Category Archives: Compulsion

Hirsute yourself: A brief look at female body hair fetishism

In previous blogs I have examined a number of fetishes and sexual paraphilias related to human body hair including trichophilia/hirsutophilia (sexual arousal for hair, usually head hair), pogonophilia (sexual arousal from beards), and haircut fetishism (sexual arousal from seeing someone get their haircut either voluntary or through coercion). Another sub-type of trichophilia is men that get sexual pleasure and arousal from women that are abnormally hairy (including but not limited to overly hairy pubic hair, underarm hair, hairy arms, hairy legs, and hair around nipples). As far as I am aware, there is no academic research on this topic although a quick Google search with the term ‘hairy women’ reveals dozens of websites catering for (presumably) men that get their sexual kicks from hirsute women.

Other required viewing would no doubt include the television documentary F*** Off, I’m A Hairy Woman (first screened in 2007). The programme was hosted by female stand-up comic and Guardian newspaper columnist Shazia Mirza, and its focus was body image and stereotypes about women’s androgenic hair. The programme followed Shazia Mirza over a six-month period in which she let all her body hair grow for six months. As the Wikipedia entry on the show noted:

Her introduction posed the question, ‘what would it be like if we lived in a world where beautiful women were allowed to be hairy?’ To find out, [Mirza] decided to take the plunge and grow out [her] body hair. Can [she] learn to love it, and can [she] convince the rest of the world to love it too? After six months, she advertised for other hairy women to put on a catwalk show, wearing lingerie made of body hair designed and made by artist Tracey Moberly”.

There are a few online articles about some men’s love of hairy women including a 2010 Ezine Article on ‘Men looking for a hairy woman – tips on how to find them’ (and is actually about how hairy women can date men rather than vice-versa). The author – Angelina Andrews – claims that on most internet polls ‘hirsute fetishes’ are among the top ten most popular male fetishes. While I don’t dispute this, most of this relates to general ‘hair on head’ fetishism rather than hirsute female fetishism more specifically. The article claims:

“Most [hairy] women like yourself will be tempted to join a ‘hairy dating’ website. I would strongly advise against it. These sites actually have very few members right now. Most people with a fetish for female hair tend to just join conventional dating sites. You will also find that these sites for hirsute lady lovers are overly pricey. Most men have no idea about hairy dating sites. They tend to join huge dating communities. This is where you should join too…These popular sites have advanced profile matching technology. What this means is they tend to match your profile with people who might be interested in it. All you have to do is write down that you have body hair and you would love to meet a male hirsute fetishist. On most sites this will be enough to send your profile to relevant men”.

In the name of academic research I went searching on the internet for evidence (outside of pornographic videos) to see if there were individuals that claimed to be sexually aroused by female body hair. Below are typical extracts various online forums from both men that claim to have a fetish for female body hair and from women that have dated men with a fetish for female body hair:

  • Extract 1: “My boyfriend has a fetish for hairy women? Is this normal? He is also trying to convince me to let all my body hair grow. Should I do it?”
  • Extract 2: “I am a 31-year-old male with a fetish for very hairy women”
  • Extract 3: “I always had a fetish for hairy women. [I] was wondering if any other guys out there like me. I would really like to meet and perhaps date a girl who’s hairy or hirsute. It’s just really hard to find someone like that – especially since everyone today is smooth like a little girl. If you’re out there, then message me please. I am 20 [years old]”
  • Extract 4: “I have had guys tell me about some crazy fetishes in my life. I even had a few guys – American and European mainly – tell me they don’t mind their girl being hairy. Some find it sexy! I have some comfort in knowing that men still find me beautiful even in knowing about my flaws! But it is still an odd fetish but different strokes for different folks, I guess! I even Googled the term and found a LOT of fetish/porn photos of hairy women. Not sure how I feel about it yet”
  • Extract 5: “Any fetish makes me feel objectified…I’ve met a couple of guys who i suspect had a hair fetish, my arms were all they could look at, talk about and lust after, wanting to touch them when I had just met them, I had to slap their hands away to keep them from touching my arms. I normally feel whatever floats your boat as long as everybody is happy, but they make me feel so uncomfortable to be objectifying something that is part of a medical condition I have been fighting so long [i.e., polycystic ovary syndrome that results in high levels of male hormones in the body]. I’m self-conscious about my extra hair…[and] I don’t want somebody worshiping the very things I would change about my body. But if two people enjoy somebodies fetish together that’s ok, it’s just not for me. When guys show up here to talk about their fetish it really ticks me off”
  • Extract 6: “I love hair on women. Not necessarily on the legs, but I love a hairy crotch and hairy armpits. I know hairy is a fetish in porn a lot, but it doesn’t seem any other people I know share this ‘fetish’. I actually made one of my ex-girlfriends grow hers out because it was shaven. Then she shaved it back and I got really pissed off”

Although there is little detail in these extracts (and I can’t ensure the veracity of such claims), they suggest that (i) there are males out there that are sexually aroused by hairy women, (ii) that such males appear to be in young adulthood (in their twenties and thirties), (iii) that women that are the subject of such desires may not like to be objectified in such a way, and (iv) that it may be culturally determined (such as coming from Europe or America). All of this is (of course) highly speculative and given that there is unlikely to be a great surge of interest academically to research the topic, I can’t see ‘the facts’ becoming any clearer anytime soon.

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.

Andrews, A. (2010). Men looking for a hairy woman – tips on how to find them. Ezine Articles, November 16. Located at: http://ezinearticles.com/?Men-Looking-For-A-Hairy-Woman—Tips-To-Find-Them!&id=5393555

Bindel, J. (2010). Women: Embrace your facial hair. The Guardian, August 20. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/20/women-facial-hair

Goulian, J-J. (2014). In defense of hairy women: Searching for a fair standard of beauty. Vice, February 11. http://www.vice.com/read/in-defense-of-hairy-women-0000222-v21n2

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

Wikipedia (2014). F*** Off, I’m A Hairy Woman. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F***_Off,_I’m_a_Hairy_Woman

Viagra falls: Is there a relationship between sex and nosebleeds?

In previous blogs I have covered a number of different topics relating to various human behaviours involving blood including haematophagia (the eating and/or drinking of blood products), haemolacria (the crying of blood), clinical vampirism as a sexual paraphilia, and menophilia (sexual arousal from women menstruating). Today’s blog adds to the list by taking a brief look at sex and nosebleeds (medically known as epistaxis).

There are many causes of nosebleeds. The two most common are nose picking and being exposed to dry air for long periods. Other reasons include having high blood pressure, having a cold or flu, allergic rhinitis (nose allergies), acute sinusitis, heavy alcohol use, being exposed to chemical irritants, being on certain medications (such as blood thinners and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), nose trauma, cocaine use, and haemophilia. Added to this, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of people claiming to get nosebleeds during vigorous sex.

However, an article in Culture Smash by Brian Ashcroft quoted an otolaryngologist, Dr. Kouichirou Kanaya (an ear, nose, and throat specialist) who was quoted as saying:

“The notion that sexual arousal causes the heart rate and blood pressure to rise is something that’s a well documented fact; however, in actuality, sexual arousal and bloody noses have no direct connection”

However, while researching this article I came across a number of medical papers showing that there is one area where nosebleeds have been related to sexual activity. More specifically, there have been a number of cases in the literature where men taking sildenafil (Viagra) and/or tadalafil (Cialis) have had nosebleeds during sex. For instance, Dr. L.A. Hicklin and colleagues reported two cases in a 2002 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. These are reported verbatim below followed by a 2006 case by Dr. G. Pomara and colleagues in the International Journal of Impotence Research, and a 2005 case by Dr. H. Ismail and Dr. P.G. Harries in the journal Acta oto-laryngologica:

  • Case 1: “A man in his late 50s was admitted from the emergency department with heavy prolonged epistaxis…During the admission the patient volunteered that, in the hours before his first nose-bleed, he had been engaging in energetic sexual activity. To enhance his sexual performance he had taken 50 mg sildenafil. Over the subsequent few days he had had several short but heavy epistaxes, and on the day of admission bleeding had continued for 6 hours without stopping. With packing and bed rest the bleeding gradually settled and he was discharged after six days”.
  • Case 2: “A man in his early 70s was admitted from the emergency department after 5 hours of epistaxis. He had taken sildenafil to enhance his sexual performance in the morning before his epistaxis…This was his first nose-bleed requiring medical attention…[After] two days and he was discharged home with no further epistaxis”.
  • Case 3: “A 32-year-old male presented to our department for recurrent epistaxis during sexual intercourses…During the consultation, he volunteered that the trigger for the epistaxis appeared to have been misuse of phosphodiesterase (PDE)-5 inhibitors, Viagra and Cialis. This first report of epistaxis after PDE-5 inhibitors in a young patient underline the possibility that in the next years the number of similar cases might increase due to the diffusion of PDE-5 inhibitor misuse in recreational settings”.
  • Case 4: A 66-year-old male presented to our department with recurrent epistaxis. On examination it was not possible to identify the source of the bleeding, despite various measures…During a consultation the patient volunteered that the trigger for the epistaxis appeared to have been energetic sexual activity. To enhance his sexual performance he had taken Viagra; however, on stopping the Viagra and changing to the newer drug Cialis, the episodes of epistaxis continued. We document what we believe to be the first case of epistaxis caused by Cialis”.

So why would Viagra and Cialis cause nosebleeds? Given that these medications help engorge erectile tissue, the nose also contains erectile tissue and the authors of these case reports believe that nasal engorgement also took place and lead to the nosebleeds. The phenomenon may be under-reported because individuals that use Viagra to enhance their sex lives may be too embarrassed to discuss this with doctors if it relates to sexual dysfunction. (I also came across a case report in a 2009 issue of the Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences by Dr. R. Dixit and colleagues of a 38-year old man persistently coughing up of blood [haemoptysis] whenever he used Viagra during sex).

