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One giant step for man: Another look at macrophilia

Earlier this week, an article by Felicity Monk was published on the Broadly website about macrophilia (individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants) and also known as giant (or giantess) fetishism. Broadly is an offshoot of Vice.com and is a website is a website “devoted to representing the multiplicity of women’s experiences”. I have been interviewed by both Broadly and Vice over the last few years on a number of topics including gambling, dacryphilia, and Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. I was interviewed for the Broadly article mainly because I’m one of the few academics ever to have written an article on the topic. I was quoted as saying in the Broadly article that “no-one has ever published even so much as an interview with a macrophile in an academic journal”.

In the Broadly article, Monk managed to interview a couple of macrophiles including Katelyn, a bisexual female in her thirties (five foot two inches tall) who has a number of co-occurring fetishes including macrophilia (in which she is sexually aroused by the thought of being a giant). She also has her own giantess website (which can be accessed here, but please be warned that the site features sexually explicit content) which she set up so that macrophiles could come and “worship” her. For Katelin, her macrophilic tendencies started from watching Tom and Jerry cartoons and the disparate size of the characters. As Katelyn said:

“The first time I had a good tingly feeling was when I was watching Tom have so much fun trying to catch Jerry. I always liked how Jerry got away so that the game would continue. I so badly wanted to be that cat. Little did I know it was the start of my sexuality. [By the time I got to high school I] was fantasising about literally crushing [my] high school crushes, swallowing [my] boyfriends and girlfriends alive, and putting [my] entire foot through the school. Most of the time I felt out of place and very alone sexually. [My preferred size of being a giant] changes depending on what mood [I’m] in. Some days I’m in the mood to play with the entire earth/galaxy, and other times I’m in the mood to attack a lone city as a 100ft woman. I rarely go below 100 feet. Most commonly, however, I’m fantasizing about being mega – 3000-plus feet tall”.

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Katelyn has now monetized her fetish by turning her website into a commercial venture. As the article in Broadly notes:

“[On Katelyn’s website you] will find videos for sale – many of which feature miniature, plastic people being swallowed or crushed under huge feet. There are also stories, comics, photographs, collages, a blog, and a link to Katelyn’s Amazon wish list, so her worshippers can purchase her gifts: underwear, Starbucks gift cards, vitamins so she can ‘grow’ bigger, and non-stick saucepans. Visiting the site is free, but each month around 700 of her fans make a purchase”.

My own research into macrophilia suggests that the overwhelming majority of macrophiles appear to be heterosexual males that are sexually attracted to female giantesses. However, I’ve also noted that even non-sexual scenarios involving giants can result in sexual stimulation. Each fantasy situation is different for every macrophile as the behaviour is fantasy-based. Even the preferred heights of the fantasy giants differ between individuals. For instance, some macrophiles have a preference for people only a few feet taller than themselves, whereas others involve giants who are hundreds of feet high.

In the Broadly article, Katelyn admitted she had other sexual fetishes including an “extreme mouth fetish” of similar intensity to her giantess fetish as well as furry and hentai fetishes (anime and manga pornography). This concurs with what I noted in my previous blog on macrophilia where I said that it had also been associated with other sexual paraphilias. I claimed the most noteworthy were:

  • Breast fetishism: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from being pressed against, or placed in between, the breasts of a giant woman.
  • Dominance/submission: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual pleasure being at the mercy of a giant, or from being in control of a tiny person.
  • Sadism/masochism: This is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual pleasure from being physically harmed or even killed (in this case by a giant).
  • Vorarephilia: This is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process. Although there are cases of real life vorarephilia (that I wrote about in a previous blog), the behaviour is typically fantasy-based (e.g., fictional stories, fantasy art, fantasy videos, and bespoke video games).
  • Zoophilia: This is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure from sex with animals (in this case, the desire is to have sex with a giant animal that is given human characteristics (i.e., anthropomorphism). This also has some crossover with furries (those individuals who – amongst other behaviours – like to dress as animals when having sex)
  • Crush fetishism: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from being stepped or sat on by a giant person, and is also a variant of sexual masochism.

