Category Archives: Sex addiction

The cycle of love: Another look at objectum sexuality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All around the lobe: A brief look at ear fetishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

Handy crafts: A brief look at fingernail fetishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Under pressure: A brief look at inflatable rubber suit fetishism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech’s appeal: Another look at Internet addiction

Generally speaking, Internet addiction (IA) has been characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupation, urges, and/or behaviours regarding Internet use that lead to impairment or distress in several life domains. However, according to Dr. Kimberly Young, IA is a problematic behaviour akin to pathological gambling that can be operationally defined as an impulse-control disorder not involving the ingestion of psychoactive intoxicants.

Following the conceptual framework developed by Young and her colleagues to understand IA, five specific types of distinct online addictive behaviours were identified: (i) ‘cyber-sexual addiction’, (ii) ‘cyber-relationship addiction’, (iii) ‘net compulsions (i.e., obsessive online gambling, shopping, or trading), (iv) ‘information overload’, and (v) ‘computer addiction’ (i.e., obsessive computer game playing).

However, I have argued in many of my papers over the last 15 years that the Internet may simply be the means or ‘place’ where the most commonly reported addictive behaviours occur. In short, the Internet may be just a medium to fuel other addictions. Interestingly, new evidence pointing towards the need to make this distinction has been provided from the online gaming field where new studies (including some I have carried out with my Hungarian colleagues) have demonstrated that IA is not the same as other more specific addictive behaviours carried out online (i.e., gaming addiction), further magnifying the meaningfulness to differentiate between what may be called ‘generalized’ and ‘specific’ forms of online addictive behaviours, and also between IA and gaming addiction as these behaviours are conceptually different.

Additionally, the lack of formal diagnostic criteria to assess IA holds another methodological problem since researchers are systematically adopting modified criteria from other addictions to investigate IA. Although IA may share some commonalities with other substance-based addictions, it is unclear to what extent such criteria are useful and suitable to evaluate IA. Notwithstanding the existing difficulties in understanding and comparing IA with behaviours such as pathological gambling, recent research provided useful insights on this topic.

A recent study by Dr. Federico Tonioni (published in a 2014 issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors) involving two clinical (i.e., 31 IA patients and 11 pathological gamblers) and a control group (i.e., 38 healthy individuals) investigated whether IA patients presented different psychological symptoms, temperamental traits, coping strategies, and relational patterns in comparison to pathological gamblers, concluded that Internet-addicts presented higher mental and behavioural disengagement associated with significant more interpersonal impairment. Moreover, temperamental patterns, coping strategies, and social impairments appeared to be different across both disorders. Nonetheless, the similarities between IA and pathological gambling were essentially in terms of psychopathological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and global functioning. Although, individuals with IA and pathological gambling appear to share similar psychological profiles, previous research has found little overlap between these two populations, therefore, both phenomena are separate disorders.

Despite the fact that initial conceptualizations of IA helped advance the current knowledge and understanding of IA in different aspects and contexts, it has become evident that the field has greatly evolved since then in several ways. As a result of these ongoing changes, behavioural addictions (more specifically Gambling Disorder and Internet Gaming Disorder) have now recently received official recognition in the latest (fifth) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Moreover, IA can also be characterized as a form of technological addiction, which I have operationally defined as a non-chemical (behavioural) addiction involving excessive human-machine interaction. In this theoretical framework, technological addictions such as IA represent a subset of behavioural addictions featuring six core components: (i) salience, (ii) mood modification, (iii) tolerance, (iv) withdrawal, (v) conflict, and (vi) relapse. The components model of addiction appears to be a more updated framework for understanding IA as a behavioural addiction not only conceptually but also empirically. Moreover, this theoretical framework has recently received empirical support from several studies, further evidencing its suitability and applicability to the understanding of IA.

For many in the IA field, problematic Internet use is considered to be a serious issue – albeit not yet officially recognised as a disorder – and has been described across the literature as being associated with a wide range of co-occurring psychiatric comorbidities alongside an array of dysfunctional behavioural patterns. For instance, IA has been recently associated with low life satisfaction, low academic performance, less motivation to study, poorer physical health, social anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and depression, poorer emotional wellbeing and substance use, higher impulsivity, cognitive distortion, deficient self-regulation, poorer family environment, higher mental distress, loneliness, among other negative psychological, biological, and neuronal aspects.