Another interesting angle on sexual nosebleeds comes from Japanese cartoon animation (and more specifically Manga comics). In an online article entitled ‘Nosebleeds: Manga just wouldn’t be the same without them’, the author argues that Manga cartoons contain a number of specific tropes (i.e., a significant or recurrent theme). These tropes (amongst others) included nosebleeds, sweat drops, snot bubbles, and popping veins. Sexual nosebleeds were the number one trope in the article. The article noted that:

“A nosebleed, in the wonderful world of manga, equates to sexual arousal. I saw this trope for the first time in Dragonball, when Bulma lifts her dress and the lecherous Master Roshi spurts blood from his nose. Although Bulma was commando at the time, nosebleeds can be triggered by seeing something as mild as a pair of panties. In the case of the boy in the following image, it seems his bloody nose was triggered more by a fetish for swimsuits rather than the girl wearing them: Clearly, horn dogs don’t spontaneously get nosebleeds in real life. So why is it so in manga? I think it’s generally accepted that a rush of blood to the head and the resulting nosebleed is a visual metaphor for blood rushing to, er, somewhere else – which probably explains why I’ve only ever seen guys get nosebleeds, although I could be wrong about that”.

I’ve never watched a full Manga cartoon in my life but from everything I’ve read, male nosebleeds are common cliché in anime cartoons and are known as ‘hanaji’. According to the online Urban Dictionary, hanaji is “when you see a boy get a nosebleed in anime, [and] usually means his blood pressure has suddenly severely increased from seeing a really cute girl”. In an article by Brian Ashcroft for Culture Smash, he also noted the nosebleed trope in Manga cartoons:

A character, male or female, gets excited—often sexually excited. Blood dribbles, or squirts, out of the character’s nose. The notion that arousal or excitement induces bloody noses…isn’t just part of anime or manga iconography. It’s also become an old wives’ tale of sorts…The trope is very much a Japanese one, appearing throughout the country’s popular culture and with various nuances in anime and manga. It is not a new trope and has existed for years…Manga artist Yasuji Tanioka is believed to be the first one to introduce the motif with his early 1970s manga Yasuji no Mettameta Gaki Dou Kouza. Other manga artists liked the expression and began replicating it in their own work”.

In relation to the nosebleed trope in anime cartoons, Dr. Kouichirou Kanaya (the ear, nose, and throat specialist quoted above) speculated that:

“Bloody noses are probably used to show in a powerful way just how excessively large the change induced by sexual arousal is. It’s a climax, and in manga, it often seems to be code for ejaculation”.

There are also anecdotal cases of nosebleed fetishes (called epistaxiophilia). However, the love of nosebleeds appears to have been created by using the name of nosebleed phobia (epistaxiophobia) and changing the suffix ‘phobia’ for ‘philia’. To my knowledge, there has never been an academic paper or clinical case study published on epistaxiophilia. However, I did come across a number of online confessions of individuals that admitted (if they are true) that they were sexually aroused by nosebleeds. Here are some extracts that I found in various online forums:

  • Extract 1: “Was just reading a thread on r/Askmen about men who get nosebleeds during sex. My brain processed SEX and NOSEBLEEDS and I immediately imagined myself riding a guy home when he suddenly got a nose bleed. I was strangely turned on by that idea. I don’t think I’d be comfortable sharing this newly discovered turn on with any of my friends because I feel like it’s so damn weird” (Female, Reddit, AskWomen forum)
  • Extract 2: “Nosebleed fetish? Does anyone have it? I normally don’t like blood but I find nosebleeds really hot. I wouldn’t ever hurt my loved one, but I have to admit that I’m quite aggressive towards normal people because of it” (Inwealorwoe [Male], Yahoo! Answers)
  • Extract 3: “I’ll completely understand and I won’t take offense if you run from this post flailing and gagging…For the longest time, I’ve had a nosebleed Maybe that links to the fact that I’ve also got haematophilia and a vampire fetish. But you know what I really like? When someone sneezes while they have a nosebleed” (Proclaimer, Female, 21 years old)
  • Extract 4: “I think it’s incredibly sexy when a guy has a nosebleed. Sneezing while having a nosebleed. I would agree that nosebleeds are probably a turn-on for me because of the whole vulnerability/loss of control factor. Same as with sneezing and colds and things like that” (Helter Skelter, female, 19 years old)
  • Extract 5: “I actually do have a blood/vampire fetish. I often find myself getting very thirsty as well as aroused when watching vampires feed in movies. However I don’t really find nosebleeds all that appealing. I’m not disgusted by it or anything, but it just wouldn’t really do anything for me. I guess it’s just not the type of bleeding that I’m attracted to. I can see how it might be appealing to others though” (Shayla, female 31 years)

Obviously I cannot vouch for the veracity of these claims but I have no reason to doubt them (and the final extract liked other blood fetishes but not a nosebleed fetish). There is no detail in any of these extracts to speculate as to why anyone develops a fetish to nosebleeds. However I’ll leave you with a reply to the person in Extract 2 above:

“[Nose bleed fetishes] makes sense. A sexual therapist said that our sexual fantasies are derived from non-sexual things in our life. So your fetish for nosebleeds could actually stem from something non-sexual in your life. For example, it probably turns you on because it makes you feel empowered and aggressive, since if the person you are with has a nosebleed it means you must have been rough with them. So I would say that your fetish is probably normal, because many people are turned on by feeling empowered and aggressive. Sounds normal to me” (The Way It Is, Yahoo! Answers)”.

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

Further reading

Ashcroft, B. (2012). Sexual arousal doesn’t cause bloody noses, says medical science! Culture Smash, October 19. Located at: http://kotaku.com/5953124/sexual-arousal-doesnt-cause-bloody-noses-says-medical-science

Dixit, R., Jakhmola, P., Sharma, S., Arya, M., & Parmej, A. R. (2009). Recurrent haemoptysis following sildenafil administration. Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences, 15, 119-120.

Hicklin, L.A., Ryan, C., Wong, D.K.K., & Hinton, A.E. (2002). Nose-bleeds after sildenafil (Viagra). Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 95(8), 402-403.

Ismail, H., & Harries, P. G. (2005). Recurrent epistaxis after treatment with tadalafil (Cialis). Acta oto-laryngologica, 125(3), 334-335.

Pomara, G., Morelli, G., Menchini-Fabris, F., Dinelli, N., Campo, G., LiGuori, G., & Selli, C. (2006). Epistaxis after PDE-5 inhibitors misuse. International Journal of Impotence Research, 18(2), 213-214.

Candle with care: A beginner’s guide to wax play‬

“I love hot wax. My wife loves to drip it and pour it all over my body. I have dipped my [penis] in the wax and the feeling during the dipping and the sex after was great. We did remove the wax from any part that was going to penetrate. I have a very high threshold for pain. I normally don’t use any painkillers for such things as root canal’s, extractions, stitches or road rash from motorcycle accidents. I don’t get turned on in the slightest from any of this I just don’t feel pain like everyone else. I think it is very normal to have this fetish. It is a major turn on to me. You might want to experiment with different types of wax. Some have a higher melting point than others. Oh we have and have realized she likes to use the waxes with the higher melting points. She loves to see me squirm but in a good way” (Wiki Answers)

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices ‘wax play’ is a form of sexually sensual play that involves warm or hot wax typically dripped from candles or ladled onto the individual’s naked skin (the individual typically being sexually masochistic). He also claimed that wax play was often combined with other BDSM and/or sexual activities. Dr. Aggrawal also makes reference to ‘wax play’ in a short section on ‘navel torture’. More specifically her reports that navel torture involves “infliction of intense sensory stimulation and pain to a person’s navel. Examples are sucking or pulling the navel out (often with a syringe), dripping hot oil or wax into the navel, and poking pins into the navel”. The Wikipedia entry on wax play provides a list for those that want to attempt such practices. The article informed readers that:

“Pure paraffin wax melts at around 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (54 to 57 Celsius). Adding stearine makes the wax harder and melt at a higher temperature. Adding mineral oil makes the wax softer and melt at a lower temperature. Soft candles in glass jars usually have mineral oil in their blend and burn cooler at around 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49C), Pillar candles are mostly paraffin and burn warmer at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60C). Taper candles have lots of stearine and burn hotter still at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71C). Beeswax candles burn about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 C) hotter than equivalent paraffin candles. Although there are many web sites that repeat the same advice that color additives make candles burn hotter, actual experiments performed by two different researchers show that this is usually not the case. Increasing the distance the wax falls by 1 meter will drop the temperature about 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3C) at the risk of splatter. If ordinary candles are too hot, a special wax blend with a high concentration of mineral oil can be heated to lower temperatures in a crock pot or double boiler”.

In the ‘safety notes’ section, the article reminds readers that wax temperature can range from simply ‘warm’ to ‘dangerously hot’ and can cause serious burns (and that wax play practitioners should be careful that wax doesn’t “splatter into the eyes”. Obviously, different masochists can withstand different temperatures depending upon their individual tolerance levels. It then goes on to say that:

“Wax may be difficult to remove, particularly from areas with hair. A flea comb or a sharp knife may be necessary for wax removal; use of a knife for this purpose requires special skills, though a plastic card can work as well. Applying mineral oil or lotion before play can make wax removal easier…Wax heated in any sort of pot must be stirred vigorously or there can be dangerous temperature variations. Some people may be allergic to perfumes and dyes. Whatever is above a burning candle can get very hot, even at distances that may be surprising. Candles may break and set fire to objects underneath or nearby. Wax is difficult to wash out of clothes and bed linens. People with certain diseases, skin conditions, or taking certain medications may require additional precautions”.

A few academic studies into sadomasochism have examined various niche practices including wax play. For instance, in a previous blog on psychrocism (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from either by being cold) I quoted from Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices that said:

“Exposure to intense cold creates a sharp sensation that is similar to other physical stimuli that produce tension. The mind changes its focus from intellectual pursuits to physical awareness. Many [sadomasochistic] players use cold contact to heighten awareness of skin sensations. They often alternate cold with heat, such as ice cubes and candle wax”.

More empirically, a 1987 study published in the Journal of Sex Research by Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. E.E. Levitt surveyed 225 sadomasochists (178 men and 47 women). The most commonly reported SM behaviours (in 50% to 80% of participants) were flagellation (whipping, spanking) and bondage (chains, rope, gags, chains, handcuffs). Painful activities (for instance, the use of hot wax, ice, face slapping, biting) were reported by 37–41% of participants, though more dangerous painful activities (burning, branding, tattooing, piercing, insertion of pins) were much less frequently reported (7% to 18% of participants).