When Monk interviewed me, one of the most important questions she wanted an answer for was how people develop macrophilic tendencies. I told her that the roots of most fetishes lie in childhood and early adolescence where sexual arousal is, at first, accidentally associated with giants – maybe watching a TV programme where a giantess initiates feelings of sexual arousal. Over time the giant itself is enough to cause sexual arousal through classical conditioning. However, as there are no case studies in the literature, this is complete speculation on my part. However, she also interviewed one of Katelyn’s ‘worshippers’ (‘Mark’) who appeared to confirm my speculative thoughts.

“[I remember] seeing a re-run of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman when [I] was around 13 years old. The [point of view] of Allison Hayes walking across the desert was the first time I can recall being turned on. Seeing her tear the roof off of the building to get at her husband overwhelmed my young brain at the time. Shortly after that, another movie called Village of the Giants did the same thing. I can remember one of the giantesses in the movie said something like ‘Oh, why don’t I just step on him?’ which again turned my underage mind on like nothing prior. I would be uncontrollably drawn to [the giantess’] beauty and power despite the danger such an encounter would bring. As a superior being, she would have little regard for me other than supplying her own needs. Whether it be as food to nourish her superior body, or as a sexual play toy to be used and broken after, I would have no other choice other than submit myself to her. To have my life be hers to do with as she pleased would become the sole purpose for my existence. The exhilaration, danger, fear and sexual excitement would outweigh my very instinct for survival. I only wish it would become real”.

For her article, Monk also interviewed the Australian sex and relationship therapist Pamela Supple. Supple claimed that:

“Power, domination and vulnerability are at the heart of macrophilia. It’s allowing your mind to go wherever it wants to go, whilst engaging in play to gain the maximum sexual arousal. Some want to feel and experience terror – being crushed or controlled. Everyone is different in what they want to experience.”

Both I and Supple agree that macrophilia has enjoyed a massive surge in popularity in the past few years, with both of us citing the crucial role of the internet in helping to both create and facilitate the fetish “and, in some cases, introducing the fetish to those who have been looking for a name for what they feel”. This was confirmed by another one of Katelyn’s worshippers (‘Semeraz’). As he explained:

“[I didn’t know macrophilia’ was a thing” until [I] discovered Katelyn’s website. Before then, remember being in fifth grade and playing a game where the teacher assigned team names of ‘predator’ and ‘prey’ and becoming excited when a girl taunted him saying: ‘We’re going to eat you!’ But I never thought of it as a sexual fetish until running into Katelyn’s site”.

Since writing my article on macrophilia over four years ago, the presence of maxcrophilia online appears to have grown. Katelyn claims that her website was very niche when she set it up a number of years ago:

“It only had a handful of websites and contributors, a lot of lurkers – fetishes were much more taboo a decade ago – the content production was scarce and I was the only girl who had come out of the closet with the giantess fetish. Members thought there was no way a girl could have the giantess fetish. That made me feel alone, because I was the only giantess, and a lot of people doubted my sexuality. Nowadays, there’s so much giantess fetish content that you wouldn’t be able to see everything in a lifetime. There are millions of collages, stories, artists, producers, models, videos, and more.”

I’m not sure there are “millions of collages, stories, artists, producers, models, videos” out there on the internet but macrophilia is probably a lot less rare than I thought a few years ago.

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

Further reading

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Bowen, J. (1999). Urge: A giant fetish. Salon, May 22. Located at: http://www.salon.com/1999/05/22/macrophilia/

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

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.

Monk, F. (2016). The men who want to have sex with actual giants. Broadly, October 26. Located at: https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/macrophilia-fetish-the-men-who-want-to-have-sex-with-actual-giants

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

Ramses, S. (undated). Introduction to macrophilia. Located at: http://www.pridesites.com/fetish/mac4black/intro2macro.htm

Slothrop, T. (2012). The Bible and Macrophilia: He Thong’s Goliath Art. Remnant of Giants, February 6. Located at: https://remnantofgiants.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-bible-and-macrophilia-he-thongs-goliath-art/

Havin’ it large: A beginner’s guide to macrophilia

Macrophilia appears to be an increasingly popular sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants. Such fantasies may include the macrophiles themselves shrinking in front of a normal sized person (male or female). Alternatively, macrophiles may fantasize about their sexual partner growing to an abnormal height while the macrophiles themselves remain unchanged.

