Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mating glances: A brief look at faunoiphilia

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, faunoiphilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from watching animals mate. Dr. Aggrawal notes that faunoiphilia is therefore a form of zoophilic voyeurism and can also be referred to as mixoscopic zoophilia. At the end of 2011, Dr Aggrawal published a new zoophilia typology in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine (and which I examined in a previous blog). In this typology, Aggrawal classed zoophiles into one of ten different types (Class I to Class X).

In this typology, faunoiphiles come under Class III and comprises individuals that Aggrawal describes as zoophilic fantasizers. Aggrawal claims these people fantasize about having sexual intercourse with animals but do not actually have sex with animals. He claims that this type of zoophile may masturbate in the presence of animals, and that both zoophilic voyeurs and zoophilic exhibitionists are subsumed within this particular zoophilic type. Prior to this paper, R.E.L. Masters in his 1962 book Forbidden Sexual Behavior and Morality also noted that interest in and sexual excitement at watching animals mate may be an indicator of latent zoophilia.

There is clearly a difference between being interested in and watching animals mate, and being sexually aroused by such behaviour. For instance, while researching a blog on arachnophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from spiders), I came across the fact that the orb spider has a detachable penis. I mention this because in the same article it mentioned that the Argonaut octopus also has a detachable penis that actually separates and swims over to the female. I would certainly like to see this – but obviously not for sexual pleasure. While researching my blog on delphinophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from dolphins), I read that dolphins’ penises are major sense organs, used to feel out objects. Again, this is something I would like to see but not for sexual pleasure. (If you’re really interested in the world’s weirdest animal penises then check out the online article published in an October issue of The Week).

Almost all online references to faunoiphilia simply mention a one-line definition without any further discussion. There are also some websites that provide a paragraph or two on the morality of the behaviour and/or the author’s own personal view without reference to any ‘fact’ or reference to anything published in the clinical or academic literature (such as the short article on Maddy’s Mansion website). In fact, this paragraph I am writing now would be classed along with those I am complaining about as being essentially ‘content free’! However, there are a few exceptions. The online Urban Dictionary also describes faunoiphilia, as a sexual paraphilia and a type of zoophilic voyeurism. It has a more detailed definition than most other academic definitions I have come across and notes:

“[Faunoiphilia] is sexual arousal from watching animals copulate. Arousal from faunoiphilia may be intensified if the animals mating are different in size, age, species, or a combination of the three. It may also be intensified if the sexual organs of one or both animals can be seen. Animals of faunoiphilia interest include, but are not limited to horses, dogs, dolphins, and various rodents

Given the distinct lack of empirical evidence on faunoiphilia, I am unsure as to where the claims made have come from although I cannot refute any of the assertions made. Similarly, the online Nation Master encyclopedia also describes a variety of different types of faunoiphile behaviours but has no entries in the ‘references’ section to support any of the material in the entry. It claims that faunoiphiles “may” (my emphasis) engage in one or more of the following behaviours:

  • May or may not be involved in bestiality
  • May have little or no interest in human sexuality
  • May purchase animals from pet stores or breeders for the sole purpose of watching them mate
  • May write stories about animals mating
  • May draw pictures of animals mating
  • May masturbate while watching or thinking about animals mating
  • May take photographs of animals mating
  • May download pictures of animals mating from the internet

Most of the evidence for faunoiphilia existing comes from case studies. In 1991, Dr. Richard McNally and Dr. Brian Lukach published a paper in the Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Their case study involved a white 33-year old “mildly mentally retarded man” (who they called ‘Mr. Z’) who was the only child of separated parents – an alcoholic father and a schizophrenic mother who also suffered from epilepsy (and who died when he was 12 years old). Mr. Z had engaged in a series of “satisfactory sexual relationships with women” (and also had a three-year marriage but had ended).

Mr. Z’s preferred sexual behaviour was to expose himself and masturbate in front of large dogs of either sex, and who also liked to rub his penis on large dogs. However, Mr. Z also engaged in zoophilic voyeurism (which in Mr. Z’s case involved sexual arousal from watching dogs engage in sexual behaviour but also was sexually aroused just watching dogs). Various publications have noted situations where people may have voyeuristic fantasies about sexual contact with animals without actually wanting to have sex with them. Nancy Friday in her book My Secret Garden, included 190 fantasies from different women (of which 23 involved zoophilic activity). Friday argues that zoophilic fantasies have the capacity to provide an escape from cultural expectations, restrictions, and judgments in relation to sex.

Given the scarcity of academic literature on faunoiphilia, we know nothing about the incidence, prevalence, or etiology of the behaviour. Maybe it is initiated after watching wildlife documentaries on television or maybe a chance sighting of animals copulating in the wild is enough to spark a sexual interest. We simply do not know. It could just be that faunoiphilia precedes zoophilia and is a stage that zoophiles go through before having actual sex with animals. However, very few of the zoophilic case studies I have read explicitly mention this (although the researchers may simply not have asked). This is certainly an area that should be researched more fully as part of the wider study of zoophilia.

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

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

Friday, N. (1973). My Secret Garden. New York, NY; Simon & Schuster

Masters, R.E.L. (1962). Forbidden Sexual behavior and Morality. New York, NY: Lancer Books.

McNally, R.J. & Lukach, B.M. (1991). Behavioral treatment of zoophilic exhibitionism. Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 22, 281-284.

Nation Master (2012). Faunoiphilia. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/

Throbbin’ blood: A beginner’s guide to haemolacria

“A girl has become a holy shrine in India where worshippers watch her cry blood instead of tears. Doctors in Patna, north-east India, have been stumped by Rashida Khatoon’s condition, which causes her to shed tears of blood several times a day. But local Hindu holy men have declared her a miracle. And followers now flock to her home, showering her and her family with gifts as holy offerings” (The Sun, April 7, 2009)

The case of Rashida Khatoon caused headlines around the world a few years ago and was for many people the first time they had come across haemolacria (that literally means “bloody tears”). The condition of haemolacria has been documented a number of times on the medical literature and is a physical condition that causes individuals to cry tears that (in part) consist of blood. Haemolacria can be a symptom of various medical conditions including the relatively minor (such as eye inflammation and bacterial conjunctivitis) to the very serious (such as tuberculosis or a tumour in the tear ducts). However, in Khatoon’s case, there didn’t seem to be any underlying pathology to explain her bloody tears. Arguably the most well known person suffering from haemolacria is another Indian, Twinkle Dwivedi who has appeared on both the Body Shock television series (The Girl Who Cries Blood) and a television documentary on the National Geographic channel. However, the Wikipedia entry on haemolacria casts some doubts on her condition and notes:

“In lack of a medical explanation for her condition, possible religious explanations have been posed. She could have an unknown disease that only she appears to be suffering from, but more skeptical views hypothesize that the case might be explained by the so called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, meaning her mother, seemingly the only one to witness her bleeding actually starting, is fabricating the story and somehow inducing the effect on the girl”.

Given most of the published papers on haemolacria are case studies, one of the largest studies was published in 1991 by Dr. E. Ottovay and Dr. M. Norn in the journal Acta Ophthalmologica. In their study, 125 healthy individuals were specifically examined for blood in their tears. The authors reported that haemolacria was found in 18% of fertile women (most often while menstruating), 7% of pregnant women, none of the menopausal women (n=7), and 8% of men. The authors claimed that haemolacria among fertile women appears to be induced by hormones, whereas haemolacria among men is due to local factors (bacterial conjunctivitis, environmental damage, injuries, etc.).

In 2003, Dr. M. Wiese published a case study of a 56-year old women with short lasting haemolacria in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. She turned up to the hospital’s emergency department following two hours of continuous bleeding from her right nostril. She tried to stop her nose bleeding by pinching her nose but then experienced bleeding from her right eye and ear. Dr. Wise reported that”

“Its anatomical basis lies in the intimate connection of nose and eye via the lacrimal apparatus. An increase in pressure within the nasal cavity during epistaxis [nosebleeds] – for example, by pinching or blowing the nose, can cause retrograde flow of blood through the system and thus lead to bloody tears emerging from the ipsilateral eye. As our patient had longstanding perforation of both tympanic membranes, the blood in her nose was also able to travel retrograde via the auditory tube and middle ear into the external auditory canal. This led to the additional bleeding from the right ear”.

A similar case was reported by Dr. Stephan Weiser in a 2012 issue of the Emergency Medicine Journal. Weiser reported the case of a 73-year old man with arterial hypertension (i.e., high blood pressure) who while trying to stem the flow of blood from a nosebleed, pinched his nose, stopped the nosebleed but then started bleeding from his eyes. A different cause of haemolacria was published in 2010 by Dr. K. Mukkamala and his colleagues in the journal Retina. They reported haemolacria being a possible consequence of scleral buckle (SB) infection. SBs are used to help repair detached retinas and Mukkamala’s paper reported three patients (two males and one female) all of who had been crying bloody tears following the placement of an SB.

