Jealous high: A brief look at zelophilia

According to Dr. Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, zelophilia is a sexual paraphilia and refers to individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from jealousy. This is the only academic definition I have come across and as academic definitions go, it is not the most helpful as it doesn’t say what kind of jealousy sexual arousal is linked to. Anecdotally, I am assuming that at the heart of zelophilia is a person being turned on by their sexual partner having a sexual and/or romantic relationship with another person. For instance, here are a few online posts to the Is It Normal? website:

  • Extract 1: “Is it normal to get horny over being jealous? When my boyfriend gets hit on by other girls it really turns me on and I’ve even fantasized about walking in on him having sex with another girl even though I know it’d make me angry and upset and I’d probably dump him”.
  • Extract 2: “I have the same turn on. I always picture me being tied down and having to watch someone else f**k my girlfriend. I don’t want them too, but she does. I think it’s part of the whole humiliation/submissive fetish I have”.
  • Extract 3: “I can relate to the idea of being turned on by jealousy. My [boyfriend] has been on at me to have a [threesome] for about 18 months now finally I’m thinking about it. When I asked him why he wants me to do this he said he’d like to see another man giving me a good time an that he’d be jealous as hell, but as long as I was safe and having a good time then he’d be okay with that. He wants me to try a [foursome] but I can’t cope with girl on girl action, but the thought of another girl sucking him is a turn on even though I’m secretly jealous that he might prefer her to me”.

If zelophilia genuinely exists, then these online posts suggest that some people have indicative signs of what I would expect zelophiles to experience. They would also seem to psychologically and behaviourally overlap with cuckold fetishes (which I covered in a previous blog). A short article on zelophilia at the Kinkly website (like Dr. Aggrawal) says that the primary source of the sexual arousal is jealousy but also makes other (unsubstantiated) claims. More specifically it noted that:

Zelophilia is a condition in which a person becomes sexually aroused by feelings of jealousy. This is a diagnosed medical condition that can be managed if the sufferer is able to learn to deal with and accommodate the fetish in some way. However, if zelophilia becomes an issue, it can be treated with psychoanalysis, hypnosis and therapy…While jealousy most often leads to harsh words, angry feelings, tears and sometimes break-ups, those with the zelophilia fetish get sexually aroused by jealous feelings. Managing this fetish within a healthy sexual relationship can be a real challenge”.

The information that was in the Kinkly article may have been based on the zelophilia entry at the Right Diagnosis online medical website as the wording and claims are very similar. The Right Diagnosis website claims that:

“Treatment [for zelophilia] is generally not sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way, or they come under scrutiny of the legal system, and become compelled to address their condition. Many people simply learn to accept their fetish and manage to achieve gratification in an appropriate manner”.

There are quite a few online articles on zelophilia but most of these are just personal opinion pieces with almost zero academic content (such as the one written by ‘Kinky Kelly’). However, another interesting online article I came across was one by Drew Albright who examined the (sometimes) paradoxical relationship between jealousy, envy and the BDSM scene. She made the following observation:

“In many ways envy and jealousy in relation to sex is a paradox. On the one hand, envy and jealousy is at the core of eroticism – I want that, ‘I want to do that’, ‘That body is mine!’ are all examples of lust, a.k.a envy. Fetish and BDSM play and behaviors are ways that many find fun to explore and safely let their inner piggy out! On the other hand, when we are unaware of our own propensity for envy on the grand scale and in our everyday lives, we can act them out in sexualized power struggles, which ultimately have nothing to do with sex or sex interest itself”.

While researching this blog I also came across the following post at the Answers Yahoo website.

“I thought I’d ask this in the dating section but I figured I would get better answers here. It is not out of insecurity because truthfully (call me whatever you want) I am considered extremely attractive and I can say myself that I get plenty of attention whenever I am out. For some reason I have this sick and disgusting addiction to making guys jealous. Especially the confident type. If I can tell a guy is sweet and genuine I do it still but less. However, when the guy seems shady to me and is approaching and pursuing me, I for some reason LOVE for him to see me hit on my other guys, etc. I see their reactions and it turns me on like none other. It is an addiction and a sick one. Not sure what to do what is wrong with me? Maybe I am insecure and don’t know it?”

This online self-admission appeared to fit Dr. Aggrawal’s definition of zelophilia but is different from the self-confessions at the beginning of this article because the person gets aroused from making her sexual partners jealous rather than the sexual arousal being caused by the sexual partner being with another person. My own observation that zelophilia shares similarities with cuckold fetish, has also been made by others. For instance, the article on zelophilia by the (admittedly non-academic) ‘Fetish University’ run by female dominatrix ‘Empress Ivy’ on her Masturbation Fascination website noted:

“I see this particular fetish most frequently with cuckold and coerced [fellatio] or bisexual fantasies. Most start out with the admission of their wife’s infidelity and they go into great detail about how jealous they felt that their wife was with another man. A man that is stronger, more masculine, has a bigger [penis], and can sexually satisfy her in ways the husband could not. Obviously the initial admission of this would spark jealousy, or perhaps resentment, but at the same time – when these events are recalled the callers clearly become aroused by it”.

Zelophilia appears to be yet another sexual paraphilia of which we know next to nothing about, and although there appears to be some anecdotal evidence that it exists, the “evidence” (such that it is) is far from conclusive.

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.

Albright, D. (2005). Fetish & BDSM: Fantasy Fun or Envy & Jealousy Taken to the Extreme, World of Jimmy Star. Located at:

Harris, C. R. (2002) Sexual and romantic jealousy in heterosexual and homosexual adults. Psychological Science, 13, 7–12.

Kinky Kelley (2011). Fetish: Zelophilia, January 26. Located at:

Simons, I. (2009). On fetishes and clean pencil tips. Psychology Today, March 8. Located at:

Wikipedia (2013). Cuckold. Located at:

About drmarkgriffiths

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

Posted on August 1, 2014, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Gender differences, Obsession, Paraphilia, Pornography, Psychology, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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