Category Archives: Case Studies

Cynical psychology: The psychology of hoaxing

Earlier this week, I appeared on BBC radio talking about the psychology of hoaxing after someone had made hoax calls to the police about a bomb being on Nottingham school premises. I have to admit that I’m no expert on the psychology of hoaxing but I’ve always had a personal interest in hoaxes especially those in science (such a the Piltdown Man ‘missing link’ hoax), cryptozoology (such as Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster), parapsychology (alien abductions, flying saucers, etc.), art hoaxes (such as the Nat Tate scandal, a fake biography written by William Boyd and given credence by US writer Gore Vidal, Picasso’s biographer John Richardson, and David Bowie), and literary hoaxes (such as the German magazine Stern publishing Hitler’s diaries before they realised they were fake).

I also grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s enjoying television shows like Candid Camera and Game For A Laugh where hoaxing was the shows’ main ingredient in the name of entertainment. This has carried on into today’s light entertainment strand such as the hoaxes with celebrities on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. I’m not claiming that such shows make hoaxing socially acceptable or socially condoned but they probably help in softening individuals’ attitudes towards hoaxing.

The radio show I was interviewed on wanted to know about why people hoax and the underlying psychology of a hoaxer. Before looking at any articles on what motivates a hoaxer I made a list of all the reasons I could think of what might cause people to hoax. My preliminary list included hoaxing (i) for amusement purposes, (ii) out of boredom, (iii) as an act of revenge, (iv) as a way to gain fame and/or notoriety in some way, (iv) to gain attention, such as faking illness [Munchausen’s Syndrome], (v) to demonstrate cleverness (or a perception of cleverness) to others around them, (vi) to disrupt the status quo (including terrorist and non-terrorist activity), and for political causes (such as claiming to be a victim of a racist hate crime).

After this (and in preparation for my radio interview) I went on Google Scholar and was surprised how little research had been done on the psychology of hoaxes (although there is plenty of research on more general areas such as the psychology of deception). One online article on hoaxes gave a different list of reasons as to why individuals would carry out hoaxes that was very different from my own speculations. The five reasons listed were to: (i) draw attention to their fraudulent skills, (ii) gain financial benefits through their deceit, (iii) “put their bait out and see who falls victim or target specific individuals to vilify or discredit, especially those who pose a threat (paranoia)”, (iv) feed people’s secret prejudices and beliefs, and (v) fool people “because it’s fun”.

Although there are many similar definitions as to what constitutes a hoax, I decided to use the Wikipedia definition as the basis for this article as it was more detailed than others that I read:

“A hoax is a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth. It is distinguishable from errors in observation or judgment, or rumors, urban legends, pseudosciences, or April Fool’s Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes”.

In his cunningly (or should that be ‘punningly’) titled recent book Hoax Springs Eternal: The Psychology of Cognitive Deception, the psychologist Peter Hancock highlighted six steps that characterise a truly successful hoax:

  • “Identify a constituency – a person or group of people who, for reasons such as piety or patriotism, or greed, will truly care about your creation.
  • Identify a particular dream which will make your hoax appeal to your constituency.
  • Create an appealing but ‘under-specified’ hoax, with ambiguities.
  • Have your creation discovered.
  • Find at least one champion who will actively support your hoax.
  • Make people care, either positively or negatively – the ambiguities encourage interest and debate.”

In a short (but interesting) online presentation, Chris Jones noted that hoaxers exploit human psychology in order to persuade us to do foolish things. More specifically, Jones asserted that hoaxes prey upon a number of human traits including good will, naivety, greed, fear and anxiety, and a deference to authority (such as your doctor, lawyer, your bank, etc.). This is supported by the computer hacker Kevin Mitnick who in his 2002 book The Art of Deception claims that human beings are the biggest threat to security and that human emotions such as willingness to help others, personal gain, trust, fear of getting reprimanded, and conformity are the primary reasons social engineering techniques (which include hoaxes) can be so successful.

In an article in The Independent, Rose Shepherd interviewed a police inspector (Glen Chalk) and a psychologist (Dr. Glenn Wilson) about individuals’ motives for hoaxes concerning information about crimes that had been committed. Chalk noted:

“People have various motives…Some people might be overly helpful. They could have some information, and then embellish it. Others might be outright malicious…[These] are probably fantasists, anxious to help or to associate themselves with events…A lot of callers are attention-seekers”.

Dr. Wilson added that hoax callers enjoy “a sense of potency” and:

“They may be people who feel they make no impact on the world, and this is one way they can do that, rather as fire-setters start fires then stand back to admire their handiwork. They see people running around and think `I did that!’ For people who feel they have no power, it is the capacity to influence events. There may be an element of exhibitionism, of getting into the public eye. For the time on the phone, at least, everybody is terribly interested in what they’ve got to say. Anonymity spoils things, but they might deliberately then get caught, and might even become famous as a result, in a rather lesser way than those who kill a celebrity: they get fame in a very backhanded way. [Not all nuisance callers are knowing hoaxers: some probably, genuinely believe they have something to offer]. I suppose they may think they are being helpful…perhaps telling police where a body might be found. They might really think they are psychic. They’re not trying to be obstructive; they just want to get in on the act.”

The article also made reference to one of the most notorious hoax calls of all time, the infamous “Jack” who pretended to by the Yorkshire Ripper and ended up subverting the police hunt for the real female serial killer. Although many believed that “Jack” should have been pursued, Inspector Chalk concluded that there was “not a lot of point in prosecuting the sad fantasists”.

The Wikipedia entry on hoaxes provided an interesting ‘typology’ of hoaxes that could certainly be used in further academic research. The list included:

  • Socially appropriate hoaxes (with April Fools’ Day being the most noteworthy example)
  • Religious hoaxes (such as Maria Monk’s 1836 best-selling book Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed that claimed there was systematic sexual abuse of nuns by Catholic priests and that the priests murdered the resulting babies).
  • Anthropological hoaxes (such as the fossilized skull and jaw remains of the Piltdown Man collected in 1912 and exposed as a forgery in 1953 as the lower jawbone of an orangutan with the skull of modern man).
  • Hoaxes as scare tactics (such as those that appeal to individuals’ subjectively rational belief that the expected cost of not believing the hoax outweighs the expected cost of believing the hoax).
  • Academic hoaxes (such as when Polish psychologist Tomasz Witkowski published a fake article in the psychology journal Charaktery)
  • Sting operation’ hoaxes that are used by law enforcement to catch criminals.
  • Art hoaxes such as art done by chimpanzees and elephants that fooled many art critics.
  • Internet hoaxes (such as the online videos claiming that iPods could be charged up with an onion and Gatorade).
  • Computer virus hoaxes

Dr. Ross Anderson notes in his 2008 book Security Engineering that frauds and hoaxes have always happened, but that the Internet makes some hoaxes easier, “and lets others be repackaged in ways that may bypass our existing controls (be they personal intuitions, company procedures or even laws)”.

As a self-confessed music obsessive, my all-time favourite hoax was music magazine Rolling Stone’s 1969 invention of the debut album by the Masked Marauders, a ‘supergroup’ featuring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. As a 2014 article in Mental Floss recalled:

“Due to legal issues with their respective labels, the stars’ names wouldn’t appear on the album cover, but the review extolled the virtues of Dylan’s new ‘deep bass voice’ and the record’s 18-minute cover songs…The writer earnestly concluded, ‘It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life.’ For anyone paying attention, the absurd details added up to a clear hoax. The man behind the gag, editor Greil Marcus, was fed up with the supergroup trend and figured that if he peppered his piece with enough fabrication, readers would pick up on the joke. They didn’t. After reading the review, fans were desperate to get their hands on the Masked Marauders album. Rather than fess up, Marcus dug in his heels and took his prank to the next level. He recruited an obscure San Francisco band to record a spoof album, then scored a distribution deal with Warner Bros. After a little radio promotion, the Masked Marauders’ self-titled debut sold 100,000 copies. For its part, Warner Bros. decided to let fans in on the joke after they bought the album. Each sleeve included the Rolling Stone review along with liner notes that read, ‘In a world of sham, the Masked Marauders, bless their hearts, are the genuine article’.”

It all goes to show that people will believe what they want to believe. I probably would have fallen for this hoax as well but I was only three years old at the time.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Anderson, R. (2008). Security engineering (2nd edition). Chichester: Wiley.

Caterson, S. (2010). Towards a general theory of hoaxes [online]. Quadrant, 54, 70-74.

Daly, K. C. (2000). Internet hoaxes: Public regulation and private remedies. Located at: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/8965617/Daly,_Karen.html?sequence=2

Dunn, H. B., & Allen, C. A. (2005, March). Rumors, urban legends and Internet hoaxes. In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Marketing Educators (p. 85)

Edward, G. (2010). Profiling hoaxers: The psychology of fame. Bigfoot Lunch Club, January 27. Located at: http://www.bigfootlunchclub.com/2010/01/profiling-hoaxers-psychology-of-fame.html

Hancock, Peter (2015). Hoax Springs Eternal: The Psychology of Cognitive Deception. (pp.182-195). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heyd, T. (2008). Email hoaxes: form, function, genre ecology (Vol. 174). John Benjamins Publishing

Hobart, M. (2013). My best friend’s brother’s cousin new this guy who…: Hoaxes, legends, warnings, and fisher’s narrative paradigm. Communication Teacher, 27(2), 90-93.

Hyman, R. (1989). The psychology of deception. Annual Review of Psychology, 40(1), 133-154.

Mitnick, K.D. (2002). The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security. Indianapolis: Wiley.

Podhradsky, A., D’Ovidio, R., Engebretson, P., & Casey, C. (2013). Xbox 360 hoaxes, social engineering, and gamertag exploits. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2013 46th Hawaii International Conference (pp. 3239-3250). IEEE.

Raymond, A. K. (2014). The 14 greatest hoaxes of all time. Mental Floss, March 31. Located at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/49674/14-greatest-hoaxes-all-time

Shepherd, R. (1996). It starts with a hoax…It ends with havoc. The Independent, July 31. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/it-starts-with-a-hoax-it-ends-in-havoc-1307603.html

The cycle of love: Another look at objectum sexuality

In previous blogs I have examined (a) whether in some individuals excessive cycling can be addictive, and (b) some individuals who have sexual relationships with inanimate objects – so-called objectum sexuality, that also appears to have various sub-types such as mechanophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure from computers, cars, robots or androids, domestic appliances, etc.) and robot fetishism (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal arising from humanoid or non-humanoid robots). Today’s blog is arguably an intersection of these previous blogs takes a look at one individual that I was made aware of when I was interviewed about him for the television series Forbidden (broadcast on the Discovery Channel). The case involves Dutchmen Kees van Voorst (KVV) has “a special love for bikes”. He claims to be in love and have sexual relationships with thirty bicycles.

