Monthly Archives: January 2013

Speaking a phlegmish language: A brief look at cough fetishism

While I was doing some research for a blog on sex and sneezing, I came across quite a few online confessions from people on sneeze fetish sites who also claimed they had a coughing fetish. As far as I am aware, there is no scientific name for coughing fetishes or paraphilias and it does not appear in either Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices or Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. However, it does make an appearance in the Social Kink’s online sex dictionary (aka the ‘kinktionary’). It says that:

“Coughing fetish involves the arousal of a male or female when they hear or see someone cough. The sometimes-quick sound of a slight hack is also thoroughly enjoyed. Some people like to see phlegm coughed up in the process. This may be intertwined with a slight bodily fluid fetish as well. Coughing is sometimes done when the deepthroating of a penis is involved, as the body tries to gag, but it comes out as a cough”

Coughing fetishes also make a brief appearance in the online Chemistry Daily encyclopedia:

“Coughing fetishism is a sexual fetish in which people like to watch other people coughing. It is often related to the smoking fetish. Some people fascinated with coughing require a certain sound or effect, such as a smoker’s cough, a dry cough, a wet, productive cough, etc. For some, it’s more important to hear a cough than to watch it”.

Finally, I came across a posting on the Is It Normal?’ website. In one of the answers to a question on bizarre fetishes and paraphilias, one of the respondents posted the verbatim text of an unattributed lecture that he had attended. I have tried (and failed) to track down the original source but the information given in the rest of the verbatim report is authoritative and scientific so I have no reason to doubt that the unnamed author believes what they are saying about coughing fetishes (although I have to add that it’s almost all speculation). The brief overview also includes hiccupping fetishes – presumably because ‘hiccups’ are a derivation of ‘hiccoughs’ and therefore – technically – a type of coughing:

“A coughing fetish involves finding women who cough as something fascinating, appealing and sexy. Enthusiasts often don’t know why they find this appealing and report it’s an interest since early childhood. Perhaps it’s the sound, the facial expression, the way of moving the body, the way the chest expands, or the way the hand covers the mouth. A hiccupping fetish among males usually involves a preference for seeing big breasted or pregnant women hiccupping. For females, it’s usually seeing male celebrities or authority figures with the hiccups.  For both, the turn-on is that it’s uncontrollable and publicly embarrassing. It’s rare to see sex while hiccupping, so the practice is usually confined to fantasy or a precursor to sex with both parties regressing to a childlike state of kidding, ridiculing, and tickling each other”.

In an article on sexual fetishes in The Wave magazine, Sandy Brundage included a brief section on coughing fetishes (“Coughing Your Way to Love”). He interviewed Nabucco Zach, a self-confessed cough and smoking fetishist. Zach was asked about why he found coughing such a sexual turn on and he replied:

“My own theory is that it has something to do with my aunt who died of lung cancer when I was four. There was a lot of talking about her lungs around me, and I probably understood that something serious was happening to her because of her lungs, so to speak. So, I think it’s a sort of fear that the coughing or smoking woman would pass away, that the brain handles by turning the fear into a sexual activity. Just a theory, and maybe a psychologist would laugh”.

Well, as a psychologist I’m not laughing, and Zach has obviously tried to attribute the motivation to something rooted deep in his childhood, but ultimately, this is yet more speculation as to the cause of coughing fetishes. This quote also provides more anecdotal evidence that – for some people – there is an overlap with smoking fetishism. Zach also added that:

“The cough fascination is something that turns me on, sexually – it’s a part of my sexual life and sex is not the first thing I start talking about when meeting a person. I’m not sure if I would ever reveal it”.

It wasn’t until Zach came across on online fetish discussion forum that he realized he wasn’t the only person who was sexually aroused by coughing, and where participants in the discussion group traded “secrets, stories and recordings of coughs”. Zach was also surprised that there were women on the online forum who had coughing fetishes because he viewed sexual fetishes as mainly male dominated.

After reading Brundage’s article, I went online and specifically started looking for coughing fetish forums. I have to admit that I didn’t find any dedicated coughing fetish discussion sites although I came across lots of fetish sites where the issue was raised as well as anecdotes from people about the sexual side of coughing on sneeze fetish forums. (I also came across sites that feature nothing but coughing videos aimed at people with coughing fetishes such as the one at

Here are five of the confessions I came across:

  • Extract 1: “I know this is a little weird, but does anyone have a thing for coughing? I know lots of people find it gross or irritating, but I love it. I think it’s so hot. And it’s almost always an indication the person’s sick which can lead to sneezing *melts* I probably should have made myself more clear I don’t like just any old coughing. I would only enjoy it if it were by a person (mainly male) that I’m attracted to, from a cold only (not smokers cough, or asthma or anything like that), and dry coughs. No phlegm whatsover”.
  • Extract 2: “You’re definitely not alone! For me, coughing is just as good as – if not better – than sneezing…I’m not entirely sure why this is, but, like you said, maybe it’s the way it’s kind of a blaring indication that the person is sick?”
  • Extract 3: “I actually found my way to this forum by searching for coughing-related things. I’ve got a general fetish for colds, illness and allergies, but I really do love a good coughing fit”.
  • Extract 4: “I have a coughing fetish too! It’s always been secondary to the sneezing fetish, but it’s definitely right up there…I’ve been looking for some coughing discussion forums like this one for a while, but none seem to exist…In my clip store I’ve got quite a few coughing clips too, as well as sneezing ones”.
  • Extract 5: “While I wouldn’t have fantasies about being coughed on, as I have with being sneezed on, I really, really like coughing as well. As long as it’s not from smoking or the extreme lung cancer, pretty much any cough is okay with me too. I naturally prefer when it’s from a cold or flu, but I can also appreciate other coughing. Like from tuberculosis, injury or even from choking on something. To me, it’s always a sign that the person coughing is somehow weakened for the moment. And that is sexy. Also, I should add, this applies mostly to men…I don’t mind a little mess in coughing either. I like the sound a little phlegm can do very much, but dry is more than fine too”.

All of these quotes are interesting and suggest coughing fetishes can and do exist. They also show that there appears to be some overlap between coughing and sneezing fetishes, and that there are slight differences in what kind of coughs are sexually arousing. They also demonstrate that there are idiosyncratic differences even among a fetish type that I think is very rare. The theme of being sexually aroused because someone is all also seems to be important for some cough fetishists. Maybe illness is associated with vulnerability that to some people may equate with some psychological equivalent of submissiveness (which brings to mind both sexually sadistic and masochistic undertones – but this, admittedly, is pure speculation on my part). Until any research is carried out on this tiny minority, we may never know what the roots, causes and motivations of cough fetishism.

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

Further reading

Brundage, S. (2002). Fetish Confessions: Telling loved ones about your fetish is as easy as solving fractured quadratic equations. The Wave Magazine, July 31. Located at:

Smoking Sweeties (2010). Women with coughing fetish. Located at:

Social Kink (undated). Coughing fetish. Located at: (

Wikipedia (2012). Smoking fetishism. Located at:

The Great Defecator: The (maybe not so) secret sex life of Adolf Hitler

In a previous blog I briefly looked at some of the psychological research that had been carried out examining Adolf Hitler’s personality. I briefly mentioned in that blog some of the more salacious speculations about his sexuality. It’s not my usual style to speculate on the sex lives of people who are not around to defend themselves (although I did make an exception in a previous blog about the television personality Jimmy Savile).

Hitler’s sexuality has been the subject of scholarly (and not so scholarly) debate for decades. The vast majority of material has concerned Hitler’s sexual orientation and whether in fact he was gay (not that it bothers me whether he was or wasn’t). For instance, much media coverage was given to Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams’ book The Pink Swastika about Hitler’s (and other leading Nazi Party members’) homosexuality. Other scholars (such as the German historian Dr. Lothar Machtan) have tried to put the case forward that he was bisexual (which would make more sense given the five women he was alleged to have had sexual liaisons with above and beyond his longstanding 16-year relationship with Eva Braun) or that he was asexual – although I’ve yet to come across any scholarly evidence of this apart from a brief 1998 online essay by American Dr. Jack Porter. He wrote:

“Did Hitler despise homosexuals? Was he ashamed of his own homosexual identity? These are areas of psychohistory that are beyond known knowledge. My own feelings are that Hitler was asexual in the traditional sense and had bizarre sexual fetishes. All these things were of course kept highly secret from the German people”.

