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Mirror, mirror on the wall: A brief look at katoptronophilia

In the 2000 film American Psycho, the anti-hero Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) contains a scene in which while having sex with two female escorts, looks at himself in the mirror admiringly. Even when one of the escort girls tries to attract his attention, he seemingly prefers to look at himself rather than the women he is making love to. Quite clearly a narcissist, Bateman may have also been a kataptronophile. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, katoptronophilia is a sexual paraphilia defined as sexual pleasure and arousal from having sex in front of mirrors.

Having said that, somewhat confusingly, Aggrawal also says that individuals who derive sexual arousal  “from looking at oneself in a mirror [and] arousal from image in mirrors” is called spectrophilia. (However, I examined this in a previous blog and most credible sources state that spectrophilia relates to those who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from having sex or sexual thoughts about ghosts). A short online article on katoptronophilia on the Wikipedia website goes a little further and defines it as:

“…a paraphilia for mirrors (the Greek word for mirror is katoptron). It may include activities such as having sex in front of mirrors, masturbating in front of mirrors, enacting other paraphilias in front of a mirror, having an orgy in front of a mirror, or enacting stripping fetishism in front of mirrors. Enacting katoptronophiliac fantasies may involve constructing environments for erotic activity in which one is completely surrounded by mirrors, sometimes including even on the ceiling. A person who is a katoptronophiliac may put mirrors all over their house so they can have sex in any room in the house”.

On first look, katoptronophilia appears to be a sub-type of voyeurism where the key distinguishing feature is the use of mirrors as part of the voyeuristic act. However, voyeurism is usually defined as the act of gaining sexual arousal from the watching of others either naked and/or engaging in sexual behaviour. I stressed the word ‘others’ as katoptronophila involves the watching of oneself having sex via the use of mirrors. Technically, kataptronophilia is a sub-type of scoptophilia (sometimes called scopophilia). According to Dr. George Pranzarone in his 2000 Dictionary of Sexology, scoptophilia/scopophilia is

A paraphilia of the solicitational [and] allurative type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to, and contingent on watching others engaging in sexual activity, including sexual intercourse [from Greek, skopein, to view + -philia]. The condition in which a person is dependent on looking at sexual organs and watching their coital performance in order to obtain erotic arousal and facilitate and achieve orgasm. It is not surreptitious, as in voyeurism. The reciprocal paraphilic condition is sometimes also referred to as scoptophilia; or by its own name, autagonistophilia. Synonyms, mixophilia; mixoscopia; scopophilia”.

Just complicate things a little further, many online definitions of mixophilia (which as in the definition by Dr. Pranzarone above appears to be another word for scoptophilia) often mention mirrors in the definitions. For instance, the Fetish List website defines mixophilia as gaining sexual arousal and pleasure from watching “their partner or themselves engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves in a mirror”. This is similar to the definition for mixophilia in the online Gay Slang Dictionary that notes:

“A person with this fetish [mixophilia] likes to watch his partner or the both of them engage in sexual activity. Usually this means watching themselves perform in a mirror. A common theme in gay porn pictures is the presence of a mirror in which part or all of the action is reflected”

I’ve yet to come across a single academic article on the topic and most of the theorizing is speculative to say the least. In 2003, Mark Pendergrast published his cultural history of mirrors (Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection), but did not specifically examine katoptronophilia (although did mention the sexual use of mirrors). The one thing I learned was that the Etruscans [an ancient Italian civilization originating around what is now known as Tuscany] often featured sex scenes painted on the back of their mirrors). In relation to why katoptronophilia exists, one online snippet I came across claimed that:

“Theories suggest that katoptronophilia is fed from a basal narcissistic instinct. It is a combination of narcissism and degradation and a feeling of over powering dominance. It’s like watching a live porno of yourself. The most advanced stage of voyeur there is”

This appears to be somewhat corroborated by the Wikipedia entry (and the fictionalized account that opened this blog) that notes that:

“Many pornographic films show porn stars having sex in front of mirrors. Many people enjoy having sex in front of mirrors and have mirrors in their bedrooms in which they can watch themselves have sex. They sometimes engage in this activity for their personal enjoyment. On a deeper level this could relate to the person’s need to reflect and critique themselves, and also being on a mental state of narcissism. The person often is solely absorbed in themselves and likes to watch their actions so as to admire”.

A 2007 online article on kataptronophilia at the Journals of an Intelsexual website argues that the fetish is evolving and that “technology is also expanding on this fetish; live stream cameras, multiple cameras, big screen monitors…the possibilities are limitless”. I’m not convinced that evolving technology providing more ways to watch yourself having sex is actually katoptronophilia as the key distinguishing feature of the paraphilia is the use of mirrors (not the watching of yourself). I seriously doubt if this type of paraphilic behaviour (and I have some doubts as to whether it is a paraphilic behaviour anyway) will ever be the subject of serious academic research as it’s highly unlikely that such behaviour is problematic un any way.

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.

DeMure, K. (2007). Word of the week: Katoptronophilia. Lust Puddle, November 6. Located at: http://lustpuddle.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/word-of-week-katoptronophilia.html

Forbidden Light (2007). Katoptronophilia: Love for mirrors. Journals of an Intelsexual, December 4. Located at: http://intelsexualism.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/katoptronophilia-love-for-mirrors.html?zx=ac769a5283ebf462

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

Pendergrast, M. (2003). Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection. New York: Basic Books.

