Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sex drives: A beginner’s guide to car cranking and pedal pumping fetishes

While researching previous blogs on both podophilia (sexual arousal from feet) and stuck fetishism (sexual arousal from being stuck and/or stranded), I came across lots of online references to ‘car cranking’ and ‘pedal pumping’. For instance, an online article on the Wiki Answers website reported:

“When a female uses her right foot and constantly presses it down on the gas pedal. She can do it barefoot, hosiery, stilettos, sneakers, socks, sandals, pumps, high heels, boots or any possible footwear may be appealing to one who enjoys this fetish. The female doing the pedal pumping must tap into her dominating self-confidence as she steps on the pedal. She is the one who’s in full control her foot has all the power. Pedal pumping is all about the power of a female using her feet to activate power. Those that enjoy pedal pumping may enjoy a variety of variations to the fetish from watching the pedal pumped with the car engine off, on or in drive/gear”.

Almost all the online articles (and videos) that I have come across appear to indicate that the fetish is primarily male-based with females doing the pedal pumping and car cranking. According to the same Wiki Answers article, there are variations to the source of sexual arousal (i.e., revving, driving, being stuck, and cranking) and such fetishists may be attracted to one or more of these sub-types. The following sub-types are not based on any empirical research but from articles written by those with the fetish.

  • Revving: This refers to a female pumping her foot as hard as she can on the accelerator pedal, holding it down, and showing her full control. Anecdotal evidence also appears to indicate some men are sexually aroused by the fact that the woman has absolute control over the car and (if she so desired) could blow up the engine.
  • Extreme driving: This refers to a female driving a car at top speed and pressing the accelerator pedal to the floor. Some men like the exact opposite (i.e., casual driving) in which the woman gently caresses the accelerator pedal (going up and down).
  • Being stuck: This refers to a female who drives the car off the road and gets herself into situations in which the car is stuck in (say) mud, and has to press the accelerator pedal hard to get herself out of the trapped situation. The car wheels spinning and car not moving may also be a sexual turn-on.
  • Cranking: This refers to the car not starting that leads to the woman having to pump the accelerator pedal as hard as she can in an effort to start the car engine. so she has to pump the gas pedal with the hope that she can prime the engine with gas and it will start. The combination of the female in a position of both power and distress.

There are clearly psychological overlaps with other paraphilic and fetishistic behaviours including podophilia, sexual masochism and submission, sexual sadism and control, and stuck fetishism. The Wiki Answers article also claims that some who have this fetish may become an objectophile and develop sexual feelings for an inanimate object such as a car (that I covered in a previous blog). The article furthermore claims that:

“Those individuals with this expressed preference may feel strong feelings of arousal, attraction, love, and commitment to certain items or structures of their fixation. One if not already attracted to may over time become attracted to the following but not limited to the wheel of the car spinning, engine, exhaust pipe, the gas pedal, the car in whole, the shoes, socks or stockings on the female during the time the pedal pumping incident occurred”.

After reading the article in Wiki Answers, I decided to do some research into the topic and I came across a 2010 article in The Independent newspaper entitled ‘Growing fetish trend: pedal-pumping, revving and cranking’ that described the fetish as “clean, monotonous niche porn that is taking over the web with a big American ‘redneck’ following”. (As you may have gathered, I came across nothing academic whatsoever – not even a case study – so we nothing about incidence, prevalence or etiology). The Independent’s report took much of its text and inspiration from an article in The Daily Beast (DB) by Anneli Rufus. The DB article referenced a number of online websites (such as PumpThatPedal.com, PedalFloored.com, PedalSupreme.com, and PedalPumping.org) featuring a “thousands of video clips showing pedicured feet in sandals and heels pumping the gas pedal of an automobile, preferably a large truck”. Most of the videos cited by Rufus simply feature a woman’s foot on the car accelerator. The articles in both the DB and Independent article included quotes from US sex psychologist Dr. Susan Block who said:

“The basic kinetic movement is a masturbatory motion: the muscles releasing and contracting as the foot rubs repetitively against a phallic symbol, which is the gas pedal. Men think of themselves as cars. The ‘vroom’ of the engine reminds them of their own libidos being revved up by this hot woman. It is a fantasy that can overtake a man’s sexual life. [The women in the videos are] helpless, stuck females overwhelmed by the power of this big, old vehicle. But not all of the women struggle – some of the ladies of pedal-pumping videos rev happily, representing the strong woman bonding with her powerful machine. Each type attracts its own audience. In the end, though, it usually comes down to an irresistible urge to combine a love of feet with a love of horsepower…If they can’t get off without looking at this one very specific thing, it can be awkward [because] they don’t want to have to keep asking their wives to get up in the middle of the night and get into the truck. Most of the pedal-pumping enthusiasts [I’ve worked with] hail from red-state America, because they’re more car- and truck-oriented, and they like to see their women as being more different from men. Conservative guys, working-class guys, like the idea of a very ladylike foot with a perfect pedicure in a big old truck”.

The DB article also interviewed Alexandar Bahunjek who runs a number of websites catering for pedal pumping fetishists including DriveBabes.com, MopedBabes.com and StuckChicks.com. Based on his personal experience and the people who frequent his websites:

“The most important thing is the foot…but beyond that it’s a matter of taste…You also have people who like girls wearing sandals, thigh-high boots, platform shoes. But most of my fans and members like open high heels, where you can see the heels along with the rest of the feet. Also, people like the girls to floor the gas pedals, so it’s a combination of women in sexy outfits and the sound of the engine. Then you have people who love the combination of pedal pumping and engine sounds [and others who like it best] when the women have to pump the pedal fast. For a very sexy video [the most popular choice by far] is an elegantly dressed lady in open high heels. Personally, I like the combination of a sexy girl pushing the pedal – seen as a whole person, not just the feet. I also like high heels, so the combination of sexy girls in high heels sitting in cars I like very much. Pedal pumping is not just for feet lovers or shoe lovers”.

All the articles I have read on pedal pumping and car cranking claim that the fetish is almost exclusively male-based but that a few women also love pedal-pumping (although none of the sources I have read mention whether women like watching other men and/or women pedal pumping). Susan Block was also paraphrased by Rufus as saying:

“Most pedal-pumping enthusiasts started out as run-of-the-mill foot fetishists. They ultimately settled upon a feet-in-cars fixation because it’s not as explicit, and thus safer to watch at work or with family nearby. And it’s easier to find online, often for free, than hardcore foot-fetish material, which typically features nudity…Pedal-pumping videos aren’t as good as ‘foot jobs,’ but they’re easier to get. You can’t show a foot job on YouTube, but you can show this”.

Another person interviewed for the DB article was the President of the US Center for Sex and Culture, Robert Lawrence. He sees pedal pumping as comprising voyeurism and podophilia, along with the added “interest in a specific car part – the gas pedal – or object: the car”.

Based on some online discussions, I certainly came to the conclusion that pedal pumping and car cranking fetishes exist. For instance in one online forum, somebody calling themselves ‘randomhero24’ wrote:

“I am not sure [if the source of my sexual arousal is] a fetish or otherwise. I have no response to the physical car itself, although I do certainly respond to characteristics of the car. It has to be old, etc. Basically the sound of a car attempting to start but failing is the main thing that gets me off. I’ll imagine young pretty girls being in the drivers seat, but if the car is old enough, the person starting it doesn’t matter. I’ve [masturbated] to videos of men doing this and I am most definitely not gay. It’s the sound of the car and the anxiety attached to someone being stuck I guess. My partner uses this to pleasure me, which I am grateful for, and she will say things out loud like “I can’t start the car” which affects me greatly…There are a number of sites that film videos of this, but they are mainly set around the foot fetish aspect and women doing this in bare feet. I am also quite fearful, as I enjoy on occasion finding a deserted train crossing and pretending to be stuck there. I want this to stop as I can see it going very wrong…I’m yet to come across someone that’s got a sexual reaction to the act of trying and failing to start an old car”.

There is clearly a niche market for those into pedal pumping – not just based on the number of YouTube videos and specialist video clip sites, but also evidenced by pedal pump fiction and online discussions of the topic. Whether pedal pumping will ever be the topic of serious academic research remains to be seen, but given the empirical research base on podophilia, there certainly seems to be some scope to look at the psychological and behavioural overlaps.

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.

Giannini, A.J., Colapietro, G., Slaby, A.E., Melemis, S.M. & Bowman, RK (1998). Sexualization of the female foot as a response to sexually transmitted epidemics: a preliminary study. Psychological Reports, 83, 491-498.

The Independent (2010). Growing fetish trend: pedal-pumping, revving and cranking. March 30. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/growing-fetish-trend-pedalpumping-revving-and-cranking-1931211.html

Kunjukrishnan, R., Pawlak, A. & Varan, L.R. (1988). The clinical and forensic psychiatric issues of retifism. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 33, 819-825.

Rufus, A. (2010). The Red State Sex Fetish. Daily Beast, March 21. Located at: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/03/21/the-red-state-sex-fetish.html

Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J. & Calhan, C. (1994). Homosexual foot fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23, 611-626.

Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J. & Calhan, C. (1995). “If the shoe fits…” Exploring male homosexual foot fetishism. Journal of Sex Research, 32, 17-27.