Many of the published case studies appear to be young girls. In 1987, Dr. B. Ahluwalia and his colleagues reported the case of a 15-year old girl with haemolacria in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology. That may have been due to psychological (rather than physiological) causes. The first time the girl’s bloody tears were observed was by her parents when she was revising for her exams and in deep concentration reading her books. Her haemolacria was accompanied by giddiness and a headache but her eyesight was unaffected. It was on the third occasion of crying blood that her parents sought medical attention for their daughter. At the time of publishing their case study, the authors noted that she had had a total of 11 attacks (and that there was no relationship with her menstrual cycle). Physical tests revealed no abnormalities although the girl’s consulting psychiatrist reported that she had ‘hysterical traits’. The authors concluded that:

“In the present case of bloody tears we could not detect any organic cause for haemolacria after complete local and systemic examination and through investigations. The presence of hysterical traits as confirmed by the consulting psychiatrist led us to label hysteria as a possible case’ of bloody tears in this case. [Other authors have] also reported cases of haemolacria in patients of hysteria but the mechanism of production of bloody tears in these patients remain obscure, so far”.

Similarly, in 1999, a Brazilian team (led by Dr. T. Freitas) reported the case study of a young female with haemolacria in the journal Arquivos Brasileiros de Oftalmologia. They also found no organic cause despite extensive diagnostic investigations. A recent 2012 study in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics by Dr. B. Praveen and Dr. Johny Vincent reported the very rare case of a 10-year old girl who not only cried tears of blood but also sweated blood too (known medically as haematidrosis). She was successfully treated with propranolol (a beta-blocker often used to treat anxiety, panic and hypertension). More recently, Dr. K.M. Özcan and colleagues published the case of an 11-year old girl with haemolacria in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. The girl in question had been crying blood along with nosebleeds from both nostrils for two years before treatment was sought. Medical examination revealed that she had hyperaemia (i.e., the increase of blood flow to different tissues in the body, in this case the nose) and increased vascularity (i.e., bulging veins) in the nasal cavity.

The youngest case of haemolacria that I have come across in the medical literature was a 2010 paper by Dr. K. Kumar and colleagues in the journal Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology. They reported an infant with immune thrombocytopenic purpura (a bleeding disorder where the blood doesn’t clot the way that it should) who arrived at a paediatric emergency department with bloody tears. The infant was treated with intravenous gamma globulin therapy (immunoglobulin injections that are given in an attempt to temporarily boost a patient’s immunity against disease).

It would appear that most cases of haemolacria have a distinct physiological cause but the cases where no organic cause was found suggest that psychological factors may play a role. This is certainly an area that I (no pun intended) will be keeping an eye on.

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

Further reading

Ahluwalia, B.K., Khurana, A.K. & Sood, S. (1987). Bloody tears (haemolacria). Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, 35(1), 41.

Freitas, T. G., Justa, V., & Soares, E. J. (1999). Bloody tears: Case report. Arquivos Brasileiros de Oftalmologia, 62, 628-630.

Kumar, K., Waseem, M., Panayiotopoulos, A., & Frieri, M. (2010). An infant with bloody tears in the Pediatric Emergency department: Evaluation and treatment – A case report and review of the literature. Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, 23, 207-210.

Mukkamala, K., Gentile, R. C., Rao, L., & Sidoti, P. A. (2010). Recurrent hemolacria: A sign of scleral buckle infection. Retina, 30, 1250-1253.

Özcan, K. M., Özdaş, T., Baran, H., Ozdogan, F., & Dere, H. (2012). Hemolacria: Case report. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology. 77, 137-138.

Ottovay, E., & Norn, M. (1991). Occult haemolacria in females. Acta Ophthalmologica, 69, 544-546.

Praveen, B. K., & Vincent, J. (2012). Hematidrosis and hemolacria: A case report. Indian Journal of Pediatrics, 79(1), 109-111.

Wiese, M.F. (2003). Bloody tears, and more! An unusual case of epistaxis. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 87, 1051.

Wieser, S. (2012). Bloody tears. Emergency Medicine Journal, 29, 286.

Wikipedia (2013). Haemolacria. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemolacria

Adam’s antics: A portrait in pop perversion

Today’s blog is based on an updated version of an article that I originally published in a 1999 issue of Headpress (The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion).

I have been a fan of Adam Ant and his music for over thirty years. Furthermore, as someone who takes more than a passing interest in human sexual paraphilic behaviour (as evidenced by many of the blogs I write), I would argue that Adam’s music has covered more atypical sexual behaviours than any other recording artist that I can think of (e.g. sadomasochism, bondage, transvestism, voyeurism, fetishism, etc). Anyone who has followed Adam’s career will recall that his music was billed in the late 1970s and early 1980s as “Antmusic for Sexpeople”. Adam’s followers (according to the free booklet given away with early copies of the 1980 LP ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier‘) were the “sexpeople” who “get off on sexual phenomena; people who like sexual imagery and enjoy being sexual”. For me, Soft Cell are probably the only other recording artists who come close (no pun intended) to talking about the seedier side of sex.

There are very few songs in the Ant repertoire that are about what I would call straight sex (i.e., ‘vanilla sex’). Adam’s most obvious songs here are ‘S.E.X.’ (1981; from ‘Prince Charming‘ LP) where he proclaims in the chorus that “Sex is sex, forget the rest/The only one that’s free/The only great adventure left/To humankind, that’s you and me”, ‘Beautiful Dream’ (1995; from ‘Wonderful‘ LP) where “Sex is emotion in motion”, ‘Good Sex Rumples The Clothing’ and ‘Doggy Style’ (both from the 2005 Deluxe Edition of the ‘Vive Le Rock’ LP), and ‘Sexatise You’ (1993; from the unreleased ‘Persuasion’ LP).  For me this is very bland stuff that is also echoed in many songs from the 1983 ‘Strip‘ album including the title track, ‘Baby Let Me Scream At You’, ‘Libertine’ and ‘Navel To Neck’. ‘Straight sex’ in the form of sexual promiscuity rears it’s head in both a third person male account in one of Adam’s own favourite songs, ‘Juanito the Bandito’ (1982; B-Side of ‘Friend or Foe’), in which Adam (singing in a Latino-type accent) says “Young ladies he likes to ravish/He knows how to make them wet/And if he can’t, he’ll dig himself a hole/Or go looking for your favourite pet”. I’m not quite sure whether that’s some reference to a potential bestial act or just a bad rhyming couplet but still pretty tame as far as I’m concerned. The more humorous side of promiscuity is also outlined in 1983’s ‘Playboy’ from the album ‘Strip‘ when Adam asks “What do you wear in bed?/Some headphones on my head/What do you like to hold?/’My breath’ she said”. Adam also makes indirect scientific reference to human orgasm (“Resolution – the fourth and final part”) on ‘Can’t Set The Rules About Love’ (1990; from the ‘Manners and Physique’ LP.

Other types of ‘vanilla sex’ include dressing up in sexy clothes (‘Spanish Games’; from the ‘Strip‘ LP, 1983), high-class prostitution (‘High Heels in High Places’ from the 2000 ‘Antbox’ CD-set), and sex in aeroplanes (from the 1981 ‘Prince Charming‘ LP) in the shape of the non-subtle ‘Mile High Club’ (“747 or a VC 10/Winter, summer, who knows when?/Take off passion, fly away love/Mile High Club”). There is also a whole song about sex in the bathroom (‘Bathroom Function’; 1978 from ‘Antmusic for Sexpeople‘ bootleg LP) which makes lots of references to lathering and rubbing unhygienic places and soap-on-rope. However, the lyrics make it hard to decide whether the sex in question is masturbatory or copulation-based.

Very few of Adam’s songs refer to homosexuality and lesbianism except when he is singing in the third person. The most striking examples of this appear on his 1989 ‘Manners and Physique’ album. One song ‘Bright Lights, Black Leather’ is an observation of the gay scene in West Berlin (There they go, the buccaneers/Hand in hand in leather glove/So fast, so crazy/With a creepy kind of love). The other song is about the rent-boy scene in Piccadilly (appropriately entitled ‘Piccadilly’). There’s also the more obvious ‘All Girl Action’ (1993; from the unreleased ‘Persuasion’ LP). Another song where Ant takes a third person view of a sexual behaviour is in ‘Cleopatra’ (1979; from the ‘Dirk Wears White Sox‘ LP) where he makes reference to the Egyptian queen’s alleged penchant for fellatio. As Adam observes “Cleopatra did 10,000 in her lifetime/Now that’s a wide mouth/Cleo gave service with a smile/She was a wide-mouthed girl/She did a hundred Roman Centurians/For after-dinner mints”.

Many of Adam’s songs make passing references to activities associated with the more extreme fringes of sex such as sexual body piercing (“She’s got a little chain through her tit/And she doesn’t seem to mind it”, from ‘Punk in the Supermarket’, 1978; ‘Antmusic for Sexpeople‘ bootleg LP), tattoos (“I’ve got a hear on my arm/It says ‘PURE SEX’/It hurt/I mean it/I got it till I die/Or until I reach orgasmo (sic)”, from ‘Red Scab’, 1982; B-side of ‘Goody Two Shoes‘), and fat fetishes (‘Fat Fun’ from the  2000 ‘Antbox’ CD-set). He also hints at bestial pleasures and clitoral stimulation in the 1982 song ‘Why Do Girls Love Horses?’ (“Is it ‘cos they’re round?/Or ‘cos they’re six feet off the ground?/Is because they’re on top?/Or the clippety-clop?”) (B-side of ‘Desperate But Not Serious’).