Compared with other objectum sexuals, KVV is not unique. For instance, in previous blogs I recounted the cases of American man Edward Smith who has who has had sex with over a 1000 cars, and the British man Robert Stewart who ended up in court after being caught having sex with a bicycle. I also made reference to a paper published in 2000 by Dr. Steven Thompson in the journal Technology and Culture. Thompson argued that some types of cycles (i.e., motorcycles) are often portrayed as sexualized fetish objects by their owners.

The television documentary about KVV films him in his hometown of Lunteren. The story shows not only how much KVV loves riding bicycles but also shows how much he is romantically and sexually in love with bicycles. He appears ecstatic as he rides his favourite bicycles. He introduces the documentary makers to each bicycle by name. The production notes for the television programme highlighted that:

“His favourite [bicycle] is Aunt Ann who he sleeps with at night. He shows us how he dotes on them daily, oiling their chains, pumping up their tyres and polishing their shafts. He reads bike magazines as if they were adult magazines, Kees really does love bikes. In the film we follow Kees as he introduces a new member to his bike family. But his house is so packed full already, he’ll have to sell one of his bikes to make room for the new member, an emotional moment. He still doesn’t know which bike will go. Once he’s decided, he’ll say goodbye and then sell his bike to a local person who has answered an ad in the local paper…We’ll see him walk through gigantic bike parking lots with literally thousands of bikes – he’ll say hello to them as he walks past. He’ll then enter a massive bike store and be weak at the knees with the sexy selection of bike babes hanging from the ceiling. He’ll then choose his new love and take her home to meet her new family. After introducing the new bike to her new bike brothers and cycling sisters – the moment of truth, the first ride on the new bike – how will they get on? Will she be as good a ride as she looks? Will he take her off road straight away or build up to it? The film will end with Kees and his feelings about his new bike”.

There is little doubt that KVV is one of the world’s few genuine objectum sexuals. KVV wasn’t aware that his sexual love of bicycles had a name but confirmed that the scientific description of the condition matched his own feelings and experiences (i.e., strong feelings of love, commitment and attraction to inanimate items). He was quoted in the documentary as saying “I see my love as the same as men and women but with bikes…I tried to love women but they just don’t love me back like a bike can”. Of the 30 bicycles KVV owns, eight of them have names and his true love is a bicycle he named ‘Aunt Ann’. He currently cycles around 10,000 kilometres a year on his various bicycles. His “special desire” for bicycles began when he was 12 years old.

“His neighbour was visiting with her bike and [KVV] was fixated on it, he pleaded with her to be able to borrow the bike but she wouldn’t let him. He was heart broken. But it wasn’t till he was 16 [years old] that he had his first real love. it was then that he really could grasp that his love for bikes went far beyond what could be considered normal – but for [KVV] this is exactly what it was, absolutely normal. He did try to have relationships with women, he has had two so far in his life but both failed miserably”.

To KVV, ‘Aunt Ann’ is “his everything”. This particular bicycle sleeps in his bedroom, gets kissed good night, and is the bicycle that KVV wants to take with him to his grave. KVV claims that he cannot imagine a life without his beloved bicycles. The sensation of riding them is unlike anything else he has experienced. He says:

“When I am on one of my bikes and I’m thinking only about that bike, that is when I feel real love”.

KVV’s appearance in the Forbidden documentary isn’t the first television programme that he has appeared in. A local Dutch programme profiled KVV and his bicycle love after which he gained a level of notoriety that did not endear him to the Dutch public. Local residents claim he has brought shame to his hometown of Lunteren. Outside of his bicycles, KVV has only one human friend who didn’t want to be filmed in the documentary. The only other human that KVV has any kind of regular contact with is a local photographer who takes photos of KVV with his bicycle lovers.

As I noted in my previous blog on OS, it is only recently that academics have started to carry out research. In a 2010 issue of the Internet Journal of Human Sexuality, Dr. Amy Marsh described what she claims is the first ever research study conducted on a group of 40 ‘objectophiles’. On US television, Marsh revealed that she supported OS as a legitimate sexual orientation and said that her research doesn’t appear to indicate childhood trauma being a factor in the development of the condition. KVV’s story highlights that while rare, objectum sexuality (OS) exists and that some human beings can (and do) have loving sexual relationships with inanimate objects.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, 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.

Browne, R.B. (1982). Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture. Popular Press.

Ceilán, C. (2008). Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad. The Lyons Press.

De Silva, P. & Pernet, A. (1992). Pollution in ‘Metroland’: An unusual paraphilia in a shy young man. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 7, 301-306.

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm

Nelson, S. (2012). Fetish spotlight: Mechanophilia. Located at: http://www.thehoneybunnys.com/fetish-spotlight-mechanophilia/

Schlessinger (2003). Mechaphilia: Sexual Attraction to Machines. Please Press.

Thompson, S.L. (2000). The arts of the motorcycle: Biology, culture, and aesthetics in technological choice. Technology and Culture, 41, 99-115.

Wikipedia (2012). Mechanophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanophilia

All around the lobe: A brief look at ear fetishes

“I’m obsessed with guys with tiny ears. They turn me on. Isn’t that weird? When I’m dating someone, I always think, ‘Could I marry this person?’ And, ‘What would my kids look like?’ ” (Quote from reality television star Kim Kardashian)

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have covered a very wide range of different bodily fetishes but never the ear. Most of the body parts I have examined are arguably devoid of any sexual sensitivity and would not be described as erogenous zones but the earlobe is not one of those non-sensitive areas because it contains many nerve endings. As Wikipedia notes:

“An erogenous zone is an area of the human body that has heightened sensitivity, the stimulation of which may result in the production of sexual fantasies, sexual arousal and orgasm. People have erogenous zones all over their bodies, but which areas are more sensitive than others vary. Some may resent stimulation that others find arousing. The stimulation of these areas can produce gentle, mild or intense arousal. Some people find whispering or breathing softly in the ear to be pleasurable and relaxing, as well as licking, biting, caressing and/or kissing it especially the area of and behind the earlobe”.

Dr. Lou Paget, sex educator and author of The Big O: How to Have Them, Give Them, and Keep Them Coming notes that one of the most stimulating spots on the female body is “the pyramid from the front and back of the shoulder blades, up to the apex of the ear lobe. It’s a fabulous area to play with, second only to a woman’s mouth in terms of getting her motor running”. 

As far as I am aware, there has never been any research on ear fetishism and the only remotely scholarly thing I learned from researching into this topic is that ‘gynotikolobomassophilia’ refers to sexual pleasure from nibbling on a woman’s earlobe (as noted in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices). At least four websites list this as a bona fide sexual activity according to the One Look webpage although other definitions include slight variations such as a proclivity for nibbling on women’s earlobes” and “a love of biting female’s earlobes”.

Although there are earlobe fetish videos on YouTube, and dedicated ear fetish channels (including ear cleaning, ear twisting, ear pulling, ears of Japanese women played with by various items), I went in search of first-person accounts of ear fetishes on the internet and located quite a lot and of a number of different varieties. I also located first-person accounts from the partners of individuals with alleged ear fetishes (and not always consensual). My own research suggests there are at least four different types of ear fetishism: (i) general ear fetishes (including arousal related to the size of ears, protruding ears, and actions performed on the ears such as licking, smelling, rubbing, and massaging them), (ii) earlobe fetishes, (iii) pierced ear fetishes, and (iv) earlobe gauge fetishes. In the rest of this blog, I provide some examples of what I found online:

  1. First-person accounts of general ear fetishes
  • Extract 1.1: “I have a bit of a fetish for ears – I love kissing, nibbling and touching them during foreplay and sex! Is this odd and how common is it?”.
  • Extract 1.2: “So I have an ear fetish for big ears. My problem is that it’s only towards people of the same sex. I don’t understand why it is but really wish it was towards the opposite sex since it makes me feel really weird. As if an ear fetish isn’t already enough weird. I do like it though if my ears are touched but same deal, with it only being with the same sex…I am adopted so I don’t know if that plays a role in it. Though I highly doubt it…I am aware its weird. I’ve just been trying to change it”.
  • Extract 1.3: “If a guy has a nice face with sticking out ears, its like BOOM. Does anyone else have an ear fetish?”
  • Extract 1.4: Is it odd to have an ear fetish?…I like seriously just love ears…I just like rubbing them nibbling them, stuff like that…Is that weird?”
  • Extract 1.5: I have a strange fetish for ears. I like to hold ears and feel it, smell it, licking nibbling it. I cannot sleep at night without imagining a girl’s ears be it thin or fat ears”.
  • Extract 1.6: I’m not sure if this is common, but I’ve got a bit of an ear fetish. Nothing like an obsession, but I think it’s really cute when a girl has long, straight hair and the tips of her ears stick out a little through it. I don’t think it has anything to do with elves…I mean, I don’t really like that pointy look”.
  1. Partner’s accounts of possible ear fetishes
  • Extract 2.1: “My boyfriend and I were just messing around and I started kissing/sucking his ear lobe and he freaked out! He told me to keep going so I sucked on it and licked behind his ear and sucked on the skin around it. He told me afterwards that no one has ever done that to him before and he really liked it…Does he have an ear fetish or something?”
  • Extract 2.2: “So my boyfriend loves my ears, he loves how they’re big. He also loves to pull, kiss, sniff, massage, lick them. And at first it was creepy. But then I started to like it. But is it okay for him to be ear fetish?”
  • Extract 2.3: “So, I’ve only made out with this guy once, last night…But at one point he moved to my ear and basically made out with the inside of it until I squirmed and pretended it tickled…but really…I was grossed out by it. Obviously he has some sort of ear fetish. But what I want to know is… why? What exactly turns the guy on about this?…When he returned to kissing my mouth I could literally taste my own earwax…it was pretty disturbing. And I was embarrassed cause I felt like I had dirty ears or something…What about this turns a guy on and how is he not grossed out by earwax taste?”
  • Extract 2.4: Ear fetish?My current beau and I have a very passionate sex life, no complaints. Except one. He likes to lick the inside of my ears, pretty vigorously, when we are in bed. I have never experienced this before. Does this turn most guys on? I don’t know how to tell him without hurting his feelings. But this can’t go on for much longer”.
  • Extract 2.5: “What the heck is an ear fetish? There is this person at work that touches everyone’s ears, but subtly. I’ve noticed that he walks around from time to time and runs the palm of his hand or fingers through someone’s ear. I have big ears so I’ve been getting targeted a good deal lately”
  1. First-person accounts of pierced ear fetishes
  • Extract 3.1: When growing up, earrings weren’t widely worn. According to mom, only ‘bad girls and gypsies’ wore earrings. Pierced ears were rare – usually our ‘local characters’. From [being] a toddler…I ENJOYED examining women’s ears. Pierced, and I’d almost faint…I had no idea how that hole was made. And somehow, I came up with the idea that it was for pleasure that they did it. (I only know that at a really young age it aroused me). I dream of earrings and having my ears pierced – of feeling that weight pulling on my ear lobes and dangles swaying into my neck. When pierced ears became common in the 1960s, it drove me even wilder. Women’s earrings and especially pierced ears”
  • Extract 3.2: [I’ve been] fascinated with pierced ears and earrings as far back as I can remember. I have no idea where this fascination came from as no one in my family or in the small village where we lived had pierced ears when I was a young boy. The only time I actually saw women with pierced ears was when we went to a nearby town to do our shopping. In those days women with pierced ears were often considered ‘cheap’ and ‘trashy.’ Fast forward to the 1950s when pierced ears were just starting to become more common. Many parents would not allow their daughters to get their ears pierced, so the earring manufacturers responded with screw on earrings that made their ears look like they were pierced. I bought two pairs [of these] earrings for myself, but wore them only in the privacy of my bedroom as boys wearing earrings [was] completely unheard of. The tighter you screwed the earrings on your ears, the more your ears looked like they were actually pierced…One night I fell asleep with earrings screwed tightly on my ears. I took them off the next morning as soon as I woke up and was fascinated by the marks they left on my ears. I went to school wondering and worrying about what people would say when they saw the marks that made my ears look like they were pierced…the whole experience made me more fascinated with pierced ears than ever before. When the girl who became my wife and I were seriously dating I asked her to have her ears pierced which she did for me. She knew I was fascinated with pierced ears and earrings and shortly after we were married she suggested I fulfill my fantasy and have my ears pierced. Men with pierced ears were still virtually unknown and neither of us was brave enough to ask a jeweler or a doctor to pierce my ears, so she pierced them for me using the ice cube and needle technique that was popular back then. That was a very exciting and emotional day for me. I knew that from that day forward whether I was wearing earrings or not I would always have those little holes in my ears proclaiming my feminine persona…I continued to cover my holes with makeup for several years until men with pierced ears became more common…Now that I am retired I wear earrings most all the time…In the days before the Internet I thought I was the only man who had a fetish for pierced ears and earrings, but now with [online forums] such as this I find there are a good number of men who enjoy wearing earrings”.
  • Extract 3.3: I’m a woman and I love earrings in my ears. I easily get aroused if my earrings are [on] and someone is tugging on my ears. I thought I was the only person in the world to have this fetish. Yes I said fetish because that’s what mine is I can actually have an orgasm by pulling lightly and or tugging on my own ears. I realized I can get aroused when I was going through puberty at the age of 12…Now I’m 40 now…I also love to play with people’s ears and pull their earrings too! I can actually make myself climax by playing with my ears as long as earrings are in them…I love the way it makes me tingle. I climax all day long just by tugging on my ears… ummmmm, what a feeling”.
  • Extract 3.4: “The fascination or obsession with earrings and especially the holes required to wear them is rare but not at all unheard of! I had the obsession from a very early age…I’ve been chatting a handful of different people [and] shared opinions on the subject…We’re all freakishly similar in the way we’re fascinated or obsessed with the subject. Of course everyone I met who felt like this were guys… I don’t think any women…developed any kind of obsession about this because they don’t have to…They can just go and have their ears pierced and wear all the ear jewelry they like and nobody will find it strange”.
  1. First-person accounts of earlobe fetishes
  • Extract 4.1: I have an earlobe fetish…I have a fetish for big earlobes. Is it normal or weird?…It excites me to much. I like big earlobes and to see [them in] slow motion [on] video”
  • Extract 4.2: “I have very strong ear fetish for my wife of 6 months, she has the most beautiful ear lobes and ears…delicate, soft and very pretty ear holes…I initiated ear play with her by first few months by kissing, licking and sucking on her soft ear lobes, and found that she liked them and would start to moan…she had some wax [in her ears] and the taste I cannot describe in words but found very likable. This experience for both of us was very exciting. I got very hard on and she became very wet. I am glad that she found the experience an enjoyable one”.
  • Extract 4.3: “I think I may have an ear lobe fetish. I always notice girls [with] short hair or hair in a ponytail immediately.  It just occurred to me that I have been this way for a long time. Fetish or just a quirk?”
  • Extract 4.4: Ears: my strange fixation. Yep! Ears. So I have an ear fetish…I refuse to let my ear fetish embarrass me…To be honest, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t notice ears…I guess I should clarify that I never intentionally went around playing with random peoples ears. If I felt your ears, I knew you really well…maybe a close friend or two, having to endure me during movies and such, absent mindedly reaching over and starting to flick their ears. I tried to tell them it was all in affection. I have never really convinced them of that…I have no clue what it is about ears that attracts me so. Big, little, sticky-out, large lobed, no lobed, soft curly baby ears (especially those), pointy looking ears, normal ears, unusual ears. I notice them all”.
  1. First-person accounts of ear lobe gauge fetishes
  • Extract 5.1: “[I’ve got a] earlobe fetish. Specifically with the ones the wear gauges. This is why people stretch the holes so big”.
  • Extract 5.2: Does anyone ever have ear lobe sex? Like if your partner had big gauges in their ears. Would you put your penis in?”
  • Extract 5.3: “So my boyfriend always says to me ‘why don’t I ever suck on his earlobe…this seems so weird to me…I mean we do stuff so it’s not like I’m being prude but I don’t really know what he means”.

Obviously I have no idea whether all of these confessions and stories are truthful (although I have no reason to suspect not), and I have no idea how representative these accounts are. However, taken as a whole, a number of tentative conclusions can be made. Firstly, there is a wide variety as to what the arousing factor is and can be concerned with either the shape or size of the ear, a particular part of the ear, and/or something that adorns the ear. Secondly, some of the fetishes may be subtypes of other fetishes (e.g., piercing fetishes) rather than being a true body part fetish. Thirdly, most of the fetishes appear to involve heterosexuals (although one account did mention being aroused by ears from someone of the same sex) and can be experienced by both men and women. Finally, there appear to be other by-products of sexual ear play that may also be arousing (e.g., the taste of earwax).

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.

Arthur, C. (1997). The truth about love: It’s all just lust and earlobes. The Independent, February 16. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/the-truth-about-love-its-all-just-lust-and-earlobes-1278832.html

Paget, L. (2002). The Big O: How to Have Them, Give Them, and Keep Them Coming. Piatkus.

Wikipedia (2015). Erogenous zone. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erogenous_zone

Musical flares: Bowie, The Beatles, psychology, songs, and addiction

It’s been only two weeks since David Bowie’s untimely death and the Bowie obsessive in me is still finding it difficult to accept. I have never been more upset by the death of someone that I didn’t know personally. The only other celebrity death that left me with such an empty feeling was that of John Lennon back in December 1980. I was only 14 years old but I remember waking up to the news on that Tuesday morning (December 9, the morning after he had been shot in New York by Mark David Chapman). I went to school that day with a feeling I had never experienced before and I got it again two weeks ago when Bowie (co-incidentally) died in New York.

Bowie and The Beatles (and Lennon in particular) are arguably the two biggest musical influences on my life. With my interest in addictive behaviours, Bowie and Lennon are just two of the many celebrities that have succumbed to substance abuse and addiction over the years (and was a topic I covered in a previous blog – ‘Excess in success: Are celebrities more prone to addiction?’). Thankfully, neither of their addictions was that long-lasting, and neither of them wrote that many songs about their drug-fuelled experiences (although Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’ about his heroin addiction is a notable exception).

Lennon was arguably one of Bowie’s musical heroes although Bowie’s 1973 covers LP Pin-Ups was notable for the absence of Beatle covers. By 1973, Bowie had covered songs by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, and The Who on vinyl but never The Beatles. Having said that, two Beatle songs did play a small part in his concerts between 1972 and 1974. Most notably, The Beatles very first British single ‘Love Me Do’ was often played as a medley with ‘The Jean Genie’. (On the 1990 Sound and Vision Tour, a snippet of ‘A Hard Day’s Night‘ was also sometimes incorporated into ‘The Jean Genie’. He also sang a snippet of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends‘ in the encore of his final concert in 1978). Bowie also occasionally covered ‘This Boy’ (the b-side of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, their fifth British hit single in his concerts) as part of the early ‘Ziggy Stardust’ shows. (I’m probably one of the few people in the world that has this song on bootleg). Speaking of bootlegs, the Chameleon Chronicles CD featured a cover of the 1967 single ‘Penny Lane‘ allegedly by Bowie along with The Monkees song ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ (written by Neil Diamond). Although these songs sound like 1960s Bowie, they were actually from a 1967 LP (Hits ’67) and sung by session singer (Tony Steven). Nicholas Pegg (in his great book The Complete David Bowie) also noted that Bowie’s late 1960s group Feathers included ‘Strawberry Fields Forever‘ in their live set and that Bowie performed ‘When I’m Sixty-Four‘ in his 1968 live cabaret show after his own song ‘When I’m Five‘).

It was in 1975 that Bowie worked with Lennon musically, and Lennon appeared on two songs of Bowie’s 1975 LP Young Americans (although Bowie gave Lennon a name check in his 1971 song ‘Life On Mars‘ – “Now the workers have struck for fame/’Cause Lennon’s on sale again”). The most well-known was ‘Fame’ (one of my own personal favoutrites) which went to No.1 in the US chart (but only No.17 here in the UK) and had a Bowie co-writing credit with Lennon (along with Bowie’s guitarist Carlos Alomar). Lennon was apparently reluctant to be acknowledged as co-writer but Bowie insisted (probably just to say he had a ‘Bowie/Lennon’ song in his canon and maybe because he was a little starstruck). The song should arguably include other co-writers as the riff was based on the song ‘Foot Stompin’’ (also covered by Bowie) by the doo-wop band The Flares (sometime referred to as The Flairs). Lennon also played on a version of The Beatles’ song ‘Across The Universe’ but was arguably the weakest song on the LP. It’s also worth mentioning that the title track also included a line – and tune –  from The Beatles ‘A Day In The Life‘ (“I heard the news today, oh boy”). Bowie and Lennon were also photographed together at the 1975 US Grammy Awards (where Bowie presented the award for the best ‘rhythm and blues’ performance by a female vocalist Aretha Franklin). This was around the height of Bowie’s cocaine addiction and he subsequently went in to say that he has no recollection of being there at all. In the same year, Bowie also appeared on singer Cher‘s US television show and sang a medley of songs that included ‘Young Americans‘ and The Beatles ‘Day Tripper‘.

Like millions of people around the world (including myself), Lennon’s death in 1980 hit Bowie hard. Not only had he lost a good friend, but he began to think of his own mortality and how easy it would be for a crazed fan to kill him in some kind of copycat assassination. At the time, Bowie was receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man on Broadway. (I’ve always been interested in The Elephant Man as I may even be a distant relation as my grandmother was a Merrick). He soon stepped down from the role and went into ‘semi-retirement’ before re-emerging in 1983 with his biggest selling single and album Let’s Dance.