Wiki Answers (2013). What is a pedal pumping fetish? Located at: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_a_pedal_pumping_fetish

Too free (or not too free)? A brief look at casino ‘comping’

I’m a great believer in the cliché that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Except of course of you are in Las Vegas and take advantage of the vast array of bonuses and complimentary offers (more commonly known as ‘comps’) that are on offer. It doesn’t take a psychologist to tell you that the psychology behind ‘comping’ is to get the gambler to spend more money. Comping is a legitimate psychological marketing strategy used as an incentive to either get punters to gamble in the first place, or an incentive used to prolong gambling. Here in the UK, we are obviously not on the same level as Atlantic City or Las Vegas, but most gambling establishments offer an array of temptations to get you to gamble. These include cash prize draws, gift raffles, tokens or credit boosts (for instance, winning additional credit on selected slot machines instead of cash), and scratchcards (which can be redeemed inside the arcade or casino). These types of marketing ploy have two main effects. Firstly, they get people exposed to the gambling environment. Secondly, they get people exposed to gambling itself.

As I noted in a previous blog, the frequency of bonuses varies depending the gambling establishment but can occur hourly, daily, weekly, or seasonally. These are often used to entice the consumer in several retail environments, but what makes them especially psychologically appealing in a gambling environment are the obvious similarities to the characteristics of gambling events in general (such as risk, uncertainty, intermittent reinforcement, and non-monetary psychological rewards). Furthermore, the appeal is strengthened since gamblers feel they are getting something for nothing.

“Comps” can come in many guises. These include travel amenities such as free room, food, drink, shows, golf, limos, with which the casinos reward their “good players” – those that spend (i.e., lose!) a lot of money – and entice other potential gamblers onto their premises. The easiest comps to get are free parking and fun books (which often contain coupons for free drinks, snacks, and souvenirs). For these comps, you don’t even have to gamble. Punters simply have to walk into the casino to get them. The lowest level comp for gamblers is the ubiquitous free drink. It doesn’t matter if you’re putting a quarter in a slot machine or laying down a couple of grand at the poker table, casinos will serve complimentary drinks. However, just remember that drinking alcohol over prolonged periods will impair judgement and rationality. The outcome is usually more money spent by the gambler, which is what the casino wanted in the first place!

It should be no surprise that the value of comps increases with the value of bets. The standard equation used by casinos to determine comps is: size of average bet times number of hours played times the house advantage times the comp equivalency. In other words, say you play blackjack, making £10 bets for two hours. The casino multiplies 120 hands (60 an hour) by £10 and comes up with £1,200 worth of action. It then multiplies £1,200 by the 2% house advantage and comes up with £24. This is what the casino believes it will win from you on average in two hours of $10 blackjack. It then multiplies £24 by 40% (i.e., what it is willing to return in comps). This means the gambler is entitled to £9.60 in freebie amenities.

Comps returned to the big gamblers include high-roller suites, lavish gourmet dinners, unlimited room service, en-suite Jacuzzi, private lap pool, ringside seats at live shows or sporting events, private parties, limos, and Lear jets. Does this sound good to you? It’s yours. All you need to do is bet $25,000 a hand in Las Vegas eight hours a day over a long weekend, or have a $5 million credit line. More within your reach are the comps for $25-a-bet gamblers. This might include half-price hotel room, limited food and beverage, and line passes to the show. The $100-a-bet gamblers will usually get full room, food, and beverage, meaning their whole stay is free. Simple psychological economics – but it works.

To enter the comp game, you must “get rated” by the casino. The casino then records your time in, time out, average bet size, and other details. The data are entered into the computer and casino marketing determines what comps you’re entitled to. If you are a slots player, the casino will use smart cards to monitor and assess your gambling. By playing table games the gambler can exploit the system. In short, it’s possible to trick the casino into thinking that you’re a bigger gambler than you really are by utilizing what is known as “comp wizardry.” Casinos are especially vulnerable to comp system exploitation, because a player’s gambling must be observed by pit bosses. Simple tricks by the gambler include looking like a loser, slowing down the speed of play (such as playing one hand every minute and a half instead of every minute), and betting more when the pit bosses are watching and less when they aren’t. It’s the simplest psychology that can minimize your risk and maximize your reward in the comp game.

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

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). The psychology of gambling: Complimentary nuts. Inside Edge: The Gambling Magazine, November (Issue 20), p. 66.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Brand psychology: Social acceptability and familiarity that breeds trust and loyalty. Casino and Gaming International, 3(3), 69-72.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Online ads and the promotion of responsible gambling. World Online Gambling Law Report, 9(6), 14.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.227-249). London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? (pp. 277-292). New York: Prometheus Books.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2008). Responsible gaming and best practice: How can academics help? Casino and Gaming International, 4(1), 107-112.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2009). Centralised gaming models and social responsibility. Casino and Gaming International., 5(2), 65-69.

Wood, R.T.A., Shorter, G.W. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Rating the suitability of responsible gambling features for specific game types: A resource for optimizing responsible gambling strategy. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 94–112.

I drink, therefore I am: A brief look at alcohol dependence in Great Britain

Alcohol dependence is often viewed as a cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that in most affected people includes a strong desire to consume alcohol, and have difficulties in controlling their drinking. According to a 2013 report by Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism kills more people in the UK than any other drug apart from nicotine. Based on Government statistics, they claim one adult in every 13 is alcohol-dependent (although this is much higher than data collected from the most methodologically robust studies – see below). The General Household Survey (GHS) and the General Lifestyle Survey (GLF) have been measuring drinking behaviour for over 30 years. In relation to alcohol use, the latest 2013 Office for National Statistics (ONS) report notes that:

“The Department of Health estimates that the harmful use of alcohol costs the National Health Service around £2.7bn a year and 7% of all hospital admissions are alcohol related. Drinking can lead to over 40 medical conditions, including cancer, stroke, hypertension, liver disease and heart disease. Reducing the harm caused by alcohol is therefore a priority for the Government and the devolved administrations. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a major preventable cause of premature mortality with alcohol-related deaths accounting for almost 1.5% of all deaths in England and Wales in 2011”.

The ONS notes that obtaining reliable data on drinking behaviour is difficult. Compared to national alcohol sales, surveys carried out by social scientists consistently record lower levels of how much alcohol they consume because participants may consciously and/or unconsciously be underestimating alcohol consumption (e.g., alcohol use in the home may be based on the number of glasses of wine drunk with the amount poured into the glass being much greater than a standard unit of alcohol). In the most recent 2013 report (based on data collected in 2011), participants were asked two questions about their alcohol consumption. These were (i) maximum amount of alcohol drunk on any one day in the previous seven days, and (ii) average weekly alcohol consumption. The survey also obtained three measures of maximum daily alcohol consumption.

  • Exceeding the recommended daily alcohol limit. This measure assessed the proportion of men and women exceeding the recommended units of alcohol on their heaviest drinking day (i.e. 4 units for men, 3 units for women).
  • Engaging in binge drinking (i.e., intoxication). This measure assessed the proportion of men and women who exceeded the number of daily units considered as intoxicating (i.e., 8 units for men, 6 units for women).
  • Engaging in heavy drinking. This measure assessed the proportion of men and women who drank more than three times the recommended daily units of alcohol (i.e., more than 12 units for men and more than 9 units for women).

The results indicated that:

  • Over half of all adults (59%) reported that they had consumed alcohol in the week prior to the survey.
  • Men (66%) were more likely than women (54%) to have had an alcoholic drink in the week before the survey
  • More men (16%) drank on at least five out of seven days than women (9%) in the week prior to the survey.
  • Almost one in ten men (9%) drank alcohol every day in the week prior to the survey compared to only one in twenty women (5%).
  • More men (34%) exceeded the daily recommended units of alcohol than women (28%).
  • More men (18%) were binge alcohol drinkers than women (12%)
  • More men (9%) were heavy drinkers than women (6%)
  • Heavy drinking was most prevalent in those aged 16 to 44 years
  • Drinking alcohol was also associated with smoking nicotine with smokers being more likely to be binge drinkers and heavy drinkers.

Another major report on alcohol use in England was recently published by the Lifestyle Statistics, Health and Social Care Information Centre (in 2013). Their analyses were mainly obtained from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES), and prescribing data. They reported that:

  • 61% of men and 72% of women had either drunk no alcohol in the last week, or had drunk within the recommended levels on the day they drank the most alcohol.
  • 64% of men drank no more than 21 units weekly, and 63% of women drank no more than 14 units weekly.
  • 12% of school pupils had drunk alcohol in the last week. This continues a decline from 26% in 2001, and is at a similar level to 2010, when 13% of pupils reported drinking in the last week.
  • In 2011/12, there were 200,900 admissions to English hospitals where the primary diagnosis was attributable to alcohol consumption (a 1% increase on the previous year).
  • In 2011/12, there were an estimated 1,220,300 admissions to English hospitals related to alcohol consumption where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary reason for hospital admission or a secondary diagnosis (an increase of 4% on the previous year).
  • In 2012, there were 178,247 prescription items prescribed for the treatment of alcohol dependence in primary care settings or NHS hospitals and dispensed in the community (an increase of 6% on the previous year).

Arguably the most robust data on alcohol dependence in the UK comes from the 2009 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) carried out by the National Centre for Social Research and University of Leicester. Alcohol problems (including alcohol dependence) were measured using the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) and the SADQ-C (Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire, community version). An AUDIT score of eight or more indicated hazardous drinking, and 16 or more indicated harmful drinking. SADQ-C scores of 4-19 indicated mild dependence; 20-34, moderate dependence; 35 or more, severe dependence.

