Blog Archives

Down in the bumps: A brief look at mpreg (male pregnancy) fetishism

A few weeks ago I read an article in The Hornet entitled ‘10 unusual fetishes and their psychology, from sploshing to male pregnancy’ by Daniel Villarreal. The ten fetishes and sexual paraphilias included (in alphabetical order), (i) amputation fetishes (sexual arousal from the thought of being an amputee [apotemnophilia] and/or sexual arousal from individuals who are amputees – although the article featured just one specific type of amputee fetishism – ‘toe amputation’), (ii) emetophilia (sexual arousal from vomiting), (iii) entomophilia (sexual arousal from bugs and insects), (iv) eproctophilia (sexual arousal from flatulence), (v) looning (sexual arousal from balloons), (vi) macrophilia (sexual arousal from giants), (vii) mpreg fetishism (sexual arousal from male pregnancy), (viii) sploshing (sexual arousal from being ‘wet and messy’ [WAM] and also known as ‘wamming’), (ix) ursusagalmatophilia (sexual arousal from teddy bears), and (x) vorarephilia (sexual arousal from the thought of being eaten often shortened to ‘vore’).

I have covered all of these fetishes and paraphilias in previous articles on my blog with the exception of mpreg fetishism (although I have covered female pregnancy fetishes [maieusiophilia], childbirth fetishism, and impregnation fetishism, as well as an article on Couvade Syndrome [whereby the male partners of pregnant women experience empathetic pregnancy-like symptoms including loss of appetite, morning sickness, constipation, etc. but the male knows he is not pregnant]). According to a 2015 Mamiverse article on strange fetishes:

“While most sexual fetishes are driven by men, mpreg enthusiasts are said to include a lot kinky ladies. It stands for ‘male pregnancy’ and this sexy fetish was said to born from the evolution of gay themed fanfiction, and fangirls somehow taking it to the next level”.

Many aspects of male pregnancy have featured in the national news a lot over the past few years including stories on male pregnancy suits, how new medical procedures such as womb transplants could facilitate male pregnancy, and pregnancy among transgender men such as the UK’s first pregnant men Scott Parker and Hayden Cross (who stopped transitioning so that they could start families) and the film about Jason Barker’s pregnancy (A Deal With The Universe). On top of this, male pregnancy has occasionally featured in the world of entertainment, most notably Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pregnancy in the 1994 film Junior (where he gets pregnant as part of a scientific experiment), Billy Crystal’s pregnancy in the 1978 film Rabbit Test, Commander Trip Tucker’s pregnancy in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, the French film A Slightly Pregnant Man (where a taxi driver suddenly discovers he is four months pregnant), the 2017 comedy MamaBoy, and the and an episode in Futurama where the male alien Kif Kroker gets pregnant (‘Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch’), as well as Israeli reality TV show Manbirth.

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 12.39.23

Based on what I have read online, mpreg in fan fiction is a popular topic and some of the more considered writing about reasons for writing about male pregnancy comes down to a subversion of gender stereotypes. A couple of the better essays I found were by Slayer McCoy (‘Mysogyny and the fetishization of queer identities in fan fiction’) and Lady Geek Girl (‘Sexualized Saturdays: Male pregnancy in fanfiction’). I didn’t agree with everything that was said but they did at least try to look at some reasons for the growth and fascination in mpreg fan fiction. As Lady Geeky Girl opines:

“There is fetishism that happens in many mpreg stories. Now again, this isn’t all that much weirder than porn that shows pregnant women having sex, but that doesn’t make either of them okay. Both fetishize pregnancy, which can be rather demeaning, and mpreg has even fetishized conception… And of course there is one thing all mpreg fics have in common—the male characters are reduced to their biological functions. A biological function that in reality isn’t even theirs. They are magically or “scientifically” changed to be able to give birth and then the entire focus of the fic is on the fact that they are pregnant. Most mpreg fics make the entire focus of the fic on the pregnancy and rarely have any outside plot, putting the entire focus on this pregnancy and baby. Furthermore, these fics often take away the male character’s very identity as a man, not just because he gets pregnant, but usually everything about the character is feminized in the most stereotypical and sexist way possible”.

A couple of years ago, another article by Villarreal in The Hornet briefly looked at mpreg fetishes and featured five videos of “sexy men pretending to be pregnant” with some pretending to be in labour, while briefly overviewing the niche gay pornography Film911 website who specialize in other fetish areas that I have written about including muscle worship, vore, belly button fetishes (alvinophilia), and various aspects of medical fetishism, as well as mpreg fetishism. None of these videos depict gay sex and all of them feature gay models who would never entertain the idea of having gay sex on film. In his 2019 article, Villarreal claims that:

“For some, MPREG is entirely about emotional closeness and intimacy between men; MPREG videos and art show male couples being very sweet, vulnerable and nurturing, something rarely seen in porn. For others, MPREG remains inherently erotic and sexual as it involves literal daddies and breeding. MPREG fantasies can also bleed over into ‘feeder’ fantasies of men growing large with food. The MPREG fetish also contains a noteworthy gender component that idealizes sexual equality”.

Villarreal claims that “MPREG fetishists have dreamed up the idea of a secret ‘male vagina’ hiding directly in the anus with its own female-like reproductive system, though some MPREG babies actually get delivered through the male urethra. There’s even a fantasy taxonomy known as the ‘omegaverse’ where omega ‘carriers’ are impregnated by alpha or beta ‘seeders’. The fantasy sex can involve ‘knotting’ where the top’s penis gets so engorged that it gets trapped in the bottom until climax, much like with dogs. There’s even a lesbian omegaverse where female alphas have female penises”.

The largest online mpreg community is ‘MPREG Central’ and whose administrator goes under the pseudonym ‘Lyric’. Lyric was interviewed by Villarreal and was quoted as saying:

“There is a culture of people out there who are drawn to that idea – men and women who, on some level, wish men could really become pregnant just like women. Some women like the idea of having their man carry and birth their kids, while some gay men wish they could have kids together with their own bodies. [My own reason for getting into MPreg fetishism was a] fascination for stomachs and bellybuttons [and] feeling drawn to the mystery of pregnancy”.

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 14.00.35

Academically, there appears to be very little on mpreg fetishism, and what has been published appears to only concentrate on the fan fiction element of mpreg within slash fiction (i.e., a genre of fan fiction that focuses on romantic and/or sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex). In a 2018 book chapter by Kristina Busse and Alexis Lothian entitled ‘A history of slash sexualities: Debating queer sex, gay politics and media fan cultures’ (in The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality), there is a section on ‘queerer, kinkier worlds exploring desire’ where MPreg is briefly mentioned but not expanded upon:

“The Fanlore entry for ‘kink’ notes that the term ‘usually refers to various non-normative sexual practices or desires, such as voyeurism, fetishism, and the many activities included under the BDSM umbrella’…Fans may also ‘refer to other, non-sexual preferences as ‘kinks’ meaning particular imagery, story-tropes, or elements that they enjoy so much they are worth considerable effort to find and collect’…Within this frame mpreg and domestic romance become ‘kinks’ whose preference ranks on the same order as love for fiction featuring rope bondage, sexual slavery or water sports”.

Christina Yatrakis wrote a 2013 thesis on fan fiction and again mentioned mpreg in relation to it being a new development among fan fiction writers:

“Within slash communities, new norms or ways of writing have emerged that are widely accepted without much question. Two such creations are male pregnancies (mpreg) and women with male reproductive parts (G!P), either permanently or in lieu of periods. While not all slash readers enjoy, or even accept, these mystical deviations, a subsection of slash producers and consumers have coalesced around these biological anomalies. While there is no record of when such narrative devices first emerged or became common knowledge in different fandoms and online communities, they are no longer only posted on fetish or kink sites. One explanation is that they came from fandoms with supernatural source texts, i.e. Harry Potter or Star Trek. Within a supernatural context, both of these tools can make sense and through their continued reproduction in supernatural fanfics they could have become accepted and spread throughout different fandoms. Additionally, their popularity could be explained by the prevalence of heterosexual girls writing slash fan fiction. By allowing one partner of a same-sex relationship to have natural reproductive abilities, heterosexual female authors can still act out relationship fantasies with childbearing remaining a natural option”.

