Category Archives: Sex addiction

Fight club: A brief look at erotic wrestling fetishes

In a previous blog on sthenolagnia (i.e., sexual pleasure and arousal from ‘muscle worship’), I briefly mentioned the overlap with erotic wrestling. In fact, in Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, she specifically refers to sthenolagnia in her entry on ‘wrestling’ for erotic purposes. If you type ‘wrestling fetish’ into Google the first dozen or more pages displays hundreds of dedicated websites that feature pornographic video clips of erotic wrestling. These include websites such as Erotic Vixen’s Wrestling, Wrestling Fetish Club, and Academy Wrestling, as well as a dedicated Facebook site Erotic Wrestling (please be warned that clicking on any of these links will take you to sites featuring explicit sexual content). The Fetish House website is one of many websites that advertises erotic female wrestling services to potential paying customers (presumably male but from what I saw they are happy for paying female customers also). The website says:

“We have left a room fairly sparsely equipped specifically for wrestling purposes. In order to minimise injury we have padded gymnastic mats on which to roll around. Your wrestling partner may be dressed in lingerie or leotards. For your safety and also for the preservation of the mats we do not wear high heeled boots or shoes during wrestling sessions. You wouldn’t want to have an eye gouged out by accident just because you liked the look of your savage Dominatrix in stilettos! You can opt to wrestle on a bed if you prefer for very light sessions, but extra care will need to be taken to not fall from the bed or cause damage to any item in the room. Wrestling sessions are strictly by appointment only. They are extremely physical and therefore have a higher price. Your Mistress, more often than not, will have to completely re-do her hair and makeup after a wrestling session which, of course, takes extra time. Remember that, even though your Mistress may be extremely strong for a female, you are to always allow Her to win – even though you believe at times you may be able to overpower Her. These are the rules of wrestling! The only time it would be acceptable to win during a wrestling bout with a female from Fetish House is when she is a submissive and has consented to this activity before the commencement of the session”

There are clearly overlaps with sexual masochism and there are female domination websites that also cater for those who have erotic wrestling fantasies and fetishes (such as the Get Your Ass In The Ring website). In addition, there is plenty of erotic wrestling fan fiction such as that housed at the Literotica website, as well as various books such as Nikki Novak’s Bring It, Bitch: The Secret Life of a Catfighter Exposed and DVDs such as Women’s Erotic Wrestling: Hardcore Booty Battle and Extreme Chick Fights – Barely Legal. It’s also worth mentioning that in addition to the hundreds of websites catering for heterosexual wrestling fetishes, there are a fair few out there for gay men too (such as the Fight Lads and Bonesutra websites – again be warned that these are sexually explicit should you click on the hyperlinks).

Finding something more academically based has proved much harder to come by, and even finding online self-confessions were hard to come by, but I came across these two:

Extract 1: “I can’t exactly remember where in my life it stemmed from. But I am turned on by women defeating men in wrestling. And this is a fetish I’m very immersed in. I’m still trying real hard to find a girl to do this with me, but I haven’t had any luck yet. I had some girlfriends in the past, but they preferred not to play it out with me. I guess my ultimate fantasy is being trapped in a girl’s head scissor while she’s wearing a leotard. I think the head scissor thrills me the most because in a sense its a very erotic and humiliating hold. And no – don’t tell me to go see a dom[anatrix] because that’s not my thing. Also I can’t meet up with a women session wrestler, because I have no money at the moment”

Extract 2: “I have a wrestling fetish, Like as in erotic wrestling I can’t seem to find any other women into this? Am I weird? Are there any other women out there into putting a man in between their thigh’s and making him do what they want and vise versa?”

In my previous blog on sthenolagnia and muscle worshippers, I noted that such individuals can derive sexual arousal from simply touching those with highly visible muscles (often referred to as the ‘dominator’ – and typically a fitness instructor, bodybuilder, wrestler, etc.). The various tactile activities that can facilitate sexual pleasure include rubbing, massaging, kissing, licking, and/or other more diverse activities including lifting, carrying, and (in the context of this blog) engaging in wrestling moves. The first academic paper that I located that even mentioned erotic wrestling fetishes was a 1984 paper by Dr. Joseph Slade in the Journal of Communication. Slade examined the history of violence in hard-core pornographic film. The reference was only a passing reference about film content, and noted:

“Men ‘punish’ a female for teasing or flirting, for masturbating, or for copulating with another man or woman. Women may spank other women (a bow to the women-wrestling fetish) or humiliate men, taunting their impotence or ordering them to perform acts of submission”.

Dr. Joseph Cautela published a paper in a 1986 issue of the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry that presented a behavioural analysis of a fetish via an interview transcript of a therapy session with a 31-yr-old male who became aroused when he thought about boys’ feet. Obviously the man being treated was primarily a podophile (foot fetishist) with paedophile interests. However, the interview transcript makes clear that the man had masturbatory fantasies about wrestling with boys. However, Dr. Cautela simply pointed out that the pairing of sexual arousal via masturbation while thinking about wrestling with boys only strengthened the associative link and strengthened the persistence of the fetish.

In my previous blog on muscle worshippers, I made reference to a book by H.A. Carson called A Roaring Girl: An Interview with the Thinking Man’s Hooker. Part of that book focused on the ‘muscle girl’ phenomenon, and the interviewee was asked by Carson whether many of her clients fantasize about female bodybuilders. She replied also by making reference to erotic wrestling. More specifically she noted that:

“Female bodybuilders call their groupies schmoos, and a lot of schmoos pay…Most of [them] were into wrestling – you know: the Chyna Syndrome, i.e., the fantasy of being bodyslammed by a muscular woman. But a lot of them are into body and muscle worship”.

