence stress) deficits”.

A 2005 paper in the journal European Neurology by Edwards, Patel and Pople examined 35 case published case studies of FAS. Their analysis reported that the majority (n=26) of those with FAS resulted from cerebral infarct. The remainder resulted from head injury (n=6), multiple sclerosis (n=2) and psychosis (n=1). In one-third of the cases (34%), the person with FAS also had agrammatism (i.e., a form of expressive aphasia that refers to the inability to speak in a grammatically correct way). As Stéphane Poulin and colleagues note:

“In spontaneous speech, agrammatic patients speak non-fluently and produce telegraphic speech. They mainly use content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) and tend to omit or substitute function words (prepositions, articles and auxiliaries) as well as inflections or other grammatical morphemes. Among reported FAS cases, few brain imaging studies have been done and there is no consensus regarding the precise region responsible for its occurrence. Neuroanatomically, the vast majority of the lesions described were in the dominant hemisphere and in most cases involved regions typically associated with Broca’s aphasia. Subcortical structures seem to be consistently affected”.

Thanks to the internet and broadcast media, there are many cases of FAS that have not been reported in the academic and clinical literature. I’ll leave you with a few you can check out yourself. Just click on each name to get the details.

  • Tiffany Roberts: In 1999, 57-year old American woman Tiffany Roberts (from Indiana) had a stroke and developed an English accent.
  • Linda Walker: In 2006, a 60-year old British woman with a Geordie accent (from Newcastle) had a stroke and developed a strange accent (described as Jamaican, Italian, French Canadian and Slovak).
  • Rajesh: In 2007, a 14-year old Indian boy (from Uttar Pradesh) developed a broken American accent following corporal punishment from his father.
  • Cindy Lou Romberg: In 2007, a middle aged American woman Cindy Lou Romberg (from Port Angeles, Washington) developed an English speaking Russian/German/French-sounding accent following her neck being adjusted by a chiropractor (although she had suffered a brain injury in a car crash back in 1991).
  • Julie Frazier: In 2008, a 39-year old American woman Julie Frazier (from Fort Wayne, Indiana) developed a British-Russian accent following a severe hemiplegic migraine (the first such case involving migraine as the trigger episode).
  • Sarah Colwill: In 2010, a 35-year old British woman Sarah Colwill (from Devon) developed a Chinese accent following an extreme migraine.
  • Kay Russell: In 2010, a 49-year old British woman Kay Russell (from Gloucestershire) developed a French/Russian/Eastern European accent following a migraine.
  • Karen Butler: In 2011, a middle-aged American woman Karen Butler (from Newport, Oregon) developed an Irish/Eastern European accent following oral surgery.

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

Further reading

Ardila, A. Rosselli, M., & O. Ardila. (1988) Foreign accent: an aphasic epiphonomenon? Aphasiology, 2,5, 493-499.

Aronson, A.E. (1990). Dysprosody of pseudo-foreign dialect. In Aronson, A.E. (Ed.), (2nd ed.) Clinical Voice Disorders  (pp. 119-124) New York: Thieme-Stratton.

Berthier, M., Ruiz, A., Massone, M., Starkstein, S., & R. Leiguarda. (1991). Foreign accent syndrome: behavioural and anatomical findings in recovered and non-recovered patients. Aphasiology, 5, 129-147.

Blumstein, S.E., Alexander, M.P., Ryalls, J.H., & W. Katz. (1987). On the nature of the foreign accent syndrome: A case study. Brain and Language, 31,215-244.

Coelho, C.A., & Robb, M.P. (2001). Acoustic analysis of Foreign Accent Syndrome: An examination of three explanatory models. Journal of Medical Speech-Language Pathology, 9, 227-242.

Cohen, D.A., Kurowski, K., Steven, M.S., Blumstein, S.E. & Pascual-Leone, A. (2008). Paradoxical facilitation: the resolution of foreign accent syndrome after cerebellar stroke. Neurology, 73, 566-567.

Edwards, R.J., Patel, N.K. & Pople, I.K. (2005). Foreign accent following brain injury: syndrome or epiphenomenon? European Neurology, 53, 87-91.

Garst, D. & Katz, W. (2006). Foreign Accent Syndrome. The ASHA Leader, August 15.

Marie P. (1907). Presentation de malades atteints d’anarthrie par lesion de l’hemisphere gauche du cerveau. Bulletins et Memoires Societe Medicale des Hopitaux de Paris, 1, 158–160.

Mariën P., Verhoeven J. (2007). Cerebellar involvement in motor speech planning: some further evidence from foreign accent syndrome. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 59, 210-217.

Mariën P., Verhoeven J., Engelborghs, S., Rooker, S., Pickut, B. A., De Deyn, P.P. (2006). A role for the cerebellum in motor speech planning: evidence from foreign accent syndrome. Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, 108, 518-522.

Mariën, P., Verhoeven, J., Wackenier, P., Engelborghs, S. & De Deyn, P.P. (2009). Foreign accent syndrome as a developmental motor speech disorder. Cortex, 45, 870–878.

Moen, I. (2000). Foreign accent syndrome: A review of contemporary explanations. Aphasiology, 14, 5-15.

Monrad-Krohn, G.H. (1947). Dysprosody or altered “melody of language.” Brain, 70, 405-415.

Pick, A. (1919). Über Änderungen des Sprachcharakters als Begleiterscheinung aphasicher Störungen. Zeitschrift für gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 45, 230–241.

Bite sighs: A beginner’s guide to odaxelagnia‬

In a previous blog on vampirism as a sexual paraphilia, I briefly mentioned the related behaviour of odaxelagnia. Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices and Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices define odaxelagnia as a sexual paraphilia concerning individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal through biting or being bitten. Obviously, odaxelagnia is sometimes associated with sexual vampirism but it would appear that most forms of sexual biting do not involve bloodletting.

In her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love included a relatively lengthy entry on sexual biting and reported that “biting is used by some to sexually excite their partner. It is done on the neck, ears, lips, nipples, back, buttocks, genitals, inner thighs, etc. The pressure used depends on their partner’s pain tolerance”. She also notes that sexual biting is one of the “easiest and most accepted methods” in sexual sadism and sexual masochism. She also claims that sexual biting produces an “increased sensation [and] brings some individuals who are emotionally stressed out of their physical numbness, back into touch with their bodies”. In the 2007 book, Miscellany of Sex, Frances Twinn reported that on the islands of Trobriand (off the east coast of New Guinea), the biting off of a woman’s eyelashes is viewed by the people who live there as a passionate activity!

Three separate books (Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, and Arlene Russo’s Vampire Nation) all make reference to the fact that sexual biting has it’s own separate section in the Kama Sutra (written by the Indian philosopher Mallanaga Vatsyayana in the 4th century). As Aggrawal notes:

“The Kama Sutra goes so far as to name all the different kinds of [sexual] bites and scratches, including those focused on the breasts and nipples. Eight kinds of bites are described in the chapter ‘On Biting, and the Means to be Employed with Regard to Women of Different Countries’ These are (i) the hidden bite, (ii) the swollen bite, (iii) the point, (iv) the line of points, (v) the coral and the jewel, (vi) the line of jewels, (vii) the broken cloud, and (viii) the biting of the boar”.