Kristina Busse also had a chapter on fan fiction in Anne Jamison’s 2013 book Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World. She noted that:

“Mpregs come in all shapes and sizes and, as a result, can fulfil a vast variety of fan desires: a romantic need to create a love child between male lovers, an interest in pregnancy’s emotional and physical fallout on a partnership, or even a fascination with the horrors of forced breeding…mpreg allows a female writer to play out themes of female bodies, concerns of gender in relationships, and issues of reproduction. And she can interrogate all these ideas in a setting that allows for a certain emotional distance by divorcing the pregnancy from the female body. At the same time, one of the criticisms of mpreg is that it often replicates rather than critiques the portrayal of women by embracing stereotypical gender roles”.

Based on my own brief research into the topic, there doesn’t appear to be any empirical evidence as to the popularity or prevalence of individuals’ involvement in mpreg fetishism. Reading about mpreg doesn’t itself mean that readers have a fetish concerning it although membership of online forums suggest small but dedicated communities that love all things mpreg.

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

Further reading

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

Busse, K. (2013). Pon Farr, mpreg, bonds, and the rise of the omegaverse. In A. Jamison (Ed.), Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World (pp. 316-322). BenBella Books.

Busse, K. & Lothian, A. (2018). A history of slash sexualities: Debating queer sex, gay politics and media fan cultures. In: Smith, C., Attwood, F. & McNair, B. (Eds.). The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality. Oxford: Routledge

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

Lady Geek Girl (2012). Sexualized Saturdays: Male pregnancy in fanfiction. October 13. Located at: https://ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/sexualized-saturdays-male-pregnancy-in-fanfiction/

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

Mamiverse (2015). 10 kinds of sexual fetishism that make you say WTF? April 12. Located at: http://mamiverse.com/crazy-forms-of-fetishism-90424/7/

McCoy, S. (2016). Mysogyny and the fetishization of queer identities in fan fiction. WattPad.com. Located at: https://www.wattpad.com/692573853-misogyny-and-the-fetishization-of-queer-identities/page/8

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.

Villarreal, D. (2016). 5 videos of sexy men pretending to be pregnant. The Hornet, April 28. Located at: https://hornet.com/stories/5-videos-of-sexy-men-pretending-to-be-pregnant/

Villarreal, D. (2019). 10 unusual fetishes and their psychology, from sploshing to male pregnancy. The Hornet, March 19. Located at: https://hornet.com/stories/10-unusual-fetishes/

Yatrakis, C. (2013). Fan fiction, fandoms, and literature: or, why it’s time to pay attention to fan fiction. College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations. 145. https://via.library.depaul.edu/etd/145

At the cutting edge: A brief look at voluntary self-amputation

It was only very recently that I finally watched the film 127 Hours, the 2010 film directed by Danny Boyle based on the true story Aron Ralston, the canyoneer who cut off his own right forearm to free himself after it was trapped by a large boulder while rock climbing in Blue John Canyon (Utah, US). Apart from the early scenes in the film that were somewhat fictionalized, Ralston said the rest of the film was “so factually accurate it is as close to a documentary as you can get and still be a drama”. The act of self-amputation is known as autotomy (from the Greek ‘auto’ – meaning ‘self’ and ‘tomy’ meaning ‘severing’) but the term is used more widely in the animal kingdom and usually refers to animals that self-sever as a self-defence mechanism (often to escape a predator). Arguably Ralston’s case was also a self-defence mechanism as a way of escaping his own death.

In previous blogs I have looked at cases of people who have cut off their own limbs because they were sexually aroused by the thought of being an amputee (i.e., apotemnophilia) and those who have cut off their own limbs because they believe the limb doesn’t belong to their own body (i.e., Body Integrity Identity Disorder, also known as ‘amputee identity disorder’ and xenomelia). However, today’s blog looks at some cases of those who have self-amputated to survive. Such cases are incredibly rare and almost always occur when the person becomes trapped in deserted environments with no means of contacting anyone and little chance of rescues (as was the case of Ralston). Here are a few other infamous cases:

  • With his pocket knife, Al Hill, a 66-year old man from California, had to cut off his own left leg just below the knee after it got stuck beneath a fallen tree he was cutting (2007). He was all alone in a forest for 11 hours and decided that the only way he was going to survive was to cut off his own leg with his pocket knives. However, despite cutting himself free, Hill was unable to move as he was in constant agony. Thankfully, Eric Bockey one of Hill’s neighbours heard his screams and Hill, was eventually rescued by the fire brigade.
  • A South Carolina farmer Sampson Parker cut off his own arm after it got stuck in a corn harvester. Parker spotted a piece of cornstalk stuck in a farm but on trying to get it out, his hand got stuck in the machine. After an hour of being stuck and calling for help no-one came, and Parker’s arm became completely numb. He then used his John Deere pocket knife to start cutting his fingers off. However, a fire broke out and the only way he could save his life was to cut off his right arm as fast as he could. Once he had cut off his arm he drove himself to a nearby rode and got help from the local fire brigade. In a television interview, Parker said: “My skin was melting. It was dripping off my arm like plastic, plastic melting. I realized I was in trouble. I just told myself, ‘I’m not going to die here. I just kept fighting, kept praying. And then when I did get loose, I jumped up running, I had blood squirting from my arm. It was pretty scary there for a while. I could feel the nerves as I was cutting my arm off. It really wasn’t the corn picker’s fault. It was my fault. It was just a mistake I made”.
  • While driving a front-end loader deep underground, Colin Jones (a 43-year old Australian miner) became trapped when the vehicle overturned when it hit a pothole while turning a corner. Fearing the vehicle would catch fire because diesel was leaking from the loader, Jones quickly cut off his own right arm below his elbow with his Stanley knife. However, Jones was a little premature because the emergency services arrived early enough to save the arm but by then he had already amputated his arm. Unfortunately, the severed arm was too badly crushed to be re-attached to his body.
  • One of the most bizarre amputations concerned a 30-year old Polish farmer (Krystof Azninski). In 1995, Azninski was playing some Polish drinking games drinking with friends when someone in his social group said they should play some “men’s games”. As one report noted: “Initially they hit each other over the head with frozen turnips, but then one man upped the ante by seizing a chainsaw and cutting off the end of his foot. Not to be outdone, Azninski grabbed the saw and, shouting ‘Watch this then’, he swung at his own head and chopped it off”. The report also claimed that by amputating his own head, Azninski could arguably lay claim to be the “most macho man in Europe”. Most of us reading this would probably say he was the most stupid.
  • An 18-year old male construction worker (Ramlan) from Padang trapped in the rubble of a building that collapsed during the September 2009 Indonesian earthquake escaped after sawing off his own leg. Ramlan tried to pull his leg free but was unable to. Using a nearby garden hoe he tried to hack off his own leg but the hoe’s blade was far too blunt to penetrate his leg bone. Using his mobile phone (that was still working following the building’s collapse) he phoned a friend (33-year old Eman) who came to the rescue of Ramlan. Eman found another garden implement – a trowel – and gave it to Ramlan who again tried to hack off the trapped leg. Finally, Eman found a saw and handed it to Ramlan. However, half way through sawing his leg off, Ramlan became too exhausted to continue and Eman finished sawing off Ramlan’s leg. Eman then carried Ramlan to Yos Sudarso hospital. The surgeons then performed a proper amputation a little higher up his leg.

