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Crossing the see: A brief look at ‘strabismusophilia’

Some time ago I came across a 2012 online article entitled ‘18 Sexual Fetishes That Sound Made Up (But They’re Not)’ on The Date Report website. Of the 18 fetishes listed, I knew about 17 of them (15 of which I have written articles on for this blog including emetophilia [sexual arousal from vomit], dendrophilia [sexual arousal from trees], pyrophilia [sexual arpusal from fire], taphephilia [sexual arousal from being buried alive], and arachnephilia [sexual arousal from spiders]). The one that I had little awareness of was ‘cross-eyed fetishism’ (although I was aware of the sexual paraphilia ‘oculophilia’ in which individuals are sexually aroused by eyes and which I also covered in a previous blog). The article contained only one sentence relating to cross-eyed fetishes which read “Not sure what the scientific name for this fetish is, but this is good news for Dannielynn Birkhead, Anna Nicole Smith’s cross-eyed offspring”. If such a fetish exists, I would name it strabismusophilia (as strabismus is the medical condition of having non-aligned eyes).

Having already written my previous blog on eye fetishes more generally, I would argue that strabismusophilia is a sub-type of oculophilia as the condition manifests itself in a desire for actual physical contact and interaction with the eye (albeit a very particular type of eye). An online article at the Page Pulp website about sexual fetishes of famous authors alleged that F. Scott Fitzgerald had a foot fetish, James Joyce had a fart fetish, Lord Byron was a sex addict, Marquis de Sade had a fetish for “anything and everything”, (the most notable being sadomasochism), and that the philosopher Rene Descartes had a cross-eye fetish.

Descartes’ sexual fetish for cross-eyed women is well documented including the work of psychiatric sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Descartes himself wrote that:

“As a child I was in love with a girl of my own age, who was slightly cross-eyed. The imprint made on my brain by the wayward eyes became so mingled with whatever else had aroused in me the feeling of love that for years afterwards, when I saw a cross-eyed woman, I was more prone to love her than any other, simply for that flaw…The impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others, simply because they had that defect; and I did not know that was the reason.”

Descartes’ passion for cross-eyed women was also discussed in a 2011 paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, (by Alex Voorhoeve, Elie During, David Jopling, Timothy Wilson, and Frances Kamm). In one of the passages by Dr. Voorhoeve, he discussed Queen Christina of Sweden asking Descartes what causes us to “love one person rather than another before we know their merit”. According to Voorhoeve:

“Descartes replied that when we experience a strong sensation, this causes the brain to crease like a piece of paper. And when the stimulus stops, the brain uncreases, but it stays ready to be creased again in the same way. And when a similar stimulus is presented, then we get the same response, because the brain is ready to crease again. And what did he mean by all this? Well, he gave an example. He said that all his life he had had a fetish for cross-eyed women. Whenever he came across a cross-eyed woman, desire would enflame him. And he figured out…after introspection, that this was because his brain had been strongly creased by his first childhood love, who was cross-eyed”.

This classical conditioning type explanation was also alluded to in a 2011 article on the Psychology Today website by Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév that examined ‘Why Did Descartes Love Cross-Eyed Women?’ Dr. Ben-Zeév noted:

“It would appear that when Descartes fell in love with the young girl, he loved her whole Gestalt, which included other characteristics, but her crossed eyes were the most unique. This feature of the girl distinguished her from most other girls. It is as if he subconsciously thought that every woman who shared that distinctive feature would have the other positive characteristics of the girl with whom he had originally fallen in love and would therefore generate the same profound love. This attitude makes him perceive these women as beautiful…However, the fact that the girl he fell in love had the distinctive feature of crossed eyes did not mean that her other characteristics would be shared by other women who have the same feature. In fact, however, this mistaken association set off a feeling of love when he encountered this characteristic in other women…It is a kind of Pavlovian response which makes us more likely to love this person”.