Many academics have disputed the allegations made in The Pink Swastika although Dr. Machtan published (what seems to me at least) a well researched German book on Hitler in 2001 (the title of which translates as Hitler’s Secret: The Double Life of a Dictator). He claimed that Hitler had many gay friends in Munich who helped Hitler win over the intellectuals in various social circles during his rise to power. This included Ernst Hanfstaengt (a business man and close friend of Hitler), Dietrich Eckart (a journalist and politician who helped Hitler form the Nazi Party), Ernst Röhm (one of Hitler’s closest confidants, and an officer in the Bavarian Army who later became the Nazi leader of the Sturmabteilung – the Assault Division), and Edmund Heines (Röhm’s deputy leader in the Sturmabteilung). He personally ordered the killings of both Heines and Röhm for their “immoral sexual behaviour”. The Wikipedia entry on Hitler’s sex life claimed that:

“There is considerable evidence that he had infatuations with a number of women during his lifetime, as well as overwhelming evidence of his antipathy to homosexuality, and no evidence he engaged in homosexual behavior”.

The American journalist Ron Rosenbaum (and author of the 1998 book Explaining Hitler:  The Search for the Origins of Evil) has been very critical of Dr. Machtan’s research and went as far as saying in a 2005 article for the Southern Poverty Law Center, that Machtan’s “evidence falls short of being conclusive and often falls far short of being evidence at all”. However, Hitler’s persecution of homosexuals was as abhorrent as his treatment of Jewish people (sending them to their deaths in the Nazi concentration camps – some of who were experimented upon in Hitler’s quest to identify what he believed was a biological basis for homosexuality). The Wikipedia article on Hitler’s sexuality cites the work of American historian Jonathan Zimmerman who claimed that:

“Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis arrested roughly 100,000 men as homosexuals. Most convicted gays were sent to prison; between 5,000 and 15,000 were interned in concentration camps, where they wore pink triangles to signify their supposed crime. A study by Rüdiger Lautmann found that 60% of gay men in concentration camps died, as compared to 41% of political prisoners and 35% of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The study also shows that survival rates for gay men were slightly higher for internees from the middle and upper classes and for married bisexual men and those with children”.

Irrespective of whether Hitler had homesexual tendencies, no-one denies that during World War II, the allies did their best to cast Hitler as a sexual deviant with claims that he was a urophile (i.e., sexually aroused by being urinated upon in Hitler’s case). However, much of this can be dismissed as nothing more than anti-Hitler propaganda. Ernst Hanfstaengl (who was for quite some time a member of Hitler’s ‘inner circle’) was one of the few who openly spoke of issues surrounding Hitler’s sex life (after Hitler had committed suicide). In his 1957 book Hitler: The Missing Years, he wrote:

“Hitler was a case of a man who was neither fish, flesh nor fowl, neither fully homosexual nor fully heterosexual… I had formed the firm conviction that he was impotent, the repressed, masturbating type”.

In my previous blog on Hitler’s personality, I mentioned the two independent reports that were commissioned by the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) by psychologists Dr. Walter Langer (A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler: His Life and Legend) and Dr. Walter Murray (Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler: With Predictions of His Future Behavior and Suggestions for Dealing with Him Now and After Germany’s Surrender) during the World War II in an attempt to get inside the mind of Hitler. German politician Otto Strasser (a member of the left-wing National Socialist German Workers’ Party) claimed that Hitler had forced his niece Geli Raubel to urinate and defecate on him. In relation to his sexuality, this ‘evidence’ – I use the term tentatively – was used by Dr. Langer’s to assert that Hitler was an “impotent coprophile [and] possibly even a homosexual streak in him”. However, the report did conclude that the evidence surrounding Hitler’s alleged homosexuality was weak. Dr. Murray’s report briefly dealt with Hitler’s alleged coprophilic tendencies but was more concerned with Hitler’s probable schizophrenia (which I covered in my previous blog). In 2007, Dr. Frederick Coolidge and his colleagues published a paper examining the psychological profile of Adolf Hitler. Summarizing the work of Dr. Langer, they wrote that:

“Using sources only available up until 1943, Langer diagnosed Hitler as a neurotic bordering on psychotic with a messiah complex, masochistic tendencies, strong sexual perversions, and a high likelihood of homosexuality”.

More recently, Hitler’s alleged coprophilia was alluded to in a 2011 biography of Hitler’s lover Eva Braun by Heike B. Görtemaker. However, other recent books on Hitler have been more explicit. For instance, Greg Hallet in his chapter ‘Hitler’s Sexuality’ (from his 2008 book ‘Hitler was a British Agent’) wrote:

“Hitler’s close boyhood friend from Linz, August Kubizek, wrote Adolf Hitler, Mein Jugendfreund (My Youth Friend), ‘Adolf did not engage in love affairs or flirtations. He always rejected the coquettish advances of girls or women. Women and girls took an interest in him but he always evaded their endeavours’…During deconstruction, it is customary that the person is sexually abused in the manner which is most embarrassing to that person. In Hitler’s case, he was sodomised, creating a submissive distant respect for homosexuals like his bodyguards and some of his highest-placed leaders. His natural bent was developed into coprophilia (being shat on)…With each deconstruction an embarrassing addiction is developed and filmed. With Hitler it was sadomasochism, coprophilia and homosexuality. That is, he liked to be verbally abused and slapped around, to have his head urinated on, his chest shat on, and to have sex with men”.

None of this is definitive proof that Hitler was a coprophile but some would argue that there are enough indirect pieces of evidence to suggest that ‘there’s no smoke without fire’. As far as I am concerned it is never likely to be proven given any new evidence that is likely to have come to light would have probably come to light by now (but you never know).

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

Further reading

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

Görtemaker, H. (2011). Eva Braun: Life with Hitler. New York: Knopf.

Hallett, G. (2008). Hitler was a British Agent. London: Progressive Books.

Hanfstaengl, E. (1957). Hitler: The Missing Years. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.

Lively, Scott; Abrams, Kevin (1995). The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. Founders Publishing. Corporation

Moser, R. (2005).  Anti-Gay Religious Crusaders Claim Homosexuals Helped Mastermind the Holocaust. Southern Poverty Law Center, 117. Located at:

Plant, R. (1986). The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt.

Porter, J.N. (1998). Genocide of homosexuals in the Holocaust. October 10. Located at:

Porter, J.N. (1998). Sexual Politics in Nazi Germany: The Persecution of the Homosexuals during the Holocaust. Newton, MA: The Spencer Press.

Rosenbaum, R. (1998). Explaining Hitler:  The Search for the Origins of Evil. New York: Random House.

Rosenbaum, R. (2001). Queer as Volk. Slate, December 3. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Sexuality of Adolf Hitler. Located at:

This farming man: An unusual case of zoocoprophilia?

One of the most bizarre sex-related stories I have come across in the last few years concerns an Englishman called David Truscott from Pengegon Parc, Camborne (in Cornwall). Truscott, was 41-years-old when he was put in prison for two years after he had harassed and terrorized one particular family for a six-year period near Redruth (Cornwall). He repeatedly covered his naked (or scantily-clad) body in cow manure and would roll around on the floor masturbating on the family’s farm (if he wasn’t completely naked he either wore just underpants although on one occasion he was apprehended by police wearing shiny red sorts and latex gloves). He had already received a court order preventing him from going anywhere near the family but breached his restraining order on February 26 [2011] when he was caught by the farmer Clive Roth’s 16-year old son pleasuring himself while covered in cow manure.

Jill Wilson, the crown prosecutor in the case at Truro Court told the court that there was “a history of [Truscott] visiting this particular farm seeking sexual gratification while immersed in cow dung and mud”. Mark Charnley, the lawyer defending Truscott told the court that his client was a “sad, vulnerable, socially inadequate man…He does show remorse for what he did and a realization of the harm he was doing to the family and pleased for leniency because his client had no close family and had learning difficulties. Charnley also suggested that Truscott was suffering from a form of autism that led him to engage in his sexual behaviour while under stress. However, Judge Christopher Elwen said Truscott had to be jailed for his “perverted activities [and because he’d] made the home life of the Roth family absolute hell through your bizarre fetish and disgusting behaviour”. The Judge concluded: “The family members live in fear of what you might get up to from time to time. They have constantly to look over their shoulders. Any untoward activity on the farm brings your disgusting behaviour to mind”.

It was back in 2004 that Truscott was first spotted by the family when he was found masturbating in the faeces of the farm’s muck spreader. As the behaviour was not an isolated incident, the family tried to keep their manure spreading equipment clean but Truscott still found ways to make himself a nuisance to the family. When the manure became harder to come by, Truscott took his revenge on the family by setting fire to an animal pen containing the family’s cows and calves in which one of the cows died. The family’s three-year old son was traumatized by the incident and lived in fear that the house where he lived was going to be burned to the ground. Mr Roth’s mother also lived in fear that the farmhouse was going to be the subject of an arson attack. As a consequence, Truscott pleaded guilty and received a three-year prison sentence.

