Category Archives: Paraphilia

Bowling a maiden over: A very brief look at ‘damsel in distress’ fetishes

“I have a fetish for damsels in distress.” “Don’t be sexist.” “Not at all. My services are also available to gentlemen in distress. It’s an equal opportunity fetish.” (From the 2009 book City of Glass, the third book in the Mortal Instruments six-part series of books written by Cassandra Clare)

While researching various other blogs including ones on sexual sadism, sexual masochism, and knismolagnia, I kept coming across references to ‘damsel in distress’ [DiD] fetishes, all of which involve the basic concept of a helpless female victim who may (but sometimes may not) need rescuing from a captor and/or some kind of perilous situation.

“The subject of the damsel in distress or persecuted maiden is a classic theme in world literature, art and film. She is almost inevitably a young, nubile woman, who has been placed in a dire predicament by a villain or a monster and who requires a hero to dash to her rescue. She has became a stock character of fiction, particularly of melodrama. Some claim the popularity of the damsel in distress is perhaps in large measure because her predicaments sometimes contain hints of BDSM fantasy” (Nation Master encyclopedia entry on ‘Damsel in distress’).

“The figure of the damsel in distress is a feature of certain established fetishes within the field of BDSM. In particular, actresses playing damsels in distress in mainstream movies and television shows are often shown bound or restrained, resulting in images that appeal to some bondage fetishists” (Wikipedia entry on ‘Damsel in distress’).

“One specific paraphilia involving a gag relates to video depictions in which the captor gags the damsel in distress to stop her screaming for help. Some people are sexually aroused by such imagery, even if there is no nudity or sexual act present, or even if the victim is only gagged but not restrained in any way” (Wikipedia entry on ‘Gag [BDSM]’).

It is mostly males who have DiD fetishes and can be very specific including (but not restricted to) such things as (i) ‘kidnap and rescue’ fetishes (sexual pleasure from watching or engaging in women being kidnapped and/or rescued from potentially life-threatening scenarios where they are cuffed, bound and/or controlled by another person or persons), (ii) tickle bondage fetishes (sexual pleasure from watching or tickling women while they are tied up), (iii) quicksand fetishes (sexual pleasure from watching women sink in quicksand), and (iv) ‘pedal pumping’ and ‘cranking’ fetishes (sexual pleasure from watching women stranded in their cars with repeated pressing of the gas pedal and revving up – which also has elements of foot fetishism – while turning the key in an attempt to get the engine to start). According to an Everthing2.com article on the topic, such fetishists prefer the ‘raw’ and natural ‘non-stylized’ DiD scenarios rather than the ‘glossy’ role-playing type DiD scenarios. The same article also stresses that:

“Sexual menacing or assault is not necessary to create an appealing DiD scene. In fact, in judging DiD scenes in movies and television, violence against the damsel is often a detraction. Blood or bruises make the scene less pretty. More often, it is the idea of a woman being helpless and begging for release. A woman crying, pleading, or trying to speak through a gag, referred to in DiD discussions as “mmphing” is also attractive”.

A quick internet search reveals there is a dedicated DiD fan community that host a range of online forums and discussion groups (such as the Staked Damsels website for anyone
who finds burning at the stake, bondage and damsels in distress erotic” or the Danger Island website where you’ll find all your ‘damsel in distress’ fetish needs met”) as well as a wide range of YouTube video clips (type ’pedal pumping cranking’ into Google and you’ll see what I mean). There are also websites that provide lists of films and television shows that feature DiD scenarios (such as the 1981 made-for-television film Terror Among Us which according to Wikipedia has become a cult film among the DiD fan community because of its lengthy portrayal of bound and gagged women), and links to YouTube clips just showing the relevant DiD video capture (‘vidcap’) scenes from films (called ‘Didcaps’ among the DiD fan community). The Wikipedia entry also notes:

“Outside the mainstream, the fetishistic subculture of specialized bondage magazines and videos that has thrived since the late 1970s is a variation on the damsel in distress of literature, but with one major difference. Here, the helplessness of the bound and gagged victim is eroticized and celebrated as an end in itself, occasionally with no rescuing hero or hope of escape”.

Unsurprisingly, and given the ‘underground’ status of the DiD fetish community, there is no academic research on the topic. I did manage to track down a small (non-scientific) survey carried out on the Deviant Art website where 226 DiD enthusiasts responded to a question relating to their favourite DiD scenario. The results (in order of preference) were cheerleader or schoolgirl in uniform (24%), princess/medieval/dragons (13%), vampire (13%), kidnapped by thugs (13%), ancient mythology (8%), sci-fi alien attack (8%), mad scientist (6%), prisoner of war (4%), monster/troll/ogre (3%), and (non-specific) other (7%). Obviously this was a based on a self-selected sample of DiD enthusiasts who could be bothered to respond so we have no way of knowing if the respondents were representative of all DiD fans. It remains to be seen whether any academic or clinical research ever gets carried out on this particular sub-domain of sadomasochism but I won’t be holding my breath.

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

Further reading

Everything 2 (2002). Damsels in distress bondage. June 25. Located at: http://everything2.com/title/damsels+in+distress+bondage

Nation Master (2012). Damsel in distress. Located at: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Damsel-in-distress

Pop Crunch (2010). Quicksand, Pedal Pumping, Tickle Bondage, Women in Distress in general. May 11. Located at: http://www.popcrunch.com/the-17-most-wtf-fetishes-imaginable/

Wikipedia (2015). Damsel in distress. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damsel_in_distress

Bottling it up: A brief look at penile strangulation

While I was researching a blog on urethral manipulation I came across a paper entitled ‘Penile strangulation by a hard plastic bottle’ by Dr. Satish Jain and his colleagues published in a 2004 issue of the Indian Journal of Surgery. As the paper explains:

“Penile strangulation is a rare injury and most require only removal of the constriction and conservative management. Penile strangulating objects are usually rings, nuts, bottles, bushes, wedding rings etc. in an adult, while in children they tend to be rubber bands threads or hair coils. In adults these constricting penile bands, whether expandable or non-expandable, are placed deliberately by the person himself for masturbation or by the female counterpart to prolong erection. In children these are used to prevent enuresis and incontinence or as an innocent childish experiment. Because these bands occlude penile venous flow, most patients present to the emergency with penile edema” [an edema is a swelling caused by fluid in body tissue].

They reported the case of a 27-year old man who turned up at hospital needing emergency treatment for an extremely swollen penis and unable to urinate. This occurred as a result of placing his penis inside a hard plastic bottle as a masturbatory aid. In short, the neck of the bottle got stuck, constricting the penis base. The paper then described how the bottle was removed:

“The hospital carpenter was called to assist in cutting open that bottle. With the use of iron cutting saw…first the bottle was cut near the neck and then the bottle neck was cut open slowly and diagonally. The penis was held slightly bent downwards. Once one end of the bottle neck was cut open, the plaster spreader (used by orthopaedician) was use to hold the cut ends open and the whole bottle neck was cut opened and removed after 15 minutes of struggle…Penile edema subsided completely in a week and patient had an uneventful recovery. There was no erectile dysfunction or decreased uroflow”.

This case was relatively easy to treat and on the less serious side. Later in the paper, the authors note that more serious medical complaints can arise including ulceration (skin inflammation and/or lesion), necrosis (death of body tissue), urinary fistula (abnormal opening of the urethra) or even gangrene (death and decay of body tissue due to loss of blood supply). Unsurprisingly, these latter conditions most often occur because the patient is too shy or embarrassed to seek medical help.

It was after reading this paper that I went searching for other cases and found many papers on the topic (far too many to outline here). However, I thought I would pick out some that caught my eye. Penises stuck inside bottles seemed (somewhat predictably) to feature quite heavily. For instance, Dr. C.K. Ooi and colleagues reported two cases of “unusual” penile strangulation in a 2009 issue of the Singapore Medical Journal. One of the cases was a 77-year old man who got his penis stuck in a bottle. Although the bottle was successfully removed in the emergency ward the patient subsequently developed post-obstructive diuresis (i.e., excessive urination). The second case was a 60-year old man who got his penis stuck inside a metallic ring. An orthopaedic cutter was used to remove the ring and there were no long-term complications. Another paper by Dr. Matthias May and colleagues in a 2006 issue of the International Urology and Nephrology reported the case of a 49-year old man who got his penis stuck in a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle. (Ethylene terephthalate is a light plastic material that is – according to various papers I read – “nearly indestructible”). After trying to cut the bottle off with a scalpel and then a glass saw, the bottle was finally removed by cutting it longitudinally with an oscillating saw (that was normally used for cutting off patient plaster casts).

A more recent case in a 2011 issue of the International Journal of Biological and Medical Research by Dr. Uday Shamrao Kumbhar and colleagues reported the case of a 46-year old man who got a plastic bottle neck stuck on the base of his penis following attempted masturbation. More specifically, they reported that:

“The man came after 14 [hours] with gross penile edema and impaired penile sensation distal to the constriction…The nature of the plastic bottle neck was such that an attempt at cutting the device was difficult. We retrieved the constructing device by cutting it by soldering gun (used for electrical soldering by electrician). Cuts were taken at two places – 3 and 9 o’clock positions. The only hurdle was heat generated during the soldering, which was overcome by intermittent soldering and pouring cold normal saline in between”.

