A lot of hot air? The public’s reaction to eproctophilia
A couple of weeks ago, my case study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior about eproctophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from flatulence), was given press coverage in over 100 newspaper and magazine stories around the world including those in the UK, Ireland, US, Greece, Italy, Germany, Holland, Spain, China, Malaysia, Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana (e.g., New York Daily News, Huffington Post, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, The Sun, Daily Star, Metro, Times of Malta, Irish Examiner, Asian Image, and Cosmopolitan). Although it is not that unusual for one of my research papers to get international press coverage, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of negative and/or somewhat sarcastic coverage I got from some quarters. I lost count of the number of reader responses that used the words “hot air” in their reactions to the story on various news sites. Another write-up of the story that did the rounds on most US radio websites began the article with the sarcastic comment: “Well done, science. I’d put this discovery right up there with the cure for polio and the artificial heart”.
Before my case study hit the popular press, the first person to cover my paper was Marc Abrahams on his Improbable Research (IR) website under the headline “Academic Study of a Young Man’s Sexual Attraction to Human Gas”. For those who don’t know, the underlying philosophy of the IR website is to feature “research that makes people laugh and then think”. While I realize that my eproctophilia case study might inadvertently make people laugh, I never wrote it up to be the object (or should that be subject?) of humour. I genuinely did it to highlight there are no boundaries to the limits of human sexual focus and arousal. Thankfully, Abrahams’ report of my article wasn’t too damning (most probably because he was aware of my gambling research and had written about my career in gambling studies back in a 2010 issue of The Guardian newspaper). The IR story noted that:
“Professor Mark D Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University has published a remarkable new study. Here’s how we know this study is remarkable: The university’s press office sent copies of it to many prominent science journalists, remarking that (1) ‘It’s the world’s first paper on eproctophilia – sexual arousal from flatulence’ and (2) ‘Professor Griffiths would be more than happy to talk to you in more detail’. A remarkable number of those journalists immediately sent it on to us at the Annals of Improbable Research. We are, in this blog entry you are reading right now, remarking upon that study. There is more. Lots more. In other respects, too, Professor Griffiths is an expert. So renowned is he that Wikipedia devoted an entire web page to him. One of the many things on which he is an expert is the academic study of gamblers. We have celebrated some of his abundant work on that subject. (We express our thanks, and other emotions, to the many journalists who instinctively decided that they should alert us to the existence of Professor Griffiths’s new line of research.) BONUS (unrelated): The 1998 Ig Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to Dr. Mara Sidoli of Washington, DC, for her illuminating report, ‘Farting as a Defence Against Unspeakable Dread’ [Journal of Analytical Psychology, vol. 41, no. 2, 1996, pp. 165-78.]”
I also got six emails from those in and around the eproctophile community evenly split between those who (i) thought the newspaper stories had either trivialized their sexual preference and/or were wondering why it had made the news given that the “fetish has been around for ages”, and (ii) thanked me for bringing it to the public’s attention. For instance, one man wrote to me and said:
“I read about your study on flatulence fetish in the Metro and want to thank you for bringing it to the public attention. I have a very coloured past in the sex industry and had many clients with this fetish – each embarrassed about being aroused by flatulence and feeling alone in their fetish. No matter how long I reassured them they would not believe me that there were others out there just like them. It brought a glow to my heart hoping they could find comfort in the article about your study and know they are not alone. They were all very lovely, polite and well educated gentlemen and I thank you deeply for showing them they are not alone”
Another eproctophile wrote to me and said:
“I read an article claiming you have recently published a case study called ‘Eproctophilia in a Young Adult Male’. As someone with eproctophilia, I find the idea of a case study on the subject fascinating…Do you have any ideas on where I can read it? If you have any further questions on the subject, I’d be more than willing to answer. Either way, thanks for your time”.
Given the wide media coverage my case study generated, I didn’t send out a press release and I only did three interviews about the published paper. The first interview I did was with BBC News Online and the very first question I was asked by the journalist was “Is this a serious study?” I then pointed out that the Archives of Sexual Behavior is arguably the best academic journal covering sexuality issues in the world, and that a quick look at my blog would confirm that I am seriously interested in the psychology of sexual paraphilias. After being interviewed at length by the BBC journalist, the story failed to make it onto the BBC’s news website.
The second interview I did was with Lauren Cox for the Live Science website. Unsurprisingly, I thought this was the best story on the topic as this was the only story published where a journalist had actually interviewed me. The only downside was that Cox’ story came out at least 48-72 hours after most of the other media coverage. However, Cox’ story was as much about how the internet was facilitating research on sexual paraphilias as it was about eproctophilia.
One upside of all the press coverage I got was the many additional referrals to my blog. For instance, I got lots of referrals from the Gassy Erotica website (an online fart fetish forum that caters for eproctophiles). I also got referrals from those in the pornography industry who know only too well there is a niche market for eproctophiles. One website that featured my case study was surprised how much press attention I had got given the known demand for eproctophile videos. More specifically, in a section called ‘Fart sniffers’ on the I Shoot Porn website, Billy Watson wrote:
“’Eproctophiles are said to spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about flatulence, and have recurring intense sexual urges and fantasies involving flatulence.’ This from Professor Mark Griffiths’ blog. While I can’t vouch for Dr. Griffiths, recently the ‘world’s [first] recorded case’ of so-called ‘eproctophilia’ has been recorded in a 22-year-old man from Illinois…I could have saved the British psychologist who interviewed Brad a lot of time by showing him the FARTING section over at Clips4Sale. My old pal Cinnamon Love made a nice chunk of change blowing big ones for her C4S clients. Urban Legend has a VHS tape featuring none other than Chuck Berry (Roll Over Beethoven) taking direct blasts from a blonde girl’s ass”.
Just for the record, I am well aware of the Clips4Sale website and have made reference to it in relation to other niche paraphilias in previous blogs (but admittedly not in relation to eproctophilia). So, will these recent experiences put me off publishing more paraphilia papers? In short, no. I am already working on a number of other case study papers but my guess is those will not garner the publicity generated for eproctophilia.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and medico-legal aspects of sexual crimes and unusual sexual practices. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Griffiths, M. D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilia: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.
Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Eproctophilia in a young adult male: A case study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-013-0156-3.
Posted on August 13, 2013, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Obsession, Paraphilia, Pornography, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged Eproctophilia, Fart fetishism, Flatulence fetish, Media coverage, Sexual fetish, Sexual paraphilia. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.