In a recent systematic literature review conducted by Dr. Wen Li and colleagues (and published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior), the authors reviewed a total of 42 empirical studies that assessed the family correlates of IA in adolescents and young adults. According to the authors, virtually all studies reported greater family dysfunction amongst IA families in comparison to non-IA families. More specifically, individuals with IA exhibited more often (i) greater global dissatisfaction with their families, (ii) less organized, cohesive, and adaptable families, (iii) greater inter-parental and parent-child conflict, and (iv) perceptions of their parents as more punitive, less supportive, warm, and involved. Furthermore, families were significantly more likely to have divorced parents or to be a single parent family.

Another recent systematic literature review conducted by Dr. Lawrence Lam published in the journal Current Psychiatry Reports examined the possible links between IA and sleep problems. After reviewing seven studies (that met strict inclusion criteria), it was concluded that on the whole, IA was associated with sleep problems that encompassed subjective insomnia, short sleep duration, and poor sleep quality. The findings also suggested that participants with insomnia were 1.5 times more likely to be addicted to the Internet in comparison to those without sleep problems. Despite the strong evidence found supporting the links between IA and sleep problems, the author noted that due to the cross-sectional nature of most studies reviewed, the generalizability of the findings was somewhat limited.

IA is a relatively recent phenomenon that clearly warrants further investigation, and empirical studies suggest it needs to be taken seriously by psychologists, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists. Although uncertainties still remain regarding its diagnostic and clinical characterization, it is likely that these extant difficulties will eventually be tackled and the field will evolve to a point where IA may merit full recognition as a behavioural addiction from official medical bodies (ie, American Psychiatric Association) similar to other more established behavioural addictions such as ‘Gambling Disorder’ and ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’. However, in order to achieve official status, researchers will have to adopt a more commonly agreed upon definition as to what IA is, and how it can be conceptualized and operationalized both qualitatively and quantitatively (as well as in clinically diagnostic terms).

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

Please note: This article was co-written with Halley Pontes and Daria Kuss.

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2000). Internet addiction – Time to be taken seriously? Addiction Research, 8, 413-418.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Internet abuse and internet addiction in the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 7, 463-472.

Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J., Billieux J. & Pontes, H.M. (2016). The evolution of internet addiction: A global perspective. Addictive Behaviors, 53, 193–195.

Griffiths, M.D. & Pontes, H.M. (2014). Internet addiction disorder and internet gaming disorder are not the same. Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy, 5: e124. doi:10.4172/2155-6105.1000e124.

Király, O., Griffiths, M.D., Urbán, R., Farkas, J., Kökönyei, G. Elekes, Z., Domokos Tamás, D. & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Problematic internet use and problematic online gaming are not the same: Findings from a large nationally representative adolescent sample. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 17, 749-754.

Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Internet Addiction in Psychotherapy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kuss, D.J., Griffiths, M.D. & Binder, J. (2013). Internet addiction in students: Prevalence and risk factors. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 959-966.

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

Kuss, D.J., Shorter, G.W., van Rooij, A.J., Griffiths, M.D., & Schoenmakers, T.M. (2014). Assessing Internet addiction using the parsimonious Internet addiction components model – A preliminary study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 351-366.

Kuss, D.J., van Rooij, A.J., Shorter, G.W., Griffiths, M.D. & van de Mheen, D. (2013). Internet addiction in adolescents: Prevalence and risk factors. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1987-1996.

Lam, L.T. (2014). Internet Gaming Addiction, Problematic use of the Internet, and sleep problems: A systematic review. Current Psychiatry Reports, 16(4), 1-9.

Li, W., Garland, E.L., & Howard, M.O. (2014). Family factors in Internet addiction among Chinese youth: A review of English-and Chinese-language studies. Computers in Human. Behavior, 31, 393-411.

Pontes, H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Measuring DSM-5 Internet Gaming Disorder: Development and validation of a short psychometric scale. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 137-143.