A more recent Finnish study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by Dr. Laurence Alison and his colleagues reported fairly similar findings to that of Moser and Levitt. Again, the most popular activities were flagellation and bondage. Less reported SM activities were the most harmful harm (piercing, asphyxiation, electric shocks, use of blades/knives, fisting, etc.). These researchers also explored the variations in sadomasochistic activities, and wax play fell into the ‘typical’ pain administration group. These were:

  • Typical pain administration: This involved practices such as spanking, caning, whipping, skin branding, use of hot wax, electric shocks, etc.
  • Humiliation: This involved verbal humiliation, gagging, face slapping, flagellation, etc. Heterosexuals were more likely than gay men to engage in these types of activity.
  • Physical restriction: This included bondage, use of handcuffs, use of chains, wrestling, use of ice, wearing straight jackets, hypoxyphilia, and mummifying.
  • Hyper-masculine pain administration: This involved rimming, dildo use, cock binding, being urinated upon, being given an enema, fisting, being defecated upon, and catheter insertion. Gay men were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in these types of activity.

A 2002 follow-up study by the same team on the same sample of sadomasochists (also in the Archives of Sexual Behavior led by Dr. Pekka Santtila) reported that 35% of their participants had engaged in hot wax play. From these few studies it would appear that wax play among SM practitioners is relatively prevalent although there appear to be few data about how regularly wax play is engaged in.

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.

Alison, L., Santtila, P., Sandnabba, N.K., & Nordling, N. (2001). Sadomasochistically oriented behavior: Diversity in practice and meaning. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 1-12.

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

Moser, C. & Levitt, E.E. (1987). An exploratory descriptive study of a sadomasochistically oriented sample. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 322–337.

Norische (2008). Candlelight moments: Basics of wax play. Idaho BDSM. Located at: http://www.idahobdsm.com/articles/howto/waxplay.html

Safer+Saner (2006). Wax play. Located at: http://www.safersaner.org/Safer_WaxPlay.html

Sandnabba, N.K., Santtila, P., Alison, L., & Nordling, N. (2002). Demographics, sexual behaviour, family background and abuse experiences of practitioners of sadomasochistic sex: A review of recent research. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17, 39-55.

Spectrum (2004). The Toybag Guide to Hot Wax and Temperature Play. Emeryville, California: Greenery Press.

Wikipedia (2014). Wax play. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wax_play

Unfruitful approaches: Why are slot machine players so hard to study?

Anyone that researches in the area of slot machine gambling will know how difficult to can be to collect data from this group of gamblers. Over a decade ago, Dr. Jonathan Parke and I published a paper in the Journal of Gambling Issues on why slot machine players are so hard to study. Almost all of the things we wrote in that paper are still highly relevant today, so this blog briefly examines some of the issues we raised. The following explanations represented our experiences of several research efforts in attempting to examine the psychology of slot machine gamblers in the UK, Canada and the United States. Our explanations are roughly divided into three categories. More specifically, these relate to what we called (i) player-specific factors, (ii) researcher-specific factors, and (iii) miscellaneous external factors.

Player-specific factors: There are a number of player-specific factors that can impede the collection of reliable and valid data. These include factors such as activity engrossment, dishonesty/social desirability, motivational distortion, fear of ignorance, guilt/embarrassment, infringement of player anonymity, unconscious motivation/lack of self-understanding, chasing, and lack of incentive. These are explained in more detail below:

  • Activity engrossment – Slot machine gamblers can become fixated on their playing almost to the point where they ‘tune out’ to everything else around them. We have observed that many gamblers will often miss meals and/or utilise devices (such as catheters) so that they do not have to take toilet breaks. Given these observations, there is sometimes little chance that we as researchers can persuade them to participate in research studies – especially when they are gambling on the machine when approached.
  • Dishonesty/Social desirability – It is well known that some gamblers will lie and be dishonest about their gambling behaviour. Social and problem gamblers alike are subject to social desirability factors and will be dishonest about the extent of their gambling activities to researchers (in addition to those close to them). This obviously has implications for the reliability and validity of any data collected.
  • Motivational distortion – Many slot machine gamblers experience low self-esteem and when participating in research may provide ego-boosting responses that lead to motivational distortion. For this reason, many report that they win more (or lose less) than they actually do. Again, this self-report data has implications for reliability and validity of the data.
  • Fear of ignorance – We have observed that many slot machine gamblers report to understand how the slot machine works when in fact they know very little. This appears to be a ‘face-saving’ mechanism so that they do not appear to be stupid and/or ignorant to the researchers.
  • Guilt/embarrassment – Slot machine gamblers can often be guilty and/or embarrassed to be in the gambling environment in the first place. They like to convince themselves that they are not ‘gamblers’ but simply ‘social players’ who visit gambling environments infrequently. We have found that gamblers will often cite their infrequency of gambling as a reason or excuse not participate in an interview or fill out a questionnaire. Connected with this, some gamblers just simply do not want to face up to the fact that they gamble.
  • Infringement of player anonymity – Some slot machine gamblers clearly play on machines as a means of escape. Many gamblers will perceive the gaming establishment in which they are gambling as a ‘private’ (rather than public) arena. As such, researchers who approach them may be viewed as people who are infringing on their anonymity.
  • Unconscious motivation and lack of self-understanding – Unfortunately, many slot machine gamblers do not understand why they gamble themselves. Therefore, articulating this accurately to researchers can be very difficult. Furthermore, many gamblers experience the ‘pull’ of the slot machine where they feel compelled to play despite their better judgment but cannot articulate why.
  • Chasing – When trying to carry out research in the playing environments (e.g., arcades, casinos, bingo halls, etc.), many regular gamblers do not want to leave ‘their’ slot machine in case someone “snipes” their machine while they are elsewhere. Understandably, gamblers are more concerned with chasing losses than participating in an interview or filling out a questionnaire for a researcher.
  • Lack of incentive – Some slot machine gamblers simply refuse to take part in research because they feel that there is “nothing in it for them” (i.e., a lack of incentive). Furthermore, very few gamblers take the view that their gambling habits and experiences can be helpful to others.

Researcher-specific factors: In addition to player-specific factors, there are also some researcher-specific factors that can impede the collection of data from slot machine gamblers. Most of these factors concern research issues relating to participant and non-participant observational techniques (i.e., blending in, subjective sampling and interpretation, and lack of gambling knowledge). These are expanded on further below:

  • Blending in – The most important aspect of non-participant observation work while monitoring fruit machine players is the art of being inconspicuous. If the researcher fails to ‘blend in’, slot machine gamblers soon realise they are being watched. As a result, they are increasingly likely to change their behaviour in some way. For instance, some players will get nervous and/or agitated and stop playing immediately whereas others will do the exact opposite and try to show off by exaggerating their playing ritual. Furthermore, these gamblers will discourage spectators as they are often considered to be “skimmers” (individuals trying to make profits by playing “other peoples machines”). Blending into the setting depends upon a number of factors. If the gambling establishment is crowded, it is very easy to just wander around without looking too suspicious. The researcher’s experience, age and sex can also affect the situation. In the UK, amusement arcades are generally frequented by young men and elderly women. The general rule is that the older the researcher gets, the harder it will be for them to mingle in successfully. If the arcade is not too crowded then there is little choice but to be one of the ‘punters’. The researcher will probably need to stay in the arcade for lengthy periods of time, therefore spending money is unavoidable unless the researcher has a job there – an approach that Dr. Parke took to collect data.
  • Subjective sampling and interpretation – When the researcher is in the gambling environment, they cannot possibly study everyone at all times, in all places. Therefore it is a matter of personal choice as to what data are recorded, collected and observed. This obviously impacts on the reliability and validity of the findings. Furthermore, many of the data collected during observation will be qualitative in nature and therefore will not lend themselves to quantitative data analysis.
  • Lack of gambling knowledge – Lack of ‘street knowledge’ about slot machine gamblers and the environments they frequent (e.g., terminology that players use, knowledge of the machine features, gambling etiquette, etc.) can lead to misguided assumptions. For instance, non-participant observation may lead to the recording of irrelevant data and/or an idiosyncratic interpretation of something that is widely known amongst gamblers. As above, this can lead to subjective interpretation issues.

External factors: In addition to player-specific and researcher-specific factors, there are also some external factors that can impede the collection of data from slot machine gamblers. Most of these factors concern the gaming industry’s reactions to researchers being in their establishments although there are other factors too. These are briefly outlined below:

  • Gaming establishment design It is clear from many of the arcades and casinos that we have done research in over the years that many are not ideally designed for doing covert research in. Non-participant observation is often very difficult in small establishments or in places where the clientele numbers are low.
  • “Gatekeeper” issues and beaurocratic obstacles – The questions of ‘how?’ and ‘where?’ to access to the research situation can be gained raise ethical questions. Access is often determined by “informants” (quite often an acquaintance of the researcher) or “gatekeepers” (usually the manager of the organisation etc.). Getting permission to carry out research in a gambling establishment can be very difficult and is often the hardest obstacle that a researcher has to overcome to collect the data required. Many establishments do not have the power to make devolved decisions and have to seek the permission of their head office. The prevention of access by the industry can be for many reasons but the main ones are highlighted next.
  • Management concerns – From the perspective of arcade or casino managers, the last thing they want are researchers that disturb their clientele (i.e., their players), by taking them away from their gambling and/or out of the establishment. Furthermore, they do not want us to give their customers any chance to make gamblers feel guilty about their gambling. In our experience, this is something that researchers are perceived by management to do. This obviously impacts on whether permission to carry out research is given in the first place.
  • Industry perceptions – From the many years we have spent researching (and gambling on) slot machines, it has become evident that there are some people in the gaming industry that view researchers such as ourselves as ‘anti-gambling’ and/or that any research will report negatively about their clientele or establishment/organization. As with management concerns, this again impacts on whether permission to carry out research is given in the first place.

