Monthly Archives: January 2014

The worm that turned on: A beginner’s guide to vermiphilia

In previous blogs I have looked at various sexually zoophilic behaviours relating to ‘creepy crawlies’ of one description or another including ants, bees, and wasps (for instance, my blog on formicophilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from insects crawling and/or nibbling on the individual’s genitals). Today’s blog looks at ‘worm sex’ and has been referred to by various different names including vermiphilia, helminthophilia and scoleciphilia (abnormal affection towards worms and/or being infested with worms), along with sub-variants such as taeniophilia /teniophilia (i.e., abnormal affection for tapeworms). None of these sexually paraphilic terms appears in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices.

The words for these alleged sexual practices are in many online A-Z lists of sexual paraphilias and appear to have bee derived from the opposite phobic behaviours (i.e., helminthophobia, scoleciphobia or vermiphobia are all defined as the fear of worms and/or the fear of infestation of worms). For the remainder of this article I will use the term ‘vermophilia’ as I have come across a lot of people in the academic biological worm world using the word ‘vermophilic’ to describe an intense liking for worms (although this appears to be used in the context of having an academic research-like interest in them rather than anything sexual).

It will probably come as no surprise that there is no academic literature on vermiphilia and all the material I have collated in today’s blog can be best described as anecdotal. The only article of any length I have come across on the topic of vermiphilia is by Daikichi Amano who penned an article simply entitled ‘Worm Sex’ for Bizarre magazine (a magazine that I too have written for on a number of sexual paraphilias including hypoxyphilia and apotemnophilia). The article is basically a case study about the owner of the Japanese company called Genki (check out the website here, but please be warned it is very sexually explicit; I also mentioned Genki in a previous blog on formicophilia and described it as a style of erotic art and pornography that features women covered with various creatures – typically insects or small sea creatures). The article actually spends more time talking about the Genki owner’s haemorrhoids and his quest for anal orgasm, but he did write that that:

“I direct films that involve women in sexual congress with all kinds of living sea creatures and reptiles, including dojo loaches, earthworms, frogs, sea cucumbers, octopi and even an anaconda. I didn’t really have any kind of grand concept behind making these films, except I want to make people amazed. And also make something I wanted to watch; at the end of the day, I’m just a very selfish person. This month, I shot a new film featuring mealworms and earthworms. I bought 30kg of them and used them all. I felt bad for the actress but they weren’t cheap, and I’d spent more of the budget on the worms than the actress. Did you know mealworms bite? Apparently, they do and, according to the actress, it’s really painful!”

Looking at this written confession along with some of the films at his Genki website, it’s obvious that as a film director he clearly makes these films for his own (presumably sexual) pleasure and that the actresses who participate appear to get nothing from the act apart from being paid (at least I hope they are getting paid). Whether others watching derive any sexual pleasure and arousal is highly debatable. I would also argue that there are sexually sadistic undertones to the whole process and practice of naked females having worms placed and put into their genital orifices. However, this practice is not restricted to women as I have also found guides to ‘worm torture’ being used within gay sadomasochistic practices in online ‘dehumanization’ sex games (such as those at the Berlin Queer website). Outside of the sadomasochistic scene, I came across this online snippet from a man who claimed:

“I have an odd desire to bathe in a tub full of earthworms, having them squirming all over my body, especially on my [private] parts. Is this safe to try? Is this a common desire?”

In response to this, someone responded:

“Be careful what you wish for. If they are sterile then yes, in theory it’s OK, assuming you can obtain enough to even cover the bottom of the tub. But, you might like to consider that worms have a way of tunnelling into any orifice and the last thing you want is any to invade your body and take up residence, because they could tunnel through into your blood stream and then invade your organs, leading to all kinds of medical problems”.