The patient recovered fully and following removal had a normal erection, could masturbate and have sex without problems. The most recent case I came across was published in a 2014 issue of Case Reports in Urology. The authors (Dr. Avinash Chennamsetty, Dr. David Wenzler and Dr. Melissa Fischer) reported the case of a 49-year-old man that turned up at the Emergency Department complaining that his penis was swollen and painful. The authors reported that nine days prior to coming into hospital the man had placed a metallic constriction device over his penis for an autoerotic motive” but then found that he couldn’t remove it. The authors noted that:

“He was able to urinate but had a decreased force of stream. Physical exam revealed a tightly encircling metallic ring with peripheral cogs placed on the mid shaft of the penis causing severe penile engorgement and edema. The metal appeared to be a very hard alloy with thickness measuring 5–7mm depending on the location. The penile skin under the ring was excoriated and necrotic. Due to the incarceration time, degree of necrosis, and significant distal edema, simple lubrication, compression, and manual removal were not an option for fear of amputation. Manual and electric ring cutters were used, but after several attempts, we were unable to do more than scratch the surface of the metal ring. The patient was given procedural sedation and a tongue depressor was placed beneath the metal ring to provide soft tissue protection. Using the pin cutter, enough force was generated in one attempt to snap the ring into two separate pieces”.

Another different kind of penile strangulation – with more serious consequences – was reported by Dr. A. Nuhu and his colleagues in a 2009 issue of the West African Journal of Medicine. In this instance, a middle-aged Nigerian managed to get a round metallic nut stuck on his penis. For five days the man had delayed coming into hospital for treatment even though he was unable to urinate properly (in fact he had trouble urinating at all). By the time he went for medical help, his penis had developed gangrene. Unfortunately, the only treatment option available was a complete amputation of his penis.

It is also worth mentioning that a number of papers I came across purely describe the methods that can be used in the “extrication of penile entrapment” such as a detailed report by Dr. Guang-Ming Liu and colleagues in a 2012 issue of the International Urology and Nephrology that described the technique of suture traction in conjunction with Dundee…performed for the management of penile entrapment in polyethylene terephthalate bottle neck” that they claim can be performed “without any special tools required in the management of penile entrapment involving PET bottles [and can] be applied safely for the low-grade penile injury”.

Within two weeks of removal, the man’s penis had fully recovered and he was able to resume sexual activity. Another earlier 2001 paper by Dr. Mark Detweiler in the Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology outlined treatment guidelines “according to level of penile trauma for penile incarceration by metal devices”. Detweiler analysed all previous cases of penile strangulation (aka penile incarceration) and divided treatment interventions into four groups going from the safest to the most dangerous to perform: (i) string techniques with and without aspiration [removal] of blood from the glans; (ii) pure aspiration techniques; (iii) cutting devices; and (iv) surgical techniques.

Finally, the most tragic case of penile strangulation I came across was one published in 2011 by Dr. Benito Morentin and colleagues in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. They reported that a 58-year old man was found dead at a guesthouse by a flatmate living in the house. The paper reported: 

“According to the flatmate, the deceased had not been out of his room in the last 2 weeks. Two days before the death the flatmate phoned the emergency services asking for help due to the strange behavior of the subject. When the emergency staff arrived the man refused any kind of help claiming that he did not have any medical problems at all. Clinical antecedents included paresis of the left leg due to stroke, smoking, alcoholism, and social behavior disorder. At autopsy, physical examination showed that the penis was engorged and swollen, with dark black color and evident gangrene. A plastic bottle neck was found over the base of the penis. Between the bottle neck and the penis there was a piece of condom…Histologic examination of the penis revealed severe necrosis, intense hemorrhage of the tissue due to stagnated blood, and thrombosis… Death was attributed to multi-organ failure secondary to septic shock”.

This last case is clearly an extreme and tragic case. The authors speculated that the man was simply too ashamed to seek treatment. They also believed that this is the only ever death recorded as arising from penile strangulation.

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

Further reading

Chennamsetty, A., Wenzler, D. & Fischer, M. (2014). Removal of a penile constriction device with a large orthopedic pin cutter. Case Reports in Urology, Volume 2014, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/347285

Detweiler, M. B. (2001). Penile incarceration with Metal objects a review of procedure choice based on penile trauma grade. Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology, 35(3), 212-217.

Ivanovski, O., Stankov, O., Kuzmanoski, M., Saidi, S., Banev, S., Filipovski, V., Lekovski, L. & Popov, Z. (2007). Penile strangulation: two case reports and review of the literature. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 4(6), 1775-1780.

Jain S., Gupta A., Singh T., Aggarwal N., Sharma, S. & Jain S. (2004). Penile strangulation by a hard plastic bottle: A case report, Indian Journal of Surgery, 66(3), 173-175.

Liu, G. M., Sun, G., & Ma, H. S. (2012). Extrication of penile entrapment in a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle: A technique of suture traction and Dundee and literature review. International Urology and Nephrology, 44(5), 1335-1340.

May, M., Gunia, S., Helke, C., Kheyri, R., & Hoschke, B. (2006). Penile entrapment in a plastic bottle – A case for using an oscillating splint saw. International Urology and Nephrology, 38(1), 93-95.

Morentin B., Biritxinaga B. & Crespo L. (2011). Penile strangulation: Report of a fatal case. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 32, 344-346.

Nuhu, A., Edino, S. T., Agbese, G. O., & Kallamu, M. (2009). Penile gangrene due to strangulation by a metallic nut: a case report. West African Journal of Medicine, 28(5), 340-242.

Ooi, C. K., Goh, H. K., Chong, K. T., & Lim, G. H. (2009). Penile strangulation: report of two unusual cases. Singapore Medical Journal, 50(2), e50-52.

Shamrao Kumbhar U., Dasharathimurumu, D. & Bhargavpak, D. (2011). Acute penile incarceration injury caused by a plastic bottle neck. International Journal of Biological and Medical Research, 2(4), 1184-1185.

Displeasures of the flesh: A brief look at anthropophagolagnia and paraphilic behaviour in serial killers

In previous blogs I have examined the psychology of sexual cannibalism and erotophonophilia (aka ‘lust murder’) as well as an article that I wrote on serial killers that collect their victims’ body parts as ‘trophies’. One very rare sub-type of both sexual cannibalism and erotophonophilia is anthropophagolagnia. This particular type of sexual paraphilia has been defined by Dr Anil Aggrawal as the paraphilia of “rape with cannibalism” and by the Right Diagnosis website as sexual urges, preferences or fantasies involving raping and then cannibalizing the victim”.

The Listaholic website goes as far to say that anthropophagolagnia is one of the ten “most bizarre sexual fetishes on earth” claiming that serial killer is the “poster boy” for these “twisted” individuals. Other serial killers that might be classed as anthropophagolagniacs include Albert Fish, Peter Kirsten, Ottis Toole and Ed Gein. However, there also appear to be cases of what I would call ‘systematic anthropophagolagnia’ if the extract I found online is true:

“While it is easy to dismiss one case as stemming from some sort of neurological aberrations in the participants, we also see sexualized cannibalism in modern day Africa. In the early 2000s in Congo, rape and cannibalism were reported to coincide sporadically across the region. The claims are backed by a UN investigation into the phenomena…Rebels would go into villages and rape the women and children, then dismember them alive while eating their flesh. There are many reports of family members being forced to eat the flesh of other murdered family members after being raped…The men committing these atrocities do not have any neurological aberrations, they simply have the power to exercise this behavior. While cannibalism has been practiced in Africa as part of spiritual traditions for centuries, sadistic sexualized torture is not part of that tradition. So why add it in? Presumably the rebels didn’t all happen to be born child rapists either, yet raping children is part of their terror campaign and they must be able to achieve an erection to carry out the task, and so it must be assumed they learned to like it”.

Last year, I also read about 40-year old preacher Stephen Tari, the leader of a 6,000-strong cannibal rape cult in Papua New Guinea. He was in prison following his conviction for a brutal rape but escaped (only to be killed by people from his village in retaliation for the cannibalistic rape murders he had committed). As a report in The Independent noted:

“[Tari] had previously been accused of raping, murdering and eating three girls in front of their traumatised mothers…The charismatic cult leader, who wore white robes and is said to have regularly drunk the blood of his ‘flower girls’, quickly returned to his home village of Gal after [a prison] escape, but could only manage six months before killing yet again…It has not yet been established if the murdered woman was killed as part of a blood sacrifice, but it is considered likely as Tari was said to have been attempting to resurrect his cult following the spell in prison”.

Dr. Eric Hickey (in his book Serial Murderers and Their Victims) notes that paraphilic behaviour is very common among those that commit sexual crimes (and that more than one is often present) but that the two activities (sex offending and paraphilias) may be two independent constructs and that one does not necessarily affect the other. In fact he notes that:

“Rather than paraphilia being caused by sexual pathology, they may be better understood as one of many forms of general social deviance…For the male serial killer, the paraphilia engaged in usually has escalated from softer forms to those that are considered not only criminal but violent as well. They range from unusual to incredibly bizarre and disgusting. As paraphilia develop, men affected by them often engage in several over a period of time. Most men who engage in paraphilia often exhibit three or four different forms, some of them simultaneously. For those with violent tendencies, soft paraphilia can quickly lead to experimentation with hardcore paraphilia that often involves the harming of others in sexual ways. For example, some paraphilic offenders prefer to stalk and sexually assault their victims in stores and other public places without getting caught. The thrill of hunting an unsuspecting victim contributes to sexually arousing the offender”.

Hickey asserts that anthropophagolagnia is one of the so-called ‘attack paraphilias’ (as opposed to the ‘preparatory paraphilias’). Attack paraphilias are described by Hickey as being sexually violent (towards other individuals including children in extreme circumstances). Preparatory paraphilias are defined by Hickey as those “that have been found as part of the lust killer’s sexual fantasies and activities” (including those that display anthropophagolagnia). However, Hickey notes that individuals that engage in preparatory paraphilias do not necessarily go on to become serial killers. He then goes on to say:

“The process of sexual fantasy development may include stealing items from victims. Burglary, although generally considered to be a property crime, also is sometimes a property crime for sexual purposes. Stealing underwear, toiletries, hair clippings, photographs, and other personal items provides the offender with souvenirs for him to fantasize over”.

