Shape and sighs: A beginner’s guide to morphophilia

Are you the type of person who finds people who are very physically different from you physically and sexually attractive? If you do, you may have be engaged in a sexually paraphilic behaviour known as morphophilia. According to a very simple definition provide by Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, morphophilia refers to the gaining of sexual pleasure and “arousal from a person with a different physique” whereas a definition provided by the less academic Quipper website says it is simply the “love of odd body shapes”.  Dr. Raymond Corsini in his Dictionary of Psychology says that morphophiles are attracted to a partner with bodily characteristics that are different and/or prominent from one’s own.

This therefore suggests that there are various sub-types of morphophilia as it is the marked discrepancy that is the sexually arousing focus. For instance, anasteemaphilia refers to individuals that derive sexual arousal from individuals who are much taller or shorter than themselves (i.e., it is the large difference in height that is the primary source of sexual arousal). I would also argue that sthenolagnia (in which individuals are sexually aroused by very muscular people) may also be a sub-type of morphophilia). This is lightly expanded upon in the online encyclopedia Encyclo that states:

“[Morphophilia]…in psychiatry, a type of sexual perversion in which sexual arousal and orgasm depend upon some discrepancy between the partner’s bodily characteristics and the subject’s; that is, the partner must be markedly thinner or taller than the subject”

The online Gay Slang Dictionary is a little more blunt and describes the condition as a fetish in which the source of sexual arousal is “peculiar body shapes and sizes, such as obese persons, short persons, dwarfism, etc.” As Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified noted in the 2008 book Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment:

“Morphophilia” (from the Greek, morphe, “form”; philia, “love” –Money, 1986) involves an erotic focus on one or more of the body characteristics of one’s sexual partner. Morphophilia appears to include partialism, which is defined as a focus on a single body part…It is unclear from the literature whether these two categories are unique paraphilias or different names for the same paraphilia. Both morphophilia and partialism are differentiated from fetishism, which involves a focus on ‘the use of nonliving objects’ (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).”

Finally, Dr. George Pranzarone’s Dictionary of Sexology has an arguably  more scientific definition and also takes the line that morphophilia is an umbrella term in that it is:

“One of a group of paraphilias of the stigmatic/eligibilic type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent on a partner whose body characteristics are selectively particularized, prominent, or different from one’s own. [Alternative: the bodily characteristics of the partner are selectively particularized, prominent, or essential as a prerequisite to sexuoerotic arousal and the facilitation or attainment of orgasm]”.

As far as I am aware, the only time that morphophilia has been mentioned in the academic literature (outside of general definition) is in relation to feederism where individuals gain sexual arousal, gratification and stimulation through a person’s sexual partner being over-fed  (and which I covered in a previous blog). In my previous blog I mentioned a paper by Dr Lesley Terry and Dr Paul Vasey (both at the University of Lethbridge, Canada) who published an interesting case study of feederism in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The paper claimed that feeders and feedees are individuals who become sexually aroused by eating, being fed, and the by the idea or act of gaining weight. Terry and Vasey noted in their case study of ‘Lisa’ that:

“Like many paraphilic sexual activities, Lisa’s pattern of sexual arousal was characterized by recurrent and intense sexual urges, fantasies, and behaviors that involved unusual activities. Given that much of Lisa‘s sexuality was focused on eroticizing body fat, the question arose as to whether it represented a form of morphophilia…Morphophilia is the peak erotic focus on a particular body characteristic. As such, it is similar to, but distinct from, partialism, which is the peak erotic focus on a particular body part(s) (i.e., legs, feet, breast or buttocks). Morphophilia is an appropriate descriptor of Feederism given that Feederism focuses on the physical characteristic of fat, which does not necessarily have to be associated with a particular body part. This is clearly demonstrated by Lisa’s description of her life-long sexual arousal to fat bodies, in general, as opposed to fat body parts. At the same time, however, Feederism appears to involve the integration of an erotic focus on usual activities (i.e., eating and/or being fed and/or gaining weight), in addition to, an erotic focus on particular body characteristics (i.e., fat). This raises the possibility that it might be a paraphilic form of sexuality that is taxonomically distinct from morphophilia…More research could also be done to ascertain if, and how, Feederism is taxonomically distinct from various forms of morphophilia”.

Personally, (and this is based on my watching of various television documentaries on fat fetishes and feederism), I have observed that most (male) feeders are substantially thinner than (female) feedees, and on this basis it could be argued that the males may also be morphophiles as they appear to be sexually attracted as much to the fat as they are to the feeding. Obviously research is needed to support such claims, as my own views are speculative to say the least.

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.

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., Text Revision). Washington, DC: Author.

Corsini, R.J. (1999). The Dictionary of Psychology. London: Psychology Press.

Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Pranzarone, G.F. (2000). The Dictionary of Sexology. Located at:

Terry, L.L. & Vasey, P.L. (2011). Feederism in a woman. Archives of Sexial Behavior, 40, 639-645.

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 February 5, 2014, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Gender differences, Obsession, Paraphilia, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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