Since Lennon’s death, Bowie has covered three Lennon solo tracks (‘Imagine’, ‘Mother’, and ‘Working Class Hero’). He sang ‘Imagine’ at a concert in Hong Kong (December 8, 1983) three years to the day since Lennon had been shot (a soundboard recording of which appears on a number of different Bowie bootlegs). In 1989, Bowie recorded the first of two Lennon songs taken from Lennon’s most psychologically inspired album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970) written while undergoing primal therapy (see my previous blog for an overview on primal therapy in music). The first was ‘Working Class Hero’ for the 1989 ill-fated album Tin Machine (often voted one of Bowie’s worst cover versions by fans). The second track he recorded was ‘Mother’ (in 1998) for a John Lennon tribute album that Lennon’s widow (Yoko Ono) was putting together. Unfortunately, the album was never released but in 2006 it was leaked on the internet and has now appeared on many Bowie bootlegs. Although Bowie and Lennon never collaborated musically again, they remained close friends until Lennon’s death.

As far as I am aware, the only other Beatle-related song that Bowie has ever recorded was ‘Try Some, Buy Some’ that appeared on George Harrison’s 1973 LP Living In The Material World. Bowie covered the song for his 2003 album Reality, and although this was recorded not long after Harrison’s death from throat cancer, Bowie claimed that he thought it was Ronnie Spector’s song (ex-lead singer of The Ronettes), as she was the first artist to record in 1971. It was also claimed by German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (26 January 2013) that Bowie’s 2001 song from Heathen, ‘Everyone Says ‘Hi’’ was a tribute to Harrison but I have yet to see this conformed by anyone within the Bowie camp. Harrison met Bowie in Memphis during his 1974 Dark Horse tour. In a 1974 interview to a New York radio station, Harrison said:

“I just met David Bowie [during the Dark Horse Tour]…David Bowie, these were my very words, and I hope he wasn’t offended by it because all I really meant was what I said. I pulled his hat up from over his eyes and said: ‘Hi, man, how are you, nice to meet you,’ pulled his hat up and said, you know, ‘Do you mind if I have a look at you, to see what you are because I’ve only ever seen those dopey pictures of you.’ I mean, every picture I’ve ever seen of David Bowie, or Elton John, they just look stupid to me…I want to see, you know, who the person is”.

It wasn’t until 1974 that Bowie and Lennon first met each other at a Hollywood party hosted by actress Elizabeth Taylor. Lennon was with his girlfriend May Pang at the time (during his 18-month separation from Yoko). According to Pang, Bowie and Lennon “hit it off instantly” and kept in touch. When John went back to Yoko, Pang remained friends with Bowie and eventually married Tony Visconti, Bowie’s long-time record producer.

One of the more interesting articles on the relationship between Bowie and The Beatles was by Peter Doggett – author of books on both artists. In a 2011 blog he noted:

“I was struck during the research of [my book ‘The Man Who Sold The World’] by the influence that the Beatles had on Bowie’s work in the 70s. Some of that influence is obvious – the McCartney-inspired piano styling of ‘Oh! You Pretty Things‘, for example. As early as 1965, in an obscure song entitled ‘That’s Where My Heart Is’, Bowie sounded as if he was learning how to write songs by listening to [The Beatles second 1963 album] ‘With The Beatles’…in the book I talk about the apparent Fab Four influence on ‘Blackout‘ from the ‘Heroes‘ LP. But the single most dramatic role played by the Beatles in Bowie’s 70s work was exerted by John Lennon’s ‘Plastic Ono Band’ album. You can hear a touch of Lennon in the way Bowie sings ‘Space Oddity’ in 1969; some Beatles-inspired backing vocals on ‘Star’ from the Ziggy Stardust album; and, of course, yer actual Lennon voice and guitar on Bowie’s cover of ‘Across The Universe’ and his hit single ‘Fame’. All of which made me wish that Bowie had made a whole album (1980’s Scary Monsters, perhaps) in similar vein. So I was intrigued to learn from Bowie fan Martyn Mitchell that guitarist Adrian Belew recalled working on a whole set of Plastic Ono Band-inspired tracks with Bowie around this period, but that Bowie never completed or issued them. Perhaps he was hoping that he might persuade Lennon himself to join him in the studio – until fate, and a madman, intervened”.

Following Bowie’s death, the remaining Beatles (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) both played tribute to Bowie’s genius. Ringo (who appeared in the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars movie filmed in 1973 and released 1983) tweeted a short message, while McCartney’s message was a little more heartfelt:

“Very sad news to wake up to on this raining morning. David was a great star and I treasure the moments we had together. His music played a very strong part in British musical history and I’m proud to think of the huge influence he has had on people all around the world. I send my deepest sympathies to his family and will always remember the great laughs we had through the years. His star will shine in the sky forever”.

As far as I am aware, Bowie only met McCartney a few times in his life most notably at the July 1973 premiere of the James Bond film Live and Let Die (with McCartney writing the theme song), and at the Live Aid concert in 1985 (where Bowie was on of the backing singers as McCartney performed ‘Let It Be’). Yoko movingly described Bowie as a “father figure” to their son Sean Lennon following Lennon’s death:

“John and David respected each other. They were well matched in intellect and talent. As John and I had very few friends, we felt David was as close as family. After John died, David was always there for Sean and me. When Sean was at boarding school in Switzerland, David would pick him up and take him on trips to museums and let Sean hang out at his recording studio in Geneva. For Sean, this is losing another father figure. It will be hard for him, I know. But we have some sweet memories which will stay with us forever”.

It could perhaps be argued that Bowie and Lennon were cut from the same psychosocial cloth. They both had middle class backgrounds and had many of the same musical heroes (Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley being the most salient – Bowie sharing Presley’s birthday on January 8). They were both interested in the arts more generally and they were both singers, songwriters, artists, and writers (to a greater or lesser extent). Although Lennon rarely engaged in acting, he always appeared at ease in front of the camera. They both knew how to use the media for their own artistic advantage. In short, there’s a lot that psychologists can learn from both of them.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Buckley, D. (2005). Strange Fascination: David Bowie – The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books.

Doggett, P. (2009). The Art and Music of John Lennon. London: Omnibus Press.

Doggett, P. (2012). The Man Who Sold The World: David Bowie and the 1970s. London: Vintage.

Goddard, S. (2015). Ziggyology. London: Ebury Press.

Leigh, W. (2014). Bowie: The Biography. London: Gallery.

Pegg, N. (2011). The Complete David Bowie. London: Titan Books.

Seabrook, T.J. (2008). Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town. London: Jawbone.

Spitz, M. (2009). Bowie: A Biography. Crown Archetype.

Trynka, P. (2011). Starman: David Bowie – The Definitive Biography. London: Little Brown & Company.

Handy crafts: A brief look at fingernail fetishes

The one thing about sexual fetishes that always amazes me is how specific some people’s sexual likes and interests are. One such fetish is fingernail fetish. According to Dr. Ellen McCallum’s book Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism, this fetish is a specific sub-type of hand fetishism (as other sub-types include finger fetishism and palm fetishism or include non-sexual specific actions done by the hands such as washing up or drying the dishes). According to the Wikipedia entry on hand fetishism, “this fetish may manifest itself as a desire to experience physical interaction, or as a source of sexual fantasy”. A quick look online suggests that the fetish exists as there are various dedicated websites catering for all sexual fingernail needs such as the Fingernail Fetish website (“a collection of soft-core image galleries and video catering to 
those with a long-nail fetish”) and the one run by the Pinterest website.

Fingernail fetishes are certainly referenced by leading academics and clinicians in the sexology field although most of the references to it point out its existence but give little information with respect to incidence, prevalence, or etiological development. For instance, the Austrian psychologist Dr. Wilhelm Stekel in his 1952 book Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex noted:

“The true fetish lover dispenses with a sexual partner and gratifies himself with a symbol. This symbol can be represented by a piece of clothing, a part of the partner’s body (pubic hair, nails braid or pigtail) or any object used by the other person”.

Similarly, Dr. Martin Kafka in one of his many papers in the Archives of Sexual Behavior on sexual fetishism also made reference to the fetishization of fingernails without giving any detail:

“Fetishes tend to be articles of clothing, such as female undergarments, shoes and boots, or, more rarely, parts of the body such as hair or nails. Technically, hair and nails are body products but they are also ‘’non-living objects’ consistent with the DSM-III definition of fetishism. Feet, hands, or other typically non-sexualized parts of the body are not ‘non-living objects,’ however, and there was no diagnostic entity offered in DSM- III to account for persons whose fetishism-like clinical disorder was delimited by an exclusive focus on non-sexual body parts, such as hands or feet…As was noted in DSM-III, body products, such as hair or fingernails, can become obligatory fetish objects”.

Having carried out an extensive literature search on academic databases, the only case of fingernail fetishism that I was able to locate was a 1972 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, by Dr. Austin McSweeny who successfully treated a young male fingernail fetishist using hypnosis. I also came across a 2001 Spanish paper written by Dr. Jaime Tabares that the title translated as “Fetish perversion: From pathological mourning to alienating manic identification” and published in Revista de Psicoanalisis de la Asociacion Psicoanalitica de Madrid. The paper discussed the case of a 24-year Spanish male and the role of depression, paranoid anxiety, and pathological mourning in the development of masculine perversion and fetishism. The only reason I mention this paper is that the author mentioned that one of the fetishes (along with his masochistic fantasies) was for painted nails.

Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) reported a truly bizarre case involving necrophilia and fingernails. Citing from a 1963 book by Dr. R. Masters and Dr. A. Lea (Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving Concepts of Sadism, Lust-Murder, and Necrophilia – From Ancient to Modern Times.), Aggrawal briefly described the case of a man who derived his sexual gratification from eating the nail trimmings of corpses. I have no idea if this would count as a genuine case of fingernail fetishism, but it’s certainly a case of someone who was gained sexual gratification from fingernails (albeit from dead people).

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish form data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). They devised a scheme whereby a person’s sexual preference could be assigned to one or more of three particular categories (fetishes for particular body parts, fetishes for particular objects, and/or fetishes for different behaviours. Scorrolli and colleagues said: “these were further subdivided to describe, in broad terms preferences for (the examples in parentheses come from our data)” and one of these specifically gave the example of fingernails (in this case, a sexual fetish for the biting of fingernails):

  • A part or feature of the body (e.g., feet or overweight individuals), including body modifications (e.g., tattoos).
  • An object usually experienced in association with the body (e.g., shoes or headphones).
  • An object not usually associated with the body (e.g., dirty dishes, candles).
  • An event involving only inanimate objects (they found no examples).
  • A person’s own behavior (e.g., biting fingernails).
  • A behavior of other persons (e.g., smoking or fighting).
  • A behavior or situation requiring an interaction with others (e.g., domination or humiliation role play).