Pontes, H.M., Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). The clinical psychology of Internet addiction: A review of its conceptualization, prevalence, neuronal processes, and implications for treatment. Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics, 4, 11-23.

Pontes, H.M., Szabo, A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). The impact of Internet-based specific activities on the perceptions of Internet Addiction, Quality of Life, and excessive usage: A cross-sectional study. Addictive Behaviors Reports, 1, 19-25.

Tonioni, F., Mazza, M., Autullo, G., Cappelluti, R., Catalano, V., Marano, G., … & Lai, C. (2014). Is Internet addiction a psychopathological condition distinct from pathological gambling?. Addictive Behaviors, 39(6), 1052-1056.

Widyanto, L. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Internet addiction: A critical review. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 31-51.

Young, K. (1998). Caught in the net. New York: John Wiley

Young K. (1999). Internet addiction: Evaluation and treatment. Student British Medical Journal, 7, 351-352.

The dirty smack brigade: A beginner’s guide to erotic spanking

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, “erotic spanking” (i.e., so called ‘spankophilia’) is the practice of spanking another person for the sexual gratification of either or both parties. He also reported that notable ‘spankophiles’ include poet Algernon Swinburne (as repeatedly implied in his poetry) and the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (as detailed in his autobiography Confessions).

Arguably the most well known (non-academic) spanking guide is Jules Markham’s 2005 book Consensual Spanking that examines (i) why people enjoy playing spanking games, (ii) how to conduct a spanking, (iii) how to receive a spanking, (iv) spanking safely, (v) organising a typical spanking session (vi) positions, postures and presentation of spanking, (vii) the use of spanking implements, (viii) aspects of spanking in role-play, (ix) basic control techniques, (x) sensual and erotic forms of spanking, (xi) spanking as foreplay, and (xii) domestic discipline. The Wikipedia entry on erotic spanking features reference to Markham’s book and Dr. Rebecca Plante’s paper on sexual spanking in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Homosexuality and notes:

‘[Spanking] activities range from a spontaneous smack on bare buttocks during a sexual activity, to occasional sexual roleplay to domestic discipline and may involve the use of a hand or the use of a variety of spanking implements…Erotic spanking may be administered to bare buttocks or normally dressed. Spanking can involve the use of bondage…The most common type of erotic spanking is administered on the bare buttocks but can also be combined with bondage in order to heighten sexual arousal and feelings of helplessness…A spanking may be carried out with the use of a bare hand, or with any of a variety of implements, including a paddle, strap, hairbrush, or belt. Other popular tools are canes, riding crops, whips, switiches, birches, sneakers, rolled-up newspapers, rulers or martinet”

Dr. Aggrawal reports that many spankophiles make use of a ‘spanking bench’ (and sometimes referred to as a ‘spanking horse’), a piece of furniture that is used to position the person who receives the spanking (i.e., a spankee), that may or may not have restraints. Aggrawal also makes reference to the nineteenth century British dominatrix Mrs. Theresa Berkley, someone that Aggrawal claims became famous for her invention of the Berkley Horse (a multi-functional device that combined spanking bench with several other sadomasochistic functions). The Wikipedia entry claims that:

“In some cultures, the spanking of women, by the male head of the family or by the husband (sometimes called domestic discipline) has been and sometimes continues to be a common and approved custom. In those cultures and in those times, it was the belief that the husband, as head of the family, had a right and even the duty to discipline his wife and children when he saw fit, and manuals were available to instruct the husband how to discipline his household. In most western countries, this practice has come to be regarded as unlawful and socially unacceptable wife-beating, domestic violence, or abuse. Today, spanking of an adult tends to be confined to erotic spanking or to BDSM contexts. The domestic discipline scenario is commonly invoked in erotic spanking, but with a bare bottom or totally nude, with bondage and less direct physical contact being a feature of BDSM”.