When he was released from prison in 2009, Truscott returned to the family’s farmhouse and was found naked in a pile of manure. He received yet another prison sentence (of 20 weeks) and a restraining order preventing him from stepping foot on the family’s farm. However, this proved ineffective and was broken on a number of subsequent occasions (including one where he immersed himself almost naked inside a large vat of manure inside the farm’s milking parlour. It was also revealed in court that Trsucott owned 360 pairs of women’s knickers and usually slept in ladies’ pyjamas.

Although I only have the various news reports to go on (all the ones I read are listed in the ‘Further reading’ section at the end of this blog), I would make a number of observations. Firstly, the primary sexual attraction appears to be towards animal faeces, therefore he could possibly be classed as a coprophile. Although I have never come across a case of anyone in the academic and clinical literature deriving sexual pleasure from anything other than human faeces, definitions of coprophilia never specify that the faecal matter has to be human. Maybe Truscott’s behaviour could therefore be classed as “zoocoprophilia” (my own word to describe those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from animal faeces).

Secondly, (and I admit this is highly speculative), it could perhaps be argued that Truscott would classify as a ‘Class V zoosexual’ in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s recently published new classification of zoophiles. The Class V zoosexual type comprises what Aggrawal calls fetishistic zoophiles. These individuals keep various animal parts (especially fur) that they then use as an erotic stimulus as a crucial part of their sexual activity. Such individuals have been reported in the clinical literature including the case of a woman (reported in a 1990 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology) who used the tongue of a deer as her primary masturbatory aid. Given that the animal manure appeared to be a critical component in Truscott’s masturbatory activity, maybe he could arguably be classed as a Class V zoosexual.

Thirdly, there is some empirical evidence of an overlap in coprophilia and zoophilia. An earlier study on a sample of paraphiliacs reported that zoophiles appear to engage in many paraphilic behaviours including coprophilia. In a survey of 561 non-incarcerated paraphiliacs seeking treatment, Dr Gene Abel and colleagues reported in an issue of the Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, that all of the 14 zoophiles in their sample reported more than one paraphilia and seven of them reported at least five other paraphilas including coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, frotteurism, telephone scatophilia, transvestic fetishism, fetishism, sexual sadism, and/or sexual masochism. This also supports the observation that if a person has one paraphilia, they often have others. In the case of Truscott, there was some evidence that he engaged in transvestite sexual behaviour in the fact that he often wore women’s knickers and slept in female nightwear.

Finally, fact that Truscott’s lawyer suggested his client had a form of autism may be an important factor in the behaviour displayed. In a previous blog I wrote on coprophagia (i.e., people that eat faeces, and a behaviour that sometimes overlaps with coprophilia), I noted that various medical and psychological disorders have been identified that are associated with coprophagia including mental retardation and autism.

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

Further reading

Abel, G. G., Becker, J. V., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M. S., & Rouleau, J. L. (1988). Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 16, 153–168.

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

Beck D.A. & Frohberg, N.R. (2005). Coprophagia in an elderly man: a case report and review of the literature. International Journal of Psychiatry Medicine, 35, 417-427.

Crazy News (2011). The pervert who got sexual thrills in cow manure. March 24. Located at:

Daily Mirror (2011). Pervert who got sexual thrills in cow manure sent to prison. Daily Mirror, March 24. Located at:

Evening Standard (2011). Pervert with fetish for cow manure is locked up, March 23. Located at:

Ghaziuddin, N. & McDonald, C. (1989). A clinical study of adult coprophagics. British Journal of Psychiatry, 4, 53-54.

Omasiali (2011). Sick white devil repeatedly has sex with cow manure back in jail, May 15.

Randall, M.B., Vance, R.P., McCalmont, T.H. (1990). Xenolingual autoeroticism. American Journal of Forensic and Medical Pathology, 11, 89-92.

Skruff, J. (2012). Britain’s filthiest sex fiend strikes again, July 18. Located at:

White Watch (2011). White man who repeatedly has sex with cow manure back in jail. March 27. Located at:

The slave betrayed: An overview of trokosi and sexual slavery

Regular readers of my blog will know that I take more than a passing academic interest in sexual fetishes. It was during one of my random Google fetish searches that I came across ‘fetish shrines’. I have to admit that I didn’t have a clue what a ‘fetish shrine’ was or what was involved so I started to do a little research into the topic and became horrified about what I read.

In short, I learned that a few counties in the world have fetish shrines as part of their religious culture, and that they are connected with a particular type of slavery known as “trokosi” (where young women are coerced to become “slaves or wives of the gods”). Because the gods of African religions are normally referred to as fetishes, the victims are usually referred to as fetish slaves, and the priests who serve the gods are referred to as fetish priests.

More specifically, trokosi is a type of ‘ritual servitude’ that is based on both patriarchal superstition and religious tradition. As far as I can tell, only four countries in the world still adhere to trokosi practices – Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana. According to Siman Abaxer in his publication Trokosi Situation on the Ground in Volta Region, the practice is not universal across these four countries but regional. Of these, it is Ghana that appears to have trokosi most embedded within its religious culture and/or is most written about. Despite being outlawed in Ghana since 1998, and with a minimum prison sentence of three years for those convicted of engaging in the practice, trokosi is still relatively widespread (although to date, no-one appears to have been prosecuted for such offences). The practice is very much connected to criminal wrongdoing and acts as a vehicle for religious atonement (a ‘living sacrifice’). When someone commits a crime (however, trivial), the family of the person committing the crime has to offer up a virginal daughter (usually aged between eight and fifteen years old) to the local fetish shrine where she becomes a sex slave to the local priest(s).

The priest has complete ownership of the girl and controls all actions and interactions in their life. The priest is allowed to (ab)use the girl in any way they deem fit which includes sex on demand. Such girls are kept in brutal conditions and used for both cheap labour and sexual gratification. Whether the girls receive food, education and access to health services is completely at the mercy of the priest, and there is no remuneration for any of the services provided by the girls. Those given up as slaves will usually be under the priest’s control for about ten years but can be more depending upon the nature and the severity of the crime committed by the girl’s relative. If the slave girl dies while under the priest’s control, the family have to pay up a large sum of money or (more usually) give up another of their daughters to the priest.

According to Sarah Aird, a staff writer for the Human Rights Brief, there are approximately 5,000 trokosi slaves within Ghana, and as many as 35,000 worldwide. (I tracked down the original source for these figures and they are from 1998 article by Amy Bilyeu in the Indiana International and Comparative Law Review). Aird also claimed that many Ghana families are so dedicated to the trokosi practice that they have sacrificed up to five generations of daughters to the fetish priests. She also reports that:

“The trokosi custom is part of a traditional fetish belief system, according to which gods or spirits reside in various ritual objects and shrine priests. Within Ghana, trokosi slavery endures primarily among the Ewe ethnic group, albeit in altered form since its 17th century origins. Trokosi slavery originated in Togo and Benin as a war ritual in the 1600s. Before entering combat, warriors would visit religious shrines where they offered women to the war gods in exchange for victory and a safe homecoming. Today, many Ghanaians revere priests of trokosi shrines, because they believe these priests communicate directly with the war gods and are particularly influential in the spirit world, even capable of determining life and death”.

As noted in the quote above, in Ghana (as in Togo), trokosi is practiced by the Ewe tribe, and in Benin and Nigeria it is practiced by the Fon people. It is also known by other names and variations including ‘fiashidi’ (Ghana), ‘woryokwe’ (Ghana), voodoosi (Togo and Benin), and vudusi. (Togo and Benin). According to the online Trokosi Dictionary, the word trokosi comes from the Ewe words ‘tro’ (i.e., deity or fetish) and ‘kosi’ (i.e., female slave).

Professor Sandra Greene in her 1996 book Gender, Ethnicity and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast noted that in Ghana, trokosi dates back to at least the late 18th century (although as the quote above notes, it may date back even further). In a Wikipedia article on ritual servitude, it notes that in relation to trokosi, the fetish priest’s genitals are dedicated to the gods of the fetish shrine, therefore enslaved girls having sex with the priest is considered a sacred act (and in essence having sex with the gods). Many trokosi and vudusi have described beatings and other severe punishments imposed on them for refusing sex with the priest. In Ghana, it is claimed that fetish shrine slaves have an average of four children while in servitude. The fathers may not just be the priest, but may also be the elders of the shrines. In relation to the children born during servitude, Sarah Aird also wrote that:

“Any children born to trokosi slaves are also slaves of the priest and are known as trokosiviwo. When the priest dies, the priest next in line inherits his trokosi slaves and trokosiviwo children, so trokosi becomes a tradition in perpetuity. Only priests and shrine owners may release a trokosi slave from the shrine, with shrine owners maintaining the ultimate power to affect such releases…Fetish priests who favor trokosi slavery view the practice as an effective means to keep people from breaking community norms. They perceive trokosi slaves as links between the gods and the family, reminding family members to lead moral lives”.