They reported that some of the sites featured references to nail fetishes comprising a total of 669 group members. This accounted for less than 1% of all fetish site members. I would also add that having read the paper and examined some of the sites given, I’m not convinced that all of these were fingernail fetishists as some of the fetish websites found (like ‘Bed of Nails’) may be sadomasochistic sites where the sexual focus is nails that are hammered rather than nails on the hand.

In my research for this article, I also came across lots of self-confessed fingernail fetishists. Here are a few examples:

  • Extract 1: “I am trying to get out more and understand why my fetish for long nails is big for me. Well it all started when I was 5 years old as a little kid. I was getting babysit by my cousin’s girlfriend and well you know she had nice long natural nails about 1 inch, inch and half, and she always was filing them, round and a little pointy too, and painting them. I used to watch and get hypnotized by that. So one day she was watching her soap operas…I decided to get up and change the channel…She warned me if I changed the channel again, I would know what her long nails are for. So she came to me I ran and hid, after I came back in the living room she surprised me from behind with one of the hardest pinches I ever experienced in my entire life… I almost felt paralysed by that pain, and after that she scratched me, hard enough to cry and it hurt. But a few days after that she tried to scratch me again when she came, and all of a sudden I was getting aroused, so she said ‘I wont hurt you this time, but I would love to be able to scratch you if you let me’. So I let her, and she started very slowly and increased the pressure as time went by, it was getting to be a new experience for me, We had set little rules and boundaries to stick by too. So she would only scratch till I got red, and if I bled…I agreed to that [be]cause she loved to scratch hard and be rough, so she had to see a little blood to be satisfied I guess. [Now] you now know how my long nails fetish got started and was born” (JayG).
  • Extract 2: I definitely became aware of my fetish around 5 or 6 [years old] when I started to become aroused and curious to what the nails must feel like on my skin…A few years later it became more weird when I started to have scratching fantasies before going to sleep giving me my first wave of self-induced erections. Nobody who doesn’t have a fetish like this gets turned on like that at such a young age. It must be highly abnormal. But we ARE freaks of nature I guess” (Saba).
  • Extract 3: “My nail fascination also began when I was quite young, but I most certainly was not physically sexually arousable at the age of 5 [years] by the sight or feel of nails. …Those early encounters I sometimes catch myself re-writing my own history with respect to the arousal part, because it’s hard to imagine myself not being physically aroused by nails, but in reality, I wasn’t, not physically. Nails didn’t do ‘that’ to me until I properly began puberty. What I felt at 5 was the excitement of the danger that nails posed (girls of 5 used their nails as weapons, I had no inkling they could also be instruments of pleasure), and certainly a heightened awareness of the differences between the genders. Even before I knew girls had different genitalia, I recognised they were meant to have long nails and we were not” (Scott).
  • Extract 4: I was around 5 or 6 (years old] is when I got fascinated by girls and women’s nails. This was way back about 55 years ago. I don’t remember seeing [long] nails…until I was 12 or 13. But if a girl had nails, she usually had them as a means of protecting herself. And hard pinching was the preferred technique. And some of the girls were very effective. I remember one girl whose nails weren’t that long, but were filed to a point. Another girl stopped cutting her nails when she was 12. I only saw her once after that time, but most of her nails must have been around 1/2 inch long, and she knew how to use them and she had a real mean streak. I guess there has always been something fascinating about a girl who might be smaller and weaker than any of the boys, but could put real fear into them. Also the thought always occurred that if the young girls could cause so much pain with their relatively short nails, what could an adult woman with much longer nails do to someone?” (MJ2)
  • Extract 5: “I’ve got something with me that started out fun, but has turned into a problem. I’ve got a fetish for long nails. They turn me on so much. First when I was younger it was fun, I’d look at pics every now and then and get off to them. Now it’s turned into a 3 o 4 times a day thing. It’s really annoying. I feel like I’m in bondage to this. My goal is to quit masturbating all together cause I feel as though it’s holding me back spiritually. But everywhere I look I see long nails on women and I get so turned on. I’m having a hard time battling this” (SececaRD)

These are just a few of the many I have come across. There are a number of similarities in the first four extracts (which may be because they all come from the same online forum. The fetish appears to have begun in early childhood, and appears to have developed through associative pairing (i.e., classical conditioning). What’s more, there appears to be a sexually masochistic tendency among those who have the fetish. The final extract comes from a different person who unlike the other fetishists wants to eradicate his fetish. Most fingernail fetishist accounts that I read were happy living with their preferred fetish. This is certainly an area where the amount of clinical and academic research is limited and I can’t see further papers being published except from a treatment perspective should such a fetishist want to eliminate their sexual desire for fingernails.

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

Further reading

Kafka, M. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 357-362.

Masters, R.E.L & Lea A.E.E. (1963). Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving Concepts of Sadism, Lust-Murder, and Necrophilia – From Ancient to Modern Times. New York: The Julian Press.

McCallum. E.L. (1998.) Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism. New York: State University of New York Press.

McSweeny, A.J. (1972). Fetishism: Report of a case treated with hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 15, 139-143.

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.

Stekel, W. (1952). Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1) (Trans., S. Parker). New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Tabares, J. (2001). La perversion fetichista: Del duelo patologico a la identification maniaca alienante. Revista de Psicoanalisis de la Asociacion Psicoanalitica de Madrid, 36, 55-78.

Wikipedia (2102). Hand fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_fetishism

“Turn and face the strange”: A personal goodbye to David Bowie

“There is a well known cliché that you should never meet your heroes but if David Bowie or Paul McCartney fancy coming round to my house for dinner I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be lost for words”.

This was the last sentence I wrote in my blog on the psychology of being starstruck less than a month ago. I, like millions of others, was deeply shocked to learn of Bowie’s death from liver cancer earlier this week (January 10) two days after his 69th birthday.

I first remember hearing David Bowie on a 1975 edition of Top of the Pop(when the re-release of ‘Space Oddity’ reached No.1 in the British singles chart). Although I heard the occasional Bowie song over the next few years (‘Golden Years’, ‘Sound and Vision’ and ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ being some of the songs I taped off the radio during the weekly chart rundown) it wasn’t until ‘Ashes To Ashes’ reached the UK No. 1 spot in the week of my 14th birthday (late August 1980) that I became a Bowie convert.

I still vividly remember buying my first Bowie album – a vinyl copy of his first greatest hits LP (Changesonebowie) on the same day that I bought the third album by The Police (Zenyatta Mondatta) and the latest issue of Smash Hits (that had Gary Numan on the cover with a free yellow flexidisc of the track ‘My Face’ by John Foxx). It was Saturday October 4th, 1980. Ever since that day I’ve been collecting David Bowie music and now have every single song that he has ever commercially released along with hundreds of bootlegs of unreleased songs and live recordings.

My collection of Bowie books is ever growing and I have dozens of Bowie DVDs (both his music and films in which he has appeared). In short, I’m a hardcore fan – and always will be. Like many other fans, I’ve spent all this week listening to his final studio LP (Blackstar) and poring over the lyrics knowing that he wrote all these songs knowing that he had terminal cancer. The first line of ‘Lazarus’ appears particularly poignant in this regard (Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/Everybody knows me now/Look up here, man, I’m in danger/I’ve got nothing left to lose”).

Anyone who’s been a regular reader of my blog will know that when I get a chance to mention how important he has been in my life, I do so (and do so in writing). I mentioned him in my articles on the psychology of musical preferences, on the psychology of a record-collecting completist, on record collecting as an addiction, and on the psychology of pandrogyny. I’ve also mentioned him (somewhat predictably) in my articles on the psychology of Iggy Pop, and the psychology of Lou Reed (two more of my musical heroes).

I’ve also been sneaking the titles of his songs into the titles of my blog articles ever since I started my blog including ‘Space Oddity’ (in my article on exophilia), ‘Holy Holy’ (in my article on Jerusalem Syndrome), ‘Ashes To Ashes’ (in my article on ‘cremainlining‘), ‘Under Pressure’ (in my article on inflatable rubber suit fetishism), and ‘Changes’ (in my article on transformation fetishes).

When I started writing this article I did wonder whether to do ‘the psychology of David Bowie’ but there is so much that I could potentially write about that it would take more than a 1000-word blog to do any justice to one of the most psychologically fascinating personalities of the last 50 years (Strange Fascination by David Buckley being one of the many good biographies written about him).

Trying to get at the underlying psychology of someone that changed personas (‘the chameleon of pop’) so many times during his career is a thankless task. However, his desire for fame started early and he was determined to do it any way he could whether it was by being a musician, a singer, an actor, a mime artist, an artist, or an entrepreneur (arguably he has been them all at one time or another). Being behind a mask or creating a persona (or “alternative egos” as Bowie called them) was something that got Bowie to where he wanted to be and I’m sure that with each new character he became, the personality grew out of it.

As an academic that studies addiction for a living, Bowie would be a perfect case study. Arguably it could be argued that he went from one addiction to another throughout his life, and based on what I have read in biographies a case could be made for Bowie being addicted (at one time or another) from cocaine and nicotine through to sex, work, and the Internet.

Bowie also had a personal interest in mental health and various mental disorders ran through his family (most notably his half-brother Terry Burns who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed suicide in January 1985 by jumping in front of a moving train. A number of his aunts were also prone to clinical depression and schizophrenia). Bowie first tackled his “sad [mental] inheritance” in ‘All The Madmen’ (on his 1971 The Man Who Sold The World LP) and was arguably at his most candid on the 1993 hit single ‘Jump They Say’ that dealt with is brother’s mental illness and suicide.

Like John Lennon, I’ve always found Bowie’s views on almost anything of interest and he was clearly well read and articulate. He described himself as spiritual and recent stories over the last few days have claimed he almost became a Buddhist monk. Whether that’s true is debatable but he was certainly interested in Buddhism and its tenets. Now that I am carrying out research into mindfulness with two friends and colleagues who are also Buddhist monks (Edo Shonin and William Van Gordon), I have begun to read more on the topic. One of the things that Buddhism claims is that identity isn’t fixed and nowhere is that more true than in the case of David Bowie. Perhaps the chorus one of his greatest songs – ‘Changes’ from his 1971 Hunky Dory LP says it all:

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes/Turn and face the strange/Ch-ch-changes/Don’t want to be a richer man/Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes/Turn and face the strange/Ch-ch-changes/Just gonna have to be a different man/Time may change me/But I can’t trace time”

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK 

Further reading

Buckley, D. (2005). Strange Fascination: David Bowie – The Definitive Story. London: Virgin Books.

Cann, K. (2010). Any Day Now: David Bowie The London Years (1947-1974). Adelita.

Goddard, S. (2015). Ziggyology. London: Ebury Press.

Hewitt, P. (2013). David Bowie Album By Album. London: Carlton Books Ltd.

Leigh, W. (2014). Bowie: The Biography. London: Gallery.

Pegg, N. (2011). The Complete David Bowie. London: Titan Books.