Another [presumably Japanese] man (an online gamer named ‘Yuri-miki’) had stumbled upon the Genko website and admitted to others in

“I’ve started to consider ‘worms’ as a fetish. But I am not sure whether it is safe or not, so I am here to inquire about that, hopefully some of you might be knowledgeable enough to tell me what’s safe and what isn’t? Currently I have a cautious disposition to believing that worms are completely harmless, no matter what you do?…Earlier today I bought a bundle of 24 worms…I took them all out of the dirt-stuff they came in, washed them, and watched as they squiggled around in a puddle of clean water. The water soon after became a little dirty, and I wondered why. After I put a bundle into my mouth, I felt as they were squiggling around there, trying to either escape or enter down my throat. It was such a weird sensation! I wanted to bite onto them but I didn’t, I was scared that their insides could contain bacteria? When I spat them back into the bowl I opened my mouth and my tongue and teeth were completely covered in worm poop!! I have yet to put them into my ahem or anus. I’m too scared, that’s why I need your help!”

Someone else at the Get Dare online discussion forum claimed that:

“I have a huge fetish of snakes, slugs, worms, eels, etc. My limits: no human sex, I cannot die, no other animals besides things that are slimy, very scaly, or serpentine, no burning down my house. My likes: snake insertion, worm insertion, eel insertion, snake pumping, worm pumping, eel pumping, long insertions (like 30 feet of a green anaconda, yes I have a permit), filling my womb with snakes, eels, and worms, the largest width I will go is a foot across at the very most”.

Obviously I have no way of verifying this or other claims made above but I did find dozens of online video clips of things I’d rather not have seen. Online there are videos that cater for both straight lovers of worm sex (such as those on the Heavy-R website and spin-off webpages) and gay lovers of worm sex (such as those at the PornMD and Gaybeast websites – please be warned all of these links are very sexually explicit). There are also video clips that involve maggots rather than worms that are identical in all but the creature used in a sexual manner. (If you think I’m making all this up – I’m not).

Finally. I feel duty bound to add there is one other type of sexual fetishism that I covered in a previous blog that involves worms, and that is crush fetishism (i.e., a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from watching – or fantasizing about – someone of the opposite sex crushing [e.g., toys, cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops], food (e.g., fruit), and [in extreme cases] small animals and insects). In the case of crushing living organisms, I noted in a previous blog that the acts of killing could be viewed as acts of zoosadism (because of the sexual element). However, the person doing the killing of the animals is usually paid for their ‘services’ and does not appear to get any sexual satisfaction from the act itself. It is the person watching the ‘crush’ videos that typically derive the sexual pleasure from it. In this sense, I argued that the act could be described as a type of ‘zoosadism-by-proxy’ (at least that’s my own take on this).

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.

Amano, D. (undated). Worm sex. Bizarre. Located at: http://www.bizarremag.com/fetish/interviews/6055/worm_sex.html?xc=1

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Dewaraja, R. & Money, J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 139-145.

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

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

A world of disc-overy: Record collecting as an addiction

Regular readers of my blog will know that (a) some of my friends describe me as a music obsessive and (b) that I have written blogs on both compulsive hoarding and ‘collecting’ as an addiction‘ (including a separate blog on murderabilia). Today’s blog briefly looks at a really interesting 2008 paper I came across on ‘record collecting’ as an addiction written by Professor Kevin Moist in the journal Studies in Popular Culture. (Moist also has a new co-edited book – Contemporary Collecting: Objects, Practices, and the Fate of Things – that has just been published by Scarecrow Press).

According to research papers and books by Dr. Russell Belk, around one in three people in the United States collects something – yet one of the observations that Moist makes is that collectors (in general and not just relating to record collectors) are often portrayed negatively as obsessive, socially maladjusted oddballs in thrall to acquisitive drives”. I have to admit that those closest to me certainly see my passionate interest in collecting music by certain recording artists as “obsessive” (although arguably not “socially maladjusted”). I’ve also been described as “no different to a trainspotter” (but said in such a way that it obviously relates to something negative).