The motivation in all of these cases was obviously survival but there are other rarer cases where self-amputation has been performed for criminal or political purposes. For instance, in the late 1950s/early 1960s, around 50 people from Vernon (Florida, USA; population 780) performed self-amputations in an attempt to claim ‘loss-of-limb’ accident insurance. In fact around two-thirds of all loss-of-limb insurance claims in the whole of the USA at the time came from Vernon. John J. Healy, insurance investigator was quoted as saying: “Vernon’s second-largest occupation was watching hound dogs mating in the town square, its largest was self-mutilation for monetary gain”. An online article on the six most horrifying ways to get rich reported:

“L.W. Burdeshaw, an insurance agent, told the St. Petersburg Times in 1982 that his list of policyholders included a man who sawed off his left hand at work, a man who shot off his foot while protecting chickens, a man who lost his hand while supposedly trying to shoot a hawk, a man who somehow lost two limbs in an accident involving a rifle and a tractor, and a man who bought a policy and then, less than 12 hours later, shot off his foot while aiming at a squirrel. Insurance agents, probably disillusioned by the whole Belle Gunness affair, were a little suspicious. Cutting your hand at work may be possible. Sawing off your entire hand at work really takes some amount of sustained effort…No one in the town was ever convicted of fraud, and it’s not easy to find out just how much they got away with. What we know is that one farmer took out policies with 38 different companies before, in some no doubt comical accident, he lost his left foot. Luckily, the particular day of the “accident” he happened to be driving his wife’s automatic, since if he’d been driving his own stick shift he would have needed the left foot to use the clutch. He also happened to have a tourniquet in his pocket (in case of snake bites, he insisted). He could be telling the truth, right? Well, it turned out he’d taken out so much insurance that he was paying premiums that cost more than his total income. He collected more than $1 million from all the companies. The insurance companies fought it but conceded, ‘it was hard to make a jury believe a man would shoot off his own foot’”.

Another infamous case concerned Daniel Rudolph, the oldest brother of the Eric Rudolph, the 1996 Olympics bomber who on March 7, 1998, videotaped himself cutting off one of his own hands with an electric saw at his home in Ladson (a suburb in Charleston, USA) to “send a message to the FBI and the media”. An FBI statement said they had “followed standard procedures in conducting the search for Eric Robert Rudolph, a fugitive charged with a fatal abortion clinic bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, including interviewing his brother Daniel Rudolph. Daniel Rudolph’s decision to maim himself is regrettable and totally unexpected, given the nature of the contacts between the FBI and himself”.

Finally, in Figueira da Foz (Portugal), Orico Silva cut off one of his fingers in court in an “act of despair” after the presiding judge refused his offer to settle a €170,000 debt and ordered that part of his farm had to be sold. While in court, Silva took some bank papers from his briefcase and noticed a butcher’s knife that he’d recently bought at a market. On impulse he cut off his index finger and cut it into three (using a court table as an impromptu chopping board).

Unless self-amputations are sexually motivated or as a result of Body Integrity Identity Disorder, it would appear that self-amputation is rarely discussed and/or researched in the academic literature. The cases highlighted here show that there are many other reasons for self-amputation that are not the result of any kind of mental illness including the necessary (for survival reasons), the unnecessary (criminal or political reasons), or the downright bizarre (as an act of macho bravado).

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

Further reading

CNN Interactive (1998). Bombing suspect’s brother cuts hand off with saw. March 9. Located at: http://www-cgi.cnn.com/US/9803/09/briefs.pm/rudolph.amputation/

Elst, M. (2010). 10 unbelievable amputation stories. Oddee.com, February 22. Located at: http://www.oddee.com/item_96982.aspx#vSieTkGlGQrmjjcI.99

Fox News (2007). Farmer cuts off right arm with pocket knife to save life. November 26. Located at: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/11/26/farmer-cuts-off-right-arm-with-pocket-knife-to-save-life/

Gabbatt, A. (2009). Indonesian man survives quake by sawing off own leg. The Guardian, October 9. Located at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/09/indonesian-earthquake-survivor-saws-leg

Harkins, D. (2008). The 6 most horrifying ways anyone ever got rich. Cracked.com. September 22. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_16633_the-6-most-horrifying-ways-anyone-ever-got-rich_p2.html

Kennedy, J.M. (2003). CMU grad describes cutting off his arm to save his life. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 9. Located at: http://old.post-gazette.com/nation/20030509climbernat2.asp

Reuters (2009). Man cuts off finger in court over debt. January 16. Located at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/01/17/us-finger-idUSTRE50F5D420090117?feedType=RSS&feedName=oddlyEnoughNews&rpc=69

Smith, A., Cornford, P. & Maguire, P. (2003). Arm trapped a fearing fire, tough miner knew what to do.Sydney Morning Herald. June 30. Located at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/06/29/1056825279321.htm

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

Specs appeal: A beginner’s guide to glasses fetishism

I thought I had come up with a pretty good title for today’s blog on ‘glasses fetishism’ until I found our that Specs Appeal was the name of a 1975 album by the British pop group The Shadows. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, glasses fetishism refers to a “fetishistic attraction to people wearing prescription glasses, sunglasses, or cosmetic contact lenses or to the act of wearing glasses or the glasses themselves. Other related activities include wearing glasses during sexual acts and ejaculation on glasses”. It has also been implied in a Wikipedia article that glasses fetishism is a sub-type of clothing fetishism. The (clearly non-academic) Venus O’Hara website further claims that:

“Glasses fetishism is characterised by the effect that a pair of glasses can have on the erotic imagination of a spectator. Glasses are often a key component in many role-playing scenarios. Glasses of different shapes, sizes and prescription strengths allow the participants to invest more belief in the erotic reality of their chosen characters. Glasses can change the shape of a face, alter mannerisms and allow a fetishist to imprint almost any persona they prefer onto a wearer…The key moments that fetishists remember, when thinking about their formative experiences with people wearing glasses become vital, imaginative, starting points for them. In this way, the personas of teachers, students and secretaries become fetish stand-bys and a pair of glasses can summon up the erotic potentials of them with ease”

In popular culture, glasses fetishism is far from mainstream. In fact, the only mainstream movie I can think of that features a sexually related glasses scene is the 1959 comedy, Some Like It Hot (directed by Billy Wilder). The film touches on many sexual themes (trans-sexuality, androgyny, impotence) but also features an erotic glasses-kissing scene involving Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis. However, glasses fetishism is popular in Japanese anime cartoons, particularly on female characters (and is called meganekko-moe – for instance, check out Sky Over My Spectacles). According to Patrick Galbraith (at the University of Tokyo) nobody is sure when the first ‘girl with glasses’ became part of Japanese pop culture. In a 2011 article on glasses fetishism in the online Kotaku magazine, Galbraith was quoted as saying:

“Glasses were kind of was always around, like the animal ears in Tezuka Osamu manga, and slowly took on special meanings. In Japan, glasses have different meanings for both male and female characters. When male characters wear glasses, they are a dominant character. They are in control. But, when a female character wears glasses, it can also means she is shy or a wallflower. If the female character takes off the glasses, however, she tends to be stunningly beautiful”.

Back in 2009, Jerry Lowery of Illinois (US, and then aged 38 years) was charged with stealing more than 500 pairs of glasses from suburban spectacle shops because of his fetish for eyeglasses. The Associated Press reported that:

“Prosecutors said Lowery walked into three shops between April and July and said he had a gun. They say he took more than 500 pairs of high-end glasses including Prada and Gucci brands, but didn’t take cash. The criminal complaint quotes Lowery as saying he “really likes to be around glasses.” He told investigators he tries them on in front of a mirror and then discards them”

Anecdotally, there is certainly online evidence of the existence of glasses fetishism such as dedicated online forums (such as Eyescene“a different outlook on eyewear”) and pornographic websites (such as JOMF – please be warned that this is a very sexually explicit site). I also came across various admissions from people claiming to be glasses fetishists. For instance:

  • Extract 1: “My girlfriend is so-so when it comes to looks…I’ve had a major glasses fetish my whole life, but unfortunately she does not need them. I think it would make our relationship happier if I was actually turned on by her. I’ve heard isopropyl alcohol can damage vision…I don’t want to blind her, maybe just mess her up just slightly enough to get her to wear glasses. How much isopropyl alcohol should I give her?”
  • Extract 2: “A number of people I know are really turned on by glasses. I seem to come across an odd number of girls with perfectly healthy eyes sporting those little black framed emo glasses. The success of sites like Bookworm Bitches shows that this is a pretty common fetish. Then there is the whole school of sunglasses fetishists who pine for Tom Cruise in Risky Business with the Ray Bans”.
  • Extract 3: “There is no getting around it. I’ve got a thing for glasses. Glasses on women are plain hot. I am hardly alone in my fetish, as many guys seem to appreciate the librarian look”.
  • Extract 4: Glasses fetish, that’s me. I figure any woman who decides her perception of the world is more important than her vanity is OK by me. Contacts? Lasik? Waste of time. To me every woman is at least as hot with glasses than without. As for myself, my vision is nearly perfect. At time, I wish it weren’t”.
  • Extract 5: I have a thing for gorgeous young men with glasses. There is just something about a guy who’s sexy and intelligent, and wears glasses. A sight of such man makes me dazed”.
  • Extract 6: I’ve always enjoyed seeing a woman in glasses. It gives a touch of elegant intellectual to any appearance. Its so incredibly enticing to see the eyes underneath and to know that very soon, if it is a lover, I will be able to remove them and undress her face in a way that very few are able to do. I have these feelings for wireframes and for thick frames. I like the vintage styles and the nearly invisible modern frames. Glasses give that extra layer of protection between the portals to their soul and my searching gaze”.