Seabrook, T.J. (2008). Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town. London: Jawbone.

Spitz, M. (2009). Bowie: A Biography. Crown Archetype.

Trynka, P. (2011). Starman: David Bowie – The Definitive Biography. London: Little Brown & Company.

All you need is glove: A brief look at hand wear fetishism

“My 13-year-old son, a well-behaved, sweet boy, already has what I perceive as a strange fetish. He loves and is fascinated by latex gloves. When he was little, he would stop in front of the rubber glove display at the supermarket and just stare at the packages of dishwashing gloves. He wanted me to buy them for him, but he would never tell me why. Now that he’s older, he goes online to medical supply Web sites and ‘shops’ for rubber gloves. Recently, I found out he had been visiting glove fetish Web sites with pornographic glove pictures. I installed content filtering software to block him from being exposed to such images. He was horribly embarrassed and guilty, and he promised to give up gloves forever. Apparently, it’s not so easy. He still asks me to buy latex gloves for him when we go to the drug store, and he keeps piles of them around his room. He worries that he might not be able to find a girlfriend or wife who will be interested in sharing his glove love. Should I try to stop him, or should I just chalk it up to a personality quirk and worry no longer?” (Letter sent by a mother to the Dear Prudence website).

In a previous blog I examined clothing fetishes (also known as garment fetishes). Clothing fetishes revolve around, or fixate upon either specific types of clothing (lingerie, fishnet stockings, etc.), specific fabrics (leather, rubber, fur, wool, etc.), or specific styles (restrictive, skin-tight, baggy, etc.). According to Dr. Martin Weinberg and colleagues in the Journal of Sex Research, common clothing fetishes include shoes, stockings, diapers, gloves, underwear, and bras. The clothes fetishist is fixated on the specific type of clothing and is an exclusive or recurrent stimulus for sexual arousal and gratification.

A number of academic articles and papers claim that glove fetishes are commonplace. However, in a study led by Dr C. Scorolli on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data, no data were reported relating to glove fetishism. Their analysis included a breakdown of sexual preferences for objects associated with the body including clothing. Excluding footwear – which is associated more specifically with podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism) – the results of the study showed that the most fetishized items of clothing were underwear (12%; 10,046 fetishists), whole body wear such as coats, uniforms (9%, 9434 fetishists), upper body wear such as jackets, waistcoats (9%, 9226 fetishists), and head and neckwear such as hats, ties (3%, 2357 fetishists). From this particular study, the authors concluded that the most common clothing fetishes are footwear, underwear (including swimwear), and uniforms – but nothing related to gloves (in fact there was nothing related to any kind of hand fetishism whatsoever.

My own anecdotal research into glove fetishes suggests that the fetish exists and that it has a higher profile and more online forums on the Internet than many other fetishes that I have examined in my blog. There are many dedicated websites that cater for glove fetishes such as the World Wide Glove Fetish Association, Glove Mansion, Fetish Glove, and the Leather Gloves Fetish Facebook page. There are also commercial sites that sell dedicated glove fetish videos (such as Clips 4 Sale), as well as online sites such as The Experience Project that feature individuals recounting their personal experiences of glove fetishism. I also noted the fetishist use of gloves in a previous blog I wrote on Nazi fetishism based on some research carried out by David Lopez and Ellis Godard on the subculture of erotic evil (and published in a 2013 issue of Popular Culture Review).

As noted by Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch in a 2008 review of ‘paraphilias not otherwise specified’ in the book Sexual deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment, clothing fetishes (including glove fetishism) are ‘classic’ fetishes in that the focus of sexual arousal derives from “nonliving objects (e.g., shoes, underwear, skirts, gloves)”. More specifically (and according to the Wikipedia entry):

“Glove fetishism is a sexual fetishism where an individual is sexually stimulated, often to the point of obsession, by another person or oneself wearing gloves on their hands. In some cases, the fetish is enhanced by the material of the glove (e. g., leather, cotton, latex, PVC, satin or nylon). Often, the actions of a gloved hand are as arousing as the glove itself, because the glove provides a second skin, or in other words a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer’s own skin. Medical gloves and rubber gloves provide not only a safer sex environment, but also give a latex glove fetishist great pleasure. Subtle movements by the gloved fingers or the hand as a whole can provide the individual with a great visual stimulus and ultimately sexual arousal. The act of putting gloves on, or slipping them off the hands, can also be a source of glove fetish fantasy. Smell is also a factor when it comes to latex, rubber, and leather gloves”.

As with clothing fetishes more generally, glove fetishists usually have very specific preferences in relation to the exact focus of sexual arousal. During my own research for this article, I reached the conclusion that most glove fetishists comprised those that liked latex gloves (‘medical glove fetishism’), rubber gloves and/or leather gloves. However, this is a gross simplification. For instance, medical gloves are made from thin latex and come in many different types. Gloves are heavily referenced within BDSM practices such as ‘vampire gloves’ that have sharp little spikes on the fingers and palms of the glove. According to BDSM devotees, the gloves can be dragged down the skin of another person to create a tingling sensation or pressed into the skin for a sharp pain. The Wikipedia entry on glove fetishism also notes:

“Personal preference ranges from color, smell, size, textured, smooth, powdered, or un-powdered. Fetishists are proud of their collection of medical gloves, as well as rubber gloves. Household rubber gloves tend to be more thick, longer, and are mostly used for cleaning purposes. Some glove fetishists prefer certain lengths, for example the long opera-style or short cuff length. Some also like them as a part of an outfit, such as a nurse, policewoman or French maid uniform. Some who are of a sexually submissive nature are stimulated by their dominant partner’s wearing and use of gloves. Dominant partners may likewise prefer that their submissives wear gloves. As with all fetishes however, there need not be a BDSM connection to an affinity for gloves”.

As you might expect there has been almost nothing academically published that has specifically looked at glove fetishism. A 2001 paper by Peter Stallybrass and Ann Jones entitled ‘Fetishizing the Glove in Renaissance Europe’ was published in Critical Inquiry but (unfortunately) did not include anything about the sexualization of gloves. Two case studies have also been published but both in foreign languages (French and Japanese). In 1969, Dr. J. Guillemin published a paper on glove fetishism in La Semaine des Hopitaux: Therapeutique (but I have been unable to get hold of a copy). In 2004, M. Noguchi and S. Kato reported the case of a 22-year old male glove fetishist in the Japanese journal Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi (and briefly recounted in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices). According to Aggrawal’s description, the man became fixated on gloves after watching a television programme in which the heroine in the show conquered her enemies while wearing gloves. Following this, the watching of pornographic films allowed the man to attach strong sexual significance to gloves when he was in his late teens. The paper also noted that he had assaulted women as many as four times in order to steal their gloves. There has been little theorizing and little detail on or about the sexual appeal of gloves. The Wikipedia entry made some speculative comments:

“Apart from their appearance, some individuals prefer to use [gloves] on oneself or others as a form of sexual stimulation. The ones most commonly used for this are made of leather, latex (such as those doctors or nurses use for examination), while others prefer the household rubber glove. The appeal behind the household glove may be due to the colours they come in but also offering what the latex examination gloves cannot; household gloves are thicker, some more than others depending on what their use is. Many enjoy erotic spanking with gloves donned. It offers a different feeling and sound to the ‘spankee’, which can be a large part of the fetish”.

Despite the numerous glove fetish websites, there appears to be very little research in the area (probably because like many non-normative sexual behaviours, there are few problems that arise between consenting adults). I doubt whether glove fetishism on its own will ever generate much empirical study but as with many of the sexual fetishes I have written about, I am more than happy to be proved wrong.

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.

Guillemin J. (1969). [The fetishism of gloves in the last Bourbons] [Article in French]. La Semaine des Hopitaux: Therapeutique, 45(52), 3411-3414.

Lopez, D. A., Godard, E. Nazi (2013). Uniform fetish and role-playing: A subculture of erotic evil.  Popular Culture Review, 24(1), 69-78.

Milner, J.S., & Dopke, C.A., & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and theory. In D. R. Laws & W. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (2nd ed., pp. 384-428). New York: Guilford.

Nation Master (2005). Glove fetishism. Located at: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Glove-fetishism

Noguchi, M. & Kato, S. (2004). [A case of Williams syndrome who exhibited fetishism] [Article in Japanese]. 
Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi, 106(10), 1232-1241.

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.

Stallybrass, P., & Jones, A. R. (2001). Fetishizing the glove in Renaissance Europe. Critical Inquiry, 28, 114-132.

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.

Wikipedia (2015). Glove fetishism. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glove_fetishism

Dosh spice: A brief look at ‘findoms’ and ‘wallet rape’

“How do y’all feel about [findom]? Weird I know. Those guys are creeps. But I use to do findom. I never dressed up or did crazy stuff like that but I used to use guys for their money. No lie (how do you think I got so many clothes) and NO I never had to send naked pics meet up with these guys or nothing, it was all simply over the internet and Paypal. They just want to splurge on you for being pretty. Well I haven’t done it in like a year and randomly one of the guys messaged me today and wanted to spend on me. I said okay why not…I was expecting like $50 tops. I haven’t talked to this guy in forever. And well let’s just say I made an extra $416 dollars today. In one minute. Literally” (Baelessboutique, vinted.com)

Earlier this week, I was contacted by Chris Summers, a journalist at the Daily Star. Summers was writing an article on exophilia (sexual arousal from aliens) and had come across my blog on the topic and was looking for some academic input into his story. He then sent me some of the tabloid tales he had published on sexual paraphilias including one published a week or so ago on ‘wallet rape’. Most definitions of ‘wallet rape’ (such as the one in the online Urban Dictionary) describe wallet rape as paying “way too much for something” resulting in “feelings of victimization, embarrassment, and guilt”. However, this was not the focus of the Daily Star article. According to Summers’ story, wallet rape refers to men who get a sexual kick out of giving money to women. More specifically:

“Hundreds of men in Britain and thousands more worldwide enjoy being under the control of a financial dominatrix or ‘findom’. These guys are not ‘sugar daddies’ who shower young lovers with expensive gifts in return for a sexual pay-off. In most cases they don’t even get to meet the ‘goddess’ they worship. They just enjoy being ‘paypigs’ or ‘slaves’…[most findoms] never [have] sex with [their] clients”.

Summers interviewed a number of individuals for his article including ‘Goddess Haven’ (a 21-year old female findom). ‘Bill’ (a 60-year old businessman who works up to 14 hours a day and is a lifelong ‘submissive’), and Dr. Jess O’Reilly (Canadian sexologist and author of The New Sex Bible). According to Goddess Haven:

“I’ve learned so much about my clientele in the three years that I’ve been on this journey. When I first started if you asked me these men were just completely weird and out of their mind, but why would I care? I was getting what I wanted out of it. As my journey progressed I realised that a lot of these people are just looking to escape their boring every day lives. A great deal of these men that serve me are ‘high powered’ businessmen who just want to come home and not be the centre of attention. Some of these men don’t even have time to spend the money they make for themselves and just want to see a beautiful woman enjoy it with no strings attached. I’ve realised that most of my clientele are turned on by losing their sense of control and being taken advantage of by a powerful woman. I’ll usually meet clients that pay well and can afford to session with me in reality. I have clients all over the world. I’ve had requests to kidnap people, tie them up and leave them in the woods. There are some findoms out there who give it a bad name, especially as it becomes more popular. There are a lot of women who are just hopping on the bandwagon and have no idea what they’re doing.”