Research by Dr. Susan Pearce (published in her 1998 book Contemporary Collecting in Britain) shows that collectors as a group are “quite average, socially speaking”. Additionally, Dr. Belk claims that the image of a ‘collector’ acts as “an unwitting metaphor for our own fears of unbridled materialism in the marketplace”. Belk then goes on to say that his research has led him to the conclusion that collectors cherish things about objects “that few others appreciate” and are not necessarily materialistic in their motivations for collecting. Belk also talks about collecting behaviour being on a continuum of the ‘heroic passionate’ collector at one end of the spectrum and the ‘obsessive-compulsive type’ at the other with most collectors falling somewhere between the two. I briefly dealt with the motivations to collect things in my previous blog but in her book Museums, Objects, and Collections, Dr. Pearce argues collecting falls into three distinct (but sometimes overlapping) types. As Moist summarizes:

“One of these she calls ‘souvenirs’, items or objects that have significance primarily as reminders of an individual’s or group’s experiences. The second mode is what she calls ‘fetish objects’ (conflating the anthropological and psychological senses of the term), relating primarily to the personality of the collector; the collector’s own desires lead to the accumulation of objects that feed back into those desires, with the collection playing a central role in defining the personality of the collector, memorializing the development of a personal interest or passion. The third mode, ‘systematics’, has the broader goal of creating a set of objects that expresses some larger meaning. Systematic collecting involves a stronger element of consciously presenting an idea, seen from a particular point of view and expressed via the cultural world of objects”.

When it comes to record collecting, I appear to most fit the second (i.e., fetish) type. The artists that I collect are an extension of my own personality and say something about me. My tastes are diverse and eclectic (to say the least) and range from the obvious ‘classic’ artists (Beatles, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed), the not so obvious (Adam Ant, The Smiths, Bauhaus, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Divine Comedy), the arguably obscure (Art of Noise, John Foxx, Propaganda, David Sylvian, Nico) and the downright extreme (Throbbing Gristle, Velvet Underground). Arguably, most people’s conceptions of record collecting (if they are not collectors themselves) are likely to be based on media and cultural representations of such individuals (such as John Cusack and Jack Black in High Fidelity, or Steve Buscemi in Ghost World). I agree with Professor Moist who asserts:

“Most record collectors fit well within Belk’s definition, passionately acquiring sets of records both as objects and cultural experiences. As with most types of collecting, the ‘thrill of the chase’ is a major part of the experience…[However] today, with eBay and other online resources, the amount of time required for the hunt has been reduced, and collecting is also less of a face-to-face social activity since one can search in private rather than actually traveling to find records…Music writer Simon Reynolds notes that record collecting also ‘involves the accumulation of data as well as artifacts’, a factor that can be seen in magazines devoted to record collecting such as Goldmine and Record Collector, and that has only increased as collecting has gone online”.

The above paragraph could have been written about me. I am one of those record collectors that collect as much for the cultural experience as for the object itself. I have loads of mint condition singles and LPs that I haven’t even played (but listen to the music on my i-Pod). I have bought Record Collector magazine every month for over 30 years and have never missed an issue. Every month I buy a wide range of other music magazines including Mojo, Q, Uncut, Vive Le Rock, Classic Rock and Classic Pop (as well as the occasional issue of Rolling Stone, NME, The Wire, Future Music and Shindig). In short, almost a lot of my disposable income goes on buying music or reading music. My records, CDs and music magazines can be found in almost every room in my house. To me, my collection is priceless (and I mean that in an emotional sense rather than a financial one). I am an archivist of the artists I collect as much as a collector. Professor Moist comments that: “While such fanatical and obsessed collectors do exist…they are clearly outliers on the scale of collecting passion…For such people collecting is a real problem”. However, I am a true fanatic of music but don’t believe I am addicted (based on my own criteria). My love of music and collecting it adds to my life rather than takes away from it. As Moist also notes (and which I again wholeheartedly agree:

“Most record collectors collect as much for the content as for the object: one is far less likely to find a collector whose collecting criteria is ‘records with yellow labels’ than to find one whose focus is ‘west coast jazz’ or ‘pre-war blues’. Collectors might follow particular artists (Charlie Parker, the Sex Pistols), musical genres (reggae, soul, classical), records from certain cultural/geographic areas (New Orleans, South Africa), records from specific labels (Sun, Stax, Rough Trade), records for special types of use (sound effects, ‘library’ music), records from a historical era (the 1960s), records with covers by particular graphic artists, special editions of records (first/original pressings are again popular), particular types of records (45s, LPs), records that embody memory on a more personal scale (those played by a favorite local DJ, or listened to in one’s youth, etc.), and many more besides. For many collectors, records’ status as bearers of personal and/or collective meaning is most significant”.