Other anecdotal evidence is provided in an interview with ‘Jon’, a 24-year old male glasses fetishist by Alice Huber in the online Europe and Me Magazine, Jon was asked how and where his glasses fetish began. Jon replied:

“When I was 19 there was a clear trigger, during a seminar at [university]. Our professor was a Greek guy with loads of temperament, and one day, in walks his teaching assistant, looking very strict in a suit jacket and skirt, hair put up in a ballerina knot and wearing big, black glasses. Every time she was taking notes, she would be wearing her glasses, but as soon as she stopped to listen to the professor, she took them off. I think it was the contrast of her being so submissive, next to this powerful male professor that intrigued me”.

Jon also admitted that he asked his sexual partners to wear glasses when engaging in sexual activity, and that when they wore glasses, it made him feel like he was the ‘boss’. He also said he found the ‘geek’ look attractive. Jon also claimed that there was a particular type of glasses that turned him on the most – “large, thick black frames. Square lenses. So-called media glasses”. In an online article by Karen Cotton on the Philia Phrenzy website noted that:

“Anyone who has had a fantasy involving the headmistress or master disciplining them, will most likely imagine them in glasses. Or perhaps your taste is more in corrupting a schoolboy or transforming an uptight bespeckled bookworm into a wild, crazy nymph. Perhaps if eyes are the windows to the soul, glasses frame its desires. While the glasses themselves can be a turn on for some, fetishists cite a variety of sources for arousal including: (i) watching women struggle – either with losing their glasses or adjusting to a new pair; (ii) spectacles slipping down the nose; (iii) the cleaning of smudged lenses; and (iv) seeing a person wearing or manipulating eyewear both sexually and non-sexually…Some fetishists wear eyeglasses – sometimes even over contacts. This practice, glasses over contacts (GOC), requires the use of contact lenses prescribed at a strength which allows the user to see clearly through strong eyeglasses. For some hopeful fetishists, they let their eyes go overcorrected for a length of time so that stronger glasses will be necessary”.

As there is no academic or clinical research on glasses fetishism, I can’t conform or refute any of the claims that Cotton makes in her. Cotton quoted Bobby Laurel a self-confessed Czech-born GOC fetishist who runs his own specialist GOC website. Laurel asserted that his fetish for very thick lensed glasses is psychologically similar to those who are into abasiophilia (sexual arousal from pretending to be handicapped) and apotemnophilia (sexual arousal from wanting to be an amputee):

“All of them pretend a kind of disability. Please, do not misunderstand the concept of this pretending. They do not do it to lodge a fraudulent claims, to get benefits, to get money, to beg etc. No! They wheel or crutch just for the pleasure (Yes, they like it!) … Those pretenders and us – the GOC wearers – are the same kind of ‘freaks’. None of us know exactly what happened in our brains that we like pretending to be disabled. We just like it. Please, realise we do not harm anybody. We do not wish that the other people really needed thick glasses, wheelchairs or crutches. Of course, we like the people who happened to need the stuff. They attract us, it is true, it often makes us excited or even sexually stimulated when we see a person who wears strong glasses or needs crutches or a wheelchair”.

In a 2007 issue of the International Journal of Impotence Research, Dr. C. Scorolli and his colleagues examined the relative prevalence of different fetishes. Fetishes for glasses featured in a small number of the fetishistic groups located. Glasses were then mentioned in their discussion concerning the formation of fetishes and sexual paraphilia. Glasses fetishism was used as an example to argue against genetic and evolutionary biological theories. More specifically, they noted:

“The lack of epidemiological data and of a shared taxonomy for describing paraphilic behaviors is one of the primary factors that has hampered the scientific scrutiny of Fetishism as well as the search for etiological mechanisms. Although many theories have been advanced to account for the development of typical and atypical sexual behaviors, none has been fully convincing. By applying evolutionary biology to human sexuality, some authors aimed to demonstrate an innate mechanism(s) to explain sexual preferences. Others consider sexual preferences, such as male homosexuality, genetic in nature. Our results partially agree and partially contrast this theory, at least for fetishes. In fact, the highly frequent preference for artificial objects here demonstrated seems not consistent with the genetic determination of preferences. It is unlikely that a particular genetic makeup should result in a preference for specific stimuli such as, for instance, coats, balloons, eye-glasses or headphones – all of which we found in our data”.

In all honesty, the chance of glasses fetishism becoming the topic of serious academic or clinical research is probably minimal. My own brief foray into the area suggests that it exists (as evidenced by dedicated fan and video websites). However, as fetishes go, most of these appear to be relatively harmless.

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.

Ashcroft, B. What is Japan’s fetish this week? Glasses. Kotako, April 21. Located at: http://kotaku.com/5792396/whats-japan-fetishizing-this-week-glasses

Cotton, K. (2007). Frame your desires. Philia Phrenzy, March 26. Located at: http://philia-phrenzy.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/frame-your-desires.html

Huber, A. (2012). World of fetishism: Has the cool gadget era made geeks, and the specs stereotypically associated with them, the new sex symbols? Europe and Me Magazine, 17. Located at: http://www.europeandme.eu/17baby/915-a-world-of-fetishism

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

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

Wikipedia (2013). Clothing fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_fetish

Disability acts: A beginner’s guide to abasiophilia

In previous blogs I have examined both medical fetishism (individuals who are sexually aroused by medical procedures and/or people wearing medical accessories) and different forms of amputee fetishism (including individuals who are sexually aroused by amputees [acrotomophilia] or those who are sexually aroused by the thought of being an amputee [apotemnophilia]). One sexual paraphilia that intersects both of these is abasiophilia. There is relatively little specific research on abasiophilia (as most of the academic literature has studied sexual amputee fetishes and paraphilias). In non-academic writing, the only reference I am aware in The Scarecrow, a novel by American author Michael Connelly where Wesley Carver the serial killer was motivated by abasiophilia. (As the Wikipedia entry on the novel notes: “the murdered women were both exotic dancers with similar body types (‘giraffes’), and that both were put in leg braces (‘iron maidens’) while being sexually abused before death…[the police’s research] revealed that Carver’s mother was an exotic dancer similar in appearance to the victims who needed to wear leg braces when not performing”).

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, abasiophilia is defined as a “love of (or sexual attraction to) people who use leg braces or other orthopedic appliances”. However, there are a number of slightly different definitions depending upon which source is consulted. Nancy Butcher, in her 2003 book The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. Abasiophilia is “a psychosexual attraction to people with impaired mobility, especially those who use orthopaedic appliances such as leg braces, orthopedic leg bracees, orthopedic casts, and/or wheelchairs”. Francesca Twinn in her 2007 book The Miscellany of Sex defines it as a sexual attraction to people with mobility facilitator especially equipment such as braces or wheelchairs”. Finally, Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology notes that abasiophilia is:

A paraphilia of the eligibilic/stigmatic type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent on the partner being lame, with a limp, or crippled [from Greek, abasios lameness + -philia]”

The term abasiophilia was coined (as are many other sexual paraphilias that I have covered in my blogs) by US sexologist Professor John Money in a paper published in a 1990 issue of Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality. Professor Money’s definition was that abasiophilia referred to an erotic focus on a partner who is “lame, crippled, or unable to walk”. Professor Money’s paper described two case reports both of who were women. The first case was a 42-year old woman with an amputee paraphilia (i.e., acrotomophilia) while the second case was a woman in her thirties with a lameness paraphilia (i.e., abasiophilia).