In 2008, Dr. Niall Richardson published a paper in the Journal of Gender Studies with a punning title I would have been proud of (i.e., ‘Flex-rated! Female bodybuilding: feminist resistance or erotic spectacle?’). Richardson noted:

“One of the fastest growing forms of erotic representation is the newly-christened form of sexual fetishism termed ‘muscle-worship’ – a form of sexual fetishism which has only recently reached public attention through the new-found availability of videos/DVDs and, most significantly, the Internet…[Various sites sell] videos and DVDs of flexing or wrestling ‘Amazons’, ‘Valkyries’ or ‘Muscle Goddesses’…Like all forms of fetishism, muscle-worship is about the adoration of the fetish object itself rather than copulation. As Krafft-Ebing described, for the fetishist, ‘the fetish itself (rather than the person associated with it) becomes the exclusive object of sexual desire’ and therefore ‘instead of coitus, strange manipulations of the fetish’ are the sexual goal (Krafft-Ebing quoted in Steele 1996, p. 11). For muscle-worshippers, oiling up and massaging muscles, watching a bodybuilder flexing (especially seeing the muscle bulge and swell) and displaying feats of strength is not necessarily a precursor to copulation. Instead, the activity of muscle-worship is, for muscle-worshippers, the satisfying sexual act”.

This extract implies there is some crossover between muscle worship and wrestling fetishes (and appears to have good face validity). However, from all the reading that I have done there appears to be almost no psychological overlap between wrestling fetishes and mud wrestling as the latter is rooted far more in ‘wet and messy’ fetishism and salirophilia as apposed to muscle worship and sthenolagnia, although in the absence of empirical data I might be completely wrong. However, as with many paraphiliac and fetishistic behaviours I have examined, we know nothing about the prevalence or etiology of the behaviour.

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.

Carson, H.A. (2010). A Roaring Girl: An interview with the Thinking Man’s Hooker. Bloomington, IN: Author House.

Cautela, J.R. (1986). Behavioral analysis of a fetish: First interview. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 17, 161-165.

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

Novak, N. (2010). Bring It, Bitch: The Secret Life of a Catfighter Exposed and New Tradition Books.

Richardson, N. (2008): Flex-rated! Female bodybuilding: feminist resistance or erotic spectacle? Journal of Gender Studies, 17, 289-301

Sex and the University (2008). Sthenolagnia: Muscle fetishism. Located at: http://sexandtheuniversity.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/sthenolagnia-muscle-fetishism/

Joseph W. Slade (1984). Violence in the Hard-core Pornographic Film: A Historical Survey. Journal of Communication, 34, 148-163.

Steele, V. (1996). Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wikipedia (2012). Muscle worship. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_worship

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

A touch too much? A brief look at hyphephilia

In a previous blog I briefly examined frotteurism (in which a person derives sexual pleasure or gratification from rubbing, especially the genitals, against another non-consensual person, typically in a public place such as a crowded train, or in crowded places such as malls, elevators, on busy sidewalks, and on public transportation vehicles). This behaviour is closely related to (or a sub-type) of ‘toucherism’ depending upon which source you read. Some descriptions of toucherism claim that the individual touches or fondles other people (rather than rubbing) to gain sexual arousal. For instance, the online Psychology Dictionary define toucherism as carnal interest and stimulation gathered from touching a stranger on an erotic area of their body, especially the buttocks, breasts, or genitalia. This is frequently done as an alleged in tight spaces”. Similarly, the Wikipedia entry says that:

“Toucherism refers to sexual arousal based on grabbing or rubbing one’s hands against an unexpecting (and non-consenting) person. It usually involves touching breasts, buttocks or genital areas, often while quickly walking across the victim’s path…[The late Czech-Canadian] sexologist Kurt Freund described toucherism as a courtship disorder”

In fact, Freund wrote numerous papers claiming that behaviours such as toucherism, frotteurism, and exhibitionism are caused by ‘courtship disorders’. According to Freund, normal courtship comprises four phases: (i) location of a partner, (ii) pre-tactile interactions, (iii) tactile interactions, and (iv) genital union. Freund proposed that toucherism is a disturbance of the third phase of the courtship disorder. Similarly, Professor John Money proposed the ‘‘lovemap’’ theory (in his 1986 Lovemaps book) suggesting that paraphiliac behaviour occurs when an abnormal lovemap develops which interferes with the ability to participate in loving sexual intercourse.

The reason why I began this article by briefly re-visiting frotteurism and toucherism is that there is a tactile fetishistic behaviour called ‘hyphephilia’ that I would argue is a sub-type of toucherism but not necessarily a sub-type of frotteurism (suggesting that toucherism and frotteurism may be two separate sexual paraphilias). In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Anil Aggrawal defines hyphephilia as a paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from touching skin, hair, leather, or fur (although these could be very specific paraphilias – such as trichophilia that describes those individuals that derive sexual arousal from human hair). This is similar (but not the same) to the online English Encyclopedia that notes:

“In psychiatry, [hyphephilia is] a sexual perversion in which sexual arousal and orgasm depend upon touching or rubbing the partner`s skin or hair, or upon the sensations related to feeling fur, leather, fabric, or other substances in association with sexual activity with the partner”.