The earliest published empirical research concerning sexual biting was arguably reported by the US sexologist Alfred Kinsey. He and his colleagues reported that about half of all the thousands people they surveyed said they had been sexually aroused from being bitten during sex. However, earlier academic references to sexual biting were made by [British psychologist and sexologist] Havelock Ellis in his 1905 book Studies in the Psychology of Sex. He wrote that:

The impulse to bite is also a part of the tactile element which lies at the origin of kissing. As Stanley Hall notes, children are fond of biting, though by no means always as a method of affection. There is, however, in biting a distinctly sexual origin to invoke, for among many animals the teeth (and among birds the bill) are used by the male to grasp the female more firmly during intercourse. This point has been discussed in the previous volume of these Studies in reference to ‘Love and Pain’…The heroine of Kleist’s Penthesilea remarks: ‘Kissing (Küsse) rhymes with biting (Bisse), and one who loves with the whole heart may easily confound the two”.

In Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Aggrawal made a number of references to sexual biting in relation to both sadism and necrophilia. In the former, he noted that oral sadists manifest “fantasies of chewing, biting, or otherwise using the mouth, lips, or teeth aggressively or destructively”. In the latter, he noted that one particular type of necrophiliac (so-called ‘role-playing necrophiles’) sometimes have vampire fantasies where “the lover simulates a killing by biting the neck”. Aggrawal reported the case of a woman who imagined she was a vampire. “She would ask her husband to pretend he was dead and then stimulate his organ with her mouth. She would then pretend that the resulting erection was rigor mortis, and this would give her erotic pleasure”.

Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. Eugene Levitt surveyed 225 sadomasochists (178 men and 47 women recruited via an advert in a sadomasochistic magazine) about their sexual behaviour and published their findings in the Journal of Sex Research. Among their sample, the most common sadomasochistic activities were bondage and flagellation and bondage (50% to 80% of the sample). Painful activities (biting, use of ice or hot wax, and face slapping) were less common (37% to 41% of the sample). The most painful activities engaged in (piercing, branding, burning, tattooing, insertion of pins) were the least common (7% to 18% of the sample). These results suggest that biting (among the S&M community at least) is relatively commonplace.

As noted in a previous blog, there has been some clinical research on sexual vampirism (i.e., the rare phenomenon that involves the letting of blood by cutting or biting and accompanied by sexual arousal). In relation to this sort of sexual biting, there has been a lot of psychological theorizing, particularly from a psychodynamic perspective. Dr. P. Jaffe and Dr. F. DiCataldo (1994) published a paper on clinical vampirism and made a number of speculations. Basing some of their thinking on a 1972 paper by Lawrence Kayton in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, they wrote:

“Kayton considers that the vampire myth gives ‘a unique phenomenological view of schizophrenia’ and indeed overt vampiristic delusions have been associated most notably with this disorder. The connection is particularly salient in the more gruesome cases involving cannibalistic and necrosadistic behavior that resemble the content of schizophrenic delusional material acted out. These cases generally present massive disorganized oral sadistic regressions, depersonalization, confused sexuality, multiple concurrent delusions, and thought disorder in content and form. Psychodynamic explanations draw attention to Karl Abraham’s biting oral stage during which the infant uses his teeth with a vengeance to Melanie Klein’s description of children’s aggressive fantasies’ and to W.R.D. Fairbairn’s notion of intense oral sadistic libidinal needs formed in response to actual maternal deprivation”.

I can’t say I’m convinced by any of these explanations but as there is a paucity of good data, no better theories have been put forward on this behaviour specifically (although there are alternative behavioural theories involving classical and operant conditioning that help in explaining paraphilic behaviour more generally).

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.

Criminal Justice Degrees Guide (2008). 10 unusual fetishes with massive online followings. November 10. Located at:

Ellis, H. (1905). Studies in the Psychology of Sex (Volume 4). Located at:

Jaffe, P., & DiCataldo, F. (1994). Clinical vampirism: Blending myth and reality. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 22, 533–544.

Kayton, L. (1972). The relationship of the vampire legend to schizophrenia. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1, 303-314.

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

Moser, C., & Levitt, E.E. (1987). An exploratory descriptive study of a sadomasochistically oriented sample. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 322–337.

Russo, A. (2008). Vampire Nation. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide.

Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.

Vatsyayana, M. Kama Sutra, Lancer Books, New York, 1964 (originally written 4th Century AD).

Hello, good buy: Another look at shopping addiction

With only a few shopping days left until Christmas, I thought I would take another (hopefully topical) look at shopping addiction. Earlier this year, the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs published a paper by Dr. Heidi Hartston on the case for shopping as an addiction. She argued that the main factors that contribute to shopping addictions are (i) a hyper-stimulating experience (or an experience that was hyper-stimulating during initial exposures); (ii) easy accessibility or a high likelihood of frequent engagement; and (iii) vulnerability to addiction, which can be genetically present or can be created by neuroadaptation or reward deficiency syndrome.

In the section of her paper on the creation of hyper-stimulating experiences, Hartston claimed that in 1903 when Coca-Cola removed the cocaine out of their product, their marketing research found increasingly sophisticated ways to act on the brain’s reward circuitry by utilizing (i) advertising, (ii) product experience and (iii) packaging. According to Harston:

“Neuromarketing is the use of scientific brain research to potentiate the effectiveness of product marketing. This research uses fMRI brain imaging, EEG, skin moisture levels, heart rate, breathing patterns, eye movement and pupil dilation among other scientific measures. Marketing firms have spent 6.8 billion dollars in research (leading to 117 billion in advertising) learning to maximize the influence that branding, packaging, product placement and ad content can have on shopper decisions to buy. Many neuromarketing studies bypass the conscious adult rational decision-making brain functions to maximize excitement, emotional attachment, brand attachment, reward pathway activation, medial prefrontal identification and oxytocin stimulation, influencing impulsive buying decisions in ways individuals are not aware of or informed about (Robischon 2010)”

She then went on to claim that huge multi-national companies like Disney, Google, Frito-Layand and CBS (as well as large election campaigns) use these neuromarketing techniques to examine reactions by consumers (and voters) to their brands (or candidates) and then alter their advertising strategies accordingly. To support these claims, Hartston notes:

“A few examples of scientifically informed marketing include incorporating the color red (think of the coke can) resulting in attributions of intelligence and power to owning a product or to sales people (Elliot & Aarts 2011). ‘Sneaker radio’, a muzak-like soundtrack designed for use in athletic shoe stores, is designed to slow a shopper’s pace through the store and increase impulsive purchases. Studies using fMRI scans can identify which ad strategies trigger the consumer to strongly desire a product, saying they are ‘itching to buy’ (Thompson 2003). Bypassing interaction with the cortex and maximizing stimulation of emotional and reward areas can create hyperstimulating and difficult to resist marketing and can sabotage a vulnerable shopper’s intentions and efforts to resist buying”.

