“I love the idea of being wheeled in my bed along the hospital corridors before bursting through the swing doors of the Anaesthetic Room. The lady anaethetist then smiles and tells me that she has decided to put me to sleep with the Gas. ‘NO! Not the Gas!’ The lady then insists by saying that it is her treat and that she has been looking forward to this moment! She smiles as she lowers the black rubbery mask and whispers, ‘Now just relax. IT’S TIME! Breathe in the Gas nice and deep. I look forward to seeing you struggle to keep your eyes open; but very soon you will succumb to the lovely Gas and you will have to close your eyes! Sleep well!’ She leans closer to me and laughs as I take deep breaths of the lovely Gas!!” (Participant at Sleep Peeps website).
In a previous blog, I examined medical fetishism that refers to an umbrella group of related sexual fetishes in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from medical and/or clinical practices and procedures (e.g., undergoing a rectal examination or urethral swab, having temperature taken), objects (e.g., stethoscope, hypodermic needle), situations (e.g., waiting to see a nurse), and environments (e.g., being in a hospital waiting room). One form of medical fetishism is anaesthesia fetishism in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from either administering and/or receiving some kind of anaesthetic such as chloroform, ether, butane, etc. As an entry in Wikipedia notes:
“This may include the sexual attraction to the equipment, processes, substances, effects, environments or situations. Sexual arousal from the desire to administer anesthesia, or the sexual desire for oneself to be anaesthetized are two forms in which an individual may exist as an arbiter of the fetish. Older-style anesthesia masks of black rubber, still in occasional use today, are one of the more common elements fetishized, and have earned the nickname Black Beauty by many fetishists…The Internet has enabled people with this relatively rare paraphilia to discuss the subject and exchange anesthesia-related multimedia”.
Back in 1999, I had my first ever article published on sexually paraphilic behaviour in the magazine Bizarre. It was an article on autoerotic deaths and it featured the cases of ten people who had died in strange sexual circumstances. One of the cases I featured was originally published in a 1988 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology (by Dr. J.J. McLennan and colleagues). The case involved a single 59-year old white US male antiques dealer. The man was found dead in his locked apartment. He was seated in front of a dental anaesthetic machine with the anaesthetic face-mask over his face. He was sucking on a rubber teat similar (but much bigger) than a baby’s feeding bottle. There were other anaesthetic machines around the apartment as well as a lot of sexual literature (magazines, photographs, paintings, manuscripts all concerned with his elaborate fetish some of which included photographs of himself in these situations). He was wearing a rubber type apron, three woolen cardigans, a woman’s blouse and two pairs of women’s trousers and a pair of women’s bloomers. This appeared to be a genuine case of anaesthesiophilia. (A similar case was also reported in 1988 the same journal by Dr. S. Leadbeatter. Here, the method of induction of cerebral hypoxia was inhalation of nitrous oxide [i.e., ‘laughing gas’] from a dental anesthetic machine).
In the same article I featured the case of a single 32-year old white US male computer programmer that was published in a 1983 issue of Medicine, Science and the Law (by Dr. S.M. Cordner). Here, the man was found dead in bed with cassette recorder next to him and covered in dry semen stains. He was wearing headphones which playing “snorting” horse sounds. There was also a can of aerosol propellant. At the end of the bed was a large painting of a male strapped to the hind legs of a horse who was being anally penetrating by the horse. The horse was ridden by a leather-clad woman. He was also wearing some kind if homemade masturbatory device. His death was recorded as cardio-respiratory failure consistent with aerosol propellant abuse (death by misadventure).
Although this case wasn’t technically anaesthesiophilia, it did involve self-administration of a chemical agent to modify the sensations of masturbation. However, in a 2009 book chapter on ‘adult sexual offences’ by Dr. Deborah Rogers (in the book Clinical Forensic Medicine), she seems to suggest that the case I have just described would be classed as anaesthesiophilia as she defines such a paraphilia as it involves the person using a volatile substance (e.g., chloroform, ether, butane) as a source of sexual arousal. She also points out the commonalities between anaesthesiophilia, hypoxyphilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from oxygen deprivation), and electrophilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from electricity and electric stimuli). More specifically she notes:
“Some sexual variations involve inherently life-threatening practices. These include autoerotic asphyxia (using strangulation, hanging, gagging, plastic bag asphyxia, inverted suspension), electrophilia and anaesthesiophilia. When accidental deaths do occur in these circumstances associated paraphernalia may be present at the scene, such as evidence of transvestism, bondage, pornographic material or mirrors. Family members or friends who discover the body in these situations may, in an attempt to preserve the reputation of the deceased, remove certain articles. In doing so they may create a scene erroneously considered a suicide or homicide. When the truth is divulged sympathetic explanations are necessary for reassurance that these deaths are usually accidental”.
