Category Archives: Case Studies

Geek or chic? A brief look at video gamer stereotypes

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have spent well over two decades carrying out research into various aspects of video gaming. Online video gaming has become an increasingly popular activity amongst teenagers and adults alike. For numerous reasons, perhaps in part because of its rapid growth, online gaming is also an activity that has become highly stereotyped. That is, it is an activity that has come to be associated in popular culture with a highly specific, caricatured and also negative image. This image is reflected in numerous television shows, print media, news reports, current affairs programs and other sources of popular culture. As Dr. D Williams and his colleagues noted in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Monographs:

“Game players are stereotypically male and young, pale from too much time spent indoors and socially inept. As a new generation of isolated and lonely ‘couch potatoes,’ young male game players are far from aspirational figures”.

Understanding the formation of stereotypes about this group and how they are internalised may help us understand society’s attitudes towards this activity and how its participants are positioned within the status hierarchy. Where the stereotype of the pale teenage gamer came from and whether there is any truth to it are clearly important and interesting questions. Our recent research concerns the extent to which this social stereotype has been transformed into a cognitive stereotype, what form this cognitive stereotype takes, and what this can tell us about society’s attitude toward gaming as an emerging form of social or asocial activity.

Within popular culture, a clear characterisation of online gamers has emerged. Frequently caricatured, this ‘stereotype’ has been disseminated throughout the print media, as well as television and web based programs. One poignant example comes from the popular U.S. animated series South Park. In an episode devoted to the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, the stereotypical gamer was portrayed as overweight, lazy, isolated, and aggressive. Additionally, the four main characters of the series became increasingly overweight, lazy, and developed acne as their immersion into the game deepened. One of the main characters (Penny) in the U.S. television series The Big Bang Theory also conforms to stereotypic expectations as she becomes obsessive, reclusive and unkempt upon playing a fantasy-based online game.

The highly successful web series, The Guild, took a more comical approach as they followed a group of online gamers who decide to meet each other in the offline world after many months of regular online interaction. In the opening scene of the first episode, the main character is told by her therapist that her online friends do not constitute a genuine support system, and that immersion in an imaginary social environment is stunting her personal growth. Within the first few minutes of this episode, themes of obsession, addiction, reclusiveness, and loneliness arise.

The stereotypical portrayal of an online gamer has also taken more serious forms. In an episode of Law and Order: SVU, a popular U.S. television series, two individuals are arrested and accused of neglecting their child due to their immersion in an online gaming world. In addition to the depiction of the more physical aspects of the stereotype (both suspects are overweight and have poor personal hygiene), the obsessive and addictive qualities of online gaming are implicated in a much more serious context of child neglect.

The problematic and addictive nature of video games is often highlighted by the news media, and a variety of internet websites, magazine articles, and news articles dispense advice for individuals with problematic playing behaviours. Taken together, these media portrayals, news reports, and internet articles present a consistent and negative image of online gaming and its participants. Online gaming is presented as a dangerous activity that may lead to social withdrawal, physical and mental ill health, and even suicide. These concerns are reflected in stereotypical portrayals of online gamers as socially anxious and incompetent, mentally stunted and withdrawn, and physically unhealthy (e.g., overweight, pale). The origins of this stereotypical image are unknown. It may be an extension of pre-existing stereotypes about similar activities (e.g., the violent film or video game and aggression hypothesis), a subtype of a broader ‘nerd’ stereotype, or a general cynicism about a new and rapidly spreading form of social activity and interaction. The social, psychological and historical factors that led to this stereotype are clearly interesting and worth exploring.

The occurrences of the cultural stereotype described are largely examples of the stereotype of an MMORPG player, rather than online gamers more generally. MMORPG players appear to be the prototype of online gamers, as caricatured by numerous television and web-based programs. In a study published in the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, Dr. Rachel Kowert, Dr. Julian Oldmeadow and myself collected some data on video gamer stereotypes. We asked our participants (both gamers and non-gamers) to indicate what most other people think online gamers are like. To the extent that stereotypical portrayals of online gaming and gamers have given rise to shared trait associations, there should be strong agreement across both gamers and non-gamers with regards to how gamers are perceived by others in general. A further aim of our study was to examine the extent to which these trait associations about gamers have been internalised as personal beliefs. A total of 342 participants completed our online survey in which they rated how applicable each of a list of traits was to the group of online gamers. Ratings were made for both personal beliefs (how participants themselves see gamers) and stereotypical beliefs (how most others see gamers). While these beliefs were highly consensual as stereotypes, personal beliefs varied suggesting that the cultural portrayal of online gamers is beginning to shift into cognitive associations.