Hartston also makes further interesting observations in how commercial companies can hyper-stimulate shopping by exaggerating the sense of importance to the buying of products, or to the process of shopping itself. Shopping is a behaviour that has the capacity to become a highly rewarding experience. Such rewards can include excitement, identity affirmation, accomplishment, and praise. For a minority, shopaholism may become a difficult behaviour to break. Such observations not only have implications for shopping purchases but also behaviours that I study in my own research such as gambling. In relation to shopping addiction and increased accessibility, Hartston noted that:

“Behaviors may not reach the intense level of [dopamine] hyperstimulation that drugs do when each separate exposure is compared. However, because addictive behaviors are more easily accessible and more frequently engaged in than drug use (more exposures per day or week), the net effect of many more frequent exposures can make an addictive behavior hyperstimulating enough to have similar behavioral and physiological consequences as drugs”.

Comparing two different drug addictions – nicotine addiction and heroin addiction – she notes that nicotine clearly has a much weaker reward stimulation (per exposure) but can be equally addictive as heroin. The key difference is obviously the frequency as smokers will continually smoke cigarettes throughout the day whereas the number of times a heroin addict will take heroin during the day will be considerably less. In essence, Hartston argued:

“More exposures means more pairings of use and mild hyperstimulation, more encoding of the positive associations with smoking in memory, more consistent hyperstimulation of DA reward areas and more ease in increasing use. Due to its ease of availability, someone who tries smoking is more likely to become addicted than someone who tries heroin (Hilts 2009)”.

Relating this to shopping, Hartston makes the point that shopping is no longer something that is time limited by closed shops. The internet has brought the potential for 24/7 shopping. As with other activities with the potential for addiction (e.g., gambling, video gaming, sex), the internet has brought easy access, high availability, convenience, anonymity, dishinibition, and escape. As Hartston rightly asserts:

“A shopper can browse or purposefully seek target items during many stolen moments each day, from almost any location, or for extended amounts of time whenever a break may occur. Impulses to buy can be acted on immediately, without the protective time delay there used to be. And the steps to completing a purchase have become shortened, with credit card numbers already saved and one-click purchasing options additionally catering to impulsivity”.

Finally, Hartston argues that brain changes associated with Reward Deficiency Syndrome make it harder to stop the behaviors like excessive shopping. There is growing evidence that both chemical and behavioural addictions not only trigger changes in dopamine reward physiology “but also to its cortical connections, thereby impairing self-regulation”. Any person is responsible for their own behaviour but Harston argues that changes to the brain’s physiology makes it harder for vulnerable and susceptible people to control such behaviours. As Harston points out:

“Actions ‘preferred’ (valued at higher importance) by hyperstimulated striatal neurons are more likely to occur despite the addict’s conscious insight (Lau & Glimcher 2008; Hikosaka et al. 2008; Hikosaka, Nakamura & Nakahara 2006). This means that when desires become addictions they can have an overriding command over behavior and decision making, which is difficult to interrupt even in the presence of insight or higher goals. Addicted brains also show less age-related expansion of white matter, reflecting a loss of learning capacity and difficulty making new choices, further inhibiting an addict’s control over impulsive reward seeking behaviors (Goldstein & Volkow 2002). People who find themselves in the trap of addiction, whether to a drug or a behavior like shopping, need to be able to access effective interventions and support in order to stop the problematic behavior and prevent relapses”

Shopping appears to be the latest normal everyday behaviour (along with behaviours like exercise, eating and sex) to have been pathologized. However, (as I noted in my previous blog on shopaholism), there does seem to be some empirical evidence that a small minority of people appear to display addictive-like symptoms as a result of their shopping behaviour. Dr. Harston has done a good job in pointing out of the biological and situational reasons for how and why such addictions may develop.

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

Further reading

Elliot, A. & Aarts, H. (2011). Perception of the color red enhances the force and velocity of motor output. Emotion, 11, 445–49.

Goldstein, R. & Volkow, N. (2002). Drug addiction and its underlying neurobiological basis: Neuroimaging evidence for the involvement of the frontal cortex. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 1642–52.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Internet abuse and internet addiction in the workplace. Journal of Worplace Learning, 7, 463-472.

Hartston, H. (2012). The case for compulsive shopping as an addiction. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 44, 64–67.

Hikosaka, O., Nakamura, K., & Nakahara, H. (2006). Basal ganglia orient eyes to reward. Journal of Neurophysiology, 95, 567–84.

Hikosaka, O., Bromberg-Martin, E., Hong, S. & Matsumoto, M. (2008). New insights on the subcortical representation of reward. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, April 18, 203–08.

Hilts, P. (1994). Is nicotine addictive? It depends on whose criteria you use. New York Times. August 2.

Lau, B. & Glimcher, P. (2008). Value representations in the primate striatum during matching behavior. Neuron, 58, 451–63.

Robischon, N. (2010.) Neuromarketing the 2010 elections: Scoring campaign ads. Fast Company. Nov 5. Available at

Thompson, C. 2003. There’s a sucker born in every medial prefrontal cortex. New York Times Magazine. October 26, 54–65.

Widyanto, L. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Internet addiction: A critical review. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 31-51.

Appliance fiction? A beginner’s guide to mechanophilia

My partner is a Frank Zappa fan and one of her favourite albums is his 1979 rock opera Joe’s Garage. On the LP, Joe is described as an “appliance fetishist” by the ‘Church of Appliantology’ (and ends up having a gay relationship with an industrial vacuum cleaner). Although Joe is a fictional character, appliance and machine fetishes aren’t. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, being sexually turned on by machines is a sexual paraphilia called mechanophilia. Cynthia Ceilán in her 2008 book Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad describes the same sexual paraphilia as ‘mechaphilia’. The online Urban Dictionary has a more encompassing definition, and defines mechanophilia as:

“The love or sexual attraction to computers, cars, robots or androids, washing machines and other domestic appliances, lawn mowers and other mechanised gardening equipment. Sexual relations between living organisms and machines”.

I briefly mentioned mechanophilia in a previous blog on the relationship between sex and cars, but the paraphilia not only includes individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from cars (such as the American man Edward Smith who has who has had sex with over a 1000 cars), but also to bicycles (such as the British man Robert Stewart who ended up in court after being caught having sex with a bicycle), and aeroplanes and helicopters (according to Ray Broadus Browne in his 1982 book Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture). A paper published in 2000 by Dr. Steven Thompson in the journal Technology and Culture argued that motorcycles are often portrayed as sexualized fetish objects by their owners. There would also appear to be some structural and psychological overlap with technosexuality/robot fetishism and objectum sexuality (i.e., having sexual and/or romantic relationships with inanimate objects) that I examined in previous blogs.

