Monthly Archives: June 2014
Looming large: A brief look at toy crazes and addiction
A few days ago my friend and colleague Dr. Andrew Dunn asked me “Have you written anything about loom band addiction? It’s a hot trend right now and it’s not just for the kids”. If you are not a parent of a tweenager, some of you reading this may have no idea of what a ‘loom band’ even is. Basically, it is a bracelet made from coloured rubber bands using a toy loom (such as the Rainbow Loom or the Cra-Z-Loom Ultimate Bracelet Maker).
Although I have never written on the topic, it just so happened that the day before he asked me the question, one of my regular blog readers sent me an article from the online BBC News Magazine examining the ‘loom band craze’ that is apparently sweeping the UK. Earlier in the year, I also got sent an article by Mark O’Sullivan in The Guardian newspaper on the same topic (“Loom bands: tweens are obsessed with it, and it’s a welcome sight’). Just so we are all clear, the definition of a ‘craze’ as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is “an enthusiasm for a particular activity or object which appears suddenly and achieves widespread but short-lived popularity”.
The BBC article – written by Justin Parkinson – began by noting that in this age of the screenager, it’s “curious to find that rubber bands are a big thing”. One of the reasons they have been in the British press is that some schools have banned them (because some children have been using them as weapons rather than as decorative wrist wear. There are also news reports of schools in New York banning them because they were alleged to be the cause of playground fights. Other countries (e.g., the Philippines) have complained that the bands are dangerous to pets as they eat the discarded bands and end up being lodged in animal intestines. Parkinson reported that:
“The Rainbow Loom…has sold more than three million units worldwide. The sheer scale of the craze can be seen in the stats for Amazon UK. All 30 of the best-selling toys are either looms or loom-related. The products top the sales list for every age group except the under-twos…Children use the looms, or their own fingers, to weave coloured bands into items such as bracelets, necklaces and charms. They use dozens of different designs, recommended on YouTube and by word of mouth, including the ‘fishtail’, the ‘dragon scale’ and the ‘inverted hexafish’. In an age when the toy market is dominated by more complicated toys and expensive computer games, backed by marketing campaigns, how did they become so popular?”
It wasn’t so long ago that a similar rubber band craze (i.e., Silly Bandz) swept across a number of countries. Silly Bandz are silicone rubber bands that are shaped into everyday objects, letters, numbers, musical instruments, and animals. However, Silly Bandz were to be collected rather than to be created. In relation to loom bands, the US writer Hallie Sawyer alluded to an addictive quality by describing loom bands as “Silly Bandz on crack [that will] someday clog up every landfill in America”. All I can remember as a kid was using rubber bands to make cheap catapults. For his BBC article, Parkinson interviewed Esther Lutman [assistant curator at the Museum of Childhood] about why loom bands were so popular:
“It’s part of the charm of these crazes that the kids find something they can do at school until they are banned. They keep pushing new stuff, particularly in the summer, when they spend more time in the playground together…I would bracket loom bands] with marbles in the Victorian era, yo-yos in the 1930s and hula-hoops in the 1950s. They are quite cheap, which helps explain their spread around playgrounds. They are at their absolute peak now. Who knows what will be next?”
Although we have no idea what will be next, there will be something else that comes along and captures the time and imaginations of children. Loom bands are clearly the latest in a long line of toy crazes. In my own lifetime I have personally witnessed (as both a teenager and parent) Rubik’s Cube (1980), Cabbage Patch Kids (1983), Slap Bracelets [also known as ‘snap bands’ and described as “Venetian blinds with attitude” by the New York Times) (1990), Tamagotchis (1996), Furbies (1998), Beanie Babies (1995), POGs (1995), and Bratz Dolls (2001).
I am no stranger to writing about crazes (and particularly ‘toy crazes’) and over the last 20 years whenever any new craze comes to the fore I am invariably asked by the media to what extent any of them are addictive and/or problematic. Arguably the most noteworthy (and in hindsight the most embarrassing for me personally) was the rise of the Tamagotchis and Furbies in the mid- to late-1990s. I was quoted in many national newspapers at the time as I had begun to do a bit of research into the psychological effects on children of virtual pets (and even published papers and articles on them – see ‘Further reading below’). For instance, the snippet below appeared in many newspapers:
“Dr. Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University has researched what he calls ‘electronic friendship’, and is an authority on technological addictions. His latest subject is the Tamagotchi phenomenon. ‘Children make a massive psychological investment in these things. There have been reports of children going through a bereavement process when their Tamagotchi dies. That has its good points. The whole thing about simulations, whether it’s a pet or an aeroplane, is they help you in real life. I personally feel, the earlier people learn to cope with bereavement the better it is later in life’. He adds: ‘People do actually have attachments with their computer games and favourite fruit machine games. With virtual pets, I can understand it totally. People like to be needed’”.
