Category Archives: Sex

Fight club: A brief look at erotic wrestling fetishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • First, gamblers become engrossed in gambling. ‘We have observed that many gamblers will often miss meals and even utilise devices (such as catheters) so that they do not have to take toilet breaks. Given these observations, there is sometimes little chance that we as researchers can persuade them to participate in research’ 
  • Second, gamblers like their privacy. They ‘may be dishonest about the extent of their gambling activities to researchers as well as to those close to them. This obviously has implications for the reliability and validity of any data collected.’
  • Third, gamblers sometimes notice when a person is spying on them. “The most important aspect of non-participant observation research while monitoring fruit-machine players is the art of being inconspicuous. If the researcher fails to blend in, then slot-machine gamblers soon realise they are being watched and are therefore highly likely to change their behaviour.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Event: The Ig Nobels: A celebration of Science

Time and date: 6.30 pm, Wednesday 18th March

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood discussed: A brief look at haematophagia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

Bosom buddies: A brief look at breast fetishism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming to a different view: The Masturbation Fantasy Paradox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexual heeling: A brief look at altocalciphilia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange fascinations: A brief look at unusual compulsive and addictive behaviours

In previous blogs, I have examined lots of strange types of addictive and compulsive behaviours including compulsive singing, compulsive hoarding, carrot eating addiction, Argentine tango addiction, compulsive nose-picking, compulsive punning, compulsive helping, obsessive teeth whitening, compulsive list-making, chewing gum addiction, hair dryer addictionwealth addiction, and Google Glass addiction (to name just a few).

However, while doing some research for a paper I am writing on ‘fishing addiction’ (yes, honestly), I came across an interesting paper on unusual compulsive behaviours caused by individuals receiving medication for Parkinson’s disease ([PD] a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system) and multiple system atrophy ([MSA] a degenerative neurological disorder in which nerve cells inside the brain start to degenerate and with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease).

In the gambling studies field there are now numerous papers that have been published showing that some Parkinson’s patients develop compulsive gambling after being treated for PD. According to the Parkinsons.co.uk website, those undergoing PD treatment can have many side effects including addictive gambling, obsessive shopping, binge eating, and hypersexuality. The website also notes other types of compulsive behaviour that have been associated with PD medication including “punding or compulsive hobbyism [when someone does things such as collecting, sorting or continually handling objects]. It may also be experienced as (i) a deep fascination with taking technical equipment apart without always knowing how to put it back together again, (ii) hoarding things, (iii) pointless driving or walking, and (iv) talking in long monologues without any real content”.

The paper that caught my eye was published in a 2007 issue of the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders by Dr. Andrew McKeon and his colleagues. They reported seven case studies of unusual compulsive behaviours after treating their patients with dopamine agonist therapy (i.e., treatment that activates dopamine receptors in the body). The paper described some compulsive behaviours that most people would not necessarily associate with being problematic. Below is a brief description of the seven cases that I have taken verbatim from the paper.