Many of the same points were made by Dr. Stephen Hucker writing in a 2011 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Hucker compared electrophilia and hypoxyphilia and electrophilia with anaesthesiophilia. He also stated that all these behaviours have potential “to result in a well-recognized mode of accidental death” and come “under the general rubric of sexual masochism”.
Using Dr. Rogers’ wider definition of anaesthesiophilia indicates that the practice – while rare – is well known in the forensic literature where a number of autoerotic deaths have been reported as arising from the sexual use of volatile substances. One of the first such deaths reported in the literature dates back to a 1933 German report (by Dr. F. Schwarz). He recounted the case of a man who had used a complex system of valves, tubes, and balloons to get sexually aroused from nitrous oxide (stolen from his dad’s medical practice).
Another lethal German case from 1997 was reported by Dr. M. Rothschild and Dr. V. Schneider. Again, the source of sexual arousal was nitrous oxide (this time dispensed from cream dispenser cartridges via a homemade system of anesthetic tubes, plastic bags, and an anesthetic face mask. A paper by Dr. D. Breitmeier and colleagues in a 2002 issue of the Journal of Legal Medicine reported an autoerotic death of a man due to a bizarre combination of asphyxia by suffocation and intoxication with (the drug) ketamine that was self-administered by an intravenous catheter.
Dr. R.W. Byard and his colleagues also reported an unusual autoerotic death in a 2000 issue of the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine. They reported the case of a 38-year-old man who was “found dead in bed dressed in female clothing with a mouth gag, handcuffs and bindings around the genitals and limbs”. A gas mask respirator was also covering the mouth and nose and death was attributed to a combination of chloroform toxicity and upper-airway obstruction. Another autoerotic death involving chloroform was reported by Dr. Peter Singer and Dr. Graham Jones in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
“He was found lying on the floor of his apartment, prone on a piece of foam and a towel. His eyes were bound with a towel, his lower face and nose were almost entirely covered with duct tape surrounding a rubber hose in his mouth. The other end of the hose was loosely sitting inside an open bottle which was in a box beside him. He was bound-up by an intricate system of ropes, handles, and rods, ending with a noose around his neck”
Clearly, much of what we know about anaesthesiophilia appears to be based on case reports where the use of an anaesthetizing agent during the sexual act has gone horribly wrong. Most of the deaths occurred because the person appears to have been on their own and was presumably a masturbatory act. Engaging in the act where more than one person is present significantly reduces the chances of anything unwanted happening for the anaesthesiophile.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Breitmeier D., Passie, T., Mansouri, F., Albrecht, K, Kleemann, W.J. (2002) Autoerotic accident associated with self-applied ketamine. Journal of Legal Medicine, 116, 113-116.
Bungardt, N. & L. Pötsch, (2003). [Report on a methemoglobinemia associated death]. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 212, 176-183.
Byard, R.W., Kostakis, C., Pigou, P.E. & Gilbert, J.D. (2000). Volatile substance use in sexual asphyxia. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 7, 26-28.
Cordner, S.M. (1983). An unusual case of sudden death associated with masturbation. Medicine, Science and Law, 23, 54-56.
Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Dying for it: Autoerotic deaths Bizarre, 24, 62-65.
Hucker, S. (2011). Hypoxyphilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1323-1326.
Leadbeatter, S., (1988). Dental anesthetic death: An unusual autoerotic episode. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 9, 60-63.
McLennan, J.J., Sekula-Perlman, A., Lippstone, M.B. & Callery, R.T. (1998). Propane-associated autoerotic fatalities. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 19, 381-386.
Musshoff, F., Padosch, S.A., Kroener, L.A, et al., (2006). Accidental autoerotic death by volatile substance abuse or nonsexually motivated accidents? American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 27, 188-192.
Rogers, D.J. (2009). Adult sexual offences. In McLay, W.D.S. (Ed.). Clinical Forensic Medicine (3rd Edition, pp. 137-154). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rothschild, M.A. & Schneider, V. (1997). Uber zwei autoerotische Unf T Lachgasnarkose und Thoraxkompression. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 200, 65-72.
Schwarz, F. (1933). T Lachgasvergiftung bei Selbstnarkose. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 93, 215-217.
Singer, P.P. & Jones, G.R. (2006). An unusual autoerotic fatality associated with chloroform inhalation. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 30, 216-218.