Dr. Parke and I envisaged that our explanations might enhance future research in this area by providing researchers with an understanding of some of the difficulties with data collection. Unfortunately, identification of slot machine gamblers is often limited to a “search and seek” method of trawling local gambling establishments (e.g., amusement arcades, casinos etc.). Therefore, researchers are often limited to collecting data during play rather than outside of it. Obviously data facilitation would be better if gamblers were not occupied by their machine gambling.

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

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (1991). The observational study of adolescent gambling in UK amusement arcades. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 1, 309-320.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The observational analysis of marketing methods in UK amusement arcades. Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter, 24, 17-24.

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Adolescent Gambling. London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Observing the social world of fruit-machine playing. Sociology Review, 6(1), 17-18.

Parke, A., & Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Aggressive behavior in slot machine gamblers: A preliminary observational study. Psychological Reports, 95, 109-114.

Parke, A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Aggressive behaviour in adult slot machine gamblers: A qualitative observational study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2, 50-58.

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Slot machine gamblers – Why are they so hard to study? Journal of Gambling Issues, 6. Located at: http://jgi.camh.net/doi/full/10.4309/jgi.2002.6.7

Parke, J. & Griffiths. M.D. (2008). Participant and non-participant observation in gambling environments. ENQUIRE, 1, 1-18.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). A typology of UK slot machine gamblers: A longitudinal observational and interview study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 9, 606-626.

WAM, bang, thankyou mam: A brief look at ‘wet and messy’ fetishes

In a previous blog, I briefly looked at salirophilia – sometimes called saliromania – a sexual paraphilia in which individuals experience sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire (typically an attractive person). I noted in that blog that salirophilia is related to other fetishes and paraphilias such as ‘sploshing’ (deriving sexual pleasure from wet substances – but not bodily fluids – being deliberately and generously applied to either naked or scantily clad individuals) and sometimes referred to as ‘wet and messy’ (WAM) fetishism or ‘wamplay’. The word ‘sploshing’ is thought to have been derived from the UK-based fetish magazine Splosh! that began publishing in 1989, ran for 40 issues, and featured stories and photographs of women is messy situations.

In 2005, ‘wamplay’ made the news here in the UK when Bernard Bertola, a teacher from Halifax in West Yorkshire was given a two-year conditional registration order for searching for WAM-related terms on one of the school computers where he worked. As an article by Brian Coates in the Halifax Evening Courier noted:

“A school’s former head of IT has been disciplined for watching bizarre internet porn where women were covered in beans, spaghetti, pies and trifles. Bernard Bertola, who taught for nearly 20 years at Hipperholme and Lightcliffe High School, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by the General Teaching Council. He was given a two-year conditional registration order, which means he can remain on the register of teachers but must adhere to conditions. Bertola used a school computer to view Internet sites such as ‘Messy and Wet’, ‘Gunge Tank’’ and ‘Messy Mania’…The council said he had knowingly accessed sites inappropriate for a school environment. ‘If he hadn’t expected sexual images you would not expect to see words such as ‘sexy blonde actress gets pie after pie’, said presenting officer Bradley Albuery. An IT manager had spotted Bertola viewing food fetish websites in June 2003 from a monitoring computer in another room”.

Interestingly, this news story also mentions Bertola’s viewing of food fetish sites. Food fetishes and paraphilias (i.e., sitophilia) are different from wamplay (and was a topic I examined in a previous blog). However, there are clearly behavioural (and possibly psychological) overlaps between the two fetishistic behaviours.

As far as I am aware, there has been no empirical or clinical research published concerning WAM fetishes. Dr. Katharine Gates in her 2000 book Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex notes that individuals who are into WAM fetishes derive sexual arousal from substances that are deliberately and generously applied onto their (or others’) naked skin, predominantly the face, or onto people’s clothes while they are still wearing them. According to the Wikipedia entry on WAM fetishes, the messy substances typically used in such encounters include various foodstuffs (custard, ice cream, ketchup, whipped cream, baked beans, liquid puddings, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, cake batter, etc.), drinking beverages (e.g., milk, fruit juices, beers, etc.) and/or other non-foodstuffs (e.g., shaving foam, mud, paint, oil, gunge, slime, Japanese style lotion, etc.). There are many other substances (mostly foodstuffs) that I have come across being mentioned and/or used on other WAM websites including honey, marshmellow spread, chocolate spread, mousses (edible and non-edible), jelly, meringue, lard, margarine, and butter.

An important thing to note in relation to WAM fetishes is that they do not involve body fluids as such bodily substances are part of other distinct sexual paraphilias such as coprophilia (faeces), urophilia (urine), lactophilia (breast milk), menohilia (menstruated blood), and emetophilia (vomit). The Wikipedia entry also notes:

“Videos of the fetish made by both fans and companies can be seen frequently on YouTube. Some of these videos are flagged, but most of them remain available despite the sexual undertones, mainly because a large majority of wet and messy videos on the site do not include nudity and are therefore safe for all audiences to view”.

I also came across an online posting that featured lots of information about lots of sexual fetishes and paraphilias that included some information on ‘wamming’ that I have not come across anywhere else. I reproduce it here but cannot vouch for the veracity of the information as there are no supporting references (however, the information had good face validity which is why I thought I would include it in this blog):

“Body painting, whipped cream licking, and food fighting are milder forms of wamming. The goal is usually to find common household items that are slippery, edible, and don’t stain or sting the skin. Jello stains, for example, while pudding doesn’t. Margarine is better than butter, for example, because butter and milk products stink on the skin. Alcohol and sugar products should be kept away from the vaginal area. Trash bags or dropcloths are usually placed on the floor, and shaved pubic hair is often a prerequisite. Wamming can be done with one sexual partner at a time or in orgy fashion, although most wammers prefer one partner at a time. The appeal is that it stimulates all five senses at the same time”.

The Seattle-based journalist Dan Savage who used to have a newspaper column related to strange sexual behaviour (and who I mentioned in previous blogs on pregnancy fetishism and sexual urtication) also briefly covered WAM-related sexual behaviour in a letter he was sent by one of his readers. The letter read:

“My roommate uses condiments to lubricate his penis when he beats off. He tries to be sneaky when he takes mayonnaise or ketchup out of the kitchen, but I’ve seen him do it. When he does, a rhythmic slurping sound can soon be heard over the radio that he only turns up loud when he beats off. I am seriously disgusted because he puts the condiments back into the refrigerator when he’s finished…How do I make him stop?”

Savage’s reply was hardly the most serious, but it did at least acknowledge that this sort of behaviour appears to be one of a WAM fetishist as he replied:

“If you just want to make him stop, SS, I suggest you empty a bottle of Tabasco sauce into the bottle of ketchup in your fridge, or a few tubes of BenGay into your mayonnaise. That will put a stop to his condiment abuse. Or you can be a man about it…and tell him to go buy some actual lube or, if he’s a wet-and-messy fetishist, suggest that he buy himself play-time-only condiments and keep ’em in a small fridge in his room”.

Whether WAM fetishes ever become the subject of serious academic research is debatable (probably not) but that doesn’t mean they are not of psychological interest. As with most fetishistic behaviours, my guess is that most wammers’ behaviour will have been reinforced via classical and/or operant conditioning experienced in childhood or adolescence. I would be also interested to know what other fetishistic behaviours co-occur with sploshing (e.g., sitophilia, salirophilia).

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

Further reading

Caotes, B. (2005). Teachers naked women and beans. Halifax Evening Courier, February 4. Located at: http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/local/teacher-s-naked-women-and-beans-1-1959014

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

Savage, D. (2004). Savage Love: With a Bang. The Stranger, September 9. Located at: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/savage-love/Content?oid=19248

Wikipedia (2013). Splosh! Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splosh!

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

It’s no fabrication: A brief look at ‘quilting addiction’

“I am addicted to quilting enjoying the color, texture and patterns. This [Pinterest] board inspires me in color, quilts, designs and quilting!” (Kim Hazlett)

“My name is Laura and I’m addicted to quilting. I know there could be worse addictions, so all things considered, quilting is a harmless addiction. Unless that is, you are running out of time to do it all!. I did 4 [square blocks] over the past week and a half. I jumped ahead. I couldn’t help it. The more I make, the more I want to keep on making them! At this rate I’ll surely have all 111 blocks finished by 2012. Not that there’s a deadline)” (Laura)

“Addiction to quilting? Are you being serious?” I hear you say. Obviously there is no scientific research on ‘quilting addiction’ (although there is academic research on quilting that I’ll talk about later in this article) but a quick Google search shows there are numerous websites devoted to the topic (for example, Addicted to Quilts, My Quilting Addiction, Sew Addicted To Quilting, My Quilt Place, Quilt Addicts Anonymous, Addicted to Fabric, etc.). None of these sites are really about addiction but more about people’s overwhelming love of quilting (either professionally or personally). There are even books on the topic such as Get Addicted To Free-Motion Quilting (by Sheila Sinclair Snyder) and dedicated webpages such as ‘Addicted To Scraps’ on the Quiltmaker website or ’15 reasons to get addicted to Kantha quilts’ on the Houzz website.

Renelda Peldunas-Harter (RPH), author of From Ensign’s Bars to Colonel’s Stars: Making Quilts to Honor Those Who Serve and author of the online article ‘Are you addicted to quilting?’ asserted:

“Quilting is habit-forming and I’m going to try and break down certain aspects of the addiction. I’m going to throw a disclaimer in right here – I am not trained to diagnose or explain anything, I am merely an observer and chronicler of the quilting animal and want to share my observations. Quilters can display many ‘habit-forming’ behaviors”.

RPH breaks quilting into three categories – the fabrics, the tools used, and stash building (more of which later in the blog). More specifically, quilting addiction depends upon the type of fabrics chosen to make quilts, the number of different tools the quilter owns to make quilts, and (probably the most obvious indicators of an addiction) the accumulating of quilting paraphernalia. For RPH, stash building encompasses many things:

“It can mean an obsession to make quilt related gifts, compulsion to collect quilt magazines, quilt gadgets, quilt patterns, fabric/items with a certain theme, machines, patterns, or buying large/medium/small amounts of fabric in general with no earthly idea of what to do with it – otherwise known as stash building!”