The Right Diagnosis medical website adds an arguably zoophilic element by claiming that the symptoms of hyphephilia are a (i) sexual interest in the feel and smell of animal skin, fur or leather, (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving the feel and smell of animal skin, fur or leather, (iii) recurring intense sexual urges involving the feel and smell of animal skin, fur or leather, and/or sexual preference for the feel and smell of animal skin, fur or leather. Finally, Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology is a little more technical and says that:

“Hyphephilia [is] one of a group of paraphilias of the fetishistic/talismanic type in which the sexuoerotic stimulus is associated with the touching, rubbing, or the feel of skin, hair, leather, fur, and fabric, especially if worn in proximity to erotically significant parts of the body”.

Dr. Eric Hickey (in his book Serial Murderers and Their Victims) notes that paraphilic behaviour is very common among those that commit sexual crimes but that the two activities (sex offending and paraphilias) may be two independent constructs and that one does not necessarily affect the other. Hickey asserts that hyphephilia is one of the so-called ‘preparatory paraphilias’ (as opposed to the ‘attack 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”. However, Hickey notes that individuals that engage in preparatory paraphilias do not necessarily go on to become serial killers.

Like many paraphilic and fetishistic behaviours, there is no scientific agreement concerning the cause of hyphephilia. This probably depends on the person rather than a single characteristic factor. Most experts would no doubt attribute hyphephilic behaviour to an initially random or accidental touching of the specific item that the individual subsequently finds sexually arousing. Through processes such as classical and operant conditioning, successive repetitions of the associative pairings of the behaviour would then reinforce the behaviour and result in the behaviour being repeated.

One of the few references I came across that mentioned hyphephilia is an interesting paper by Dr. Stephen J. Gould in a 1991 volume of Advances in Consumer Research. He claimed the field of sex research had been overlooked by consumer research, and that John Money’s concept of ‘lovemaps’ could be applied. More specifically, he asserted:

“I want to suggest that there exist what we can call consumer lovemaps. This concept represents an adaptation of Money’s (1984) lovemap theory. He defines a lovemap as that which ‘carries the program of a person’s erotic fantasies and their corresponding practices’. Based on the lovemap concept, Money has developed a typology of paraphilias (perversions) each with their own lovemap (e.g. autonepiophilia – diaperism; hyphephilia – lover of fabrics). Each also follows certain strategies of sexual response – the two examples of autonepiophilia and hyphephilia, for instance, represent a fetishistic sexual strategy. In this context, we may define a consumer lovemap as including those aspects of the more general lovemap which involve consumption, i.e. the purchase and use of products in the process of attracting a mate, engaging in sexual activity, and developing and maintaining sexual-love relationships”.

Here, hyphephilia is simply defined as someone that derives sexual arousal from the touching of fabrics. This is not uncommon as a number of online articles also simply define hyphephilia as such. For instance, an article (‘A passion for fabrics’) by Sylvie Marot began by noting:

“[French psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault wrote] ‘We love to run our hand across fur; we would like silk to slide itself across the back of our hand. Fur calls for an active caress in its form: silk caresses with a uniform sweetness a skin that becomes passive; then it reveals, so to speak, a nervousness in its breaks and cries’. To classify this specific research on the aphrodisiac virtues of silk, two neologisms appeared necessary to him: hyphephilia – the erotics of fabric – and aptophilia – ecstasy of the touch. The man (the fetishist?), who loved dearly ‘the cry of silk’, was able to identify with a maniacal precision the different points of a hem – ‘scallop, buttonhole, flange, blanket stick, tab, etc.’. Like some of his patients, seamstresses by profession, he was not content to merely enjoy fabrics, conceiving for himself draped figures manufactured at his request according to his own drawings”.

Although hyphephilia is unlikely to be problematic for many, those that want therapy are likely to receive the same types of therapeutic intervention that are recommended for frotteurism (behaviour therapy, reality therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, etc.) – although the most critical thing is that the person that seeks such treatment must want to actively change such behaviour. The Right Diagnosis website claims that:

“Treatment [for hyphephilia] is generally not sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way and they feel compelled to address their condition. The majority of people simply learn to accept their fetish and manage to achieve gratification in an appropriate manner”

In his 1998 book Gay, Straight, and In-Between, Professor John Money described hyphephilia as a “touchy-feely paraphilia”. The case that Money described was arguably extreme and doesn’t quite fit the definitions I outlined above. He reported:

“In a particular case [a female hyphephilac] entailed the feel of…small dogs placed between the legs and rubbed against the genitals. The way of attaining orgasm surpassed that of ordinary sexual intercourse, which was so aversive that it was discontinued in the marriage. The paraphilic activity had its onset in a dismal history of illegitimacy and childhood neglect and traumatic abuse. In adolescence, there was a history of noncopulatory sexual activity with a middle-aged male relative. In the manner typical for paraphilia, the feel of rubbing a small live creature between the legs was a stratagem for preserving lust as a commodity separate from love, which, in her life experiences, had always been either unattainable or warped. The moral struggle to be rid of the paraphilia was intense and not successful”.

My own reading of this case is that it is more a case of zoophilic frotteurism than hyphephilia (although the criterion of ‘touching of fur’ for sexual arousal is arguably met). In other papers, Professor Money also described formicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused by insects crawling and/or nibbling on an individual’s genitals) as a ‘touchy-feely’ paraphilia that belongs in the “hyphephilic subgroup of fetishistic paraphilias”. Personally, I wouldn’t class formicophilia as a form of hyphephilia on the basis of any definition that I have come across.

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.

Cantor, J. M., Blanchard, R., & Barbaree, H. E. (2009). Sexual disorders. In P. H. Blaney & T. Millon (Eds.), Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology (2nd ed.) (pp. 527–548). New York: Oxford University Press.

Dewaraja, R. & Money, J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 139-145.