Some of the examples Hickey cites are both revealing and psychologically interesting:

“One offender noted how he would climax each time he entered a victim’s home through a window. The thought of being alone with people sleeping in the house had become deeply eroticized. Another offender likes to break into homes and watch victims sleep. He eventually will touch the victim and will only leave when she begins to scream. He ‘began’ his sexual acting out as a voyeur. This paraphilic process was also examined by Purcell and Arrigo (2001), who note that the process consists of mutually interactive elements: paraphilic stimuli and fantasy; orgasmic conditioning process; and facilitators (drugs, alcohol, and pornography). The probability of the offender harming a victim is extremely high given the progressive nature of his sexual fantasies”.

Along with anthropophagolagnia, other ‘attack paraphilias’ that have been associated with serial killers include amokoscisia (sexual arousal or sexual frenzy from a desire to slash or mutilate other individuals [typically women]), anophelorastia (sexual arousal from defiling or ravaging another individual), biastophilia (sexual arousal from violently raping other individuals; also called raptophilia), dippoldism (sexual arousal from abusing children, typically in the form of spanking and corporal punishment), necrophilia (sexual arousal from having sex with acts with dead individuals), paedophilia (sexual arousal from having sex with minors typically via manipulation and grooming), and sexual sadism (empowerment and sexual arousal derived from inflicting pain and/or injuring other individuals).

The ‘preparatory paraphilias’ that typically precede serial killing and attack paraphilias such as anthropophagolagnia include agonophilia (sexual arousal caused by a sexual partner pretending to struggle), altocalciphilia (sexual arousal from high-heeled shoes), autonecrophilia (sexual arousal by imagining oneself as a dead person), exhibitionism (exposing genitals to inappropriate and/or non-consenting people for sexual arousal), frottage (sexual arousal from rubbing up against the body against a sexual partner or object), gerontophilia (sexual arousal from someone whose age is older and that of a different generation), hebephilia (men that are sexually aroused by aroused by teenagers), kleptolagnia (sexual arousal from stealing), retifism (sexual arousal from shoes), scatophilia (sexual arousal via making telephone calls, using vulgar language, and/or trying to elicit a reaction from the other party), scoptophilia (sexual arousal by watching others [typically engaged in sexual behaviour] without their consent, and more usually referred to as voyeurism), and somnophilia (sexual arousal from fondling strangers in their sleep). The multiplicity of co-existent paraphilias (including anthropophagolagnia) is highlighted by the Wikipedia entry on Jeffrey Dahmer:

“Dahmer readily admitted to having engaged in a number of paraphilic behaviors, including necrophilia, exhibitionism, hebephilia, fetishism, pygmalionism, and erotophonophilia. He is also known to have several partialisms, including anthropophagy (also known as cannibalism). One particular focus of Dahmer’s partialism was the victim’s chest area. By his own admission, what caught his attention to Steven Hicks hitchhiking in 1978 was the fact the youth was bare-chested; he also conceded it was possible that his viewing the exposed chest of Steven Tuomi in 1987 while in a drunken stupor may have led him to unsuccessfully attempt to tear Tuomi’s heart from his chest. Moreover, almost all the murders Dahmer committed from 1990 onwards involved a ritual of posing the victims’ bodies in suggestive positions – many pictures taken prior to dismemberment depict the victims’ bodies with the chest thrust outwards. Dahmer also derived sexual pleasure from the viscera of his victims; he would often masturbate and ejaculate into the body cavity and at other times, literally used the internal organs as a masturbatory aid”.

Almost nothing is known empirically about anthropophagolagnia except that it is very rare and that almost all information about it comes from serial killers that have been caught. Explanations for the development of anthropophagolagnia can only be speculated but are likely to be no different from the development of other paraphilic behaviour. Hickey (citing Irwin Sarason and Barbara Sarason’s Abnormal Psychology textbook) notes five key explanations for the development of paraphilias (reproduced below verbatim):

  • Psychodynamic – paraphilic behavior as a manifestation of unresolved conflicts during psychosexual development;
  • Behavioral – paraphilia is developed through conditioning, modeling, reinforcement, punishment, and rewards, the same process that normal sexual activity is learned;
  • Cognitive – paraphilia become substitutes for appropriate social and sexual functioning or the inability to develop satisfying marital relationships;
  • Biological – heredity, prenatal hormone environment, and factors contributing to gender identity can facilitate paraphilic interests. Other explanations are linked to brain malfunctioning and chromosomal abnormalities;
  • Interactional – that development of paraphilia is a process that results from psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and biological factors.

As an eclectic, I favour the interactional explanation for the existence of anthropophagolagnia but also believe that the most important influences are the behavioural aspects via classical and operant conditioning processes.

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.

Hall, J. (2013). ‘Black Jesus’ murder: Leader of 6,000-strong cannibal rape cult hacked to death by villagers in Papua New Guinea jungle after killing yet again. The Independent, August 30. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/black-jesus-murder-leader-of-6000strong-cannibal-rape-cult-hacked-to-death-by-villagers-in-papua-new-guinea-jungle-after-killing-yet-again-8791967.html

Hickey, E. W. (Ed.). (2003). Encyclopedia of Murder and Violent Crime. London: Sage Publications

Hickey, E. W. (2010). Serial Murderers and Their Victims (Fifth Edition). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Purcell, C., and B. Arrigo. (2001). Explaining paraphilias and lust murder: Toward an integrated model. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(1), 6–31.

Sarason, I. G. and B. R. Sarason. (2004). Abnormal Psychology, 11th Edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Wikipedia (2014). Jeffrey Dahmer. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Dahmer

Brain humour: The Ig Nobels are coming to Nottingham Trent (again)

I apologise in advance, but today’s blog is (i) a not-so thinly disguised plug (well, a blatant plug) for a national event that is being hosted by my university on Wednesday 18th March (2015) and (ii) a just a slight updating of a blog I published a couple of years ago when the Ig Nobels last came to NTU. The new blurb I was sent by our local organizer Phil Banyard proclaims:

“The Ig Nobel Prizes honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology. The awards are held each year at Harvard University and each award is presented by a Nobel laureate such is the esteem of this event. Over the past few years Marc Abrahams has brought an Ig Nobels tour to the UK in the spring. The tours highlights some of the key awards from the Ig Nobels’ back catalogue and provides a great opportunity to promote science to a wider audience. This year’s programme will feature Marc Abrahams, organiser of the Ig Nobel Prizes, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, and Guardian columnist, together with a gaggle of Ig Nobel Prize winners and other improbable researchers. The programme will include: Chris McManus (Ig Nobel winner, Scrotal asymmetry in ancient Sculpture and man); Richard Stephens (Ig Nobel winner, The effect of swearing on pain); Richard Webb (Tribute to John Hoyland, the father of Nominative Determinism)”.

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If that’s not enough to get you going, I would also like to add that science’s top journal Nature says: “The Ig Nobel awards are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar” (and who am I to argue?). For those of you who know nothing about the Ig Nobels, they were initiated by one of my favourite journalists, Guardian columnist Marc Abrams. Abrams writes a weekly column for the Guardian called Improbable Research and he is also the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research.

Back in February 2010, I was delighted when Abrams did a whole column on my research into gambling entitled ‘Slot-machine gamblers are hard to pin down: Why are gamblers such a difficult subject for academic study?’ Secretly, I’m very proud that he dedicated a whole column to my research. (In fact, I found out while I was researching the original blog on this topic, is that my research also features in his 2012 book This is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens, and Other WTF Research. Here are some of the things he wrote about my research into gambling:

It’s hard to get good payoffs from slot machines, yes. But it’s also hard to get good information from slot machine gamblers, and that made things awkward for psychologists Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, and Jonathan Parke, of Salford University. They explained how, in a monograph called Slot Machine Gamblers – Why Are They So Hard to Study? Griffiths and Parke published it a few years ago in the Journal of Gambling Issues. ‘We have both spent over 10 years playing in and researching this area,’ they wrote, ‘and we can offer some explanations on why it is so hard to gather reliable and valid data. Here are three from their long list.

  • First, gamblers become engrossed in gambling. ‘We have observed that many gamblers will often miss meals and even 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’ 
  • Second, gamblers like their privacy. They ‘may be dishonest about the extent of their gambling activities to researchers as well as to those close to them. This obviously has implications for the reliability and validity of any data collected.’
  • Third, gamblers sometimes notice when a person is spying on them. “The most important aspect of non-participant observation research while monitoring fruit-machine players is the art of being inconspicuous. If the researcher fails to blend in, then slot-machine gamblers soon realise they are being watched and are therefore highly likely to change their behaviour.’

The gambling machines go by many names, ‘fruit machine’ and ‘one-armed bandit’ also being popular. But Griffiths and Parke don’t obsess about nomenclature. The two are giants in their chosen profession. The International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction ran a paean from a researcher who said: ‘In the problem gambling field we don’t exhibit the same adulation as music fans for their idols, but we have our superstars and, for me, Mark Griffiths is one.’

Professor Griffiths is one of the world’s most published scholars on matters relating to the psychology of fruit-machine gamblers, with at least 27 published studies that mention fruit machines in their title. These range from 1994’s appreciative Beating the Fruit Machine: Systems and Ploys Both Legal And Illegal to 1998’s admonitory Fruit Machine Gambling and Criminal Behaviour: Issues for the Judiciary*. Women get special attention (Fruit Machine Addiction in Females: a Case Study), as do youths (Adolescent Gambling on Fruit Machines and several other monographs). There is the humanist perspective (Observing the Social World of Fruit-Machine Playing) as well as that of the biomedical specialist (The Psychobiology of the Near Miss in Fruit Machine Gambling). Griffiths and Parke collaborate often. Strangers to their work might wish to begin by reading the classic The Psychology of the Fruit Machine. Their fruitful publication record reminds every scholar that, even when a subject is difficult to study, persistence and determination can yield a rewarding payoff”.