With tongue firmly in cheek, the article outlines ‘The Quilting Commandments, which if adhered to could certainly indicative of addiction: “(1) Always buy new fabric no matter how much you already have; (2) Sew all day and night – absolutely no cooking permitted; (3) Always start a new quilt before the last one is finished; (4) Repeat Step 1”.

While researching this article, I was surprised to find that there had been quite a bit of research on quilting. In a 2001 paper in the World Leisure Journal, Dr. Faye King examined the social dynamics of quilting (based on her own 1997 PhD thesis). Based on her research, Faye reached three main conclusions: (i) quilting expresses powerful rhetorical statements about the maker’s values and social concerns (in which Faye provides a number of examples of where quilts were created to make political statements); (ii) quilting can have a social impact on society as well as their individual maker (those donated to charities and hospitals for sick children); and (iii) quilting provides meaning for the maker and as a leisure activity can help help reduce stress in one’s life (which indirectly provides a reason as to why some people might theoretically develop an ‘addiction’).

A qualitative study by Dr. Rhiannon Gainor of 25 quilters that run their own quilting websites and/or blogs examined motivations for quilting and their expressions of personal creativity. One of the salient themes that emerged was ‘quilting as passion’ and described by some as an addiction. More specifically, Gainor noted that:

“Quilters also wrote about quilting being a passion, an addiction, and a lifelong interest. These kinds of comments on the sites made it clear that quilting for many is more avocation than pastime, supporting Stebbins’ (2004) definition of the serious leisure enthusiast as one finding gratification and fulfillment, rather than mere fun, in their chosen activity”.

Dr. Marybeth Stalp has written a few papers on quilting. In one of them published in a 2008 issue of the journal Home Cultures, she examined the “stash” of those that engaged in domestic handicraft (including quilters). She makes a reference to addiction:

“Those who create domestic arts and handcrafts are quite familiar with the term ‘stash’ and may even have one (or more). While it is not a reference to addictive drugs (or is it?), questions regarding the stash illuminate the themes that exist within the stash and the ‘lifeworlds’ of the collectors of the stash”.

Via participant observation and interviews, the paper examined the meaning and role of the stash in the lives of knitters, quilters, and crocheters. Arguably, the findings use the language of addictions in various places:

“Handcrafters collectively refer to their collections as ‘stash,’ hoard whatever they collect over time, find un/official support groups to support their habits, and together strategize hiding places and storage. Collecting, hoarding, and hiding stash is quite normal for crafters, yet such acts are often deviant to others, particularly those who share their living space. Often the stash is portrayed negatively by non-crafting family members and friends, as well as the popular media, and sometimes even by handcrafters themselves…The handcrafter continues to acquire and stash fabric, yarn, floss, etc. despite how much space the stash demands, or how the stash influences relationships with others. The larger social structures of family, work and friends shape how we think about our stashes”.

In an earlier paper published in a 2006 issue of the journal Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, Stalp presented her results of a four-year ethnographic study of 70 US amateur quilters. She examined the “guilty pleasures surrounding quilting practices, including the deviant acts of hiding both identity and fabric from family members and friends”. The paper describes how quilters slowly build up their stash of fabric, purchasing more fabric than they need than necessary, and both hoarding and strategically hiding it from their families. She then goes on to say that:

“Women’s anxieties surrounding acquiring, hoarding, and hiding their fabric stashes highlight their diminished ability, relative to their spouses and their children, to pursue leisure activities without a stigma. Collecting and hiding the fabric stash become symbolic of women’s attempts to carve out time and space for themselves amid the multiple demands placed on them by such greedy institutions such as family and the workplace”. 

Another academic who has written a few papers on quilting is Dr. Rosemary Wilkinson. Her first paper on the topic in the International Journal of the Humanities examined the rhetoric of obsession, addiction, guilt, and subterfuge in two Australian quilters’ magazines (Down Under Quilts and Quilters Companion) over a five-year period. She reported that while some of the quilting publications describe the benefits of quilting to individuals and communities, she also noted the ways in which the magazines integrate the “rhetotic of addiction” in constructing of the identity of quilters. She concludes that:

“[This] ploy seemingly at odds with the overall positive and promotional tone of the magazines…[the findings] demonstrate that the concept of addiction is exploited within the magazines to reinforce the quilter’s creative drive, her communal belonging and her vocation”.

In a more recent 2014 paper in the journal TEXT, Dr. Williamson reprised the same findings:

Both the turning towards and the intensity of commitment to quilts may be expressed through metaphors of addiction, illness or affliction. The rhetoric of addiction is well established among quilters generally, and has occurred in [Australian quilting magazines] since their inception…Profiles from 2010 to 2013 contain references to, for example, catching ‘the quilting bug’…or other phrases that translate commitment into popular clichés of addiction (‘Jenny began a creative journey that soon became an addiction, as is so often the case’)…Frequent references in profiles to quilters’ passion for what they do, even if expressed in clichés of addiction, connote personal commitment and satisfaction as driving forces for career development that is organic and responsive to, and accommodating of, personal circumstances”.

In reading the academic papers on quilting, I got the sense that the word ‘addiction’ was being used in a non-clinical sense and as a metaphor for justifying the amount of time that quilters engaged in their passion and pastime. There was little evidence of negative detriment although some quilters clearly feel they need to lie about or hide away aspects of their hobby.

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

Further reading

Bratich, J. Z., & Brush, H. M. (2011). Fabricating activism: Craft-work, popular culture, gender. Utopian Studies, 22(2), 233-260.

Gainor, R. (2011). Hobby quilting websites and voluntary provision of information. New Directions in Folklore, 9(1/2), 41-67.

King, F.L. (2001). Social dynamics of quilting. World Leisure Journal, 43(2), 26-29.

Peldunas-Harter, R. (2014). Are you addicted to quilting? Take the quiz. Schiffer Publishing, December 15. Located at: http://schifferpublishing.tumblr.com/post/105289542106/are-you-addicted-to-quilting-take-the-quiz

Sayasane, J.H. (2011). My quilting addiction explained. Quilters Newsletter, March 2. Located at: http://www.quiltersnewsletter.com/blogs/insideqn/2011/03/02/my-quilting-addiction-explained/

Stalp, M. C. (2006). Hiding the (fabric) stash: Collecting, hoarding, and hiding strategies of contemporary US quilters. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 4(1), 104-124.

Stalp, M. C., & Winge, T. M. (2008). My collection is bigger than yours: Tales from the handcrafter’s stash. Home Cultures, 5(2), 197-218.

Stebbins, R. (2007). Serious Leisure: A Perspective for Our Time. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Williamson, R. (2008). Obsession, guilt, subterfuge and penury: The rhetoric of addiction and the construction of creative identity in Australian quilters’ magazines. The International Journal of the Humanities, 5(11), 163-70.

Williamson, R. (2014). Modelling the creative and professional self: The magazine profile as narrative of transition and transformation. TEXT, Special Issue 25. Australasian magazines: new perspectives on writing and publishing. http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue25/Williamson.pdf

The must of lust discussed: Why isn’t sex addiction in the DSM-5?

Please note: A shorter and slightly different version of this blog first appeared on addiction.com

Sex addiction appears to be a highly controversial area among both the general public and those who work in the addiction field. Some psychologists adhere to the position that unless the behaviour involves the ingestion of a psychoactive substance (e.g., alcohol, nicotine, cocaine heroin), then it can’t really be considered an addiction. But I’m not one of them. If it were up to me, I would have given serious consideration to including sex addiction in the latest (fifth) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Given that ‘gambling disorder’ was reclassified from a disorder of impulse control to a behavioural addiction in the DSM-5, there is now no theoretical reason why other behavioural addictions can’t be added in the years to come. So why wasn’t sex addiction included in the latest DSM-5? Here are some possible reasons.

Some researchers think that sex addiction just doesn’t exist (for moral and theoretical reasons): Many scholars have attacked the whole concept of sex addiction saying it is a complete myth. It’s not hard to see why, as many of the claims appear to have good face validity. Many sociologists would argue that ‘sex addiction’ is little more than a label for sexual behaviour that significantly deviates from society’s norms. The most conventional attack on sex addiction is a variation on the position outlined in my introduction (i.e., that ‘addiction’ is a physiological condition caused by ingestion of physiological substances, and must therefore be defined physiologically). There are also attacks on more moral grounds with people saying that if excessive sexual behaviour is classed as an addiction it undermines individuals’ responsibility for their behaviour (although this argument could be said of almost any addiction).

The word ‘addiction’ has become meaningless: There are also those researchers within the social sciences who claim that the every day use of the word ‘addiction’ has rendered the term meaningless (such as people saying that their favorite television show is ‘addictive viewing’ or that certain books are ‘addictive reading’). Related to this is that those that work in the field don’t agree on what the disorder (e.g. ‘sex addiction’, ‘sexual addiction’, ‘hypersexuality disorder’, ‘compulsive sexual behaviour’, ‘pornography addiction’, etc.) should be called and whether it is a syndrome (i.e., a group of symptoms that consistently occur together, or a condition characterized by a set of associated symptoms) or whether there are many different sub-types (pathological promiscuity, compulsive masturbation, etc.). 

There is a lack of empirical evidence about sex addiction: One of the main reasons that sex addiction is not yet included in the DSM-5 is that the empirical research in the area is relatively weak. Although there has been a lot of research, there has never been any nationally representative prevalence surveys of sex addiction using validated addiction criteria, and a lot of research studies are based upon those people who turn up for treatment. Like Internet Gaming Disorder (which is now in the appendix of the DSM-5), sex addiction (or more likely ‘Hypersexual Disorder’) will not be included as a separate mental disorder until the (i) defining features of sex addiction have been identified, (ii) reliability and validity of specific sex addiction criteria have been obtained cross-culturally, (iii) prevalence rates of sex addiction have been determined in representative epidemiological samples across the world, and (iv) etiology and associated biological features of sex addiction have been evaluated.