It appears there are modern day adherents to cross-eyed fetishism as I found these extracts in online forums discussing the fetish:

  • Extract 1: “I get insanely turned on when I see a girl crosses her eyes. I go on video and image sites to see girls crossing their eyes. I have requested custom videos of girls crossing their eyes. I am not sure how to break this fetish. It is something that is hard for me to talk about and I recently revealed it to my girlfriend in a text. I have asked her to cross her eyes for me but she cannot do it. In fact my last two girlfriends have not been able to cross their eyes. I feel like if maybe we could play out that fetish in my personal life it would deter me from looking online at stuff. I am not sure what to do”
  • Extract 2: “I am attracted to people that have lazy eyes. The more lazy their eye, the more attractive it is to me.
It’s a huge turn-on, especially eyes that turn outward (e.g., exotropia)”
  • Extract 3: Them cross-eyed girls drive me wild! I’m a lazy eye man myself. I like when one gets a lil’ googly after they’ve had a few drinks”

Although there is no academic research on cross-eye fetishism, I did come across two other types of fetishistic behavior that overlaps with being cross-eyed. The first is in relation to balloon fetishism (i.e., individuals that get sexually aroused from inflating, deflating and/or popping balloons). I came across online sex videos that were tagged ‘cross-eyed balloon inflation’ comprising women blowing up big balloons where they were also cross-eyed (and to which male ‘looners’ found this both erotic and arousing. After watching one of these idiosyncratic videos, one looner commented: “I for one really enjoyed this [cross-eyed woman inflating a balloon] – makes it looks like she’s really concentrated on the inflation, which I like to see. And variety is nice; I, for one, get tired of clips that are too alike”. Perhaps more worryingly is the association of being cross-eyed with sexually sadistic acts of women being strangled on film on hard-core BDSM videos. As the blurb on one sex video available online noted: “There are women that are strangled, and sometimes become cross-eyed. It’s the stupid impression somehow, you will not ever afford to worry about such a thing is the person being strangled. Your beauty is one of [being] cross-eyed”.

I also wonder whether cross-eyed fetishism is a sub-type of teratophilia – typically defined as being sexually aroused by ugly people? According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, teratophilia is defined as those people who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from “deformed or monstrous people”. The online Urban Dictionary defines it as “the ability to see beauty in the unusual [and] clinically described as a sexual preference for deformed people”. Being cross-eyed could arguably fit these definitions (particularly the one from the Urban Dictionary of seeing beauty in the unusual).

From my own research, I have come to the conclusion that cross-eyed fetishism (that I have termed ‘strabismusophilia’) probably exists but is very rare with an incredibly low prevalence rate among the general population. It may be a sub-type of both oculophilia and teratophilia but further research is needed to confirm such speculations.

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.

Ben-Zeév, A. (2011). Why did Descartes love cross-eyed women? The lure of imperfection, Psychology Today, November 29. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201111/why-did-descartes-love-cross-eyed-women-the-lure-imperfection

Descartes, R. (1978). His Moral Philosophy and Psychology (translated by John J. Blom). New York: New York University Press.

Divine Caroline (2012). 18 Sexual Fetishes That Sound Made Up (But They’re Not). The Date Report, September 20. Located at: http://www.thedatereport.com/dating/sex/sexual-fetishes-emetophilia-tree-sex/

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.

Page Pulp (2014). Sexual fetishes of famous authors. Located at: http://www.pagepulp.com/2091/sexual-fetishes-of-famous-authors/

Voorhoeve, A., During, E., Jopling, D., Wilson, T., & Kamm, F. (2011). Who am I? Beyond “I think, therefore I am”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1234(1), 134-148.

Wikipedia (2014). Oculophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oculophilia

From the university of perversity: An A to Z of non-researched sexual paraphilias (Part 3)

Today’s blog is the third part in my review of little researched (and in most cases non-researched) sexual paraphilias and strange sexual behaviours. (You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here). I’ve tried to locate information on all of these alleged sexual behaviours listed below and in some cases have found nothing more than a definition (some of which were in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices and/or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices).