Freund, K. (1990). Courtship disorders: Toward a biosocial understanding of voyeurism, exhibitionism, toucherism, and the preferential rape pattern. In. L. Ellis & H. Hoffman (Eds.), Crime in biological, social, and moral contexts (pp. 100–114). New York: Praeger.

Freund, K., Seto, M. C., & Kuban, M. (1997). Frotteurism and the theory of courtship disorder. In D. R. Laws & W. T. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (pp. 111-130). New York: Guilford Press.

Gould, S. J. (1991). Toward a theory of sexuality and consumption: Consumer Lovemaps. In R.H. Holman & M.R. Solomon (Eds.), Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18 (pp. 381-383). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

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

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Money, J. (1998). Gay, Straight, and In-Between: The Sexology of Erotic Orientation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pranzarone, G.F. (2000). The Dictionary of Sexology. Located at: http://ebookee.org/Dictionary-of-Sexology-EN_997360.html

Psychology Dictionary (2014). What is toucherism? Located at: http://psychologydictionary.org/toucherism/

Wikipedia (2014). Toucherism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toucherism

Insect asides: The psychology of Adam Ant

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have had a longstanding professional interest in the psychology of sexually paraphilic behaviour. My interest in the topic first began when I was a 14-year old teenager listening to Adam and the Ants B-sides (all of which were about different types of extreme and/or unusual sexual behaviours. In one of my previous blogs, I argued that Adam Ant’s music has covered more atypical sexual behaviours than any other recording artist that I can think of (e.g. sadism, masochism, bondage, fetishism, transvestism, voyeurism, etc.). There is little doubt that Adam’s music had a great influence on my career, but what were Adam’s influences that made him the person he became?

In addition to the sexual content of his lyrics, Adam’s earliest stage personas were also very sexual. Adam bought his clothes from ‘SEX’, the shop run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood which was also infamous for selling rubber and leather fetish wear. (McLaren later briefly became The Ants manager and even tried to get Adam and his band to star in a pornographic film with female punk band The Slits). The first t-shirt he ever bought there was provocative and controversial (featuring the ‘Cambridge Rapist‘). One of McLaren’s best-selling t-shirts (‘Vive Le Rock‘) later became the title of Adam’s 1985 single and album. Adam’s interest in sex was all-consuming and spilled over into most areas of his and The Ants lives. It was common at early gigs for Adam to be dressed in bondage gear.

One infamous incident happened at their debut gig at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (10th May 1977). To get the gig, Adam said his band were a country and western band. He then got on stage dressed in bondage trousers and a leather head mask, and performed the future S&M classic Beat My Guest (later to be a B-side of their first No. 1 hit Stand and Deliver). Predictably, they were ‘asked to leave’ after that opening number.

Early gigs (1977-1979) were known as places to buy lots of eye-catching merchandise (t-shirts, badges, posters etc.) featuring sadomasochistic and bondage sex-themes designed by Adam. Advertisements for the 1979 tour were the first to use the slogan ‘Antmusic for Sexpeople’. To Adam, ‘sexpeople’ were people who got off on sexual phenomena, who liked sexual imagery and enjoyed being sexual. In a Melody Maker interview he said ‘What weʼre basically dealing with here with is taboos, and a lot of my work as a kind of music therapy‘. Adam’s first major interview as cover star in (the now defunct) Sounds was where he was described as ‘the face that launched a thousand whips’. His breakthrough album Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980) may have surprised his new young fan base as it came with a free booklet full of sexual imagery.

Although Adam clearly has musical influences, most of those he talks about or name checks in his songs appear to have more to do with image than music or his overriding interest in sex. Early influences like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates may have inspired some of his later images. The first record he bought was Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles, but rarely makes reference to them as any kind of musical influence. The early 1970s appear to have thrown up more influences where music and sexuality was talked about in relation to the person if not their songs (Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Roxy Music). For instance, he loved the New York Dolls ‘because they looked like drag queens‘. His inspiration for forming Adam & the Ants was seeing the Sex Pistols very first gig when they supported the first band he was in (a short-lived band called Bazooka Joe). It was after this that a plethora of sexual punky songs were written for the Ants.

In an interview with Derek Hardman (Inside Out magazine, 1979), Adam described the lyrical content of his songs as dealing with ‘subjects of interest, mystery and imagination‘ and that they came from ‘living my life, reading, films, events and history‘. This quote also carries the implicit assumption that musical influences paid little (if any) part in his lyrical obsessions. The only thing that really connects sex with music is the perception that being a ‘popstar’ will bring more sexual opportunities. For instance in the Antbox book, Adam says:

“I remember being in a room with four girls watching [Marc] Bolan on ‘Top of the Pops’ and it was the first time I had actually watched four girls just absolutely dripping, climaxing , looking at a guy… Whatever it is, I want some!”

Very few of his musical heroes wrote explicit songs about sex and it is clear that the (sometimes) extreme sexuality of his lyrics originate elsewhere. By digging a little deeper it becomes abundantly clear that his interest in art lay the foundations of his sexual interests. By looking at the individuals who Adam held in high esteem, it becomes very clear that Adam’s predisposition towards sex comes not from musical influences but from figures in the 20th century art world. Adam originally wanted a career in Art after seeing an exhibition of Pop Art at the Tate Gallery in London (1971). He ended up studying Graphic Design at Hornsey College of Art (now part of Middlesex University) in North London. His favourite class was the ‘Erotic Arts’ course taught by art historian Peter Webb. This concentrated on Indian, Chinese, and Japanese traditions of erotic painting, drawing, and sculpture. Adam was also interested by women’s role in society and he was the only male at his college to take the class in ‘Women In Society’.