Stemberga, V., Bralić, M., Bosnar, A. & Coklo M. (2007). Propane-associated autoerotic asphyxiation: accident or suicide? Collegium Antropologicum, 31, 625-627.
Thibault R, Spencer JD, Bishop JW, Hibler NS (1984) An unusual autoerotic death: asphyxia with an abdominal ligature. Journal of Forensic Science, 29, 679-684.
Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_fetishism
In previous blogs I have briefly mentioned various forms of inflation fetishes. In my blogs on fat fetishes and alvinophilia (belly fetishism) I noted that some fat admirers encourage their sexual partners to engage in inflation activities (where individuals inflate their abdomen with air or liquid so their abdomen is distended). Belly inflation is part of the wider practice of body inflation, and involves the practice of inflating (or sometimes pretending to inflate) a part of one’s body typically for sexual gratification. For some, this may be connected with sexual arousal from the receiving of enemas (i.e., klismaphilia). According to a Wikipedia entry on fat fetishism:
“Inflation refers to the practice of inflating (typically with air or liquid), until the abdomen is distended, in such a way that it simulates a stuffing or bloating, but without food”.
In my blog on scrotal infusion I described the sexual practice in which fluid (usually saline solution) is injected into the scrotal sac as a way of making it balloon in size (which is why the practice is sometimes referred to as ‘ballooning’). A very similar practice is scrotal inflation in which air (or other gases) are injected into the scrotal sac. As I noted in my previous blog, both scrotal infusion and inflation are potentially dangerous, and individuals engaging in such acts are at risk of scrotal cellulitis, subcutaneous emphysema, Fournier’s gangrene (a type of necrotizing infection or gangrene usually affecting the perineum), and/or air embolism. As far as I am aware, there is no academic or clinical research on the practice although there are a number of websites dedicated to this practice (e.g., http://www.bodyinflation.org/). Here are a few online accounts I came across:
Extract 1: “Ever since I was pregnant, I constantly fantasized about having that big round belly again. I used to watch pregnant porn and try to push my belly out and rub it but obviously wasn’t the same. I recently came across inflation. I never heard of it before nor thought it was possible, and it turned me on so much. I just tried air inflation with a fish pump for the first time yesterday, and it was such an amazing feeling to have a hard tummy again. I rubbed it up and down it was amazing but it was a bit crampy at times. I loved the pressure, my tight belly…I know I’m going to have to practice at it more…I want to get to a point were my belly looks pregnant with out all the cramping…I haven’t been able to talk about this to any one nor my husband. I think he’d find it extremely weird”.
Extract 2: “I have an inflation fetish myself. Every now and then – which is starting to become daily – I usually inflate my stomach with air or water. I occasionally chug [almost] a gallon of milk or water with salt in it – chugging too much water can be poisonous, so always put some salt in it to balance your electrolytes. I find it very arousing to get a rock-hard stomach and I want to continue to make my stomach bloat bigger and rounder, yet maintain my abs. It’s a fun challenge”.
Extract 3: “I have the same fetish. I’m a gay guy, and I prefer belly expansion in particular. I think this fetish is somehow tied to the weight gain fetish that the internet and media has exposed in recent years. I, too, have a weight gain fetish. However, I enjoy helping or watching a partner partake in weight gain, but not myself. Getting back on the subject, though I do enjoy inflating myself. Whether it be through bloating with water, air enemas, or water enemas. Water enemas have become my personal favorite method, plus they’re actually healthy and cleanse your colon. I have noticed a lot of people with similar fetishes though. Everyone has their own niche of what turns them on”.
Obviously I can’t verify the veracity of the claims made by these individuals but assuming they are true and accurate admissions, they demonstrate that inflation fetishes exist and that there appear to be overlaps with other sexual fetishes and sexual paraphilias (such as fat fetishes). However, we know nothing about the incidence, prevalence, and the development of the fetish. In one of the many online fetish lists, one of them on the Thumbpress website (’10 strange fetishes that don’t make sense’) said that one of the inflation fetishes (‘air pumping’) was “quite disturbing…perhaps as disturbing as klismaphilia” and involves pumping air into the anus to the point that it expands the belly. The website’s critique was the practice was “unhealthy, dangerous and ridiculous”. On another fetish list on the Cracked website (‘5 ridiculous [safe for work] fetishes’), the article notes that:
“[Inflation fetish] is kind of like the balloon fetish, but with a fun twist. Instead of blowing air into a party favor, you stick a bicycle pump inside your danger zone and inflate your own body until you feel like you’re going to burst. You get the farts for hours after you do it, and these guys talk about that like it’s a plus. Normal people get a stomachache after swallowing air and trying to burp, so we think it’s pretty easy to see what these guys are going through. Besides having massive online communities dedicated to the practice of filling tummies with air, there are also millions (OK, tens) of YouTube accounts whose sole purpose is to show videos of stomachs growing slightly larger”.