Although the name for the condition was new, the condition itself was not as case studies dating back more than 50 years have been reported – most notably a paper in a 1960 issue of the American Journal of Psychotherapy by Dr. M. Fleischl. He described “a man’s fantasy of a crippled girl” and said it was a case of ‘orthopedic fetishism’. However, as Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified [NOS] noted:

“[Abasiophilia] does not appear to qualify as fetishism, because fetishism requires a sexual focus on a nonhuman object. The degree to which a distinction should be made between abasiophilia and other similar paraphilia NOS categories, such as morphophilia and partialism, is less clear. For example, abasiophilia may be a subtype of morphophilia rather than a separate paraphilia. Although predominantly reported in males, abasiophilia also has been reported in females [by Professor Money in his 1990 paper]. Although the etiology of abasiophilia is unknown, psychodynamic interpretations suggest that for a male, the deformed limb of a woman partner represents a female penis [as noted by Dr. Fleischl, in his 1960 paper). According to analytic theory, a man may be attracted to a crippled woman because his anxiety and hostility related to ‘the shock of threatened castration at the sight of the female genital’ are reduced when the deformed limb (representing a penis) is present”.

[Just for the record, morphophilia – as defined by Dr. Milner and his colleagues refers to “an erotic focus on one or more of the body characteristics of one’s sexual partner”].

Dr. George Pranzarone’s Dictionary of Sexology also notes the reciprocal paraphilic condition is autoabasiophilia in which individuals are sexually aroused when they focus on their own condition of being lame, crippled, or unable to walk (and may involve fantasies of being disabled and/or wearing/using orthopedic assistive devices). The book chapter by Dr. Joel Milner and colleagues notes that “the vast majority of cases appear to involve males” but has also been reported in females (again quoting the case studies of Professor Money).

Abasiophilia is part of a wider attraction to disability more generally (which even has its own dedicated Wikipedia entry). There is clearly a lot of psychological crossover between abasiophilia and acrotomophilia (and between autoabasiphilia and apotemnophilia). Both abasiophiles and acrotomophiles are described in the academic literature as “devotees” who are aroused by disability. In relation to autoabasiophiles and apotemnophiles, Dr. Robert Bruno has described these individuals as having a Factitious Disability Disorder as outlined in a 1997 issue of the Journal of Sexuality and Disability (see my previous blog on amputee fetishes for a detailed explanation). However, there is a large overlap between these four paraphilias and Bruno describes such people as DPWs (“devotees, pretenders, and wannabes”). The Wikipedia entry (without much academic supporting evidence) notes:

“[Disability fetishism] starts in early childhood, usually long before puberty is reached. There is normally a trigger event in early childhood involving disabled children or adults. It is most common in those who were children in the 1940s, 50s and 60s when polio was common and there were more people using leg braces than today. Studies made in the last 10 years of people contributing to internet leg-brace devotee groups confirms the most common age of leg-brace devotees and wannabes as between 50 and 70; there are few leg-brace devotees aged less than 40…The important thing to remember is that there is no choice in the [behaviour]. The person feels ‘programmed’ to behave in this way and he has little or no ability to alter his behaviour: much though he may feel ashamed of his feelings, desires and obsessions he can do little about themThe disability may be minor like missing fingers, profound like blindness and (stereotypically) amputation, or quadroplegia. Some devotees desire people with cognitive disabilities”

The first thing person I thought of as I read this last claim (as I don’t think there is any academic research supporting such an assertion) was the late television personality Jimmy Saville who allegedly preyed on the learning disabled for sexual gratification (although this obviously isn’t an example of abasiophilia). If you want to know more about this paraphilia, you could do worse than start at the Abasophilia Information webpages that are a treasure trove of information for the would-be abasiophile.

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.

Bruno, R.L. (1997). Devotees, pretenders and wannabes: Two cases of factitious Disability Disorder. Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 15, 243-260.

Butcher, Nancy (2003). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. New York: Avery

Connelly, Michael (2009). The Scarecrow. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Fleischl, M. F. (1960). A man’s fantasy of a crippled girl. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 14, 741-748.

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

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

Money, J. (1990). Paraphilia in females: Fixation on amputation and lameness: Two personal accounts. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 3, 165–172.

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

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

Wikipedia (2012). Attraction to disability. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attraction_to_disability

Sexual healing: A brief examination of medical fetishism‬

I’m sure most of us can remember playing ‘doctors and nurses’ when we were kids but there are some people who never seem to grow out of it and engage in what has been termed ‘medical fetishism’. The fetish appears to be quite inclusive and wide ranging because the activity can comprise those (i) individuals who are sexually attracted to people in the medical profession, (ii) people (usually heterosexual males) who derive sexual pleasure from their female sexual partners to dress up in a nurse’s uniform, and/or (iii) individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from actually being the recipients of a medical or clinical procedure (usually some kind of bodily examination). Some of these behaviours may be paraphilias or specialized fetishes such as klismaphilia (i.e., sexual pleasure from the receiving of enemas) that I examined in a previous blog. There are also those whose fetish only concerns a very particular branch of medicine (such as dentistry).

The types of activity that have been reported as medical fetishes include genital and urological examinations (e.g., a gynecological examination), genital procedures (e.g., fitting a catheter or menstrual cup), rectal procedures (e.g., inserting suppositories, taking a rectal temperature, prostate massage), the application of medical dressings and accessories (e.g., putting on a bandage or nappy, fitting a dental retainer, putting someone’s arm in plaster), and the application and fitting of medical devices (e.g., fitting a splint, orthopedic cast or brace).

Some of these activities such as having a nappy, catheter, or orthopedic brace fitted may overlap with other sexual paraphilias listed in Dr. AnilAggrawal’ Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, such as infantilism (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from being an adult baby), catheterophilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from catheters), and apotemnophila (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from the thought of being an amputee). In the most extreme cases of medical fetishism, more invasive medical acts may be performed for sexual pleasure including giving injection, anaesthesia, and actual surgery. The sexual pleasure and arousal may occur in the giver and/or receiver, and much of the activity may be in the form of sexual role-play. As one online essay on medical fetishism noted:

“People with an extreme medical fetish use torturous medical devices, speculums, mouth and anal spreaders, enema kits, probes etc. They may even consent to false operations where they are surgically opened, and with nothing fixed or removed, sutured closed. An extreme medical fetish can be a dangerous thing…A medical fetish can include a sexual attraction to medical people. Doctor and nurse porn movies, people receiving medical examinations and so on. Most are simply role play”.

There are also sub-branches of medical fetishism that may have overlaps with sadomasochism and BDSM where (for instance) a female dominatrix may inflict a medical procedure on their willing submissive individual. Such activity often centres on sexual and/or sensitive body parts including the penis, testicles, nipples and anus. The instruments used may also be heated or cooled to heighten the pain/pleasure sensations. Given the potential danger involved in some of the activities performed and the fact the person administering the procedure (e.g., anaesthesia, surgery) may not have any formal medical training, the risk of permanent body damage – or in extreme cases, death – is a possibility. Here, the risk of something going wrong may also be sexually stimulating to the person, and there appears to be both physical and psychological overlaps with paraphilias such as hypoxyphilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from restricting oxygen supply to heighten sexual arousal).

Medical fetishism within sadomasochistic activity would therefore constitute ‘edgeplay’. This is a term used within the BDSM community that refers to sexual activities that push the boundaries of safety and are sometimes referred to as RACKs (Risk-Aware Consensual Kinks). Those involved in edgeplay are fully cognizant of the fact that their sexual behaviour may result in serious bodily harm and permanent damage.

In the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love notes that some people are sexually aroused by exposing themselves to medical practitioners, and that this is called ‘iatronudia’.  She claims that such people will pretend to be ill just so that they can undress in front of a doctor. This echoes with some online sources claim that those with medical fetishes may also feign injury and illness, or give themselves self-inflicted wounds just so that they can receive genuine medical help. Such activity would appear to have psychological overlaps with Factitious Disability Disorders such as Munchausen Syndrome (i.e., feigning illness to draw attention or sympathy from others). This type of behaviour may be considered somewhat safer for the medical fetishist (as the procedures would be carried out by someone who is medically trained) but is an abuse of others’ time and expertise.

Although there is almost no empirical research on medical fetishism, it would appear that most fetishes – particularly when they are very specific and specialized – are rooted in early childhood experiences and most likely caused by behavioural conditioning processes. For instance, those individuals who are only sexually turned on by being anaesthetized not only enjoy the act itself but will usually be sexually aroused by the sight of all the aneasthetic equipment and accessories (e.g., black rubber anaesthetic masks).