All I can say is that after re-reading this, I wonder how I can still get my head through the door.

More recently, one of my papers was actually reported by Marc Abrams on his Improbable Research website. More specifically, my case study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior about eproctophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from flatulence), was given press coverage in over 100 newspaper and magazine stories around the world including those in the UK, Ireland, US, Greece, Italy, Holland, China, and Ghana (e.g., New York Daily News, Huffington Post, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, The Sun, Metro, Times of Malta, Irish Examiner, Asian Image, and Cosmopolitan). However, it was actually Abrams who first reported the story under the headline Academic Study of a Young Man’s Sexual Attraction to Human Gas”. For those who don’t know, the underlying philosophy of the IR website is to feature “research that makes people laugh and then think”. More specifically, Abrams wrote:

“Professor Mark D Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University has published a remarkable new study. Here’s how we know this study is remarkable:  The university’s press office sent copies of it to many prominent science journalists, remarking that (1) ‘It’s the world’s first paper on eproctophilia – sexual arousal from flatulence’ and (2) ‘Professor Griffiths would be more than happy to talk to you in more detail’. A remarkable number of those journalists immediately sent it on to us at the Annals of Improbable Research. We are, in this blog entry you are reading right now, remarking upon that study. There is more. Lots more. In other respects, too, Professor Griffiths is an expert. So renowned is he that Wikipedia devoted an entire web page to him. One of the many things on which he is an expert is the academic study of gamblers. We have celebrated some of his abundant work on that subject. (We express our thanks, and other emotions, to the many journalists who instinctively decided that they should alert us to the existence of Professor Griffiths’s new line of research.) BONUS (unrelated): The 1998 Ig Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to Dr. Mara Sidoli of Washington, DC, for her illuminating report, ‘Farting as a Defence Against Unspeakable Dread’ [Journal of Analytical Psychology, vol. 41, no. 2, 1996, pp. 165-78.]”

Anyway, if you’d like to go see Marc Abrams in person, here are the further details:

Event: The Ig Nobels: A celebration of Science

Time and date: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 18th March

Location: The Newton Building on the City Campus of the University.

Booking details: The event is free but booking is essential.

Book at: www.ntu.ac.uk/ignobles2015 (direct link here)

Details of their UK events and more information about the Ig Nobels can be found on their website: http://www.improbable.com/improbable-research-shows/complete-schedule/

* I’ve never actually written a paper with this title but I think it’s an inadvertent mix of two or three papers I’ve written with similar titles

 

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

Further reading (i.e., the papers cited by Marc Abrams above)

Griffiths, M.D. (1991). The psychobiology of the near miss in fruit machine gambling. Journal of Psychology, 125, 347-357.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). Beating the fruit machine: Systems and ploys both legal and illegal. Journal of Gambling Studies, 10, 287-292.

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.

Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Fruit machine addiction in females: A case study. Journal of Gambling Issues, 8. Located at: http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue8/clinic/griffiths/index.html.

Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Eproctophilia in a young adult male: A case study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1383-1386.

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. (2006). The psychology of the fruit machine: The role of structural characteristics (revisited). International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 151-179.

Yeoman, T. & Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Adolescent machine gambling and crime (I). Journal of Adolescence, 19, 99-104.

Griffiths, M.D. & Sparrow, P. (1998). Fruit machine addiction and crime. Police Journal, 71, 327-334.

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Cybercrime: Areas of concern for the judiciary. Justice of the Peace, 165, 296-298.

Blood discussed: A brief look at haematophagia

Haematophagia usually refers to the practice of animals feeding on the blood of another species. However, the term has also been applied to humans that consume blood (something that I have referred to in previous blogs on clinical vampirism and menophilia). Most writings on human haematophagia usually refer to the practice in some sexual and/or vampiric capacity (e.g., some individuals in China and Vietnam believe certain types of snake blood are aphrodisiacs and are drunk with rice wine) but haematophagia can also occur for other reasons.

While I working was in Spain, I was taken to one of the best Castilian restaurants, and as part of the starter I was served morcilla sausage. Morcilla sausage is basically a Spanish version of black pudding (aka ‘blood pudding’) and made from pig’s blood. I absolutely loved it. It did make me wonder what other ‘blood’ foods I might enjoy. I did a bit of research into the making of blood sausages and found out that variations of this dish exist in cultures all over the world (e.g., Europe, Asia, and the Americas), and that all kinds of different animals’ blood can be used (including pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, and ducks). According to the Wikipedia entry on human haematophagia:

“Drinking blood and manufacturing foodstuffs and delicacies with animal blood is also a feeding behavior in many societies. Cow blood mixed with milk, for example, is a mainstay food of the African Massai. Some sources say that Mongols would drink blood from one of their horses if it became a necessity. Black pudding is eaten in many places around the world. Some societies, such as the Moche, had ritual hematophagy, as well as the Scythians, a nomadic people of Russia, who had the habit of drinking the blood of the first enemy they would kill in battle…Psychiatric cases of patients performing hematophagy also exist. Sucking or licking one’s own blood from a wound is also a behavior commonly seen in humans, and in small enough quantities is not considered taboo. Finally, human vampirism has been a persistent object of literary and cultural attention”

There a numerous YouTube videos of the African Massai (in Tanzania) drinking blood directly from the necks of live cattle (such as here and here). Cattle blood drinking typically occurs after special celebrations (such as births, ritual circumcisions, etc.), but the special occasions are not compulsory for blood drinking to occur. The cattle are never killed and the cuts made to drink blood from appear to heal quickly. One report on the Environmental Graffiti website described the practice:

“Half a dozen Maasai warriors wrestle with the struggling cow. Another waits with his bow drawn, arrow at the ready. Finally, they have the straining animal in position. The warrior with the weapon shoots straight for the bovine’s jugular. Warm blood gushes into a waiting bucket, pumped out by the animal’s still-beating heart. The blood keeps flowing, almost filling the container, before the cow is released – its punctured neck sealed with a dab of cow dung. It will live to see another day. Its’ blood-donating job is done, at least for another month. The Maasai men who perform this blood-draining ritual do not intend to kill, or even harm, the animal. They merely want some of its nourishing crimson fluid to drink”.

Another Wikipedia entry focusing on blood as food notes that in addition to blood sausages, animal blood has also been used to thicken, colour, and/or flavour sauces and gravies, and for various types of blood soup (such as ‘czernina’ in Poland, ‘papas de sarrabulho’ in Portugal, and ‘svartsoppa’ made with goose blood in Sweden). Although blood is a taboo food in some cultures, in others it is perfectly acceptable – particularly in times when food has been scarce. Other cultures have other blood foods including blood pancakes (in Scandinavian and Baltic countries), blood tofu (China, Thailand, Vietnam), blood cake (Taiwan), blood potato dumplings (‘blodpalt’ made with reindeer blood in Sweden) and blood bread (‘paltbrod’ in Sweden). Additionally, Wikipedia noted that:

“Blood can also be used as a solid ingredient, either by allowing it to congeal before use, or by cooking it to accelerate the process. In Hungary when a pig is slaughtered in the morning the blood is fried with onions and is served for breakfast. In China, ‘blood tofu’ is most often made with pig’s or duck’s blood, although chicken’s or cow’s blood may also be used. The blood is allowed to congeal and simply cut into rectangular pieces and cooked. This dish is also known in Java as saren, made with chicken’s or pig’s blood. Blood tofu is found in curry mee as well as the Sichuan dish, maoxuewang. In Tibet, congealed yak’s blood is a traditional food”.

The Tanzanian Massai people are not the only culture to consume uncooked animal blood products. For instance, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle consume seal blood and believe it to have health and social benefits. According to a paper on consuming seal blood in a 1991 issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly, seal blood is “seen as fortifying human blood by replacing depleted nutrients and rejuvenating the blood supply, [and] is considered a necessary part of the Inuit diet”. Another academic paper by Dr. Edmund Searles in a 2002 issue of the journal Food and Foodways reported that in relation to the drinking of seal blood: Inuit food generates a strong flow of blood, a condition considered to be healthy and indicative of a strong body”. Historically, there are accounts of Irish people bleeding cattle as a preventative measure against cattle diseases. The Wikipedia entry on blood as food claims that the Irish mixed the drawn blood with butter, herbs, oats or meal” to provide a “nutritious emergency food”.

During my research I also came across a story in The Atheist Times (with photographic evidence) of Hindus engaged in the practice of decapitating and drinking goat blood directly from its body (a blood sacrifice). The report claimed the practice was widely prevalent throughout India and Malaysia. These Hindus believe that the Hindu goddess Kali descends upon those drinking the goat’s blood.

Staying on the religious theme, there are (of course) many (arguably ‘mainstream’) simulated acts of haemotphagia – most notably in various religious ceremonies and rituals. The most obvious is in the transubstantiation of wine as the blood of Jesus Christ during Christian Eucharist (where religious followers believe they are drinking the blood of Christ). Various religions engage in such pseudo-haemotophagic practices including the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, some Anglican, and Lutheran churches. (Other religions are the exact opposite and consider the drinking of blood taboo such as Jewish and Muslim cultures).

As this brief review demonstrates, non-sexual and non-vampiric human haematophagia and pseudo-haematophagia appear to be common and widespread in many cultures and countries. Academic research on the topic appears to be limited although it certainly warrants further investigation.

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

Further reading

Borré, K. (1991). Seal blood, Inuit blood, and diet: A biocultural model of physiology and cultural identity. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 5, 48-62.