According to the Daily Star article, Bill met Goddess Haven on the online forum Collarspace (one of a number of internet forums where findoms can meet submissives) and now “serves” her. As he said to Summers:

“I have served dozens of women in the past 40 years. I have probably spent about $200,000. [Haven] is truly one of a kind and I adore her as my goddess…She needs more than just me to complete her life. She may have lovers and she may not want me to have a lover. Whether she wants to cuckold me or put me in chastity that’s fine with me. I am just happy to serve her. I have an addiction but I really do budget. I spend about $5,000 a year on my goddess. I have a son and family obligations so they come first but I push it to the limit. I’m a normal person but I just have an addiction to serving women. [Haven is] confident and eager to explore my submissiveness”.

There was little in the article about why Bill was a submissive although Bill said he had issues with his mother who was a model, and appeared to adhere to Sigmund Freud’s theorising about the ‘Oedipus complex’ – the sexual desire shared between a son and his mother. The psychologist that Summers interviewed (Dr. Jess O’Reilly) made a number of speculations (although none of them relating to Freud’s psychodynamic theories). One of her speculations concerned the rise of the internet in relation to sexual behaviours:

“Everything predates the internet and the practice of dominating another’s finances has existed as long as currency’s history. However digital communities have created space for wider dissemination of information and virtual connections. You no longer have to leave your house to foster relationships of any kind.”

This line of thinking is similar to a number of papers I have written describing how the internet can facilitate sexual addictions among predisposed individuals (as I argued in a 2001 issue of the Journal of Sex Research) and bring together individuals with niche sexual paraphilias (as I wrote about in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Addictions). In trying to explain why men would pay lots of money to be humiliated, Dr. O’Reilly speculated that:

“Sometimes those who are charged with a great deal of control at work, at home or in their community may see this as an exciting way to relinquish control of one area of their lives. Or it could be the thrill of humiliation and ridicule. Just as some people associate praise and adoration with sexual arousal, others have an erotic script that is dominated by emotions that are traditionally viewed as negative. Being humiliated can be a turn-on, as it forces you to be vulnerable…A sexual fetish need not entail sexual activity in the traditional sense. Sex gives us a high or a pleasure rush and so too can financial domination/submission. I would leave it up to each pay pig to determine whether or not s/he considers this fetish sexual in nature…Having a woman more powerful than you, seductive and manipulative enough to get into your mind to make you WANT to willingly hand over your money…Maybe their wives are boring and don’t offer much, maybe their wives are submissive and they just want the role switched. There’s a different reason for every client.”

Dr. O’Reilly went on to look at both the upsides and downsides of such findom/submissive relationships:

“Like any behaviour, financial domination/submission can be perfectly healthy or significantly problematic depending on how it makes the participants feel and how it impacts their lives (and their relationships). For example, if the pay pig is hiding his financial activity from his primary partner, I could see this taking a toll on their relationship. Honesty, consent and respect underlie healthy relationships – sexual and otherwise. I imagine many derive a thrill from the taboo of giving money to a stranger. However, if they derive pleasure from hiding their financial activity from a partner with whom they’ve agreed to share finances, this could be quite problematic. Most people crave a balance of security/predictability and excitement/the unknown. Blackmail plays into the latter need. In many cases, blackmail games are part of role-play and fantasy as opposed to lived reality.”

Although there is no academic research on the topic of findoms, other stories in the national press have appeared (and there’s even a short film called FinDom that has just been released – “a witty, sensitive exploration of loneliness and sexuality”). For instance, in the summer of 2015, The Journal featured a piece by Michelle Hennessey on ‘Findom in Dublin: The Irish men who are turned on by women spending their money’. As Hennessey noted:

“Readers may already be familiar with the concept of Femdom which involves a woman being dominant over a man usually through bondage, physical restraint or humiliation. Findom, as the name suggests, is all about financial domination”.

Like the article in the Daily Star, the story in The Journal also featured some similar case studies (although the men were referred to as ‘cash pigs’ and ‘money slaves’ rather than ‘pay pigs’). According to Hennessey’s journalistic research:

“The women who do this professionally are extremely active on social media and fetish websites. They post photos of themselves wearing the clothes and shoes they have been sent, pictures of them drinking cocktails that are being paid for by one of their slaves or snaps of their perfectly manicured feet. They also offer camera sessions with a variety of options, most of which involve humiliation like the domme laughing at the man. Many of their posts are extremely raunchy with some uploading photos of themselves nude or scantily clad and telling the men they could never have a woman that looks this way”.

As with any fetishistic or paraphilic behaviour, if it is carried out by two consenting adults and legal, there is nothing problematic about engaging in such activity. However, given that money is involved, this could – in a minority of cases – end up being a behaviour akin to problem gambling in that the person enjoys engaging in the behaviour but becomes problematic because the activity goes beyond the individual’s disposable income and causes problems elsewhere in their lives.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2000). Excessive internet use: Implications for sexual behavior. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 3, 537-552.

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Sex on the internet: Observations and implications for sex addiction. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 333-342.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Sex addiction on the Internet. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(2), 188-217.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilia: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet sex addiction: A review of empirical research. Addiction Research and Theory, 20, 111-124.

Hennessy, M. (2015). Findom in Dublin: The Irish men who are turned on by women spending their money. The Journal, August 30. Located at: http://www.thejournal.ie/findom-dublin-2296085-Aug2015/

O’Reilly, J. (2014). The New Sex Bible: The New Guide To Sensual Love. London: Quiver.

Summers, C. (2015). ‘Wallet rape’: Meet the men who get a kick out of giving away money. Daily Star, December 27. Located at: http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/weird-news/480000/Wallet-rape-financial-dominatrix

Under pressure: A brief look at inflatable rubber suit fetishism

In previous blogs I have looked at various sexual fetishes that involve sexual arousal from being completely enveloped in some sort of outer garment such as rubberdolling and mummification. Another fetish that is (arguably) related is inflatable rubber suit fetishism (sometimes simply referred to body inflation fetishism – however, I think this term sounds more like people who actually inflate some parts of their actual body such as belly inflation and scrotal infusion that I have covered in previous blogs). Inflatable rubber suit fetishism was featured in a 2013 article by Elorm Kojo Ntumy on the Cracked website (‘The 6 Most Bizarre Safe For Work Fetishes’). In describing this fetish, Ntumy noted:

“Remember the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Violet Beauregarde eats some forbidden candy and blows up like a balloon? And then they have to just roll her out of the room? Well, apparently some people can’t watch that scene without becoming inexplicably aroused. This fetish is pretty similar to balloon fetishes, or maybe it’s the opposite, because instead of popping the balloon, you are the balloon. Researchers have yet to determine what exactly it is about inflatable rubber suits getting filled with air that turns people on, but we have to admit that putting one of those on and just bouncing around would be fun as hell…The suits are often double-layered and designed in such a way that the outer layer gets filled with air and expands, while the second suit compresses and squeezes against the unfortunate (or fortunate, we guess) person enclosed within. So maybe that’s it? It’s like a full-body air massage? Either way, thanks to the Internet, we know there are a whole bunch of people who are into it…Inflatable suits are quite expensive, but the guys on this [body inflation] forum are helpful enough to provide DIY tips on how to build your very own personal sex blimp. Now, if one of these springs a leak, do you go zipping around the room making that farting sound?”

Some online articles claim this behaviour is a form of inflatophilia but the online Opentopia encyclopedia refers to inflatophilia as a sexual fetish in which individuals derive sexual attraction to (or are sexually aroused by) inflatable objects and/or toys. To me, this is more about inflatable objects that are external to the person rather than the person actually being inside the inflatable itself. According to the Wikipedia entry:

“Body inflation is the practice of inflating or pretending to inflate a part of one’s bod, often for sexual gratification. It is commonly done by inserting balloons underneath clothes or a skin-tight suit and then inflating them. Some people have specially made inflatable suits, commonly made from latex rubber, to make themselves bigger all over. One of the best-known examples is Mr. Blow Up, who appears in [Katherine Gates] Deviant Desires book. He wears air-inflated double-skinned latex suits, and has made a number of TV appearances in the UK, including Eurotrash. Sometimes the body is actually inflated also, such as by enema or drinking large amounts of liquid. Other inflatable fetishists generate erotic stories, artwork, video, and audio files to indulge their fantasies. Sexual roleplay is also fairly common, either in person or via online conversation. The notion of the fantasy scenarios ending in popping or explosion is often a divisive topic in the community. The first inflatable fetish community organized online in 1994, in the form of an e-mail list; as the popularity of online communication grew, so did the online community”.

On the Dangerous Minds website, Paul Gallagher wrote an article about his 2000 television interview with Mr. Blow Up (MBU) for a documentary he was making about the rise of online fetish websites. Gallagher described MBU as one of the more interesting characters I met – alongside representatives from the wet and messy (‘sploshing’) communities, adult babies, furries and used panty-sellers”. According to Gallagher MBU was a Londoner and talked about “his love of being inside a latex suit that was pumped full of air”. MBU first became attracted to the idea of being enveloped in an air-filled rubber suit as a child when when playing with a beach ball. MBU often thought about what it would be like to be inside the ball as it bounced everywhere on the beach. Gallagher then went on to describe what happened in the documentary:

“Mr. Blow Up, with the help of his latex-clad wife, slipped into one of his talcum sprinkled outfits and sat on the sofa while she used a foot pump to blow-up his headdress. Just at the very moment I thought he might explode (like some sort of latex Mr. Creosote), Mr. B gave a thumbs up. He later explained how being so constrained made him feel happy, secure and excited”.

In my research for this article I came across many websites that sold inflatable suits as well as in-depth articles on how to put on such suits and how they are designed. For instance, the Latex Wiki (LW) website provided pictures and descriptions of inflatable catsuits, ballbody suits, and blueberry suits. The following descriptions are taken verbatim from three different pages of the LW website:

  • “An inflatable catsuit is a latex suit that has two layers so air can be pumped between them, expanding the outer layer and pressing the inner layer against the wearer. This gives the wearer a sensation of much greater tightness than is possible with an ordinary catsuit. If the latex is thick enough, this type of suit can be used for bondage because the wearer is immobilised when the suit is inflated sufficiently. Some body inflation fetishists also use inflatable catsuits as a fantasy device to imagine that the wearer is inflating, or that they themselves are inflating. It has also been known to cross into the furry scene as well with furry inflation enthusiasts.
  • A ballbody or balloon-body is an inflatable latex outfit that completely covers the upper body of the wearer and looks like a ball when fully inflated. It was invented and designed by SlinkySkin
  • A blueberry suit is a special latex costume designed to inflate into a ball with just the user’s hands, feet and head sticking out. It refers to the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the character Violet turns into a blueberry”.