Participants were asked to evaluate the list of adjectives and rate each one in terms of how applicable they believed the trait to be of online gamers. Responses were given on a 7-point Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 (“not at all applicable”) to 7 (“very applicable”). Participants were first asked questions relating to basic demographic information, as well as information about their online gaming habits (which games they play or had played, frequency of play, and whether they consider themselves a gamer). They were then asked to rate each of the 30 adjectives according to how they personally perceived online gamers (stereotype endorsement), and how they thought other people perceive online gamers (stereotype). The tasks were presented in this order to maximise the independence between personal and stereotypical ratings.

Even though online gamers are a relatively new social category within society, our results demonstrated that a collective stereotype about this population has emerged. All our participants showed an awareness of a shared stereotype that is in accordance with the anecdotal characterisations commonly portrayed by popular media. Stereotype ratings were consistent across gamers and non-gamers, suggesting that these beliefs are widely shared within society. Based on the results of this study, we concluded that the current stereotype of online gamers is largely negative, based on the traits of popularity, attractiveness, idleness, and social competence. Online gamers were stereotypically viewed as unpopular, unattractive, idle, and socially incompetent, a characterisation that seems to match common stereotypical portrayals in the media, television, and internet articles.

As this investigation was largely exploratory, care needs to be taken in interpreting the results and further research is needed to confirm the factors that emerged here. For instance, it is uncertain if the results found here are reflective of the generalized stereotype of gamers (including online gamers more generally) or the popularized prototype of the MMORPG gamer. While some have found that MMORPG gamers are viewed more negatively than the generalized construct of the online gamer, future research is needed to further examine the general stereotype in relation to the subgroups contained within it. This will hopefully provide clarification into the stereotypical differences amongst the broad categorization of online gamers as compared to more specific subgroups, such as MMORPG gamers or casual online gamers (e.g., individuals who play online games that require no major time commitment or special set of skills to complete, such as the highly popular Zynga game, Farmville). Future research may provide further insight into the progression of the shared beliefs about online gamers ‘out there’ developing into internalised cognitive associations ‘in here’. Somewhat fortuitously, the stereotype of online gamers is still undergoing formation within society, providing researchers with the unique opportunity to study this characterisation as it continues to evolve.

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

Additional input: Dr. Rachel Kowert and Dr. Julian Oldmeadow

Further reading

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10(4), 575 – 583.

Griffiths, M., Davies, M., & Chappell, D. (2003). Breaking the stereotype: the case of online gaming. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6(1), 81 – 91.

Kowert, R., Griffiths, M.D. & Oldmeadow, J. (2012). Geek or Chic? Emerging stereotypes of online gamers. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 32, 371-379.

Kowert, R., & Oldmeadow, J. (2012). The stereotype of online gamers: new characterization or recycled prototype. Paper presented at the Nordic DiGRA, Tampere, Finland.

Lucas, K., & Sherry, J. (2004). Sex differences in video game play: a communication-based explanation. Communication Research, 31(5), 499 – 523.

Ogletree, S., & Drake, R. (2007). College students’ video game participation and perceptions: gender differences and implications. Sex Roles, 56, 537 – 542.

Williams, D., Yee, N., & Caplan, S. (2008). Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Monographs, 13(4), 993 – 1018.

Yee, N. (2006). The demographics, motivations, and derived experiences of users of massively-multi-user online graphical environments. Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 15(3), 309 – 329

Blame it on the boogie: A brief look at dancing as frotteurism

In a previous blogs I have examined both choreophilia (sexual arousal from dancing) and frotteurism (sexual arousal (sexual arousal from non-consensually rubbing up against other people). However, while researching these previous blogs I came across a number of academic papers on ‘dancing frottuerism’. For instance, in a book chapter on frotteurism by Dr. Richard Krueger and Dr. Meg Kaplan, they outlined four case studies of frotteurs in treatment, one of which was a 58-year old male that had engaged in various types of frotteuristic behaviour over a 40-year period (estimated 20,000 acts of frotteurism). This included “dirty dancing” where he would go to nightclubs and deliberately rub himself up against women while dancing with them. He estimated that he engaged in this type of frotteuristic behaviour on approximately 100 nights of the year (compared to other frotteuristic behaviour such as rubbing himself against women on buses and in train subways approximately 200 days a year).

In a short online article concerning frotteurism on the Anxiety Zone website, the term ‘dry humping’ (aka ‘grinding’) is viewed as a form of modern dancing style. The same article also notes that frotteurism may not always be non-consensual:

“Frotteurism carries a connotation of ‘anonymous and discreet rubbing’ in a public place – like on a crowded train. The contact may be mutual or a one-way perpetration…As with most other sexual practices, frottage with a non-consenting person is regarded as a form of sexual assault in most jurisdictions…Frot is a term used among homosexual men to refer to penis to penis rubbing in a conventional private context. It is also known as ‘phrot’, ‘swordfighting’, ‘cockrub’, ‘penis fencing’, ‘bumping dicks’, ‘frication’ and ‘the Princeton rub’. Advocates of this practice represent it as a safer and more erotic alternative to anal sex. Two people engaging in clothed frottage in a manner that simulates intercourse is known in the vernacular as ‘dry humping’. A modern dancing style which involves partners rubbing their clothed bodies on one another is called grinding”

The online Encyclopedia Dramatica also appears to concur, and notes in its article on frotteurism that sometimes, bump and grind dancing in clubs is also thought of as being frottage”. Frotteurism in the form of dancing appears to be an accepted part of leisure life in the Caribbean. According to a short online article (‘Frottage and Frotteurism in the Caribbean’), dancing frotteurism occurs when couples are dancing (“typically with the man behind the woman. It is something like freak dancing in the US except that nobody is scandalised by it and it is not restricted to teenagers. In Jamaica there are dance events called ‘rubs’ where pelvic thrusting is meant to happen”).