  • Patient 1: “A 65-year-old female with PD for 9 years developed compulsive eating, and also felt compelled to repetitively weigh herself at frequent intervals during the day and at night. She found her behavior both purposeless and repetitive. Obsessive thoughts were also a feature, as the patient ‘had to’ weigh herself three times each occasion she used the weighing scales”.
  • Patient 2: “A 67-year-old female with PD for 8 years played computer games and solitaire card games for hours on end, often continuing to do so through the night. She did not enjoy the experience and found it purposeless, but did so as she felt she had ‘to be doing something’. She also developed compulsive eating and gambling”.
  • Patient 3: “A 48-year-old male with PD for 5 years, with little prior interest, developed an intense interest and fascination with fishing. His wife was concerned that he fished incessantly for days on end, and his interest did not abate despite never catching anything. This patient also developed compulsive shopping, spending large amounts of time and money in thrift stores”.
  • Patient 4: “A 53-year-old male with PD for 13 years became intensely interested in lawn care. He would use a machine to blow leaves for 6h without rest, finding it difficult to disengage from the activity, as he found the repetitive behavior soothing. He also developed compulsive gambling”.
  • Patient 5: “The wife of a 52-year-old male with an 11-year history of PD complained that her husband now spent all of his time on his hobbies, to the detriment of their marriage. The patient made small stained glass windows, day and night. In addition, he would frequently stay awake arranging rocks into piles in their yard, intending to build a wall, but never doing so. He would start multiple projects but complete nothing. He was also noted to have become hypersexual, demanding sexual intercourse from his wife several times daily”.
  • Patient 6: “This 60-year-old male, with a history of alcohol abuse and ultimately diagnosed with MSA, relentlessly watched the clock, locked and unlocked doors and continually arranged and lined up small objects on his desk. He also became hyperphagic and hypersexual, developing an intense fascination with pornographic films”.
  • Patient 7: “The wife of a 59-year-old male with PD for 1 year described how her husband dressed and undressed several times daily. On one occasion, while guests were at their house for dinner, he spent most of his time in his bedroom repeatedly changing from one pair of trousers into another. This behavior deteriorated considerably on increasing levodopa dose to 1100mg/day, and on a subsequent occasion after reducing quetiapine from 100 to 75 mg/day”.

These cases highlight that the compulsive behaviours that develop following dopamine agonist therapy often co-occur with one or more other compulsive behaviour and that much of these behaviours are repetitive and unwanted. As the authors noted:

“The temporal association between medication initiation and the onset of these behaviors led to our suspicion that medications were causative. In the aggregate, these patients illustrate that the behaviors provoked by drug therapy in parkinsonism cover a broad spectrum, ranging from purposeless and repetitive to complex, reward-oriented behaviors. Punding is the term typically applied to the former, and was seen in Patient 5 (arranging rocks into piles) and Patient 6 (lining up small objects on a desk)…Previous descriptions of pathological behaviors occur- ring with dopaminergic therapy in PD have been notable for the absence of obsessive thoughts accompanying compulsive behaviors, unlike Patient 1 who was remark- able for a counting ritual accompanying repetitive use of a weighing scale. In six of the seven cases, other reward- seeking behaviors (gambling, shopping, hypersexuality or overeating) were present and contemporaneous with these other unusual compulsive behaviors. This suggests that all of these behaviors, while phenomenologically distinct, are all part of the range of psychopathology encapsulated by obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders”.

According to the Parkinsons.co.uk website, PD sufferers are more likely to experience impulsive and compulsive behaviour if the person is (i) diagnosed with Parkinson’s at a young age, (ii) male, (iii) single and live alone, (iv) a smoker, and (v) someone with a personal or family history of addictive behaviour. The same article also notes that if the PD sufferer has a history of ‘risk-taking’, such as gambling, drug abuse or alcoholism, [they] may be more likely to develop dopamine addiction”. This is where the PD sufferer takes more of their medication than is needed to control their Parkinson’s symptoms (and known as dopamine dysregulation syndrome). Similarly, Dr. McKeon and colleagues concluded:

“Previously described associated clinical features include a prior history of depressed mood (four patients in this series), disinhibition, irritability and appetite disturbance…A history of problems with impulse control prior to the diagnosis of PD may be a risk factor for developing compulsive behaviors with dopaminergic therapies…although this only pertained to Patient 6…The compulsions were not found to be troublesome by three patients, with complaints regarding behavioral change coming from the patient’s spouse. Our observations affirm the need to check with both patient and family at follow-up visits for the emergence of a variety of troublesome pathological behaviors that may result from dopaminergic therapy, particularly dopamine agonists”.

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

Further reading

Dodd, M. L., Klos, K. J., Bower, J. H., Geda, Y. E., Josephs, K. A., & Ahlskog, J. E. (2005). Pathological gambling caused by drugs used to treat Parkinson disease. Archives of Neurology, 62, 1377-1381.

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

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

Klos, K. J., Bower, J. H., Josephs, K. A., Matsumoto, J. Y., & Ahlskog, J. E. (2005). Pathological hypersexuality predominantly linked to adjuvant dopamine agonist therapy in Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy. Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, 11, 381-386.