According to Dr. William Hickey in his 2006 book Sex Crimes and Paraphilias, in some jurisdictions mechanophilic acts are treated as crimes with perpetrators being placed on a sex offenders’ register after prosecution. The Wikipedia entry on mechanophilia mostly concentrates on references to mechanophilia in art, culture, and design. It noted that:

Mechanophilia has been used to describe important works of the early Modernists such as the 1922 FEKS ‘Eccentric Manifesto’ of Leonid Trauberg, Sergei Yutkevich, Grigori Kozintsev and others,a modernist avant garde movement that spanned Russian futurism and constructivism. The term has entered into the realms of science fiction and popular fiction. Scientifically, in ‘Biophilia, The Human Bond with Other Species’, Edward O. Wilson is quoted describing mechanophilia, the love of machines, as ‘a special case of biophilia”,whereas psychologists such as Erich Fromm would see it as a form of necrophilia. Designers such as Francis Picabia and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti have been said to exploited the sexual attraction of automobiles”.

I have yet to come across any empirical research specifically on mechanophilia beyond case studies. Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York sex therapist told CBS News that among mechanophiles there is generally “an exhibitionistic element for the person being stimulated by machine, as well as general submission [and] domination themes”, although I am unsure as to whether this is based on anyone Dr. Kerner has treated or whether this is just pure speculation. (I suspect the latter).

In a previous blog I mentioned a 1992 case study by Dr Padmal De Silva and Dr Amanda Pernet published in the journal Sex and Marital Therapy. The case involved an unusual sexual deviation in a young 20-year old British man (‘George’) who had little social interaction and was incredibly shy. They reported that his main sexual interest and excitement was from cars – particularly Austin Metro cars. George’s family belonged to a strict religious sect who strongly disapproved of any sexual involvement by their son with women. Things changed for George when his parents bough an Austin Metro car. George began masturbating inside the car, and then outside masturbating outside the car while crouching down next to the car’s exhaust pipe. So that he couldn’t be caught masturbating, he would go to great lengths to find deserted places to engage in his sexual activity with the car.

George used to become very sexually excited when the car’s exhaust pipe was running and pumping out car fumes. This aspect of “elimination” – according to De Silva and Pernet – was an important central element in George’s other sexual preferences – particularly his fascination of urination. As a very young child he had an unusual interest in dogs urinating. After the age of 10 years, he was more interested in children and adult women urinating. The authors also speculated there may have been an increase in George’s arousal due to a “reduction of oxygen intake and related asphyxiation”. This was possibly seen as a mild form of hypoxyphilia.

In 2003, a man simply calling himself ‘Schlessinger’ published a book called Mechaphilia: Sexual Attraction to Machines. The (non-academic) book charts Schlessinger’s “personal journey” of coming to terms with his sexual desire for machines and his quest to seek acceptance from his family and friends about his sexual love of machines. The book is detailed in his description such as his detailing of the curves of a reel-to-reel recorder that he fell in love with. Schlessinger ends the book by saying that he has happily come to accept his ‘quirky sexuality’. In relation to the more cultural aspects of mechanophilia, the Wikipedia entry notes:

“Culturally, critics have described it as an ‘all pervading’ within contemporary Western society and that is seems to overwhelm our society and all too often our better judgement”. Although not all such uses are sexual in intent, the terms are also used for specifically erotogenic fixation on machinery and taken to its extreme in hardcore pornography as Fucking Machines. This mainly involves women being sexually penetrated by machines for male consumption,which are seen as being the limits of current sexual biopolitics. Arse Elektronika (organized by Austrian art-tech group ‘monochrom’) is propagating a DIY/feminist approach to sex machines. Authors have drawn a connection between mechanophilia and masculine militarisation, citing the works of animator Yasuo Otsuka and Studio Ghibli”.

In one of the few articles written on mechanophilia, Symone Nelson appears to speculate about the psychological reasons for engaging in such paraphilic behaviour but claim there is no single reason as to why someone becomes a mechanophile. Nelson claims:

“Some mechanophiliacs enjoy the engineering aspect of their object, how it works, moves and is built. While others are fascinated with the effect it produces for example the noise and warmth that comes off of a drying machine. There is a niche of porn called ‘machine porn’ where women and men are involved in erotic acts with machines that are made for the purpose of sex…You can probably find a mechanophiliac using sex toys and machines on their partners or on themselves during sex…On the extreme end mechanophiliacs NEED the presence of their object to reach sexual gratification or ONLY the presence of their object will bring them sexual gratification and another person is not able to do so…A mechanophiliac will have a relationship with their machine object as a person would with another person. All the elements of dating are involved in a mechanophiliac relationship from courting, to the first date and even the first kiss and sexual encounter…When the hospitals get odd cases like a man being treated on his penis after getting it “stuck” in a vacuum cleaner or a woman who has injured herself using a electric mixing spoon for masturbation doctors usually chalk it up to the fetish”.

These latter speculations about people ending up in hospital when things go wrong don’t appear to be about mechanophilia at all. Personally, I believe that people who use the vibrations of a washing machine or vacuum cleaner as part of masturbatory sex are not mechanophiles (otherwise anyone who used a vibrator would be classed as a mechanophile). Mechanophiles have sex and make love to the machine (and may even develop emotional attachments) rather than using the appliance simply to heighten sexual pleasure during masturbation. Although mechanophilia appears to be rare, as far as I am concerned it’s far from fiction. It’s certainly an area that would benefit from more empirical and/or clinical research, although there needs to be consensus from those working in the field as to what mechanophilia actually is.

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.

Browne, R.B. (1982). Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture. Popular Press.

Ceilán, C. (2008). Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad. The Lyons Press.

De Silva, P. & Pernet, A. (1992). Pollution in ‘Metroland’: An unusual paraphilia in a shy young man. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 7, 301-306.

Hickey, E.W. (2006), Sex crimes and paraphilia. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at:

Nelson, S. (2012). Fetish spotlight: Mechanophilia. Located at:

Schlessinger (2003). Mechaphilia: Sexual Attraction to Machines. Please Press.

Thompson, S.L. (2000). The arts of the motorcycle: Biology, culture, and aesthetics in technological choice. Technology and Culture, 41, 99-115.

Wikipedia (2012). Mechanophilia. Located at:

Step on it: A beginner’s guide to trampling fetishes

While researching a previous blog on crush fetishes, I came across an article by Kirk Semple in the New York Times about ‘trampling fetish’ known simply as ‘trampling’ among those engage in the activity. A Wikipedia entry on ‘trampling’ defines it simply as the sexual activity that involves being trampled underfoot by another person or persons…common enough to support a sub-genre of trampling pornography”. The online Urban Dictionary is a little more specific and defines ‘trampling’ as the act of standing or walking on one’s body and face as part of a submissive foot fetish”. Most online sources that discuss trampling note that because the act of being trampled upon can be very painful, it has close links and associations with sexual sadism and sexual masochism. The Wikipedia entry claims that:

“The most common form of trampling is done by a female walking on a male submissive and is usually done barefooted, in socks, nylons, or shoes. The trampler will predominantly walk, jump and stomp on the person’s back, chest, stomach, genitalia, face and in some rare instances, the neck”.