The literal translation of macrophilia means a “lover of large” but in this context it does not refer to those in the fat admiration community (i.e., people who are sexually attracted to very fat women) but specifically refers to individuals who are sexually attracted to people much taller than themselves (i.e., it is the height rather than width that is crucial). As the scale between small and tall is not generally found in real human life, almost all macrophilic behaviour is sexual fantasy.

The overwhelming majority of macrophiles are thought to be heterosexual males that are sexually attracted to female giantesses. However, even non-sexual scenarios involving giants can result in sexual stimulation. Each fantasy situation is different for every macrophile as the behaviour is fantasy-based. Even the preferred heights of the fantasy giants differ between individuals. For instance, some macrophiles have a preference for people only a few feet taller than themselves whereas others involve giants who are hundreds of feet high.

The reason that this particular paraphilia has increased massively over the last decade is because the internet has played a crucial role in helping create and facilitate the paraphilia. Because the paraphilia is almost totally fantasy-based, much of the material from which macrophiles gain their sexual gratification is placed and distributed online. There is a wide range of macrophile artwork, photographs, and video on the internet. Applications such as Photoshop are widely used to create collages of fake giants. Photographs are also taken from low angles to make everything in the viewfinder (including people) seem much bigger. The internet is also full of home made camcorder films of people trampling and destroying model cities.

A recent online article by Tyrone Slothrop on “The Bible and Macrophilia” (on the Remnant of Giants website) examines the artwork of ‘He Thong’ a well known artist in the macrophile community.

“The phenomenon of macrophilia certainly demonstrates how wrong Edmund Burke was, in Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful (pp. 157-58), when he opined, ‘It is impossible to suppose a giant the object of love. When we let our imaginations loose in romance, the ideas we naturally annex to that size are those of tyranny, cruelty, injustice, and every thing horrid and abominable.’ He Thong’s macrophiliac art is combined with depictions of Goliath gathering slaves from his enemies, slave submission, and bondage – a common related paraphilia among a significant sector of macrophiles”

Although most macrophilic behaviour is fantasy-based, there are some macrophiles who attempt to experience the fetish in real life by dating extraordinarily tall women (so called ‘Amazons’) even if they have to pay for the privilege to do so. For instance, it was reported that Mikayla Miles (who when wearing her fetish boots nearly 7 feet in her fetish boots, and 6 feet 4 inches without the boots), provides private sessions with macrophiles to engage in behaviours such as trampling, domination, role play, and foot worship. Macrophiles can also meet their tall heroines at such gatherings as the annual Amazon Convention.

Macrophilia has also been associated with other sexual fetishes and paraphilias. The most noteworthy in this regard are:

  • Breast fetishism: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from being pressed against, or placed in between, the breasts of a giant woman.
  • Dominance/submission: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual pleasure being at the mercy of a giant, or from being in control of a tiny person.
  • Sadism/masochism: This is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual pleasure from being physically harmed or even killed (in this case by a giant).
  • Vorarephilia: This is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process. Although there are cases of real life vorarephilia (that I wrote about in a previous blog), the behaviour is typically fantasy-based (e.g., fictional stories, fantasy art, fantasy videos, and bespoke video games).
  • Zoophilia: This is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure from sex with animals (in this case, the desire is to have sex with a giant animal that is given human characteristics (i.e., anthropomorphism). This also has some crossover with furries (those individuals who – amongst other behaviours – like to dress as animals when having sex)
  • Crush fetishism: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from being stepped or sat on by a giant person, and is also a variant of sexual masochism.

Crush fetishism has also been associated with formicophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from insects. For instance, in the journal Cultural Entomology, G.A. Pearson (North Carolina State University, USA), described the fetishistic behaviour where people get sexual pleasure from watching insects, worms and spiders being squashed (particularly men watching women doing it). This also has macrophilic overtones. As Jeremy Biles notes in a 2004 essay on crush fetishists in Janus Head:

“Among the many obscure and bizarre sects of fetishism, few remain so perplexing or so underexamined as that of the ‘crush freaks’. At the cutting edge of the edgy world of sexual fetishistic practices, the crush freaks are notorious for their enthusiasm for witnessing the crushing death of insects and other, usually invertebrate, animals, such as arachnids, crustaceans, and worms. More specifically, crush freaks are sexually aroused by the sight of an insect exploded beneath the pressure of a human foot–usually, but not necessarily, a relatively large and beautiful female foot”

It’s also been reported that maximum sexual excitement comes the more frightened the woman, and the larger the feet doing the squashing (which again has macrophilic overtones). In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates contextualizes crush fetishes as a subset of both macrophilia and macrophilic podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism). This has led to the controversial posting of many so called ‘crush videos’ online.