McKeon, A., Josephs, K. A., Klos, K. J., Hecksel, K., Bower, J. H., Michael Bostwick, J., & Eric Ahlskog, J. (2007). Unusual compulsive behaviors primarily related to dopamine agonist therapy in Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy. Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, 13(8), 516-519.

Nirenberg, M. J., & Waters, C. (2006). Compulsive eating and weight gain related to dopamine agonist use. Movement Disorders, 21, 524-529.

Pontone, G., Williams, J. R., Bassett, S. S., & Marsh, L. (2006). Clinical features associated with impulse control disorders in Parkinson disease. Neurology, 67, 1258-1261.

Voon, V., Hassan, K., Zurowski, M., De Souza, M., Thomsen, T., Fox, S.,…& Miyasaki, J. (2006). Prevalence of repetitive and reward-seeking behaviors in Parkinson disease. Neurology, 67, 1254-1257.

Hoover damn! A brief look at sexual injury by vacuum cleaners

While researching an article on bizarre sexual injuries, I recently came across a paper on penile skin loss in a 2014 issue of Surgical Science by a group of plastic surgeons led by Dr. Adel Tolba. In the paper, the authors noted that penile skin loss “can result from traction by mechanical devices, such as farm or industrial machinery, or by suction devices, such as vacuum cleaners”. This got me wondering to what extent sexual injuries caused by vacuum cleaners had been reported in the medical literature. The earliest paper that I could on the topic was published in a 1960 issue of the British Medical Journal by Dr. Miles Fox and Dr. E.L. Barrett, and simply entitled ‘Vacuum cleaner injury of the penis’. They reported three cases of similar looking penile injuries caused by three British men seeking sexual stimulation from a vacuum cleaner.

  • Case 1: “A widower aged 57 attended hospital…because of penile lacerations…Returning from having a few drinks in a public-house and seeking erotic satisfaction, he introduced his penis into the end of a vacuum cleaner tube and switched on the machine. However, pain soon caused him to stop, and then he found his penis was congested and bleeding. On examination the glans penis was extensively lacerated, the lacerations appearing almost ‘explosive’ in nature. The urethra was not involved. The lacerations were sutured with catgut, and a soft rubber catheter was introduced for several days. Recovery was uneventful”.
  • Case 2: “A 28-year-old bachelor attended hospital…with similar extensive lacerations of the glans penis extending into the external urethral meatus. The prepuce was also lacerated. He had produced the injuries in exactly the same manner as the [patient in Case 1 above]. Circumcision was performed, the lacerations of the glans were sutured with catgut, and a self-retaining urethral catheter was introduced. Healing was satisfactory without any sign of stricture”.
  • Case 3: “A widower aged 75 [years] attended hospital…in great mental distress and complaining of pain, swelling, and laceration of the penis. He stated that while cleaning the stairs his penis had accidentally slipped into the end of a Hoover ‘Dustette’ vacuum cleaner. However he then attempted to obtain erotic stimulation by switching the motor on and off…The lacerations were not extensive enough to warrant suture or circumcision, and healed satisfactorily in two weeks”

Fox and Barrett described the use of masturbation via a vacuum cleaner as “rather ingenious but had disastrous results”. They concluded that no previous cases of penile injury by vacuum cleaner had ever previously been reported in the medical literature.

In 1973, Dr. Robert Zufall published a letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) describing a penile laceration caused by a vacuum cleaner. Dr. Zufall did not mention any sexual motive for the injury but a follow-up letter in the JAMA by Dr. Rodney Mannion responded that:

“[Dr. Zufall] appears to regard these injuries as possibly accidental. We in urology tend to believe that they occur as a form of masturbation. I have had a patient with this injury who admits to this practice, and a number of urologists also have had similar cases as we discovered at a meeting of the New England Section of the American Urologists Association in October 1972. Many of the urologists present knew of this injury”.

