Mirror, mirror on the wall: A brief look at katoptronophilia

In the 2000 film American Psycho, the anti-hero Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) contains a scene in which while having sex with two female escorts, looks at himself in the mirror admiringly. Even when one of the escort girls tries to attract his attention, he seemingly prefers to look at himself rather than the women he is making love to. Quite clearly a narcissist, Bateman may have also been a kataptronophile. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, katoptronophilia is a sexual paraphilia defined as sexual pleasure and arousal from having sex in front of mirrors.

Having said that, somewhat confusingly, Aggrawal also says that individuals who derive sexual arousal  “from looking at oneself in a mirror [and] arousal from image in mirrors” is called spectrophilia. (However, I examined this in a previous blog and most credible sources state that spectrophilia relates to those who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from having sex or sexual thoughts about ghosts). A short online article on katoptronophilia on the Wikipedia website goes a little further and defines it as:

“…a paraphilia for mirrors (the Greek word for mirror is katoptron). It may include activities such as having sex in front of mirrors, masturbating in front of mirrors, enacting other paraphilias in front of a mirror, having an orgy in front of a mirror, or enacting stripping fetishism in front of mirrors. Enacting katoptronophiliac fantasies may involve constructing environments for erotic activity in which one is completely surrounded by mirrors, sometimes including even on the ceiling. A person who is a katoptronophiliac may put mirrors all over their house so they can have sex in any room in the house”.

On first look, katoptronophilia appears to be a sub-type of voyeurism where the key distinguishing feature is the use of mirrors as part of the voyeuristic act. However, voyeurism is usually defined as the act of gaining sexual arousal from the watching of others either naked and/or engaging in sexual behaviour. I stressed the word ‘others’ as katoptronophila involves the watching of oneself having sex via the use of mirrors. Technically, kataptronophilia is a sub-type of scoptophilia (sometimes called scopophilia). According to Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology, scoptophilia/scopophilia is

A paraphilia of the solicitational [and] allurative type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to, and contingent on watching others engaging in sexual activity, including sexual intercourse [from Greek, skopein, to view + -philia]. The condition in which a person is dependent on looking at sexual organs and watching their coital performance in order to obtain erotic arousal and facilitate and achieve orgasm. It is not surreptitious, as in voyeurism. The reciprocal paraphilic condition is sometimes also referred to as scoptophilia; or by its own name, autagonistophilia. Synonyms, mixophilia; mixoscopia; scopophilia”.

Just complicate things a little further, many online definitions of mixophilia (which as in the definition by Dr. Pranzarone above appears to be another word for scoptophilia) often mention mirrors in the definitions. For instance, the Fetish List website defines mixophilia as gaining sexual arousal and pleasure from watching “their partner or themselves engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves in a mirror”. This is similar to the definition for mixophilia in the online Gay Slang Dictionary that notes:

“A person with this fetish [mixophilia] likes to watch his partner or the both of them engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves perform in a mirror. A common theme in gay porn pictures is the presence of a mirror in which part or all of the action is reflected”

I’ve yet to come across a single academic article on the topic and most of the theorizing is speculative to say the least. In 2003, Mark Pendergrast published his cultural history of mirrors (Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection), but did not specifically examine katoptronophilia (although did mention the sexual use of mirrors). The one thing I learned was that the Etruscans [an ancient Italian civilization originating around what is now known as Tuscany] often featured sex scenes painted on the back of their mirrors). In relation to why katoptronophilia exists, one online snippet I came across claimed that:

“Theories suggest that katoptronophilia is fed from a basal narcissistic instinct. It is a combination of narcissism and degradation and a feeling of over powering dominance. It’s like watching a live porno of yourself. The most advanced stage of voyeur there is”

This appears to be somewhat corroborated by the Wikipedia entry (and the fictionalized account that opened this blog) that notes that:

“Many pornographic films show porn stars having sex in front of mirrors. Many people enjoy having sex in front of mirrors and have mirrors in their bedrooms in which they can watch themselves have sex. They sometimes engage in this activity for their personal enjoyment. On a deeper level this could relate to the person’s need to reflect and critique themselves, and also being on a mental state of narcissism. The person often is solely absorbed in themselves and likes to watch their actions so as to admire”.

A 2007 online article on kataptronophilia at the Journals of an Intelsexual website argues that the fetish is evolving and that “technology is also expanding on this fetish; live stream cameras, multiple cameras, big screen monitors…the possibilities are limitless”. I’m not convinced that evolving technology providing more ways to watch yourself having sex is actually katoptronophilia as the key distinguishing feature of the paraphilia is the use of mirrors (not the watching of yourself). I seriously doubt if this type of paraphilic behaviour (and I have some doubts as to whether it is a paraphilic behaviour anyway) will ever be the subject of serious academic research as it’s highly unlikely that such behaviour is problematic un any way.

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.

DeMure, K. (2007). Word of the week: Katoptronophilia. Lust Puddle, November 6. Located at: http://lustpuddle.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/word-of-week-katoptronophilia.html

Forbidden Light (2007). Katoptronophilia: Love for mirrors. Journals of an Intelsexual, December 4. Located at: http://intelsexualism.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/katoptronophilia-love-for-mirrors.html?zx=ac769a5283ebf462

Milner, J.S., & Dopke, C.A., & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and theory. In D. R. Laws & W. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, assessment, and treatment (2nd ed., pp. 384-428). New York: Guilford.

Pendergrast, M. (2003). Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection. New York: Basic Books.

Pranzarone, G.F. (2000). The Dictionary of Sexology. Located at: http://ebookee.org/Dictionary-of-Sexology-EN_997360.html

Wikipedia (2012). Kataptronophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katoptronophilia

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on May 8, 2013, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Obsession, Paraphilia, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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