Adam was inspired by the iconographic images of Andy Warhol, the autoerotic paintings of Allen Jones, the neo-sadomasochistic fantasies of Hans Bellmer, and ‘sexpop’ travellers like Eduardo Paolozzi, Francis Bacon and Stanley Spencer. All these people clearly influenced his music. In 1977, Adam said:

“The S&M thing stems from [when] I was at College Art School, with John Ellis (of the Vibrators), and all the time I was at Art College I was very influenced by Allen Jones the artist. All my college work is pretty much like this, this is just a musical equivalent of what I was visually doing at college. Iʼm not personally into S&M, I mean I never smacked the arse of anybody. It’s the power and the imagery. There’s a certain imagery involved with that which I find magnetic. It’s not done viciously, if you read S&M mags and spank mags or anything like that, it’s done with an essence of humour…war dress and stuff, that just appeals to my imagination.

While at Art College, Adam did a thesis on sexual perversion:

I read lots of books and discovered much to my surprise that it wasn’t just a kick, it was a deadly serious subject. A very sort of medical thing and I found I got a source of material for my songs. I wrote a song called ‘Rubber Peoplewhich is a serious look at rubber fetishism. And I also wrote one about transvestism. Theyʼre not serious, none of my songs are serious, I mean fucking hell. Theyʼre serious to me. But the thing is that with, say, ‘Transvestism’ people just laugh at people. If somebody’s wearing a pair of rubber underpants under a pin-stripe suits it’s funny, y’know. But I don’t think itʼs funny. I don’t think it’s any more strange than watching fucking ‘Crossroads every night”

It was perhaps Adam’s art heroes that most influenced him. By looking very briefly at each of Adam’s artistic heroes, it is easy to see where the inspiration for many of his early lyrics came from. The most important influences were Allen Jones, Stanley Spencer, Eduardo Paolozzi, Hans Bellmer, Francis Bacon (name checked in the song ‘Piccadilly‘), and Andy Warhol. These brief sketches show that his early music is a direct
 musical equivalent of his heroes’ artwork (particularly Jones, Bellmer and Paolozzi). The influence of Warhol, Bacon and Spencer is more subtle. These three individuals all produced controversial work (which Adam found inspiring).

It might also be argued that all three had a somewhat troubled or tortured sexuality. This again, may have been of interest to Adam. The only other artists that Adam has singled out are Pablo Picasso and the Italian futurists. Adam was impressed by Picasso’s “genius, energy and sexuality” and was the subject of one of Adam’s best album tracks ‘Picasso Visits The Planet of the Apes. A whole song (‘Animals and Men) is devoted to the Italian futurists on the debut album (Dirk Wears White Sox). In this song he writes about the influence of Filippo Marinetti (1876-1944), Giacomo Balla (1871-1958), Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) and Carlo Carra (1881-1966). The Futurists were a 20th century avant garde movement in Italian art, sculpture, literature, music, cinema and photography. Their manifesto broke with the past and celebrated modern technology, dynamism and power. The combination of different art media was appealing to Adam although there was nothing overtly sexual in the work of its exponents.

Film – like art – was also important to Adam, and as a teenage usher at the Muswell Hill Odeon he saw lots of films in his formative years. Adam has gone on record many times to say that his film hero is Dirk Bogarde. The Ants first album (the aforementioned Dirk Wears White Sox) was named after him and some of his films provided inspiration for his songs. Many of his most notorious films (The Servant, Death In Venice, The Night Porter) dealt with taboo areas with which Adam identified and/or had a fascination with. All these films feature taboo sexual subjects (or at least taboo at the time the film was made) and probably appealed to Adam because of their taboo nature. These were all a direct influence on Adam’s early songwriting.

Outside of Dirk Bogarde and his films, Adam cites his film heroes as Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Mongomery Clift and Charles Bronson. Adam makes few references to films or film stars in his song writing, although there are name checks for Michael Caine, John Wayne, Terence Stamp, and Charles Hawtrey in ‘Friends, Clint Eastwood in ‘Los Rancheros, Steve McQueen in ‘Steve McQueen, Robert de Niro in ‘Christian Dior, and Bruce Lee in ‘Bruce Lee. He also dedicated one song that he wrote about the film Psycho (‘Norman) to its star Anthony Perkins. Again, these film stars and their films (bar Bogarde) have had little influence on his sexually themed songs.

There are very few references to literary heroes in Adam’s work and even less that is sex-related. The gay playwright Joe Orton (1933-1967) is one influence who has impacted on Adam’s life. Adam wrote one song about Orton’s homosexual relationship with his lover Kenneth Halliwell (‘Prick Up Your Ears’ on the Redux LP). However, the lyrics didn’t fit the pirate theme of the second album (Kings of the Wild Frontier) and were changed. This song eventually became ‘The Magnificent Five. In 1985, as part of his acting career, Adam performed in Joe Orton’s play Entertaining Mr. Sloane on stage at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Adam claimed that the ‘idea of playing a psychotic bisexual thug was good’. Ortonʼs comedies (Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot, and What The Butler Saw) are all black, stylish, and violent. Furthermore, they all have an emphasis on corruption and sexual perversion. With such content it is easy to see why Adam enjoyed these. However, it is not known when Adam was first aware of Orton’s work. The likelihood is that his appreciation of Orton was after many of his initial songs were written.