As with many other fetishes, the internet has fostered whole online communities of medical fetishists (such as the Gynecology and Medical Examination Fetish Forum or the My Male Medical Fetish; please be warned that these are sexually explicit sites). There is little scientific research on the etiology and psychology of medical fetishism although Dr. Brenda Love speculates that sexual games involving medicine are popular because of the anxiety connected with visiting a GP that “leads to a natural increase in energy in a sexual experience”. I can’t say I’m overly convinced by this explanation, but in the absence of anything more empirical, it’s one of the few views that a clinician has put forward.

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.

Bizarre Magazine (2010). Medical fetishism. December 1. Located at: http://www.bizarremag.com/fetish/fetish/10393/medical_fetish.html?xc=1

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

Midori (2005). Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink Educational, Sensual, And Entertaining Essays. Daedalus Publishing.

Streetsie (2011). Disability fetish and medical fetish. August 19. Located at: http://www.streetsie.com/disability-fetish-medical-fetish/

Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_fetishism

Tattoo’s company: A beginner’s guide to stigmatophilia

One of the less researched sexual behaviours is stigmatophilia. It is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual pleasure and arousal from a partner that is marked in some way. Traditional definitions of stigmatophilia referred to such individuals being sexually aroused by scarring but more recent formulations of stigmatophilia includes those who are sexually aroused by tattoos and piercings (i.e., body modifications especially relating to genitals and/or nipples). According to Professor John Money, stigmatophilia can also refer to the reciprocal condition where the sexual focus is on the person who has the scars, tattoos, and/or piercings. Other even more recent definitions claim that a stigmatophile is “a person with this fetish is sexually aroused by body piercing and tattooing but not ear piercing” (Gay Slang Dictionary).

Stigmatophilia is one of many different eligibility (also called stigmatic) types of paraphilia. In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) writes that the strategy adopted by those who have eligibility paraphilias is that:

“To protect the saintly love from sinful lust is to chose his partner who is so base so unqualified, so depraved that he or she is simply unable or ineligible to compete with the saint, their partner must become a pagan infidel or an erotic heathen. The partner must not appear to be a proper or likeable person. This is done by choosing a partner who is very diminutive or towering in stature fat or skinny very young (paedophilia) or very old (gerontophilia), disfigured, deformed (dysmorphophilia), crippled, stigmatized  (stigmatophilia), even an amputee (acrotomophilia) In extreme cases, the paraphilic wants his partner to be from a different species (zoophilia) or dead (necrophilia), or even a dead specimen of a different species (necrozoophilia). Sometimes the paraphilic may want even himself to be deformed (he is also one of the partners in love making). This desire is reflected in paraphilias like apotemnophilia in which the paraphiliac desires to have his own healthy appendages (limb, digit, or genitals) amputated”

In previous blogs on various fetishes and paraphilia, I have written 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). They reported that some of the sites featured references to stigmatophilia (including body modification). This category made up a small minority of all online fetishes (4%).

Brenda Love noted in her book Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices that tattooing was brought back to Europe by sailors (who had become fascinated by this art from). Consequently, Professor Christine Braunberger (Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, US) wrote a paper for the online journal Genders in 2000 examining the cultural and sexual significance of sailor’s tattoos. She asserted that tattoos are “erotic and potentially fetishistic from an experiential level” and that they “also visually mark a conflation of nationalism and sexuality”. She also argues that navy tattoos depicting women illustrate a “heterofamilial fetish of national culture” that encourages tattoos to be viewed as marks of familial desire (in fact she tries to argue that such tattoos are “symbolic surrogates” for wives and girlfriends). These tattoos often contained “naked women, women draped in flags or other patriotic regalia, dancing girls, and the popular ‘Lady Luck’ or ‘Man’s Ruin’ images in which a female form was surrounded by booze bottles, dice and cards”.

While researching this blog, I came across this confession from a male with a tattoo fetish:

Now I almost 30 and I am working on a complete tattoo bodysuit. I still am turned on by the idea of being totally covered in ink. I am almost there and I only have a few blank spots left. Before I get more I really want to understand this. I was never abused. I don’t hate my body. I have lots of confidence and there is no ‘thing’ in my past that I can think of that would make me this way. It also isn’t a rebellion thing because my family is cool with it and so is my job. I just love having ink, I love getting it, I love the pain, I love the healing, I love looking at it and I love when women touch it. Why am I this way? I am a normal guy and I have a normal sex life, normal relationships etc. BUT when I masturbate I usually don’t need porn. I just picture my entire body being covered in tattoos…Sometimes I look at my own ink in the mirror etc. The more I get the happier I am. I just want to know, what would cause this? Where do fetishes come from? Are they bad if they don’t interfere with your life?”

For me, this quote neatly sums up the fact that this person’s fetish is unproblematic but is key to his sexual arousal. He also displays what Dr. Katherine Irwin writing in a 2003 issue of Sociological Spectrum might call a ‘positive deviant’. Her paper examined two groups within the most elite realm of tattooing (i.e., tattoo collectors and tattooists), and identified how they use both positive and negative deviant attributes to maintain a privileged status on the fringe of society. Whilst not concentrating on the fetishistic element, many of her observations may apply to those with tattoo fetishes. However, she does note that:

“Tattooists foster tastes for macabre and bizarre objects. Such products as fetish magazines, medical books depicting congenital abnormalities, and fringe films and art are highly coveted by members of the elite world of tattooing”

Comparatively little is known about intimate body piercing or its relevance to human behaviour. Dr. Charles Moser and his colleagues published a paper in a 1993 issue of Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality on reasons for nipple piercing among 362 participants. The main reasons for nipple piercing were sexual responsiveness and sexual interest. More recently, Professor Carol Caliendo and her colleagues carried out some research on intimate body piercings that they published in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing. They surveyed a convenience sample of intimately pierced individuals (63 women and 83 men) across 29 US states. Participants reported having nipple piercings (43%), genital piercings (25%) or both types (32%). Compared to the general US population those with sexual piercings were significantly younger, less ethnically diverse, better educated, less likely to be married, more often homosexual or bisexual and they initiated sexual activity at a younger age. The average age for first nipple piercing was 25 years, and for genital piercing was 27 years. Their reasons for getting the piercings were uniqueness, self-expression and sexual expression.

Arguably, one of the best papers on motivations for tattooing and body piercing was published by Dr. Silke Wohlrab and colleagues (University of Goettingen, Germany) in a 2007 issue of the journal Body Image. They established ten broad motivational categories, comprising motivations for getting tattooed and body pierced. This they hoped would serve as a reference in future research in the area. The ten categories were: (i) beauty, art, and fashion, (ii) individuality, (iii) personal narratives, (iv) physical endurance, (v) group affiliations and commitment, (vi) resistance, (vii) spirituality and cultural tradition, (viii) addiction, (ix) sexual motivations, and (x) no specific reasons (e.g., doing it on impulse, or doing it while intoxicated). In relation to sexual motivations, the authors noted that:

“Nipple and genital piercings are quite common and serve as decoration, but also for direct sexual stimulation. Expressing sexual affectations or emphasizing their own sexuality through tattooing and body piercing are also common motivations”.

Clearly, the research that is beginning to be carried out in recent years doesn’t really make specific reference to stigmatophilia as it tends to concentrate on specific types of self-inflicted body modification (particularly tattooing and body piercing) rather than those who have been left with inflicted wounds from third parties (e.g., facial scarring).

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.

Braunberger, C. (2000). Sutures of Ink: 
National (Dis)Identification and the Seaman’s Tattoo. Genders (Online Journal). Located at: http://www.genders.org/g31/g31_braunberger.html

Caliendo, C., Armstrong, M.L. & Roberts A.E. (2005). Self-reported characteristics of women and men with intimate body piercings. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 49, 474–484

Irwin, K. (2003). Saints and sinners: elite tattoo collectors and tattooists as positive and negative deviants. Sociological Spectrum, 23, 27-57.

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

Meyer D. (2000) Body piercing: old traditions creating new challenges. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 26, 612–614.