Every Christmas for the last few years, UK television’s Channel 4 has repeatedly shown the programme 100 Greatest Toys with Jonathan Ross. The Tamagotchi was voted in at No.54 and I am featured in the show – being interviewed by Andrew Harvey on BBC 1’s Breakfast News – talking about the bereavement like reactions by children to the death of their Tamagotchi.
The good news with all of the crazes that I have ever been asked about is that none of them features a documented case of any child being genuinely addicted to any of the toys that I have been asked to comment on. While some of the children may have engaged excessively in the playing of the toys, there was never any evidence of the children experiencing detrimental effects as a result of being addicted.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Cruz, G. (2010). From Tickle Me Elmo to Squinkies: Top 10 toy crazes. Time, December 23. Located at: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1947621_1947626_1993018,00.html
Conradt, S. (2010). The quick 10: 10 Toy crazes. Mental Floss, December 18. Located at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/23547/quick-10-10-toy-crazes
Griffiths, M.D. (1997). Are virtual pets more demanding than the real thing? Education and Health, 15, 37-38.
Griffiths, M.D. (1998). The side effects of Furby fever. Nottingham Evening Post, December 18, p.15.
Griffiths, M.D. & Gray, F. (1998). The rise of the Tamagotchi: An issue for educational psychology? BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology Newsletter, 82, 37-40.
Parkinson, J. (2014). A craze for ‘loom bands’. BBC News Magazine, June 25. Located at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27974401
O’Sullivan, M. (2014). Loom bands: tweens are obsessed with it, and it’s a welcome sight. The Guardian, April 21. Located at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/21/loom-bands-tweens-are-obsessed-with-it-and-its-a-welcome-sight
Soil flush: A peek into the world of the Japanese burusera
“A posting on China’s leading auction site Taobao for the sale of Beijing Olympics cheerleaders’ uniforms, including their unwashed bras and panties, has whipped up a minor storm on China’s Internet. An agent claiming to represent one of the many international teams of Olympics cheerleaders put up the intimate innerwear items for auction and ‘guaranteed their authenticity’ and their ‘unwashed’ status. In language intended to appeal to panty fetishists, the agent wrote, ‘They are sure to excite you. When you hold them up to your nose and sniff, you’ll smell the youthful fragrance of the young girls’…the auction listing has been flamed by incensed Chinese netizens as a ‘vulgar, shameless insult to the Olympics spirit’…From all accounts, the ‘panty donors’ may have been cheerleaders from Japan, where there exists a thriving market for used innerwear that are used in auto-erotic practices. In fact, so-called ‘burusera’ shops in Japanese cities and towns cater to the kinky needs of hormonally driven men to this day” (Story in DNA India, 2008).
According to the Wikipedia entry, ‘burusera’ is a word of Japanese origin and is a hybrid of the word ‘buruma’ meaning ‘bloomers’ (i.e., the bottoms of a gym suit), and ‘sera-fuku’ meaning ‘sailor suit (i.e., the traditional school uniform for Japanese schoolgirls). In Japan, burusera shops sell second-hand clothes and undergarments as well as items (including sanitary towels and tampons) that are soiled with bodily fluids from the owner of the original items (e.g., urine, fecal matter, menstrual blood, etc.). Typically, the sold merchandise is accompanied with a photograph of the girl wearing or holding the item, and acts as a ‘certificate of authenticity’. The buyers of such items typically smell the items as a source of sexual stimulation and gratification. In Japan, there was even a film released (Burusera: Shop of Horrors, a 1996 film directed by Takeshi Miyasaka) about three high school girls from Tokyo that to make extra pocket-money sell their underwear to a burusera shop for pocket money (but don’t actually realise that they are facilitating the latest Japanses fetish craze). According to the Wikipedia entry:
“[Japanese] schoolgirls once openly participated in the sale of their used garments, either through burusera shops or using mobile phone sites to sell directly to clients. When laws banning the purchase of used underwear from minors were introduced in Tokyo in 2004, it was reported that some underage girls were instead allowing their clients (called kagaseya or sniffers) to sniff their underwear from directly between their legs. In August 1994, a burusera shop manager who made a schoolgirl sell her used underwear was arrested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department on suspicion of violation of article 34 of the Child Welfare Act and article 175 of the Criminal Code. The Police alleged violations of the Secondhand Articles Dealer Act which bans the purchase of secondhand goods without authorization. Child pornography laws imposed legal control over the burusera industry in 1999. However, burusera goods in themselves are not child pornography, and selling burusera goods are an easy way for schoolgirls to gain extra income. This has been viewed with suspicion as child sexual abuse.Prefectures in Japan began enforcing regulations in 2004 that restricted purchases and sales of used underwear, saliva, urine, and feces of people under 18. Existing burusera shops stock goods from women at least 18 years old”.