Unsurprisingly, there has never been any academic research on inflatable rubber suit fetishism so little is known about what the fetishists enjoy about the activity so much. However, I did find one enlightening article on the Body Inflation website by ‘funkyobrian’ written back in 2005. Again, the text below is taken verbatim from the website entry and written by someone who is only into ‘suit inflation’:

“I’m one of the few people who actually enjoys pure suit inflation. Here are some of the reasons why: 

  • Suit inflation is technically much more feasible in real life than actual body inflation. Sure, body inflation can be done and people out there actually do it, but body inflation in real life has much more potential to become something deadly or hurtful if proper precautions aren’t taken. This is not to say suit inflation itself is 100% safe either, but you can imagine many more things going wrong with real-life body inflation.
  • Half of the thrill of the fetish itself is the victim’s (or participant’s) reaction to what is happening…I have done some interesting discussions on the more erotic applications of a girl inflating their suit and ‘getting off’ on the whole experience. Plus in general. rubber and latex are considered to be one of the cornerstones of kinks, so inventive ways of stimulating oneself are quite plentiful. Photo studios like Fetisheyes and Rubber Eva have recently done more to explore inflatable suits and eroticism.
  • Inflatable suits are in a way a strange mix of symbolism and suggestion. There’s a bit of excitement in wearing something that makes one body look like its blowing up like a balloon. There’s a sort of psychological element in playing a cruel trick on someone who is particularly vain and sticking them into a suit that transforms their proud figure into something cartoonish and bloated.

I guess this is my convoluted and pseudo-shrink way of expressing my bizarre preferences. But I just want to clarify why when a cute girl’s rubber suit inflates, some of us want to believe it is the SUIT inflating, not her body”

Someone else on the Body Inflation website (‘Fukeruba’) responded to funkyobrian’s analysis:

“You are not alone! I also enjoy a good suit inflation. My whole attraction with suit inflations is that it is in the realm of possibility that a person might get stuck in a big inflated suit, whereas a big body inflation is…more resigned to fantasy. Plus, I’m intrigued by the strong bondage issues that being stuck in a big immobilizing inflated suit represents. I’m into the whole inflating dive-suit [thing] in a big way…although I’ve done space suits and some other unidentifiable types of suits….I’ve done a few drawings where the inflatee thought that they were in an inflating suit, only to have it revealed that their inflating body was in fact causing the suit to bulge. Pretty good opportunity to showcase the whole shock/surprise/horror element in that situation”.

I have no idea how representative these motivations are to the experiences of other inflatable rubber suit fetishists but these insights are interesting and not things I would have speculated as being reasons for engaging in the activity. Given the potential dangers of this fetish I’m surprised that there are no papers from the medical community reporting on accidents from suits bursting.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Gallagher, P. (2015). The inflatable rubber fetish of Mr. Blow Up, Dangerous Minds, February 11. Located at: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_inflatable_rubber_fetish_of_mr._blow_up

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

McIntyre, K.E. (2011). Looners: Inside the world of balloon fetishism. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, 27 April. Located at: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/40c3h6kk

Ntumy, E. K. (2013). The 6 Most Bizarre Safe For Work Fetishes. Cracked, November 2. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_20691_the-6-most-bizarre-safe-work-fetishes.html

Opentopia (2013). What is inflatable fetishism? Located at: http://encycl.opentopia.com/term/Inflatable_fetishism

Wikipedia (2015). Body inflation. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_inflation

Blame it on the fame: The psychology of being ‘starstruck’

“We have an infatuation for famous. It’s gone global. It seems that, with the rise of fame generated through social media sites and TV, we all have this non-specific person, this idol, plonked on a pedestal, simply because they could be bothered to do something to get themselves out there…A lot of [celebrities are] known for their talent, work bloody hard for it, and that’s inspirational. That’s something to idolise – their drive and passion. But being starstruck because of somebody’s position or wealth or title – just think about it. Most of the people who would leave you starstruck will be everyday folk, just getting on with their thing, even if that’s earning £250,000 a week” (from ‘Starstruck, fame-obsessed and suckers for Hollywood culture’ by Bianca Chadda)

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have more than a passing interest in the psychology of fame. For instance, I have looked at many aspects of fame and celebrity including whether fame can be addictive, the role of celebrity endorsement in advertising, individuals that become sexually aroused by famous people (so-called celebriphilia), individuals that are obsessed with celebrity (i.e., celebrity worship syndrome), and whether celebrities are more prone to addictions than the general public, as well a speculative look at the psychology of various celebrities (including – amongst others – Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Adam Ant, Roland Orzabal, Salvador Dali and Allen Jones).

The reason I mention this is because a few days ago (December 11), I was interviewed by Georgey Spanswick on BBC radio about the psychology of being ‘starstruck’. The first thing that occurred to me was what ‘starstruck’ actually means. I knew what my own perception of the term meant but when I began to look into it there are many different definitions of ‘starstruck’ (some of which hyphenate the word), many of which did not match my own definition. Here are a selection which highlight that some of those differences:

  • “Star-struck – fascinated or greatly impressed by famous people, especially those connected with the cinema or the theatre” (Oxford Dictionary).
  • “Star-struck – feeling great or too much respect for famous or important people, especially famous actors or performers” (Cambridge Dictionary).
  • “Starstruck – particularly taken with celebrities (as movie stars)” (Merriam Webster Dictionary).
  • Starstruck – Fascinated by or exhibiting a fascination with famous people” (Free Dictionary).
  • “Star-struck – a star-struck person admires famous people very much, especially film stars and entertainers” (Macmillan Dictionary).
  • “Starstruck – when you meet someone you are very fond of, like a celebrity, movie star, etc. and you get completely overwhelmed, paralyzed and/or speechless by the experience” (Urban Dictionary).

Of all the definitions listed above, it is actually the final one from the online Urban Dictionary that most matches my own conception. In fact, an article by Ainehi Edoro on the Brittle Paper website provides a lay person’s view on being starstruck and how it can leave an individual:

“What does it mean to be starstruck? You meet a celebrity and you are struck by a force that freezes you, holds you captive. You can’t think, your eyes are glazed over, your heart is beating really fast, open or closed, your mouth is useless – it’s either not making any sound or spewing out pure nonsense. In a flash, it’s all over. The celebrity disappears. And you’re left with a sense of loss that turns into regret and, perhaps, embarrassment”.

However, as there is no academic research on the topic of being starstruck (at least not to my knowledge), the rest of this article is pure speculation and uses non-academic sources. The most in-depth (and by that I simply mean longest) article that I came across on why people get starstruck (i.e., being completely overwhelmed and speechless when in the company of a celebrity) was by Lior on the Say Why I Do website. The article claimed there were five reasons that may contribute to being starstruck. These are being (i) excited from a feeling of anticipation of meeting a celebrity, (ii) pumped up from the effort of wanting to impress a celebrity, (iii) excited from receiving undeserved attention from a celebrity, (iv) starstruck because that is how other people act around a celebrity, and (v) excited from overwhelming sexual tension towards a celebrity. More specifically:

Excited from a feeling of anticipation of meeting a celebrity: This simply relates to the anticipation that is felt after taking an interest in someone that the individual has admired and revered for years (i.e., they have become “idealized” and “bigger than life”). What will the celebrity really be like to the individual? Will they meet the expectations of the individual?

Pumped up from the effort of wanting to impress a celebrity: This relates to the fact that when meeting someone an individual admires (in this case a celebrity), the individual is trying to make the best impression they can and to put forward a persona that the individual would like the celebrity to perceive them as. This can be a situation that brings about a lot of pressure resulting in being starstruck.

Excited from receiving undeserved attention from a celebrity: This relates to the idea that the individual perceives the celebrity as somehow better (i.e., more successful, attractive, and/or talented than themselves) and that to even acknowledge the individual’s existence is somehow undeserved. The lower the self-esteem of such individuals, the more undeserved they feel by attention from a celebrity.

Starstruck because that is how other people act around a celebrity: This simply relates to the idea that individuals feel starstruck because everyone around them does (or they perceive that everyone else does). Similar situations arise when a crowd goes wild, screams, cries and faints when watching their favourite pop bands. As Lior’s article notes:

“Before Frank Sinatra became a celebrity, it wasn’t common at all to see screaming fans. In 1942, a publicity stunt was done to promote the 25-year old Sinatra, where they planted a number of girls in the audience who were told to scream and swoon when he stepped on stage. What began as a publicity stunt spread through the whole theatre to become a mass hysteria of screaming and fainting. It’s in human nature to copy behaviour around us”.

Excited from overwhelming sexual tension towards a celebrity: This relates to the idea that many celebrities are sexually attractive to individuals that admire and revere them. As Lior notes:

“When some people find someone good looking, they may start to behave in a way that’s quite similar to being star-struck. Star struckness from sexual tension may arise for several reasons. It may be a manifestation of embarrassment about having had fantasies about the person who is now standing in front of you. It may be that every time you look at that person, your thoughts go to places you can’t quite control and that makes you unable to think straight”.

If you are someone who thinks they might be starstruck if you met someone famous, there are various articles on the internet that provide tips on meeting famous people either out in public or within the confines of your job (see ‘Further reading’ below). I’ve been fortunate to meet many celebrities in my line of work with all the media work that I do but I always tell myself that celebrities are human beings just like you or I. I treat them as I would any other human being. No worse, no better. I’m friendly and I’m professional (at least I hope I am). I’ve yet to be starstruck although I’ve never met anyone famous that inspired me to get to where I wanted to get. There is a well known cliché that you should never meet your heroes but if David Bowie or Paul McCartney fancy coming round to my house for dinner I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be lost for words.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Chadda, B. (2013). Starstruck, fame-obsessed and suckers for Hollywood culture. Lots of Words, March 3. Located at: https://biancajchadda.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/starstruck-fame-obsessed-and-suckers-for-hollywood-culture/

Edora, A. (2012). Seven tips on how to avoid being starstruck. Brittle Paper. May 21. Located at: http://brittlepaper.com/2012/05/meet-celebrities-starstruck

Intern Like A Rock Star (2012). Starstruck: How to talk to celebrities you meet at work. January 2. Located at: http://www.internlikearockstar.com/2012/01/starstruck-how-to-talk-to-celebrities.html#sthash.JBtzCC9Y.dpbs

Lior (2011). Why do people get star struck? SayWhyIDo.com. February 7. Located at: http://www.saywhydoi.com/why-do-people-get-star-struck/

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