Blog Archives

Faecal attraction: A beginner’s guide to coprophilia

Coprophilia (also known as coprolagnia) is a paraphilia where people get sexual pleasure from faeces. Sexual excitement typically comes from either (i) watching somebody defecate on somebody else or (ii) they themselves defecating on somebody else. In rare instances, some people may become sexually aroused when they are defecated upon by somebody else. As Dr Judith Milner and colleagues wrote in the 2008 book ’Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment’:

“Although some authors have defined the focus of coprophilia as the act of elimination (McCary, 1967), others have defined it as the act of consumption of excrement (Allen, 1969). To complicate the definition further, it appears that some individuals may have an interest in eliminating on one’s partner or in playing with the fecal matter. According to Smith (1976), a common analytic interpretation is that the excrement symbolically represents the penis and that the presence of the fecal matter serves as a defense against castration anxiety”

In the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), it is classified under ‘Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified’ (PNOS) along with other paraphilias such as necrophilia, zoophilia, klismaphilia, and telephone scatophilia. As with all paraphilias in the PNOS category, diagnosis is only made “if the behavior, sexual urges, or fantasies cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning…Fantasies, behaviors, or objects are paraphilic only when they lead to clinically significant distress or impairment (e.g., are obligatory, result in sexual dysfunction, require participation of non-consenting individuals, lead to legal complications, interfere with social relationships)”. The psychologist Dr Tamara Penix (Eastern Michigan University, USA) says there are no data indicating successful treatment of coprophilia.

Surprisingly little scientific research has been carried out on coprophilia, probably because it is so rare. There are certainly pornographic films that include sexual defecation acts (notably some Japanese pornography). Some of these films include coprophiliacs engage in coprophagia (i.e., the eating of faeces and typically referred to more commonly as ‘scat’) which can provides a significant health risk in the form of hepatitis (perhaps another reason as to why the act is so rare). The psychiatrist, Dr Charles Lake (University of Kansa Medical Center, USA) notes that both coprophilia and coprophagia are traditionally considered characteristics of schizophrenia. However, there are case reports in the literature of non-psychotic coprophiliacs with normal intelligence such as one published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 1995.

The most infamous copraphiliac was allegedly Adolf Hitler. This was alluded to in a recent 2011 biography of Hitler’s lover Eva Braun by Heike B. Gortemaker. However, other books on Hitler have been more explicit. For instance, Greg Hallet in his chapter ‘Hitler’s Sexuality’ (from his 2008 book ‘Hitler was a British Agent’) wrote:

“Hitler’s close boyhood friend from Linz, August Kubizek, wrote Adolf Hitler, Mein Jugendfreund (My Youth Friend), ‘Adolf did not engage in love affairs or flirtations. He always rejected the coquettish advances of girls or women. Women and girls took an interest in him but he always evaded their endeavours’…During deconstruction, it is customary that the person is sexually abused in the manner which is most embarrassing to that person. In Hitler’s case, he was sodomised, creating a submissive distant respect for homosexuals like his bodyguards and some of his highest-placed leaders. His natural bent was developed into coprophilia (being shat on)…With each deconstruction an embarrassing addiction is developed and filmed. With Hitler it was sadomasochism, coprophilia and homosexuality. That is, he liked to be verbally abused and slapped around, to have his head urinated on, his chest shat on, and to have sex with men”

The few studies that have been carried out have tended to be done on sadomasochist individuals (although even for sadomasochists this appears to be a rare activity for them to engage in). A study led by psychologist Dr Kenneth Sandnabba (Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland) and published in the Journal of Sex Research surveyed 164 Finnish male sadomasochists and reported that that 18% of them had engaged in at least one coprophilic act (6% as a masochist, 3% as a sadist, and 9% as both). There was no difference in sexual orientation with 18% of heterosexual sadomasochists and 17% of homosexual sadomasochists having engaged in at least one coprophilic act. The results also showed that the sadomasochists were socially well-adjusted and that their SM behavior was mainly a facilitative aspect of their sexual lives.