A short article by ‘Morana’ about burusera at the Heaven 666 website provides pictures of Japanese vending machines that were once used to sell pre-packed and ‘ready-to-sniff’ used panties. The same article also makes reference to ‘namasera’, a variation of burusera that means ‘fresh’. Apparently, the namasera concept is the same as burusera, but in this case “the goods are still being worn by the girl who then removes them and hands them over directly at the point of sale”. A more in-depth article by journalist Agnes Gaird reported that:
“[The burusera shop business] concerns a very small minority of Japanese but big enough to support about 30 burusera in Japan. Customers often return to provide themselves with ‘fresh’ products (that is to say, still warm). Under the names of ‘Ado’, ‘Love and ready’, or ‘Lemon club’ these specialised sex-shops sell many more things than undies. They sell the fragrance of eternal youth. For in Japan, pants are synonymous with youthfulness and innocence. In a corner of the shop, dozens of small packets carefully wrapped in plastic, hermetically closed, are lined up on a shelf. Each packet contains a pair of pants, worn before and unwashed, whose prices vary according to several criteria: fragrance, ‘cooking’ time, sedimentation and ideally should be as dirty as possible; the smellier, the better. Prices range between 800 and 8,000 yen. But the customer is not permitted to open the bags for quality control testing. He can choose only according to the picture decorating each packet by way of certificate: the photo of the girl taken in the shop the very day it was purchased by the shopkeeper. Her first name, her age, sometimes even her blood group, all these details come as an extra bonus increasing the added value of the fragrant pants, filled with her shadow presence”.
An interview with a self-identified ‘burusera girl’ (‘Marina A’) at the Pantydeal.com website, provided some personal insight into the burusera phenomenon.
“When I was little, many middle school and high school girls used to make frequent trips to burusera shops for quick cash. Freshly taken off underwear were sold [for higher prices] than dried up panties…I have been [selling burusera items] for about 6 months now…I have done some transactions in Japan, but now I do most business here in the US. I don’t think there is [a typical burusera client]…I have had sales from older guys or someone really young…I have had guys who are single, also guys who are married because they just like the taste of women and their ladies in their lives do not let them…[Menstrual] period items are popular, but I have an ability to hold blood inside my body. So I have requests for pure blood. I sold it in a test tube…The fun part of [burusera is] the notion of guys enjoying my scent discreetly”.
Another first-hand account of the burusera business was described by an anonymous Japanese woman who began selling her used panties at the age of 14 years. She worked in a burusera shop in the Shibuya area in Tokyo that sold “used girls’ undies, bras, socks, gym suits, as well as school uniforms”. She claimed:
“At the shop, the girls wearing the school uniform could sell almost everything they wear and ‘produce’. Some of them sell even used sanitary napkins, tampons, saliva, urine, s**t and others if there are ‘demands’…The burusera shop is the great place for the girls who want avoid spending time with their family. It allowed them to work from 10am to 10pm, 7 days a week and earn $100-1000 per an item. Usually girls could set the price of their items. If the item is sold, a half of the fixed price goes to the girl, and another half goes to the shop’s revenue. For instance, I set the price of my undies as $200…I sold my bra for $300, socks for $200, shoes for $400, shirts for $400, saliva for $350, and urine for $400. I never sold my s**t, but there were girls who sold their s**t for $300-$500”.