As far as I am aware, no empirical research has ever been carried out on trampling fetishes so we have no idea how prevalent or widespread the activity is. There are certainly a number of online discussion groups, and if you type ‘trampling fetish’ into YouTube (well, have a look for yourself but be warned!).

The New York Times article highlighted the case of Georgio T., a 48-year old Maltese immigrant who calls himself ‘The Human Carpet’ because he gets his sexual kicks from people walking and trampling all over his body. Typically, he walks into a public meeting place (such as a bar or nightclub) carrying a carpet under his arm. He then proceeds to wrap the carpet around himself, lies down on the ground, and places a nearby sign next to himself with the simple instruction for people to ‘Step on carpet’ (the more the better he claimed in the article with a particular preference for women with stiletto heels). The edges of his customized carpet are sewn together in the shape of a cylinder. This allows Georgio to slip in and out of the carpeted tube easily.

He then stays wrapped up inside the carpet for up to four hours at a time (the longest stint being 11 hours). He is now a regular ‘performer’ at sex fetish parties and charges around $200 a session but insists he does it for pleasure not profit. He knows of only one other person in the New York area (“Kevin Carpet’) who also makes a living from being trampled upon. His largest ‘customer’ was a 390-pound man. He claims he is “motivated by a desire to push his own boundaries and those of others [and] likes intense parties where the flow of body-stompers is constant”.Georgio told Semple that his fascination for being trampled up began in early childhood and became of central part of role-playing games he engaged in as a child:

“I loved to have weights on me…I liked having my cats walk over me. [If] somebody wanted to be the carpenter, and I would want to be the carpet. …It’s my fun [and] people are [now] paying me to have fun. The more people who pile on [me], the better. The higher they jump, the better. There’s hardly any middle ground. [People] are either shocked and don’t want to do it or they’re thrilled to do it”.

Georgio claims the behaviour only becomes a sexual fetish when beautiful women step on him. When men or plain looking women stomp on him he still finds it enjoyable but not sexually stimulating. Semple said:

“[Georgio] spoke rhapsodically about one woman who spent nearly two hours standing on him at Lotus, a club in the meatpacking district, and toying with his face using the heels of her shoes. After she was done, the woman leaned down and thanked him, and said that she never thought she would be able to do something like that…These sort of personal connections are what make it all worth it, he said”

Georgio’s experience is in no way unique as I cam across countless online stories and admissions about the sexual desire to be trampled upon including an interesting interview with a foot trampler at the Sexy Tofu website. Here are a few admissions that I collated:

  • Extract 1: “Ever since I was a small boy I used to fantasize about older girls or women stepping on my stomach. Why? I don’t know! …My baby sitter used to put her foot on my stomach and push down to play with me. I even got her to stand on me once. However this, after some research appears to be a fetish that some people are into, although rare”
  • Extract 2: I wish I knew as to why I like to be trampled, but I have no answer…I have had the intense desire for woman to walk on me longer than I can remember. My desire goes further though. I liked to be wrapped up like a mummy with my arms to the side and have a pretty, sexy, thick ankled women standing barefoot on my chest. I desire her to jump on my chest, stomp my chest, and drive her toes or her heels into the center of my chest. I also like her knees and rear-end on top of my chest”
  • Extract 3: “My fetish originated when I was little. You see, my sister had some older friends over and they used me as a trampoline. That’s when I realized that I loved it. From then on it just took off. I currently have a girl trampling me right now. As much as I like the idea of bare feet, shoes are awesome!”
  • Extract 4: “I like to be trampled, but as part of wanting to be dominated. I like the idea of being literally beneath women, like a doormat. I’ve had a few experiences with bare feet, but with shoes is better, on one occasion high heels”
  • Extract 5: “I have had a foot and trampling fetish along with a fascination for being controlled by a dominant female since early childhood. I was never exposed to any of these ideas and have no idea why I have them…I met my wife in college when I was 23. We dated for two before she discovered my fetishes by surfing my computer and coming across some articles, stories and videos I had saved. She had never even heard of trampling and certainly hadn’t experienced any type of fetish play…Well my secret that I had kept hidden for the past 20 years was now out of the bag…It was very humiliating but in a way it was a relief. Now I didn’t have to hide it…Now, I’m 33. She usually tramples me at least three times a week, sometimes more. She forces me to worship her feet and shoes while she tramples me. She even has me lay under her feet while she sits on the couch watching TV or reading. Sometimes with her high heels on, sometimes barefoot…she decides…My thighs, stomach and chest are covered in bruises and heel marks and I love every minute of it”

These accounts are typical of those I came across and many simply do not know how or why their fetish started. Others relate it back to very specific childhood incidents and suggest the fetish developed as part of a behavioural conditioning process (i.e., classical and/or operant conditioning). The fetish also appears to have behavioural and psychological overlaps with crush fetishism and macrophilia (deriving sexual pleasure and arousal by the the thought of being stepped on by a giant). However, crush fetishists and macrophiles claim their fetishes and paraphilic interests are distinct from trampling fetishes. This appears to be confirmed by potential Wikipedia authors debating the entry on crush fetishes. As one contributor asserts:

“Please make trampling a separate article. It is NOT similar to or derived from the crush fetish. While it may be related, it is CERTAINLY not a subcategory of crush fetish. 99% of crush fetishists do not have a trample fetish, and vice versa. The psychology behind it is fairly different, and trampling should not be considered as a subcategory of crush, but rather its own category or a subcategory of foot fetishism”

More specifically, a (non-scientific) survey carried out on the Mistress Destiny website asked its readers: Are trampling and crush fetish the same?” There were four responses that participants could select from and the results were that they are: (i) ‘absolutely different, shouldn’t even be in the same article’ (26.53%), (ii) ‘a little similar, but different enough to have two separate articles’ (54.04%), (iii) ‘very similar, enough to be in the same article’ (11.22%), and (iv) ‘pretty much the same fetish’ (8.16%). No information was given as to how many people participated but the very precise percentages suggests that hundreds if not thousands of people responded to the survey (although the respondents were self-selected and we have know way of knowing how representative the participants were of either the general public or a particular fetishistic sub-group). I suspect that the only way that trampling fetishes will be studied empirically is part of a wider study on sadomasochistic practices.