Moist’s chapter also features a number of case studies of people that appear to be addicted to record collecting – an activity that completely takes over (and conflicts with) almost every area of their lives. Moist concludes:

“Is there something about recorded music that lends itself to this sort of collecting? It could be that records’ dual levels of significance – objects themselves, and materializations of sound – make such types of activity more likely, that the status and possibilities of the object itself provide for certain approaches to collecting it…more research is needed on other types of collecting before such conclusions can be reached, though certainly the era of mass production has seen popular collecting expand greatly, and the digital era should see even further changes”.

I (for one) would love to carry out research in the area of record collecting but I guess I would get little research funding to carry out such studies. To me, the psychology of record collecting is fascinating but I know only too well that most others I know simply cannot fathom what it is I love about music and collecting music.

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

Further reading

Belk, R.W. (1995). Collecting as luxury consumption: Effects on individuals and households. Journal of Economic Psychology, 16(3), 477-490.

Belk, R.W. (2001). Collecting in a Consumer Society. New York: Routledge.

Moist, K. (2008). “To renew the Old World”: Record collecting as cultural production. Studies in Popular Culture, 31(1), 99-122.

Pearce, S. (1993). Museums, Objects, and Collections. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Pearce, S. (1998). Contemporary Collecting in Britain. London: Sage.

Reynolds, S. (2004). Lost in music: Obsessive music collecting. In E. Weisbard (Ed.), This Is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project (pp.289-307). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Within you, without you: Where does addiction reside?

In 1984, Dr. Milton Burglass and Dr. Howard Shaffer published a paper in the journal Addictive Behaviors and claimed that arguably the important questions in the addiction field are ‘why do people become addicted to some things and not others?’ and ‘why some people become addicted and not others?’ Answers to these questions have been hindered by two common misconceptions about addiction, which to some extent have underpinned the ‘hard core’ disease concept of addiction. These are that addiction somehow resides within: (i) particular types of people or (ii) particular substances, and/or particular kinds of activity. That is, either some people are already ‘diseased,’ or else some substances/ activities cause this disease, or both.

There is a belief that some people are destined to become addicted. Typically this is explained in one (or both) of two ways. That some people (i.e., ‘addicts’) have an addictive personality, and that there is a genetic basis for addiction. The evidence for ‘addictive personality’ rests to a certain extent upon one’s faith in the validity of psychometric testing. Setting aside this major hurdle, the evidence in this area (as I argued with my colleagues Dr. Michael Larkin and Dr. Richard Wood in a 2006 issue of Addiction Research and Theory [ART]) is still inconclusive and contradictory.

First, psychologists have yet to determine which particular personality traits are linked to addiction. Studies have claimed that ‘the addictive personality’ may be characterized by a wide range of factors (e.g., sensation-seeking, novelty-seeking, extroversion, locus-of-control preferences, major traumatic life events, learned behaviours, etc.). The extent of this range stretches not only the notion of an ‘addictive personality’ but also the concept of ‘personality’ itself. Inevitably, much of this work relies on correlation analysis, and so the interpretation of results is not easily framed in terms of cause and effect. The approach is overly simplistic and is underpinned by a simple proposition that if we can divide people up into the right groups, then the explanation will emerge. However, addiction is far more complex than this. Of course, the relationship between individual bodies, minds, contexts, and life histories is complex and important – but it requires that we approach the matter from a more sophisticated and integrative position.