Most academic research papers (such as one on sexual paraphilias and fetishism by Dr. Michael Wiederman in a 2003 issue of The Family Journal) report that spanking is part of a much wider range of sadomasochistic activities including binding, gagging, blindfolding, whipping, choking, cutting, and piercing. For instance, a 1985 study by Dr. N. Breslow and colleagues and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior examined the sexual activities of 182 sadomasochists (130 men, 52 women). The study found that the most preferred sexual activities for both sexes were spanking and involvement in master–slave relationships. A similar finding was reported by Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. E. Levitt in a 1987 study published in the Journal of Sex Research. They surveyed 225 sadomasochists recruited from a specialist SM magazine (178 men and 47 women), The most common SM behaviours were flagellation (spanking and whipping) and bondage (rope, chains, handcuffs, gags) of which 50% to 80% of participants engaged in.

A more recent 2001 Finnish study headed by Dr. Laurence Alison and published in the Archives if Sexual Behavior reported fairly similar findings. Again, flagellation (including spanking) and bondage were among the most popular activities. Most interestingly (and as I noted in a previous blog on sexual masochism), Alison and colleagues identified four sadomasochistic sub-groups based on the type of pain given and received. Spanking formed part of the first sub-group of sadomasochists. More specifically, these were:

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

In 2007, psychotherapist Brett Kahr published his book Sex and the Psyche and reported the results of a survey on adult sexual fantasies of 13,500 British men and women of all sexual orientations. Kahr reported that 18% of man and 7% of women had specific spanking fantasies. Spanking may also be associated with other sexual paraphilias. For instance, Dr. W. Arndt reported in his 1991 book Gender Disorders and the Paraphilias that among a small sample of 21 (of which 20 were male) klismaphilacs (i.e., individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from enemas), 40% of the participants reported accompanying paraphilic interests that included mild spanking and other punishments (and suggesting sexually masochistic behaviour).

Although empirical evidence suggests that erotic spanking is not particularly prevalent among the general population (at least in terms of engaging in such behaviour regularly), most academic research appears to indicate that erotic spanking is towards the ‘softer’ end of sadomasochistic activities, and that almost all instances of erotic spanking are consensual, enjoyable, and non-problematic. Consequently, treatment for the behaviour is rarely sought.

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

Further reading

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

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

Arndt, W. B., Jr. (1991). Gender Disorders and the Paraphilias. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.

Breslow, N., Evans, L., & Langley, J. (1985). On the prevalence of roles of females in the sadomasochistic subculture: Report of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 303–317.

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

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

Markham, J. (2005). Consensual Spanking. London: Adlibbed Ltd

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

Rebecca F. Plante (2006). Sexual spanking, the self, and the construction of deviance. Journal of Homosexuality, 50 (2–3), 59-79.

Wiederman, M. W. (2003). Paraphilia and fetishism. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 11, 315-321.

Crossing the see: A brief look at ‘strabismusophilia’

Some time ago I came across a 2012 online article entitled ‘18 Sexual Fetishes That Sound Made Up (But They’re Not)’ on The Date Report website. Of the 18 fetishes listed, I knew about 17 of them (15 of which I have written articles on for this blog including emetophilia [sexual arousal from vomit], dendrophilia [sexual arousal from trees], pyrophilia [sexual arpusal from fire], taphephilia [sexual arousal from being buried alive], and arachnephilia [sexual arousal from spiders]). The one that I had little awareness of was ‘cross-eyed fetishism’ (although I was aware of the sexual paraphilia ‘oculophilia’ in which individuals are sexually aroused by eyes and which I also covered in a previous blog). The article contained only one sentence relating to cross-eyed fetishes which read “Not sure what the scientific name for this fetish is, but this is good news for Dannielynn Birkhead, Anna Nicole Smith’s cross-eyed offspring”. If such a fetish exists, I would name it strabismusophilia (as strabismus is the medical condition of having non-aligned eyes).

Having already written my previous blog on eye fetishes more generally, I would argue that strabismusophilia is a sub-type of oculophilia as the condition manifests itself in a desire for actual physical contact and interaction with the eye (albeit a very particular type of eye). An online article at the Page Pulp website about sexual fetishes of famous authors alleged that F. Scott Fitzgerald had a foot fetish, James Joyce had a fart fetish, Lord Byron was a sex addict, Marquis de Sade had a fetish for “anything and everything”, (the most notable being sadomasochism), and that the philosopher Rene Descartes had a cross-eye fetish.