I haven’t come a cross a single academic paper that has been published on macrophilia although there have been some psychological speculation about the roots of macrophilia. The American St. Louis-based clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Friedman was reported as saying:

“[Macrophiles] are playing out some old, unresolved psychological issue. Maybe as a child
they felt overwhelmed by a dominant mother, or a sadistic mother. Maybe 
they were abused. [Macrophilia] is not so much a fetish as a
disassociation from reality. It’s part of an internal world. The macro’s
submersion in fantasy [and] serves as a substitute for a more normalized approach
to sex. Healthy sexuality is about personal intimacy. It’s about
feeling good about yourself in a way that expresses caring, and feeling a
connection to another person”.

However, most online accounts by macrophiles that I have read online, don’t seem to match the psychological profile put forward by Dr. Friedman. One such man interviewed by Jon Bowen for the online Salon magazine (way back in 1999) said that as a child:

“I was turned on
by ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ before I knew what the
birds and the bees were all about. In the book there’s a scene in the land
of Brobdingnag where Gulliver gets intimate with one of the local
giantesses – the enticingly named Glumdaclitch. I’ve 
fantasized about giantesses ever since. Like any fetish, if you
don’t have it, you probably won’t get it”.

Finally, there is one article I tracked down online by Dr Samuel Ramses. He appears to talk knowledgably about macrophilia although all of his assertions are made without reference to any academic source. For instance, he says that:

“Macrophilia is a fairly widespread trait, and is found in individuals of many different ethnic and social backgrounds. No common element has yet been found that can point to an environmental cause”

He makes a number of claims that appear intuitively plausible but without any supporting evidence. He claims macrophilia begins in very early childhood and that a sexual or pseudo-sexual response to giants is exhibited before physical puberty. Macrophiles are extremely shy and isolated, and believe that few share their desires. The specific stimuli that elicit macrophilic sexual responses tend to fall into two broad categories, which are not mutually exclusive. They are summarized here as direct sexual situations and indirect sexual situations.

Direct sexual stimuli involve situations in which sexual contact occurs between people where one person is at least twice as big as the other. Typical scenarios are said to include:

  • Full-body contact of the macrophile with the penis of a male giant, or full-body insertion of the macrophile into the female giant’s vagina.
  • Oral contact in which the giant licks or swallows the macrophile
  • Themacrophile being bathed in or being showered wih the sexual fluids of a giant
  • Masturbation and frotteurism by the macrophile rubbing their body against some portion of the giant’s body

Ramses claims that in macrophilia the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is sometimes blurred as even macrophilic heterosexuals may find themselves attracted to the images of giants or tiny persons of the same sex, and vice-versa.

Ramses also outlined the case of 30-year old white male, who since very early childhood had experienced sexual arousal (i.e., erections) whenever he watched films in which giant monsters destroyed towns and cities. The strongest sexual responses occurred when humans were being trampled to death. In adulthood, his macrophilic sexual fantasies included sadism, crush fetishes, and vorarephilia.

Dr. Ramses concluded that macrophilia is far from rare, as evidenced by the growing number of admitted macrophiles that have come forth in recent years. The number of macrophile websites certainly appears to support Ramses’ claim but – at present – there is next to nothing known empirically.