In 1980, another four case studies of penile sexual injuries caused by vacuum cleaners were published in the British Medical Journal by Dr. N. Citron and Dr. P. Wade:

  • Case 1: “A 60-year-old man said that he was changing the plug of his 
Hoover Dustette vacuum cleaner in the nude while his wife was out shopping. 
It ‘turned itself on’ and caught his penis, causing tears around the external 
meatus and deeply lacerating the side of the glans. The external meatus was 
reconstructed and the multiple lacerations of the glans repaired with catgut. 
The final result was some scarring of the glans, but the foreskin moved easily 
over it”.
  • Case 2: “A 65-year-old railway signalman was in his signal box when he 
bent down to pick up his tools and ‘caught his penis in a Hoover Dustette, 
which happened to be switched on’. He suffered extensive lacerations to the 
glans, which were repaired with catgut with a good result”.
  • Case 3: “A 49-year-old man was vacuuming his friend’s staircase in a loose-fitting dressing gown, when, intending to switch the machine off, he 
leaned across to reach the plug: ‘at that moment his dressing gown became 
undone and his penis was sucked into the vacuum cleaner’. Because he had a 
phimosis [a condition in males where the foreskin cannot be fully retracted over the glans penis] he suffered multiple lacerations to the foreskin as well as 
lacerations to the distal part of the shaft of the penis, including the 
external meatus. His wounds were repaired with catgut and the phimosis 
reduced with a dorsal slit”.
  • Case 4: “This patient was aged 68 [years], and no history was available except 
that the injury was caused by a vacuum cleaner. The injury extended through 
the corpora cavernosa and the corpus spongiosum and caused complete division 
of the urethra proximal to the corona. A two-stage urethroplasty was 
performed, and the final result was satisfactory”.

Citron and Wade then noted that (apart from the patient with phimosis) that the injuries were predominantly lacerations to the [penile] glans, “presumably because the 
foreskin was retracted at the time”. The final case was the most serious and required significant surgery to repair the damage. It was also noted that 
at least two of the penile injuries were caused by a Hoover Dustette (as was one in the 1960 paper), which 
the authors noted had fan blades of about six inches from the inlet. They concluded that the “patients may 
well have thought that the penis would be clear of the fan but were driven to 
new lengths by the novelty of the experience and came to grief”. In response to this paper, Dr. J.T. Hill wrote a letter to the British Medical Journal and noted that:

“In a series of 57 penile injuries reported at the annual meeting of the British Association of Urological Surgeons in June 1980, I reported three patients with this condition. Their ages were, typically, 66, 55, and 60 years. They had suffered degloving injuries and two patients required suturing of multiple lacerations and one required split skin grafting. All three patients underwent urethral catheterization for urinary retention”.

In a 1979 issue of European Urology, Dr. U. Wenderoth and Dr. U. Jonas examined 48 masturbation injuries. Of these, they reported that 12 comprised ‘foreign bodies’ introduced into the urethra and urinary bladder while the other 36 cases comprised ‘vacuum cleaner injuries’ to the penis. In 1984, Dr. Jack McAninch and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection and Critical Care that examined major injuries to the testicles, penis, and genital skin from trauma in 62 of their patients over a six-year period (1977 to 1983). They reported seven suction-end vacuum cleaner injuries in their sample.

In 1985, Dr. Ralph Benson wrote a paper in the journal Urology asking whether vacuum cleaner injuries to the penis were a common urologic problem. He presented five cases studies of such penile injuries (including a case of a man that had lost the glans of his penis). He concluded that contrary to apparent public appreciation, injury due to this form of autostimulation may not be unusual”.

An Italian paper Rossi et al in a 1991 issue of Minerva Urologica e Nefrologica reported the case of penile injury caused by masturbating using a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner caused skin lesions and urethral lacerations (but were successfully treated). The authors stressed “the extreme rarity of the case”. Since then academic papers in the topic appear to have dried up somewhat.