The German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was also one of Adamʼs literary inspirations and the subject of early live favourite ‘Nietzsche Baby. Nietzsche is most well known for his rejection of Christian morality (which no doubt appealed to Adam) and the ‘revision of all values’. Despite the influence, there was little in his writings that would have inspired Adam’s sex- related writings. Passing reference to both the US ‘beat generation’ writer Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) and the French novelist and playwright Albert Camus (1913-1960; a protagonist of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd‘ movement) make an appearance on his 1985 song ‘Anger Inc..‘ Again, these influences appear to be post-musical success and would have had little impact on his early sexual songwriting.

As a psychologist myself, I couldnʼt help make reference to Adam’s ‘psychological’ influences. The only time he has made reference specifically to a psychologist is a name check of Erich Fromm in his song ‘Friends’. It is obvious that Adam has read some of Fromm’s work as there are Frommian influences in his work. The ‘dog 
eat dog’ personality type (consciously or unconsciously) 
inspired his first big hit single (‘Dog Eat Dog). The ‘masochistic’ personality type
permeates many of his early songs. The ‘marketing’ subtypes
who concern themselves with image and style (and who feel
inadequate if they are not admired) could be argued to be
Adam himself. Alternatively he may have seen himself as the ‘productive’ type because of his creativity and ability to change himself.

By just scratching a little deeper at the surface of Adam’s influences, we see the roots of his lyrical sexuality. As time has gone on, less and less of Adamʼs songs have concerned sex. Furthermore, more love songs have made an appearance ( the LP Wonderful being a prime example). Maybe this is just an overt sign of the maturation process. Whatever it is, there is little to take away Adam’s crown as the king of sexual diversity.

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

Further reading

Ant, A. (2007). Stand and Deliver: The Autobiography. London: Pan.

Griffiths, M.D (1999). Adam Ant: Sex and perversion for teenyboppers. Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 19, 116-119.

Wikipedia (2013). Adam and the Ants. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_and_the_Ants

Wikipedia (2013). Adam Ant. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Ant

Loving on the edge: A brief look at extreme sexual behaviour

In my previous blogs I have examined a wide variety of different – but potentially dangerous – sexual fetishes and paraphilias including sexual masochism, autoerotic asphyxiation (breathplay/hypoxyphilia), enema play (klismaphilia), scat play (coprophilia), watersports (urophilia), and electricity play (electrophilia). All of these sexual behaviours could arguably be classed as ‘edgeplay’. The online Urban Dictionary, edgeplay is “sexual play that is very extreme in nature. Said to be on the edge of safety and sometimes even sanity. Can be very dangerous if not practiced correctly. [Examples include] breathplay, bloodplay, humiliation play, Total Power Exchange (TPE), [and] rape roleplay”. According to ‘lunaKM’ who describes herself as a “full-time slave in an M/s relationship” and the editor (and founder) of the online Submissive Guide, edgeplay has three definitions (that I have reproduced verbatim below)

  • Definition 1: Edgeplay is SM play that involves a chance of harm, either physically or emotionally. It’s also subjective to the players involved; what is risky for me might not be risky for you and visa versa. A few examples of edge play under this definition are fireplay, gunplay, rough body play including punching and wrestling, breath play and blood play.
  • Definition 2: Edgeplay can also literally mean play with an edge. Such examples of play are cutting, knives, swords and other sharp implements. These forms of edge play also fall under the broad term in [the definition above]
  • Definition 3: Any practice which challenges the limits or boundaries of one or more of the participants.

In his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Anil Aggrawal notes that edgeplay is dangerous in many different ways as the activities may involve (i) increased risk of spreading disease (e.g., through cutting or bloodplay), (ii) psychological danger (e.g., humiliation play, incest fantasies, rape roleplay), (iii) challenging social taboos (ageplay, scat fetishism, and racial slurs), and (iv) even permanent harm or death (e.g., gunplay and breathplay). Such activities can be done alone, with a partner, or with a group of people. From what I have read anecdotally online, edgeplay enthusiasts claim they know the human body better than most medical professionals, and attempt to exercise as much safety as is humanly possible when going to the point of near death and then resuscitation.

The Wikipedia entry on edgeplay also roots edgeplay within BDSM sexual practices but adds that it is a “subjective term for types of sexual play that are considered to be pushing on the edge of the traditional SSC [safe, sane and consensual] creed [and] considered more RACK [Risk-Ware Consensual Kink]”. The article also notes that such sexual acts involve risking serious (and sometimes permanent) harm including possible death. The same article also notes that what constitutes edgeplay may depend upon both an individual’s viewpoint and may change over time. Activities such as ‘ageplay’ (a form of roleplaying in which an individual acts or treats another as if they were a different age, for example a baby or toddler) or ‘rape roleplay’ (involving imagining or pretending being coerced or coercing another into sex) may be considered ‘edgy’ by some but not others. Activities such as ‘scatplay’ (coprophilia) that were considered edgy in the 1990s have arguably shifted into mainstream BDSM practices.

Journalist Rachel Rabbit White is one of the few people to have written an article on edgeplay. As she writes:

“Edgeplay is a sex thing. It is a BDSM thing. And while BDSM among consenting adults is considered cool and OK by most reasonable people, edgeplay is sort of not OK. Edgeplay refers to acts are those deemed not safe, sane, or consensual, which are the watchwords for “normal” kinky sex. This is the BDSM that is never going to end up in a bestselling erotica novel for moms….Like every flavor of kinkster, edgeplay enthusiasts talk to each other online…There’s a group devoted to the topic on FetLife, the sex-based social networking site. One of the group’s threads asks members what the ‘edgiest’ thing they’ve ever done is. Responses ranged from ‘gun play with a cop’ to ‘as a black woman, going to a 1920s themed party chained to my white partner and dressed as a piccaninny’ to ‘smearing Icy Hot on his fresh Prince Albert piercing – while he slept’. I can’t imagine a world in which that last one is sexy but just because it isn’t my thing doesn’t mean it’s wrong”.