However, some academics do not see this Caribbean practice as socially acceptable. For instance, Dr. Hari Maharajh published a 2010 book chapter entitled ‘Dancing frotteurism or rubbing at the Carnival celebrations in Trinidad’. (Although this appears to be based on an earlier paper published in a 2007 issue of the Journal of Chinese Clinical Medicine). Dr. Maharajh noted that Trinidad and Tobago had been influenced by a variety of cultures that finds its greatest expression during the Carnival season. More specifically, it was reported that:

“During this [Carnival time] a local dance form of wining with suggestible sexual movements is pervasive. It is associated with distortions of normal courtship behavior with paraphilic disturbances. In a case presentation, a young male is presented showing paraphilic disturbances touching, holding, rubbing and coercive sex. This behavior of frotteurism and other paraphilias are common occurrences at carnival in Trinidad and Tobago and are considered to be cultural normative practices”.

The Carnival occurs on many Caribbean islands (not just Trinidad and Tobago) and is celebrated just before Lent. Dr. Maharajh’s case study attempted to identify a number of sexual paraphilias such as “toucherism, frotteurism and preferential rape” during the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival celebration and then looked at some of the legal ramifications of such behaviour. Similar observations were also made in a 2013 paper by Annette George et Darlington Richards in the online journal Études Caribéennes.They noted that two specific behaviors continue to be of concern during the Carnival: (i) the high levels of alcohol consumption during the Carnival’s festivities and, (ii) the erotic dancing and wining expressed by the Carnival participants. They wrote that:

“[In addition to the amount of alcohol consumed during the Carnival, the] second major concern of the celebrations is the dancing or wining. Wining, a term used to describe sensuous pelvic gyrations of the hips and waist, is considered to be suggestive and sexually stimulating not only to the revelers but also to on-lookers (Maharajh & Konings, 2007; Miller, 1991). It is also considered expressions of enjoyment, happiness and freedom…Similarly, Miller (1991) reports that wining between men and women during Carnival, is clearly a sexual expression that encourages rape”.

Maharajh also concurred that excessive alcohol consumption is a key feature of the Carnival and that it is seen as a “time to free up, break away and get on bad” including promiscuity and other “immoral and inexcusable” behaviours. George and Darlington argue that for these reasons, the Trinidadians as a group have a ‘carnival mentality’ that equates to a never-ending all year-round ‘party mentality’. Maharajh claims that in Trinidad, sex is a “comparative performance for both men and women”, and that an activity such as wining “is viewed as either a form of ‘virtual sex’ or as an expression of sexuality”.  Citing the work of Dr. C.L. Green (2007), George and Darlington note that the “Carnival is nothing more than an orgy of sexuality and hedonism appealing to the fetishistic fantasies of the potential tourist”, George and Darlington then go on to claim that:

“This contextual, if tantalizing environment for the ‘carnival spirit’ for the locals have an equal, if not more, tantalizing allure for the tourists. The prevailing environment of social, and cultural permissiveness and intermingling, allows for the indulgent tourist to be part of the rascality and the attendant exposure”.

As a backdrop to any debate concerning whether sexual dancing is a legitimate form of frotteurism, it is clear that appropriate sexual behaviours depend on the surrounding context (cultural and/or social) including the time and the place of where the behaviour occurs. Some sexual behaviours that may be unacceptable under most circumstances (e.g., being nude in public, sexual contact between individual dancers) appears as though they are encouraged during celebrations like Mardi Gras or the Carnival.

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

Further reading

Anxiety Zone (2013). Frotteurism. Located at: http://www.anxietyzone.com/conditions/frotteurism.html

Encyclopedia Dramatica (2012). Frottage. Located at: https://encyclopediadramatica.es/Frottage

George, A. A., & Richards, D. (2013). Tourism in Trinidad and Tobago: The evolving attitudes and behaviors and its implications in an era of HIV/AIDS epidemic. Études Caribéennes, 19. Located at: http://etudescaribeennes.revues.org/5314

Green, G.L. (2007). ‘Come to life’: Authenticity, value, and the carnival as cultural commodity in Trinidad and Tobago. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 14, 203-224.