In defence of their actions, the fetish priests claim that the practice deters community crime, and that the enslaved girls constitute role models, and save their family from punishment. However, as Mark Wisdom (Executive Director of Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement) noted:

“If it is intended to serve as a check to crime, then we can say that it is not effective because it has existed since time immemorial but people continue to commit crimes”.

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

Further reading

Abaxer, S. (2007). Trokosi Situation on the Ground in Volta Region. ECM Africa Publications.

Bilyeu, A.S. (1998). Trokosi – The Practice of Sexual Slavery in Ghana: Religious and Cultural Freedom vs. Human Rights. Indiana International & Comparative Law Review, 9.

Aird, S.C. (undated).  Ghana’s slave to the gods. Located at:

Bilyeu, A.S. (1998). Trokosi – The Practice of Sexual Slavery in Ghana: Religious and Cultural Freedom vs. Human Rights. Indiana International and Comparative Law Review, 9.

Hawksley, H. (2001). Ghana’s trapped slaves. BBC News, February 21. Located at:

Greene, S.E. (1996). Gender, Ethnicity and Social Change on the Upper Slave Coast: A History of the Anlo-Ewe. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Petraitis, R. (2000). Ju-Ju’s fetish slaves. The Reall (Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land) News, 8(9), 1-2.

Wikipedia (2012). Ritual servitude. Located at:

Disability acts: A beginner’s guide to abasiophilia

In previous blogs I have examined both medical fetishism (individuals who are sexually aroused by medical procedures and/or people wearing medical accessories) and different forms of amputee fetishism (including individuals who are sexually aroused by amputees [acrotomophilia] or those who are sexually aroused by the thought of being an amputee [apotemnophilia]). One sexual paraphilia that intersects both of these is abasiophilia. There is relatively little specific research on abasiophilia (as most of the academic literature has studied sexual amputee fetishes and paraphilias). In non-academic writing, the only reference I am aware in The Scarecrow, a novel by American author Michael Connelly where Wesley Carver the serial killer was motivated by abasiophilia. (As the Wikipedia entry on the novel notes: “the murdered women were both exotic dancers with similar body types (‘giraffes’), and that both were put in leg braces (‘iron maidens’) while being sexually abused before death…[the police’s research] revealed that Carver’s mother was an exotic dancer similar in appearance to the victims who needed to wear leg braces when not performing”).

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, abasiophilia is defined as a “love of (or sexual attraction to) people who use leg braces or other orthopedic appliances”. However, there are a number of slightly different definitions depending upon which source is consulted. Nancy Butcher, in her 2003 book The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. Abasiophilia is “a psychosexual attraction to people with impaired mobility, especially those who use orthopaedic appliances such as leg braces, orthopedic leg bracees, orthopedic casts, and/or wheelchairs”. Francesca Twinn in her 2007 book The Miscellany of Sex defines it as a sexual attraction to people with mobility facilitator especially equipment such as braces or wheelchairs”. Finally, Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology notes that abasiophilia is:

A paraphilia of the eligibilic/stigmatic type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent on the partner being lame, with a limp, or crippled [from Greek, abasios lameness + -philia]”

The term abasiophilia was coined (as are many other sexual paraphilias that I have covered in my blogs) by US sexologist Professor John Money in a paper published in a 1990 issue of Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality. Professor Money’s definition was that abasiophilia referred to an erotic focus on a partner who is “lame, crippled, or unable to walk”. Professor Money’s paper described two case reports both of who were women. The first case was a 42-year old woman with an amputee paraphilia (i.e., acrotomophilia) while the second case was a woman in her thirties with a lameness paraphilia (i.e., abasiophilia).

Although the name for the condition was new, the condition itself was not as case studies dating back more than 50 years have been reported – most notably a paper in a 1960 issue of the American Journal of Psychotherapy by Dr. M. Fleischl. He described “a man’s fantasy of a crippled girl” and said it was a case of ‘orthopedic fetishism’. However, as Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified [NOS] noted:

“[Abasiophilia] does not appear to qualify as fetishism, because fetishism requires a sexual focus on a nonhuman object. The degree to which a distinction should be made between abasiophilia and other similar paraphilia NOS categories, such as morphophilia and partialism, is less clear. For example, abasiophilia may be a subtype of morphophilia rather than a separate paraphilia. Although predominantly reported in males, abasiophilia also has been reported in females [by Professor Money in his 1990 paper]. Although the etiology of abasiophilia is unknown, psychodynamic interpretations suggest that for a male, the deformed limb of a woman partner represents a female penis [as noted by Dr. Fleischl, in his 1960 paper). According to analytic theory, a man may be attracted to a crippled woman because his anxiety and hostility related to ‘the shock of threatened castration at the sight of the female genital’ are reduced when the deformed limb (representing a penis) is present”.

[Just for the record, morphophilia – as defined by Dr. Milner and his colleagues refers to “an erotic focus on one or more of the body characteristics of one’s sexual partner”].

Dr. George Pranzarone’s Dictionary of Sexology also notes the reciprocal paraphilic condition is autoabasiophilia in which individuals are sexually aroused when they focus on their own condition of being lame, crippled, or unable to walk (and may involve fantasies of being disabled and/or wearing/using orthopedic assistive devices). The book chapter by Dr. Joel Milner and colleagues notes that “the vast majority of cases appear to involve males” but has also been reported in females (again quoting the case studies of Professor Money).

Abasiophilia is part of a wider attraction to disability more generally (which even has its own dedicated Wikipedia entry). There is clearly a lot of psychological crossover between abasiophilia and acrotomophilia (and between autoabasiphilia and apotemnophilia). Both abasiophiles and acrotomophiles are described in the academic literature as “devotees” who are aroused by disability. In relation to autoabasiophiles and apotemnophiles, Dr. Robert Bruno has described these individuals as having a Factitious Disability Disorder as outlined in a 1997 issue of the Journal of Sexuality and Disability (see my previous blog on amputee fetishes for a detailed explanation). However, there is a large overlap between these four paraphilias and Bruno describes such people as DPWs (“devotees, pretenders, and wannabes”). The Wikipedia entry (without much academic supporting evidence) notes:

“[Disability fetishism] starts in early childhood, usually long before puberty is reached. There is normally a trigger event in early childhood involving disabled children or adults. It is most common in those who were children in the 1940s, 50s and 60s when polio was common and there were more people using leg braces than today. Studies made in the last 10 years of people contributing to internet leg-brace devotee groups confirms the most common age of leg-brace devotees and wannabes as between 50 and 70; there are few leg-brace devotees aged less than 40…The important thing to remember is that there is no choice in the [behaviour]. The person feels ‘programmed’ to behave in this way and he has little or no ability to alter his behaviour: much though he may feel ashamed of his feelings, desires and obsessions he can do little about themThe disability may be minor like missing fingers, profound like blindness and (stereotypically) amputation, or quadroplegia. Some devotees desire people with cognitive disabilities”

The first thing person I thought of as I read this last claim (as I don’t think there is any academic research supporting such an assertion) was the late television personality Jimmy Saville who allegedly preyed on the learning disabled for sexual gratification (although this obviously isn’t an example of abasiophilia). If you want to know more about this paraphilia, you could do worse than start at the Abasophilia Information webpages that are a treasure trove of information for the would-be abasiophile.

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.

Bruno, R.L. (1997). Devotees, pretenders and wannabes: Two cases of factitious Disability Disorder. Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 15, 243-260.

Butcher, Nancy (2003). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. New York: Avery

Connelly, Michael (2009). The Scarecrow. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Fleischl, M. F. (1960). A man’s fantasy of a crippled girl. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 14, 741-748.

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

Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.

Money, J. (1990). Paraphilia in females: Fixation on amputation and lameness: Two personal accounts. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 3, 165–172.

Pranzarone, G.F. (2000). The Dictionary of Sexology. Located at:

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

Wikipedia (2012). Attraction to disability. Located at:

A pining for dining: A brief overview of Gourmand Syndrome

In 2005, an article in the May 8th issue of the New York Times magazine reported the case of an unnamed European political journalist who had a stroke that caused some damage to the right frontal lobe in his brain. The journalist made a full recovery but experienced an unexpected side effect – he developed an unusual passion for gourmet food (that he didn’t have prior to his stroke).  He capitalized on his strange new behaviour and became a food columnist. Similarly, a 2011 article in the Huffington Post reported the story of Kevin Pearce, a snowboarder who sustained right hemispheric brain damage following an accident that nearly killed him. Waking up from a coma he developed a craving for basil pesto (something that he never did prior to his accident). Both of these cases are examples of a rare disorder that has been named Gourmand Syndrome, a strange behaviour first written about (clinically and academically) in the mid-1990s. Gourmand Syndrome basically comprises individuals becoming totally preoccupied and obsessed with food and ‘fine dining’.