The term ‘sex addiction’ is used an excuse to justify infidelity: One of the reasons why sex addiction may not be taken seriously is that the term is often used by high profile celebrities as an excuse by those individuals who have been sexually unfaithful to their partners (e.g., Tiger Woods, Michael Douglas, David Duchovny, Russell Brand). In some of these cases, sex addiction is used to justify the individual’s serial infidelity. This is what social psychologists refer to as a ‘functional attribution’. For instance, the golfer Tiger Woods claimed an addiction to sex after his wife found out that he had many sexual relationships during their marriage. If his wife had never found out, I doubt whether Woods would have claimed he was addicted to sex. I would argue that many celebrities are in a position where they were bombarded with sexual advances from other individuals and succumbed. But how many people wouldn’t do the same thing if they had the opportunity? It becomes a problem only when you’re discovered, when it’s in danger of harming the celebrity’s brand image.

The evidence for sex addiction is inflated by those with a vested interest: One of the real issues in the field of sex addiction is that we really have no idea of how many people genuinely experience sex addiction. Sex addiction specialists like Patrick Carnes claims that up to 6% of all adults are addicted to sex. If this was really the case I would expect there to be sex addiction clinics and self-help support groups in every major city across the world – but that isn’t the case. However, that doesn’t mean sex addiction doesn’t exist, only that the size of the problem isn’t on the scale that Carnes suggests. Coupled with this is that those therapists that treat sex addiction have a vested interest. Out simply, there are many therapists worldwide who make a living out of treating the disorder. Getting the disorder recognized by leading psychological and psychiatric organizations (e.g., American Psychiatric Association, World Health Organization) legitimizes the work of sex addiction counselors and therapists so it is not surprising when such individuals claim how widespread the disorder is.

There may of course be other reasons why sex addiction is not considered a genuine disorder. Compared to behavioural addictions like gambling disorder, the empirical evidence base is weak. There is little in the way of neurobiological research (increasingly seen as ‘gold standard’ research when it comes to legitimizing addictions as genuine). But carrying out research on those who claim to have sex addiction can face ethical problems. For instance, is it ethical to show hardcore pornography to a self-admitted pornography addict while participating in a brain neuroimaging experiment? Is the viewing of such material likely to stimulate and enhance the individual’s sexual urges and result in a relapse following the experiment? There are also issues surrounding cultural norms. The normality and abnormality of sexual behaviour lies on a continuum but what is considered normal and appropriate in one culture may not be viewed similarly in another (what is often referred to by sociologists as ‘normative ambiguity’). Personally, I believe that sex addiction is a reality but that it affects a small minority of individuals. However, many sex therapists claim it is on the increase, particularly because the Internet has made sexual material so easy to access. Maybe if sex addiction does eventually make it into future editions of the DSM, it will be one of the sub-categories of Internet Addiction Disorder rather than a standalone category.

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

Further reading

Dhuffar, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Understanding the role of shame and its consequences in female hypersexual behaviours: A pilot study. Journal of Behavioural Addictions, 3, 231–237.

Dhuffar, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). A systematic review of online sex addiction and clinical treatments using CONSORT evaluation. Current Addiction Reports, DOI 10.1007/s40429-015-0055-x

Goodman, A. (1992). Sexual addiction: Designation and treatment. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 18, 303-314.

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

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

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Addicted to love: The psychology of sex addiction. Psychology Review, 8, 20-23.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Addicted to sex? Psychology Review, 16(1), 27-29.

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

Griffiths, M.D. & Dhuffar, M. (2014). Treatment of sexual addiction within the British National Health Service. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 561-571.

Kafka, M. P. (2010). Hypersexual disorder: A proposed diagnosis for DSM-V. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 377–400.

Orford, J. (2001). Excessive sexuality. In J. Orford, Excessive Appetites: A Psychological View of the Addictions. Chichester: Wiley.

Deal love: Bargain hunting as an addiction

“Bargain hunting may save money, but for some people, looking for the next ‘great deal’ becomes an addiction. The call of the clearance rack wins out over practical matters – like whether you need or want what you found, or even have a place to put it” (Tesh Media, ‘Are You Addicted To Bargain Hunting?’)

A couple of weeks ago, I did some background research for a newspaper interview on the psychology of bargain hunting (only for the journalist then to interview somebody else about it). Instead of wasting all the material collected, I decided to use it for this article. Most of the material in this article borders on ‘pop psychology’ but I found it interesting nonetheless. For instance, in a recent article on the BBC News website, the (anonymous) author provided some basic rules on how to be a more savvy shopper and bargain hunter (which I am quoting verbatim):

  • “Try to avoid stores that are too busy with loud music. This can confuse and distract you from judging what is a genuine offer.
  • Ask the sales rep to repeat the sales details in a clear and slow manner and if possible ask him/her to write them down.
  • Before you make a decision take a break, count from one to ten and think again about the benefits and perils of the offer.
  • Can you shop alone? Peer pressure has been proven to be a key indicator for individuals buying products that they do not need.
  • Never shop when you are feeling emotionally upset. Purchasing to overcome any mood or behavioural troubles is not beneficial in the long term.
  • Go shopping after a meal or when in a good and clear mood. There is evidence that shopping when you feel peckish can make you spend more than intended”.

As soon as we enter any shop (online or offline) we are being bombarded with psychological tactics in an attempt to get us to buy more products (such as selling products that have a price ending in 99p). The BBC article interviewed consumer psychologist Dr. Dimitri Tsivrikos who said:

“These prices are obviously used to convince you that you are spending less than you actually are. A price reduction makes it even more tempting. The bargain price is appealing to you because it challenges the status quo. The retailer appears not to be in complete control of the final price of the product, and this makes you feel that you are now in control. And because of that you feel you can negotiate the final price that you have to pay – whether that is the sale price or even a buy one get one free deal…Brain studies have shown that when we are excited by a bargain, this interferes with your ability to clearly judge whether it is actually a good offer or not”.

When I started researching online, I came across a number of articles claiming that for a small minority, bargain hunting was addictive (as the opening quote demonstrates). In another article on the Tesh Media website, reference was made to April Lane Benson’s edited book I Shop, Therefore I Am. According to that article (which merges bargain hunting addiction with shopping addiction more generally):

“[Benson] says that when it comes to bargain-hunting addictions, what people buy isn’t as important as how big the price reduction is. In fact, the bigger the price cut, the more tempting a purchase is. After all, if something’s 80% off the original price – you’re saving 80 percent! What you may not consider is that by not buying, you’ll save 100%. Bargain addicts also make illogical purchases, like grabbing up sale-price auto parts for cars they don’t own, or bargain kid’s clothes for children they don’t have…So, why is a bargain-hunting addiction so common? Tim Kasser, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois, says it’s a way for people to ease insecurities, and feel more competent and in control. In fact, shopping addicts often don’t realize they have a problem, even when the bags and bills start stacking up. It usually takes a big event to bring it to their attention, like divorce, a new baby, unemployment, or retirement. Or they simply max out their credit cards, and have no more spending power”

In the same article published on the Tech Media website, it claimed the five signs of being ‘addicted’ to bargain hunter were:

  • “You hit sales and clearance racks when you feel angry or blue. Or you feel guilty after shopping and hide your purchases.
  • You spend more money than you can afford.
  • You see sales as opportunities you can’t pass up.
  • Another clue you’re a bargain addict: You spend so much time tracking down deals that it intrudes on your time with family and friends.
  • You often forget what you bought, and find things in your closets you’ve never used”.

Obviously some of these ‘warning signs’ tap into what I believe are the core components of addiction (such as the fourth bullet point that taps into ‘conflict’), however, most of the criteria have nothing to do with ‘addiction’ whatsoever. Using bargain-hunting as a way of making oneself feel better mirrors what is found in other addictions, but characteristics such as not being able to pass up a bargain, and forgetting what has been bought are not core signs of addiction but are idiosyncratic consequences that specifically relate to bargain hunting. Another online article also noted:

“According to new survey findings from Consumer Reports, 23% of women say they sometimes buy things they don’t need just because they’re on sale. For most of us, getting a discount is enough of a reward: 80% say they would hunt for a bargain even if money weren’t an issue for them. In general, the survey found bargain shopping has increased significantly, from 76% in 2011 to 83% today. That shift may be due in part to the growing use of smartphone coupons, which has increased from 11% in 2011 to 24% today. Human psychology may help explain the irresistible allure of a discount. Research suggests that people tend to enjoy bargains, regardless of whether any financial gain is involved. You might even be able to blame your bargain hunting on Mom and Dad, because some experts say genetic differences make certain people predisposed to finding pleasure in raiding the sale rack”.

This paragraph provided a hyperlink to some genuine academic research carried out by Dr. Peter Darke and his colleagues (published in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology). They carried out a couple of experiments examining both the financial and non-financial motivations underlying bargain hunting. They reported that:

“Subjects read scenarios that described the purchase of a television set. Scenarios differed in terms of whether a bargain was received, whether there was personal financial gain, and whether the sale was acquired through skill or luck. The results suggest that subjects generally enjoyed bargains regardless of any financial gain, thereby implying that nonfinancial motives might also be involved. Surprisingly, bargains acquired skillfully were not enjoyed more than lucky bargains. Thus, achievement motives could not explain why subjects enjoyed bargains when there was no associated financial gain. Instead, it seemed that acquiring a bargain was primarily considered a matter of luck”.

I was also interested in the claims that bargain hunting might be underpinned by genetic influences. These claims were made by Mark Ellwood in his 2013 book Bargain fever: How to shop in a discounted world. Ellwood summarized his book in an article for Time magazine and wrote:

“As it turns out, a passion for finding bargains is genetically preprogrammed in all humans, although it’s activated much more in some than others. Spotting special offers triggers a release of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that I like to think of as ‘buyagra’. Dopamine is such a powerful chemical that our brains have developed a built-in system to clean it up as quickly as possible. One in four Caucasians has an otherwise harmless flaw in what’s known as the COMT gene. While the rest of us can flush our brains free of dopamine with the efficiency of a Dyson, those with an iffy COMT gene can brandish only a hand broom. It takes more time and effort to flush their brains clean of buyagra – and so they are physiologically more prone to splurge, especially on bargains”.