Krueger, R.B., & Kaplan, M. S. (1999). Evaluation and treatment of sexual disorders: frottage. Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book, 18, 185-197.

Maharajh, H.D. (2010). Dancing frotteurism or rubbing at the carnival celebrations in Trinidad. In: Maharajh, H.D., Merrick, J., Social and cultural psychiatry experience from the Caribbean Region. (pp.117-122) New York, Nova Science Publishers Inc.

Maharajh, H. D., & Konings, M. (2007). Dancing frotteurism and courtship disorder in Trinidad and Tobago. Journal of Chinese Clinical Medicine, 2(7), 407-411.

Miller, D. (1991). Absolutely freedom in Trinidad. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Man, New Series, 26(2), 323-341.

Fanable Collector: A personal insight into the psychology of a record-collecting completist

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have described myself as a music obsessive and that I am an avid record and CD collector. When I get into a particular band or artist I try to track down every song that artist has ever done – irrespective of whether I actually like the song or not. I have to own every recording. Once I have collected every official recording I then start tracking down unofficially released recordings via bootlegs and fan websites. I have my own books and printed lists (i.e., complete discographies by specific bands and solo artists) that I meticulously tick off with yellow highlighter pen. (In some ways, I am no different to a trainspotter that ticks off train numbers in a book).

I wouldn’t say I am a particularly materialistic person but I love knowing (and feeling) that I have every official recorded output by my favourite musicians. My hobby can sometimes cost me a lot of money (I am a sucker for deluxe box sets) although most of the time I can track down secondhand items and bargains on eBay and Amazon relatively cheaply (plus I have downloaded thousands of bootleg albums for free from the internet). Tracking down an obscure release is as much fun as the listening of the record or CD (i.e., the ‘thrill of the chase’). Almost every record I have bought over the last decade is in mint condition and unplayed (as many records now come with a code to download the record bought as a set of MP3s).

As a record collector, one of the things that make the hobby both fun and (at the same time somewhat) infuriating is the number of different versions of a particular song that can end up being released. As a collector I have an almost compulsive need to own every version of a song that an artist has committed to vinyl, CD, tape or MP3. However, I am grateful that I am not the type of collector that tries to own every physical record/CD released in every country. (My love of The Beatles would mean I would be bankrupt). I only buy releases in other countries if it contains music that is exclusive to that country (e.g., many Japanese CD releases contain one or two tracks that may not be initially released in any other country).

For most artists that I collect from the 1960s to early 1980s, it is fairly easy to collect every officially released song. Artists like The Beatles may have up three to four official versions of a particular song (the single version, the album version, a demo version, a version from another country with a different edit, etc.). With bootleg recordings, the number of versions might escalate to 30 or 40 versions by including live versions, every studio take, etc.). It can become almost endless if you start to collect bootleg recordings of every gig by your favourite artists. (I know this from personal experience).

It was during my avid record buying days in the early 1980s that the ‘completist’ in me started to take hold. Some of you reading this may recall that in 1984, Frankie Goes To Hollywood (FGTH) became only the second band ever to reach the UK No.1 with their first three singles – ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘The Power of Love’ (the first band being – not The Beatles, but their Liverpool friends and rivals – Gerry and The Pacemakers). One of the reasons that FGTH got to (and stayed for weeks at) number one was there were thousands of people like me that bought countless different versions of every variation of every single released. For instance, not only did I buy the standard 7”, 12”, cassettes, and picture discs of both ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’, I bought every new mix that FGTH producer Trevor Horn put out.

Every week, all of the money that I earned from my Saturday job working in Irene’s Pantry would go on buying records from Castle Records in Loughborough. I didn’t care about clothes, sweets, books, etc. All I cared about outside of school was music. Some of my hard earned money went on buying the NME (New Musical Express) every Thursday along with buying other music weeklies if my favourite bands were featured (Melody Maker, Record Mirror, Sounds and Smash Hits to name just a few).

When I got to university to study Psychology at the University of Bradford, my love of music and record buying increased. Not only did I discover other like-minded people but Bradford had a great music scene. One of the first things I did when I got to university was become a journalist for the student magazine (Fleece). Within seven months I was one of the three Fleece editors and I was in control of all the arts and entertainment coverage. The perks of my (non-paid) job was that (a) I got to go to every gig at Bradford University for free, (b) I was sent lots of free records to review for the magazine (all of which I kept and some of which I still have), and (c) I got to see every film for free in return for writing a review. I couldn’t believe my luck.

During this time (1984-1987) my three favourite artists were The Smiths, Depeche Mode, and (my guilty pleasure) Adam Ant. I devoured everything they released (especially The Smiths). As a record collector I not only loved the Smiths music but I loved the record covers, the messages scratched on the vinyl run-out grooves, and Morrissey’s interviews in the music press. It was also during this period that I discovered other bands that later went onto become some of my favourite bands of all time (Propaganda and The Art of Noise being the two that most spring to mind). As a Depeche Mode fan, collecting every track they have ever done has become harder and harder (and more expensive) as they were arguably one of the pioneers of the remix. Although Trevor Horn and the ZTT label took remixing singles to a new level for record collectors, it was Depeche Mode that arguably carried on the baton into the 1990s.