She also confirms that what is considered ‘edgy’ has changed over the last three decades. She claims that in the 1980s and 1990s sexual activities such as scatplay, ageplay, puppyplay, and suspension by skin hook piercings were not allowed at BDSM sex conventions. However, all of these can now be found at such events. This is because “attitudes about what should be forbidden seems to have shifted thanks to people getting better [sexually] educated”. Much of this has coupled the rise of the internet where there are now numerous ‘how to’ guides on almost every type of ‘adult’ sexual activity, and articles on sexual ethics. One of the interviewees for her article (Madeline) describes edgeplay (somewhat paradoxically) as a “consensual non-consent” where activities like ‘rapeplay’ do not involve ‘safewords’ (typically used by BDSM practitioners to signal for the activity to cease). Madeline “talks lovingly” about the rapeplay between her and her husband, and claims it keeps “their long-term relationship tender and fresh, and likewise, their trusting relationship allows them to do rape play”. The article also notes that:

“Rather than glorifying [edgeplay], the BDSM community might be headed in the direction of eradicating the idea of ‘edge’ altogether. That way, the focus can be on how to communicate consent – rather than labeling acts ‘good’ or ‘bad’”.

Another article on edgeplay published by The Dominant Guide by an edgeplay practitioner also made some interesting observations. For instance:

“To understand what edge play is you must first understand that there are actually two types of edge play, personal edge play and general edge play. Personal edge play is any activity that pushes one’s personal limits. It can be anything; there honestly is no limit to what someone might consider stretching their personal boundaries. If someone were afraid of single tail [whips], then using a single tail [whip] on them would be edge play to that individual. If someone were afraid of closed in spaces, then putting him or her in a cage would be considered edge play. So you see personal edge play is different for everyone, but one thing is true in all forms, this type of play is dramatic both mentally and physically. The second type of edge play is what most people refer to as edge play. This is any activity that by common consensus is to be considered pushing the limits of safety and or sanity. Normally people consider such activities as blood play, breath play, gunplay, fireplay, needleplay and knifeplay to be edgeplay”.

The article also discusses whether those into edgeplay are insane to do what they do. (I am well aware that ‘insanity’ is a legal terms and not a psychological one, but this was the word used in the article). The author of the article asserts:

Can something be considered insane if you are aware of the risks and accept all the possible outcomes…ask a skydiver, or perhaps an astronaut, even a policeman or fireman. Every activity has some level of risk, it is only when one ignores the risks or does not logically think out all possible dangers that the action may be considered insane. If one enters into an activity informed, and educated of the risks then the activity should not be considered insane, but is should be considered dangerous, hence edge play”.

The author also claims that edgeplay is “an extremely fascinating type of BDSM” because it challenges participants mentally, physically and emotionally. I will leave you with this encapsulation of why edgeplay enthusiasts do what they do. They feel fear, pain, love, and trust takes them “to a level of experience that [they] can reach by no other manner. This activity will stretch all boundaries and affirm the relationship between two individuals in a way that no other activity can”.

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.

Caged Heart (2006). Canes & caning: Introducing Edgeplay into your relationship. Yahoo! Voices, August 2. Located at: http://voices.yahoo.com/canes-caning-introducing-edgeplay-into-bdsm-relationship-59477.html

London Fetish Fair (2014). Edgeplay Top 10 Medical Play Kit. Located at: http://www.londonfetishfair.co.uk/index.php/stands/137-top-10-essential-medical-play-items

Norische (2013). Standing on the edge: Is it edge play or not? Dominant Guide, April 26. Located at: http://dominantguide.com/172/standing-on-the-edge-is-it-edge-play-or-not/

Sir Bamm! (undated). Edge Play. Located at: http://www.sirbamm.com/edgeplay.html

White, R.R. (2012). Edgeplay isn’t your grandmother’s BDSM scene. Vice, September 12. Located at: http://www.vice.com/read/edgeplay-isnt-your-grandmothers-bdsm-scene

Wikipedia (2014). Edgeplay. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgeplay

Gonna make you sweat: The weird and wonderful world of the Woolies

“There are some people who love wool so much that they make bodysuits out of them, to wear them constantly. There is even a French wool fetishist forum to discuss their love for wool clothing. Some of these advanced knitters take their clothing experience to the next level” (from ‘8 Freakiest Fetishes’, Oddee website, June 18, 2009).

Today’s blog arguably demonstrates that human beings appear to have the capacity to fetishize almost anything. ‘Woolies’ are individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from wearing wool typically in the form of full body ‘wool suits’. (I also ought to mention that ‘woolies’ appears to be the collective name used in Europe whereas in America such people are often referred to as ‘sweaterers’ – in this blog I will use the term ‘woolies’ irrespective of where such people are located). Given the fact that (i) there is absolutely no scientific research on woolies, and (ii) woolies do not make an appearance in either Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices or Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices suggests one of two things – either that the fetish does not really exist, or that it is a relatively newly realized fetish.

There is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence that woolies exist. On a personal level, I was recently interviewed for a television documentary about the practice (Discovery Channel’s Forbidden), and was asked to comment on the case studies that appeared in the programme. For instance, one of the woolies featured was an American male, Scott from Florida, who (perhaps unsurprisingly) runs a small company selling sweaters and has had a “lifelong obsession” with wool. As a boy he claimed he would steal sweaters to hide in his school locker and in the woods near his house. He now has a collection of about 3000 sweaters, and claims to be being sexually attracted to anyone wearing a sweater, including men (even though he is heterosexual). The programme’s research team told me that:

“Scott wears a sweater out as much as possible, he’s also got a special two-piece with knitted pants that he wear around the house. Scott describes it as a secret fetish because no one knows that he’s actually getting turned-on just by walking the streets in his sweater. Scott regularly holds sweater photo-shoots. Here he’ll introduce us to other like-minded ‘sweaterers’ who travel to meet up with him and have some sweater fun and model the gear”.

