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Strangers on the score: A brief overview of xenophilia

Over the last year, I have examined many different forms of sexual paraphilia in my blog. One of the least researched of these paraphilias is xenophilia. One of the real problems from an academic perspective is that there doesn’t appear to be common agreement on what xenophilia actually is. A number of reputable sources – including Frances Twinn’s 2007 book, Miscellany of Sex, and the Right Diagnosis website – define xenophilia as a sexual attraction to strangers. The Psychologist Anywhere Anytime paraphilia website page defines xenophilia as sexual attraction to foreigners” but also adds that “in science fiction, [xenophilia] can also mean sexual attraction to aliens”. (I actually examined sexually paraphilic attraction to aliens in a previous blog on exophilia – a sexual paraphilia that relates only to alien sex).

Dr. Karen Franklin (in a 2010 paper in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law) also defines xenophilia as “erotic attraction to…foreigners or extraterrestrials”. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal (arguably the most knowledgeable source of information concerning sexually paraphilic behaviour),  xenophilia is defined as individuals who gain sexual pleasure and arousal “from strangers…foreign customs, traditions, and foreigners” (as defined in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices).

One of the reasons that there are so many different definitions is that xenophilia was probably first termed as the opposite of xenophobia, and the literal translation of xenophilia is the love of anything foreign. From this perspective, “foreign” can mean different things to different people, which is why all of the definitions of xenophilia are slightly different. The Wikipedia entry on xenophilia has (arguably) the widest definition of xenophilia as  it generally refers to a social or sexual attraction to cultures, lands, or beings which are different from one’s native experience”. Given this wide definition, Wikifur (the online encyclopedia for those in the Furry Fandom) claims that human sexual attraction towards furry characters is a form of xenophilia (although I doubt if members of the Furry Fandom would agree).

To date, academic and clinical work into xenophilia has been extremely limited. In a previous blog on sexual fetishism, I wrote about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) 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 2681 fetishists (3% of all fetishists that they encountered) with a fetishistic and/or paraphilic sexual interest in ethnicity (including – but not exclusively – those with xenophilic sexual interests).

In an online essay about xenophilia, Lori Smith described xenophilia as “an affection for unknown objects or people…[and] could be used to describe those who enjoy swinging or cruising”. Personally, I think this stretches the definition of xenophilia beyond what is was originally envisaged as, but both swinging and cruising can include having sex with complete strangers (especially cruising). As the Wikipedia entry on ‘cruising for sex’ notes:

“Cruising for sex, or cruising is the act of walking or driving about a locality in search of a sex partner, usually of the anonymous, casual, one-time variety The term is also used when technology is used to find casual sex, such as using an Internet site or a telephone service”.

Smith also makes reference to xenophilia being associated with people who are sexually attracted to foreigners (and cites the same fictional example included in most online references to xenophilia – Wanda Gershwitz’s [played by Jamie Lee-Curtis] immediate sexual arousal whenever her boyfriend Otto [played by Kevin Kline] spoke in a foreign language (in the film A Fish Called Wanda). I have no idea how prevalent this type of sexual attraction is although I can think of two of my own past girlfriends who found the French language very erotic. (However, being sexually attracted to someone speaking with a foreign accent can hardly be classed as sexually paraphilic and/or fetishistic behaviour). Smith also makes reference to xenophilia involving alien sex (although her main examples are fictional and involve humanoid aliens such as Dr. Who). Other fictional characters are non-subtle including Phil Foglio’s ‘adult’ comic book XXXenophile, and the Harry Potter character Xenophilius Lovegood (in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) who Wikipedia describes as characterized by his interest in unusual or unknown objects, animals, and concepts”.

Smith’s article is similar to an article on xenophilia at the Sex Obsessed website although steers clear of alien sex and restricts all observations to sex with strangers. There are a number of totally unsubstantiated claims made including the assertion that some heterosexual men who use travelling opportunities within their job “to experiment with men and children”. Although homosexuality and paedophilia may be xenophilic, there is no empirical literature to support the claims made in the article. It is also alleged that sexual role play (including dressing up and wearing wigs) satisfies xenophilic needs. The same article also claims (again without citing its sources) that:

“There were reports of English sailors who used to visit the West Indies and it was observed how much they enjoyed black boys on their annual visits. So much in fact that pharmacists had to keep a large supply of lubricant for them (the obvious racist ideologies and pedophile behaviors that were evident in this practice were clearly overlooked for the greater good”.

The Sex Obsessed article is one of the few I have read that speculates about the motivations of xenophiles. It says that xenophiles might be a “group of people who are allergic to commitment”. I very much doubt such motives would be universal to xenophiles, and such a speculation would only apply to a very loose definition of what xenophilia means in sexually paraphilic terms. Obviously this is an area that would benefit from some academic research but any researchers with a desire to examine the area would have to be very clear about the operational definition of xenophilia they used to examine such people.

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.

Franklin, K. (2010). Hebephilia: Quintessence of diagnostic pretextuality, Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 28, 751–768.

Right Diagnosis (2012). Xenophilia, February 1. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/x/xenophilia/intro.htm

Sex Obsessed (2009). Xenophilia. December 23. Located at: http://sexobsessed.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/xenophilia/

Smith, L. (2012). The alternative A-Z of sex: Xenophilia. Rarely Wears Lipstick, January 11. Located at: http://www.lori-smith.co.uk/2012/01/alternative-to-z-of-sex-xenophilia.html

Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.