  • Agrexophilia: This behaviour refers to the gaining of sexual arousal from other people knowing that you are having sex. According to the online Probert Encyclopedia, agrexophilia is “sexual arousal from the knowledge that other people may become aware of the lovemaking, for example by being overheard or seen”.
  • Brachioproctic eroticism: According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, brachioproctic eroticism (also known as brachioproctism) refers to the “insertion of the arm into the rectum of another person for sexual pleasure”.
  • Catagelophilia: This refers to being sexually aroused from being ridiculed. This appears to be the opposite of categelophobia (ridicule phobia).
  • Dystychiphilia: According to Dt. Anil Aggrawal, dystychiphilia refers to those that derive sexual pleasure from accidents (although what “accidents” refers to in these cases is left undefined). The Squackle.com website provides the example of “dropping a plate on the floor”. The online Medical Dictionary defines it as paraphilic sexuoeroticism linked to watching or participating in accidents” and adds that “it is not used to working medical parlance”.
  • Endytolagnia: Most definitions of endytolagnia say it refers to sexual arousal from partners who are fully clothed. The Word Information website defines it as a sexual perversion in which sexual intercourse is had with a fully dressed female”.
  • Frictation: This is a form of frotteurism, and according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, frictation is “a sexual practice in which two male partners achieve sexual satisfaction by rubbing against each other while in a face-to-face position. (The female counterpart is known as tribadism)”. (Tribadism as far as I am aware is the mutual rubbing of clitorises – sometimes called ‘tribbing’ – and gave rise to the term ‘Scissor Sisters’).
  • Graophilia: This behaviour 9according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal) refers to sexual arousal from an older female partner. I’m assuming this refers to the woman being significantly older but no definition I have come across explicitly mentions what the age difference needs to be.
  • Hygrophilia: This behaviour refers to arousal from body fluids or moisture (although it’s also the name of a plant. The Right Diagnosis website adds that hygrophilia is (i) sexual interest in body secretions, (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving body secretions, and/or (iii) recurring intense sexual urges involving body secretions.
  • Iantronudia: This behaviour refers to getting sexually aroused from exposing oneself to a physician, usually by faking an ailment. Some websites refer to it as “flashing a physician”.
  • Jactitation: According to Wikipedia, in English Law, jactitation “is the maliciously boasting or giving out by one party that he or she is married to the other”. However, some online sites claim that it is a false boast that causes harm to others, and is sometimes sexual. The Right Diagnosis website claims jactitation refers to sexual arousal or excitement derived from discussing their own sexual exploits”.
  • Knissophilia: This behaviour may well be a sub-type of olfactophilia as (according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal) refers to the sexual attraction of incense-burning.
  • Loutrophilia: This behaviour refers to the love of washing or bathing. Such a definition does not necessarily make this a sexual paraphilia although someone on the Kinkopedia website claimed they had loutrophilia. This may be a sub-type of aquaphilia that I examined in a previous blog.
  • Mammagymnophilia: This refers to sexual arousal from female breasts and on various websites it has also been called breast fetishism, mazophilia, and breast partialism.
  • Nemophilia: This behavioud has been defined as the love and/or sexual arousal from forests (and as such might be similar to dendrophilia that I discussed in a previous blog). The online Urban Dictionary defines nemophilia as the love of spending time in forests or woodland; woodland survival training, as practised by the armed forces could, therefore, be considered the equivalent of sex”.
  • Oikophilia: This behaviour has been defined by Dr. Anil Aggrawal as the sexual attraction to one’s home. The word has also been used (by such people as the philosopher Roger Scruton) to denote the love of houses but in this sense it has no sexual connotations whatsoever.
  • Phallophilia: This behaviour refers to those individuals that have a large penis fetish or preference. The Right Diagnosis website defines it as “urges, preferences or fantasies involving [an] unusually large erect penis”
  • http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/p/phallophilia/intro.htm
  • Queeb fetish: Queeb fetish is actually another term for ‘queef fetish’ and refers to those individuals that are sexually aroused by vaginal farts (and which I examined in a previous blog on queefing).
  • Raptophilia: According to the Right Diagnosis website, raptophilia refers to a sexual interest in rape, an abnormal amount of time spent thinking about raping a victim, recurring intense sexual fantasies involving rape, and recurring intense sexual urges involving rape”. Other websites claim that this paraphilia only concerns the fantasy of raping someone rather than the act of actually doing it. According to Wikipedia, raptophilia is another name for biastophilia (a sexual paraphilia in which sexual arousal is dependent on, or is responsive to, the act of assaulting an unconsenting person, especially a stranger”).
  • Sarmassophilia: According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, sarmassophilia refers to sexual arousal from kneading flesh (and appears to derive from its opposite, sarmassophobia). The Encyclo website defines it more generally as a fondness for amorous caressing, necking, or stroking”.
  • Toxophilia: I’m not sure if this related to the sexy image of Robin Hood, but according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, toxophilia refers to sexual arousal from archery.
  • Vincilagnia: There is actually loads of empirical research on vincilagnia as it is just an old scientific name for those that are sexually aroused from bondage (see the overview at the Nation Master website)
  • Wind Fetish: This has nothing to do with eproctophilia (sexual arousal for flatulence), but is (according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal) is a “sexual attraction to being blown by the wind”.
  • Xanthophilia: This behaviour refers to individuals that have an “abnormal affection” for the color yellow or the word yellow. Appears to be derived from its opposite (xanthophobia) so is likely to be more theoretical than actual.
  • Yeast infection fetish: There appear to be some individuals that have a fetish for ‘thrush’ (yeast infections) as discussed at various online forums (such as one on the Reddit website). For instance one man confessed: I have never told anyone in my life this before, but since I was young (about 12 years old) I used to love the smell when I put my face in my mom’s lap. It was a little fishy odd kind of odor but always super attractive to me. A while after this the smell went away and I was very disappointed. Later I found out that she had a yeast infection. To this day however i cannot resist the smell of the yeast infection vagina. It is like field of roses to me, ethereal, heavenly”.
  • Zemmiphilia: According to a long list of obscure paraphilias at the Write World website, zemmiphilia refers to an “abnormal affection for the great mole rat”. I would guess this is theoretical rather than actual but I would never rule anything out.