Ellwood claimed that as soon as “bargain addicts sees one ‘Sale’ sign – cue a jolt of dopamine – they’re hooked”. More specifically, he goes on to argue that:

“Of course, a propensity for bargain hunting isn’t purely genetic…Many hardcore coupon cutters I’ve interviewed cite hardscrabble childhoods or food-bank visits as the foundation of their frugality. Certainly, in the past decade, deal hunting has gone from a sign of indigence to one of intelligence; thanks to the roiling economy and an uncertain future, more people have migrated to the markdown section than ever before…Internet-equipped smartphones turned price comparison into a one-step process in your palm — the practice known as showrooming that’s so detested by retailers. But in our search for bargains, we would do well to ask ourselves whether we are really trying to economize or whether we’re being driven by an even stronger impulse: the chemical drive to get a good price”.

Given that I believe shopping can be an addiction in a minority of individuals, it doesn’t take too much of a leap to suggest bargain hunting could be an addiction (or even a sub-type of shopping addiction). However, as far as I am aware, there has never been any empirical research examining ‘bargain hunting addiction’ more specifically. Based on the few online articles that I read, it certainly appears that we are living in a time and an age where such research would be worth carrying out.

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

Further reading

BBC News (2015). The psychology of shopping for bargains. Located at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/consumer/23818336

Benson, A.L. (2000). I Shop Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying and the Search for Self. Jason Aronson Inc. Publishers.

Consumer Reports (2014). America’s bargain-hunting habits. What shoppers will and won’t do to save a buck. April 30. Located at: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/04/america-s-bargain-hunting-habits/index.htm

Darke, P. R., & Freedman, J. L. (1995). Nonfinancial Motives and Bargain Hunting1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 25(18), 1597-1610.

Davenport, K., Houston, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Excessive eating and compulsive buying behaviours in women: An empirical pilot study examining reward sensitivity, anxiety, impulsivity, self-esteem and social desirability. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 10, 474-489.

Ellwood, M. (2013). The genetics of bargain hunting. Time, October 21. Located at: http://ideas.time.com/2013/10/21/the-genetics-of-bargain-hunting/

Ellwood, M. (2013). Bargain fever: How to shop in a discounted world. London: Portfolio.

Lebowitz, S. (2014). Extreme bargain hunters: How far would you go for a deal. LearnVest, May 2. Located at: http://www.learnvest.com/2014/05/extreme-bargain-hunters-how-far-would-you-go-for-a-deal-123/

Maraz, A., Eisinger, A., Hende, Urbán, R., Paksi, B., Kun, B., Kökönyei, G., Griffiths, M.D. & Demetrovics, Z. (2015). Measuring compulsive buying behaviour: Psychometric validity of three different scales and prevalence in the general population and in shopping centres. Psychiatry Research, 225, 326–334.

Tesh Media Group (2015). Are you addicted to bargain hunting? Located at: http://www.tesh.com/story/money-and-finance-category/are-you-addicted-to-bargain-hunting/cc/12/id/9141

Williams, A. (2013). Bargain fever: The new secrets of shopping in a discounted world. The Week, November 5. Located at: http://theweek.com/articles/457383/bargain-fever-new-secrets-shopping-discounted-world

Mould on tight: A brief look at plaster cast fetishism

Back in the early 2000s I remember watching Plaster Caster, a documentary film that looked at the life of artist and groupie, Cynthia Plaster Caster (i.e., Cynthia Albritton). Cynthia is in/famous for her plaster casting of rock star penises such as Jimi Hendrix and Noel Redding (both in the Jimi Hendrix Experience), Eric Burdon (The Animals), Wayne Kramer (MC-5), Jello Biafra (The Dead Kennedys), and Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks), She began her career in erotic plaster casting in 1968 but now includes women as her artistic clients (and typically makes plaster casts of their breasts). Her plaster casting skills have also been immortalized in song by both Kiss (‘Plaster Caster’) and Jim Croce (‘Five Short Minutes’). As her Wikipedia entry points out:

“In college, when her art teacher gave the class an assignment to ‘plaster cast something solid that could retain its shape’, her idea to use the assignment as a lure to entice rock stars to have sex with her became a hit, even before she made a cast of anyone’s genitalia. Finding a dental mould making substance called alginate to be sufficient, she found her first client in Jimi Hendrix, the first of many to submit to the idea. Meeting Frank Zappa, who found the concept of ‘casting’ both humorous and creative as an art form, Albritton found in him something of a patron”.

However, sexual plaster casting does not begin and end with Cynthia Plaster Caster. In a previous blog, I briefly mentioned the practice of mummification within a sadomasochistic context. According to Dr. Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, mummification is:

“An extreme form of bondage in which the person is wrapped from head to toe, much like a mummy, completely immobilizing him. Materials used may be clingfilm, cloth, bandages, rubber strips, duct tape, plaster bandages, bodybags, or straitjackets. The immobilized person may then be left bound in a state of effective sensory deprivation for a period of time or sensually stimulated in his state of bondage – before being released from his wrappings”.

One type of restrictive mummification practice not mentioned by Dr. Aggrawal is that of plaster cast fetishism. Although there is little academic research on the topic, a quick Google search throws up many dedicated online sites and hundreds of video clips for sale and/or sharing. For instance, I came across the Casted Angel website (that claims to be the oldest ‘cast and bandage site’), the Cast Fetish website, the Cast Paradise website, and the Fantacast website (please be warned that if you click on any of the links, all of these sites are sexually explicit)

The Wikipedia entry on mummification reports that such activity is typically used to enhance the feelings of total bodily helplessness (which would be totally fulfilled by those engaging in plaster cast fetishism), and is incorporated with sensation play (i.e., a group of erotic activities that facilitate particular physical sensations upon a sexual partner). As a 2010 article on ‘The Erotic Secrets of the Mummy’ notes:

“A variant of this extreme and spectacular form of bondage is mummification made with plaster…Anyone who has taken an arm or leg immobilized by a cast can imagine how restrictive it is to use this material for bondage. Obviously there are safety precautions which must be taken: you must cover the body of the person to be bound with a protective layer (e.g. plastic) so the plaster does not come into direct contact with skin, and make sure to have safety scissors around for easy removal of the bindings. It is also important to note that mummification increases body temperature and therefore sweating, so you must make sure to hydrate the person being bound. An example of complete plaster mummification can be seen in a nonsexual context, in the comedy After Hours by Martin Scorsese”.

As well as being a form of extreme mummification, plaster cast fetishism is also a sub-variant of ‘cast fetishism’ that according to the Encyclopedia Dramatica comprises erotic “concentration on orthopedic casts (plaster, polymer, bandage, etc.) It is usually related to the fetishes of feet, stockings, shoes and amputees”. Cast fetishists derive sexual pleasure and arousal from people (typically the opposite sex) wearing casts on their limbs (but may also be additionally aroused by people using crutches or who have a limp). I’ve come across dozens of people who have posted in online forums and claiming they have cast fetishes and/or fixations. Here are just a few:

  • Extract 1: “It is no bad thing to have a cast fetish when you have an ongoing foot injury. This morning I got [a plaster cast] for my left leg as my foot is giving trouble. Wanting to keep my foot up when riding in my friend’s car I put the window down and rested my cast on the top of the door. The wind blowing across my bare casted toes as we drove down the street was just the ultimate turn-on!”
  • Extract 2: “Since I was a child I had a strong fetish for casts and bandages. When I was 6 or 7 years old I saw a girl in at the local hospital, with a freshly applied plaster [cast] in her right leg, and how she cleaned her toes with a damp cloth. That’s still one of the memories that arouses me. Two years ago, I had a girlfriend, who came to know about my fetish, it was kinda difficult for me to say, but she liked the idea and I put her in a homemade [plaster cast], then I painted her toenails and put a toe-ring. It was a shame that it was one night only and the plaster didn’t dry at all, but it was so good to stay with her and kiss her toes wiggling out of her cast. It was one of the most pleasant nights that I’ve had”.
  • Extract 3: “I have been in love with casts since about 13 yrs old. I have had the chance to [wear a] dual hip [cast] and several short and long term casts but want to wear possibly a full body one day if I find the right cast partner”.
  • Extract 4: I’ve had an interest seeing girls in casts for quite some time now. I think it started when I was a little kid and broke my leg. Probably since then I have always wanted to be in a cast, but didn’t want to hurt myself! I just recently discovered the ease and community around the world of recreational casting. I have a short leg cast and it’s an amazing feeling!”
  • Extract 5: “I have always had a fascination for seeing people in a cast, and in particular girls in long leg casts. It may have something to do with the restricted movement I don’t know. I am not interested in the associated, implied pain aspect but more the caring aspect. I always thought that this was an idea peculiar to me but, I was recently inspired to search the net and found a whole community subscribing to the cast fetish idea with many images…I have never fractured a limb so I have never had a cast but, I have made a couple of attempts at self-casting”
  • Extract 6: “I love being in a cast. For years I have studied the casting processes in both plaster and fiberglass. I have honed these skills to the point [that] nobody, [not] even an orthopedic assistant can tell it was not applied professionally”
  • Extract 7: “I have always wanted to have a cast on my leg and or arm. I have tried hitting my hand on the ground but I still have not fractured it…I would even pay someone to break both my arm and leg”

One of the most detailed I have come across is this one:

“I have a strong sexual attraction to, and erotic fascination with, the sight of the female leg wearing an orthopaedic cast, particularly along its full extent, from toes to hip. Now in my mid-forties, I have been aware of this ‘interest’ since my early teens, which might explain my particular attraction to plaster casts, as were the norm at such a time, which somehow seem heavier and more of a physical entity than contemporary casts. For many years, I assumed this peculiar attraction to be mine alone, and looked forward to those rare occasions when I might see a woman with a leg in plaster in public or otherwise find a picture in a newspaper or magazine, which I would collect. However, since the advent of the internet, I have become aware that a number of like-minded souls exist all over the world, that the ‘cast fetish’ is out there in the world of cyberspace, is shared and enjoyed by people and is practised recreationally in the real, everyday world by those who have the inclination and means to do so”.