During 1987-1990, my record buying subsided through financial necessity. I was doing my PhD at the University of Exeter and the little money I had went on food, rent, and travel (to see my then girlfriend who lived over 300 miles away). I simply didn’t have the money to buy and collect records the way I had before. Buying singles stopped but I would still buy the occasional album. This was the only period in my life that I didn’t really buy music magazines. (My thinking was that if I didn’t know what was being released I couldn’t feel bad about not buying it).

In the summer of 1990 I landed my first proper job as a Lecturer in Psychology at Plymouth University. For the first time in my life I had a healthy disposable income. My first purchase with my first pay cheque was an expensive turntable and CD player. I also bought loads of CD albums on my growing wish list. What I loved about my hobby was that I could do it simultaneously with my job (i.e., I could listen to my favourite bands at the same time as preparing my lectures or writing my research papers – something that I still do to this day).

When CD singles became popular in the 1990s I became a voracious buyer of music again. Typically bands would release a single across multiple formats with each format containing tracks exclusive to the record, CD and/or cassette. Artists like Oasis and Morrissey (two of my favourites during the 1990s) would release singles in three or four formats (7” vinyl, 10”/12” vinyl, CD single, and cassette single) and I would buy all formats (and to some extent I still do). It was a collector’s paradise but I could afford it. In fact, not only could I afford to buy all the music I wanted, I could buy all the monthly music magazines at the time (Vox, Select, Record Collector, Q, and then a little later Uncut and Mojo), and I could go to gigs and still have money left over.

Since the mid-1990s only one thing has really changed in relation to my music-buying habits and that is there are less and less new bands that I have become a fan of. I still buy lots of new music but I don’t tend to collect the work of contemporary bands. However, the music industry has realized there are huge amounts of money to be made from their back catalogues. I am the type of music buyer that will happily buy a ‘classic’ album again as long as it has an extra disc or two of demo versions, rarities, remixes, and obscure B-sides, that will help me extend and/or complete music collections by the bands I love. Over this year I have already bought box sets by The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Throbbing Gristle, and David Bowie (to name just four). I have become a retro-buyer but I still crave “new” music by my favourite artists. Yes, I love music and it takes up a lot of my life. However, I am not addicted. My obsessive love of music adds to my life rather than detracts from it – and on that criterion alone I will happily be a music collector until the day that I die.

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

Further reading

Belk, R.W. (1995). Collecting as luxury consumption: Effects on individuals and households. Journal of Economic Psychology, 16(3), 477-490.

Belk, R.W. (2001). Collecting in a Consumer Society. New York: Routledge.

Moist, K. (2008). “To renew the Old World”: Record collecting as cultural production. Studies in Popular Culture, 31(1), 99-122.

Pearce, S. (1993). Museums, Objects, and Collections. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Pearce, S. (1998). Contemporary Collecting in Britain. London: Sage.

Reynolds, S. (2004). Lost in music: Obsessive music collecting. In E. Weisbard (Ed.), This Is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project (pp.289-307). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

All consuming desires: Another look at vorarephilia

In a previous blog, I examined vorarephilia (usually shortened to ‘vore’) – a sexual paraphilia in which people are sexually aroused by (i) the idea of being eaten, (ii) eating another person, and/or (iii) observing this process for sexual gratification. A few weeks ago, the Archives of Sexual Behavior published an interesting paper by Dr. Amy Lykins and Dr. James Cantor entitled ‘Vorarephilia: A case study in masochism and erotic consumption’. The authors presented a new case study accompanied by a brief overview of the previous literature including some cases that I had never come across (because the material was in non-academic texts and/or not listed in the academic databases that I usually search). They also referenced the same academic sources as I did in my previous blog on the topic – particularly the papers by Dr Friedemann Pfafflin (also in the Archives of Sexual Behavior). For instance, they wrote that:

“Pfafflin (2008) commented on the many phrases that exist in the English language to relate sex/love and consumption, including referring to someone as ‘looking good enough to eat’, ’that ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’, and describing a sexually appealing person as ‘sweet’, ‘juicy’, ‘appetizing’, or ‘tasty’. Christian religions even sanction metaphorical cannibalism through their sacrament rituals, during which participants consume bread or wafers meant to represent the ‘body of Christ’ and wine intended to represent the ‘blood of Christ’ – a show of Jesus’s love of his people and, in turn, their love for him, by sharing in his ‘blood’ and ‘flesh’. This act was intended to ‘merge as one’ the divine and the mortal”.