Descartes’ sexual fetish for cross-eyed women is well documented including the work of psychiatric sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Descartes himself wrote that:

“As a child I was in love with a girl of my own age, who was slightly cross-eyed. The imprint made on my brain by the wayward eyes became so mingled with whatever else had aroused in me the feeling of love that for years afterwards, when I saw a cross-eyed woman, I was more prone to love her than any other, simply for that flaw…The impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others, simply because they had that defect; and I did not know that was the reason.”

Descartes’ passion for cross-eyed women was also discussed in a 2011 paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, (by Alex Voorhoeve, Elie During, David Jopling, Timothy Wilson, and Frances Kamm). In one of the passages by Dr. Voorhoeve, he discussed Queen Christina of Sweden asking Descartes what causes us to “love one person rather than another before we know their merit”. According to Voorhoeve:

“Descartes replied that when we experience a strong sensation, this causes the brain to crease like a piece of paper. And when the stimulus stops, the brain uncreases, but it stays ready to be creased again in the same way. And when a similar stimulus is presented, then we get the same response, because the brain is ready to crease again. And what did he mean by all this? Well, he gave an example. He said that all his life he had had a fetish for cross-eyed women. Whenever he came across a cross-eyed woman, desire would enflame him. And he figured out…after introspection, that this was because his brain had been strongly creased by his first childhood love, who was cross-eyed”.

This classical conditioning type explanation was also alluded to in a 2011 article on the Psychology Today website by Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév that examined ‘Why Did Descartes Love Cross-Eyed Women?’ Dr. Ben-Zeév noted:

“It would appear that when Descartes fell in love with the young girl, he loved her whole Gestalt, which included other characteristics, but her crossed eyes were the most unique. This feature of the girl distinguished her from most other girls. It is as if he subconsciously thought that every woman who shared that distinctive feature would have the other positive characteristics of the girl with whom he had originally fallen in love and would therefore generate the same profound love. This attitude makes him perceive these women as beautiful…However, the fact that the girl he fell in love had the distinctive feature of crossed eyes did not mean that her other characteristics would be shared by other women who have the same feature. In fact, however, this mistaken association set off a feeling of love when he encountered this characteristic in other women…It is a kind of Pavlovian response which makes us more likely to love this person”.

It appears there are modern day adherents to cross-eyed fetishism as I found these extracts in online forums discussing the fetish:

  • Extract 1: “I get insanely turned on when I see a girl crosses her eyes. I go on video and image sites to see girls crossing their eyes. I have requested custom videos of girls crossing their eyes. I am not sure how to break this fetish. It is something that is hard for me to talk about and I recently revealed it to my girlfriend in a text. I have asked her to cross her eyes for me but she cannot do it. In fact my last two girlfriends have not been able to cross their eyes. I feel like if maybe we could play out that fetish in my personal life it would deter me from looking online at stuff. I am not sure what to do”
  • Extract 2: “I am attracted to people that have lazy eyes. The more lazy their eye, the more attractive it is to me.
It’s a huge turn-on, especially eyes that turn outward (e.g., exotropia)”
  • Extract 3: Them cross-eyed girls drive me wild! I’m a lazy eye man myself. I like when one gets a lil’ googly after they’ve had a few drinks”

Although there is no academic research on cross-eye fetishism, I did come across two other types of fetishistic behavior that overlaps with being cross-eyed. The first is in relation to balloon fetishism (i.e., individuals that get sexually aroused from inflating, deflating and/or popping balloons). I came across online sex videos that were tagged ‘cross-eyed balloon inflation’ comprising women blowing up big balloons where they were also cross-eyed (and to which male ‘looners’ found this both erotic and arousing. After watching one of these idiosyncratic videos, one looner commented: “I for one really enjoyed this [cross-eyed woman inflating a balloon] – makes it looks like she’s really concentrated on the inflation, which I like to see. And variety is nice; I, for one, get tired of clips that are too alike”. Perhaps more worryingly is the association of being cross-eyed with sexually sadistic acts of women being strangled on film on hard-core BDSM videos. As the blurb on one sex video available online noted: “There are women that are strangled, and sometimes become cross-eyed. It’s the stupid impression somehow, you will not ever afford to worry about such a thing is the person being strangled. Your beauty is one of [being] cross-eyed”.