It is when we start to examine Adam’s earlier output that things get far more interesting. Transvestism may have been covered implicitly in The Kinks‘ ‘Lola‘ or Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side‘ but I don’t know another song like “Greta-X” (1985; B-side of ‘Vive Le Rock’) which includes the chorus “I’m a joyous glad TV/Why don’t you come TV with me/I know a girl who likes to dress me/Up like this and then caress me”. Some may claim that the “TV” here may not necessarily be about transvestites but the last verse clears up any ambiguity! (Underwear all tidied away/Thirty eight bust just for a day/Heels so high, my furs so fine/All a woman’s things, they are mine”).

One of the most salient themes through much of Adam’s early work is sadomasochism and bondage. Live favourites such as ‘Physical (You’re So)’, ‘Ligotage’ and ‘B-Side Baby’, being typical of the genre. An early stage favourite was ‘Beat My Guest’ (1981; B-side of ‘Stand and Deliver‘) which would often disturb club owners:

“Well tie me up and hit me with a stick/Yeah, use a truncheon or a household brick/There’s so much happiness behind these tears/I’ll pray you’ll beat me for a thousand years/Well use a truncheon or a cricket bat/A good beating’s where it’s really at”

Their other early SM classic ‘Whip In My Valise’ with the immortal chorus line “Who taught you to torture? Who taught ya?” was the first song that my Dad questioned my musical taste. When you look at some of the lyrics, you can perhaps appreciate why my father was concerned about what his thirteen-year old son was listening to.

“When I met you, you were just sixteen/Pulling the wings off flies/When the old lady got hit by the truck/I saw the wicked in your eyes/You put my head into the stocks/And then went to choose a cane/But hey, your cat has got nine tails/You like to leave me lame”

Very few of Adam’s later songs return to these themes although there are a few exceptions including the self-explanatory ‘Human Bondage Den’ (1985; from the ‘Vive Le Rock‘ LP) and ‘Rough Stuff’ (1989; from the ‘Manners and Physique‘ LP), the latter of which was a big hit in the US. The world of rubberites is explored in another self-explanatory song ‘Rubber People’. Adam proclaims that: “Rubber people are lovely people/They long for latex on their skin/A hole in the ceiling/A nice strong gag/Nicely wrapped and strapped”. This again has strong sadomasochistic overtones especially when references are made to being “bound to discipline” and spanking. Spanking only appears in one other Ant song – the aforementioned ‘Whip in My Valise’ (1979; B-side of ‘Zerox‘). Voyeurism with naïve sadomasochistic overtones also appear in the early live favourite “Lady” (1979; B-side of ‘Young Parisians’) when Adam sings “I saw a lady and she was naked/I saw a lady she had no clothes on/I had a good look through the crack/She had footmarks up her back/How did they get there?”

Although Adam sings about many sexual fetishes, the only direct references to fetishism appear in the classic ‘Christian D’Or’ (1981; B-side of ‘Prince Charming‘) and ‘Survival of the Fetish’ (1993; from the unreleased ‘Persuasion’ LP). In ‘Christian D’Or’, Adam reels off a whole list of fetishes and concludes there is something wrong with him (“I’ve got a fetish for black/A fetish for green/A fetish for those arty magazines/I’ve got a fetish for Brando/A fetish for cats/A fetish for ladies in Christian Dior hats/I’ve got a fetish and that means I’m sick/So very sick”).

I have also come across some early (1977) songs that feature other types of sexual behaviour (including cunnilingus, swinging, rape, necrophilia, knicker fetishes, and – possibly – amputee fixations). These tapes feature sex-based songs, many of which have never found their way onto record. Song titles include ‘Weekend Swinger’, ‘Underwear’, ‘Hooray, I’m a Hetero’, ‘Punishment Park’, ‘The Throb (True Love)’, ‘Swedish Husbands’, ‘Sit On My Face’, ‘Get On Your Knees’, ‘Female Rape’, ‘Deanecrophilia’ and ‘Saturday A.M. Pix’ (AMPIX was a company that specialised in products for those with a sexual amputee fixation but this may not be about amputee fetishes at all as I have never heard the song).

The one song I have not been able to decide whether it is about a sexual paraphilia is ‘1969 Again’ (1995; from ‘Wonderful‘ LP). In this song Adam sings that “Oh how you make me wish I was a baby/Yeah, when you’re playing Miss Swish/Knickers on – you’re my big agony nanny/With your big towel protection”. To me, this looks like a song about paraphilic infantilism (i.e., people who get sexual kicks from being adult babies) but I could be wrong. There is also the reference to Miss Swish that suggests some spanking reference (Swish is a spanking magazine) but maybe that’s wishful thinking.

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

Further reading

Ant, A. (2007). Stand and Deliver: The Autobiography. London: Pan.

Griffiths, M.D (1999). Adam Ant: Sex and perversion for teenyboppers. Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 19, 116-119.

Wikipedia (2013). Adam and the Ants. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_and_the_Ants

Wikipedia (2013). Adam Ant. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Ant

Current affairs and shocking news: A beginner’s guide to electrophilia

Back in 1999, I had my first ever article published on sexually paraphilic behaviour in the magazine Bizarre. It was an article on auroerotic deaths and it featured the cases of ten people who had died in strange sexual circumstances. One of the cases I featured was originally published in a 1981 issue of Medicine, Science and the Law (by Dr. S. Sivaloganathan).

The case involved a 36-year old gay male who was an ex-television engineer. The man in question was found dead with a wire cradle applied to his scrotum with another loop of wire (with the end folded over) inserted into his anus. [Some researchers writing on this topic have noted that rectal application of electricity is a common practice for obtaining semen from bulls and may be the basis behind this uncommon method of masturbation]. The wires were connected to the two terminals that supplied the loudspeaker within the television set. When switched on, these wires carried a current of 0.6 amps at 2.2 volts (a quarter of the current needed to light a small torch). The dead man was found with two significant injuries. The first was on the right side of his face (entrance mark of the current), and the second was over the left side of his scrotum (where the loop of the wire had been). While masturbating, one of the wires had broken off resulting in a cessation of the stimulating activity. The man looked inside the back of the open television set and his face came into contact with an exposed metal cap that zapped 2500 volts through him (The metal cap was the only live part of the television set and it was this that killed him). A similar case was reported in a 1998 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. The authors (led by Dr. M. Klintschar) noted that:  

“A plausible reconstruction of the accident involves attachment of one electrode to the anus and accidental touching of the other electrode with hand and chest when attempting to attach it to the penis. Death was caused by myocardial fibrillation. Both cable and pornographic literature were obviously hidden by the parents of the deceased to conceal the actual cause of death”

Another case in a 2003 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology (by Dr. J.C. Schott and colleagues) reported an accidental electrocution during autoeroticism. This case involved an 18-year-old male who was found dead by his brother in his bedroom wearing two brassieres. The authors reported that:

“Two wet green terry cloths were under the brassiere cups, connected to the house current via two metal washers and a bifid electrical cord. Literature depicting nude women was found near the victim. Autopsy revealed second-degree and third-degree burns of the mammary regions. Death was attributed to accidental self-electrocution”.

I mention these three cases by way of introduction to electrophilia. Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal (in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) and Dr. Brenda Love (in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices) define electrophilia as sexual pleasure and arousal from electricity (or electric stimulus). Dr. Brenda Love’s encyclopedia entry also noted that electrophilia may play a part in sexual sadism and sexual masochism. More specifically:

“Electric shock is used as a form of titillation or light torture depending on the amount of voltage chosen by the recipient Shock as a form of sex play is a modified and safe version of the types of electrical shock government officials used in different countries to interrogate political prisoners and by American prison guards to control their prisoners. Most devices used in sex play are inconsequential by comparison”.

Dr. Love spent most of her entry talking about the sadomasochistic use of electricity but did mention that:

“The Japanese use a special battery operated device to induce orgasm in men. This box has two wires with electrodes, one is attached to the end of the penis and the other is inserted to the rectum. The man then regulates the current with a rheostat until orgasm. This devise is used by physicians to eject sperm from impotent men to use for artificial insemination and similarly by veterinarians for breeding livestock”.

The case studies I mentioned above are by no means isolated. A 2006 literature review by Dr. A. Sauvageau and Dr. S. Racette published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences examined all cases of autoerotic deaths in the literature between 1954 to 2004. They located 408 cases of autoerotic death in 57 published papers, most of who were white males. Almost 90% of the deaths were cases of sexual asphyxia (hanging, plastic bags, ligature, and/or chemical substances such as amyl nitrate). Sexual death by electrocution accounted for 3.7% of all autoerotic deaths – the others being overdressing/body wrapping (1.5%), foreign body insertion (1.2%), atypical asphyxia method (2.9%), and miscellaneous (1.0%).

Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology refers to ‘electrocutophilia’, which by the definition provided appears to be ‘electrophilia’ but with a slightly different name. He says that:

“Electrocutophilia [is a] paraphilia of the sacrificial and expiatory stratagem in which sexuoerotic arousal and orgasm is dependent upon the use of electrical stimulation of the body to possibly include the nipples, urethra, penis/scrotum, vulva/clitoris/vagina and anal/rectal tissues. This paraphilia has been seen to occur more frequently among women than in men and has also resulted in accidental death. The activities of electrocutophilia may be exploratory or varietal sex play and not a paraphilia. It also may be part of a sadomasochistic repertory. Devices for ‘safe’ sexuoerotic electrostimulation are now commercially available”.