Moser C., Lee J. & Christensen P. (1993) Nipple piercing: an exploratory-descriptive study. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 6(2), 51–61.

Money, J. (1984). Paraphilias: Phenomenology and classification. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 38, 164-78.

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.

Wohlrab, S., Stahl, J. & Kappeler, P.M. (2007). Modifying the body: Motivations for getting tattooed and pierced. Body Image, 4, 87-95

What’s your crutch? The bizarre world of amputee fetishes

Some of the most bizarre paraphilias that occasionally make their way into reputable scientific journals are those that involve sexual gratification from amputation of some description. Since the late 1800s, the medical literature has described men and women who are sexually attracted to amputees, those who limp, or use crutches, braces and wheelchairs, as well as individuals who pretend to be or who actually want to become disabled. These have included references in the books of Wilhelm Stekel (Sexual Aberrations, 1930), Richard von Krafft-Ebing (Psychopathia Sexualis, 1932), Magnus Hirschfield (Sexual Anomalies and Perversions, 1944), as well as published case studies such as M.F. Fleischl’s study of “A man’s fantasy of a crippled girl” (American Journal of Psychotherapy, 1960) and Louis London’s study of “Transvestism-Desire for crippled women” (Dynamic Psychiatry, 1952).

The relationship between amputated limbs and sexual desire was little known about outside of particular academic circles, but was first brought to public attention in the letters pages of Penthouse in 1972 (see below). Although some thought these letters were a joke, it became clear that for a small minority of people, this was a rare but bona fide paraphilia.

Letter in Penthouse (May 1973): “I am 27, and have been an amputee since I lost my left leg at mid thigh when I was about eight. Probably because I have been an amputee for so long, I’ve never been shy about my lack of leg. For the last four years I have been married to a man who is fascinated by the stump of a female amputee. As a result I usually short skirts when I go out, allowing the end to show. When my husband is home, I wear short skirts so that my stump is fully exposed. I have never liked to use an artificial leg, and mostly I use a single crutch, and believe it ot not, a good ol’ peg leg…..probably many people think a peg leg is not very feminine, but it is practical for me. Sexually I feel I can compete with any two-legged girl. Because my husband is so turned on by the sight of my stump, I usually begin our lovemaking by undressing slowly at the foot of the bed. Once I have my clothes off, I lift my stump so that it points towards my husband and I begin to massage it. This excites my husband greatly, so he takes over and we go from there”

A more recent development in the world of amputee paraphilias has been the advent of the internet. This has brought global attention to people with disabilities and their admirers. Most of these sites are chat rooms and home pages for male devotees of female amputees. However, there are lots of other sites including female devotees of male amputees, particular sexual orientations (heterosexual, homosexual) and particular attractions (e.g. crutches, plaster casts, crutch, and neck braces). One specific bulletin board posting entitled “Bunion Love” requested “photos, videos, or correspondence of girls with deformed/crippled feet, or toe/toes amputated or who have severe bunions on their feet. The more severe, the better.”

Apotemnophilia: In 1977, the renowned US sexologist John Money of the John Hopkins University  coined the term “apotemnophilia” in the Journal of Sex Research. Apotemnophilia (Greek for “amputation love”) refers to being sexually excited by the fantasy or reality of being an amputee. This behaviour is often accompanied by obsessive scheming to convince a surgeon to perform a medically unnecessary amputation. This might seem to most people to be a type of masochism but reported case studies suggest that there is no erotization of pain itself – only of the healed amputated stump. To give you an inside look at the world of the apotomnophiliac, here are two real life case accounts from Professor Money’s files. Both involve people who had an erotic and obsessive desire to be an amputee.

Case Study 1: A man phoned up Professor Money’s sex research unit asking if he could have his leg amputated. He was told that this would not be possible but he continued to phone and write to the unit for the next four years. It was later discovered that he had made many attempts to self-inflict serious injury to his left leg. His obsession had been present since he was 13 years old in the form of self-amputee fantasies. On one notable occasion he hammered a stainless steel rod into his left leg and then tried to infect the open wound by smearing it on facial acne mixed with anal and nasal mucous. When his leg showed serious signs of infection he reported it to the hospital. Unfortunately his attempt failed as antibiotic treatment cleared the infection up. Looking into the childhood background, the most prominent early recollection was his left leg being severely burned by an overturned pot of boiling oatmeal at the age of two years old. This left him unable to walk for a year. However, there was little else in his family history to suggest the origins of such bizarre behaviour.

Case Study 2: A second man wrote to Professor Money for literature on the phenomenon of self-amputation. The patient reported that when he was engaged in homosexual or heterosexual intercourse he would fantasize about an amputee or being one himself. Pictures of both naked and dressed amputees were also used for masturbation purposes. Strangely, his fantasies were not always erotic and it was discovered that he could be aroused by visualizing an amputee engaging in an activity that required considerable effort on their part to overcome their physical handicap (e.g. an amputee water ski-ing). Although he considered many non-surgical ways to become an amputee, when it came down to it, he was too scared of inflicting pain to do it himself. Eventually he got a job working with handicapped people but was still attempting to find a surgeon who would amputate his leg. He continued to maintain that he would only be at peace with himself once he had been through the amputation. Looking into the patient’s background, it was discovered that he had been born with a clubbed right foot for which his father constantly criticized him. The condition was corrected during adolescence. His first amputation thoughts occurred at the age of eleven years old but these were not sexually explicit until the age of about fifteen when there was an amputee who worked with him. However, these childhood events are insufficient in explaining why it occurred.

Given the unconventional desires of the apotemnophiliac, it is perhaps unsurprising that self-mutilation occurs. To some extent, the condition resembles Munchausen’s Syndrome in that MS patients are obsessed with self-inducing symptoms repetitively for the sake of being a patient whereas the apotemnophiliac is obsessed with the symptom themselves for the sake of being an amputee.

Acrotomophilia: Acrotomophilia is a slightly different paraphilia to apotemnophilia and refers to being sexually aroused by a partner who is an amputee. They are excited by the stump or the stumps of the amputee partner and is dependent upon them for sexual arousal and attainment of orgasm. An example of this is given in the case study below (again from the files of Professor Money).

Case Study 3: This case involves a 47-year old man with an amputee fascination. His interest started at school when as an obese child he would try to do anything to avoid PE classes. It was at this stage he first started thinking that if he was an amputee he wouldn’t have to take part in these sessions. As he reached adolescence, he started to pretend to be an amputee by tying one of his legs up and making a peg to walk around on. It was during one of these “pretend” sessions that he experienced his first orgasm. As he reached late adolescence, he switched from fantasizing about being an amputee himself to wanting an amputee partner. He even made his own scrapbook turning Hollywood filmstars like Marilyn Monroe into amputees. He eventually got married and four years into his marriage he told his wife about his fantasies. She didn’t take the news well and it was never mentioned again for a further six years. However, later in the marriage, his wife would occasionally pretend to be an amputee while making love. Through an acquaintance, he developed friendships with a number of amputees and had sexual relationships with some of them. Interestingly, he claimed that his paraphilia was unlike other paraphilias because it was not always sexual and the fantasy was 24 hours a day. 

One of the interesting insights offered by the acrotomophiliac above was that he was part of an amputee network and was in regular correspondence with 55 other amputee devotees. Some of these were married to amputees while others had never even met one. Those who had ended up with amputee partners sometimes changed their focus and became “wannabe” amputees. With regards to the amputee fixation itself, around a quarter of the network were sharply focused on the stump itself and are very exact about what it should feel and look like (some being attracted to the scars – the more the better). Around a quarter of the network were really turned on by the asymmetry that amputation brings. For these people, bilateral amputees (for example, people with both legs amputated) were a turn-off.

In 1983, the first survey of male acrotomophiles was published in the journal Sexuality and Disability. The 195 acrotomophiles in the study were all customers of AMPIX (a company providing stories about and pictures of amputees) and were described as white, college educated, professional males. The results revealed that 75% had been aware of their interest in amputees by the age of fifteen. It was also reported that 55% of respondents had dated amputees, 40% had had sex with an amputee, and only 5% had married an amputee. 53% of the respondents had pretended to be an amputee (11% having done so publicly) and 71% had fantasized about being an amputee.