Davidson, A (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Searles, E. (2002). Food and the making of modern Inuit identities. Food and Foodways, 10(1-2), 55-78.

Wikipedia (2013). Blood as food. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_as_food

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

The skin I’m in: A beginner’s guide to doraphilia

In one of my previous blogs on the ‘A to Z of non-researched sexual paraphilias’ I briefly mentioned doraphila. Most definitions of doraphilia are fairly consistent. For instance, Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices simply defines doraphilia as the love of animal fur, leather or skins”. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices says doraphilia is the attraction…usually for animal skin or leather, which has been used as clothing throughout human existence. It is considered a fetish when it has to be present during sex”. Other online definitions claim doraphilia is abnormal affection towards fur or skins of animals”. I’ve also come across online definitions that subsume doraphilia as a type of dermophilia (in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from the skin). However, I think it’s more logical to view dermaphilia as a sub-type of doraphilia (or not a sub-type at all if it doesn’t include the love of animal skin).

Somewhat confusingly, Dr. Brenda Love in her account of doraphilia in her sex encyclopedia spends a lot of the entry talking about the sexual aspects of human skin (rather than animal skin). She noted that:

“Human skin holds a fascination for some people. The 1950s sex criminal Edward Gein, who derived pleasure skinning female corpses he exhumed from local graves and then wearing them like a garment, is reported to have become fascinated with the idea of changing himself from a male to female. There have been cases where people have used human skin to make purses, lamp shades, belts, and upholstery. This was apart from similar things doe to men with tattoos during the Holocaust. Captain John Bourke wrote of human flesh being used as girdles or mummies that were worn by pregnant women to assist them in labor”.

Anyone that has read (or watched) The Silence of The Lambs (the third of Thomas HarrisHannibal Lecter quadrilogy) or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre can see where the inspiration for the Jame Gumb character (‘Buffalo Bill’) and the Leatherface character came from. As the Wikipedia entry on Buffalo Bill notes:

“Both the novel and film [of Silence Of The Lambs] tell of Gumb wanting to become a woman but being too disturbed to qualify for gender reassignment surgery. He kills women so he can skin them and create a ‘woman suit’ for himself. He is described as not really transgender but merely believing himself to be because he ‘hates his own identity’.

Personally, I don’t see Ed Gein or the many film characters he has ‘inspired’ as doraphiles. The motive for wearing the human skin of other people was not to get sexually aroused. The wearing of leather is of course commonplace in many sexual practices such as sexual sadism and sexual masochism (in fact, it’s arguably become a uniform or even a stereotype such as ‘The Gimp’ character in the film Pulp Fiction). As Dr. Love notes in her encyclopedia entry:

Erotic leather apparel can be purchased at some lingerie and leather shops or ordered from Europe. Leather jock straps (some with chrome studs), bikini panties with zippered crotches, body suits, bras, corsets, dresses, skirts, pants exposing the rear, costumes, and accessories are all available”.

She also speculates about the psychology of wearing of leather and fur and mentions Dr. Harry Harlow’s classic studies on maternal attachment on rhesus monkeys as evidence (at least in part) for her claims:

“The feel and smell of leather gives many people a feeling of power. Some explain this as subconsciously as taking on the character of the animal with whose skin they cloak themselves. This was a common belief of holy men during their ancient religious ceremonies. The Roman emperor Nero dressed in an animal skin and then emulated the beast’s ferocious behavior as he sexually assaulted the people he had tied to stakes. An explanation for the continued appeal of leather or fur is that some people feel secure and nurtured by being wrapped in skin, a sort of surrogate mother effect. Clinical studies showed that rhesus monkeys who had their mothers replaced by inanimate objects responded better or clung to the ones that were wrapped in some type of fur”

For sexual leather enthusiasts, the colour black appears to be especially important. Although I have carried out research on the importance of colour in gambling (see me previous blog on the topic), I have never thought about it from a sexual clothing perspective. Again, Dr. Love provides some narrative on this (citing Jane Polley’s 1980 book Stories Behind Everyday Things).

“Many people who use leather for erotic feelings or as a symbol for their sexual power prefer the color black. The motives behind this preference are not clear. Historical facts regarding the color reveal that the ancient Egyptians revered the color as a sign of fertility because black was the color of the rich soil along the Nile. This may also be the origin of the black gowns used in witchcraft or other ancient religions. The Japanese, some Egyptians, American Indians, Christians, and Hindus saw it as a sign of destruction or death. Europeans dressed in black garments to attend funerals so that they would not be recognized as human and harmed by ghosts. Conversely, black Africans dressed in white clothing at funeral for the same reason. Today black is perceived as a symbol of evil, elegance, authority, and religion”.

I know of no empirical research into doraphilia although I did come across an interesting paper by Jared Christman published in the journal Society and Animals on zoocidal practices and made these really interesting observations:

“Fur and leather in particular are common tokens of material abun- dance for the doraphilic shopper, the lover of animal skins who yearns for womb-like protection from the frailty of the human frame. Were it not for such a wellspring of doraphilic sentiment in modern consumer culture, marketing strategists would hardly be able to churn out trade publications with titles like ‘The Smell of Success – Exploiting the Leather Aroma’ (Lente & Herman, 2001)…Where sexuality and power converge most implacably, the integuments of animals figure most prominently. Hence, the skins of animals are often indispensable tools in the rites of sadomasochism, adding an all-pervading element of dominion over life and death. Most tellingly of all, the term ‘masochism’ comes eponymously from von Sacher-Masoch (2000). The doraphilic liturgies of sadomasochism, in the bedroom or in the fascist amphitheater, purport to dissolve the participants in a microcosm of divinity, fashioning the milieu of predatory mastery they need to stamp out their fear of futility. Wreathed in animal remains, the sadist has already vanquished the vitality of natural life, the first step in the subjugation of people. The masochist, on the other hand, finds method in the malice of autocratic authority, delegating responsibility for victory over death to the powers that be. Either way, sadomasochists wallow in the skins of animals in order to neutralize their “sense of vital impotence” (Fromm, 1973, p. 326), of an endless ebbing of purpose in a world of boundless putrescence. People who resort so eagerly to the lifeblood of animals to stave off the vicissitudes of their own lives can easily become inured to truculence—if they are not already predisposed to it”.

Finally, examining the paraphilia literature, it could perhaps be argued that doraphilia has overlaps with some types of zoophilia. In 2011, Dr. Anil Aggrawal published a new classification of zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine comprising ten different types of zoophile based on their primary erotic focus. One of the ten types was what Aggrawal called fetishistic zoophiles. These are individuals who keep various animal parts (especially fur) that they then use as an erotic stimulus as a crucial part of their sexual activity. Such individuals have been reported in the clinical literature including the case of a woman (reported in a 1990 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology) who used the tongue of a deer as her primary masturbatory aid (and which I examined in detail in a previous blog and was described by the authors as a case of ‘xenolingual autoeroticism’).

Given that most doraphilic practices are non-problematic and (presumably) occur between consensual adults, I don’t foresee much research being done in the area. If data are collected, it’s more likely to come from sexual practices associated with doraphilia (e.g., uniform fetishism, sado-masochism, etc.) than on doraphilia itself.

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.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Christman, J. (2008). The Gilgamesh Complex: The Quest for Death Transcendence and the Killing of Animals. Society & Animals, 16(4), 297-315.

Fromm, E. (1973). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Colour atmospherics and its impact on player behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 6(3), 91-96.

Harlow, H. F. & Zimmermann, R. R. (1958). The development of affective responsiveness in infant monkeys. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 102, 501-509.

Lente, R. V., & Herman, S. J. (2001). The smell of success—Exploiting the leather aroma. In Human factors in automotive design (pp. 21-28). Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers.

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

Polley, J. (1980). Stories Behind Everyday Things. London: Readers Digest.

Randall, M.B., Vance, R.P., & McCalmont, T.H. (1990). Xenolingual autoeroticism. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 11, 89-92.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

von Sacher-Masoch, L. .(2000). Venus in Furs (J. Neugroschel, Trans.). New York: Penguin.

Wikipedia (2015). Buffalo Bill (character). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Bill_(character)

Wikipedia (2015). Clothing fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_fetish

The piles high club: A very brief look at haemorrhoid fetishes

If there’s any subject likely to cause embarrassment (if you have them) and/or laughter (if you haven’t) it’s haemorrhoids (i.e., ‘piles’). I’m sure most of you reading this know what haemorrhoids are, but if you don’t, then Wikipedia’s anatomical description might be helpful (although the website’s photographs made me a little queasy):

“Hemorrhoids (US English) or haemorrhoids (UK)…are vascular structures in the anal canal which help with stool control. They become pathological or piles when swollen or inflamed. In their physiological state, they act as a cushion composed of arterio-venous channels and connective tissue”.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is what other human beings find sexually attractive (as evidenced by many of my previous blogs such as those who are sexually attracted to ugly people (teratophilia), amputees (acrotomophilia), and those with physical deformities (abasiophilia). The only reason I am writing this blog was because I came across this online snippet:

“If you find a guy who’s not disgusted, sure you can. I had a mate with a hemorrhoid fetish once. He used to brag about how he loved popping them out”.

I have to admit that I was more than a little suspect about whether anybody could be genuinely turned on and sexually aroused by somebody else’s haemorrhoids but I decided to look into it. One thing that convinced me there is a niche market for almost anything, is the number of hard core pornography videos that cater for those with a sexual interest in haemorrhoids (or at the very least a penchant for watching those with haemorrhoids having sex – such as the Heavy-R and Muchosucko websites – please be warned that these are very sexually explicit and may upset some people). These videos are clearly made by those who believe they can make money from people who want to watch this type of thing. However, it could always be the case that watching people with haemorrhoids having sex are not watching for sexual purposes but are viewing out of horrified curiosity.