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

Further reading

Semple, K. (2009). Bartender, make it a stiletto. New York Times, June 10. Located at:

Sexy Tofu (2012). National Fetish Day: Interview with a trampler. January 20. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Talk: Crush fetish. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Trampling. Located at:

Yearning power: A beginner’s guide to obsessive love

In a previous blog, I briefly looked at to what extent love can be addictive. However, recent history has seen the rise of the term ‘obsessive love’.  Obsessive love is typically associated with unrequited love, but there are relationships in which individuals could be said to obsess over each other and relationships in which one member obsesses over their partner. According to Dr. Helen Fisher in her 2005 book Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, some people believe that all love is obsessive as it can be characterised by feelings of exhilaration, and intrusive, obsessive thoughts about the object of one’s affection. One common view is that love and relationships are a specialized kind of mutual addiction.

It may be useful to categorise obsessive love as an addiction because the behaviour is often similar. It is possible to see the resemblance between the definitions given for obsessions and addictions. In 2003, Griffin and Tyrrell stated that “obsessions are thoughts, images or impulses that cause marked degrees of anxiety or distress”. Similarly, Stanton Peele and Archie Brodsky in their 1975 book Love and Addiction defined addiction as “a single overwhelming involvement with one thing that serves to cut a person off from life, to close him or her off to experience, to debilitate him, to make him less open, free, and positive in dealing with the world”. From this it is obvious that there is a resemblance in the fact that both can be debilitating. However, though it seems that certain aspects of obsessive love resemble a behavioural addiction, it has not been fully investigated.

Current literature uses the term ‘obsessive love’ to describe erotomania or love addiction. Obsessive love can therefore be seen as an umbrella term that covers subgroups such as erotomanics and love addicts, although no literature has been found that uses both concepts within the context of obsessive love. A common conception of obsessive love is generally that of a person being infatuated with a particular individual. However, another category includes those who feel the need to be in love generally. These are commonly known as ‘love addicts’. A more medically accepted category of obsessive love is that of erotomania.

Erotomania is a ‘rare delusional disorder’ also known as De Clerembault’s Syndrome. This type of obsessive lover develops a fixation on a person and becomes convinced that they are having a romantic relationship regardless of attempts by the recipient to convince them otherwise. Although erotomania and love addiction are dealt with as individual disorders, they share a number of characteristics. Obsessive love is seen predominantly in women although it has been realised that there are male sufferers. Also, more specifically, erotomania usually occurs in unmarried women that are isolated and lonely and have low self-esteem. However, recent studies have shown the disorder to be present in men who have a history of substance abuse or mental illness.

Obsessive lovers lack the ability to develop and are obsessed with impossible needs and unrealistic expectations. They engage in desperate hopes and unending fears. Obsessive lovers often have a past history of mental illness and/or a criminal record. Erotomania is also often associated with other mental disorders, in particular paranoid schizophrenia. Only ten percent of those that suffer erotomania do not suffer any other forms of mental illness. Typically the recipient is often higher in social status – often a boss or a celebrity. Symptoms of this form of obsessive love include delusions of passion followed by delusions of persecution. The individual creates reasons as to why the recipient cannot be with them such as their job or shyness. The person also believes that the recipient is more in love with them than vice versa.

Obsessive love can take place both in and out of a relationship. It can be a past partner, a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger. Characteristics shared by all types of obsessive love include addictive personalities and low self-esteem. Obsessive lovers also have a tendency for violence and self-destruction. A person with such an obsession is likely to avoid change, and is typically dependent with a need for security. As this disorder is of an obsessive nature, the love the person feels is not particularly intimate. It is often the case that the love interest is the biggest thing in their life and so they dedicate lots of time to it.

Generally, the obsessed person’s life revolves around the person they are obsessed with. Whether in a relationship or not, the happiness of the obsessed is a direct result of the actions of the love object. As a result of this, the obsessed may beg to be told of how to make the other person happy so that they become the person the love object would want them to be. Obsessive lovers will go to great lengths to achieve or maintain the love of the love interest. Behaviour can become unpleasant for the recipient. Such actions include obscene phone calls, criminal damage or even physical violence and stalking. Their behaviour may necessitate the interest of the law.

This is frequently an occupational hazard for celebrities. In 1995, Madonna was stalked by Robert Hoskins. The man suffered from erotomania and believed that she was his wife. In an attempt to see his ‘wife’ he gained access to her home and assaulted a security guard. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. There are always fans that take their love for their idol into obsession.

Stalking is clearly a form of obsessive behaviour, and it has been found that those patients who have been stalked have described it as ‘psychological rape’. This can only further illustrate the devastating consequences of obsessive love. Stalking has even been given the clinical term ‘obsessional following’, and can be defined as the wilful, malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person. There is no single stalker profile and no two research centres can agree on what to call different types of stalkers.  The only exception is erotomania. This is the only psychiatric diagnosis routinely associated with stalking.

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

Further reading

Bogerts, B. (2005). Delusional jealousy and obsessive love – causes and forms. MMW Fortschritte der Medizin, 147(6), 28-9.

Debbelt, P. & Assion, H.J. (2001). Paranoia erotica (de Clerambault syndrome) in affective disorder. Der Nervenarzt. 72, 879-83.

Fisher, H. (2005). Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Graziano, W.G. & Musser L.M. (1982). The joining and parting of the ways. In Duck, S (Ed.). Personal Relationships 4: Dissolving Personal Relationships (pp.75-106). London: Academic Press.

Kennedy, N., McDonough, M., Kelly, B., & Berrios, G.E. (2002). Erotomania revisited: Clinical course and treatment. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 43, 1-6.

McCann, J.T. (1998). Subtypes of stalking (obsessional following) in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 21, 667-75.

Meloy, J. R. (1998). The psychology of stalking: Clinical and Forensic Perspectives. New York: Academic Press.

Orion, D. (1997). I Know You Really Love Me: A Psychiatrist’s Journal of Erotomania, Stalking, and Obsessive Love. London: MacMillan Publishing Company.

Peabody, S. (1994). Addiction to love. California: Celestial Arts.

Peele, S. & Brodsky, A. (1975). Love and Addiction. New York: Taplinger.

Sinclair, H.C, and Frieze, I.H. (2000). Initial courtship behaviour and stalking: how should we draw the line? Violence and Victims. 15(1), 23-40.

Stanbury, A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Obsessive love as an addiction. Psychology Review, 12(3), 2-4.

The Velvet Revolution: Is ‘Venus in Furs’ the most radical song in popular music?

As regular readers of my blog will know, my overriding passion in life is music, and as a music lover my record and CD collecting (at times) borders on obsession. In a previous blog I looked at the extreme music of Throbbing Gristle. In today’s blog I want to make the case that the song Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground is perhaps the most radical song in the history of popular music. It also happens to be one of my all-time favourite songs and is arguably the song that (along with most of Adam and the Ants’ early recorded output) got me academically interested in sexual paraphilias.