The search for a genetic basis for addiction rests upon the notion that some types of individuals are somehow ‘biologically wired’ to become addicts. In our 2006 ART paper, we argued that we must set aside any doubts about the limited conceptualization of ‘the environment’ that often typifies this kind of research, and its combination with epidemiological designs that are largely descriptive. Meta-analytic reviews have concluded that the heritability of addictive behaviour is likely to be controlled by many genes each contributing a small fraction of the overall risk. Furthermore, some of these same genes appear to be risk factors for other problems, some of them conceptually unrelated to addiction. We argued that the main point here is that while these findings do contribute something to our understanding of ‘why some people and not others,’ they do not adequately or independently explain the range of variation. Therefore the most we can say is that some people are more likely to develop problems under certain conditions, and that given the right conditions most people could probably develop an addiction. Emphasis needs to be placed on identifying those ‘conditions,’ rather than on searching for the narrowest of reductionist explanations.

We also argued in our 2006 ART paper that substances and activities cannot be described as intrinsically addictive in themselves (unless one chooses to define ‘addictive’ in terms of a substance or behaviour’s ability to produce tolerance and/or withdrawal, and to ignore the range of human experience that is excluded by this). Biologists may be able to tell us very valuable things about the psychopharmacological nature of the rewards that particular substances and behaviours provide, and the different kinds of neuroadaptation that they may or may not produce in order to effect tolerance and/or withdrawal. But we argue that this on its own, is not an adequate explanation for addiction. In 1975, Dr. Lee Robins’ classic study (in the Archives of General Psychiatry) of heroin-users returning from the Vietnam war is one example of the evidence that refutes this oversimplification. This study clearly highlighted the importance of context (i.e., that in a war zone environment individuals were addicted to heroin but on return to civilian life the addiction ceased to exist), and the framework provided by such contexts for making sense of addiction. In a hostile and threatening environment, opiates clearly provided something not usually required by most people; and given a cultural environment in which opiate use is a commonplace, and opiates are available, then opiate use ‘makes sense’. This study provides support for the assertion that some people are more likely to become addicted under some conditions, and that given the right conditions perhaps many people could understand what it means to be an addict.

So, with regard to the question, ‘why some individuals/addictions and not others?’ the rewards associated with various activities may be qualitatively very different, and may not necessarily be inherent or unique to a particular activity or substance, either. Many rewarding activities are rewarding because they present individuals with opportunities to ‘shift’ their own subjective experience of themselves (for example, see the research on Ecstasy use and bungee jumping that I published with Dr. Michael Larkin in a 2004 issue of the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology).

Frequently, a range of such opportunities is offered to the experienced user. Dr. Howard Shaffer (in a 1996 paper in the Journal of Gambling Studies) has pointed out that those activities that can be most relied upon to shift self-experience in a robust manner are likely to be the most popular – and (as a consequence) to be the most frequent basis of problems. So, obviously, our understanding of the available resources for mood modification must play a major part in understanding addiction. However, we must make a careful distinction between describing some substances as being more ‘robust shifters of experience’ than others (as we advocated in our 2006 ART paper) and describing some substances as ‘more addictive’ than others (which we argued against).

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

Further reading

Burglass, M.E. & Shaffer, H.J. (1984). Diagnosis in the addictions I: Conceptual problems. Addictive Behaviors, 3, 19-34.

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

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Behavioural addiction: The case for a biopsychosocial approach. Transgressive Culture, 1(1), 7-28.

Griffiths, M.D. & Larkin, M. (2004). Conceptualizing addiction: The case for a ‘complex systems’ account. Addiction Research and Theory, 12, 99-102.

Larkin, M., Wood, R.T.A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Towards addiction as relationship. Addiction Research and Theory, 14, 207-215.

Orford, J. (2001). Excessive Appetites: A Psychological View of the Addictions (Second Edition). Chichester: Wiley.

Robins, L.N, Helzer, J.E, & Davis, D.H (1975) Narcotic use in Southeast Asia and afterward. Archives of General Psychiatry, 32, 955-961.

Shaffer, H. J. (1996). Understanding the means and objects of addiction: Technology, the Internet, and gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 12, 461–469.

Tyndale, R.F. (2003). Genetics of alcohol use and tobacco use in humans. Annals of Medicine, 35(2), 94–121.

Walters, G. D. (2002). The heritability of alcohol use and dependence: A meta-analysis of behavior genetic research. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 28, 557–584.