Using the AUDIT, the prevalence of hazardous drinking was 24.2% (33.2% males, 15.7% females). A total of 3.8% of adults (5.8% males, 1.9% females) drank alcohol at harmful levels, i.e., around 1 in 25 adults. Among males, the highest prevalence of both hazardous and harmful drinking was in 25-34 year olds, whereas in females it was in 16 -24 year olds. Using the SADQ-C, the prevalence of alcohol dependence was 5.9% (8.7% males, 3.3% females), i.e., around 1 in 16 adults. For males, the highest levels of dependence were identified in those between the ages of 25-34 years (16.8%), whereas for females it was between the ages of 16-24 years (9.8%). Most of the recorded dependence levels were mild (5.4%), with relatively few adults showing symptoms of moderate or severe dependence (0.4% and 0.1% respectively). Compared to the previous APMS survey in 2000, the prevalence of alcohol dependence was lower for males in 2007, whereas it remained at a similar level for females.

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

Further reading

Lifestyle Statistics, Health and Social Care Information Centre (2013). Statistics on Alcohol: England, 2013. Located at: https://catalogue.ic.nhs.uk/publications/public-health/alcohol/alco-eng-2013/alc-eng-2013-rep.pdf

National Centre for Social Research/University of Leicester (2009). Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England, 2007: Results of a Household Survey. London: NHS Information Centre

Office for National Statistics (2012). The 2010 General Lifestyle Survey. London: Office for National Statistics.

Office for National Statistics (2013). The 2011 General Lifestyle Survey. London: Office for National Statistics.

Sussman, S., Lisha, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Prevalence of the addictions: A problem of the majority or the minority? Evaluation and the Health Professions, 34, 3-56.

Below the waste: A brief look at the extreme world of bodily fluid art

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have a long-standing psychological interest in any extreme human behaviour. This also encompasses the world of popular culture and includes individuals that engage in extreme art (such as surrealists like Salvador Dali), extreme fashion (such as those that wear extreme lingerie, extreme body art (including both extreme tattooing and extreme body modification), and/or fetishistic body costumes), and extreme music (such as bands like Throbbing Gristle and the Velvet Underground).

Back in 1997 I was one of the many people that visited the controversial art exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy of Art that featured a wide range of work by the ‘Young British Artists’ (and all owned by Charles Saatchi) such as the ‘shock art’ by Damien Hirst (‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’), Tracy Emin (‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995’), Jake and Dinos Chapman (‘Great Deeds Against the Dead, 1994’), Marcus Harvey (‘Myra’), and Ron Mueck (‘Dead Dad’). One of the pieces that I was particularly struck by was ‘Self’ a sculpture by Marc Quinn that was a cast of the artist’s own head made from approximately nine pints of his own frozen blood. As the Wikipedia entry on Quinn notes:

In interview in 2000, reflecting on the iconic artwork, [Quinn] remarked, ‘Well, I think it’s a great sculpture. I’m really happy with it. I think it is inevitable that you have one piece people focus in on. But that’s really good because it gets people into the work’. Described by Quinn as a ‘frozen moment on life support’, the work is carefully maintained in a refrigeration unit, reminding the viewer of the fragility of existence. The artist makes a new version of ‘Self’ every five years, each of which documents Quinn’s own physical transformation and deterioration”.

In interviews about his body of work (no pun intended), Quinn has said that he has gravitated towards the use of unconventional materials that address his “preoccupation with the mutability of the body and the dualisms that define human life”. In a short (but interesting) interview with The Huffington Post, he was asked how the metaphorical immortality in his work given that his work literally contained a part of him. He replied that:

In a funny way I think ‘Self’, the frozen head series, is about the impossibility of immortality. This is an artwork on life support. If you unplug it, it turns to a pool of blood. It can only exist in a culture where looking after art is a priority. It’s unlikely to survive revolutions, wars and social upheaval, I also think that the total self portrait-ness of using my blood and my body has an ironic factor as well, in that even though the sculpture is my form and made from the material from my body, to me if just emphasises the difference between a truly living person and the materials which make that person up. The sort of literalist point that has been missed by the cryogenicists who freeze themselves for supposed future regeneration”.

I was reminded of Quinn’s extreme art more recently when I was interviewed about the art of 36-year old Australian-based artist Dr Rev Mayers for the Discovery television series Forbidden (a program on which I am the resident psychologist. You can see Dr. Rev and my appearance on this programme here). As the documentary’s production notes made clear:

“Dr. Rev loves to paint. Like most artists he tries to put something of himself in to all his creations. But Dr Rev takes this concept to a whole other level. His paintings are created using his own blood, pumped fresh from his own veins and sprayed direct on to the canvas…He’s a natural born showman, lapping up the attention he gets while performing his death defying blood art stunts in front of live audiences. He’s survived his last feat – a live show painting with the blood being pumped directly from his arm – though he’s vowed never to try it again. ‘It’s a dangerous process if the airbrush had have blocked up, blood could have been pushed back into my body. I could have suffered a heart attack and died’…Mayers has just quit the tattoo business and blood painting is now his fulltime job. He’s been doing it for 6 years ever since he convinced his nurse to let him take home a vial of his own blood”.

Mayers describes himself as borderline bipolar, a showman and a talker. The motivation behind his art appears a lot less intellectual than that of Quinn with a seemingly simple rationale for doing what he does – contradiction and shock value. As he noted in the television program: “I don’t mean to sell myself but I’m certainly not boring and if it’s shocking that you guys want then you’ll get shocking!” Mayers also claimed that he likes the idea of contradicting the stigma that surrounds blood: “It’s not scary. It’s what gives us life” 

Quinn and Mayers’ artworks might be considered less extreme than examples of other ‘bodily fluid’ art that I came across during my research for this article. Many of you reading this may be familiar with the art of English Turner Prize winner Chris Ofili who often incorporates elephant dung into his paintings. However, the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni (who died in 1961 at the age of 29 years) filled ninety 30-gram tin cans with his own faeces (labeled ‘Merda d’artista’ that translates as ‘The Artist’s Shit’). Each in was valued as its weight in gold and the most recently sold can went for about £100,000. It is thought that none of the 90 cans has ever been opened so no-one is entirely sure whether they really contain Manzoni’s excrement or not. In an online essay about Manzoni by Stefano Cappeli, the author briefly made reference to the more psychological (in this case psychodynamic) elements of the faecal artwork:

“Manzoni’s cans of Artist’s Shit have some forerunners in the twentieth-century art, like Marcel Duchamp’s urinal (‘Fontaine’, 1917) or the Surrealists’ coprolalic wits. Salvador Dalì, Georges Bataille and first of all Alfred Jarry’s ‘Ubu Roi’ (1896) had given artistic and literal dignity to the word ‘merde’. The link between anality and art, as the equation of excrements with gold, is a leitmotiv of the psychoanalytic movement (and Carl G. Jung could have been a point of reference for Manzoni).
 Manzoni’s main innovation to this topic is a reflection on the role of the artist’s body in contemporary art”

Another controversial piece of art containing the artist’s own bodily fluid was American Andres Serrano’s 1987 photograph Piss Christ. The photograph depicts Jesus on a small plastic crucifix drowning in a glass of yellow liquid (i.e., Serrano’s own urine). His artworks also include other iconic statuettes in liquids such as blood and milk. Unsurprisingly, accusations of “cheaping Christianity” have been made towards the artist. But Serrano has consistently stated that Piss Christ is itself “a commentary on the cheapening and commercialization of Christian icons in the modern age”.

Other artists that have incorporated bodily fluids into their artworks include those that have used human sweat (e.g., ‘Waste to Work: Everyman’s Source’ by Daniela Kostova and Olivia Robinson that explores the relationship between work, sweat, pay, and unemployment), vomit (e.g., ‘Nexus Vomitus’ by Millie Brown, a half-hour operatic vomit performance), and menstrual blood (e.g., Ingrid Berthon-Moine’s portrait photographs such as ‘Forbidden Red’ and ‘Rouge Pur’ where lipstick is always replaced by menstrual blood).

The psychological motivations and eccentricities of artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and Salvador Dali have long been the discussion of both academics and non-academics alike. Abnormal psychology specialist Professor Gordon Claridge noted that many psychological studies have examined the minds of artists. This research has often showed a pattern of unhappy and/or lonely childhoods, and that artists are often highly sensitive individuals that may have experienced trauma (pushing them into art as a form of escapism, self-expression and/or therapy).

A study of 291 world famous men by Dr. Felix Post in a 1994 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry found that over two-thirds (69%) had a mental disorder of some kind. More specifically, scientists were the least affected by mental health problems, while artists and writers had increased diagnoses of psychosis (i.e., mental conditions that involve losing touch with reality and may in extreme cases result in various types of hallucination). In her 1996 book Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness And The Artistic Temperament, the psychiatrist Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison concluded that, among eminent artists, the rate of depressive illnesses (particularly bipolar disorder) was 20 times more common than in the general population. For instance, Picasso, Gauguin, Michelangelo and Jackson Pollock are all thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder, and Andy Warhol appeared to demonstrate all the signs of Asperger’s syndrome (i.e., a type of autism). Whether those engaged in extreme art activities are any more psychologically prone to mental disorders than ‘normal’ artists remains to be seen.

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

Further reading

Capelli, S. (undated). Artist’s shit: Consumption of dynamic art by the art devouring public magic bases – Living sculptures. Located at: http://www.pieromanzoni.org/PDF/EN/Manzoni_Shit.pdf

Frank, P. (2011). Marc Quinn discusses self-portraits made of his own blood. The Huffington Post, June 8. Located at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/marc-quinn_n_1581132.html

Jamison, K.R. (1996). Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness And The Artistic Temperament. New York: The Free Press.