The number of academic writings on the topic of burusera appears to be minimal. I did unearth a 2004 discussion paper by Dr. Iria Matsuda (Kobe University, Japan) that examined the cultural discourse surrounding Japanese school uniforms but it only had two paragraphs on burusera with little relating to the sexualized aspect. There was also one paragraph about burusera in a 2011 paper by Amelia Groom in the journal New Voices but only mentioned the existence of the phenomenon. Another 2000 paper by Dr. Yumiko Iida on Japanese identity and the crisis of modernity in the 1990s also mentioned burusera but again it was only mentioned in passing. Unfortunately, the most relevant paper I found was by Dr. S. Kreitz-Sandberg that examined the sexual revolution in Japan during the 1990s and new forms of commercialized sexuality (and most specifically burusera). However, it is written in German and I was unable to work out what was in it.
Given the obvious overlaps with various sexual paraphilias such as urophilia, coprophilia, salirophilia, menophilia, and mysophilia, it’s debatable as to whether burusera can be seen as a sub-genre within these more established sexual behaviours or whether research can be carried out in a standalone manner.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Giard, A. (undated). Arigat-oh! Agnès Giard uncovers Japanese sub-cultural erotica. ISBN Magazine. Located at: http://www.isbn-magazine.com/publications/rene_gruau/agnes-giard/index.html
Groom, A. (2011). Power play and performance in Harajuku. New Voices, 4(1), 188-210.
Iida, Y. (2000). Between the technique of living an endless routine and the madness of absolute degree zero: Japanese identity and the crisis of modernity in the 1990s. Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, 8, 423-464.
Kreitz-Sandberg, S. (1998). Sexuelle Revolution im Japan der 90er Jahre? Neue Formen der kommerzialisierten Sexualität von burusera bis enjo kØsai. Minikomi. Informationen des Akademischen Arbeitskreis Japan, 4.
Matsuda, I. (2004). Deliberately regulated consumption? Discourse on school uniforms. Discussion paper (Center for Legal Dynamics of Advanced Market Societies, Kobe University
Morana (2008). Burusera. Heaven 666, February 19. Located at: http://www.heaven666.org/burusera-24070.php
Ryang, S. (2006). Love in Modern Japan: Its Estrangement from Self, Sex and Society. London: Routledge.
Suzuki, N. (2007). Love in modern Japan: Its estrangement from self, sex and society. Social Science Japan Journal, 10(1), 143-146.
Vembu, V. (2008). On sale: Beijing cheergirls dirty lingerie. DNA India, September 13. Located at: http://www.dnaindia.com/world/1189777/report-on-sale-beijing-cheergirls-dirty-lingerie
Wikipedia (2013). Burusera. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burusera
Sound ideas: A brief look at the effect of music on gambling behaviour
Throughout my academic career, I have always been interested in how the design of environments affects human behaviour. Given that my primary research area is the psychology of gambling and that my most passionate hobby is listening to music, it probably won’t come as a surprise that I have carried out research into the effect of music on gambling behaviour.
The effect of music has been studied extensively in commercial contexts (particularly advertising and retailing). Many research studies have shown that music has the capacity to affect consumers’ perceptions of a particular environment, their intended and actual purchase behaviour, and time spent in a particular environment. Advertisers and marketers use such knowledge to help target their consumer group. Psychologists Adrian North and David Hargreaves have noted in many of their papers that music may have the capacity to modify psychological arousal or induce relaxation. A number of studies have supported this claim through various investigations into the arousal of music.
Highly arousing music has been characterised as loud, unpredictable and with a quick tempo. Low arousing music in contrast is soft, predictable, and has a slower tempo. The more the music is able to produce arousal in individuals, the more pleasurable it is for them, and the more likely it will be their preference. Musical tempo is another area within the field of music that has generated empirical research. A variety of reports from participants and consumers have described fast tempo music with a variety of adjectives, indicating it as happier, pleasant, joyous, exhilarating. Studies manipulating the tempo of music have found that faster music leads to more positive judgements of advertisements, enhances effects on the performance of tasks, leads to faster movement, and higher arousal levels. Slow music has the opposite effects resulting in more relaxing, solemn adjectives being used when participants described it.