This rare (and benign) condition only seems to occur in people who have sustained brain injuries involving the right frontal lobe and was first described (and named) by neuropsychologist Dr. Marianne Regard and neurologist Dr. Theodor Landis in a 1997 issue of the journal Neurology (one of only two empirical papers on the topic). The authors noted that hyper-orality is part of other conditions such as the Kluver-Bucy syndrome that occurs in patients with bilateral mesial temporal lesions (and which I examined in a previous blog).

Regard and Landid described the cases of two individuals who both had partial damage to the right anterior cerebral hemisphere of the brain. The first case was the political journalist briefly mentioned at the start of this article. He became totally preoccupied with gourmet food and continued after he had been discharged from hospital. The second case that Regard and Landis wrote about was a businessman who (following a stroke) also developed a passion for gourmet food. However, his preoccupation with gourmet food was part of a wider disturbance of impulse control as he also made repeated sexual advances towards the female nursing staff at the hospital he was in. (Interestingly, a later 2003 study by Regard and Landis on 21 pathological gamblers – and published in the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neuropsychology – reported that 38% of them [n=8] were reported to have Gourmand Syndrome, again suggesting that these impulsive behaviours are highly inter-linked).

Having named this type of behaviour as Gourmand Sydrome, Regard and Landis then conducted a prospective study examining the frequency and the clinical and anatomical correlates of the syndrome. Over a three-year period, and using a self-constructed checklist, they carried out 723 neuropsychological examinations of patients with known (or strongly suspected) cerebral lesions. The specific criteria for Gourmand syndrome were: (i) the presence of a significant change in a person’s eating habits (i.e. preoccupation with the preparation and eating of fine-quality food), (ii) the onset of which was associated with a single cerebral lesion in the absence of other medical or social conditions, and (iii) previous eating disorders; or other neurological or psychiatric illness. A total of 36 people fulfilled the criteria for Gourmand Syndrome (5%).

Of those identified fulfilling the three criteria, 94% of them (n=34) appeared to have right hemisphere damage in the brain (in particular, the right anterior part of the brain involving basal ganglia, cortical areas, and limbic structures). Most of the individuals’ symptoms were caused by tumours (although there were other causes including focal seizures, head trauma [with focal concussion], haemorrhage, and cerebrovascular accidents). The authors concluded that:

“Most patients with the ‘gourmand syndrome’ had clinical and anatomical evidence of a unilateral right-sided lesion, mainly involving anterior cortico-limbicregions. The strong clinical-anatomical correlation suggests that gourmand eating can represent a neurological sign of diagnostic value. The eating behavior does not correspond to any known category of eating disorders. At most, it could be classified as a benign, non-disabling form of hyperphagia, but with a specific preference for fine food”

A later case study of Gourmand Syndrome by Dr. Mary Kurian and her Swiss colleagues was published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior. They reported the case of a 10-year-old boy with epilepsy (and who had hemispheric brain damage (i.e., “right temporoparietal hemorrhagic lesion”). As with previous adult cases, he developed Gourmand Syndrome and experienced a significant change in his eating habits, or as the authors put it, an “abnormal preoccupation with the preparation and eating of fine-quality food…without any previous history of eating disorders or psychiatric illness”. More specifically, the boy’s parent’s noticed that he began to avoid eating at fast-food restaurants and would only eat or cook the finest foods. The authors argued that their case study confirmed previous observations relating to the importance of the right cerebral hemisphere in disturbed eating habits, not just in Gourmand Syndrome but eating disorders such as anorexia and obesity.

Both of the published empirical papers noted that Gourmand Syndrome includes an obsessive component along with other behavioural consequences typically associated with addiction (e.g., cravings, preoccupation, salience, etc.). They also notes that one-third of the 36 patients identified in their prospective study had symptoms of mania (e.g., aggression, diminished impulse control, disinhibition, affective lability). In recent a review of Gourmand Syndrome by trainee psychiatrist Alexandros Chatziagorakis in the Neuropsychiatry News concluded that:

“Owing to the rarity of further articles and reports of Gourmand syndrome, its diagnostic significance is yet to be proven. It would be worth using Regard [and] Landis checklist during neuropsychological assessment of neurological patients to establish its frequency and its clinical and anatomical correlates. At the same time, it would be worth performing a psychiatric assessment to determine whether Gourmand syndrome presents in the context of an already defined psychiatric syndrome such as mania. This will tell us whether Gourmand syndrome has indeed a diagnostic value as a neurological or even neuropsychiatric sign”.

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

Further reading

Chatziagorakis, A. (2012). Gourmand Syndrome. Neuropsychiatry News, 5 (Spring), 23-24.

Holt, T. (2005). Of two minds. New York Times (Magazine), May 8. Located at:

Huffington Post (2011). The Gourmand Syndrome: Brain Damage Can Trigger Food Obsession, Huffington Post, October 9. Located at:

Kurian, M., Schmitt-Mechelke, T., Korff, C., Delavelle, J., Landis, T. & Seeck, M. (2008). “Gourmand syndrome” in a child with pharmacoresistant epilepsy. Epilepsy and Behavior, 13, 413-415.

Regard, M., Knoch, D., Gütling, E. & Landis, T (2003). Brain damage and addictive behavior: A neuropsychological and electroencephalogram investigation with pathologic gamblers. Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology, 16, 47-53.

Regard, M. & Landis, T (1997). ‘Gourmand syndrome’: Eating passion associated with right anterior lesions. Neurology, 48, 1185-1190.

Uher, R. & Treasure, J. (2005). Brain lesions and eating disorders. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 76, 852–7.

Play’s cool? Is the type of game played important in the development of gambling addictions?

Earlier today, I (and my research colleague Michael Auer) had a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology arguing that the type of game that people gamble on is irrelevant in the acquisition, development, and maintenance of pathological gambling. We noted that anyone coming into the gambling studies field from a psychological perspective would probably conclude from reading the literature that problem and pathological gambling is associated with particular game types. More specifically, there appears to be a line of thinking in the gambling studies field that casino-type games (and particularly slot machines) are more likely to be associated with problem gambling than lottery-type games.

We argued that the most important factors along with individual susceptibility and risk factors of the individual gambler are the structural characteristics relating to the speed and frequency of the game (and more specifically event frequency, bet frequency, event duration and payout interval) rather than the type of game. Event frequency refers to the number of events that are available for betting and gambling within any given time period. For example, a lottery draw may occur once a week but a slot machine may allow 15 chances to gamble inside one minute. In this example, slot machine gambling has a higher event frequency than lottery gambling. Bet frequency refers to the number of bets or gambles placed in any given time period. Using lottery playing as example, Dr. Jonathan Parke and I noted in a 2007 book chapter on structural characteristics, that multiple tickets (e.g., 10 tickets) can usually be purchased as frequently as desired before any single lottery draw. In this instance, bet frequency would be equal to 10 but event frequency would be equal to 1. Therefore, event frequency can often be much lower than bet frequency and it is possible for players to spend more than they can afford even with a low event frequency.

Dr. Parke and I have stated that further empirical research is needed into the relationship between event frequency and bet frequency. This is because researchers often assume that event frequency and bet frequency have a strong relationship (i.e., the higher number of betting/gambling events – the higher the frequency of betting/gambling). However, this may not be the case.

Another important gaming parameter is event duration. This refers to how fast the event in question is (e.g., a reel spin on a slot machine might last three seconds). Here, it is important to note that duration of the betting/gambling event is different from event frequency (although they may be inextricably linked in so much as the length of a betting event will obviously limit the frequency with which they can take place). Again, Dr Parke and I noted that a betting event lasting two hours (e.g., a soccer game) could not have an event frequency greater than one in any 2-hour period but could have a betting frequency of over 100 with the advent of in-play betting.

In-play betting and gambling (which I examined in a previous blog) refers to the wagering on an event that has started but has not yet finished. This means gamblers can continue to bet on an event (e.g., a soccer or cricket match) and perhaps more importantly, adapt their bets according to how the event is progressing.  For instance, in the UK, during the playing of almost any soccer match, a gambler can bet on everything from who is going to score the first goal, what the score will be after 30 minutes of play, how many yellow cards will be given during the game and/or in what minute of the second half will the first free kick be awarded. What I argued in a previous blog is that ‘in-play’ gambling activities have taken what was traditionally a discontinuous form of gambling – where a gambler made one bet every weekend on the result of the game – to one where a player can gamble continuously again and again. In short, the same game has been turned from what was a low event frequency gambling activity into a potentially high frequency one (and gone from an activity that had little association with problem gambling to one where problem gambling is far more likely among excessive in-play gamblers).