Behavioural and psychological extremes run through the core of the Velvet Underground’s musical philosophy. For those who know nothing about them, the first thing to know is that they named themselves after a 1963 book by the journalist Michael Leigh about the secret sexual subculture in America (there was also a 1968 follow-up book called The Velvet Underground Revisited). In 1967, the book was republished in the UK (although the name of the book had changed to Bizarre Sex Underground). As the Wikipedia entry on the book notes:

“Leigh investigates aberrant sexual behavior between consenting adults, that is, everything other than simple intercourse conducted in privacy by a heterosexual couple, e.g., husband and wife swapping, group sex, sex orgy parties, homosexual activities, sado-masochism. The author reports on the various ways in which such practices are solicited (newspaper advertisements, clubs, etcetera), and by following these leads, manages to get into touch with many of its participants, usually through written correspondence. The book liberally treats us with quotations from this material. This is complemented with quotes from various magazines. The author’s general aim is to establish that a shift in attitude toward sexuality is taking place in society that not only allows a large cross-section of the American population to partake in such non-standard sexual practices, but also allows them to believe that what they are doing is perfectly healthy and normal”

The band was formed in New York in 1965 and grew out of the ‘fictional’ band The Primitives (comprising Lou Reed, John Cale, Walter De Maria, and Angus MacLise) who had a local hit with ‘The Ostrich’ (penned by Reed). They had various names including The Warlocks and The Falling Spikes before settling on The Velvet Underground (suggested by MacLise after finding a copy of Leigh’s book in the street). Following the departures of De Maria and MacLise, Reed and Cale recruited Sterling Morrison and Maureen (‘Mo’) Tucker and it is this incarnation of the band that features what most people consider the ‘classic’ line-up (although even after Cale left and was replaced by Doug Yule, I liked that line-up’s LPs too). Their first manager was the pop-artist Andy Warhol who parted ways with the group after the recording of their first (1967) album The Velvet Underground and Nico (that featured the German chanteuse Nico singing on three of the songs). As ‘non-musician’ Brian Eno once said of the Velvet Underground – they didn’t sell many records [in their lifetime], but everybody who bought their first album went out and formed a band.

During their short career, Reed and Cale penned some of the best and most extreme rock songs of all time. The topics of their songs included sado-masochism, bondage and submission (Venus in Furs), scoring drugs (I’m Waiting For The Man), heroin use (Heroin), amphetamine use (White Light, White Heat), transexualism (Candy Says), death (The Black Angel’s Death Song), accidental death (The Gift), murder (The Murder Mystery), sex-change operations (Lady Godiva’s Operation), female sexual problems (Here She Comes Now), and even one song that features drug use, violence, sexual orgies, homosexuality, transvestism, and fellatio (Sister Ray). Most music commentators often point out that the group’s provocative lyrics presented a nihilistic outlook on life.

Brian Duguid, in his 1995 A Prehistory of Industrial Music, said that the release of the Velvet Underground’s first album was a turning point for rock music as they were the first band to incorporate the avant-garde into their music (thanks to John Cale’s scholarship with La Monte Young and the influence of his ‘drone’ music). Duguid claims that the Velvet Underground combined avant-garde with one of the most alienated, hostile attitudes rock had so far developed”.

Venus in Furs (written by Reed) appeared on the Velvet’s first album and is arguably the group’s greatest and most sexually provocative song, and was based on the 1870 novella of the same name written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (whose name is the basis for the word ‘masochism’ as the book was semi-autobiographical; Sacher-Masoch considered himself the ‘slave’ of Baroness Bogdanoff, his mistress). Most of Sacher-Masoch’s stories featured a woman in furs. As Dr. Anil Aggrawal notes in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices:

“The term masochism was coined in 1886 by the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902), after a contemporary writer, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836–1895), whose partially autobiographical novel Venus in Furs (1870) tells of the protagonist Severin von Kusiemski’s desire to be whipped and enslaved by a beautiful woman. Wanda von Dunajew. Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality”.

The song basically tells Sacher-Masoch’s story in music form. As the Wikipedia entry on the Venus in Furs novella notes:

“Wanda von Dunajew, the novel’s central female character, was modelled after Fanny Pistor, who was an emerging literary writer. The two met when Pistor contacted Sacher-Masoch, under assumed name and fictitious title of Baroness Bogdanoff, for suggestions on improving her writing to make it suitable for publication. [The story] concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while she wears furs. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severin, who tells him how to break him of his fascination with cruel women by reading a manuscript, Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man. This manuscript tells of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, who is so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he asks to be her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways. At first Wanda does not understand or accede to the request, but after humouring Severin a bit she finds the advantages of the method to be interesting and enthusiastically embraces the idea, although at the same time she disdains Severin for allowing her to do so. Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality. Severin and Wanda travel to Florence. Along the way, Severin takes the generic Russian servant’s name of ‘Gregor’ and the role of Wanda’s servant. In Florence, Wanda treats him brutally as a servant, and recruits a trio of African women to dominate him”

Around the time of the song being written, Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’ crowd were making movies with sadomasochistic themes such as 1965’s Vinyl (in which Edie Sedgwick played a dominatrix and Gerard Malanga played a masochist. Sterling Morrison claimed the song was “the closest [the Velvet Underground] ever came in my mind to being exactly what I thought [they] could be”. A contemporary review of the song in a 1967 issue of Vibrations magazine by Timothy Jacobs noted:

“’Venus in Furs’ is perhaps the best example of the severity of the music. The texture of the song is pure sado-masochism. The music is remarkable in its expression of this message; the words speak of a life of sheer pain and misery, with frequent mention of Severin, a sadistic monk from Justine [sic], by the Marquis de Sade”.

In his 1967 book Coldness and Cruelty, the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze described both sadism and masochism as entire philosophical systems. To Deleuze, Sacher-Masoch and the Marquis de Sade are “great artists in that they discover new forms of expression, new ways of thinking and feeling and an entirely new language”. The same could perhaps be said of the Velvet Underground’s music. In The Post-subcultures Reader, David Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (like me) noted the sexually paraphilic overlap in the music of the Velvet Underground and Adam and the Ants:

Musical genealogies of American punk performance often begin with the Velvet Underground (Henry 1989), a band whose name is taken from a masochistic text, and whose song ‘Venus in Furs’ invokes Sacher-Masoch’s (1991) novel of the same title. In London, a decade later, it is Adam and the Ants who bring punk’s masochistic imagery to the fore. Having abandoned his art-college thesis in rubber and leather fetishism, Adam introduced S/M into his stage performances with songs such as ‘Whip my Valise’ and ‘Rubber People’ (Home 1988; Sabin 1999)”.

As far as I am concerned, Venus in Furs is the song that changed rock music forever. It featured subject matter that was so extreme in the 1960s that it sent out a message to any band that rock lyrics don’t have to follow a formula and that no topic is taboo. It let every band know that artistic merit had no boundaries and that record sales are not the be all and end all of musical success (something that John Cale echoed in his speech when the Velvet Underground were inducted into the US Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1996). If you’ve not yet discovered the delights of the Velvet Underground, then hopefully this blog will tempt you into sampling some of their musical wares.

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.

Deleuze, G. (1991). Coldness and Cruelty. In Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty & Venus in Furs (translated by J. McNeil). New York: Zone Books.