One aspect of air pumping that should never be attempted is vaginal air pumping. On one sexual ‘agony aunt’ website (Go Ask Alice), one man asked whether blowing air into his girlfriend’s vagina could kill her. The response by ‘Alice’ asserted:
“Yes, it’s a true but very rare occurrence. When air is blown or forced directly into a vagina – without allowing any air to escape – an air embolism (the abnormal presence of air in the cardiovascular system) could form, which can be fatal. Women who are more at risk for this unlikely possibility are those whose pelvic vessels are enlarged (meaning, increased blood supply to the vagina) due to a condition such as trauma and possibly pregnancy. So, if a very large amount of air were to be blown or forced into their vaginal canals, it’s possible that the air could enter their bloodstream, causing a blockage in a blood vessel. As a result, some of these women, perhaps including the pregnant women’s fetus, may experience complications. In extraordinary cases, some of these women (and the fetus) may die if the embolism travels to the heart or lungs”.
The lack of empirical research into inflation fetishes is either because they (i) are viewed by the academic and clinical communities as a trivial research topic, or (ii) have not (as yet) caused any problems among its adherents. If papers do end up being published it may be as a result of when things go horribly wrong (i.e., someone dying).
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.
Cipriano, A. (2009). 5 ridiculous (safe for work) fetishes. Cracked, March 17. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_17149_5-ridiculous-safe-work-fetishes.html
Encyclopedia Dramatica (2012). Fat furry. Located at: https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Fat_furry
Thumbpress (2011). 10 strange fetishes that don’t make sense. April 20. Located at: http://thumbpress.com/10-strange-fetishes-that-don’t-make-sense/
Wikipedia (2012). Body inflation. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_inflation
Wikipedia (2012). Fat fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_fetishism
Balloon fetishes are (unsurprisingly) sexual fetishes that feature balloons as the source of sexual arousal and pleasure. Such individuals are known as ‘looners’. David Kerekes (editor of Headpress – The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion) wrote that some balloon fetishists “revel in the popping of balloons and [others] may become anxious and tearful at the very thought of popping balloons”. In her book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates also notes that other looners enjoy particular aspects of balloons such as blowing them up and/or interacting with them (e.g., rubbing up against balloons, sitting and/or lying on balloons, etc.). A quick look at a few balloon fetish websites also indicates that some looners like watching people inflate them until they burst whereas others like gigantic balloons that they can stick their head inside them (for instance, check out the pictures here which also claim that the smell or the colour of the balloon may be an important part of the fetish).
There has been very little empirical research carried out on looners and much of what is known is based on anecdotes and hearsay. Anecdotal case studies suggest that the etiology of the fetish varies from one person to the next although some claim that the behaviour can be explained by sexual imprinting where specific sexual preferences may be acquired through exposure to particular stimuli during a specific period early in life. Some looners recall that in childhood they remember being sexually aroused when they saw balloons being popped by the opposite sex (or people they had a crush on). It has also been alleged that – somewhat paradoxically – looners may have phonophobia (i.e., a fear of loud sounds) as a result of being in the vicinity of balloons popping loudly. As Dr. Ilana Simons claims in a Psychology Today article, there is an unexplained link between fetishes and phobias:
“There is a deep connection between phobias, fetishes, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In each, someone has an emotion that threatens to overwhelm her… A person with a fetish handles the monster of desire by focusing not on whole people but on parts – just a shoe, or the butt, or the slit in skirts. Focus on one thing organizes or restrains multiple feelings. A person with a phobia is similarly able to contain anxiety by condensing emotion to one target”.
In an online essay (So hot and ready to pop: The world of looners), balloon fetishists comprise poppers (where popping the balloon is essential to the fetish) and non-poppers (who avoid the bursting of balloons in all instances). Katherine McIntyre recently published a paper on balloon fetishes (Looners: Inside the world of balloon fetishes) and interviewed a number of looners. One of her interviewees claimed that poppers are generally more dominant and non-poppers more submissive. However, sex therapist Paul Abramson claimed the distinction was trivial and “like trying to distinguish Miller from Bud drinkers”. McIntyre also noted that:
“The balloon fetish community extends beyond porn. Looners share stories and ask questions about their fetish on Facebook, Twitter and other Internet sites. About 1,200 people are regular members of Balloon Buddies, a popular listserv in the looner community where otherwise uncomfortable and often ashamed balloon people gather and discuss their preoccupation. Balloon Buddies was started as a pen pal group in the 1970s by a man from Maine nicknamed Buster Bill. Several thousand people have circulated through over the years”.