Another important (and related) structural characteristic is payout interval. This is the time between the end of the betting event (i.e., the outcome of the gamble) and the winning payment (if there is one). The frequency of playing when linked with two other factors – the result of the gamble (win or loss) and the actual time until winnings are received – exploits the psychological principles of learning. This process of operant conditioning conditions habits by rewarding (i.e., reinforcing) behaviour (i.e., through presentation of a reward such as money). To produce high rates of response, those schedules which present rewards intermittently (random and variable ratio schedules) have shown to be most effective. Since a number of gambling activities (most notable slot machines) operate on random and variable ratio schedules it is unsurprising that excessive gambling can occur.

To highlight the irrelevance of game type, consider the following two examples that demonstrate that it is the structural characteristics rather than the game type that is critical in the acquisition, development and maintenance of problem and pathological gambling for those who are vulnerable and/or susceptible. A “safe” slot machine could be designed in which no-one would ever develop a gambling problem. The simplest way to do this would be to ensure that whoever was playing the machine could not press the ‘play button’ or pull the lever more than once a week. An enforced structural characteristic of an event frequency of once a week would almost guarantee that players could not develop a gambling problem. Alternatively, a problematic form of lottery could be designed where instead of the draw taking place weekly, bi-weekly or daily, it would be designed to take place once every few minutes. Such an example is not hypothetical and resembles lottery games that already exist in the form of rapid-draw lottery games like keno.

The general rule is that the higher the event frequency, the more likely it is that the gambling activity will cause problems for the individual (particularly if the individual is susceptible and vulnerable). Problem and pathological gambling are essentially about rewards, and the speed and frequency of those rewards. Almost any game could be designed to either have high event frequencies or low event frequencies. Therefore, the more potential rewards there are, the more problematic and addictive an activity is likely to be and this is irrespective of game type as games such as diverse as lotteries and slot machines could have identical event frequencies and event durations.

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

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (1993). Fruit machine gambling: The importance of structural characteristics. Journal of Gambling Studies, 9, 101-120.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 351-369.

Griffiths, M.D. (1999). The psychology of the near miss (revisited): A comment on Delfabbro and Winefield. British Journal of Psychology, 90, 441-445.

Griffiths, M.D. (2008). Impact of high stake, high prize gaming machines on problem gaming. Birmingham: Gambling Commission.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Mind games (A brief psychosocial overview of in-play betting. i-Gaming Business Affiliate, June/July, 44.

Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2013). The irrelevancy of game-type in the acquisition, development and maintenance of problem gambling. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 621. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00621.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2001). The psychology of lottery gambling. International Gambling Studies, 1, 27-44.

Meyer, G., Hayer, T. & Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Problem Gaming in Europe: Challenges, Prevention, and Interventions. New York: Springer.

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). The psychology of the fruit machine: The role of structural characteristics (revisited). International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 151-179.

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). The role of structural characteristics in gambling.  In G. Smith, D. Hodgins & R. Williams (Eds.), Research and Measurement Issues in Gambling Studies. pp.211-243. New York: Elsevier.

Creature comforts: How do zoophiles justify their behaviour?

Regular readers of my blog will know that I don’t shy away from talking about behaviours that some people find abhorrent and/or morally repugnant. I’ve now published around a dozen blogs on zoophilia-related topics and in the process have received some fairly abusive emails from zoophiles who “loathe” and “detest” the articles that I have posted on my blog. Well, here’s a blog that’s also likely to enrage.

I recently came across an interesting zoophilia paper published in a 2011 issue of the journal Deviant Behavior. The paper was entitled Screwing the pooch: Legitimizing accounts in a zoophilia on-line community and written by Dr. R.J. Maratea (New Mexico State University, USA). The paper examined how deviant individuals use Internet technology to communicate accounts that neutralize hostile labels associated with their behaviors”. The data were collected from a zoophilia message board with 550,000 users referred to by a pseudonym (i.e., Zoo Board) throughout the paper. (Having visited a lot of online zoophilia forums in my own research, I could take a fairly educated guess at which forum Dr Maratea collected his data from, but as he took a lot of time in his paper to guarantee the forum’s anonymity I’ll leave it be). Dr. Maratea’s decision to study Zoo Board was threefold. As he argued:

“The decision to use Zoo Board was predicated by three factors: (1) message threads were regularly created and updated, indicating that members are actively involved in the Zoo Board community; (2) the vast membership on Zoo Board meant that a large number of users could potentially post or respond to posted accounts at any given time; and (3) the archival capacity of the message board allows for the cultivation of accounts over an extended period of time. The final research sample was comprised of 87 discussion threads containing 4983 individual posts, which dated back as far as March 4, 2004”.

Dr. Maretea claimed that his data suggest that zoophiles routinely justify their actions through four particular types of argument: (i) denial of injury, (ii) justification by comparison, (iii) claims of benefit, and (iv) condemning of condemners. He also asserts that zoophiles produce what is termed “neutralizing accounts”. More specifically, these three types were categorized as (i) appeals to enlightenment, (ii) claims of cultural diffusion, and (iii) neutralization by comparison.

Denial of injury: This refers to an assertion by zoophiles that their actions are permissible because they did not harm or cause injury to the animals involved.

  • Example: I think a lot of people who have never seen an animal ‘‘ask for sex’’ (and most of us here know, they can and WILL, sometimes very insistently!) assume that we’re performing selfish acts against the animals’ will . . . non-zoos tend to just associate the fact that bestiality is more or less entirely illegal with the assumption that it must horribly hurt the animal, such is life, I’m afraid”.

Justification by comparison: This refers to the justification of zoophilic behaviour by comparison of their behaviour to other worse criminal behaviour (i.e., zoophiles highlight their sense of self-worth by saying that their behaviour is not as bad as other behaviours).

  • Example: I like the way the [media] blatantly link bestiality with pedophilia. I guess what we do is sorta like marijuana, ours is a ‘’gateway’’ type of sexuality. People like to think that zoophilia is a step away from necrophilia, pedophilia, and so on when it’s in no way related”.

Claims of benefit: This refers to zoophiles who claim that not only was the animal not harmed but that their sexual activity with animals was beneficial to the animal and met the animal’s sexual needs.

  • Example: We are all animals at some level, with about the same wants and desires. Your fuzzy friend loves getting his rocks off or her world rocked just as much as you do! This is pretty evident to us, but think about it: very few animals are intelligent enough to have sex for fun! I like to think dogs (maybe horses) are among them most of the time. The drive for sex is seen in all living things”.

Condemning of condemners: This refers to the practice of zoophiles condemning those who vilify their zoophilic behaviour. Here, the accusers are viewed as “unfit to judge” or pass comment on zoophilia because the accusers engage in behaviour that is equally as bad. Zoophiles denounce “conventional society as hypocritical for demonizing zoophilia. Some claimants argue that normals tend to callously abuse the very animals they allegedly seek to protect”.

  • Example: A neighbor of mine crates their dog (puppy), all day in their backyard. Totally neglects the dog. I called animal control as the weather is getting cold. Makes me sad that this happens all the time, everywhere. My amazing dog goes every- where with me. I couldn’t imagine leaving her in the yard in a 3X3 crate with less than 1hr of human contact a day…Some people need to be treated how they treat their pets. Nothing pisses me off like animal/pet neglect. WE chose them, not the other way around”.

Appeals to enlightenment: This refers to zoophiles who try to appeal to enlightenment and justify their zoophilic activity by arguing that “certain behaviors are vilified because larger society is incapable of comprehending the appropriateness of those actions”.

  • Example: You will run into objections such as: it’s against the law; it’s against religion; it’s perverted; and it’s dirty. All of these issues are artificial and belie a fundamental problem with modern society. We as a nation, as a world, exploit animals for everything from food to companionship. Giving animals or admitting that animals are capable of being in mutual loving relationships puts that world view into serious question”.

Neutralization by comparison: This refers to zoophiles that identify similarities between themselves and “other social groups that have overcome a corresponding deviant identity”. Although this is similar to ‘justification by comparison’ (above) the difference here is that individuals are not ‘‘justifying their actions by comparing their crimes to more serious offenses, but rather neutralizing their deviance via comparison to other historically stigmatized acts and behaviors that have achieved some level of mainstream social acceptance”.

  • Example: For years, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexual/transgender people have been fighting a long hard battle for their rights of equality and for the freedom to express their own individual sexuality without the fear of legal prosecution. Personally, I don’t see why practicing zoophiles such as myself and other people here and around the world, [shouldn’t] campaign for the right to legally express our own sexuality too”.