Jones, J. (2011). Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ is the original shock art. The Guardian, April 18. Located at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/apr/18/andres-serrano-piss-christ-shock

May, G. (2013). 10 crazy pieces of art made from bodily fluids. Listverse, July 27. Located at: http://listverse.com/2013/07/27/10-exceptional-pieces-of-art-made-from-bodily-fluids/

Post, F. (1994). Creativity and psychopathology. British Journal of Psychiatry, 165, 22-34

Smith, S. (2011). When blood runs cold. Big Tattoo Planet, June 22. Located at: http://www.bigtattooplanet.com/features/artist-interview/when-blood-runs-cold-dr-rev

Spooky (2012). Dr. Rev’s creepy artworks are painted in blood. Oddity Central, May 8. Located at: http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/dr-revs-creepy-artworks-are-painted-in-blood.html

Glued to the scene: A brief look at ‘stuck fetishism’

“[There] is a natural or unexpected form of bondage where girls step into cement, wander into spider webs or sink into quicksand. Often girls find themselves in perilous or humiliating situations like being in danger of sinking under quicksand or unable to stop the advances of a horny teenager after having stepped into superglue” (Weird and Sexy website).

“I was chatting via email with a friend of mine and we both agreed on the idea of being glue into and trapped in sexy clothing would be a very hot thing to do. A pair of very high heel patent leather boots for example. Certainly it would get me past my midnight witching hour with my latex panties. Imagine the thick gelatinous glue being poured into my latex catsuit and being made to put it on…anyway we’re still trying to figure out what glue would work well, enough to trap but nothing that would last forever” (Doll’s Realm website).

One of the strangest fetishes that I have come across is ‘stuck fetishism’ that comprises individuals deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from other individuals and/or themselves being immobilized in some way in a ‘sticky situation’ (either literally or metaphorically). It was while I was researching a previous blog on three other sexual paraphiliasclaustrophilia (deriving sexual arousal from being confined in small places) taphephilia, (deriving arousal from being buried alive) and wamming/sploshing (deriving sexual arousal from wet and /or messy [WAM] situations) – that I first encountered online references to stuck fetishes and came across the quotes that opened today’s blog. According to an article on ‘stuck fetishism’ in the Nation Master online encyclopedia, not only does the fetish involve immobilization, but sexual arousal is also gained from the individual struggling to escape from the situation. There may be elements of both sexual sadism (and domination) and sexual masochism (bondage and submission) in these scenarios, but the primary focus of the arousal is actually being stuck and/or trapped. The Nation Master article also states:

“Often a certain body part is the focus of such situations, the most common being the feet, although the hands, buttocks, or even ‘full-body’ situations are also quite popular. Other focuses may exist, such as when the subject is wearing a certain article of clothing; certain types of shoes (e.g., high heels) or hosiery are popular examples. The immobilization can involve an object. One form of this is arousal over vehicles that are stuck in mud. There is still a human element since there is a driver at the controls. Some stuck fetishists like to get stuck themselves, while some like to see other people get stuck. Some stuck fetishists enjoy either situation…An overlap between fetishes [bondage, WAM] doesn’t necessarily imply that a person who likes one also likes the other one, however”.

The article also claimed (without any supporting empirical evidence) that stuck fetishists prefer specific situations above all others, and that it typically involves one of the following scenarios:

  • Sticky substance immobilization fetish: Here, the individual is rendered immobile and gains sexual arousal from being in direct contact with real sticky or ‘gooey’ substance such as glues (e.g., superglue), melted candy, chewing gum, tar, or is rendered immobile from a fictional organic substance (such as being stuck in a giant spider web).
  • Non-sticky substance immobilization fetish: Here the individual is rendered immobile and derives sexual arousal from a substance that is not sticky but stops the individual from being able to move such as quicksand, mud and cement.
  • Situational immobilization fetish: Here, the individual is rendered immobile and gains sexual arousal from being confined and/or wedged in a narrow space.
  • Perceived situational immobilization fetish: Here, the individual is rendered immobile and gains sexual arousal from a perception that they are confined and/or wedged in a narrow space (e.g., the individual is hypnotized into thinking they are stuck and/or immobile).
  • Stuck clothing fetish: Here, the individual gains sexual arousal from something that is stuck to the individual’s body (e.g., a shoe, a piece of clothing, a whole clothing outfit, fetish outfits). Such stuck fetishes may overlap with paraphilic transvestism, rubber fetishes, Furry Fandom outfits, and ‘costume play’ more generally.
  • Stuck transport fetish: Here, the individual gains sexual arousal from being stuck in (or on) a particular form of transport (e.g., a car stuck in a muddy field, a tube train stuck in a tunnel, a bus stuck at the bottom of an icy hill, etc.).
  • Stuck transformation fetish: Here, the individual gains sexual arousal from being stuck in a particular persona as part of a transformation fetish (that I covered in-depth in a previous blog).
  • Stuck multi-person fetish: Here, the individual gains sexual arousal from being stuck in a situation with one or more other individuals (e.g., two are more people stuck in the same tight space, two people trapped inside a horse costume).
  • Stuck conjoinment fetish: Here, the individual gains sexual arousal from a fantasy where separate individuals’ bodies have been merged or fused.

These fetishes while specific may not be mutually exclusive, and some stuck fetishists may gain sexual arousal from more than one of these scenarios, and in some instances the scenarios might be confined (e.g., being stuck inside a broken down car). The Nation Master article also claims:

“There are many obstacles inherent in realizing such ‘sticky situations’ among fetishists. Although ‘surprise’ and ‘authenticity’ are usually traits that are highly sought after, they are difficult to attain in reality. Surprising an unknowing and possibly unwilling individual raises obvious ethical questions. Authenticity is difficult to attain because the substances involved are often expensive and hard to clean up, as well as being potentially dangerous (tar, for example). These issues, coupled with the fact the stuck fetish is still fairly obscure with a relatively small number of (mostly male) participants, means that the online community relies heavily upon fictional stories and pictures created within the community and occasionally media culled from popular culture and other outside sources”.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that there is no scientific research on the topic of stuck fetishism so the claims made by the Nation Master article that it is a mainly male-based fetish and “obscure” cannot be verified (although both assertions have good face validity and could be argued to be commonsense based on what we know about other similar fetishes). However, the fetish does appear to exist as evidenced by dedicated websites and forums such as the Stuck Head First website, the Stuck and Struggle website, and The Sticky Review website, as well as online discussions on topics such as ‘glue bondage’ at websites such as the Alt Bondage Narkive and The Bound Forum. Given the inherent medical dangers inherent in some of the scenarios (such as playing with superglue or cement), the most likely way of case studies entering the academic literature will be in the form of medical papers reporting on cases where something untoward and/or life-threatening occurs.

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

Further reading

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.

Nation Master (2013). Stuck fetishism. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Stuck-Fetishism

Wikipedia (2013). Wet and messy fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wet_and_messy_fetishism

Hopelessly devoted to you: The Church of Maradona

“Our Diego/Who art on earth/Hallowed be thy left foot/Thy magic come/Thy goals be remembered” (excerpt of The Lord’s Prayer, Church of Maradona)

For some people, football could arguably be described as a religion. However, I discovered earlier last year while being interviewed for a television documentary that for some people, there is a football-related religion with Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona as its deity (arguably an extreme form of celebrity worship that I examined in a previous blog). I thought this was a joke or hoax, especially as a Wikipedia entry claimed that:

“The Iglesia Maradoniana (English: Church of Maradona; literally Maradonian Church) is a parody religion, created by fans of the retired Argentine football player Diego Maradona, who they believe to be the best player of all time. The Iglesia was founded on October 30, 1998 (Maradona’s 38th birthday) in the city of Rosario, Argentina. It could be seen as a type of syncretism or as a religion, depending on what religious definition one chooses to use…Supporters of the Maradonian Church, supposedly from all parts of the world, count the years since Maradona’s birth in 1960… [D10S] is popular, among the followers of this religion (and also among other football fans), the use of the neo-Tetragrammaton D10S as one of the names of Maradona: D10S is a portmanteau word which fuses 10 (diez in Spanish), Maradona’s shirt number, and dios, the Spanish word for god”.

Most football fans here in England generally accept that Maradona was a footballing genius and the best player of his generation. However, our abiding (if not the most painful) memory is his goal against England in the 1986 World Cup Finals (where he scored with a clear handball but was not spotted by the referee). After the match, Maradona described it as the ‘Hand of God’.

However, many Argentinians say the Church of Maradona is not a joke or parody but a “serious celebration of their love for the soccer legend”. In the home to the church (Rosario), Maradona worshippers frequently gather for mass, and sing songs to honour and venerate Maradona. Alejandro Veron who runs the Church of Maradona website says: “Our religion is football and, like all religions, it must have a god. We will never forget the miracles he showed on the pitch and the spirit he awoke in us, the fanatics”.

The church also has its ten commandments: (1) The ball must not be stained, as D10S has proclaimed; (2) Love football over all things; (3) Declare your unconditional love of football; (4) Defend the colours of Argentina; (5) Preach the words of ‘Diego Maradona’ all over the world; (6) Pray in the temples where he preached, and to his sacred mantles; (7) Do not proclaim the name of Diego in the name of a single club; (8) Follow the teachings of the Maradonian Church; (9) Let Diego be your second name, and that of your children; and (10) No ser cabeza de termo y que no se te escape la tortuga (that translates to “don’t be a hothead and don’t let the turtle escape you”). [I ought to add that some online versions of these ten commandments omit the final one and split the ninth commandment into two separate commandments].