Duguid, B. (1995). A Prehistory of Industrial Music. London: ESTWeb.

Henry, T. (1989), Break All Rules! Punk Rock and the Making of a Style, Ann Arbour MI: UMI Research Press.

Heylin, C. (2005). All Yesterday’s Parties – The Velvet Underground In Print 1966-1971. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

Hogan, P. (2007). The Rough Guide To The Velvet Underground. London: Penguin.

Home, S. (1988), Assault on Culture: Utopian Currents from Lettrisme to Class War, London: Aporia Press and Unpopular Books.

Muggleton, D. & Weinzierl, R. (2003). The Post-subcultures Reader. Oxford: Berg

Sabin, R. (1999), ‘Introduction’, in R. Sabin (ed.), Punk Rock: So What? The Cultural Legacy of Punk, London and New York: Routledge.

Sacher-Masoch, L. von. (1989). Venus in Furs. New York: Zone Books.

Pressing ahead: Gambling with people’s reputations

I’m not sure who first said it but I’ve always been told that ‘reputation can take a lifetime to get but a minute to destroy’ which is one of the reasons that any interview with the national press can be a tightrope walk in reputation management. For me personally, this morning was one of those tightrope walks.

The front page of today’s Daily Mail screamed ‘Fury at Facebook online casinos’. The story included approximately 10-15 seconds of quotes from a 15-minute interview I did with them yesterday evening. I explained at the start of the interview that I was not anti-gambling or anti-Facebook gambling, and that my main interests in relation to gambling via Facebook are player protection, harm minimization, and the protection of vulnerable and susceptible individuals (most notably children and adolescents). I’ve done three interviews with the Daily Mail on the topic of gambling via social networking sites in the last few months and although they usually report the gist or paraphrase what I say, they rarely add in all the caveats and nuances surrounding the views I put forward. I am the only person quoted in today’s article (quotes that were also repeated in today’s Daily Telegraph), so there is an implicit assumption that it is me that is experiencing the “fury” yet I feel no such thing. Obviously the headline does not really reflect the story or my comments but it may make people read the story. A headline that says ‘Professor of Gambling Studies has concerns about teenage gambling on Facebook’ is not likely to make front page news or sell many newspapers. The story reported that:

“Facebook has been accused of creating ‘tomorrow’s generation of problem gamblers’ by rolling out real money casino games. Under a lucrative deal with online gaming company 888, the social networking giant will offer Las Vegas-style slot machines and games such as roulette and blackjack….Gamers will be able to place up to £500 on bets using a credit or debit card with promises of jackpots worth tens of thousands of pounds.These will only be available in the UK, where gaming laws are more relaxed than in the US. Both Facebook and 888 insist they have safeguards to prevent minors from accessing the games…But there is nothing to stop children logging on to parents’ accounts and using card details already stored on the family computer. Already, Facebook users as young as 13 can use virtual slot machines on the website to win ‘credits’ – which have no monetary value.But as soon as they turn 18, millions of children who use the social networking site will be bombarded with adverts for real money gambling games.Facebook has three million UK users aged between 13 and 17. But a further one million are thought to be under 13 and pretending to be older”

I’d briefly like to address what I said and contextualize the comments attributed to me. The first quote published and attributed to me was: “You win virtually every time you play one of the free games”. What I was referring to here was that there are gambling-type games on Facebook (most notably slot machine games) where the payout rates can be more than 100%. All of these gambling-type games rely on people spending real money to buy virtual currency to play the on games like poker, bingo and slot machines. One of my research colleagues who I have published a lot of papers on gambling with had bought virtual currency and showed us that the pay out rates tend to increase with the more real money spent in buying virtual currency. My real bone of contention here is my belief that any games played for points should have the same probability of winning as you would find in a real game otherwise it sets up unrealistic expectations when people then play for real money (particularly where adolescents are concerned).

The second quote attributed to me was: ‘Research has shown again and again that one of the biggest factors in developing problem gambling is playing free games online first. These children and teenagers today are the problem gamblers of tomorrow”. I never said “again and again”, what I actually said was that there had been some secondary analysis of three national adolescent gambling studies done in the UK that (using regression analyses) had shown that among teenagers (aged 11 to 15 years) one of the major factors that appeared to predict (a) gambling with real money, and (b) problem gambling, was the playing of free games. All of these secondary analyses suggest there is a correlation (not necessarily causation) between the playing of free gambling-type games, and the amount of real gambling adolescents engage in, and problem gambling. Personally, I am of the opinion that even free gambling-type games (i.e., poker, slot machines, bingo, etc.) should have age verification checks and that free games should be behind the registration process.

Finally, a third quote was attributed to me that the deal that Facebook have with 888 could cause “the floodgates to open” along with the journalist’s text that “as gambling companies dive into the social media frenzy to make money”.  I was asked by the Daily Mail if I thought the ‘floodgates’ would open following 888’s move into the Facebook gambling market. I then proceeded to talk about the fact that all social gaming operators are looking to see what happens with Bingo Friendzy (the only gambling-for-money game on Facebook at present that was launched in August 2012). I said that if this game starts to make money for the game’s operator, then other companies would quickly follow suit. Whether this means ‘the floodgates will open’ depends on people’s definition of ‘floodgates’ as it is (what we call in psychological terms) as ‘fuzzy quantifier’ (along with words like ‘some’ or ‘many’) as it means different things to different people.

So, again, for the record: (i) I am not anti-gambling, I am pro-responsible gambling, (ii) I am not anti-Facebook gambling, I am pro-responsible Facebook-gambling, and (iii) I am anti-adolescent gambling even if it is on games that are played for points rather than money.

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

Further reading

Forrest, D.K., McHale, I., & Parke, J.(2009). Appendix 5: Full report of statistical regression analysis. In: Ipsos MORI, British Survey of Children, the National Lottery and Gambling 2008-09: Report of a quantitative survey. London, National Lottery Commission.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Gaming in social networking sites: A growing concern? World Online Gambling Law Report, 9(5), 12-13.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2010). Adolescent gambling on the Internet: A review. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 22, 59-75.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Adolescent gambling. In B. Bradford Brown & Mitch Prinstein (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Adolescence (Volume 3). pp.11-20. San Diego: Academic Press.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Gambling on Facebook? A cause for concern? World Online Gambling Law Report, 11(9), 10-11.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The psychology of social gaming. i-Gaming Business Affiliate, August/September, 26-27.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.227-249). London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D., Derevensky, J. & Parke, J. (2012). Online gambling in youth. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.183-199). London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. & Kuss, D. (2011). Adolescent social networking: Should parents and teachers be worried? Education and Health, 29, 23-25.

King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The convergence of gambling and digital media: Implications for gambling in young people. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26, 175-187.

King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H., Derevensky, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). A review of Australian classification practices for commercial video games featuring simulated gambling. International Gambling Studies, 12, 231-242.

Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction: A literature review of empirical research. International Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 8, 3528-3552.