Even among looners who don’t have a balloon phobia, it has been claimed that may have no desire to burst the balloon because they have an anthropomorphized emotional attachment to the balloon (i.e., they attribute human characteristics to the balloon). The article also claims that balloon fetish is indirectly related to latex fetishes. Just like latex, balloons are “tactile and supple and imitate the consistency of human skin”. However, balloons have extra properties such as the ability to expand and is said to be akin “the swelling of primary and secondary sexual organs during arousal”. A Wikipedia entry on looners also claims that:
“One hallmark of the distinction between poppers and non-poppers may be in seeing balloons’ bursting either as a metaphor for orgasm, or as a metaphor for death…for fetishists the adrenaline rush associated with the ‘danger’ that a balloon will pop produces a sexual response. This helps to explain why even non-poppers who have an intense phobia of balloons popping in non-sexual contexts may be aroused by the possibility within safe sexual contexts. It may even suggest that balloon fetish, for poppers and non-poppers alike, is part of the BDSM [Bondage, Dominance, Submission, Masochism] spectrum of fetishes in which a controlled amount of danger is used to elicit a pleasurable fight or flight in participants”.
In an article for The Wave Magazine, entitled “Fetish Confessions”, Sandy Brundage interviewed self-confessed looner ‘Mike D’ about his balloon fetish. Brundage simply wanted to know why looners are so sexually aroused by balloons. Mike D – who now runs the balloon fetish video site Mellyloon that has sent out over 1,000 balloon fetish films to the Middle East, Asia, South and North America – said:
“I’m not sure I have the answer to that. There’s always something that goes back to your childhood. Like your babysitter blew up a balloon or your mother popped your balloon. Then along comes puberty and these things that made such an impression on you as a child turn into something erotic….I’m still phobic [about balloons]. That’s where my whole fetish derived from, that fear”.
McIntyre interviewed another male looner (Shaun) who was particularly aroused by balloons because of their smell. He said:
“The smell of a room that has a lot of balloons, especially after they have oxidized over a period of a couple days, is nearly indescribable. Each brand possesses a smell as distinct to looners as perfume. The odor is subtly sweet with a hint of rubber. One sniff can identify a Rifco brand product because its latex smells slightly of chocolate chip cookies. The aroma adds to the experience, as does the feel and sound of balloons. The sensation of swimming through hundreds of balloons in my bedroom was overwhelming and amazing”.
McIntyre also noted that some looners care more about the balloon’s size, colour and brand. Some prefer solid colored balloons and others prefer transparent balloons. One looner said that size was crucial (“the bigger the better”). This particular looner claimed he could orgasm simply by blowing up a balloon until it popped.
McIntyre also interviewed Lynda, a 55-year-old teacher from Los Angeles who said that balloons were “more sensual than sexual” for her. She and her partner own three helium tanks and they sometimes fill their bedroom, living room or shower with balloons. Lynda says she traps herself in a cage she built with balloons, turns on a large fan, and allows the balloons to move around her. This she says stimulates “her senses to invigorating heights” and equates the feeling to a junkie’s high (“so intense, so wild and awesome”), and “collapses in ecstasy afterward like one does after incredible sex”. Lynda says her partner accepts her balloon fetish because “it’s not immoral, not fattening, it’s relatively cheap and brings a smile to her face”.
McIntyre also claimed in her article that most looners grew up ashamed with the belief that no-one else in the world had their sexual fetish. It was only when they found other like-minded people online that they realized they were “not alone”. This helps eliminate the looner’s feelings of isolation. This then becomes easier to tell potential partners about their fetish and helps looners to keep their behaviour under control.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Brundage, S. (2002). Fetish Confessions: Telling loved ones about your fetish is as easy as solving fractured quadratic equations. The Wave Magazine, July 31. Located at: http://web.archive.org/web/20071110095616/http://thewavemagazine.com/pagegen.php?pagename=article&articleid=22026
Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.
Kerekes, D. (2010). Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 21, 142.
Malfouka (undated). So hot and ready to pop: The world of looners. Maximum Awesome. Located at: http://www.maximumawesome.com/pervfriday/looners.htm
McIntyre, K.E. (2011). Looners: Inside the world of balloon fetishism. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, 27 April. Located at: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/40c3h6kk
Simons, I. (2009). On fetishes and clean pencil tips. Psychology Today, March 8. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-literary-mind/200903/fetishes-and-clean-pencil-tips
Wikipedia (2012). Balloon fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balloon_fetish