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

Further reading

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Bowen, J. (1999). Urge: A giant fetish. Salon, May 22. Located at: http://www.salon.com/1999/05/22/macrophilia/

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

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

Ramses, S. (undated). Introduction to macrophilia. Located at: http://www.pridesites.com/fetish/mac4black/intro2macro.htm

Slothrop, T. (2012). The Bible and Macrophilia: He Thong’s Goliath Art. Remnant of Giants, February 6. Located at: https://remnantofgiants.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-bible-and-macrophilia-he-thongs-goliath-art/

Trample leaning: A beginner’s guide to crush fetishism

Crush fetishism is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from watching (or fantasizing about) someone of the opposite sex crushing items (e.g., toys, cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops), food (e.g., fruit), and (in extreme cases) small animals and insects, and/or being stepped on, sat upon, and/or crushed on by a person. The latter variant is a type of sexual masochism. There are also dedicated phone sex services that cater for crush fetishism suggesting overlaps with telephonicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused from telephone sex talk).

Another similar fetish appears to be ‘trampling fetishism’. This comprises paraphilic fantasies and/or practices of being trampled underfoot by another person (and is found in both homosexual and heterosexual acts). As the trampling often produces pain, trampling fetishes are considered a variant of sado-masochism.

Crush fetishism has also been associated with formicophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from insects. For instance, in the journal Cultural Entomology, G.A. Pearson (North Carolina State University, USA), described the fetishistic behaviour where people get sexual pleasure from watching insects, worms and spiders being squashed (particularly men watching women doing it). If the fantasy or behaviour involves giant people, it is often considered a variant of macrophilia (i.e., a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants). As Jeremy Biles notes in a 2004 essay on crush fetishists in Janus Head:

“Among the many obscure and bizarre sects of fetishism, few remain so perplexing or so underexamined as that of the ‘crush freaks’. At the cutting edge of the edgy world of sexual fetishistic practices, the crush freaks are notorious for their enthusiasm for witnessing the crushing death of insects and other, usually invertebrate, animals, such as arachnids, crustaceans, and worms. More specifically, crush freaks are sexually aroused by the sight of an insect exploded beneath the pressure of a human foot–usually, but not necessarily, a relatively large and beautiful female foot”

Crush fetishes comprise two types – hard crush and soft crush. Soft crush fetishes are apparently more common and typically refer to the crushing of invertebrates (e.g., spiders, beetles, worms, etc). Hard crush fetishes typically refer to the crushing of larger (vertebrate) animals (e.g., reptiles, birds, mammals). Some crush fetishists are very specific about how they like to see the insects and/or animals crushed (i.e., some prefer the person doing the crushing to be wearing particular types of footwear [e.g., high heels, flip-flops, etc.] or no footwear at all). Hard crush fetish videos have recently attracted worldwide media attention and have prompted criminal actions in a number of jurisdictions.

For instance, back in August 2011, police in the Philippines arrested Vicente Ridon and Dorma Ridon, a married couple that had filmed dozens of ‘crush fetish’ videos (often referred to as ‘animal snuff’ films). These films showed six female teenagers (aged between 12 and 18 years) torturing and killing animals before being posted onto online “crush fetish” websites all over the world. The case was initiated by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who helped track the couple down over the course of a year’s detective work. Mr and Mrs Ridon were eventually charged with animal cruelty, child abuse and human trafficking.

This is by no means an isolated incident and is not the product of mentally ill people. Earlier this year in Milan (April 2012), a 40-year old mother of three children (“Anna B”) was given a $5400 fine and a four-month suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of being sexually aroused by crushing animals while wearing stockings and stiletto heels. She had posted dozens of online videos of herself crushing rabbits, mice and chicks. Following the banning of crush videos in 2010, this case was the first prosecution under the new law in Italy Paolo Iosca, the lawyer representing the Italian Anti Vivisection League said:

“This case was brought to our attention following a tip off to us and we acted immediately to bring this woman to justice. The videos she posted showed her semi-naked, wearing tights and high heels and crushing innocent animals such as rabbits, chicks and mice to death. They were particularly crude and offensive. This woman, who is a mother of three children, was clearly enjoying herself as she was slaughtering these animals and filming their agony”.

The legality of erotic crush films and the actual practice of crushing animals vary by region and country. For instance, China does not have any animal cruelty laws, and therefore no criminal acts are being violated in that jurisdiction. Here in the UK, crush videos are illegal. However, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there are currently no laws forbidding the crushing of insects in any country. In November 2010, a Chinese crush fetish video was posted online featuring a young attractive girl, sitting on the rabbit, and crushing it to death. In a journalistic investigation by China Hush, an online user with the pseudonym “Sound of Heaven” (天堂之音) said that:

“People who like Crush Fetish are not promoting and encouraging violence and murdering people, but it is an extension to [sadomasochism], a state, crushed to death by a woman, a spirit of sacrificing oneself for her”.