I also wonder whether cross-eyed fetishism is a sub-type of teratophilia – typically defined as being sexually aroused by ugly people? According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, teratophilia is defined as those people who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from “deformed or monstrous people”. The online Urban Dictionary defines it as “the ability to see beauty in the unusual [and] clinically described as a sexual preference for deformed people”. Being cross-eyed could arguably fit these definitions (particularly the one from the Urban Dictionary of seeing beauty in the unusual).

From my own research, I have come to the conclusion that cross-eyed fetishism (that I have termed ‘strabismusophilia’) probably exists but is very rare with an incredibly low prevalence rate among the general population. It may be a sub-type of both oculophilia and teratophilia but further research is needed to confirm such speculations.

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.

Ben-Zeév, A. (2011). Why did Descartes love cross-eyed women? The lure of imperfection, Psychology Today, November 29. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201111/why-did-descartes-love-cross-eyed-women-the-lure-imperfection

Descartes, R. (1978). His Moral Philosophy and Psychology (translated by John J. Blom). New York: New York University Press.

Divine Caroline (2012). 18 Sexual Fetishes That Sound Made Up (But They’re Not). The Date Report, September 20. Located at: http://www.thedatereport.com/dating/sex/sexual-fetishes-emetophilia-tree-sex/

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

Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129). New York: The Disinformation Company.

Page Pulp (2014). Sexual fetishes of famous authors. Located at: http://www.pagepulp.com/2091/sexual-fetishes-of-famous-authors/

Voorhoeve, A., During, E., Jopling, D., Wilson, T., & Kamm, F. (2011). Who am I? Beyond “I think, therefore I am”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1234(1), 134-148.

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

The highs of cries: Another look at dacryphilia

In a previous blog I examined the sexual paraphilia dacryphilia. Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unususal Sexual Practices defines as “arousal from seeing tears in the eyes of a partner”. In my previous article I widened the definition of dacryphilia to include (i) sexual arousal from someone displaying strong emotion and/or (ii) sexual arousal from the emotional release that accompanies crying (i.e., an ‘emotional catharsis’). Dr. Aggrawal’s definition implies that sadism may form an inherent part of dacryphilia and implicitly indicates the potential presence of dacryphilic masochism in the recipient of sadistic dacryphilic activity. My widened definition suggested that dacryphilia could represent an extension of normative human behaviour towards crying (i.e., an extension of the desire to give attention to and comfort a crier).

Based on anecdotal data collected from online dacryphilia forums, my previous blog speculated that two distinct types may exist within the dacryphilic community: those with sadistic dacryphilic interests and those with voyeuristic dacryphilic interests. As such, dacryphilia creates a number of potential dichotomies: (i) sadomasochistic dacryphilic interests versus emotional dacryphilic interests; (ii) sadistic dacryphilic interests versus masochistic dacryphilic interests; and (iii) individuals who actively engage in dacryphilia versus individuals who passively engage in dacryphilia.

The potential contrast between sadomasochistic and emotional dacryphilic interests is of particular interest, as both of these interests occupy differing and almost opposing aspects of human sexual experience. Likewise, the potential existence of sadistic vs. masochistic, and active vs. passive interests within dacryphilia suggest that it is a non-normative sexual interest with enough variety for an interesting dataset and analysis. Furthermore, the possibility that dacryphilia represents an extension of normative human behaviour towards crying and tears raises the question of why some individuals might find sexual arousal in crying and tears. Thus, on the whole, there are a number of prospective research avenues that are implied within the limited literature on dacryphilia, but as I mentioned in my previous article there had been no empirical research into the area.