Claims of cultural diffusion: This refers to zoophiles that try to normalize their behaviour through reference to zoophilic acts in popular culture in as a way of showing there is greater mainstream acceptance for their behavior than publicly acknowledged.

  • Example: I think it does seem like more zoo/beasty stuff is popping up in movies and TV lately, usually as jokes on sitcoms and stuff, but still, it puts it out there, exposing people to the idea, making it a bit more familiar. And, slowly, I think the more familiar the idea becomes the more likely it is to become gradually more accepted”.

Although I’m a psychologist, I still appreciate the contribution that sociology can make in the field of sexual paraphilias. As Dr. Maratea argues, traditional sociological theory has examined how those classed as ‘deviants’ manage their day-today identity and stigmatization from non-deviants. However, online communities such as the ones at Zoo Board allow virtual anonymity and facilitate those who were once isolated to meet like-minded individuals (albeit virtually) who validate their own behaviour and experiences. As Dr. Maratea concludes:

“On Zoo Board, accounts are regularly disseminated that normalize zoophilia by constructing alternative dialogues that challenge the mainstream social discourse that defines animal sex as deviant. To this end, the messages and themes contained in neutralizing accounts reveal much about the social organization of the Zoo Board community, and the individual and collective identity work that takes place therein”.

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

Further reading

Beetz, A.M. (2000, June). Human sexual contact with animals: New insights from current research. Paper presented at the 5th Congress of the European Federation of Sexology, Berlin.

Beirne, P., 1997. Rethinking bestiality: towards a concept of interspecies sexual assault. Theoretical Criminology, 1, 317–340.

Miletski, H. (2000). Bestiality and zoophilia: An exploratory study. Scandinavian Journal of Sexology, 3, 149–150.

Miletski, H. (2001). Zoophilia – implications for therapy. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 26, 85–89.

Miletski, H. (2002). Understanding bestiality and zoophilia. Germantown, MD: Ima Tek Inc.

R.J. Maratea (2011). Screwing the pooch: Legitimizing accounts in a zoophilia on-line community. Deviant Behavior, 32, 918-943.

Williams, C. J., & Weinberg, M. S. (2003). Zoophilia in men: A study of sexual interest in animals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 523–535.

Getting a face lift: A beginner’s guide to mask fetishism

Back in 2005, the BBC reported on the case of Norman Hutchins, a 53-year old man with a fetish for surgical masks. He constantly phoned hospitals and dental surgeries pretending that he needed the masks for charity events. For instance, he would tell medical staff he was doing a ‘fun run’ in fancy dress or that he needed the masks for amateur dramatics. However, he used the masks for his own fetishistic sexual kicks. He was described in court as “a menace to anyone involved in medical or dental institutions”.

Mask fetishism involves individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from either wearing masks and/or seeing others wearing masks. There is little in the way of academic or clinical research on the topic and much of what is known can best be described as anecdotal. The masks that form the basis of the sexual arousal are often vary specific and may overlap with other types of paraphilic and/or fetishistic behaviour. For instance, those individuals into coulrophilia (sexual arousal from clowns) will prefer clown masks, furries will prefer animal masks, sexual sadists will prefer leather, PVC or rubber masks (e.g., ‘gimp’-type masks as featured in Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction), and those into medical fetishism will prefer surgical masks.

However, there are many other types of mask that may stimulate sexual arousal including gas masks, hangman’s masks, Ninja masks, leather masks (such as the archetypal ‘rapist’s mask), rubber face masks (some of which may be a famous celebrity), oxygen masks (as popularized in David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet), porcelain masks, and novelty masks (e.g., Halloween characters, alien characters, horror movie characters). There are also individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from women wearing Muslim and harem-type face coverings although this is usually deemed to be a veil fetish rather than a mask fetish.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices has a small section on masks and hoods. Dr. Love notes that from a sexual perspective, masks were popular in Europe during the 18th century. She also reported that prostitutes originally used them “to hide their identity but later they became popular among women of higher social status”. In the context of sado-masochistic bondage, Dr. Love writes that hoods and masks are used to “depersonalize a partner” and that anonymity it affords gives the dominant partner more power and also gives both parties fewer inhibitions.

A 35-year old male Cypriot posted a query on mask fetishes to Dr. Allan Schwartz’s Sexuality and Sexual Problems online Mental Help website because he was on the brink of suicide. The Cypriot man talked about his mask fantasies that he had dating back to early childhood. He talked about how sexually turned on he was seeing women wearing scarves around their faces. His fiancé tried to share his sexual fetish (and wore a cat-suit hood for him) but ultimately decided that she got little from it. However, it got to the point that the man couldn’t get sexually aroused unless his fiancé was wearing a mask. Dr. Schwartz replied:

The human face represents the very essence of a person and most intimate lovers would want to have their face seen while making love and to observe the face of their partner. Yes, a mask sometimes, if that is your wish, but not always. In a way, the mask causes you and her to not really be there together…I suspect that you are conflicted about your sexual feelings and about sexuality as a human means of communication. The mask, something you always must have your partner wear, may hide the real and personal woman, rendering the sex anonymous. This is only a guess but I suspect that something of the kind is going on”.

Nick Brown’s blog, How To Ask Out A Girl, featured an article on mask fetishes. He had overviewed other blog stories on mask fetishes and came the conclusion that the content was “mainly negative”. He claims that the negative outlook on masks more generally comes from the horror-film culture. I have also done my own research on the topic and my own view is that there is a lot of negativity about mask fetishes but mainly from women who do not share their partners’ desires. Here is what I feel is a typical story I came across:

“My partner has a mask fetish. He desires to put on masks and have sex. He has been purchasing masks and accumulates them. I believed they were a pastime but he truly will get turned on by it.  I consider it quite creepy and I personally do not enjoy clowns or masks. He buys latex masks, Halloween masks, and those ballroom/fantasy masks. He also has a porcelain one. It is out of my scope of tolerance and I normally have attempted covering them because he likes to hold them on display. The porcelain one was hung up in the kitchen, really creepy to me”

There are passing references to mask fetishism in the sexual paraphilia literature but the primary focus of the papers they appear in are not mask fetishes but something else. For instance, a paper by Dr. Paul Bebbington in a 1977 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior described the case of a 44-year old male fetishist who had an unusual vibrator fetish but who also had a “mild mask fetish” that eventually “abated of its own accord”. He was described as a “careful, orderly, pedantic man with little social life” and was sent for treatment because he was a civil servant and his fetishes were considered to be a security risk by his employer. However, no further information was given regarding his ‘mild’ mask fetish.

Another paraphilia that is associated with mask fetishism is hypoxyphilia (deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from oxygen deprivation). For instance, a recent 2011 paper in the Romanian Journal of Legal Medicine led by Dr. Oleg Skugarevsky examined a couple of deaths due to hypoxyphilia, one of which was wearing a gas mask at the scene of death. They noted that:

“[Hypoxyphiliacs] use a variety of techniques to produce the hypoxia like strangulation, suffocation or reduction of the oxygen in the inspired air that may be achieved with plastic bags or gas masks that may allow inhaling some anesthetic gases (chloroform, nitrous oxide) and volatile chemicals (isopropyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite (“poppers”)”.

The incidence and prevalence of mask fetishism is unknown although the ALT Experience website claims that it is “a common paraphilia” (although no statistics or evidence is provided for the claim of being commonplace). The site also claims (again without any supporting evidence) that:

“The psychological factors behind this have to do with society’s idea of the face as a focal point of beauty. By covering up the face, sexual play not only hides a person’s appearance, but creates a degree of anonymity. Without being able to see facial features, it is more difficult to read responses of pain, fear, pleasure, and so forth. This, in a sense, creates an aspect of anonymity that goes beyond just the physical features of a person’s face. Thus, the mind is more open to imagination and fantasy”

In 2002, Finnish researchers led by Dr. Kenneth Sandnabba examined the sexual behaviour of sado-masochists in the journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy. The paper summarized the results from five empirical studies of a sample of 184 Finnish sado-masochists (22 women and 162 men). More specifically, the examined the frequency with which the respondents engaged in different sexual practices, behaviours and role-plays during the preceding 12 months and reported that 66% had used masks and/or blindfolds at least once. Given the lack of empirical data on mask fetishism, such claims may well be verified as true by future research, but unlike the hypoxyphiliacs, I’m not holding my breath!

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

Further reading

ALT Experience (2012). Masks. Located at:

BBC News (2005). Surgical mask fetishist jailed. January 20. Located at:

Bebbington, P.E. (1977). Treatment of male sexual deviation by use of a vibrator: Case report. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 21-24.

Benomran, F.A., Masood, S.E., Hassan, A.I., & Mohammad, A.A. (2007).  Masking and bondage in suicidal hanging: a case report. Medicine Science and Law, 47, 177-80.