As both a structural and situational characteristic in gambling behaviour, the role of music has become more apparent in the last decade. Many slot machines now have musical interludes. This makes them generally more appealing, especially if they are familiar. Researchers (including myself) have consistently argued that sound effects can contribute to the encouragement of gambling.
Back in 2003, Dr. Jonathan Parke and myself published a book chapter examining the environmental psychology of gambling in the book Gambling: Who Wins? Who Loses? (edited by the sociologist Gerda Reith). A small part of that review speculatively examined the role of music in facilitating gambling behaviour. We noted that at the time we wrote the review, no research has been carried out on the topic (and that research was obviously needed). A couple of years later, we published a paper in the Journal of Gambling Issues and reported a number of observations based on our experiences of enaging in participant and non-participant observation in amusement arcades and other gambling venues.
We argued that auditory effects have the capacity to make a slot machine more ”aesthetically appealing” to individuals and this differentiation could be a deciding factor when choosing a machine. We also hypothesized that music has the potential to facilitate, stimulate, maintain and exacerbate gambling behaviour in some individuals. This could be due to the fact that familiar music may induce a feeling of enjoyment as it is recognisable to the individual and thus may entice them into playing (something that I had noted in an earlier paper that I wrote with David Dunbar in a 1997 issue of the Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter). The music played when one wins is distinctive and memorable and could also lead to further plays. In short, music has the capability to increase confidence, modulate arousal and relaxation and help the player to disregard previous losses.
In 2007, I published a study in the journal International Gambling Studies that I carried out with Laura Dixon and Dr. Richard Trigg investigating the role of music in gambling behaviour. In our experiment, 60 participants played virtual roulette in one of three conditions.The three conditions were (i) no music, (ii) slow tempo music,and (iii) fast music (20 participants in each condition). Tengames of roulette were played with speed of betting, amountspent across high, medium and low-level risk bets and totalamount spent recorded. Their results showed that speed ofbetting was influenced by musical tempo with faster bettingoccurring while listening to higher tempo music.However, there was no relationship between musical tempo and either the size of the bet or the overall amountspent. Although not carried out in a casino, we believed our findingsprovided valuable insight into how background music can bemanipulated to increase the speed of gambling.
In 2010, along with Jenny Spenwyn and Dr. Doug Barrett, I published another study examining the effect of music on gambling in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. This study (as far as we are aware) was the first ever empirical study to examine the combined effects of both music and light on gambling behaviour. While playing an online version of roulette, 56 participants took part in one of four experimental conditions (14 participants in each condition); (1) gambling with fast tempo music under normal (white) light, (2) gambling with fast tempo music under red light, (3) gambling with slow tempo music under normal (white) light, and (4) gambling with slow tempo music under red light. Risk (i.e., the amount of money spent) per spin and speed of bets were measured as indicators of gambling behaviour. We found significant effects for speed of bets in relation to musical tempo, but not light. We also found a significant interaction between light and music for speed of bets. In short, we found that fast tempo music under red light resulted in individuals gambling faster gambling.
Most recently, some of my research colleagues in Norway, led by Dr. Rune Mentzoni, published a paper in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions that also examined music’s effect of gambling behaviour. Like our studies, they carried out a laboratory experiment. Their study comprised101 undergraduate students who played a computerized gambling task inwhich either a high-tempo or a low-tempo musical soundtrack was present. It was reported that: low-tempo music was associated with increased gambling persistence in terms of overall number of bets placed, whereas high-tempo music was associated with intensified gambling in terms of faster reaction time per placed bet. Based on their results, they concluded that high-tempo music is associated with more risky gambling behaviour (by increasing gambling persistence and by reducing reaction time for bets placed).
From the empirical literature published so far, there does appear to be some evidence to suggest that the gambling environment may be manipulated by the use of sound of music (as well as other characteristics such as light and colour) and that such situational characteristics may affect gambling behaviour. However, the empirical base, is limited and further research is needed before reaching any definitive conclusions.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Caldwell, C. & Hibbert, S.A. (1999). “Play that one again: The effect of music tempo on consumer behaviour in a restaurant. European Advances in Consumer Research, 4, 58-62.
Dixon, L., Trigg, R. & Griffiths, M. (2007). An empirical investigation of music and gambling behaviour. International Gambling Studies, 7, (3), 315-326.