In a previous blog that I wrote on retained rectal foreign bodies, I came across a 2003 paper by Dr. Wen-Chieh Huang and colleagues published in the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association. Their paper examined ten cases of males (average age of 57 years) who had reported to Taipei Veterans General Hospital because they had got an object stuck inside their rectal passage. The reason I mention this paper is because two of the ten men (one aged 50 years in a case from 1999, and the other aged 76 years from a case in 1991) had got sexual vibrators stuck inside their rectal passage after using them to “smooth” their haemorrhoids. It is unclear as to whether the smoothing of the haemorrhoids caused sexual stimulation but the fact that it was a sexual vibrator at least suggests the practice was more than just therapeutic.

It won’t surprise anyone that there is absolutely nothing written about haemorrhoid fetishes either academically or clinically. However, the online Urban Dictionary has an article on ‘Jarmel Berries’ (which I have to admit that I had never heard of) but relates to the sexualization of haemorrhoids. The article noted:

“Created in Colorado in 2005, this deviant sexual practice consists of an oral fetish with hemorrhoids. This act involves one male licking and ‘oral pleasuring’ the hemorrhoids of the other male participant that were created from rough homosexual sodomy. The Jarmel Berries refer to the ‘mouth-watering’ attraction the deviants feel towards a disturbing twist to ‘salad tossing’. This practice has gained popularity through the homosexual prison population across the mid-west, and has traveled as far east as Virginia…This practice has been mentioned in several rap songs, referring to the tough life of prisoners in multiple federal and state detention centers where the Jarmel Berries act has been reported by officials to have grown into an act of hate and domination. It has been reported that the larger or stronger prisoners in the penitentiary facilities have used this act to show their dominance or ‘ownership of other prisoners…The Jarmel Berries term has also caught on with the Lesbian/Gay communities along the west coast in areas like San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland…Another popular variation of this term includes “Jarmel Jelly” (referring to bleeding of the hemorrhoids)”.

The Urban Dictionary also has a separate entry for ‘Jarmel Jelly’ and defined it as “any liquid substance that would seep out of an engorged or enflamed haemorrhoid”.

Personally, of all the different fetishes I have written about in my blog, I am less convinced by the existence of this sexual fetish than any other. I didn’t come across a single first-hand anecdotal account online although I can’t deny that ‘haemorrhoid porn’ exists. If you know any different, then let me know via my personal email address: mark.griffiths@ntu.ac.uk)

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

Further reading

Huang, W-C., Jiang, J-K., Wang, H-S., Yang, S-H., Chen, W-S., Lin, T-C., & Lin, J-K. (2003). Retained rectal foreign bodies. Journal of the Chinese Medical Association, 66, 606-611.

Urban Dictionary (2013). Jarmel Berries. Located at: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Jarmel%20Berries&defid=1700690

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

Bosom buddies: A brief look at breast fetishism

Over the last year, I have received more than a dozen emails (all male) asking why I have not written a blog on ‘breast fetishism’. The main reason I have resisted writing such a blog is that it’s hard to determine where normal love of breasts ends and abnormal love of breasts begins. It won’t surprise anyone reading this that when it comes to male sexual arousal, female breasts are at the top of many men’s lists as the body part they find most sexually attractive. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, the sexual paraphilia of being aroused by female breasts is mammagymnophilia or mazophilia and comprises “a pronounced fetishistic sexual interest in the female breasts, their shape, movement, and especially their size”. He goes on to write that:

“[Breast fetishism is] also known as mastofact or breast partialism, it refers to an exclusive or almost exclusive reliance on breasts as a stimulus for sexual arousal. It is such a predominant feature of sexuality in the U.S., that Molly Haskell, a feminist and author from the USA, went as far as to say that ‘the mammary fixation is the most infantile and the most American of the sex fetishes’. British zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris sees breast fetishism as a prime example of biosemiotics, by which human sexuality is influenced through signaling”.

While doing my undergraduate degree I did a project on the psychology of female orgasm and read almost every paper and book that I could on sexuality and female sexuality. I read Desmond Morris’ book The Naked Ape and was very interested in Morris’ theories on sexual signalling. If memory serves me, Morris argued that women’s breasts had evolved to look like female buttocks as humans had slowly changed the way they had sex from males mounting females from the rear to face-to-face sex. In the 1998 book Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology: Ideas, Issues, and Applications by Charles Crawford and Dennis Krebs (1998) it was theorized that humans’ permanently enlarged breasts allows females to “solicit male attention and investment even when they are not really fertile”. These hypotheses was also mentioned in the 2012 book The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction but rejected by the authors. Young and Alexander wrote:

“Biologically speaking the human male’s obsession with breasts is pretty weird. Men are the only male mammals fascinated by breasts in a sexual context. And women are the only female mammals whose breasts become enlarged at puberty, independent of pregnancy. We are also the only species in which males caress, massage and even orally stimulate the female breasts during foreplay and sex. Boys don’t learn on the playground that breasts are something that they should be interested in. It’s biological and deeply engrained in our brain. Man’s obsession with breasts is an unconscious evolutionary drive that helps humans forge loving, nurturing bonds”.

In fact, Young and Alexander forward a more biological explanation and went on to claim that it was oxytocin that best explained why women had developed breasts:

“When a woman gives birth, her newborn will engage in some pretty elaborate manipulations of its mother’s breasts. This stimulation sends signals along nerves and into the brain. There, the signals trigger the release of a neurochemical called oxytocin from the brain’s hypothalamus. This oxytocin release eventually stimulates smooth muscles in a woman’s breasts to eject milk, making it available to her nursing baby. But oxytocin release has other effects, too. When released at the baby’s instigation, the attention of the mother focuses on her baby. The infant becomes the most important thing in the world. Oxytocin and dopamine act together to help ‘imprint’ the newborn’s face, smell and sounds into the mother’s reward circuitry, making breastfeeding and nurturing a pleasurable experience that will motivate her to keep doing those activities to strengthen the mother-infant bond. This bond is not only the most beautiful of all social bonds, it can also be the most enduring, lasting a lifetime. When a lover touches, massages or nibbles a woman’s breasts, it sparks the same process of brain events as nursing.  Humans are also among the very few animals that have sexual intercourse face-to-face, looking into each other’s eyes. This quirk in human sexuality has evolved to exploit the ancient mother-infant bonding brain circuitry as a way to help form bonds between lovers. Because the release of oxytocin forces the brain’s attention to a partner’s face, smell and voice, the combination of oxytocin release during breast stimulation, and the increase of dopamine from the pleasure of foreplay and face-to-face sex, helps to forge an association of the lover’s face and eyes with the pleasurable feelings, building a bond in the women’s brain”

I was surprised to find there had been little empirical research on the role of breast and nipple stimulation in influencing sexual arousal during sex. In 2006, Dr. Roy Levin and Dr. Cindy Meston published a paper in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and claimed that there had never been a study that questioned people about breasts and sexual arousal. Consequently, Levin and Meston surveyed 301 “sexually experienced undergraduates” (148 males and 153 females mostly between the ages of 18 and 22). The authors reported:

“81.5% [of women] reported that stimulation of their nipples/ breasts caused or enhanced their sexual arousal, 78.2% agreed that when sexually aroused such manipulation increased their arousal, 59.1% had asked to have their nipples stimulated during lovemaking, and only 7.2% found that the manipulation decreased their arousal. In regard to the men, 51.7% reported that nipple stimulation caused or enhanced their sexual arousal, 39% agreed that when sexually aroused such manipulation increased their arousal, only 17.1% had asked to have their nipples stimulated, and only 7.5% found that such stimulation decreased their arousal”.

When it comes to breast fetishism, it could be argued that there are many different sub-types. Reading Dr. Aggrawal’s book alone there are many other types of sexual activity surrounding the fetishizing of the breast. This includes lactophilia (arousal from lactating breasts), oenosugia (pouring wine over female breasts and licking it off), mazophallating (the rubbing of the penis between breasts, and also know as coitus a mammilla), mazoperosis (sexual gratification from mutilating of female breasts – arguably the most extreme form of what Dr. Aggrawal describes as “tit torture, the sexual gratification from any of several erotic BDSM activities focusing solely on inflicting pain on the breast, nipples, and areola”), and ‘downblousing’:

“[Downblousing] is a variant of voyeurism where the voyeur is attracted to women bending downward so he can view their breasts down their shirt or blouse. Viewing a woman’s breast while sitting on a. higher level than the woman is also downblousing. A good example is a person sitting on first floor of a restaurant, viewing the breasts of an unsuspecting woman sitting on the ground floor taking surreptitious photographs, especially with camera-enabled cell phones, is also common among voyeurs. Many times, these photographs are then posted on the Internet for all to see. Many nations and jurisdictions have now outlawed downblousing”.

There are also other sexual behaviours that may (or may not) involve breasts as the focus of sexual arousal. For instance, anaclitism refers to “the sexual enjoyment arising from activities, or being exposed to objects normally associated with childhood (e.g., toilet training, breast sucking, playing with dolls)”. One breast-focused sexual fetish not mentioned by Dr. Aggrawal at all is ‘breast expansion fetishism’. According to the Nation Master website:

“Breast expansion fetishism is a sexual fetish characterized by pronounced sexual fantasies involving a woman whose breasts enlarge, either gradually or suddenly, sometimes to gargantuan proportions. Breast expansion fetishism may manifest as a form of inflation fetishism. Many breast expansion fetishists are fascinated by the processes by which women’s breasts can become larger, whether from age progression, pregnancy, weight gain or surgery. It is not uncommon for them to examine closely the careers of adult and mainstream entertainers and their increasing, or decreasing, bust sizes…Many breast-expansion fetishists are morphers. A morph is a photograph, an artwork, an animation which uses morphing techniques to expand a woman’s breasts”.