The programme also featured a German woman (‘Lady Mohair’) who sells full-body knitted outfits to people worldwide. She introduces the audience to a few of her more “eccentric” woolies such as ‘Knuti’ who assumes the persona of a woolly polar bear persona.However, there are also various online discussion forums for those who engage in the behaviour (such as the Woolfreaks website). Perhaps the largest collection of sexualized (as opposed to sexy) costumes worn by woolies can be found on the French online fetish forum Doctissimo (be warned, some of the photographs are very sexually explicit in the form of crotchless costumes).

A recent 2013 article on woolies was published on the Sangbleu website. The article claimed that:

“The wool fetish is possibly one of the most mundane but simultaneously bizarre fetishes in existence. ‘Woolies’ as they have become to be known partake in the enjoyment of feeling the warm and fibrous softness of wool in its many different textures and knitted techniques upon their own or others skin. This could be from the subtleness of a woman wearing a turtleneck sweater or to the other extreme of being partially mummified in countless layers of blankets”.

From my own reading of the phenomenon, it is the latter mummified state of dress that appears to be the most fetishized as many of these fully dressed fetishists look like they are wearing woollen gimp suits. The (unnamed) author of the Sangbleu article attempted to join one of the online ‘woolies’ forums. It was noted that admission to the forum was processed by having to highlight whether (say) mohair or angora was the preferred fetish fabric. It was reported that:

“Some people were more particular and get off on the sensation of seeing their partners in particular knitted garments like heavily knitted socks, hats, leg warmers, or scarves. A lot of the images [on the forum site] demonstrate specially created full body suits to fulfill the need of being completely consumed by wool throughout the day. The totally surreal nature of resembling a friendly yeti in soft colours may not be what we all expect of normal sexuality but the amount of depth and variations that this fetish possesses expands on its sensual nature. Whether this constitutes the itchiness of wiry wool against the skin or the way in which clothing can trap the body with its heaviness, this fetish seems to have many more possibilities that how it initially appears”.

There’s also a website (i.e., Sweaterslut) that was set up as a dare and a way of gaining insight to the phenomenon by interviewing one of the leading woolies (i.e., Woolmaster) in the wool fetish community. The (again unnamed) author wrote that:

“For some time now I have been investigating that strange phenomenon called ‘sweater fetish’, a condition where a person is aroused by the sight of, or wearing, a woollen sweater. In the course of my investigations I came across a site maintained by a man named ‘Woolmaster’. In this site, Woolmaster kept a rich repository of stories and pictures depicting women and mostly men in sweaters. It seemed to me that Woolmaster suffered from the schizophrenic character so common among sadomasochists: he could not decide whether to imagine himself as the ‘sweaterer’ or the ‘sweatered’. This was what led me to ask him for details, which in turn led to this strange dare [to set up the Sweaterslut website]”.

I would speculate that on some level, woolies are not really that different from those fetishists into rubber, leather or latex (although I personally see materials like latex and leather as far more inherently ‘sexy’ than wool). The research team on the television show I contributed to told me that:

“This warm, fuzzy, world of wooly lovers is small but diverse. Some fetishize total wooly enclose. They’ll wrap themselves up in layers and layers and sweat it out for hours! It’s often about a feeling of security. Many own specially made full-body knitted suits, and bizarre looking head coverings, designed to keep them covered from head to toe in wool. The demand and desire for these strange outfits is met by a handful of professional knitters around the world who have made it their business to cater to obsessive wool lovers”.

The only other article of any length that I have found on woolies was at the Myshka NYC website. The (presumably female) author Myshka appears to assume that woolies are in some way sexual masochists and claims:

“This branch of huggable submissives have joined warm and fuzzy knit outfits, covering every square inch of the body of course, with the traditional dress codes of shiny, black leather and clear plastic bags as in the S&M community as acceptable, kinky fodder. Are these enthusiasts merely adults that couldn’t bear the postpartum depression that comes with giving up your childhood blanket or are they instinctively stimulated and aroused by the around-the-clock sensation of wool touching skin…Made of wool and mohair, these stifling suits of armor gained popularity among the sexual underground when a French designer and fetishist began knitting full-size costumes for bedroom play. It seems that from their inception, the hand-crafted bodysuits were enough to rouse the more damaged deviants that floated to the surface…You might be thinking ‘Tactile obsession is nothing new to BDSM or fetish culture’ and you’d be right”.

I realize that in the absence of any academic research today’s blog has leaned more towards anecdotal journalism than something more considered and empirical. However, my own view is that wool fetishists exist but that like many other niche fetishes I have covered on my blogs, the incidence and prevalence is likely to be very small.

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

Further reading

Morgan, G. (2009). 8 Freakiest Fetishes. Oddee, June 18. Located at: http://www.oddee.com/item_96718.aspx

Myshka NYC (2011). Woolies and the snuggly wobbly fetish you’ve never heard of. August 10. Located at: http://mishkanyc.com/bloglin/2011/07/23/woolies-and-the-snuggly-wubbly-fetish-ive-never-heard-of/

Sangbleu (2012). Wool fetish. June 7. Located at: http://sangbleu.com/2013/06/07/wool-fetish/

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