One of the most interesting things about this snippet is Dr. Pranzarone’s assertion that the paraphilia is more common among women. I don’t know of any academic or clinical literature supporting such a claim and most sexual paraphilias are predominantly male-based (although some like hybristophilia – sexual arousal and pleasure from having a sexual partner who is known to have committed an outrage or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery – are known to be more common among females). Having said that, electrophilia among women is not unknown. Last year, an online article by Sam Greenspan briefly looked at the death (in 2008) of Kirsten Taylor who died as a result of electrophilic sex play (death by electric nipple clamps). As Greenspan reported:

“When 29-year-old Kirsten Taylor of Craley, Pennsylvania, died from electrocution, her husband Toby initially told the cops she’d been shocked by her hair dryer. This was not true. He’d later admit that they were into weird sexual behaviors’. The night she died, they’d put electric clamps on her nipples and Toby was administering shocks to her by turning on and off a power strip…Something went wrong and one of the shocks killed her. Which was a surprise since he said they’d ‘been engaging in electric shock sex’ for about two years”.

The husband, Toby Taylor, was charged with involuntary manslaughter. Finally, writing in a 2011 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Dr. Stephen Hucker compared electrophilia with both hypoxyphilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from oxygen deprivation) and anaesthesiophilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from volatile substances such as chloroform, ether, butane, etc.). All these behaviours have potential “to result in a well-recognized mode of accidental death” and come “under the general rubric of sexual masochism”. Most of what is known about electrophilia is based on published case studies in the forensic pathology literature, and is typically based on those that have died from the practice. Little is known about the prevalence of the behaviour either as a standalone masturbatory aid or as part of sadomasochistic sexual play.

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.

Cairns, F.J. & Rainer, S.P. (1981). Death from electrocution during auto-erotic procedures. New Zealand Medical Journal, 94, 259-260.

Greenspan, S. (2011). 11 Unbelievably Insane Deaths During Sex. 11 Points, November 8. Located at: http://www.11points.com/Dating-Sex/11_Unbelievably_Insane_Deaths_During_Sex

Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Dying for it: Autoerotic deaths Bizarre, 24, 62-65.

Hazelwood, R.R. (1983). Autoerotic Fatalities. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Hucker, S. (2011).  Hypoxyphilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1323-1326.

Klintschar, M. & Grabuschnigg, P. & Beham, A. (1998). Death from electrocution during autoerotic practice: case report and review of the literature. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 19, 190-193.

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

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

Rogers, D.J. (2004). Adult sexual offences. In McLay, W.D.S. (Ed.). Clinical Forensic Medicine (pp. 137-154). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sauvageau, A. & Racette, S. (2006). Autoerotic deaths in the literature from 1954 to 2004: A review. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51, 140-146.

Schott, J.C., Davis, G.J. & Hunsaker, J.C. (2003). Accidental electrocution during autoeroticism: a shocking case. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 24, 92-95.

Seidl, S. (2004). Accidental autoerotic death: A review on the lethal para- philiac syndrome. In M. Tsokos (Ed.), Forensic Pathology Reviews (Vol. 1, pp. 235–262). Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.

Sivaloganathan, S. (1981). Curiosum eroticum – A case of fatal electrocution during auto-erotic practice. Medicine, Science and Law, 21, 47-50.

Smoking Gun (2008). Kinky sex, shocking death, January 25. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/kinky-sex-shocking-death

Tan, C.T.T. & Chao, T.C. (1983). A case of fatal electrocution during an unusual autoerotic practice. Medicine, Science and Law, 23, 92-95.

Only the bonely: The strange case of sex with a human skeleton

One of the most bizarre (and arguably disturbing) stories I have come across in looking for topics to write about in my blog is the relatively recent case of a 37-year old Swedish woman who was arrested in September 2012 by local police for having sex with human skeleton. The human remains were found by chance in Kosmosgatan (located in the Bergsjön district of Gothenburg) after someone reported hearing a gunshot from the woman’s home. Swedish national television SVT reported that she was initially charged with murder, but this was subsequently downgraded to “violating the peace of the dead” (so-called “brott mot griftefriden” in Sweden) by the District Court in Gothenburg. It was alleged that she used the human bones as sex toys, and claimed her sexual activity was a hobby was motivated by an interest in history. According to Swedish prosecutor Kristina Ehrenborg-Staffas:

“I have never heard of a case like this and neither have my colleagues, so I dare to say that this kind of case is quite uncommon…In the confidential section of the investigation we have material which indicates she used them in sexual situations…We claim it’s her, but she claims it’s someone else and that she found the pictures on the internet…She has a lot of photos of morgues and chapels, and documents about how to have sex with recently deceased and otherwise dead people…You have to ask yourself why she would have those pictures…She admits to having the bones, but says she collected them out of a historical and archaeological interest”.

Allegations were also made claiming that the woman boasted to local children and teenagers that she kept many knives, weapons, and dead people in her apartment (subsequently confirmed after the police raid found knives and human bones in the woman’s living room). One of the teenagers claimed the woman had said to him that she had “killed people and there’s blood everywhere”. The woman then went to her apartment and fired a gunshot.

Ehrenborg-Staffas also said the woman had used the human bones in an “unethical” way but couldn’t explain how the accused had managed to assemble almost an entire human skeleton. Thomas Fuxborg, the Västra Götaland police force’s press spokesman told SVT at the time of the initial arrest that “several skeleton parts” were found in the police search. However, there was great speculation as to whether the bones had come from a local graveyard, a hospital, or from a murder. The police could not confirm if the bones came from a male or female, or were from more than one person. Later in court, it was revealed that the woman kept at least six human skulls (one of which was found in her freezer), one human spine, and “a large number of other [human] bones”.

The prosecuting team presented their evidence that included two compact discs (one entitled “My necrophilia” and the other “My first experience”) that contained both written documents and various photographs (such as ones which showed the woman hugging and licking a skull). She was also alleged to have sold human skulls to others via the internet. For instance, the court was told that the most recent online transaction was a person in Uppsala (Eastern Sweden) who allegedly bought three human skulls and a human spine. Other evidence shown in court included mortuary photographs, body bags, and a drill, all found inside a secret compartment in the woman’s apartment. According to a Swedish daily newspaper (Goeteborgsposten), the accused woman (who claimed she was in a relationship) wrote on an internet forum that:

“My morals set my limits and I’m prepared to take the punishment if something should happen. It’s worth it. I want my man like he is, whether he is dead or alive. He allows me to find sexual happiness on the side”.

A number of psychological evaluations were carried out, none of which showed she was suffering any mental illness but was “fascinated” by death, however, there was no evidence that the woman had dug up any graves to access human remains. Like Ehrenborg-Staffas, Dr. Katarina Öberg (Head of Stockholm’s Centre of Andrology and Sexual Medicine at Karolinska University Hospital) also claimed that this particular case was the first she had heard of in Sweden:

“During my ten years I have never had a patient with necrophilia. Although, I guess it is not really something that one confesses to having”.

The women claimed that she had not done anything illegal, and therefore pleased ‘not guilty’ to all charges except possession of a firearm. The accused woman was said to have reported in court that:

“I’m not saying I’m the world’s nicest or best person. I’m an odd bird. I’m interested in forensics and I’m passionate about osteology. I have photographs of dead people”.

The charge of necrophilia was dismissed but it was noted by the court that:

“Moving parts of the skeleton is a crime, since she was unauthorised to do so, just as it is a crime to assemble a skeleton and keep it lying on the floor, (and) to keep skeletal parts in plastic bags and use them for trade. [She also knowingly handled the bones] in an undignified manner”.

In all the articles and paper that I have ever read in writing various blogs on necrophilia, I have never come across a single case (even anecdotally) of someone having sex with a skeleton. In a previous blog I outlined Dr Anil Aggrawal’s typology of necrophiliacs published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Dr. Aggrawal classified necrophilic behaviour into one of ten different types (Classes I to X). However, if you read my previous blog, you will come to the same conclusion as me that the behaviour described in this blog does not fit into any of Aggrawal’s ten types of necrophiliac, therefore I agree with the Swedish court’s decision to dismiss this as a case of necrophilia. Weird and depraved it might be, but using human bones for sexual bones doesn’t fit any definition of necrophilia that I am aware of.

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

Further reading

Agence France-Presse (2012). Swedish woman arrested for using human skeleton for sex. The Raw Story, November 20. Located at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/20/swedish-woman-arrested-for-using-human-skeleton-for-sex/

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2009). A new classification of necrophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16, 316-320.

Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Johansson, E. (2012). Woman charged for sex with human skeleton. The Local, November 20. Located at: http://www.thelocal.se/44536/20121120/

The Local (2012). Woman held after human bones found in her flat. The Local, September 6. Located at: http://www.thelocal.se/43042/20120906/

The Local (2012). Woman held on remand over bones found in flat. The Local, September 8. Located at: http://www.thelocal.se/43106/20120908/

Ryan, E.G. (2012). Women [sic] who kept human skeleton for sex is somehow declared sane. Jezebel, November 20. Located at: http://jezebel.com/5962178/women-who-kept-human-skeleton-for-sex-found-sane

The Sun (2012). Swedish ‘skeleton sex’ case woman convicted of ‘disturbing the peace of dead’. The Sun, December 17. Located at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4702693/Swedish-skeleton-sex-woman-convicted-of-disturbing-the-peace-of-dead.html

Out of this whirled: Can dancing be addictive?

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in the UK, celebrity dancing television shows (such as Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing On Ice) have become highly popular as evidenced by the huge ratings successes over the last few years. As my family are big fans of these shows I’ve come to learn more about dance than I would care to admit. It’s also because of this that a recent paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions caught my eye. It’s a paper by French researchers Remi Targhetta, Bertrand Nalpas, and Pascal Perney entitled Argentine tango: Another behavioral addiction?’ I’m sure many of you reading this will be sceptical about whether dancing can be addictive, but I have always argued that any behaviour can be addictive if there are constant rewards for the individual.

For those of you who know nothing about the Argentine tango (me included before I read this paper), the authors note that:

“Tango is a popular dance for two, which originated in Rio de la Plata, Argentina, in the mid-19th century. Although several styles exist, tango is mostly danced in either open or close embrace, with long elegant steps and complex figures often with sensual connotation. Dancers, men and women, wearing specific clothes and shoes, are perfumed and very elegant”.

The first author of this study (Dr. Targhetta) admits in the paper that he himself is an experienced tango dancer. He got the idea to investigate ‘tango addiction’ because of someone who had attended every night of a 10-day tango festival. Dr. Targhetta developed a friendly relationship with the dancer and suspected that the dancer might be “addicted” to tango. Dr. Targhetta then formally interviewed the dancer:

“He was a white collar in an insurance firm and has a very good income; he suddenly stopped working at 52 years of age in order to practice more and more tango as he wanted; then he moved to Argentina for 2 years to improve and intensify his practice; in Buenos Aires he danced every day from 11 PM to 4 AM and moreover spent 2 hours at least for preparation; he has never considered to reduce or stop dancing and, conversely, he started liking dancing more and more because he was feeling growing pleasure. He claimed that this practice presented no drawback, and on the contrary, there have been advantages such as well-being and self-confidence. Finally, the only time he did not dance was during a holiday week, he developed symptoms looking like those observed during withdrawal such as sadness, feeling uncomfortable and leg prickling”.

Following the interview, Dr. Targhetta concluded that the tango dancer might indeed be addicted but was substantially different from other similar behavioural addictions such as exercise dependence on sports such as running or body-building because “tango dancing requires usually smooth physical effort, it is always performed in an arousing senses environment, while embracing consecutively different partners”. (I’m not sure I follow this line of argument but it’s not critical for a appreciation of the study carried out).

Dr. Targhetta’s observations became the basis for carrying out a much bigger study to examine whether dancing can be addictive. The authors recruited their participants from subscribers to a monthly magazine called ToutTango devoted to tango dancing. Of the 15,000 subscribers, 1,129 tango dancers participated in the study (following an advertisement in the magazine asking for tango dancers to take part in an online survey entitled ‘Are you tango addicted?’). The survey included three measures of addiction: (i) the first measure was based on the DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence, (ii) the second measure comprised Dr. Aviel Goodman’s criteria of dependence, and (iii) the third measure was a self-evaluation of the degree of addiction to tango. More specifically, the authors wrote:

“We built a questionnaire based upon DSM-IV by re-writing each criterion to adapt them to tango, but without modifying their actual meaning; to complete our evaluation toolbox, we also adapted [Dr. Aviel Goodman’s 1990] diagnostic criteria for addictive disorders and, secondly, we added a Likert scale from 0 to 5 for self-evaluation of the degree of addiction to tango…To fit with the future DSM-V definition of substance use disorders, we added a question regarding craving for tango. On the basis of the information recorded from the dancer’s interview, we added some specific and hedonic questions related to the positive (physical or psychological) effects and some items related to the negative (physical or psychological) effects experienced”.

The authors reported that the “dependence rates” were 45% for the adapted DSM-IV criteria, 7% for Goodman’s criteria, and 36% self-rating scores. The difference in these prevalence rates is likely to be because of inadequate conceptualizations of the phenomenon to identify or from differences in the screening tools used. However, they also noted that physical withdrawal symptoms were reported one-fifth of the total sample and that a “strong craving” for dancing was reported by one-third of the total sample. Only 64 dancers (5.6%) were dependent according to all three addiction measures and it is this small percentage that is most likely to be the “hard core of dependent dancers”. Other interesting results included:

“Positive effects were high both in dependent and non-dependent groups and were markedly greater than negative effects. Long practice of tango dancing did not modify the dependence rate or reduce the level of positive effects”… According to our results, tango dancing satisfies several criteria of addiction: feelings of tension or arousal and craving state before dancing, pleasure or relief when dancing, tolerance characterized by a need to increase time spent dancing, and finally physical withdrawal symptoms following abstinence. Altogether this suggests that dependence on tango could exist…[However] tango dependence is associated with several strong and sustained positive effects (pleasure, self-esteem, reduced stress, physical health, etc.) while negative effects are weak”.

There are obviously some major limitations to the study in that the data were based purely on self-report, and the sample was totally self-selected (and was likely to include the most fanatical tango dancers as they were subscribers to a very specialist tango magazine). The authors concluded that if tango addiction exists, it most resembles exercise addiction (in fact, the authors cited our work on exercise addiction to support their argument). Personally, I think it would take more robust data to convince me that excessive tango dancing could be classed as an addiction, but at least there is now an empirical study that future research can build upon.

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

Further reading

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

Berczik, K., Szabo, A., Griffiths, M. D., Kurimay, T., Kun, B., Rand, R. & Demetrovics, Z. (2012). Exercise addiction: Symptoms, diagnosis, epidemiology, and etiology. Substance Use and Misuse, 47, 403–417.

Demetrovics, Z. & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Behavioral addictions: Past, present and future. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 1-2.

Goodman, A. (1990). Addiction: Definition and implications. British Journal of Addiction, 85, 1403–1408.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Behavioural addictions: An issue for everybody? Journal of Workplace Learning, 8(3), 19-25.

Griffiths, M.D.  (2005). A ‘components’ model of addiction within a biopsychosocial framework. Journal of Substance Use, 10, 191-197.

Targhetta, R., Nalpas, B. & Perney, P. (2013). Argentine tango: Another behavioral addiction? Journal of Behavioral Addictions, DOI: 10.1556/JBA.2.2013.007.

To pee or not to pee: A beginner’s guide to omorashi

In two previous blogs on the sexual paraphilias of salirophilia (i.e., deriving sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire) and urophilia (i.e., deriving sexual arousal from the sight or thought of either the act of urination or the urine itself) I briefly made reference to omorashi (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from having a full bladder). Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices defines omorashi more specifically as being sexually aroused “from having a full bladder or a sexual attraction to someone else experiencing the discomfort of a full bladder” and also notes that it is “a fetish subculture predominantly seen in Japan”. Frances Twinn’s 2007 book, Miscellany of Sex also notes:

“[Omorashi is] mainly Japanese phenomenon, where a full bladder and wetting oneself in public causes arousal. Game shows and sex trade workers in Japan cater in large numbers to this fetish. Followers can also turn to Wet Set Magazine, an Australian-based publication aimed mainly at western practitioners”

In an online article at Listverse about the ‘top ten’ most bizarre fetishes, omorashi made an appearance in the number 10 spot and claimed (using information lifted from the Wikipedia entry on omorashi) that:

“For [omorashi] fetishists, climax usually coincides with the moment of relief and embarrassment experienced when the desperate individual loses bladder control. Though there is a small community devoted to such fetishism outside of Japan, it is usually overshadowed by the more hardcore fetishes, urolagnia and urophagia. Most omorashi videos are among the most softcore of erotica, featuring innocent young women, fully clothed, who have gotten themselves into an embarrassing bathroom situation. Commonly featured are schoolgirls, female working professionals, and other women attempting to look dignified before succumbing to the urge to childishly wet themselves”.

The Wikipedia entry is a little more detailed and claims that:

Outside of Japan, it is not usually distinguished from urolagnia (urine fetish), though they are different things. Westerners who do make the distinction commonly use phrases such as ‘bladder desperation’ or ‘panty wetting’. The Japanese language term from which the subculture’s name is derived means ‘to wet oneself’ literally translated, ‘leaking’. The word is also occasionally romanized as ‘omorasi’ in the Kunrei-shiki romanization system”.

In researching this blog I came across a dedicated omorashi website (Omorashi.org) that describes itself as a softcore fetishist community that focuses on omorashi practices as well as other urophilic activities and claims to host over 525GB worth of videos and images. Another dedicated website is the And The Worst Thing Is All That Juice I Drankrun by a self-confessed omorashi fetishist, and features lots of omorashi fan fiction and fan art. The website owner says:

“My omorashi fetish is rather specific. I generally prefer desperation with accidental wetting (basically, just unintentional), clothed, male rather than female, nonsexual for the victim, and I really like seeing their mortification during and afterwards. So my posts will probably be biased toward that kind of thing. This is really just a place for me to indulge, but you are more than welcome to come along for the ride if you happen to enjoy it!”

