Teddy bears and sex are two things that rarely appear in the same sentence. (Having said that, the film Ted was recently described in one film review as “rude, crude and lewd. We don’t expect our teddy bears to be like that, but foul language, weed smoking and promiscuous sex are all in a day’s work/play for the title creature in Ted”). However, earlier this year, there were many news reports of a 28-year old American man called Charles Marshall who was arrested for the fourth time since 2010 for being seen by a number of eyewitnesses having sex in public with a teddy bear in Ohio. On this latest occasion he was caught in an alleyway masturbating with a teddy bear near to where he could have been seen by children. His first arrest was back in February 2010 when he was caught masturbating with a stuffed animal in a public library toilet. In late 2010 he was caught having sex with a teddy bear for a second time and Marshall admitted in court that having sex with stuffed teddy bears had been “an ongoing problem”. This appeared to be true as in August 2011 he was caught in public yet again having sex with a teddy bear.
This type of sexual behaviour is known as plushophilia and is something I looked at briefly in a previous blog. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, plushophilia is defined as a “sexual attraction to stuffed toys or people in animal costume, such as theme park characters”. However, as I also mentioned in that article, other online sources simply define plushophilia as a sexual paraphilia involving stuffed animals (particularly those people who are self-confessed plushophiles). The reason I am focusing in on sex with teddy bears is because there is actually a paraphilia that solely relates to deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from teddy bears known as ursusagalmatophilia. The online Urban Dictionary simply defines ursusagalmatophilia as “the fetish for teddy bears”.This is not only a sub-type of plushophilia but also (given the name of the paraphilia) appears to be a sub-type of agalmatophilia (in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects) – a paraphilia I also wrote about in a previous blog. Interestingly, there are now press reports surfacing that the titular hero of the film Ted is becoming a sex symbol for plushophiles.
I ought to add at this point that when it comes to teddy bears, I probably know more than most people would care to admit as (a) my mother and aunt had a teddy bear shop in the town I grew up in (The House of Bruin in Loughborough, England) when I was younger, (b) my uncle [Frank Webster] is a renowned teddy bear maker, and (c) my aunt [Sue Webster] used to write a regular column in the Teddy Bear Times magazine. Most lovers of teddy bears have no sexual inclinations towards them at all and their hobby is known as arctophily. (However, in some circles, arctophilia is viewed as a sub-type of zoophilia and includes humans having sex with real bears).
As far as I can ascertain, there is no academic or clinical research on ursusagalmatophilia, although as the newspaper story on Charles Marshall (above) highlights, it does appear to exist, even if it is rare. It is also featured in most online lists of top 10 or top 20 weirdest fetishes and paraphilias (such as the ones as Coed Magazine, Pop Crunch, Dating Dish, Paraphilia Dramatica, Plucky Charms)
I’ve searched every database I can think of to get some information about teddy bear fetishes but there really isn’t a lot out there. You can certainly buy teddy bear fetish fiction on legitimate sites such as Amazon (such as Jade Scott’s short story – Taming My Teddy Bear: An Erotic Story) but it’s hard to know if such fiction is based on anything other than one person’s fantasy or whether it’s written from the position of personal experience. In one of the few online articles about ursusagalmatophilia, Toddy English wrote about her relationship with Adam, an ursusagalmatophile:
“He started showing me pictures of all these teddy bears. The photos of the Teddy Bears were really cute. I just found it bizarre that all of his wallet photos were of teddy bears. One of them was of him sitting on his bed surrounded by Teddy bears. Adam also had a picture of a really big bear (life-sized) that he named Robbie.I thought nothing about it, initially. It seemed innocent enough…That was until he told me what he liked to do with those damn bears. [Adam] got aroused having oral and anal copulation with ‘Robbie’…He further elaborated that he had been in actual threesomes with Robbie…At first I thought he was playing. But as he continued his expression never changed. Adam was being for real. Hell, the way he discussed it he LOOKED like he was getting turned on…I asked Adam had he ever had sex without a bear around. He answered honestly and said no”
Again, this is a second-hand account based on one person’s perception of another person’s behaviour. The first person account presented by English again suggests teddy bear fetishes exist, but there is no third party verification. Unless a person’s fetish becomes a criminal behaviour (like that of Charles Marshall), the behaviour is unlikely to be the topic of scientific investigation any time soon.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Evans, K. (2008). The furry sociological survey. Located at: http://www.furrysociology.net/report.htm
FoxWolfie Galen’s Plushie Page (2012). Definitions. Located at: http://www.velocity.net/~galen/furrydef.html
Hill, D. (2000). Cuddle time: In the world of plushophiles, not all stuffed animals are created equal. Salon, June 19. Located at: http://www.salon.com/2000/06/19/plushies/
Peltzman, L. (2012). Ted’s titular bear is a sex symbol to some, an abomination to others. Gawker, June 30. Located at: http://gawker.com/5922604/teds-titular-bear-is-a-sex-symbol-to-some-an-abomination-to-others
Rust, D.J. (2001). The sociology of furry fandom. Located at: http://www.visi.com/~phantos/furrysoc.html
Show, C. (2012). Man arrested for the fourth time for having sex with a teddy bear in public. Daily Mail, June 15. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2160017/Man-arrested-FOURTH-time-having-sex-teddy-bear-public.html
Wiki Fur (2012). Plushophilia. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Plushophilia