Lykin and Cantor also made reference to two case studies in Katharine Gates’ book Deviant Desires. One of the cases was a man that allegedly fantasized that the witch in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale both cooked and ate him. The other case involved ‘The Turkey Man’. In Lykins and Cantor’s version:

“The Turkey Man was a travelling businessman who regularly hired a dominatrix to meet him in his hotel room to ‘cook’ him. He had designed a facsimile of an oven from a cardboard box, including rudimentary knobs and a door that could be opened and closed. He would lie down in this box, on his back, wearing only socks, while the dominatrix would describe in great detail the process of his body being cooked and eaten by her. The Turkey Man could become so aroused by this fantasy that he was able to orgasm without any physical stimulation of his penis”.

Lykins and Cantor also noted the difference between vorarephilia and cannibalism:

In most cases [of vorarephilia], the victim is swallowed whole – in fact, several requests for fantasies included a specific ban on the chewing of the victim. This is an important aspect that separates persons interested in vore versus those interested in sexual cannibalism – in vore, the victim is swallowed whole, while still alive. Though consumption most often occurred through the mouth, it also occurred through the vagina, the anus, or the breasts (through the nipples) of the consumer”.

Lykins and Cantor then went on to describe in vivid detail a case study of a middle-aged male (who they called ‘Stephen’) who had multiple sexual paraphilias including vorarephilia. Stephen described himself as heterosexual with little or no problems sexually during his teenage years. At the time that Stephen was assessed he had experience of three female sexual partners but masturbation was his current sexual outlet (two to three times weekly. The authors conducted phallometric testing and the results confirmed that Stephen had a “clear sexual preference for adult females” rather than any other age or group of people. Back in 2002 he had sought psychiatric help for two specific fetishistic sexual behaviours (i.e., analingus and podophilia [foot fetishism]). He also reported that he engaged in voyeurism (but was not wanting treatment for it). More recently he sought help for more unusual sexual fantasies. The authors’ reported that Stephen had developed an intense “interest in ‘being’ a woman’s anus”. In fact, he appeared to have some kind of anal fixation as it was reported that:

“Stephen described an intense sexual interest in analingus. He reported this interest to have begun around age 13–15, during which he reported having performed analingus on five to ten children (both male and female, ranging in age from 3 to 1 years). He described having done this when the children were asleep and he stated he believed they were unaware of what he had done. He reported experiencing sexual arousal both during those events and subsequently during masturbation, despite experiencing significant guilt and distress about having engaged in the behavior, and he denied any specific interest in children as sexual partners…Stephen’s interest in analingus crossed over into sexual arousal associated with coprophilia and seemed also to be related to his vorarephilic interests. He described fantasizing about being consumed and destroyed by a very large, dominating woman, who would later defecate him as her feces. He often fantasized about being feces or semen and being expelled by a person. Stephen reported having stuck his hand in human fecal matter, smelling it on several occasions, and having eaten feces out of a toilet on two occasions. On one occasion, he reported feeling traumatized and distraught about an unexpected negative event: To cope with those feelings, he went into the woods and masturbated while eating cow feces. Consistent with his previous assessment, Stephen reported sexual arousal associated with the thought of being someone’s anus…Following the assessment, we diagnosed Stephen on DSMIV-TR Axis I with Paraphilia [Not Otherwise Specified] NOS (partialism for women’s feet), Paraphilia NOS (vorarephilia), and Sexual Masochism, with a prior diagnosis of Dysthymic Disorder, a rule-out diagnosis of Social Phobia, and diagnosis deferred on Axis II.2”

Although a lot of what Lykins and Cantor reported could arguably be viewed as coprophilic, the coprophilic elements are clearly symptomatic of the vorarephilic primary sexual fantasy (i.e., being eaten by a large, female dominatrix and then being defecated by her). Dying was not part of the fantasy – what he really wanted was to be ‘‘taken in and then expelled (as feces)”. Stephen had no desire himself to eat anyone (fantasy or otherwise) and only became sexually aroused when he thought of himself in his vore fantasy as the victim. Lykins and Cantor then went on to speculate that:

“Stephen’s reported fantasies highlighted the focus on both the act and the result of consumption – total destruction of being and personhood – and his sexual arousal associated with such acts. Consistent with fantasies produced by the vore community, Stephen reported no interest in cannibalism (having his flesh eaten or chewed). It seems possible that Stephen’s interest in feces and anal play may relate to the most tangible outcome of the possibility of having acted out these behaviors, specifically human waste and its immediate sources. Alternatively, it also seems reasonable to posit the reverse: that his interest in feces and anal play may have led him to vorarephilic fantasy. This directionality remains difficult to ascertain. Stephen’s fantasies were not entirely consistent with the typical vore fantasy, in that he appeared to be much more focused on the end result (himself as feces) than the majority of the fantasies found in online vore erotica…It is interesting to speculate whether the set of interests Stephen experienced represent a cluster of multiple interests or a single interest which happens to overlap or only superficially resemble multiple, more common categories…Stephen’s case suggests itself as an example of a progression in paraphilic interests. It is unfortunate Stephen ceased clinical contact again after the latter interview. Although some individuals refer to a very specific episode in early life in which they first experienced a fascination with a stimulus that later served as their erotic focus, Stephen may have experienced a slower progression over the course of adulthood”.