The Wikipedia article also makes the point that:

Most fetish activities concerning the use of bodily waste are considered by the general public as ‘hardcore’, taboo, or edgeplay. However, because the object of the fetish is clothed incontinence, omorashi videos do not feature direct sexual contact. The focus on clothed rather than overtly sexual images makes garment fetishism a prominent feature in most omorashi erotica: commonly featured outfits include those worn by schoolgirls, female working professionals, and other women attempting to look dignified before succumbing to the need to urinate”.

In Japanese subculture, there are a number of different ways by which the omorashi fetish can be practiced including ‘yagai’ and nappies (i.e., diapers). According to Wikipedia, ‘omorashi yagai’ translates as “to wet oneself outdoors (or publicly)”. Another variation of this is ‘yagai honyo’ that refers to outdoor (i.e., public) urination where the person removes their clothes in public to urinate. The Wikipedia article also claims that the practitioners of yagai honyo are similar to graffiti artists in that they engage in a public act without being caught. The practice of urinating in public while wearing a nappy (instead of underpants or knickers) is known as ‘oshime omorashi’ (as the literal translation is “to wet oneself in a diaper”). The article also claims that:

“Diapers may be favorable for public wetting because they render it more discreet and eliminate mess, and their use is not limited specifically to those with a diaper fetish. However, omorashi fetishists specifically interested in this aspect of the subculture could be considered a Japanese variation of the diaper lover community”.

An online article on omorashi at the Nation Master website also notes:

Depending on one’s role in an omorashi scenario (as the wetter or the watcher) these acts could be variously considered a form of sadism, masochism, sadomasochism, or erotic humiliation. It is worth noting that these scenarios almost invariably feature female wetters over males, and that the focus generally falls on the wetter’s tendency toward the irrepressible submissive qualities commonly associated with feminine weakness. In Japan, these attitudes are recognized as belonging to the wider archetyp of moe (pronounced “mo-eh”) fetishism. From this perspective, the incontinence serves as the essential, obvious sympathetic weakness that moe characters work hard to correct but never really succeed at getting rid of”.

To Excluding research on orgasm during urinary incontinence (see ‘further reading’ below for a couple of academic papers on the topic), I’ve come across very little that’s been written academically about omorashi. Dr. Christy Gibbs carried out her PhD on transgressing sexualities in Japanese animation and mentioned omorashi in passing but only as a type of Japanese sexual practice while talking about other Japanese-oriented animated pornography such as ‘tentacle rape’. Another academic paper that mentioned omorashi in passing was by Dr. Clarissa Smith in a 2009 issue of the journal Sexualities (in a paper exploring sexual cultures in the classroom), but again there was nothing of substance about omorashi itself. Maybe there’s more written in Japanese that I’ve been unable to access and/or understand. There’s certainly little written in English, even anecdotally.

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.

Gibbs, C. (2012). Transgressing sexualities in Japanese animation. University of Waikato, PhD. Located at: http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/6746/thesis.pdf?sequence=3

Hilton, P. (1988). Urinary incontinence during sexual intercourse: a common, but rarely volunteered, symptom. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 95, 377-381.

Khan, Z., Bhola A., & Starer P. (1988). Urinary incontinence during orgasm. Urology, 31, 279-282.

Listverse (2007). Top 10 bizarre fetishes. September 24. Located at: http://listverse.com/2007/09/24/top-10-bizarre-fetishes/

Nation Master (2013). Omorashi. Located at: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Omorashi

Smith, C. (2009). Pleasure and distance: Exploring sexual cultures in the classroom. Sexualities, 12, 568-585.

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

Wikipedia (2013). Omorashi. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omorashi

Track to the future: Online behavioural tracking and problem gambling

Almost everyone reading this will be aware that problem gambling lies towards one end of a continuum that ranges from non-gambling at one end through to pathological gambling at the other. However, it should also be noted that there will always be some behaviours that are typically engaged in by problem gamblers that some non-problem gamblers may also engage in at least occasionally (e.g., chasing behaviour when gamblers try to recoup their losses).

Worldwide, there are many different screening instruments that can be used by clinicians and researchers to help identify problem gambling. One of most regularly used is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition (of which the fifth edition has just been published) that includes criteria that can aid the diagnosis of problem and pathological gambling (but now called disordered gambling in its latest incarnation). The previous (DSM-IV) criteria were used in the most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey published in 2011. If a person answered positively to at least five of the criteria, a diagnosis of pathological gambling would be made whereas endorsement of three or four of the criteria would indicate a diagnosis of problem gambling. Using the DSM-IV, the latest BGPS reported a problem gambling rate of 0.9% among British adults.

In contrast to offline gambling, the use of online behavioural tracking presents an opportunity for researchers to examine the actual and real-time behaviour engaged in by gamblers. Analysis of behavioural tracking data has been carried out by various groups of researchers. For instance, one group affiliated to Harvard University have published a series of papers examining a data set of online gamblers provided by the bwin gaming company. My own research unit has also been publishing data using behavioural tracking data provided by the win2day gaming company.

During my consultancy for various online gaming companies, I have been informed by industry insiders that problem gambling can be identified online by examining the patterns and behaviours of online gamblers. If this is true, it has implications for current problem gambling screens (including the new DSM-V). This is because most criteria found in these screens are associated with the consequences of problem gambling rather than the gambling behaviour itself. Take the DSM-IV. I have argued that only a few of the behaviours in the DSM criteria for pathological gambling can be reliably spotted online using online behavioural tracking (the most obvious being chasing losses, salience/preoccupation, and tolerance). The following list highlights each of the DSM-IV questions for pathological gambling and the component of pathological gambling that each criterion is assessing. This is followed by an assessment as to what extent each criterion can be identified online.

  • Salience/Preoccupation (Do you find that you are becoming preoccupied with past gambling successes or find yourself spending increasingly more time planning future gambling?) – An online problem gambler is likely to spend a lot of time gambling online although this behaviour in itself does not necessarily indicate a problem. Anything above four hours daily play over a protracted period could be considered excessive although some forms of online gambling (e.g., online poker) may take up a lot of time and be played relatively inexpensively.
  • Tolerance (Do you find that you need to increase the amount of money you gamble to achieve the same enjoyment and excitement?) – If experiencing tolerance to gambling, an online problem gambler is likely to have changed their gambling behaviour in one of two ways over time. The first example of tolerance is a gradual increase of daily play in terms of time. For instance, the gambler might start off playing 30-60 minutes a day but over the course of a few months starts to play increasing amounts of time. The second example of tolerance is the act of gambling using gradually bigger stakes over time. An online problem gambler is more likely to experience both of these combined (i.e., gambling for longer and longer periods of time with bigger and bigger amounts of money).
  • Relapse (Have you recently tried to stop gambling but were unsuccessful?) – Although this is difficult to detect with absolute certainty online, a typical pattern would be a gambler who gambles heavily, day-in day-out, for a period of time and then “disappears” for a period of time (which could be days, weeks, and sometimes even months), only to suddenly re-appear and gamble heavily again.
  • Withdrawal  (Do you become moody or impatient when you are cutting down how much you gamble?) This is again difficult to detect with absolute certainty online but is most likely to surface with the use of verbally aggressive comments in those games that have chat room facilities (such as online poker).
  • Escape from reality (Do you ever use gambling a way of ignoring stress in your in life or even pick you up when you feel down?) – This is almost impossible to detect online although those players who play for long hours every day are more likely to experience escape-like feeling.
  • Chasing losses (Do you ever try to win back the money you lost by increasing the size or frequency of your wagers?) – This is one of the key indicators of problem gambling and can be spotted online more easily than many other problem gambling criteria. Typical chasing patterns will include repeated ‘double or quit’ strategies in an effort to recoup losses. Although many gamblers use this strategy on occasion, the online problem gambler will do it repeatedly. This behaviour, above and beyond any other criteria, is most likely to signal problem gambling.
  • Conceal Involvement (Do you ever hide how much or how often you gamble from significant others?) – There is no way that an online gambling operator can spot this during online gambling unless such admissions are given to other players in online chat rooms.
  • Unsociable Behaviour (Have you ever committed fraud or theft to get money to gamble with?) – Again, there is no way that an online gambling operator can spot this during online gambling unless such admissions are given to other players in online chat rooms.
  • Ruin a Relationship/Opportunity (Has gambling ever ruined a personal relationship or an occupational or educational opportunity?) – As with the previous two criteria, there is no way that an online gambling operator can spot this during online gambling unless such admissions are given to other players in online chat rooms.
  • Bail-out  (Have you ever needed others to relieve a financial problem created by gambling?) – When an online gambler has exhausted all their own funds, they will often ‘beg, borrow and (eventually) steal’ money to continue gambling. A player whose account is constantly ‘topped up’ by people other than themselves may be a problem gambler.

This brief analysis of the extent to which each DSM criterion of problem gambling can be identified online shows that only a few behaviours can be reliably spotted via online behavioural tracking. The following list contains a number of behaviours that are engaged in by online problem gamblers. This was devised and based on my conversations with members of online gaming industry. These are additional to those identified above (i.e., chasing losses, spending high amounts of time and money, and increasing the amount of gambling over time). As a general ‘rule of thumb’, it is assumed that the more of these online behaviours that are engaged in by an individual, the more likely that person is to be a problem gambler.