Other similar videos including the abusing and killing of cats and dogs have also appeared online. Although these acts of killing could be viewed as acts of zoosadism (because of the sexual element), the person doing the killing of the animals is usually paid for their “services” and does not appear to get any sexual satisfaction from the act itself. It is the person watching the ‘hard crush’ videos that typically derive the sexual pleasure from it. In this sense, the act could be described as a type of ‘zoosadism by proxy’ (at least that’s my own take on this).

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.

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Inquirer Global Nation (2011). Police nab Filipino ‘crush fetish’ couple. Located at: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/8219/police-nab-filipino-crush-fetish-couple

Intentious (2011). Rabbit crushing outrage – Animal snuff film offends. December 9. Located at: http://intentious.com/2011/12/09/rabbit-crushing-outrage-animal-snuff-film-offends/

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

Pisa, N. (2012). Animal crushing fetish mum fined. Herald Sun, April 25. Located at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/animal-crushing-fetish-mum-fined/story-e6frf7lf-1226337848931

Ants in your pants? A beginner’s guide to formicophilia

In my blogs I have looked at a wide range of paraphilic behaviours. A quick look through my site statistics revealed that my previous blog on zoophilia has been the most read blog on my site (by quite some margin). Another paraphilia that has been conceptualized as a sub-type of zoophilia is that of formicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused by insects crawling and/or nibbling on the individual’s genitals). There also appear to some cultural variations such as Genki Genki in Japan. Genki Genki is a style of erotic art and pornography that features women with various creatures, many from the ocean but may also include insects.

According to Dr Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, other areas of the body can also be the focus. It is thought that the desired effect may come from a tickling or stinging sensation, or the infliction of psychological distress on another person. Nancy Butcher in a book on medical mysteries, curious remedies, and bizarre folklore also said that formicophiliacs may smear themselves with honey and have insects feed off them. She also claimed that some formicophiliacs may even place insects in various bodily orifices as they experience sexual pleasure from the insects trying to escape.

To date, only two academic papers have ever been published directly concerning formicophilia. Both of these papers were published in the 1980s by Ratnin Dewaraja (who at the time was at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka). The first paper (co-written with renowned paraphilic expert Professor John Money) was published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. It was in this paper that formicophilia was defined as paraphilia where the focus of sexual arousal is on small creatures, such as “snails, frogs, ants, or other insects creeping, crawling or nibbling on the body, especially the genitalia, perianal area or nipples”. Brenda Love has pointed out that formicophilia should only technically refer to sexual arousal from ants and that paraphilias concerning insects more generally should be named entomophilia. There are other specific insect-related paraphilias such as arachnophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from spiders)

Dewaraja and Money reported that formicophilia is very rare and presented the case of a young Buddhist male who had developed this particular type of paraphilia. In their paper, they suggested that it arises developmentally during childhood, but just how this occurs was unclear. It was also claimed that it is more common in developing countries, perhaps because houses there are more likely to be infested with insects. The desired effect may be a tingling or burning sensation, or the pangs of psychological distress of another person.

They argued that children whose species-specific, juvenile sexual rehearsal play is thwarted or traumatized are at increased risk for developing a compensatory paraphilia (such as formicophilia). Their young Buddhist exemplified what they considered to be a cross-cultural application of this principle. They reported that his paraphilia was endogenously generated without reference to or influence by commercial pornography. They concluded that a “complete causal explanation of [this] paraphilia will require both a phylogenetic (phylismic) and an ontogenetic (life-history) component”.

In a follow-up paper published in the American Journal of Psychotherapy, Dewaraja reported how the same Buddhist male formicophiliac was treated. Rather than trying to completely eliminate the sexual deviation, the man received both counselling and behaviour therapy in an attempt to alleviate his feelings of guilt and depression and improve his self-image. Dewaraja reported that the 12-week course of therapy was successful and resulted in a dramatic reduction of the paraphilic behaviour at one-year follow-up.