Dube, L., Chebat, J.C. & Morin, S. (1995). The effects of background music on consumers desire to affiliate in buyer- seller interactions”, Psychology and Marketing, 12, 305-319.
Griffiths, M.D. & Dunbar, D. (1997). The role of familiarity in fruit machine gambling. Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter, 29, 15-20.
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. & Parke, J. (2005). The psychology of music in gambling environments: an observational research note. Journal of Gambling Issues, 13. Available at: http://jgi.camh.net/doi/full/10.4309/jgi.2005.13.8
Hebert, S., Beland, R., Dionne-Fournelle, O., Crete, M. & Lupien, S.J. (2004). Psychological stress response to video game playing: the contribution of built in music. Life Sciences, 76, 2371-2380.
Kellaris, J.J. & Kent, R.J. (1993). An exploratory investigation of responses elicited by music varying in tempo, tonality, and texture. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2, 381-402.
Mentzoni, R. A., Laberg, J. C., Brunborg, G. S., Molde, H., & Pallesen, S. (2014). Type of musical soundtrack affects behavior in gambling. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, DOI: 10.1556/JBA.3.2014.006.
Milliman, R.E. (1982). Using background music to affect the behaviour of supermarket shoppers. Journal of Marketing, 46, 86-91.
Milliman, R.E. (1986). “The influence of background music on the behaviour of restaurant patrons. Journal of Consumer Research, 13, 286-289.
North, A.C., & Hargreaves, D.J. (1997). Experimental aesthetics and everyday music listening. In D.J. Hargreaves & A.C. North (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Music. pp.84-103. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). The psychology of the fruit machine: The role of structural characteristics re-visited. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 151-179.
Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). The role of structural characteristics in gambling. In G. Smith, D. Hodgins & R. Williams (Eds.), Research and Measurement Issues in Gambling Studies. pp.211-243. New York: Elsevier.
Spenwyn, J., Barrett, D.K.R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The role of lights and music in gambling behavior: An empirical pilot study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 107-118.
A step too far: Crush fetishism and ‘animal torture porn’ (revisited)
In previous blogs, I have examined both crush fetishism and zoosadism. A crush fetish is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from watching (or fantasizing about) someone of the opposite sex crushing items (e.g., toys, cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops), food (e.g., fruit), and (in extreme cases) small animals and insects, and/or being stepped on, sat upon, and/or crushed on by a person. Zoosadism refers to the pleasure – often sexual – that individuals attain by causing sadistic cruelty to animals. These bizarre and (in some cases) depraved behaviours recently made the headlines in America following the arrests of women for appearing in an ‘animal torture porn’ video.
In the first case, 28-year old Sara Zamora, a woman from Florida (USA) was arrested following her appearance in a zoosadistic fetish video entitled ‘SOS Barn’. According to various newspaper reports, Zamora is seen engaged in various sexual acts while crushing and killing rabbits (including ‘karate’ chopping their legs) and decapitating chickens. According to a report in the Miami Herald Newspaper the video was made purely for the “sexual gratification of its viewers”. The Herald report alleges that:
“In one clip of ‘SOS Barn’, Miami-Dade police say, Zamora gropes a man’s genitals with her left hand while ‘repeatedly cutting a chicken’s neck using hedge clippers with her right.’ In others, she posed ‘in a sexy outfit’ after hacking off the head of another screaming bird, or she beat chickens to death with a wooden stick…’It’s certainly horrifying. I mean these are sadistic people inflicting gruesome suffering on innocent and vulnerable and helpless animals’ said [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’] Cruelty Casework Director Stephanie Bell…So-called ‘crush’ animal torture videos aren’t new and have been the target of past legal crackdowns. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that outlawed depictions of animals being ‘intentionally maimed, mutilated, tortured, wounded, or killed’, saying it was too broad and violated the right to free speech”.
The film was made at the house of (and presumably by) Adam Redford. Unfortunately, no-one knows exactly when the video was made and therefore “the statute of limitations may have expired”.