However, my research colleague Richard Greenhill and I recently published a qualitative paper on dacryphilia in the International Journal of Sexual Health. Our study comprised online interviews with eight dacryphiles (six females and two males; aged 20 to 50 years; five from the US with the others from the UK, Romania, and Belgium) and proposed a new typology of dacryphilia based on the interviews (and as far as we are aware is the first ever published study of the topic). Our participants were recruited via recruitment posts on one specific dacryphilia forum (i.e., CryingLovers), one general fetish forum (i.e., FetLife) and one BDSM forum (i.e., collarchat.com). The data were analysed using thematic analysis.

The three main thematic areas of dacryphilia we identified were: (i) compassion; (ii) dominance/submission; and (iii) curled-lips. Half of the participants (n = 4, all female) expressed their dacryphilia primarily through compassion, meaning that they enjoyed or were aroused by the compassion of comforting a crier. Four sub-themes were identified as characteristic of compassionate interests within dacryphilia: (i) dacryphilia as comforting; (ii) negative feelings towards sadomasochistic dacryphilia; (iii) dacryphilia as a natural role and/or duty; and (iv) subversion of societal and/or gender norms. For many of these participants (n = 3), the idea of dacryphilia as a comforting action from themselves to the crier forms an important part of their dacryphilic identity.

Three of the other participants (two submissive females and one dominant male) expressed their dacryphilia primarily through dominance/submission, meaning that they were aroused by either causing tears in a consenting submissive individual or being made to cry by a consenting dominant individual. Although this type of dacryphilia is often characterized as sadomasochistic by those with compassionate interests, dominant/submissive was deemed a more appropriate description, as participants in this group identified more with dominance/submission than sadomasochism. Two sub-themes were identified as characteristic of dominant/submissive interests within dacryphilia: (i) emotional and physical pain; and (ii) tears and crying as a secondary component of dominance/submission. All of those with dominant/submissive interests (n = 3) enjoyed both emotional and physical pain. 

The remaining participant (male) did not express an interest consistent with either compassion or dominance/submission. Instead, he expressed his dacryphilia primarily through an interest in curled-lips, meaning that he was aroused specifically by the curling of the lip during crying. Two sub-themes were identified as characteristic of this individual’s interest in curled-lips: (i) attraction to lips during crying; and (ii) rarity of this dacryphilic interest.

Our study not only suggested three initial areas of interest within dacryphilia, but the data we collected implied that dacryphilia may comprise a continuum of interests that can differ from each other, but which are all connected by an overarching enjoyment or arousal from tears and crying. Our study aimed to discover the different interests within dacryphilia and explore the range of dacryphilic experience. This was successfully achieved through the implementation of a set of online interviews that focussed attention on three initial possible interests within dacryphilia and assisted in reaching a sensitive and predominantly American population. Without the use of online recruitment and data collection, it is unlikely that we would have been able to carry out our study.

However, our sample size was small and may not reflect the experiences of other individuals with dacryphilic preferences and may display gender and cultural bias. A larger sample size may have led to the construction of further interests, as the interests outlined in the present study only relate to the eight participants who were interviewed. However, the fact we identified three different types of dacryphile in a sample of only eight people suggests that there are definite sub-types of dacryphilia. In particular, there appears to be a distinct difference between those who experience sexual arousal from compassionate interests and those who experience sexual arousal from dominant/submissive interests. Based on the sample in the present study, there appears to be a gender bias towards women and a cultural bias towards Americans. However, this may be a result of the limited nature of the small sample size and, as such, any extrapolation should be treated with caution.

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

Additional input: Richard Greenhill

Further reading

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

Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). The use of online asynchronous interviews in the study of paraphilias. SAGE Research Methods Cases. Located at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305013508526

Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Compassion, dominance/submission, and curled lips: A thematic analysis of dacryphilic experience. International Journal of Sexual Health, in press.

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

Holmes, S.T. & Holmes, R.M. (2002). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Milner, J. S. Dopke, C. A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.

Monroe, W. (2012). Fetish of the week: Dacryphilia. February 23. Located at: http://www.zzinsider.com/blogs/view/fetish_of_the_week_dacryphilia

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.

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

Williams, D. J. (2006). Different (painful!) strokes for different folks: A general overview of sexual sadomasochism (SM) and its diversity. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 13, 333-346.

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