  • Playing a variety of stakes – Playing a variety of different stakes (in games like online poker) indicates poor planning and may be a cue or precursor to chasing behaviour.
  • Playing a variety of games – Evidence from national prevalence surveys (e.g. Wardle et, al, 2011) demonstrates that the more types of gambling engaged in, the more likely the person is to be a problem gambler. Although this factor on its own is unlikely to indicate problem gambling, when combined with other indicators on this list may be indicative of problem gambling.
  • Player ‘reload’ within gambling session – Although any gambler can engage in such behaviour, players who deposit more money within session (‘reload’) are more likely to be problem gamblers. This indicates poor planning and is a cue to chasing behaviour.
  • Frequent payment method changes – The constant changing of deposit payment methods indicates poor planning and is may be a cue to chasing behaviour. This online behaviour usually indicates shortage of funds and need to extract monies from a variety of sources. Such behaviour can also indicate bank refusal.
  • Verbal aggression – Aggressive verbal interaction via relay chat is common among problem gamblers although any gambler losing money may cause such behaviour. Such behaviour may be evidence of gamblers going on ‘tilt’ (i.e., negative cognitive and emotional reaction to losing) or withdrawal effects if out of money to gamble.
  • Constant complaints to customer services – Constant complaints to the customer service department is common among problem gamblers although any gambler losing money may cause such behaviour. As with verbal aggression, such behaviour may be evidence of gamblers going on ‘tilt’ (i.e., negative cognitive and emotional reaction to losing).

Clearly, each of these behaviours needs to be examined in relation to at least three or four other indicative behaviours. Perhaps most importantly, and according to online gambling companies who use socially responsible behavioural tracking tools, it is a significant change in usual online behaviour that is most indicative of a problem gambler. Most statistical modelling of player behaviour predicts future problematic behaviour on the basis of behavioural change over time. The behaviours highlighted suggest that screening instruments in the future may be able to be developed that concentrate on the gambling behaviour itself, rather than the associated negative consequences.

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.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). An empirical investigation of theoretical loss and gambling intensity. Journal of Gambling Studies, in press.

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

Dragicevic, S., Tsogas, G., & Kudic, A. (2011). Analysis of casino online gambling data in relation to behavioural risk markers for high-risk gambling and player protection. International Gambling Studies, 11, 377–391.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Social responsibility in gambling: The implications of real-time behavioural tracking. Casino and Gaming International, 5(3), 99-104.

Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2011). Approaches to understanding online versus offline gaming impacts. Casino and Gaming International, 7(3), 45-48.

Griffiths, M.D. & Whitty, M.W. (2010). Online behavioural tracking in Internet gambling research: Ethical and methodological issues. International Journal of Internet Research Ethics, 3, 104-117.

LaBrie, R.A., Kaplan, S., LaPlante, D.A., Nelson, S.E., & Shaffer, H.J. (2008). Inside the virtual casino: A prospective longitudinal study of Internet casino gambling. European Journal of Public Health, DOI:10.1093/eurpub/ckn021.

LaPlante, D.A., Kleschinsky, J.H., LaBrie, R.A., Nelson, S.E. & Shaffer, H.J. (2009). Sitting at the virtual poker table: A prospective epidemiological study of actual Internet poker gambling behavior. Computers in Human Behavior 25, 711-717.

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

Facial a-hair-ness: A brief look at pogonophilia

“Beards are like Marmite…you either love them or you hate them. Perhaps that’s why the gossip magazines go crazy when celebs like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp take the natural approach to facial hair. For some beard afficianados, however, the love of beards goes one step further. Gay men and straight women alike with beard fetish, or pogonophilia, think there’s nothing more sexually attractive than a man with at least a five o’clock shadow”  (Philia Phrenzy, May 2011).

In a previous blog, I looked at trichophilia, which according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, is a sexual paraphilia (sometimes called trichopathophilia, hirsutophilia, and/or hair fetishism) in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from human hair (most commonly head hair). In that blog I also made reference to various sub-types of trichophilia including pogonophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from beards. As with trichophilia more generally, the source of sexual arousal in pogonophilia may be derived from viewing, touching, or (in extreme cases) eating beard hair. A few online definitions of pogonophilia claim that it is abnormal affection towards beards”. The online Urban Dictionary defines pogonophilia as:

“The admiration or promotion of people, usually males, who wear a facial beard. From pogon, Greek for beard”

Surprisingly, pogonophilia as an individual sexual paraphilia is not referred to anywhere in either Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices or Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Dr. Love notes that some hair fetishes are more favoured by particular genders. My own research into pogonophilia appears to indicate that sexual arousal for beards can be found among women and gay men. However, I have yet to come across a single piece of empirical research on the topic. Most of the evidence appears to be anecdotal. For instance, the cult novelist and multi-media artist Kris Saknussemm (who has written about various fetishes) recalled:

Once, interviewing a woman with this fetish, I showed her four pictures of naked men: a well-endowed eighteen-year-old model, an extremely thin bearded man in his early thirties, a heavily muscled former professional athlete in his late forties, and Peter North, the porn star. Asked to choose the most ‘virile and masculine’ of the group, she selected the bearded man instantly. What I didn’t tell her was that the bearded man had terminal cancer and was quite seriously ill. Her selection directly defies the view that our choices of “attractiveness” are driven by an instinctual appraisal of health and reproductive capacity. When I presented a Photoshop-modified picture of the man without his beard, she no longer recognized him. In fact, she was repelled”.

To my knowledge, only one academic has written about beard fetishes at any length. Dr. Mark Johnston published a 2011 book entitled Beard Fetish in Early Modern England. I have to admit I didn’t read the book because from the various online summaries I read, I didn’t think there would be much in the way of psychological insight. For those interested, the book focuses on representations of beards in English Renaissance culture. More specifically:

“(The) study elucidates how fetish objects validate ideological systems of power by materializing complex value in multiple registers. Providing detailed discussions of not only bearded men but also beardless boys, bearded women, and half-bearded hermaphrodites, author Mark Albert Johnston argues that attending closely to early modern English culture’s treatment of the beard as a fetish object ultimately exposes the contingency of categories like sex, gender, age, race, and sexuality…Johnston’s reading of Marxist, Freudian, and anthropological theories of the fetish phenomenon acknowledges their divergent emphases—erotic, economic, racial and religious—while suggesting that the imbrication of diverse registers that fetish accomplishes facilitates its cultural and psychic naturalizing function”.

In my search for information about pogonophilia, I came across a few websites run by self-confessed pogonophiles. For instance, the Girls Who Love Beards Club website is dedicated to women’s love for the beard. The website’s homepage offers what is deemed to be the best advice the website’s owner had ever been given:

A man who can grow a beard is the kind of man you want to be with because a man who has the patience to grow a beard, has the patience to deal with your shit”.

The Pogonologist website focuses on “more-or-less interesting, at-times humorous, and always sporadic musings on the Beard as a Medium of Communication”. The Men With Beards website was started by its owner “to nourish a fetish developed in 2011. It has photos of men, known and unknown, but all with beards”. Unfortunately, none of these dedicated pogonophilic websites provided any information on the psychology or etiology of the fetish. I came across dozens of self-confessed sexual love of beards on many different websites. Again, few of these gave any insight as to how and why they have beard fetishes but do add credence to the existence of the fetish.

  • Extract 1: “I have a thing for beards. I think they are ridiculously sexy and mysterious. A boy can hide any imperfections behind it and it’s an instant invitation for a girl like me to touch a man’s face…I do believe that a beard makes a man ten times more attractive than without. Add some glasses and floppy hair, and I’m already imagining you naked”
  • Extract 2: “I don’t know what it is, but I feel this fire burning almost, inside me when I see, or am around a male with a beard. I think it’s absolutely attractive. The sexiest part to a man…I get so excited. It’s odd, but I can’t help it. All my friends think I’m ‘messed up’ that I would be physically and sexually attracted to men with facial hair. I once thought Jesus Christ was sexy, because of his beard. It’s odd”
  • Extract 3: The fixation on bearded men. Guilty as charged. I dig facial hair on men. However I think this is more a preference rather than a fetish. I don’t eliminate men that I date based on their facial hair. Also maybe it’s only a fetish if you can’t sleep with a man or get aroused unless he has a beard”.
  • Extract 4: I have a thing for guys with beards (not the Santa kind of ones, but the not-shaved-for-some-days kind). Unfortunately in this country, the gay guys here have a strange perception ‘HAIR = BAD’…In fact, I am ONLY attracted to guys with le facial hair”
  • Extract 5: “I’m a gay guy and for me a guy’s gotta have [a beard] for it to work. It can be a full beard, mustache, goatee, a soul patch or even 5 o’clock shadow, but there’s gotta be something for it to work for me! My partner of 10 years has a great, neatly trimmed full beard and mustache and he always laughs because he says that even after 10 years together he says that more often than not, when we chat I’m looking at his ‘stache or beard more than into his eyes. I dunno what it is; it’s really masculine and sexy to me, and when a guy with facial hair kisses you or nuzzles your neck – wow!”
  • Extract 6: “I have a confession. I have a fetish….It’s a beard fetish. That’s right – beards excite me, and frankly I don’t think this particular fetish gets enough media attention. Maybe it’s because fetishes are, in general, associated with men, and a beard fetish [is] primarily a chick thing, although I’m sure there are a number of gay men who are familiar with beard power”.
  • Extract 7: “I can’t get enough of [beards]. Some are just down right sexy. They do turn me on so much. MMMMM. They are just wonderful and tasty”