“As the online aspect of this fetish has developed over recent years, I now find I am able to better satisfy my visual needs through the large number of available images, of both medically and recreationally-worn leg casts. I have obsessively built a large collection of pictures of women wearing leg casts, and frequently enjoy these. Sometimes I feel a certain frustration that my need to satisfy the desire to find and see more images consumes more time than I have available to ‘waste’, but this is not something over which I have full control – it is a compulsion and needs to be fulfilled in this way, in the manner of such a condition, even if it never seems possible to have quite enough of such images, there is always the thrill of the anticipation of finding a new, ‘perfect’ picture of a cast and its wearer. I have always assumed that my obsession is based on the aesthetics of the leg cast, being related as it is to my general attraction to women’s legs, feet, toes, boots, etc. The leg cast is very much an ‘object of desire’ in its appearance and in the manner it objectifies the leg inside, I enjoy the way a cast looks and find this arousing”.

“However, I wonder whether my ‘interest’ may have other underlying, hidden causes and inspirations, and exactly what might have triggered this fetish? I wonder this because although I have never had occasion to wear a cast myself (and thus experienced the physical restrictions imposed by one), and neither has anyone with whom I might spend regular, extended periods of time, such as a family member or close friend, I have often imagined that female friends might have to have a leg in plaster that I might be around them, or that I might meet and form a relationship with a woman in such a situation (not that I have any desire to see anyone come to harm, suffer an injury, etc, but I would love to see the effect of such – the wearing of a cast – if it ever occurred). I have a very strong desire to be in the presence of a leg cast as it is being worn, that I might interact with it and the wearer, that I might experience the sexuality of such, and it is something about which I have frequent sexual fantasies, being the most arousing situation I am able to imagine”.

In a short 2006 article on ‘Women with Plaster Casts’ at the online Trendhunter website, Hernando Gomez Salinas wrote about the Cast Fetish website and then used the writings of Sigmund Freud to provide some theoretical insight into the fetish:

“According to Freud, fetishism is considered a paraphilia or sexual deviation as a consequence of an infantile trauma with the fear of castration. When a kid discovers the absence of penis in his mother, he looks away from her terrified, and the first object he stares at after the trauma turns into his fetish object. So, according to Freud, it is possible that the fans of [the Cast Fetish webpage] saw their fathers or a relative with a plaster cast”

I am not a fan of Freud’s theorizing, and I personally believe that the origin of such fetishes is most likely behavioural conditioning (classical and/or operant). However, given the complete lack of empirical research, this was the only article I came across that featured anything vaguely academic in relation to the fetishizing of plaster casts. It would appear from both anecdotal evidence that plaster cast mummification (particularly within a BDSM context) comprises a significant minority interest and is probably nowhere near as rare as some other sexual behaviours that I have covered in my previous blogs.

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.

Forbidden Sexuality (2004). Mummification bondage. Located at: http://www.forbiddensexuality.com/mummification_bondage.htm

Salinas, H.G. (2006). Women with plaster casts. Trend Hunter, November 29. Located at: http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/weird-fetishism-women-with-plaster-casts

Wikipedia (2013). Sensation play (BDSM). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensation_play_(BDSM)

Wikipedia (2013). Total enclosure fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_enclosure_fetishism

Wikipedia (2013). Mummification (BDSM). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummification_(BDSM)

In dependence days: A brief overview of behavioural addictions

Please note: A version of this blog first appeared on addiction.com

Conceptualizing addiction has been a matter of great debate for decades. For many people the concept of addiction involves the taking of drugs. Therefore it is perhaps unsurprising that most official definitions concentrate on drug ingestion. Despite such definitions, there is now a growing movement that views a number of behaviours as potentially addictive including those that do not involve the ingestion of a drug. These include behaviours diverse as gambling, eating, sex, exercise, videogame playing, love, shopping, Internet use, social networking, and work. I have argued in many of my papers that all addictions – irrespective of whether they are chemical or behavioural – comprise six components (i.e., salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse). More specifically:

  • Salience – This occurs when the activity becomes the single most important activity in the person’s life and dominates their thinking (preoccupations and cognitive distortions), feelings (cravings) and behaviour (deterioration of socialized behaviour). For instance, even if the person is not actually engaged in the activity they will be constantly thinking about the next time that they will be (i.e., a total preoccupation with the activity).
  • Mood modification – This refers to the subjective experiences that people report as a consequence of engaging in the activity and can be seen as a coping strategy (i.e., they experience an arousing ‘buzz’ or a ‘high’ or paradoxically a tranquilizing feel of ‘escape’ or ‘numbing’).
  • Tolerance – This is the process whereby increasing amounts of the activity are required to achieve the former mood modifying effects. This basically means that for someone engaged in the activity, they gradually build up the amount of the time they spend engaging in the activity every day.
  • Withdrawal symptoms – These are the unpleasant feeling states and/or physical effects (e.g., the shakes, moodiness, irritability, etc.) that occur when the person is unable to engage in the activity.
  • Conflict – This refers to the conflicts between the person and those around them (interpersonal conflict), conflicts with other activities (e.g., work, social life, hobbies and interests) or from within the individual (e.g., intra-psychic conflict and/or subjective feelings of loss of control) that are concerned with spending too much time engaging in the activity.
  • Relapse – This is the tendency for repeated reversions to earlier patterns of excessive engagement in the activity to recur, and for even the most extreme patterns typical of the height of excessive engagement in the activity to be quickly restored after periods of control.

In May 2013, the new criteria for problem gambling (now called ‘Gambling Disorder’) were published in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and for the very first time, problem gambling was included in the section ‘Substance-related and Addiction Disorders’ (rather than in the section on impulse control disorders as had been the case since 1980 when it was first included in the DSM-III). Although most of us in the field had been conceptualizing extreme problem gambling as an addiction for many years, this was arguably the first time that an established medical body had described it as such.

There had also been debates about whether or not ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’ should have been included in the DSM-5. As a result of these debates, the Substance Use Disorder Work Group recommended that the DSM-5 include ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’ [IGD] in Section III (“Emerging Measures and Models”) as an area that required further research before possible inclusion in future editions of the DSM. To be included in its own right in the next edition, research will have to establish the defining features of IGD, obtain cross-cultural data on reliability and validity of specific diagnostic criteria, determine prevalence rates in representative epidemiological samples in countries around the world, and examine its associated biological features. Other than gambling and gaming, no other behaviour (e.g., sex, work, exercise, etc.) has yet to be classified as a genuine addiction by established medical and/or psychiatric organizations.

In one of the most comprehensive reviews of chemical and behavioural addictions, Dr. Steve Sussman, Nadra Lisha and myself examined all the prevalence literature relating to 11 different potentially addictive behaviours. We reported overall prevalence rates of addictions to cigarette smoking (15%), drinking alcohol (10%), illicit drug taking (5%), eating (2%), gambling (2%), internet use (2%), love (3%), sex (3%), exercise (3%), work (10%), and shopping (6%). However, most of the prevalence data relating to behavioural addictions (with the exception of gambling) did not have prevalence data from nationally representative samples and therefore relied on small and/or self-selected samples.

Addiction is an incredibly complex behaviour and always result from an interaction and interplay between many factors including the person’s biological and/or genetic predisposition, their psychological constitution (personality factors, unconscious motivations, attitudes, expectations, beliefs, etc.), their social environment (i.e. situational characteristics such as accessibility and availability of the activity, the advertising of the activity) and the nature of the activity itself (i.e. structural characteristics such as the size of the stake or jackpot in gambling). This ‘global’ view of addiction highlights the interconnected processes and integration between individual differences (i.e. personal vulnerability factors), situational characteristics, structural characteristics, and the resulting addictive behaviour.

There are many individual (personal vulnerability) factors that may be involved in the acquisition, development and maintenance of behavioural addictions (e.g. personality traits, biological and genetic predispositions, unconscious motivations, learning and conditioning effects, thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes), although some factors are more personal (e.g. financial motivation and economic pressures in the case of gambling addiction). However, there are also some key risk factors that are highly associated with developing almost any (chemical or behavioural) addiction such as having a family history of addiction, having co-morbid psychological problems, and having a lack of family involvement and supervision. Psychosocial factors such as low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, high anxiety, and stress all appear to be common among those with behavioural addictions.

This article briefly demonstrates that behavioural addictions are a part of a biopsychosocial process and not just restricted to drug-ingested (chemical) behaviours. Evidence is growing that excessive behaviours of all types do seem to have many commonalities and this may reflect a common etiology of addictive behaviour. Such commonalities may have implications not only for treatment of such behaviours but also for how the general public perceive such behaviours.

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

Further reading

Berczik, K., Griffiths, M.D., Szabó, A., Kurimay, T., Urban, R. & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Exercise addiction. In K. Rosenberg & L. Feder (Eds.), Behavioral Addictions: Criteria, Evidence and Treatment (pp.317-342). New York: Elsevier.

Demetrovics, Z. & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Behavioral addictions: Past, present and future. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 1-2.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Behavioural addictions: An issue for everybody? Journal of Workplace Learning, 8(3), 19-25.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Gambling addictions. In A. Browne-Miller (Ed.), The Praeger International Collection on Addictions: Behavioral Addictions from Concept to Compulsion (pp. 235-257). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Addicted to sex? Psychology Review, 16(1), 27-29

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Behavioural addiction: The case for a biopsychosocial approach. Transgressive Culture, 1(1), 7-28.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Workaholism: A 21st century addiction. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 24, 740-744.

Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J. & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Social networking addiction: An overview of preliminary findings. In K. Rosenberg & L. Feder (Eds.), Behavioral Addictions: Criteria, Evidence and Treatment (pp.119-141). New York: Elsevier.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). A ‘components’ model of addiction within a biopsychosocial framework. Journal of Substance Use, 10, 191-197.

Király, O., Nagygyörgy, K., Griffiths, M.D. & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Problematic online gaming. In K. Rosenberg & L. Feder (Eds.), Behavioral Addictions: Criteria, Evidence and Treatment (pp.61-95). New York: Elsevier.

Kuss, D.J., Griffiths, M.D., Karila, L. & Billieux, J. (2014).  Internet addiction: A systematic review of epidemiological research for the last decade. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 20, 4026-4052.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,907 other followers