In a follow-up study published in the journal Deviant Behavior, Sandnabba and colleagues analysed data from a subset of twelve men from their study of sadomasochists who had also engaged in zoophilic activities. This group was then compared with a control group of sadomasochists from the same data set but who had not engaged in zoophilic activities. Results showed seven out of twelve zoophilic sadomasochists had engaged in coprophilic acts whereas only one in twelve non-zoophilic sadomasochists had engaged in coprophilic acts. In fact, the zoophilic sadomasochists were more likely to engage in a wide range of sexual behaviours including spanking, gagging, biting, urophilia (urinating on or being urinated on for sexual pleasure), fisting, coprophilia, skin branding, and transvestism (i.e., cross-dressing). The authors concluded that zoophilic sadomasochists were more sexually experimental than the non-zoophilic sadomasochistic controls.

An earlier study on a much bigger sample of paraphiliacs also reported that zoophiles appear to engage in many paraphilic behaviours including coprophilia. In their survey of 561 non-incarcerated paraphiliacs seeking treatment, Dr Gene Abel and colleagues found that all of the 14 zoophiles in their sample reported more than one paraphilia and seven of them reported at least five other paraphilas including coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, frotteurism, telephone scatophilia, transvestic fetishism, fetishism, sexual sadism, and/or sexual masochism.

There doesn’t appear to be any consensus as to the origins of these highly unusual paraphilias although (as with most paraphilic behaviour) operant and classical conditioning would appear to play a major role. The following example is a self-report that I found in an online discussion group:

“It all started when I was young. I hated white underwear for some reason and when I wore them I’d be turned on. Eventually it felt odd and good that I urinated in them. I wet my bed for days when I was a young boy and stopped when my parents found out about it. When I was young, I hated bowel movements. It felt gross and stuff. After discovering masturbation, I eased my bowel movements by masturbating. It felt good, and my bowel movements weren’t so gross. I don’t know how it happened but the two finally caught up to each other and I became accustomed to the smell when I masturbated. Everything escalated as time went on, I’ve been in this fetish for a while now – since I was 12 years old. I am 18 now”

The origins of the coprophilic behaviour certainly appear (in this case) to be as a result of both classical and operant conditioning. However, other people suggest different etiological factors may contribute in the development of coprophilia. For instance, in Canada, Dave Hingsburger published a case study of an institutionalized and mentally handicapped man who engaged in coprophilic acts approximately three times a week. It was argued that the cause of the coprophilia was the patient’s maladaptive response to a severely limited institutional environment rather than any behavioural conditioning.

Whatever the origins, it is evident that compared to many other paraphilic behaviours, there is a dearth of empirical and clinical data relating to the acquisition, development, and maintenance of coprophilia.

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

Further reading

Abel, G. G., Becker, J. V., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M. S., & Rouleau, J. L. (1988). Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 16, 153–168.

Allen, C. (1969). A textbook of psychosexual disorders (2nd ed.). London: Oxford University Press.

Denson, R. (1982). Undinism: The fetishizaton of urine. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 27, 336–338.

Hallett, G. (2008). Hitler was a British agent. London: Progressive Books.

Hingsburger, D. (1989). Motives for coprophilia: Working with individuals who had been institutionalized with developmental handicaps. Journal of Sex Research, 26,139-140.

Karpman, B. (1948). Coprophilia: A collective review. Psychoanalytic Review, 35, 253–272.

Karpman, B. (1949). A modern Gulliver: A study in coprophilia. Psychoanalytic Review, 36, 260-282.

Lake, C.R. (2008). Hypothesis: Grandiosity and guilt cause paranoia; Paranoid schizophrenia is a psychotic mood disorder; a review. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 34, 1151-1162.

McCary, J. L. (1967). Human sexuality. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

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.

Penix, T.M. (2008). Paraphilia not Otherwise Specified: Assessment and treatment. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp.419-438). New York: Guildford Press.

Sandnabba, N.K., Santtila, P. & Nordling, N. (1999). Sexual behavior and social adaptation among sadomasochistically-oriented males. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 273-282.

Sandnabba, N.K. Santtila, P., Nordling, N. Beetz, A.M., Alison, L. (2002). Characteristics of a sample of sadomasochistically-oriented males with recent experience of sexual contact with animals. Deviant Behavior, 23, 511-529.

Smith, R. S. (1976). Voyeurism: A review of the literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5, 585–608.

Wise, T.N. & Goldberg, R.L. (1995). Escalation of a fetish: Coprophagia in a nonpsychotic adult of normal intelligence. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 21, 272-275.