It is estimated that the numbers of members of the Church of Maradona is 15,000 worldwide (although the church founders claim the number of followers is 200,000). In the TV programme that I was interviewed for, two people were interviewed (Pamela, aged 22 years, and Ivan, aged 23 years). They met and fell in love in 2009 at an event on Maradonian New Year (October 30, Maradona’s birthday), and were planning to get baptized and married at the Church of Maradona. Pamela says: “For us this will be a traditional wedding, contrary to what people think. We’ve been dreaming to make this happen for years”. They had asked Maradona himself to marry them but he was ‘otherwise engaged’. According to the television program’s research team:

“The baptism is a joint event, which will gather around 15 fans of all ages…Called in to the altar, one by one, each will try to do the most accurate simulation of Maradona’s prolific ‘Hand of God’ goal…Once ‘admitted’ into the group, Pamela and Ivan take the equivalent of the host – Napolitan pizza – Maradona’s favorite. They’re now ready to get married. Instead of an ordained clergyman, Hernan Amez, church founder, will be getting them married – wearing a football shirt…Their families won’t be present, because they find the notion of Pamela and Ivan getting married through the Maradona Church ridiculous. For the young couple, it doesn’t matter. Other friends and Maradona followers will join the celebration…The bride’s dress is carried by two children with D10S t-shirts…They will promise their love for each other in front of the Maradonian bible – Maradona’s autobiography”.

There are some other interesting journalistic accounts of members of the Church of Maradona. One of the most detailed is a 2008 article by Jonathan Franklin for The Guardian who was there to cover the Church’s tenth anniversary after being founded in 1998. Franklin reported that the “Iglesia Maradoniana does not yet have its own building. It is a travelling display of love and affection, whose icons and statues visit all corners of Argentina”. Franklin gives his account of his time at the Church’s ceremony:

“I walk up to the stage, take off my top, and the crowd screams as I slip on the No 10 shirt and remember my rehearsals. Just one shot. Do it right, I tell myself. The baptism ceremony aims to recreate the sacred moment during the 1986 World Cup quarter-final in which Maradona scored his famous mano del Dios (hand of God) goal by swatting the ball into the England net with his fist. Match officials stuck with a poor angle assumed Maradona had used his head, but replays clearly show Maradona punching the ball away from the England goalie, the startled and then indignant Peter Shilton. At a press conference after the game, Maradona would not admit his hand had touched the ball. ‘The hand of God’ sent it into the net, he claimed. I move over to a life-size poster of Shilton jumping at Maradona. In this version, Maradona and the ball have been Photoshopped out of the frame. This is where the baptism ceremony begins. I prepare to leap. As the ball is tossed in, I jump, trying to shield my hand with my head, then ‘pow!’ I punch. It works! My re-creation is worthy of a certificate and now I am signed into the register, an official member of the Church of Maradona”.

Franklin also notes in his article that Maradona’s fans from all around the world have come to celebrate the Church’s tenth anniversary including people from the Brazil, Denmark, Italy, and USA. As Franklin reports:

“Some take pictures; others simply toast their god. A pile of gifts and tokens piles up – old photographs, sports cards, even an oil portrait of Diego with brushed curls and a yellow halo. The Maradona Bible lies near the altar – a worn copy of Maradona’s bestselling biography ‘Yo Soy El Diego’ (I Am Diego)”.

Parody or not, the Church appears to have some genuine believers including Jose Caldeira, the author of La Iglesia Maradoniana, a book that recounts the Church of Maradona’s first ten years. I don’t think the Catholic religion in Argentina has anything to worry about in terms of competition, but at least the Church of Maradona can claim their deity actually exists. As another article by Johnny Chadwick in The National Student concludes:

“No footballer inspires such devotion and unconditional fandom. Diego Maradona transcends his status as merely the most talented footballer of all time. He provides an example of someone who made countless mistakes and errors of judgement, yet still managed to rise from the streets of Rosario to world champion and international icon. While the obsessive following is extreme, it is in part understandable for a man who is at once a heavily flawed human being and a God”.

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

Further reading

Chadwick, J. (2012). What people believe: The Church of Maradona. The National Student, August 13. Located at: http://www.thenationalstudent.com/Features/2012-08-13/the_church_of_maradona.html

Franklin, J. (2008). ‘He was sent from above’. The Guardian, November 12. Located at: www.guardian.co.uk/football/2008/nov/12/diego-maradona-argentina

The Offside (2007). Worshipping at the Church of Maradona 10 years on. October 25. Located at: http://www.theoffside.com/south-america/worshipping-at-the-church-of-maradona-10-years-on.html

The Original Winger (2013). The Church of Maradona. February 6. Located at: http://theoriginalwinger.com/2013-02-06-the-church-of-maradona-documini-from-vice-d10s

Wikipedia (2013). Iglesia Maradoniana. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iglesia_Maradoniana

Saying power: The greatest (and funniest) sex quotes of all time

For a number of years now, I have been collecting famous and not-so-famous quotes about various aspects of sexual behaviour. Some of these are funny, some satirical, some literary, some poignant, and some just make you think about sex in a slightly different way. Obviously I can’t take any credit for this collection apart from the way I have edited and categorized the quotes. I hope you find something here that tickles your fancy.

General quotes about sex

  • “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power” (Oscar Wilde)
  • “Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant” 
(George Burns)
  • “Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it” (Richard Feynman)
  • “There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL” (P.J. O’Rourke)
  • “Sex alleviates tension. Love causes it” (Woody Allen)
  • “An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex” (Aldous Huxley)
  • “Sex is emotion in emotion” (Mae West)
  • “Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other” (Marquis de Sade)
  • “Sex is the thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble” (John Barrymore)
  • “Sex is more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets” (Andy Warhol)
  • “My brain: it’s my second favorite organ” (Woody Allen)
  •  “Sex between a man and a woman can be absolutely wonderful – provided you get between the right man and the right woman” (Woody Allen)
  •  “Is sex dirty? Only if it’s done right” (Woody Allen)
  • “Sex on television can’t hurt you unless you fall off” (Anon)
  • “Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. ‘Yes’ is the answer’” (Swami X)
  • “It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover” (Marge Piercy)
  • “Sex:  the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable” (Lord Chesterfield)
  • “The tragedy is when you’ve got sex in the head instead of down where it belongs” (D.H. Lawrence)
  • “I’d like to meet the man who invented sex and see what he’s working on now” (Anon)
  • “Sex is interesting, but it’s not totally important. I mean it’s not even as important (physically) as excretion.  A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement” (Charles Bukowski)
  • “Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night’ (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • “Sex appeal is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got” (Sophia Loren)

Sex and reproduction

  • “It is not economical to go to bed early to save the candles if the result is twins” (Chinese Proverb)
  • “Familiarity breeds contempt – and children” (Mark Twain)
  • “Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way around” (David Lodge)
  • “The hypothalamus is one of the most important parts of the brain, involved in many kinds of motivation, among other functions.  The hypothalamus controls the ‘Four F’s’: fighting, fleeing, feeding, and mating” (Marvin Dunnette)
  • “Kids in back seats cause accidents, accidents in back seats cause kids” (Anon)
  • “The best contraceptive is a glass of cold water. Not before or after, but instead” (Anon)
  • “My father told me all about the birds and the bees, the liar – I went steady with a woodpecker till I was twenty-one” (Bob Hope)

Sex and love

  • “The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension and love causes it” (Woody Allen)
  • “Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it’s one of the best” (Woody Allen)
  • “Love is the answer, but while you’re waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions” (Woody Allen)
  • “Love is a matter of chemistry, but sex is a matter of physics” (Anon)
  • “Love ain’t nothing but sex misspelled” (Harlan Ellison)
  • “Love is not the dying moan of a distant violin – it’s the triumphant twang of a bedspring” (S.J. Perelman)

Men on female sexuality

  • “My girlfriend always laughs during sex, no matter what she’s reading” 
(Steve Jobs
  • “You know that look that women get when they want to have sex? Me neither” (Steve Martin)
  •  “My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch”
(Jack Nicholson)
  • “Ah, yes, divorce, from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet”
(Robin Williams)
  • “Women need a reason to have sex Men just need a place”
(Billy Crystal)
  • “When a man goes on a date, he wonders if he is going to get lucky. A woman already knows” (Frederike Ryder)
  • “I think men talk to women so they can sleep with them and women sleep with men so they can talk to them” (Jay McInerney)
  • “Desire is in men a hunger, in women only an appetite” (Mignon McLaughlin)
  • “My wife is a sex object – every time I ask for sex, she objects” (Les Dawson)
  • “Anybody who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography” (Robert Byrne)
  • “Men get laid, but women get screwed” (Quentin Crisp)
  • “Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man” (Mignon McLaughlin)

Women on male sexuality

  • “I admit I have a tremendous sex drive. My boyfriend lives forty miles away” (Phyllis Diller)
  • “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other” (Jane Austen)
  • “Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships”
(Sharon Stone)
  • “Among men, sex sometimes results in intimacy; among women, intimacy sometimes results in sex” (Barbara Cartland)
  • “I know nothing about sex, because I was always married” (Zsa Zsa Gabor)
  • “Men are those creatures with two legs and eight hands” (Jayne Mansfield)

Masturbation

  • “Don’t knock masturbation – it’s sex with someone I love” 
Woody Allen
  • “Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand” (Woody Allen)
  • “I’m such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own” (Woody Allen)
  • Masturbation: The primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth, it’s a cure” (Thomas Szasz)
  • “We have reason to believe that man first walked upright to free his hands for masturbation” (Lily Tomlin)
  • “The good thing about masturbation is that you don’t have to get dressed up for it” (Truman Capote)
  • “A woman occasionally is quite a serviceable substitute for masturbation” (Karl Kraus)