In the name of research I went onto Google Scholar and unsurprisingly turned up little academic. However, I was surprised to find many breast expansion sites including websites like the Big Breast Expansion, Overflowing Bra, Breast Expansion Grove (with lots of links to other breast expansion websites) and Boob Growth (please be warned these sites are sexually explicit if you click on the links) as well as sites like Literotica with a dedicated breast expansion page of fan fiction. Breast expansion is also very popular in both Manga and Anime cartoons.

I also found various first-person accounts of young adult males admitting to having such fetishes:

“I have a breast expansion fetish. No matter what, I always find myself coming back to this. In so many ways it’s amazing. Slowly, suddenly, sporadically, I like to see them grow. But I have my limits of when it gets stupidly huge (bigger than their body size). But I also have a thing of [breast expansion] on myself, like to be gender changed, then added in bigger boobs. I have been off and on with this stuff for years” (MD12, The Experience Project).

“I am searching for help and I hope I could find it here. My problem is…I have a breast expansion fetish. I [get an] erection when I [see] female breasts are growing. It started when I had seen [the] film ‘The Adventures of Pluto Nash’ in hospital. Since [then I am] always looking [for] comics, videos and pictures with growing breasts. Now I am 18 years old, I have marvelous girlfriend and we love each other. I told her about my problem and understand it, but she has forbidden me to masturbate on growing breasts…We have awesome sex but I still want to watch growing breasts. And don’t know what to do now. I don’t wont to lie, and masturbate when I [am] alone, and I don’t know how to beat this fetish. Often I am imagining [my girlfriend] with growing breasts…I hope you can help me”. (Joishi, PsychForums)

I also found what I thought was an article on the psychology of breast expansion but it was a male on the Overflowing Forum trying to analyse his own behaviour (but I found it of interest). Unfortunately, the original post has disappeared but I managed to cut and paste the self-analysis before it disappeared:

“I´m very interested in the psychology of breast expansion fetish – my obsession. I think the expansion aspect is one of many others. I like expansion stuff, but as a category it does not seem meaningful. To me, these aspects are of relevance (i) deviance [standing out from the norm], sensuality [a focus on the physical body], and emotional sensitivity [for symbolic power and interpersonal processes]. First, I´m generally attracted to stuff that defies the norm, like Lady Gaga and Beth Ditto or Slayer, the Marquis de Sade, monster movies. Second: I am fascinated by the body/mind duality of the human existence…Prominent flesh puts the focus on the body, the animal aspect of our being. And prominent breasts especially have sexual and/or nurturing connotations. Third, body parts can be seen [as] anatomical, but also on a symbolic level, they can be a means to express and execute power over others, or they can be presented as a gift – craving, desire, attention, power…a certain tension, an emotional disbalance is important for me. Big breasts can be just a nuisance for a girl or woman – for good reasons – or something they hardly care about, and then they lose most of their erotic power they could have on me”.

Like many other sexual paraphilias I have written about (such as macrophilia, microphilia, exophilia, and vorarephilia), much of the breast expansion community appears to base a lot of the online activity around fan fiction and fan art. As the Nation Master article on breast expansion notes:

“Breast expansion stories are often fantastical tales of women’s busts being enlarged by air, food, magic, medicine, alien technology or some other unseen force. Generally, the amount of enlargement is limited only by the imagination of the author, from as little as a cup size to as big as room-filling and beyond. Occasionally, there are other types of fetishes included in these stories, such as lactation, anthropomorphism, giantess, transgender, body inflation, penis expansion, or any of the processes under the umbrella term transformation fetish. Stories and pictures associated with breast expansion sometimes contain vivid depictions of sexual activity, but it is not a necessity of the fetish” 

This brief overview has highlighted that when it comes to breast fetishism and its many variants, that there is surprisingly little scientific research.

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.

Crawford, C. & Krebs, D, (1998). How Mate Choice Shaped Human Nature. Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology: Ideas, Issues, and Applications. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,

Levin, R. J. (2006). The breast/nipple/areola complex and human sexuality. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 21, 237-249

Levin, R., & Meston, C. (2006). Nipple/breast stimulation and sexual arousal in young men and women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3(3), 450-454.

Nation Master (2014). Breast expansion fetish. Located at: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Breast-expansion-fetish

Wikipedia (2014). Breast fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breast_fetishism

Young, L. & Alexander, B. (2012). The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction. London: Penguin.

Coming to a different view: The Masturbation Fantasy Paradox

While researching an article on compulsive masturbation, I quite by chance came across a recent paper published by Wolter Seuntjens in the Journal of Unsolved Questions entitled ‘The Masturbation Fantasy Paradox: An Overlooked Phenomenon?’ (And yes, I too was amazed that there was a journal with such a name, although it colloquially calls itself JUNQ).

Seuntjens noted in his paper that masturbation is an activity that is often accompanied by fantasizing. However, he uses anecdotal evidence and material found in biographic and literary works to suggest some people are completely unable to fantasize about the person they are in love with during masturbation. This he describes as the ‘Masturbation Fantasy Paradox’ (MFP), a “putative phenomenon” that “may be a particular case of a more general principle put forward by Sigmund Freud”. Freud wrote an essay in 1912 concerning the paradoxes of love and desire. More specifically, in ‘On the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love’ Freud noted that “where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love”.

The whole thesis of the paper appears to rests on a few choice selections from autobiographical material supplied by comic actor and broadcaster (and all-round polymath) Stephen Fry, journalist and columnist Dermod Moore, and French writer and poet (and founder of the Surrealist movement) André Breton. More specifically, the extracts chosen by Seuntjens were:

  • Extract 1: “Although I was to develop, like every male, into an enthusiastic, ardent and committed masturbator, he was never once, nor ever has been, the subject of a masturbatory fantasy. Many times I tried to cast him in some scene. I was directing for the erotic XXX cinema in my head, but it always happened that some part of me banished him from the set, or else the very sight of him on screen in the coarse porn flick running in my mind had the effect of a gallon of cold water. Sex was to enter our lives, but he was never wank fodder, never” (Stephen Fry in Moab is My Washpot).
  • Extract 2: “I have no racy stories about shady events after lights-out in the tent. In fact, having recently discovered masturbation, I found camp frustrating for the lack of opportunity for relief. The fly-infested latrines were the only possible venues, but, unaccountably, self-abuse lost its allure there. However, I was in love with a boy in my patrol. I never really thought about sex with him, but we would roll around on the damp grass in mock combat, laughing and shouting “Help! Homo! Rape!” loudly enough, supposedly, to disguise our covert desire from the others. And from each other” (Dermod Moore in Diary of a Man [about his experience as a Boy Scout]).
  • Extract 3: “In 1930, André Breton, while discussing sexuality in the loosely formed group of surrealists, remarked comparably: What do you think about when you masturbate? André Breton: It is accompanied by a series of fleeting images of different women (dream women) or I knew or know but never a woman I have loved”.

These three selections are presented as “direct observations” and then followed by an extract from a book The Ultimate Aphrodisiac by John Hole. In the novel, the book’s main protagonist Norman Ranburn says:

  • Extract 4: “It didn’t matter that he might be in love with her. Love meant nothing at his age. Except, he discovered with some fascination, that he didn’t want to besmirch and overlay his vision of her with a dirty wanker’s fantasy”.

Unsurprisingly, Seuntjens notes there is no scientific research into the MFP and also claims there is little research on masturbatory fantasizing more generally. His first port of call are Nancy Friday’s books My Secret Garden (the best selling book on female sexual fantasies) and Men in Love, Men’s Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love Over Rage. Two of Friday’s respondents arguably describe the MFP when they are reported as saying:

  • Extract 5: “The funny thing is, when I’m dating someone I really care for, I never fantasize about them…Usually my thoughts center around a man I find fantastically attractive and very nice, i.e., a customer, a stranger on the street, someone I don’t know too well” (‘Beth Anne’).
  • Extract 6: “By age twenty, still a virgin, I had had a succession of enchanting teen-age affairs – but since nice girls didn’t have sexual organs and certainly didn’t fuck, I didn’t even attempt to fondle a breast or introduce ‘French’ kissing. I didn’t even feel free to fantasize my latest love for masturbation purposes, usually resorting to her sister or one of her less attractive girl friends instead. One’s love had to be kept on a special Pedestal” (‘Don’).

Friday then goes onto speculate (in her book Forbidden Flowers: More Women’s Sexual Fantasies) that:

“One of the ironies of fantasy is that the hero of our erotic reveries is rarely the man we love. Perhaps it is the very fulfillment and satisfaction we get from him that leaves nothing to the imagination, and so we need these strangers in the night to people our imaginary sexual worlds. They bring us the excitement of the unknown”.

In an arguably more scientific piece of research, Seuntjens made reference to Dr. Brett Kahr’s 2007 book Sex and the Psyche that included reference to his British Sexual Fantasy Research Project comprising 13,553 participants and additional and in-depth face-to-face interviews with a further 122 people. Dr. Kahr made no direct reference to MFP but did note a more negative reason as to why some people do not fantasize about people they love:

“Many of the people whom I interviewed told me that they did not want to fantasize about the partner with whom they had had a row only hours before, the same partner who had spent all their money and had bored them with endless stories about their tedious work colleagues”.

Although the evidence presented by Seuntjens for the MFP was (at best) arguably anecdotal, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. If it does exist, the obvious question to ask why some people may ‘suffer’ from the MFP while others don’t. As Seuntjens concluded:

“If Freud intended the paradox primarily for the physical act of sex, the Masturbation Fantasy Paradox describes the phenomenon for the mental process of fantasizing. The Masturbation Fantasy Paradox, if it is a genuine phenomenon, may prove to be a special case of the more general paradox of love and desire so pointedly expressed in Freud’s dictum”.