However, Brendan Kelly (University College Dublin, Ireland) says that when it comes to the treatment of psychological and psychiatric disorders among Buddhists, the appropriateness of treatment depends on factors related to the individual, the disorder and sociocultural setting in which they live. He specifically notes that sociocultural factors may be “particularly important in the context of psychosexual disorders, and individuals with a Buddhist background may benefit from counselling and cognitive-behavioural approaches that reflect an understanding of such concerns from a Buddhist perspective”.

In a 2005 book chapter by Dr Brenda Love examining some of the strangest sexual behaviours from around the world, she recounted this anecdote related to a man who got his sexual kicks from bee stings. Dr Love noted that:

“Bee stings were once used as a folk remedy for arthritis sufferers. The insects were captured and held on the affected joint until they stung. The poison and the swelling it caused alleviated much of the pain in their joints. One male, having observed his grandparents use bees for this purpose, and later having a female friend throw a bee on his genitals as a joke, discovered that the sting on his penis extended the duration and intensity of his orgasm. Realizing that the bee sting was almost painless, he developed his own procedure, which consisted of catching two bees in a jar, and shaking it to make the bees dizzy to prevent their flying away. They were then grabbed by both wings so that they were unable to twist around and sting. Each bee was placed each side of the glans and pushed to encourage it to sting.  (Stings to the glans do not produce the desired swelling and the venom sac tends to penetrate the skin too deeply, causing difficulty in removing them)…Stings on the penis, unlike other areas, resemble the bite of a mosquito…The circumference of the man’s penis increased from 6.5 inches to 9.5 inches. Swelling is greatest on the second day”

Another insect-related fetish is a variant of crush fetishes. Crush fetishists get sexual pleasure from being walked and trod on and is itself a variant of sexual masochism. G.A. Pearson (North Carolina State University, USA), writing in the online journal Cultural Entomology described a fetish where people get sexual pleasure from watching insects, worms and spiders being squashed (particularly men watching women doing it). As Jeremy Biles notes in a 2004 essay on crush fetishists in Janus Head:

“Among the many obscure and bizarre sects of fetishism, few remain so perplexing or so underexamined as that of the “crush freaks.” At the cutting edge of the edgy world of sexual fetishistic practices, the crush freaks are notorious for their enthusiasm for witnessing the crushing death of insects and other, usually invertebrate, animals, such as arachnids, crustaceans, and worms. More specifically, crush freaks are sexually aroused by the sight of an insect exploded beneath the pressure of a human foot–usually, but not necessarily, a relatively large and beautiful female foot. Sometimes the insects meet their demise under the force exerted by a naked big toe. Other times, it is the impaling heel of a stiletto or the raised outsole of a platform shoe that accomplishes the extermination. The crush freak typically fantasizes identification with the insect as he or she masturbates, and savors the sense of sudden, explosive mutilation attendant upon the sight of the pedal extrusions”.

It’s also been reported that maximum sexual excitement comes the more frightened the woman, and the larger the feet doing the squashing. The preference can also be barefoot, high-heels, flip-flops (depending on the fetishist). Pearson concluded that crush fetishists represent a fascinating example of the human ability to eroticize just about any activity”. Interestingly, in her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates contextualizes crush fetishes as a subset of both foot fetishism and macrophilia (being sexually aroused by giants). Jeremy Biles argues differently and says that these practices are best understood as ambivalent manifestations of technophilia (sexual arousal associated with machinery). Personally, I’m more convinced by Gates’ arguments than those of Biles.

Finally, if you have managed to reach the end of this article and still remain unconvinced that formicophiliacs even exist, you could check out the lovebugz website, or two other websites here and here that have to be seen to be believed (you have been warned!)

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

Further reading

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Butcher, N. (2004). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. New York: Penguin Books.

Dewaraja, R. (1987). Formicophilia, an unusual paraphilia, treated with counseling and behavior therapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 41, 593-597.

Dewaraja, R. & Money, J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 139-145.

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

Kelly, B.D. (2008). Buddhist Psychology, Psychotherapy and the Brain: A Critical Introduction. Transcultural Psychiatry, 45(1), 5-30

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books

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.

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).