Not long after the arrest of Zamora, a second American woman – 29-year old Stephanie Hird from Arkansas (performing under her stage name ‘Megan Jones’) – was also arrested for her role in the ‘SOS Barn’ video. Described by the New York Daily Times as an “animal snuff film starlet”, Hird allegedly shot animals with an air rifle while tied down or being crushed (at least according to court documents that the newspaper had managed to get hold of. According to her social media profiles, Hird’s sexual fetishes also including foot tickling and bondage, as well as being interested in various aspects of macrophilia and microphilia (which I have covered in previous blogs). The New York Daily News story also reported that:
“Hird also appeared in the [The Learning Channel] show ‘Strange Sex’ to help a man realize his dream of being with a giant woman. The episode uses special effects to make the woman appear as if she were several-hundred-feet tall and towering over cities before manhandling her victim. ‘I love being considered a giantess and a goddess’ a smiling Hird tells the camera behind the scenes of the show. ‘Guys love being overpowered. They like being controlled. They like, you know, a woman being in charge – like she should be”.
As I noted in my previous blogs, there has been little empirical research on either crush fetishism or zoosadism, and most academically published papers are case reports. Since I published my blog on crush fetishism, some of my readers will be aware of the case study I published on a man (that I gave the pseudonym of ‘Brad’) with eproctophilia (i.e., sexual arousal to flatulence) in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The reason I mention this is that one of the other sexual fetishes that Brad also had was crush fetishism. Brad claimed he had this fetish “since birth” and went on to explain further:
“[I have another fetish that] am not proud of, but it exists and may help your study. I have a crush fetish, which is essentially arousal from seeing people step on objects or insects. This particular one has had a lot of bad publicity. As for this one, I can’t tell you where it originated. I remember rubbing myself in my crib as a baby to such thoughts, leading me to believe I may have literally been born with it. I could have been no older than 2½ years old. Keep in mind, these are very primal memories which are mostly a blur. All I recall is that around the time of those memories, I would also rub myself to the thought of someone stepping on an insect, or sometimes a machine made to crush up children like myself. Come to think of it, that last one may have been caused by seeing an apple cider press as a toddler. I also seem to recall that, and being afraid of it because of how it ‘hurt’ the apples”.
I also asked Brad if he thought there was any connection between his crush fetish and his eproctophilia. He responded that if there was any connection, it concerned “the idea of the duality” in that he would not expect to see a woman fart in front of him and similarly, he would not expect a woman to kill an insect in front of him for no real reason. In relation to his crush fetish, he also reported:
“It’s my oldest fetish with no known origin, and I like it for about the same reason as eproctophilia. Maybe that I also disliked seeing people kill bugs as a kid, while also finding it arousing. I was quite the pacifist. Also, when I first discovered ejaculation, I made the connection that ejaculating was somewhat like when a bug is stepped on. I thought about a bug squirting under pressure and then I would do the same. May or may not be relevant, but it was a connection I made as a kid”.
While this is only a small insight into the mind of a crush fetishist, the scientific value of case studies includes their utility in highlighting rare phenomena as well as their role in the generation of new research questions and hypotheses (observations made by Dr. Terry Vasey and Dr. Paul Vasey in a case study of feederism in 2011 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior [ASB]). The case I presented in my own ASB paper hopefully fulfils these values. Clearly, this is just one case study and Brad is unlikely to be representative of the entire eproctophile and/or crush fetish community. Further research is needed to assess the extent to which the case study I reported is representative of eproctophiles and/or crush fetishists more generally, and whether the etiological and developmental pathways are more complex than I initially described in my case study account. I also noted at the end of my paper that Brad “highlights the need for further research into crush fetishism as there are no empirical data on this type of fetish”.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.
Huffington Post (2014). Woman tortured, killed animals while filming Brutal Fetish Sex Video: Cops. April 4. Located at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/06/woman-tortured-animals-fetish-video_n_5100535.html
Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Eproctophilia in a young adult male: A case study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1383-1386.
Intentious (2011). Rabbit crushing outrage – Animal snuff film offends. December 9. Located at: http://intentious.com/2011/12/09/rabbit-crushing-outrage-animal-snuff-film-offends/
Kemp, J. (2014). Second fetish model busted in Miami for role in sickening animal torture porn video. New York Daily News, April 17. Located at: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/fetish-model-busted-miami-role-animal-torture-porn-article-1.1759487
Miami Herald (2014). Miami woman charged with role in animal torture sex fetish porn video. April 4. Located at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/04/4040007/miami-woman-charged-with-role.html
Terry, L.L. & Vasey, P.L. (2011). Feederism in a woman. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 639-645.