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

Further reading

Freud, S. (1912). On the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love’. ‘Contributions to the psychology of love II’ in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (1957), Vol. XI, London: Hogarth Press.

Friday, N. (1973). My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies. New York: Pocket Books.

Friday, N. (1975). Forbidden Flowers: More Women’s Sexual Fantasies. London: Arrow Books.

Friday, N. (1980). Men in Love, Men’s Sexual Fantasies: The Triumph of Love Over Rage. London: Arrow Books.

Fry, S. (1997). Moab is My Washpot. London: Hutchinson.

Hole, J. (1996). The Ultimate Aphrodisiac. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Kahr, B. (2007). Sex and the Psyche. London: Allen Lane

Moore, D. (2005). Diary of a Man. Dublin: Hot Press Books.

Pierre, J. (1992). Investigating Sex – Surrealist Discussions 1928-1932 (translated by Malcom Imrie). New York: Verso.

Seuntjens, W. (2013). The Masturbation Fantasy Paradox: An overlooked phenomenon? Journal of Unsolved Questions, 3(1), 9-12

Sexual heeling: A brief look at altocalciphilia

“Nothing has been invented yet that will do a better job than high heels at making a good pair of legs look great, or great ones look fabulous” (Stuart Weitzman, shoe designer).

“It is hard not to be sexy in a pair of high heels” (Tom Ford, Gucci designer and film director)

According to Dr. Russell Belk in a 2003 article (‘Shoes and Self’) in Advances In Consumer Research, individuals in the USA “buy approximately a billion pairs of footwear a year and 80 percent of these are estimated to be purchased for purposes of sexual attraction”. Belk’s figures come from Dr. William Rossi who has been writing scientific papers on shoes for decades. I have no idea whether these figures are (or were) accurate, but there is little doubt that when it comes to sexual fetishism, shoes – and particularly high heel shoes – are one of the most common types of object that people develop fetishes for.

Individuals with a shoe fetish derive sexual arousal from shoes and footwear as (according to the Wikipedia entry) “a matter of sexual preference, psychosexual disorder, and an alternative or complement to a relationship with a partner”. As I noted in my previous blog on foot fetishism (i.e., podophilia), shoe fetishism is also referred to as retifism (named after French novelist Nicolas-Edme Rétif). The Wikipedia entry on shoe fetishism also notes that:

Individuals with shoe fetishism can be erotically interested in either men’s or women’s shoes. Although shoes may appear to carry sexual connotations in mainstream culture (for example, women’s shoes are commonly sold as being ‘sexy’) this opinion refers to an ethnographic or cultural context, and is likely not intended to be taken literally. Another fetishism, which sometimes is seen as related to shoe fetishism, is boot fetishism”.

In a previous blog on sexual fetishism more generally, I wrote about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). Their results showed that there were 44,722 members of online fetish forums, among those people preferring objects related to body parts, footwear (shoes, boots, etc.) was the second most preferred (26,739 online fetish forum members; 32% of all ‘objects related to body parts) just behind objects wore on the legs and/or buttocks (33%).

As the opening quotes highlight, high heeled footwear is often associated with sexiness. Those that find allure of high heels sexually arousing are said to have altocalciphilia (a sub-type of shoe fetishism). The online medical website Right Diagnosis says that the defining features of altocalciphilia are (i) a sexual interest in high heels, (ii) an abnormal amount of time spent thinking about high heels, (iii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving high heels, (iv) recurring intense sexual urges involving high heels, and/or (v) a sexual preference for high heels. I am not aware of any empirical research specifically into altocalciphilia but in researching this article, I did come across an interesting 2006 Master’s thesis by Ash Sancaktar who provided an analysis of shoes within the context of social history of fashion (including a chapter on shoe fetishism). In relation to high heel shoes, Sancaktar wrote that:

“There is no solid evidence that definite heels existed anywhere before 1500. According to legend, early 1500s the high heel may have been invented by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). There are earlier records of high heel shoes that served a practical function such as heeled boots horse riders wore to grip their stirrups better. However, 1533 was the year that gave birth to the high heel that served no purpose other than beauty and vanity. Catherine de Medici, when she got married to the Duke of Orleans, wore shoes with two-inch heels because she was sensitive about her lack of height…The development of a proper heel with an arched sole was the dominant feature of shoes in the seventeenth century. Elevated shoes had been known from early Hellenic times however this phase of fashion was the first time shoes were associated with the female sex. It completely altered the posture of the wearer, encouraging both men and women to carry themselves in a way which set off the flowing lines and affected manner of the Baroque period…Practicality has little to do with female high heels. They have always been essentially about allure – as they are today”.

Sancaktar also notes the association between high heeled shoes and sadomasochism by making reference to the (semi-autobiographical) book Venus in Furs by Baron Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch (from whom the term ‘masochism’ originated). Sancaktar reported that Sacher-Masoch] wrote about his experiences with his mistress in which he allowed her to whip and walk on him before kissing the shoes that had caused him pain. Sacher-Masoch’s ideal woman was cruel and wore furs and high heels. Citing the work of Linda O’Keeffe and Valerie Steele, Sancaktar wrote:

“According to [Linda] O’Keeffe ‘Women may wear slippers, put on sneakers and slip into loafers, but they dress in high heels’ (O’Keeffe 1996, p. 72). Psychologically, high heels give permission to lead than to follow. A woman might become a towering seductress or she can choose to become the subject of the object of a male…According to [Valerie] Steele, one reason high heels are considered sexy is because they produce an erect ankle and extended leg. The arch of the foot is radically curved like a ballet dancer on point. The entire lower body is thrown into a state of tension resembling that of female sexual arousal (Steele 1998, p. 18). By tilting the pelvis, her lower back arches, her spine and legs lengthen and her chest thrust out. The breasts thrust forward, and the derriére protrudes. A woman in high heels looks taller and thinner. Her legs are emphasized and the leg muscles tighten, the calves appear shapelier. And because they are at an angle, her feet look smaller and more pointed”.

Valerie Steele also notes that fetishes come in various degrees (which I agree with) and uses the example of high heeled shoe fetishes to make her point and claims there are four different levels. She claims most people are among the two lowest levels (and basically equates to people finding high heels sexually appealing). Steele provides an example of someone at level three (a French writer who would follow high heeled women women in Paris). Her example of level four was the ex-publicist of Marla Maples’ who was found guilty of stealing Maples’ shoes. Steele said the publicist “denied being a fetishist, but admitted that he had a sexual relationship with Marla’s shoes”.

This need to steal shoes appears to be backed up by podophilia and retifism articles on the ToeSlayer website:

“Possession of shoes is important to the retifist and in cases of paraphilia, men may steal the shoes they are attracted to. Kiernan (1917, reported in Rossi, 1990) first described the term kleptomania which was used when theft took place when associated with sexual excitement. ‘Hephephilia’ is a term used when there is an uncontrollable urge to steal the objects of specific focus. Many hephephiliacs are ordinary people with no criminal intention other than a compulsion to possess the object of their desire due to a repressed or complicated sex life…Many retifists keep copious records of their activities all of which adds to their excitement…It is important exploring also the symbolism and fetishism of high heels. The erotic literature on shoe fetishism often associates high heels with the image of the ‘phallic woman’. According to [Valerie] Steele, submission to the powerful ‘phallic woman’ is a very popular fantasy”.

The same author (presumably a podophile himself) in a different article on the same website then explained:

“The allure of high heels (altocalciphilia) for some people is very strong. Subconsciously this may relate to a primal instinct to identify lame prey. Throughout recorded history limping in others has been seen both as a physical weakness as well as a sexually attractive impediment. Wearing high heeled shoes can accentuate the limping characteristics in a very tantalising way…High heels are also thought to place the female pelvis in a precoital position. Whether or not this is true, the idea by itself, may cause arousal. Long legs are thought a strong arousal signal (Lloyd-Elliott, 2006). Men may be attracted to women in heels because it appeals to their superior nature seeing a member of the opposite sex vulnerable…Today, heeled shoes are very much part of the bondage ritual (Rossi, 1997) and sado-masochists maybe attracted to the perceived pain associated with wearing high-heeled shoes”.

Most of the academic writing I have read on this topic is anecdotal at best. There is much speculating and theorizing but little data. However, there is no doubt that high heel fetishism exists and that of all fetishes it appears to be one of the most common.

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

Further reading

Belk, R.W. (2003). Shoes and self. Advances In Consumer Research, 30, 27-33.

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

Kunzie, D. (2013). Fashion and Fetishism: Corsets, Tight Lacing and Other Forms of Body-Sculpture. The History Press

O’Keeffe, L. (1999). Scarpe Una Celebrazione di Scarpe da Sera, Sandali, Pantofole e Altro. Hong Kong: Sing Cheong Printing Company.

Rossi WA (1990). Foot and shoe fetishism: Part one. Journal of Current Podiatric Medicine, 39(9), 9-23.

Rossi WA (1990). Foot and shoe fetishism: Part two. Journal of Current Podiatric Medicine, 39(10), 16-20.

Sancaktar, A. (2006). An analysis of shoe within the context of social history of fashion (Doctoral dissertation, İzmir Institute of Technology)

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Steele, V., 1998. Shoes, A Lexicon of Style, (Co & Bear Productions, London).

Steele, V. (2001). Fashion, fetish, fantasy. Masquerade and Identities: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Marginality, 73-82

Wikipedia (2014). Boot fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boot_fetishism

Wikipedia (2014). Shoe fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe_fetishism

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