Chastity, impotence, and medical problems

  • “Lord, grant me chastity and continence…but not yet” (St. Augustine)
  • “Sex at age 90 is like trying to shoot pool with a rope” (George Burns)
  • “There’s a new medical crisis. Doctors are reporting that many men are having allergic reactions to latex condoms. They say they cause severe swelling. So what’s the problem?” (Dustin Hoffman)
  • “Chastity: The most unnatural of the sexual perversions” (Aldous Huxley)
  • “To succeed with the opposite sex, tell her you’re impotent. She can’t wait to disprove it” (Cary Grant)
  •  “Remember, if you smoke after sex you’re doing it too fast” (Woody Allen)
  • “The tragedy of sexual intercourse is the perpetual virginity of the soul” (William B. Yeats)
  • “Nature abhors a virgin – a frozen asset” (Clare Boothe Luce)

Sexual perversion

  • “The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform” (Alfred Kinsey)
  • “The only unnatural sexual behaviour is none at all” (Sigmund Freud)
  • “There is nothing wrong with going to bed with someone of your own sex. People should be very free with sex, they should draw the line at goats” (Elton John
)
  • “Don’t worry, it only seems kinky the first time” (Anon)
  • “An erection is like the Theory of Relativity – the more you think about it, the harder it gets” (Anon)
  • “I’m all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults” (Gore Vidal)
  • “Kinky is using a feather. Perverted is using the whole chicken” (Anon)
  • “During sex I fantasize that I’m someone else” (Richard Lewis)
  • “It doesn’t matter what you do in the bedroom as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses” (Mrs. Patrick Campbell)

Pornography

  • “Pornography is whatever gives the Judge an erection” (Anon)
  • Pornography: That which excites, whether from approval or disapproval” (Leonard Rossiter)
  • “My reaction to porn films is as follows: After the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. After the first 20 minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live” (Erica Jong)
  • “The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting” (Gloria Leonard)
  • “What’s the difference between art and pornography? A government grant!” (Peter Griffin)
  • “Pornography is literature designed to be read with one hand” (Angela Lambert)
  • “Pornography is in the loin of the beholder” (Charles Rembar)
  • “Pornography is supposed to arouse sexual desires. If pornography is a crime, when will they arrest makers of perfume?” (Richard Fleischer)
  • “A dirty book is rarely dusty” (Anon)
  • “A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction” (J.G. Ballard)
  • “To know the difference between erotica and pornography you must first know the difference between naked and nude” (Bernard Poulin)
  • “Playboy exploits sex the way Sports Illustrated exploits sports” (Hugh Hefner)
  • “Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it” (D.H. Lawrence)
  • “Pornography tells lies about women. But pornography tells the truth about men” (John Stoltenberg)

Prostitution

  • “I remember the first time I had sex – I kept the receipt” (Groucho Marx). 
  • “When a guy goes to a prostitute, he’s not paying her for sex, he’s paying her to leave” (Anon)
  • “When a man talks dirty to a woman, it’s sexual harassment.  When a woman talks dirty to a man, it’s $3.95 a minute” (Anon)
  • “The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs less” (Brendan Francis Behan)
  • “I once knew a woman who offered her honor. So I honored her offer
and all night long I was on her and off her” (Anon)
  • “I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy” 
(Tom Clancy)

Sex, psychiatry, and surveys

  • “With me, nothing goes right. My psychiatrist said my wife and I should have sex every night. We’ll never see each other!” (Rodney Dangerfield) 
  • “A student undergoing a word-association test was asked why a snowstorm put him in mind of sex. He replied frankly:  ‘Because everything does’” (Honor Tracy)
  • “I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a women in my life who would give up lunch” (Erma Bombeck)
  • “According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental, where, of course, men are just grateful”
 (Robert De Niro)

Sex addiction

  • “I’m a heroine addict. I need to have sex women who have saved someone’s life” (Mitch Hedberg)“
  • “Sex.  In America an obsession.  In other parts of the world a fact” (Marlene Dietrich)

Sex, God and religion

  • “I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty” (John Waters)
  • “Men reach their sexual peak at eighteen. Women reach theirs at thirty-five. Do you get the feeling that God is playing a practical joke?” (Rita Rudner)
  • “The only thing wrong with being an atheist is that there’s nobody to talk to during an orgasm” (Anon)
  • “When authorities warn you of the sinfulness of sex, there is an important lesson to be learned. Do not have sex with the authorities” (Matt Groening)
  • “Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:  One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell.  The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love” (Butch Hancock)
  • “To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals” (Don Schrader)
  • “Sex is God’s joke on human beings” (Bette Davis)
  • “Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn’t!” (George Bernard Shaw)
  • “See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time” (Robin Williams)

Infidelity

  • “What’s the three words you never want to hear while making love? ‘Honey, I’m home!'” (Ken Hammond)
  • “You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct” (W. Somerset Maugham)
  • “Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?” (Murray Banks)

Specs appeal: A beginner’s guide to glasses fetishism

I thought I had come up with a pretty good title for today’s blog on ‘glasses fetishism’ until I found our that Specs Appeal was the name of a 1975 album by the British pop group The Shadows. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, glasses fetishism refers to a “fetishistic attraction to people wearing prescription glasses, sunglasses, or cosmetic contact lenses or to the act of wearing glasses or the glasses themselves. Other related activities include wearing glasses during sexual acts and ejaculation on glasses”. It has also been implied in a Wikipedia article that glasses fetishism is a sub-type of clothing fetishism. The (clearly non-academic) Venus O’Hara website further claims that:

“Glasses fetishism is characterised by the effect that a pair of glasses can have on the erotic imagination of a spectator. Glasses are often a key component in many role-playing scenarios. Glasses of different shapes, sizes and prescription strengths allow the participants to invest more belief in the erotic reality of their chosen characters. Glasses can change the shape of a face, alter mannerisms and allow a fetishist to imprint almost any persona they prefer onto a wearer…The key moments that fetishists remember, when thinking about their formative experiences with people wearing glasses become vital, imaginative, starting points for them. In this way, the personas of teachers, students and secretaries become fetish stand-bys and a pair of glasses can summon up the erotic potentials of them with ease”

In popular culture, glasses fetishism is far from mainstream. In fact, the only mainstream movie I can think of that features a sexually related glasses scene is the 1959 comedy, Some Like It Hot (directed by Billy Wilder). The film touches on many sexual themes (trans-sexuality, androgyny, impotence) but also features an erotic glasses-kissing scene involving Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis. However, glasses fetishism is popular in Japanese anime cartoons, particularly on female characters (and is called meganekko-moe – for instance, check out Sky Over My Spectacles). According to Patrick Galbraith (at the University of Tokyo) nobody is sure when the first ‘girl with glasses’ became part of Japanese pop culture. In a 2011 article on glasses fetishism in the online Kotaku magazine, Galbraith was quoted as saying:

“Glasses were kind of was always around, like the animal ears in Tezuka Osamu manga, and slowly took on special meanings. In Japan, glasses have different meanings for both male and female characters. When male characters wear glasses, they are a dominant character. They are in control. But, when a female character wears glasses, it can also means she is shy or a wallflower. If the female character takes off the glasses, however, she tends to be stunningly beautiful”.

Back in 2009, Jerry Lowery of Illinois (US, and then aged 38 years) was charged with stealing more than 500 pairs of glasses from suburban spectacle shops because of his fetish for eyeglasses. The Associated Press reported that:

“Prosecutors said Lowery walked into three shops between April and July and said he had a gun. They say he took more than 500 pairs of high-end glasses including Prada and Gucci brands, but didn’t take cash. The criminal complaint quotes Lowery as saying he “really likes to be around glasses.” He told investigators he tries them on in front of a mirror and then discards them”

Anecdotally, there is certainly online evidence of the existence of glasses fetishism such as dedicated online forums (such as Eyescene“a different outlook on eyewear”) and pornographic websites (such as JOMF – please be warned that this is a very sexually explicit site). I also came across various admissions from people claiming to be glasses fetishists. For instance:

  • Extract 1: “My girlfriend is so-so when it comes to looks…I’ve had a major glasses fetish my whole life, but unfortunately she does not need them. I think it would make our relationship happier if I was actually turned on by her. I’ve heard isopropyl alcohol can damage vision…I don’t want to blind her, maybe just mess her up just slightly enough to get her to wear glasses. How much isopropyl alcohol should I give her?”
  • Extract 2: “A number of people I know are really turned on by glasses. I seem to come across an odd number of girls with perfectly healthy eyes sporting those little black framed emo glasses. The success of sites like Bookworm Bitches shows that this is a pretty common fetish. Then there is the whole school of sunglasses fetishists who pine for Tom Cruise in Risky Business with the Ray Bans”.
  • Extract 3: “There is no getting around it. I’ve got a thing for glasses. Glasses on women are plain hot. I am hardly alone in my fetish, as many guys seem to appreciate the librarian look”.
  • Extract 4: Glasses fetish, that’s me. I figure any woman who decides her perception of the world is more important than her vanity is OK by me. Contacts? Lasik? Waste of time. To me every woman is at least as hot with glasses than without. As for myself, my vision is nearly perfect. At time, I wish it weren’t”.
  • Extract 5: I have a thing for gorgeous young men with glasses. There is just something about a guy who’s sexy and intelligent, and wears glasses. A sight of such man makes me dazed”.
  • Extract 6: I’ve always enjoyed seeing a woman in glasses. It gives a touch of elegant intellectual to any appearance. Its so incredibly enticing to see the eyes underneath and to know that very soon, if it is a lover, I will be able to remove them and undress her face in a way that very few are able to do. I have these feelings for wireframes and for thick frames. I like the vintage styles and the nearly invisible modern frames. Glasses give that extra layer of protection between the portals to their soul and my searching gaze”.