One of the more detailed insights I came across was written by E. Bealmear (a female) in an article simply entitled The Beard Fetish. Below is a small extract which suggests the origin of the fetish began in childhood and was most likely based on the fact that her father had a beard (and was obviously someone she loved):

“Now, I’m not talking about just any kind of facial hair. A mustache never put a bop in my hop…A goatee is a step in the right direction…If you’re interested in seeing a beard that knows how to work it, look no further than the actor Jason Lee…His perfectly shaped beard makes even a silly movie like Vanilla Sky worth watching…I can’t say for sure where or when my beard fetish began, but I have a fairly good idea, and I’m almost ashamed of myself because it’s such a Freudian cliché. My father had a beard while I was growing up, a dark-haired beard, my favorite kind, and much as I hate to admit it, I’m sure that’s the reason I find myself planet struck when I see one. My sister and our friend Holly, whose father also has a beard, have the same sort of peculiar attraction toward facial hair. We constantly badger our male friends and co-workers, telling them that they should grow one, and we spend way too much time imaging what they would look like if they actually indulged our fantasies. It is sort of bizarre; the power beards have over me. I’m such a sucker for facial hair that often my attraction level is completely based around whether a man picks up a razor that morning or not…Men with beards are what I think about when I’m not wearing underwear…I know a number of women who are turned off by beards…Frankly, I don’t really understand these beard hating women, given the fact that beards are part of our primal history”.

Sean Johnson has also produced a series of gay “Beard Love” videos because of his self-admitted fascination with facial hair on men and it’s connection to society. He wrote in an online article on ‘beard love’ that:

“The connection I make with facial hair is that it is usually worn by men of power: the father, the leader, and other iconic masculine figures throughout history, fantasy, and mythology.  This idea of power in the wearer of the beard connects to many ideas I have about masculinity and manliness.  Taking these ideas, I have looked at the way men and facial hair are both connected to masculinity, and how the beard has become fetishized by the bear community. I see the homosexual man with facial hair as a symbol for this masculinity that has been stripped from mainstream gay culture (especially American gay culture).  The queer bearded man then becomes the icon of masculinity and representation of what I feel is somewhat lacking in gay culture. Aside from the social fetish connection to masculinity, I feel that the beard and the role of the father are connected with a form of dominance in the family…The beard is clearly a fetish for me as well.  I love the way it feels on a man’s face, I love how it can grow, change shape, color, size, and make a man look older than he is.  These differences are all dependent on the wearer (how he decides to manipulate his beard’s features), and the shaping and growth of it allows a person to change their look and ultimately their identity, making the way they are viewed by others changeable and fluid”.

As with many other sexual paraphilias and fetishes that I have examined in my blog, we know next to nothing about the incidence, prevalence, and etiology of pogonophilia, and in all honesty, we may never know. Although I am personally interested on the psychology of beards (for obvious reasons given my photos at the top of the page), I doubt pogonophilia will be a topic that ever gets priority in calls for research funding.

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.

The Atlantic (2009). Pogonophilia: Busted. July 12. Located at: http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2009/07/pogonophilia-busted/198899/

Cotton, K. (2011). Who can resist a man with a beard? Philia Phrenzy, May 11. Located at: http://philia-phrenzy.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/who-can-resist-man-with-beard.html

Johnston, M.A. (2011). Beard Fetish in Early Modern England. London: Ashgate.

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

Virgin on the ridiculous? A brief look at harmatophilia and parthenophilia

One of the more unusual paraphilias I have come across in my reading is harmatophilia. Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices defines harmatophilia as individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from sexual incompetence or mistakes, usually in female partner. Other definitions I have come across are similar such as the Sensual Swingers website that defines harmatophilia as sexual arousal “from a sexually inadequate partner” whereas the Inspire Jessamae website simply says it is a “penchant for partners who are useless in bed”. The Right Diagnosis online medical website describes harmatophilia more widely as referring to (i) sexual urges, arousal or fantasies involving breaking rules or making mistakes, and (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving breaking rules or making mistakes. However, there is a general consensus amongst most harmatophilia definitions that the mistakes that are most sexually arousing are from sexual inadequacy and/or sexual incompetence. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices notes that:

“Harmatophilia refers to one who is aroused by mistakes or rules being broken…A great majority of men are aroused by their partner having less sexual knowledge or competence than themselves. This bolsters their self-esteem and makes them feel more secure in the relationship. Of course, this preference for sexually inept females can cause some women to either feign incompetence or prevent them from wanting to experiment or learn more about sex”.

As far as I am aware, there is absolutely no empirical evidence relating to harmatophilia – not even a single case study (although all mentions I have come across assume that it is predominantly male-based), so this appears to be yet another sexual paraphilia that has been created as a theoretical opposite to a legitimately known phobia (i.e., harmatophobia that refers to those people who have an abnormal fear surrounding sin, and making errors and mistakes). However, there is another sexual paraphilia that might be psychologically and conceptually similar to harmatophilia, and that is parthenophilia, which Dr. Aggrawal defines as individuals who are sexually attracted to (and aroused by) virgins.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices noted that sex with a virgin is avoided by some people while other individuals “find it novel, feeling honored, enjoy the feeling of power in defiling a virgin, are relieved that they cannot be compared with anyone else, or have a religious ethic that would create prejudice against a partner who was not a virgin”. She also cites some evidence that some brothels and bordellos often catered to men who paid extra to have sex with a virgin female. A brief entry on parthenophilia at the London Fetish Scene website claims that In 18th and 19th century England “there was a somewhat sordid trade in the prostitution of girls or young women who were claimed to be virgins (often involving the attempted reconstruction of the hymen in order to obtain a high price for her deflowering more than once)”. There is an implicit assumption that such practices no longer exist but I have come across more contemporary anecdotal accounts that suggest that some men who regularly visit prostitutes prefer virgins and are willing to pay extra for such a service.

The historian and writer Hanne Blank made a few references to parthenophilia in her 2007 book Virgin: The Untouched History. She describes parthenophilia as “a pronounced sexual interest in virginity or virgins” and that it “is a genuine, observable sexual predilection”. Although she admits there are no studies on the topic, she then goes on to note that:

“The reason I propose we have for so long lacked a term for this particular erotic attraction is that unlike sexual interest in children, a sexual interest in virgins is something our culture considers normal, acceptable, and ideologically correct….We do not know how many people experience it. We do not know when the desire begins to be felt, whether those feel it perceive it as an innate or learned preference. We have no idea how many people have pursued specific sexual encounters on account of this desire, or what kind of sexual encounters they have pursued. No research into its possible role in motivating sexual assault or abuse has been conducted. We do not know to what extent it does or does not play a role in child sexual abuse or child prostitution. Even Sigmund Freud did little more than glance at it”.

There are a few online articles that write about the ‘virginity fetish’ (such as Tracy Clark-Forty’s article for Salon magazine, and Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell’s article in The Twelve) but none of these really concern virginity fetish as such as they are more concerned with the ‘purity’ movement (i.e., people not having sex until they get married) and the ‘fight against pornography’. There are also various online discussions on online sexual forums that discuss parthenophilia (although no-one actually calls it that). For instance, one man posted a question asking if anyone had a virgin fetish and it generated some interesting responses. Here are two extracts:

  • Extract 1: “I have a virgin fetish, but with real virgins! (Born again virgins don’t count!) (Pretending is not the same either!). And not just any virgins, Asian girl virgins!” (Cy83rDra90n).
  • Extract 2: “To tell the truth, this sounds at least very disrespectful, and kind of sick to me. It’s a stereotypical behavior that women have complained about and fought against for centuries. If you’re just looking to carve notches, I think your virgin partners should have a chance to carve a notch also – and I could suggest where they should carve it” (daletom)

According to the Right Diagnosis website, treatment for harmatophilia (and by default parthenophilia) is “generally not sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way and they feel compelled to address their condition”. If harmatophiles and/or parthenophiles exist, it would appear that they accept their fetish and manage to achieve gratification in an appropriate and non-problematic 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.

Blank, H. (2007). Virgin: The Untouched History. New York: Bloomsbury.

Clark-Forty, T. (2009). The virginity fettish. Salon, May 16. Located at: http://www.salon.com/2009/05/16/purity_myth/

Cotton, K. (2007). Harmatophilia heaven. Philia Phrenzy, March 2. Located at: http://philia-phrenzy.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/harmatophilia-heaven.html

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

Mathonnet-VanderWell, S. (2012). Virgin fetish. The Twelve, April 24. Located at: http://the12.squarespace.com/steve-mathonnet-vanderwell/2012/4/24/virgin-fetish.html

Right Diagnosis (2012). What is harmatophilia? November 6. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/h/harmatophilia/basics.htm