Wikipedia (2012). Cruising for sex. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruising_for_sex

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

Space oddity: A beginner’s guide to exophilia

Exophilia refers those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from extraterrestrial, robotic, supernatural, or otherwise non-human life forms (although I ought to point out that the only academic reference to exophilia is in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices which defines exophilia as “a fetish for the bizarre and unusual”). In many ways, these types of sexual preferences could be described as totally impractical as the chances of making love to a ghost/spirit (i.e., spectrophilia), aliens, demi-gods, and/or a robot are arguably negligible. Although the sexual focus is non-human, the shape of the desired from is typically humanoid but would not include those people who are sexually attracted to statues, dolls and/or mannequins (i.e., agalmatophilia).

Online sources claim that the overwhelming majority of exophiles never claim to have had sex with an alien but are sexually excited and aroused by the thought of doing so. I was surprised about own many alien fetish sex sites are out there which partly shows how popular this type of paraphilic and/or fetishistic interest is. An online essay on alien sex by “Necromagickal” notes that:

“The only ‘official’ reports of sex between humans and aliens derive from the lore of alien abductions. The first credited abduction sex story came from 1957 in Brazil. Antonio Boas was plowing the fields of his family farm when a UFO showed up. He was taken inside and prepped to meet a fair-haired alien”.

Most recently, in January 2011, news reports surfaced that a male Chinese farmer called Meng Zhaoguo claimed to have had mid-air sex with for 40 minutes with a levitating alien. Meng said “she was three metres tall, had 12 fingers and braided leg hair”. According to Meng, the inter-galactic coupling actually took place in 1994 in Heilongjiang’s Wuchang when a female humanoid visited him. He told the China Daily newspaper that “I didn’t believe in aliens before I actually met them. Seeing is believing”. He then passed a lie detector test conducted by the police. He also claimed that the aliens told him that the offspring of the sexual union would appear 60 years after they had sex.

Obviously I don’t believe these incidents (or any other alien abduction stories) but I do know that others believe in aliens (and that they regularly visit earth) and that there are some people who genuinely believe that they have been abducted by alien life forms, and that they have had sex with them (either with their consent or against their will). In a 2001 book Extra-terrestrial Sex Fetish by “Supervert”, he argues that:

“Exophilia should be understood as an abnormal desire for that which is outside earth…It is characterized by arousal in the presence of aliens or, less directly, representations of aliens…The exophile is rarely apprehended in the very act of satisfying his fetish. Evidently the reason for this is not the scarcity of exophiles but the lack of extraterrestrials themselves”

Supervert also makes the logical (and arguably obvious) points that because exophiles are never caught having alien sex, it suggests that either: (i) aliens don’t exist, (ii) aliens don’t make contact with anyone on earth, and (iii) if aliens do come into contact with humans they avoid those with exophilic tendencies (based on the fact that stories that are reported online or in the tabloid press always feature people having sex with aliens against their will).

Exophiles can only express their sexual interest in aliens directly. Therefore, one of the major ‘soft signs’ of exophilia would naturally include “an undue interest in science fiction”. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of sci-fi lovers (myself included) do not display any exophilic tendencies. However, Supervert makes a number of unsubstantiated claims about exophiles. These include the claims that exophiles:

“Frequently fixate on certain characters or situations from novels or films. [Exophiles] may oblige [their] sexual partners to recreate, in the spirit of a psychodrama, key scenes from an episode of Star Trek. [They] may also, by way of compensation, develop fixations on actors or actresses associated with aliens in films: on Drew Barrymore, for her role in ET the Extraterrestrial, or Sigourney Weaver, for her admittedly erotic scenes in the Alien trilogy…Fixations can extend beyond the world of science fiction to include real-world personalities closely associated with outer space. For example, an exophile might develop a homosexual attraction for a prominent scientist such as Carl Sagan or a famous astronaut such as Neil Armstrong”.

Some of the claims made by Supervert appear to have little evidence – empirical or anecdotal. For instance, it is claimed that some exophiles use their telescopes for anal stimulation and that some exophiles incite astronomy club members to perform group masturbation. Supervert does mention one case to support his claims. One (unnamed) exophile was said to have:

“Confessed to a sexual obsession with astronaut Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher killed in the explosion of the space shuttle ‘Challenger’ in 1986. [The exophile] would arouse himself with fantasies of the woman doing a striptease with her spacesuit and then watch a videotape of the seventy-three second shuttle flight, naturally timing his climactic release to the sudden bursting of the vehicle in the sky”.

This anecdote – even if true – doesn’t even sound like an exophile to me. Bizarre? Yes. Depraved? Possibly. Exophilic? No. Supervert argues that the case described is an exophile and that the behaviour described is a “compensatory mechanism” for the fact that they are unable to have sex with an alien! According to Supervert:

“The exophile does not truly desire congress with rockets or astronauts but with extraterrestrials. However, precisely the seeming impossibility of this desire makes the exophile unique even among fetishists…If, as psychological theory proclaims, the fetish is a substitute for normal sexual relations, such that the fetishist prefers a shoe to a vagina, the exophile must make a substitution for a substitute…The exophile thus finds himself two generations away from gratification”.

While I can see the logic in such an argument, surely the substitute for the substitute for an exophile would be getting a human to dress up and/or pretend to be an alien (rather than becoming sexually aroused by something that an alien might come into contact with such as an astronaut)?

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.

Disclose TV (2011). Farmer claims he had sex with alien, then passes lie detector. January 24. Located at: http://www.disclose.tv/forum/farmer-caims-he-had-sex-with-alien-then-passes-lie-detector-t41710.html

Necromagickal (undated). Alien sex. Girls and Corpses. Located at: http://www.girlsandcorpses.com/print11/print11_aliensex.html

Supervert (2001). Extra-terrestrial Sex Fetish (self-published book). Available at: http://supervert.com/