The authors also claimed that many features reported by Stephen had never before appeared in the academic, clinical or popular literature. More specifically, they claimed that “sexual arousal to the idea of actually being body parts (e.g., an anus) and bodily products (e.g., feces, semen)” had – to their knowledge –never appeared in print before. The authors concluded in the hope that their published case study would be a good “starting point in the exploration of this unusual paraphilia”.

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

Further reading

Adams, C. (2004). Eat or be eaten: Is cannibalism a pathology as listed in the DSM-IV?The Straight Dope, July 2. Located at: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2515/eat-or-be-eaten

Beier, K. (2008). Comment on Pfafflin’s (2008) “Good enough to eat”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 164-165.

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant desires: Incredibly strange sex. New York: Juno Books.

Lykins, A.D., & Cantor, J.M. (2014). Vorarephilia: A case study in masochism and erotic consumption. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 181-186.

Pfafflin, F. (2008). Good enough to eat. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 286-293.

Pfafflin, F. (2009). Reply to Beier (2009). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 166-167.

The write stuff: Diary writing and psychological wellbeing

Since my first day as a university student back in October 1984, I have kept a diary. What started out as my attempt to write a real-life Secret Diary of Adrian Mole has turned into 30 years of detailed journals where my whole life has been detailed and catalogued in 400-500 words every single day. Sometimes I wish I could stop as they have certainly got me into trouble (as a number of my ex-girlfriends will testify). But I won’t. The advantages of writing about my day-to-day life far outweigh the disadvantages. Even though I have never published any research on diary writing, I did appear on Radio 4’s All In The Mind radio programme where I was given free reign to speculate on why people write diaries.

Writing a diary is nothing new. Millions of people do it. A 2011 article in The Times of India on ‘Why we keep diaries’ noted that being able to keep a diary over a long period is not easy to do as it takes time, effort, patience, and most of all discipline (something that I can vouch for). Nalini Nair, a psychologist interviewed by the newspaper claimed that writing diaries is a form of catharsis (i.e., a process of cleansing or purging our emotions out on paper). She was quoted as saying:

“We relieve our emotional tension through several outlets like art, music and writing a diary is one of them. People who record daily events and jot down everything that they feel are more in touch with their inner emotions”.

A number of psychologists have done studies showing that diary writing is far more than writing for posterity. Some – such as Dr. James Pennebaker in his 2004 book Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval – have gone as far as to say that writing down your feelings is psychologically good for you (something I’ve known personally for years). His research has demonstrated that those who spend time writing about emotionally bad feelings visit their GP less than those that write about non-emotional feelings. More generally, Dr. Pennebaker’s research has found people that benefit the most from expressive diary writing typically use more causal analysis and express more emotion while writing. Therefore, expressive diary writing may be helping individuals simplify and organize their fragmented memories. A summary of Pennebaker’s research on the General Psychology website reported:

“Pennebaker surmised that the Theory of Catharsis can be applied to writing as well. (Sigmund Freud’s theory of catharsis states that people find relief from emotional distress and consequent psychological symptoms by simply expressing their emotions to a trained listener)…He found that college students who wrote about their upsetting and traumatic experiences, along with the associated emotions, reduced their illness visits to the student health center. They were significantly healthier than those students who wrote objectively (without emotions) about negative life events, and those who wrote about topics unrelated from their experiences. Follow-up studies supported Pennebaker’s findings. Pennebaker, Riecolt-Glaser and Glaser (1988) tested the blood samples of the participants and found that cathartic writing boosts the immune system. Additionally, Pennebaker, Spera and Buhrfeind (1994) found that cathartic writing among middle-aged engineers, who were fired after 30 years of service in a company, lead them to overcome their frustration and find alternative employment, compared to those who did not and remained angry and unemployed. This and other success stories strongly suggest that the theory of catharsis can be modified to include writing as a means to improve physical health and psychological wellbeing”.

In 2009, research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by US psychologist Professor Matthew Leiberman claimed that keeping a diary makes people happier (and termed ‘The Bridget Jones Effect’). Although I have been unable to track down the original conference paper, the research findings were reported in countless newspapers around the world. In the UK, The Guardian reported that:

“Brain scans on volunteers showed that putting feelings down on paper reduces activity in [the amygdala] which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions. Psychologists who discovered the ‘Bridget Jones Effect’ said it worked whether people elaborated on their feelings in a diary, penned lines of poetry, or even jotted down song lyrics to express their negative emotions. When people wrote about their feelings, medical scans showed that their brain activity matched that seen in volunteers who were consciously trying to control their emotions…The psychologists investigated the effect by inviting volunteers to visit the lab for a brain scan before asking them to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Half of the participants wrote about a recent emotional experience, while the other half wrote about a neutral experience.Those who wrote about an emotional experience showed more activity in [the] right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which in turn dampened down neural activity linked to strong emotional feelings.Men seemed to benefit from writing about their feelings more than women, and writing by hand had a bigger effect than typing…The study showed that writing about emotions in an abstract sense was more calming than describing them in vivid language, which could make people feel more upset by reactivating their original feelings. The findings suggest that keeping a diary, making up poetry and scribbling down song lyrics can help people get over emotional distress”

Another study published by Dr. Kitty Klein and Dr. Adriel Boals in a 2001 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology (General) examined expressive diary writing and found that it increased working memory capacity. They did two experiments with their students. In their first study, undergraduates were asked to write about their thoughts and feelings about coming to college. The researchers found that when compared to a control group that were asked to write on a trivial topic, the experimental group showed larger working memory gains when tested seven weeks later. In their second study (and compared to students that wrote about a positive experience and students that wrote about a trivial topic), undergraduates that wrote about a negative personal experience showed (i) greater improvements in working memory, and (ii) greater declines in intrusive thinking. The researchers believed that the improvements in working memory may help free up cognitive resources for other mental activities, including the ability to cope more effectively with stress. Talking to the press, Dr. Boals said:

“[The results] hint at a way to short-circuit that destructive process. They suggest that at least for fairly minor life problems, something as simple as writing about the problem for 20 minutes can yield important effects not only in terms of physical health and mental health, but also in terms of cognitive abilities”.

In a 2008 issue of the British Journal of Health Psychology (BJHP), a study led by Dr. Y. Seih examined the benefits of psychological displacement in diary writing. Their study investigated a new emotional writing paradigm called ‘psychological displacement paradigm in diary-writing’ (PDDP). The authors wrote that:

“PDDP instructs participants to write diary in first-person pronoun first, and then narrate the same event from a different perspective using second-person pronoun. Finally, the participants write it again with third-person pronoun from yet another perspective. These three narrations were to be written in a consecutive sequential order. Results demonstrated that diary writers indeed benefited from features of PDDP. It also showed that highly anxious people received most long-term therapeutic effect from PDDP”.

The authors argued that PDDP enacts the needed mechanism to balance psychological distance prolonging and self-disclosure making in emotional writing. Some of the authors of the BJHP paper followed up this study and published a paper in a recent 2013 issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies. In this latest study (led this time by Dr. Jen-Ho Chang), the researchers attempted to investigate whether the PDPD had both immediate and short-term psychological benefits. Individuals in either a PDPD group or comparison group were randomly assigned to write about their recent negative life experiences twice a week for two weeks. Results showed that the PDPD group showed a decrease in negative emotion and an increase in positive emotion immediately after each diary writing session. The PDPD group also showed an increase in psychological wellbeing relative to the control group for at least two weeks.

Interestingly, there appears to be more research on why writing diaries are good for people rather than on why people write diaries in the first place. As the article in The Times of India concludes:

“Keeping diaries have always been a mystery. Why we keep them and why we record them is something worth probing into. Years later, you can always flip through these diaries and see what you were. The kind of person you evolved from. Perhaps that will give you a better clarity to life on the whole”.

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

Further reading

Chang, J.H., Huang, C.L., & Lin, Y.C. (2013). The psychological displacement paradigm in diary-writing (PDPD) and its psychological benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 155-167.

General Psychology (2013). How can writing improve your health? Located at: http://general-psychology.weebly.com/how-can-writing-improve-your-health.html

Grey, J. (2009). 8 benefits of writing in a journal or diary. Located at: http://hubpages.com/hub/10-Benefits-of-Keeping-a-Journal

Hiemstra, R. (2001). Uses and benefits of journal writing. In L. M. English & M. A. Gillen, (Eds.), Promoting journal writing in adult education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 90, pp. 19-26). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (Located at: http://www-distance.syr.edu/journal1.html)

Kareem, R.A. (2011). Why we keep diaries. The Times of India, August 25. Located at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-08-25/man-woman/29926572_1_diaries-anne-frank-emotions

Klein, K., & Boals, A. (2001). Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130, 520-533.

Pennebaker, J.W. (2004). Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering From Trauma and Emotional Upheaval. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.

Sample, I. (2009). Keeping a diary makes you happier. The Guardian, February 15. Located at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/15/psychology-usa

Seih, Y. T., Lin, Y. C., Huang, C. L., Peng, C. W., & Huang, S. P. (2008). The benefits of psychological displacement in diary writing when using different pronouns. British Journal of Health Psychology, 13(1), 39-41.

Whitbourne, S.K. (2009). Tracking your travels through time: The benefits of writing in diaries. Psychology Today, December 16. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/200912/tracking-your-travels-through-time-the-benefits-writing-in-diaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

Hopelessly devoted to you: The Church of Maradona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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