Dance encounter: A beginner’s guide to choreophila

“The rhythm, the feel, the vibrations – god it felt good. Imagine the most static, heated thrill of shivers running through your body right now. Do it. That is what I was feeling in that moment” (from Cubicle Dancing, Literotica website).

The association between dancing and sex has long been known, and many forms of dancing including belly dancing, pole dancing, lap dancing, and (obviously) striptease are erotic and/or sex-based. Furthermore, there are specific types of dance that are thought to be ‘sexy’ in and of themselves (e.g., salsa, rumba, tango, cha-cha, etc.). According to an old aphorism on the Fetipedia website, dance is “the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalised by music” (a quote usually attributed to George Bernard Shaw by jazz musician and journalist George Melly in an article in the New Statesman magazine on dancing and discotheques dating back to March 1962).

In a previous blog I examined dancing as an addiction, but for some people, a desire for dancing may form the basis of a sexual paraphilia (i.e., choreophilia). Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices book and Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices define choreophilia simply as “sexual arousal from dancing” (although this in and of itself does not necessarily seem to indicate that the behaviour is a sexual paraphilia).

Other definitions of choreophilia appear a little more specific and/or expand on this basic definition. For instance, the online Urban Dictionary add that choreophilia involves dancing to orgasmic release and classes it as a form of masturbation. This is similar to the online Community Dictionary that defines choreophilia as the condition of being sexually aroused when dancing and/or dancing for orgasmic, ecstatic, or spiritual pleasure. The Right Diagnosis online medical site says that choreophilia refers to sexual urges, preferences or fantasies involving dancing including: (i) sexual interest in dancing, (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving dancing, and/or (iii) recurring intense sexual urges. A more niche online website (Gay Pop Culture) defines choreophilia as ranging from feeling sexual arousal at seeing someone dancing to achieving an orgasmic like response to your own dancing. They also claim that the latter “though often disguised, has been a part of ecstatic rituals for millennia. Skilled and flexible people may include dance moves during sexual penetration”.

Dr. Brenda Love notes in an entry on choreophilia in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices that sex and dance have long been associated as many historical dancing rituals from around the world were performed as worship to fertility gods (of which the modern day Hawaiian hula dance is a typical example). She also notes that music and dance are often combined to enhance erotic excitement and that such behaviours were often prohibited during times of repressive religious rule. She also quoted some text from the French pastor and theologian Jean Calvin (1509-1564) who denounced dancing by claiming it was the ‘chief mischief of all mischiefs’ and that dancing ‘stirreth up lust’. There are also historical accounts suggesting that people who danced for sexual reasons at festivals were demonically possessed. As Dr. Love noted:

“Many ancient festivals such as Dionysia, Bacchanalia, May Day, Saturnalia, feast of Fools, and Carnival, encouraged people to dance until they reached a state of euphoria. Catholic clergy often condemned dancing and other forbidden games in their churchyards during these festivals. (It seems that missionaries made a practice of building their churches over pagan altars, therefore during festivals people would naturally gather to these sites). The Arab Sufis, or whirling dervishes, Wiccans, American Indians, various African tribes, and the Sadhus of India, all use dancing to induce a euphoric trance. Christian groups such as the Quakers and Shakers did this as well”.

In a separate entry on ‘belly dancing’, Dr. Love notes that this form of dancing is a modern version of an ancient religious dance signifying sex and childbirth (i.e., another form of fertility dance). Her research indicated that belly dancing can be traced back through history in places such as Greece, Turkey, and various African countries (e.g., Egypt). In the US, it is widely believed that belly dancing was introduced at the Chicago World Fair in 1893 by New York politician Sol Bloom (and re-named the ‘hoochie-coochie’ dance). Based on the 1963 book Cradle of Erotica (by Allen Edwardes and R.E.L. Masters), Dr. Love also pointed out:

“One of the earlier forms of the belly dance was called the ‘awalem’ and was used as sex education for newlyweds in Egypt. The dancer(s) would stand on one spot and imitate the different sexual movements required for coitus. A second ancient dance, the ‘ghaziyeh’ had only dancers with a scarf or piece of cloth that they would swirl around and pull back and forth against their genitals until orgasm. The dancers were females who had clitoridectomies performed while young and therefore had to stimulate their genitals by intense and prolonged rubbing. Unlike silent belly dancers, these women would scream and moan like wild beasts until orgasm was reached; it was not until then that the dance ended and the orgy began”.

In the entry on belly dancing, Dr. Love also unearthed an interesting nugget from an 1898 book by Jacobus X called Untrodden Fields of Anthropology that outlined another form of sexual dancing performed by Senegalese people in Africa:

“In the anamalis fubil, the dancer in his movements, imitates the copulation of the great Indian duck. This drake has a member of a corkscrew shape, and a particular movement. The woman, for her part, tucks up her clothes, and convulsively agitates the lower part of her body by the motion of her haunches; she alternatively shows her partner her vulva, and hides it from him, by a regular movement, backwards and forwards, of the body”.

In more contemporary times, Dr. Love claimed that modern dance halls had their roots in sexual practices. The first US dance halls were founded by bar owners that hired females to dance with their clients (as a way of attracting new and larger numbers of clientele). Some of the hired women were prostitutes who then used the opportunity provided by the bar owners to offer additional sexual services.

An interesting 2012 article by Dr. Peter Lovatt in Psychology Today examined the relationship between sex and dancing, and reported that Charles Darwin believed dance was part of the mate selection process. As empirical evidence for this, Dr. Lovatt also noted that:

“Two groups of researchers (Brown et al., 2005 and Fink et al., 2007) suggest that the way we dance might be influenced by our hormonal and genetic make up, such that we use dance to communicate the quality of our genes to potential mates. In my own lab I have observed similar findings. I filmed people dancing naturally in a real nightclub and I found that men with high levels of the sex hormone testosterone dance differently to men with low levels of testosterone and, most importantly, women prefer the dancing of high testosterone men. Now, if we couple this with the finding that the female sexual partners of high testosterone men report having more orgasms during sex than the sexual partners of low testosterone men we can see how dancing style is well worth looking at when we are looking for a mate”.

As far as I am aware, there is no empirical research on choreophilia although there would appear to be some overlaps with other little researched sexual paraphilia such as melophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from music), podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism in relation to high-heeled dancing shoes), and various types of clothing fetishes. The Right Diagnosis website says that treatment for choreophilia is “generally not sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way and they feel compelled to address their condition”. As with many sexual fetishes and paraphilias, it would appear that choreophiles learn to accept their sexual preference and manage to achieve sexual gratification in a way that is non-problematic.

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.

Cuascud, T. (2012). Dancing could improve your sex life. Mamiverse, July 5. Located at:

Fetipedia (2012). Choreophilia. December 10. Located at:

Lovatt, P. (2012). Sex and Dancing. Psychology Today, March 12. Located ar:

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

Masturbation Mistress (2012). C is for cock stroking and choreophilia. June 6. Located at:

Right Diagnosis (2012). Choreophilia. November 6. Located at:

About drmarkgriffiths

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

Posted on October 2, 2013, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Gender differences, Obsession, Paraphilia, Popular Culture, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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