Other anecdotal evidence is provided in an interview with ‘Jon’, a 24-year old male glasses fetishist by Alice Huber in the online Europe and Me Magazine, Jon was asked how and where his glasses fetish began. Jon replied:

“When I was 19 there was a clear trigger, during a seminar at [university]. Our professor was a Greek guy with loads of temperament, and one day, in walks his teaching assistant, looking very strict in a suit jacket and skirt, hair put up in a ballerina knot and wearing big, black glasses. Every time she was taking notes, she would be wearing her glasses, but as soon as she stopped to listen to the professor, she took them off. I think it was the contrast of her being so submissive, next to this powerful male professor that intrigued me”.

Jon also admitted that he asked his sexual partners to wear glasses when engaging in sexual activity, and that when they wore glasses, it made him feel like he was the ‘boss’. He also said he found the ‘geek’ look attractive. Jon also claimed that there was a particular type of glasses that turned him on the most – “large, thick black frames. Square lenses. So-called media glasses”. In an online article by Karen Cotton on the Philia Phrenzy website noted that:

“Anyone who has had a fantasy involving the headmistress or master disciplining them, will most likely imagine them in glasses. Or perhaps your taste is more in corrupting a schoolboy or transforming an uptight bespeckled bookworm into a wild, crazy nymph. Perhaps if eyes are the windows to the soul, glasses frame its desires. While the glasses themselves can be a turn on for some, fetishists cite a variety of sources for arousal including: (i) watching women struggle – either with losing their glasses or adjusting to a new pair; (ii) spectacles slipping down the nose; (iii) the cleaning of smudged lenses; and (iv) seeing a person wearing or manipulating eyewear both sexually and non-sexually…Some fetishists wear eyeglasses – sometimes even over contacts. This practice, glasses over contacts (GOC), requires the use of contact lenses prescribed at a strength which allows the user to see clearly through strong eyeglasses. For some hopeful fetishists, they let their eyes go overcorrected for a length of time so that stronger glasses will be necessary”.

As there is no academic or clinical research on glasses fetishism, I can’t conform or refute any of the claims that Cotton makes in her. Cotton quoted Bobby Laurel a self-confessed Czech-born GOC fetishist who runs his own specialist GOC website. Laurel asserted that his fetish for very thick lensed glasses is psychologically similar to those who are into abasiophilia (sexual arousal from pretending to be handicapped) and apotemnophilia (sexual arousal from wanting to be an amputee):

“All of them pretend a kind of disability. Please, do not misunderstand the concept of this pretending. They do not do it to lodge a fraudulent claims, to get benefits, to get money, to beg etc. No! They wheel or crutch just for the pleasure (Yes, they like it!) … Those pretenders and us – the GOC wearers – are the same kind of ‘freaks’. None of us know exactly what happened in our brains that we like pretending to be disabled. We just like it. Please, realise we do not harm anybody. We do not wish that the other people really needed thick glasses, wheelchairs or crutches. Of course, we like the people who happened to need the stuff. They attract us, it is true, it often makes us excited or even sexually stimulated when we see a person who wears strong glasses or needs crutches or a wheelchair”.

In a 2007 issue of the International Journal of Impotence Research, Dr. C. Scorolli and his colleagues examined the relative prevalence of different fetishes. Fetishes for glasses featured in a small number of the fetishistic groups located. Glasses were then mentioned in their discussion concerning the formation of fetishes and sexual paraphilia. Glasses fetishism was used as an example to argue against genetic and evolutionary biological theories. More specifically, they noted:

“The lack of epidemiological data and of a shared taxonomy for describing paraphilic behaviors is one of the primary factors that has hampered the scientific scrutiny of Fetishism as well as the search for etiological mechanisms. Although many theories have been advanced to account for the development of typical and atypical sexual behaviors, none has been fully convincing. By applying evolutionary biology to human sexuality, some authors aimed to demonstrate an innate mechanism(s) to explain sexual preferences. Others consider sexual preferences, such as male homosexuality, genetic in nature. Our results partially agree and partially contrast this theory, at least for fetishes. In fact, the highly frequent preference for artificial objects here demonstrated seems not consistent with the genetic determination of preferences. It is unlikely that a particular genetic makeup should result in a preference for specific stimuli such as, for instance, coats, balloons, eye-glasses or headphones – all of which we found in our data”.

In all honesty, the chance of glasses fetishism becoming the topic of serious academic or clinical research is probably minimal. My own brief foray into the area suggests that it exists (as evidenced by dedicated fan and video websites). However, as fetishes go, most of these appear to be relatively harmless.

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.

Ashcroft, B. What is Japan’s fetish this week? Glasses. Kotako, April 21. Located at: http://kotaku.com/5792396/whats-japan-fetishizing-this-week-glasses

Cotton, K. (2007). Frame your desires. Philia Phrenzy, March 26. Located at: http://philia-phrenzy.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/frame-your-desires.html

Huber, A. (2012). World of fetishism: Has the cool gadget era made geeks, and the specs stereotypically associated with them, the new sex symbols? Europe and Me Magazine, 17. Located at: http://www.europeandme.eu/17baby/915-a-world-of-fetishism

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

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437

Wikipedia (2013). Clothing fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_fetish

Nag, nag, nag: The psychology of horse-race betting

All forms of gambling lie on a luckskill dimension. Neither games of pure skill nor games of pure chance are particularly attractive to serious gamblers. Games of chance (like lotteries) offer no significant edge to serious gamblers and are unlikely to be gambled upon. While games of skill provide a significant edge for the gambler, serious gamblers need more than an edge – they need an opponent who can be exploited. Serious gamblers gravitate towards types of gambling that provide an appropriate mix of chance and skill. This is one of the reasons why sports betting – and in particular horse-race betting – is so popular for gamblers. In the most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey published in 2011, the results indicated that betting on horse-races in the past year had slightly decreased to 16% (down from 17% in the 2007 survey) with men (21%) being more likely than women (13%) to have bet on horse-races. The survey also showed that 7% of the sample had gambled on horse-races in the past week. The survey also indicated that horse-race bettors were more likely to be classed as ‘high spenders’ compared to most other types of gambler.

The edge available in horse-race gambling can be sufficient to fully support professional gamblers as they bring their wide range of knowledge to the activity. There is the complex interplay of factors that contributes to the final outcome of the race. There is the form of the horse, the length of the race, the reputation of the jockey, trainer and stable, breeding, weight, the conditions of the racetrack, etc. From this mix of information the horse-race bettor will, broadly speaking, do one of two things. Either they try to select a winner, or they try to select a horse that offers the best odds in terms of its true chances. Assessing these odds (i.e., handicapping), is done by developing ratings based on the available information. Precisely how all these factors can be combined to select a horse is a matter about which most gamblers disagree, but it is reasonable to assume that many punters believe that their knowledge of these factors gives them an edge over other punters that they are competing against.

Individuals clearly differ in how they use complex information to select horses. There has been some interesting research on the psychology of handicapping particularly in whether good handicappers are more intelligent. For instance, American psychologists, Dr. Steve Ceci and Dr. Jeffrey Liker studied a group of experienced horse-race gamblers all of who had been serious gamblers for over eight years and who attended racetracks most days. In a paper that had published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, they divided the gamblers into experts and non-experts on the basis of predicting the favourite and the rank order according to odds of the three most favoured horses. Expert gamblers were those who correctly picked the favourite in at least nine out of ten races and correctly picked the top three horses in rank order in at least five out of ten races. In contrast, the best of the non-experts correctly identified the favourite in only five out of ten races, and selected the top three in only two of the ten races. The two groups were then given a number of intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. Ceci and Liker predicted that the experts would have higher IQs on the basis of their handicapping ability but was very surprised to find no difference at all between the two groups’ intelligence levels.

When the psychologists did some follow-up interviewing, they found that one of the best handicappers was a construction worker with a low IQ (of 85). He managed to pick the top horse in terms of post-time odds 100% of the time and picked the top three horses in correct order in five out of ten races. They also highlighted the case of a high IQ lawyer who picked the top horse only 30% of the time and got the rank ordering of the top three horses correct only once. One of the things concluded was that there is probably more than one type of intelligence and that the IQ test that was used may not have measured the types of skill needed in the handicapping of horses. At least Ceci and Liker’s findings give some hope to us all!

Psychologists have also shown that gamblers (including those who bet on horse racing) can be very biased in their thinking. The occasional punter expects to lose but this isn’t the case for serious gamblers. Each bet is part of a pattern of bets that the gambler expects to yield a positive return overall. To the gambler, winning bets confirm that their system is successful. However, losing bets do not convince gamblers that their system is a failure. Gamblers may explain losing bets as an error in implementing their system or to factors beyond their control. In essence, (and as I have shown in some of my own research studies) many gamblers attribute wins to their skilful gambling but explain away losses as something due to external factors or the environment that they gamble in. On a psychological level, the serious gambler is able to maintain their belief that they have a winning system despite mounting losses through biased evaluations of the outcomes. Since winning is central to the gambler’s self-concept and self-esteem, they cannot quit while losing as this would invalidate the core of the self-concept and initiate intense negative effects (such as depression).

Although horse-race gamblers treat their pastime as a skilful activity, it has been estimated that at least 40% of the relevant information that determines the winner of a race is not accessible to any gamblers. Furthermore, despite years of practice, frequent gamblers may still be very poor at assessing the chances of different horses.