In 1998, a news story made worldwide headlines when a 51-year-old man from Long Branch (New Jersey, USA) cut off half an inch of his penis (and nearly bled to death) after masturbating with a
vacuum cleaner. He first told legal and medical authorities that he had been stabbed in his penis by someone as he slept. However, it later became apparent that he was trying to gain sexual pleasure from the vacuum cleaner’s suction. However, he hadn’t realised there was a blade that pushed dust into the vacuum cleaner’s bag. Fortunately, medics at Monmouth Medical Center stopped the bleeding (saving the man’s life) but
were unable to reattach the severed part of his penis. As far as I am aware, this case was never reported in the medical literature and only in the popular press.

The most recent (possible) case that I have come across was a 2005 case study published in a German journal by Dr. J. Falk and his colleagues. They reported the case of a 61-year-old man that was admitted to hospital with a partially severed penis. The authors reported:

“The head of the penis (glans) had been completely severed, and the skin of the shaft and the corpora cavernosa had been ripped open. In the hospital the patient reported that his penis got caught in the hose attachment of an old Kobold vacuum cleaner that he was using to inflate an air mattress. He later made contradictory statements in his report to the insurance company, so we were asked to reconstruct the circumstances of the accident. The literature available to us only makes clinical observations about similar accidents, always with the assumption that the vacuum cleaner was used during masturbation or in order to achieve an erection. According to our reconstruction of the accident and an investigation of the vacuum cleaner attachment, however, we could not rule out the possibility of a household accident as described by the patient”.

The lack of more recent (and definitive) reports about masturbatory penile injuries caused by vacuum cleaners in the medical literature suggests they are either less commonplace than they used to be and/or there are as many as there have ever have been over the last few decades but are not as journal-worthy (as they are no longer novel).

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

Further reading

Benson, R. (1985). Vacuum cleaner injury to penis: A common urologic problem? Urology, 25(1), 41-44.

Citron, N.D., & Wade, P.J. (1980). Penile injuries from vacuum cleaners. British Medical Journal, 281(6232), 26.

Falk, J., Riepert, T., & Rothschild, M. A. (2005). [Traumatic partial amputation of a penis – A reconstruction of the circumstances of the accident]. Versicherungsmedizin/herausgegeben von Verband der Lebensversicherungs-Unternehmen eV und Verband der Privaten Krankenversicherung eV, 57(1), 17-19

Fox, M., & Barrett, E.L. (1960). ‘Vacuum cleaner injury’ of the penis. British Medical Journal, 1(5190),1942.

Hill, J. T. (1980). Penile injuries from vacuum cleaners. British Medical Journal, 281(6238), 519.

Mannion, R.A. (1973). Penile Laceration. Journal of the American Medical Association, 224, 1763-1763

McAninch, J.W., Kahn, R.I., Jeffrey, R.B., Laing, F.C., & Krieger, M.J. (1984). Major traumatic and septic genital injuries. Journal of Trauma-Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 24, 291-298.

Morey, A.F., & Rozanski, T. A. (2007). Genital and lower urinary tract trauma. Campbell-Walsh Urology, 3, 49-50.

Nolan, J. (1998). Love story with a cutting edge. Philly.com, may 14. Located at: http://articles.philly.com/1998-05-14/news/25742370_1_vacuum-love-story-unidentified-man

Pryor, J. P., Hill, J. T., Packham, D. A., & Yates‐Bell, A. J. (1981). Penile injuries with particular reference to injury to the erectile tissue. British Journal of Urology, 53(1), 42-46.

Rossi, M., Cascini, F., & Torcigliani, S. (1991). [Penile injuries caused by masturbation with a vacuum cleaner. Description of a case and review of the literature]. Minerva Urologica e Nefrologica, 44(1), 43-45.

Tolba, A. M., Azab, A. A. H., Nasr, M. A., & Salah, E. (2014). Dartos fascio-myo-cutaneous flap for penile skin loss: A simple flap with an immense potential. Surgical Science, 5, 6-9.

Wenderoth, U., & Jonas, U. (1979). Curiosity in urology? Masturbation injuries. European Urology, 6, 312-313.

Zufall, R. (1973). Laceration of penis from hand vacuum cleaner. Journal of the American Medical Association, 224, 630.

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