Another study completed in 1996 surveyed 50 acrotomophiles. The participants were again white college educated, professional males. Of these, 96% had been aware of their interest in amputees by their teens. In this sample, 41% had been married to or lived with an amputee, more than 43% had pretended to be amputees and 22% desired to become amputees. Using psychometric tests, the acrotomophiles were found on average to have high scores on self-esteem, but low scores on social interest, emotional stability and personal relations. Such tendencies have become a concern of people with disabilities since acrotomophiles demonstrate problematic behaviors. These include collecting names, addresses and phone numbers of disabled persons, obsessive and intrusive phone calls, letters and e-mail to persons with disabilities, attending and sometimes organizing disability-related events, lurking in public places to watch, take covert pictures of, talking to and touching disabled persons, and even engaging in predatory stalking.

Devotees, Pretenders and Wannabes: Dr. Robert Bruno, Director of the Post-Polio Institute (New Jersey) described two cases in an effort to understand the psychology of “devotees, pretenders and wannabes” (DPWs). So what exactly are DPWs? Put very simply:

  • Devotees are non-disabled people who are sexually attracted to people with disabilities, typically those with mobility impairments and especially amputees.
  • Pretenders are non-disabled people who act as if they have a disability by using assistive devices (for example braces, wheelchairs, and crutches). This may be done in private or in public so that they can ‘feel’ disabled or are perceived by others as having a disability.
  • Wannabes actually want to become disabled, sometimes going to extraordinary lengths to have a limb amputated.

Dr. Bruno has also reported some of his case studies in the scientific literature:

Case Study 4: A 48-year old white female had been interested in men who had mobility impairments since she was a teenager. The first evidence of her interest was in high school when she dated a boy who had a severe limp. Although they kissed, she reports not being very sexually aroused by him and was interested, not in having intercourse, but in being with him and potentially seeing his affected leg. She then had a one-off date with an “obese and mildly retarded” wheelchair-bound man who she met through a personal ad. After their first passionate kiss she went to the bathroom and masturbated to orgasm by imagining herself having sex with the man. She did not want to have sex with him, as just the thought of him in his wheelchair was enough to give her an orgasm. She continued to search, obsessively at times, for disabled men. However, things changed when on a work trip she noticed a wheelchair behind the front desk of the hotel and first had the idea that she could pretend to be disabled. She started to do this regularly and after each trip out in a wheelchair she would return to her room and masturbate to orgasm while sitting in the wheelchair. The fantasies that aroused her were not even sexual. She would imagine her legs being paralyzed or picture herself being in a wheelchair. Alternatively she would imagine a paralyzed man walking on crutches, or his braces. This was enough to bring her to orgasm. Her ultimate fantasy was to meet a disabled man while she was pretending to be disabled and have sex. However, she denied strongly that she herself wanted to have a disability.

Looking into her childhood, she described herself as a lonely child whose parents ignored her. However, she recounted an incident when a local child, who had had polio and walked with crutches and leg braces, walked past their home on the way to school. Her parents appeared to show more concern for the boy than for her. She also remembered how her teacher would give more attention to the disabled children. After these experiences she would play in the family garage using croquet mallets as crutches and tieing sticks to her legs for braces. She also remembered finding her old baby carriage and pretending it was her wheelchair. Basically, she wanted to be a disabled child so she would be loved.

A variety of explanations have been offered for DPW’s attractions, desires and behaviours. The most appealing explanation involves the pairing in childhood of a disability-related stimulus with sexual arousal. For example, one plaster-cast devotee reported by Dr. Bruno had his first sexual experience with a girl who was wearing a leg cast. However, only 19% of respondents to the AMPIX survey related their interest in amputees to any kind of direct contact with a disabled person, and the overwhelming majority of devotees have reported their interest in disabled persons began long before puberty.

Attraction to disabled persons has also been related to homosexuality, sadism and bondage. However, recent surveys find no increased prevalence of homosexuality, sadism or interest in bondage among acrotomophiles. Several case studies have indicated that there may be a higher incidence of transvestites and transsexuals among DPW’s. However, the notion that an apotemnophile is a “disabled person trapped in a nondisabled body” is difficult to justify, as there is no ‘naturally-occurring’ state of disability that would correspond to the the two naturally-occurring genders. Others have suggested that DPW’s desires develop from a combination of a strict anti-sexual attitude in the child’s household, deprivation of maternal love and parental rejection in early childhood that creates a fear for survival and a self-generated fantasy for security.

Some case reports (like the one above) appear to suggest that deprivation of parental love, coupled with seeing parents’ positive emotional response to a disabled child, set the stage for attraction to the disabled. However, there may be other psychological factors at work as we shall see in the final case outlined below from the case notes of Dr. Bruno.

Case Study 5: A 45 year old white female with a history of childhood polio continually complained of arm and leg weakness, daily fatigue, disturbed sleep, imbalance and falling. Through her twenties and thirties she had many operations (on her hips and legs) and often became depressed. She had twice attempted suicide. In her early forties, she was given knee and ankle braces to treat her “instability.” Because of discomfort, she rarely wore these and began using crutches. The patient’s husband stated that she was again able to walk at home and in the hospital when she was in a psychotic state but not at any other time. He recalled that his wife had always wanted to have a “little disability” that would not limit her, like wearing braces on both legs, but only up to her calves. She thought that her mother and people in general would have treated her more kindly if she had been a disabled child. 

Her childhood desire to have a ‘little disability’ was something she thought would have allowed her to be “treated more kindly,” and her subsequent development of a Factitious Disorder, suggest that those with factitious physical disabilities can be combined with DPWs to create a diagnostic grouping that Dr. Bruno calls Factitious Disability Disorders. These are conditions in which disability – real or pretended – provide an opportunity to be loved and attended to where no such opportunity has otherwise existed. As noted earlier, Professor Money observed that apotemnophilia may share something in common with Munchausen’s Syndrome. However, Professor Money distinguishes between the Munchausen’s patient, who is obsessed with self-inducing symptoms repetitively for the sake of being a patient, and the apotemnophile who is supposedly satisfied with a single amputation.

The commonality between both conditions is they engage in the behaviour “for the sake of being a patient” (to receive the care and attention that would otherwise not be obtainable). Apotemnophiles need only one – albeit very extreme – medical intervention that leaves them with a lasting and obvious stigma of disability that they believe will permanently satisfy their need for love and attention. If the common psychological foundation of these conditions is that disability will satisfy unmet needs for love and attention, then there are only two factors that differentiate between DPWs and those with a factitious physical disability – the awareness of a desire to appear or actually become disabled and physically appearing to be disabled.

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

Further reading

Berger, B.D., Lehrmann, J.A., Larson, G., Alverno, L. & Tsao, C.I. (2005). Nonpsychotic, nonparaphilic self-amputation and the internet. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 46, 380-383.

Brang, D., McGeoch, P. & Ramachandran V.S. (2008). Apotemnophilia: A neurological disorder. Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology 19, 1305-1306.

Bruno, R.L. (1997). Devotees, pretenders and wannabes: Two cases of factitious Disability Disorder. Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 15, 243-260.

First, M.B. (2005). Desire for amputation of a limb: Paraphilia, psychosis, or a new type of identity disorder. Psychological Medicine, 35, 919–928.

Dixon, D. (1983). An erotic attraction to amputees. Sexuality and Disability, 6, 3-19.

Everaerd, W.  (1983). A case of apotemnophilia: A handicap as sexual preference.  American Journal of Psychotherapy, 37, 285-293.

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Stumped! Amputee fetishes. Bizarre, 44, 70-74.

Money, J. (1990). Paraphilia in females: Fixation on amputation and lameness. Journal of Psychological Human Sexuality, 3, 165-172.

Money, J., Jobaris, R. & Furth, G. (1977). Apotemnophilia: Two cases of self-demand amputation as a paraphilia.  Journal of Sex Research, 13, 115-125.

Money, J. & Simcoe, K.W. (1986). Acrotomophilia, sex and disability: New concepts and case report.  Sexuality and Disability, 7, 43-50.

Storrs, B. (1997). Devotees of disability, New Mobility, 6, 50-53.

Storrs, B. (1997). Amputees, Inc.: Amputees pitching products and themselves to devotees of disability. New Mobility, 7, 26-31.