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

Further reading

Ceci, S. J., & Liker, J. K. (1986). A day at the races: A study of IQ, expertise, and cognitive complexity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 115, 255-266.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 351-369.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The psychology of sports betting: What should affiliates know? i-Gaming Business Affiliate, August/September, 46-47.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Mobile sportsbetting: A view from the social sciences. i-Gaming Business, 69, 64-65.

Parke, A., Griffiths, M.D. & Irwing, P. (2004). Personality traits in pathological gambling: Sensation seeking, deferment of gratification and competitiveness as risk factors, Addiction Research and Theory, 12, 201-212.

Parke, J., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, A. (2007). Positive thinking among slot machine gamblers: A case of maladaptive coping? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5, 39-52.

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.

Wardle, H., Sproston, K., Orford, J., Erens, B., Griffiths, M.D., Constantine, R. & Pigott, S. (2007). The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007. London: The Stationery Office

Totally wired: Techno-stress and how to beat it

Technology is essential to most people’s working lives. The potential for constant availability via smartphones, laptops and tablets has facilitated the speed of business life and has become a mixed blessing. For some, wireless links offer the luxury of slipping out of the office for a round of golf or across the globe for an extended holiday. Others feel overwhelmed and less creative when pressured by constant ‘connectedness’. The potential for technological overload has created a new type of anxiety that has been referred to as ‘techno-stress’. Techno-stress can arise from many different routes. These include:

  • Technophobia: Fear of change and working with new technology can be a stressor in itself.
  • Technological failure: As work becomes less centralized and more flexible, people have to become their own IT managers. Coping with the after-effects of technology going wrong (hardware or software) can be incredibly stressful (for instance, most of us know how stressful life suddenly becomes when we lose wi-fi access – even if it is for short periods). This can result in behaviour such as ‘tele-rage’.
  • Management surveillance: Management in some organizations install software that tracks employees’ movements both in and out of the office. It is possible to read staff e-mails and monitor time spent at the computer to ensure maximum productivity. The feeling of being constantly monitored can also be a potential stressor.
  • Information overload: Constant ringing telephones, mobile phone texts, and “You have mail” messages on the internet demand instant action. Coupled with junk e-mail and Internet searches that produce thousands of ‘hits’, people can get caught up in the culture of immediacy. As a result, people become overwhelmed with information and will tend to do and say things that do not produce desired results, and that increases their stress levels.
  • Social isolation: Although technology allows flexibility in working practices, it has the potential to make working more socially isolating. This, again, can be stressful.
  • Fear of redundancy: Some people work harder and longer hours because they fear losing their jobs. Coupled with this, there are companies who are making people redundant all as a result of new technologies being installed. This fear can be stress-inducing.

There are now many studies showing the negative impact that technological advance can have on psychological and physical wellbeing. Some psychologists claim that round-the-clock technology upsets the natural rhythms of both body and brain. Muscles in our bodies are there to be used yet we sit for hours and hours at our terminals using only arm and hand muscles. In addition, rising levels of obesity have been levelled at children (so-called ‘screenagers’) and the computer game culture (topics that I have covered in previous blogs)..

Technology enables people to work from anywhere. No one knows if you’re at the beach or in your office. While on vacation people can spend time on their laptops and chat with clients via their mobile phone. For some – if they were unable to keep in touch with work – they wouldn’t go away for so long in the first place. However, not everyone can handle the extreme accessibility, and constant interruptions from work can irritate those that they are with. The work-family line can become blurred in an undesirable way. Lives become even more work-centred than it already is and can become a workday that never ends.

I can certainly think of times when I would take calls around the clock, seven days a week. Such commitment can build successful businesses but can cost heavily at a personal level. It can compromise both social relationships and health. Partners may complain that there isn’t any time that is just theirs. They may feel that their workaholic partner is never entirely there with them. Man may happily trade the income they have to spend more time with their partner. Technology has the potential to create problems in people’s lives and with their health.

The number of people and amount of time spent working during vacations and after office hours keeps growing as technology encroaches into leisure time. Some time ago, psychologist, Professor Larry Rosen of California State University did a four-year study of business attitudes and technology use. The research indicated 75% of managers and executives worked at home, toiling at their computer for an hour or two each day during traditional ‘down time’. They communicated less with family. Furthermore, they became dysfunctional, made life difficult for the family, and became more detached from their friends. Such findings are not isolated. For instance, another survey reported 62% of Hong Kong business managers said that dealing with too much information had caused personal relationships to suffer, and 51% said it adversely affected their health. Results from a comparison of 11 different countries indicated 40% felt that information overload was taking a toll on relationships and 33% reported technology was causing a health decline.

Technology has changed family dynamics, because technology tends to be a solo (rather than group) activity. Instead of sitting around talking together, different members may be spending their time accessing different technologies (e-mails, videogames, etc.). Even in the same room, people can be in a ‘techno-cocoon’. The technology world is so inviting and fascinating, and it has holding power. In addition to everyone staying in their own little techno-world, youngsters, who have grown up surrounded by beeping, colorful gadgets, tend to be more techno-savvy than their parents. Parents must set boundaries and remain in control of the gadgets.

Technology encourages us take advantage of every moment. For instance, during air-travel, laptops, smartphones and tablets, allow people to transform traditional ‘dead time’ into work. Rather than spending a few minutes unwinding or pulling thoughts together, people convert time in a taxi or airport into productive minutes. But such capabilities foster what some might refer to as ‘multi-tasking madness’. No longer content to complete one thing at a time, people conduct business while driving, check stock quotes while waiting in line at the shopping checkout, and read e-mail as they talk on the phone. The brain allows us to keep many balls in the air, but trying to process so much at once becomes taxing for a mind attempting to resolve unfinished business. However, multi-taskers may have difficulty concentrating and soundly sleeping. They may become irritable, because biochemical and physiological systems remain in a state of hyper-arousal. At 2am in the morning, the brain may come up with a solution to something left hanging earlier in the day. Multi-tasking eventually catches up with everyone.

Unless we set clear limits, we are going to be continuously multitasking. Even the less connected feel the stress. Research shows an increase in the number of people who have embraced electronic gadgetry. But those wavering can’t escape the technological revolution. Stress tends to take on a variety of forms. They can be angry things are changing so rapidly. They can be frustrated by how much time it takes to learn new things. They can be irritated, annoyed or feel inferior.

Just because technology makes a task possible, doesn’t mean you have to always take advantage. Companies must introduce initiatives to manage new technology rather than the technology managing the individuals. Stress management strategies include:

  • Involving workers in decisions regarding the introduction and implementation of new technology
  • Creating social networks for people working remotely or hot-desking
  • Letting the new technology liberate the workers by creating more flexible working arrangements for a better balance between work and home
  • Training people in how to get the most out of technology and making it user-friendly

Finally, here are a few hints and tips on how to beat techno-stress:

  • When surfing for information, decide ahead of time how long you will commit to the endeavor. Accept the fact more data exists than you can possibly find and use.
  • Learn the most effective places to look for what you need. If an Internet search top 20 hits fail to yield useful information, refine the original criteria. People can go from one page to another on the Internet, for two to three hours, and not have much to show for it.
  • Limit e-mail retrieval to a few times per day (say when you first get in if you have a lot of international contacts and before you leave work). Furthermore, turn off instant messaging system or the volume on your computer. This is only helpful when you are expecting a message.
  • When you do check your e-mails, reply immediately to e-mails to acknowledge receipt but don’t necessarily give a detailed reply. Give a considered response later.
  • Indulge in a break from e-mail during short business trips. This will make travelling less stressful. In this connected time, it’s very important to disconnect oneself from time to time so as to get some distance and be able to rise above just reacting to immediate things. In those peaceful moments one can think bigger, slower and more inner questions. A break from technology frees up time for friends, family and appreciating the things that make the world unique.
  • If you need to concentrate – to write a proposal, discuss an important issue with a client or think through a solution to a vexing problem – turn off ringers on phones and wireless devices and close the email inbox window.
  • Develop a plan to handle a technology crisis, with tactics aimed at dealing with everything from hard-drive meltdowns and empty ink cartridges to a low-battery beep. Create back-up files and know how you’re going to get back online.
  • One should always ask, ‘Am I using technology or is technology using me?’ and ‘What’s really important in life, and what’s not?’ Our job is to take back control from technology and then enjoy the benefits that it can give us without feeling the stresses.
  • Finally, take a daily break from gadgets to exercise, read or garden. You will get a refreshed point of view and perspective. You have to have a balance in your life. It will make you a more contented person. By consciously restricting time with technology the stress will begin to subside.

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

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D.  (2002).  Occupational health issues concerning Internet use in the workplace. Work and Stress, 16, 283-287.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004).  Tips on…Managing your e-mails. British Medical Journal Careers, 329, 240.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Internet abuse and addiction in the workplace. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Vol. I-V (Second Edition). pp. 2170-2175. Hershey, Pennsylvania: Idea Publishing.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2004). Youth and technology: The case of gambling, video-game playing and the Internet. In J. Derevensky & R. Gupta (Eds.), Gambling Problems in Youth: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives (pp. 101-120). New York: Kluwer.

Griffiths, M.D. & Dennis, F. (2000). How to beat techno-stress. Independent on Sunday (Reality section), May 7, p.22.

King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Clinical interventions for technology-based problems: Excessive Internet and video game use. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26, 43-56.

Sutton, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Emails with unintended consequences: New lessons for policy and practice in work, public office and private life. In P. Hills (Ed.). As Others See Us: Selected Essays In Human Communication. pp. 160-182. Dereham: Peter Francis Publishers.