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

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

Mounting on the sermon: A beginner’s guide to homilophilia

While reading a list of strange sexual paraphilias in Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, I came across a paraphilia called homilophilia which according to Dr. Aggrawal refers to individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from the hearing or giving of sermons. Unsurprisingly, there is no academic research on this topic (not even a single published case study), so I did start to wonder if the condition was theoretical or actually a real paraphilia. (I was even surprised to find that there was no entry in Wikipedia). Given there is so little written on the topic, I perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised that not all academic sources agree on what the paraphilia actually constitutes.

In addition to Dr. Aggrawal’s definition above, I also came across the following. Anne Hooper in her 2009 “Dare To…Sex Guide” describes homilophilia as a “public speaking fetish” and that “some people get turned on by standing up in front of an audience and making a sexually fuelled speech. Others become excited by listening and may end up bouncing compulsively on the edge of his or her seat”. The Right Diagnosis website says that homilophilia refers to “sexual urges, arousal or fantasies involving listening to or giving a speech or sermon”. An online article on the A-Z of paraphilias (A Freaky Kind Of Love) defines homilophilia more broadly as referring to individuals who derive sexual arousal from “giving lectures”. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices covers all bases and defines homilophilia as sexual arousal while listening to or giving sermons and speeches”. (She also says the condition is known by another name – autagonistophilia – which I will return to later).

Dr. Brenda Love briefly overviewed homilophilia in a 2005 book chapter entitled “Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing” (in Russ Kick’s book Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong). Her account is mostly speculative and says that the one of the reasons why homilophilia exists is because “public speakers are often dynamic, and this, combined with adrenalin, can produce sexual arousal for both the speaker and the audience”. From a religious perspective, she also claims that people listening to the clergy may get sexually aroused from hearing about the sexual activities they shouldn’t be doing. Dr. Love says “speeches that are about sex do not have to condone it. Often the guilt associated with a minister’s admonitions against this ‘vile’ act can create greater arousal than a lecture discussing its merits”. Dr. Love offers no empirical evidence to support these claims but given there is a complete absence of any scientific research, I can’t say she is wrong.

Most of her article concentrates on the more strict definition of sexual arousal being linked to the giving of religious speeches. She claims that:

“Religious services were once designed to arouse devotees sexually in preparation for the ensuing orgies. Today, tent revivals still appeal to the emotions of those gathered by promising that God will forgive their sins and love them. Occasionally, people will fall to the ground in mild convulsions that are indistinguishable from some Tantra practitioners whose bodies go limp during exercises due to sudden orgasmic vibrations that last ten to twenty minutes”.

She then goes on to note that spiritual arousal at tent revivals, were not always limited to either God or individual worshipers. Quoting from a book called Sex and Race, the author – J.A. Rogers – had tracked down an experiential account of old-time American camp meeting written by D.J. Davis in 1873:

“Those who think that a camp-meeting is no place for love-making are very much mistaken. When passions were aroused and moral restraints gave way for miles around the camp hundreds of couples could be seen prowling around in search of some cozy spot. Since the camp-meeting was a primitive affair, those human beings who were nearest to original Nature, were the leaders, thus the chief stirrers of the sexio-religious emotions of the whites were Negroes, most of whom could neither read nor write. Surcharged with primordial feeling, these totally illiterate blacks would whip their white audiences to the heights of frenzy”.

Dr. Love also makes reference to the fact religious tent revivals in small towns (presumably American) were notorious “cruising spots” for heterosexual prostitutes and gay men during the 1950s and 1960s because there as a lack of more “sophisticated meeting places”. We only have Dr. Love’s word for this but it seems plausible. However, there is then a lot of speculation as Dr. Love moves out of the religious arena and into the court room as another environment in which homilophilia occurs. More specifically, she claims:

“Trial attorneys are another group of speakers who seem to project sexual chemistry. These people have to deliver intense emotional pleas in defense of clients. This responsibility and strong emotional display sometimes induces erection in male attorneys. They are often warned by their professors not to fixate on a female juror because she can pick up on the sexual energy and feel uncomfortable. The ability to emotionally or sexually arouse an audience appears to be necessary; without it an audience will not respond to the desires of the speaker, whether this is to purchase an object, convert, volunteer, or change their position on an issue”.

As I mentioned above, Dr. Love also claims that homilophilia is also known as autagonistophilia. However, in most of the definitions I have come across, very few of them would include being sexually aroused from giving or hearing a sermon or lecture. Almost all definitions of autagonistophilia concern individuals deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from displaying themselves in a sexual act in front of others (particularly on stage). In this sense, it is a form of exhibitionism.

For instance, Dr. Robert Campbell defines autagonistophilia in his Psychiatric Dictionary as “a paraphilia in which sexual arousal and orgasm are contingent upon displaying one’s self in a live show, i.e., being observed performing on stage or on camera”. In the book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Aggrawal defines it as “sexual arousal and orgasm [being] contingent upon displaying one’s self in a live show or while being photographed”. Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of ‘paraphilias not otherwise specified’ that the erotic focus in autagonistophilia involves being observed by an audience. Professor John Money in his 1986 book Lovemaps also says the source of erotic focus involves being seen on stage or on camera. Both of these latter definitions could (technically) include those giving a sermon or lecture, but personally I have come to the conclusion that homilophilia and autagonistophilia are two separate paraphilic behaviours.

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.

Campbell, R. J. (2004). Campbell’s Psychiatric Dictionary (8th Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

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

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. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Right Diagnosis (2011). What is homilophilia? Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/h/homilophilia/basics.htm

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