Brown, N. (2011). You can’t make love without wearing a mask. December 11. Located at:

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

Marshall, J., Walker, B., Benford, S., Tomlinson, G, Egglestone, S.R., Reeves, S. Brundell, P., Tennent, P., Cranwell, J., Harter, P. & Longhurst, J. (2011). The gas mask: A probe for exploring fearsome interactions. Proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp.127-136). New York, NY.

Nation Master (2012). Mask fetishism. Located at:

Nation Master (2012). Veil fetishism. Located at:

Richters, J., de Visser, R.O., Rissel, C.E., Grulich, A.E., & Smith, A.M. (2008). Demographic and psychosocial features of participants in bondage and discipline, ‘‘sadomasochism’’ or dominance and submission (BDSM): Data from a national survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 1660–1668.

Schwartz, T. (2009). Mask and encasement fetish, Mental Help. April 29. Located at:

Sandnabba, N.K., Santtila, P., Alison, L., & Nordling, N. (2002). Demographics, sexual behaviour, family background and abuse experiences of practitioners of sadomasochistic sex: A review of recent research. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17, 39–55.

Skugarevsky, O., Ehrlich, E., & Sheleg, S. (2011). Accidental strangulation resulted from hypoxyphilia associated with multiple paraphilias and substance abuse: a psychological autopsy case report. Romanian Journal of Legal Medicine, 19, 249-252.

Terminal cases: Should virtual roulette machines be banned from high street bookmakers?

A couple of days ago, I took part in a live debate on national radio (BBC 5Live) about whether virtual roulette machines – known by us in the gambling studies field as ‘fixed odds betting terminals’ (FOBTs) – should be banned from high street bookmakers here in the UK. For those who have no idea what I am talking about:

“A fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) is an electromechanical device normally found in betting shops in the United Kingdom that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games and events with fixed odds. They were introduced to UK shops in 2001. The most commonly played game is roulette. The minimum amount wagered per spin is £1. The maximum bet cannot exceed a payout of £500 (i.e. putting £14.00 on a single number on roulette). The largest single payout cannot exceed £500. Other games include bingo, simulated horseracing and greyhound racing, and a range of slot machine games. Like all casino games, the “house” (i.e. the casino) has a built –in advantage, with current margins on roulette games being theoretically between 2.5% and 5%” (Wikipedia, 2013).

The last decade has seen many changes in the British gambling landscape. The most notable of these include (i) the growth in the availability of remote gambling (via the internet, mobile phone, and interactive television), (ii) the introduction of online betting exchanges,  (iii) an increase in the prominence of poker (both online and offline), (iv) an increase in the number of casinos, and (v) the introduction of FOBTs into most bookmakers.

Relatively little is known about FOBT play among the British population, and the best quality data comes from the British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS), a nationally representative survey that was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research along with a few expert academics in the gambling studies field (including myself). We published the most recent survey in 2011 and we reported that among our 7,756 participants, only 4% had ever played on FOBTs (up from 3% in our previous 2007 survey) with 6% having played FOBTs in the year prior to the survey. Playing FOBTs was more of a male activity with 7% of males compared to 2% females having ever played (with 10% males and 2% females having played FOBTs in the previous year).

The highest participation rates were among individuals aged in the 16-24 year old age group (12%), followed by 25-34 year olds (9%) and 35-44 year olds (3%). Our study also showed that the prevalence of playing FOBTs was highest among those with the lowest personal income (7%) and lowest among those with highest personal income (4%). This was most likely related to the finding that FOBTs were significantly more likely to be played by people who were out of work. More specifically, 12% of those who were unemployed had played FOBTs in the past year compared with 4% of participants overall. Past year gambling was related to marital status, although as we pointed out in our report, this was likely to be a reflection of the relationship between age and marital status. Prevalence of playing on FOBTs was three times higher among those who were single (9%) than those who were married or separated/divorced (3%).

The latest BGPS findings also produced some interesting findings. For instance, although at a population level, the prevalence rate of ever having gambled on FOBTs was very low – compared to lottery gambling (59%) and playing scratchcards (24%) – the majority that did play on FOBTS did so every week (52%). Arguably the most interesting finding was that among those who played FOBTs, the prevalence of problem gambling was 8.8%. The survey as a whole reported that just under 1% of the British adult population had a gambling problem, so there does seem to be an elevated prevalence of problem gambling among those who play FOBTs (in fact, only two activities – playing poker in a pub or club [12.8%] and playing online slot machines [9.1%] – had a higher prevalence rate of problem gambling by type of game played).

However, extreme caution needs to be exercised when interpreting these data because gamblers rarely engage in just a single activity. In fact, those who played poker at a pub/club and played on FOBTs had the highest engagement in gambling activities, participating in 7.6 and 7.2 gambling activities respectively in the year prior to the survey. Among men, the mean number of gambling activities undertaken in the past year was highest among those who played poker at a pub/club (7.9), those who gambled on online slot machine style games (7.4), and those who played on fixed odds betting terminals (7.4). Among women, the mean number of activities engaged in was highest among those who played on fixed odds betting terminals (6.4), and those who bet on sports events (5.8).

Another interesting finding of the BGPS related to the volume of gambling in terms of time and money. Regular gamblers (i.e., those who gambled once a month or more often) were categorized into one of four groups:

  • High-time only gamblers (i.e., those who spent a lot of time but not a lot of money gambling)
  • High-spend only gamblers (i.e., those who spent a lot money, but not a great deal of time gambling)
  • High-time/high-spend gamblers (i.e., those who spent a lot of time and money gambling)
  • Non-high-time/non-high-spend gamblers (i.e., those who spent little time or money gambling)

High-time/high-spend gamblers showed a relative preference for betting on horse races, FOBTs and playing casino games. High-time/high-spend gamblers also had the most adverse socio-economic profile. They were more likely to live in areas of greatest deprivation, live in low-income households and be unemployed.

So, given all these data, should FOBTs be banned from British bookmakers’ offices? In short, no. Even if the data were more robust, I would argue that FOBTs shouldn’t be banned particularly because similar types of game can already be accessed far more easily via the internet and mobile phone in environments that are arguably less protective towards problem gamblers. My own stance is that to help overcome problems and addictions to FOBT, gaming companies should engage in the highest levels of social responsibility and introduce cutting edge protocols to ensure player protection.

Some of the hottest issues in the responsible gambling field concern pre-commitment and limit setting (i.e., giving gamblers the tools that they can pre-commit to how much time and money they want to spend on gambling before they actually gamble, as opposed to making ‘heat of the moment’ decisions in the midst of gambling wins or losses that could seriously affect good decision-making). The most practical solution to the issue of curbing problems with FOBTs would be to make the playing of the machine dependent on the gambler having a player card that (a) allows gamblers to pre-commit to how much time and money they are prepared to spend gambling, and (b) allows gaming operators to track their customers’ behaviour, and – with the appropriate behavioural tracking tools – provide informed feedback to the gambler while they are actually gambling. Such a ssystem already operates on a national level in Norway, so there is no reason why it couldn’t be implemented here. What’s more, such technology could be made mandatory, meaning that any gaming operator who wanted a gaming license would legally have to implement such a system as part of its player protection and harm minimization strategies.

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

Further reading

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Limit setting and player choice in most intense online gamblers: An empirical study of online gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, in press.

Griffiths, M.D. (2008). Strategies for detecting and controlling electronic gaming vulnerabilities. Casino and Gaming International, 4(4), 103-108.

Griffiths, M.D. (2008). Impact of high stake, high prize gaming machines on problem gaming. Birmingham: Gambling Commission.

Griffiths, M.D., Wardle, J., Orford, J., Sproston, K. & Erens, B. (2010). Gambling, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking and health: findings from the 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey. Addiction Research and Theory, 18, 208-223.

Orford, J.F., Griffiths, M.D. & Wardle, H. (2013). What proportion of gambling is problem gambling? Estimates from the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey. International Gambling Studies, in press.

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). The role of structural characteristics in gambling.  In G. Smith, D. Hodgins & R. Williams (Eds.), Research and Measurement Issues in Gambling Studies. pp.211-243. New York: Elsevier.

Wardle, H., Griffiths, M.D., Orford, J., Moody, A. & Volberg, R. (2012). Gambling in Britain: A time of change? Health implications from the British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 10, 273-277.

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

Wardle, H., Sproston, K., Orford, J., Erens, B., Griffiths, M.D., Constantine, R. & Pigott, S. (2007). The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007. London: The Stationery Office.

Wikipedia (2013). Fixed odds betting terminal. Located at:

Wood, R.T.A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Social responsibility in online gambling: Voluntary limit setting. World Online Gambling Law Report, 9(11), 10-11.