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.

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

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

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Write World (2013). Philias. Located at: http://writeworld.tumblr.com/philiaquirks

From the university of perversity: An A to Z of non-researched sexual paraphilias

One of my students asked me the other day whether I will ever run out of sexual paraphilias to write about. I may run out of paraphilias that have been scientifically researched but the one thing I’ve learned from all my reseach into human sexual behaviour is that human beings appear to have the capacity to become sexually aroused to almost anything. Today’s blog takes a brief A to Z look at 26 paraphilias where (as far as I am aware) there is absolutely no empirical or clinical research on the topic. In fact, in almost all of the paraphilias listed here, I couldn’t even find an anecdotal case study or an online forum where people discuss such issues. The majority of the paraphilias below can be found in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices and/or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Just to make things a little more interesting, one of the 26 paraphilias listed below is one that I made up.

  • Anasteemaphilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal to individuals who are much taller or shorter than themselves (i.e., it is the large difference in height that is the primary source of sexual arousal)
  • Batrachophilia: This is a sub-type of zoophilia where individuals derive sexual arousal from and/or attraction to frogs. The Victorious Vocabulary website says that it relates to an extreme fondness for frogs, or a sexual obsession with frogs.
  • Cratophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from displays of strength. I have only come across one academic paper that makes a specific reference to ‘cratophilia’ and that was a study led by Dr G. Scorolli on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. They reported that some of the sites featured references to ‘muscle fetishes’ (5% of all sites concerned with bodily features) and that some of these related to cratophilia (although it also featured individuals who were sthenophiles who prefer the look of the muscles rather than acts of bodily strength)
  • Doraphilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from animal fur, leather, and/or skin. The Wikipedia page on clothing and garment fetishes mentions doraphilia in passing but there is no supporting empirical evidence.
  • Endytophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal only from partners who are clothed during sexual intercourse. The only interesting things I found on the internet relating to endytophilia was that (a) it contained the letters for the word ‘depiliation’, and (b) it was claimed in an online article by Tony Leather that the most famous endytophile was Elvis Presley.
  • Fratrilagnia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from having sex with one’s own brother. Although I am aware cases of brother-sister incest, the implication from the behaviour being classified as a sexual paraphilia is that it is the fact being a brother is the primary source of the individual’s sexual behaviour.
  • Geusophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal through taste (presumably of food but none of the definitions I’ve come across make that explicit – seem my previous blog on sitophilia).
  • Hyphephilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from touching skin, hair, leather, fur or fabric. This appears to be very similar to doraphilia (above) but includes a greater number of tactile materials from which an individual derives sexual pleasure.
  • ldrophrodisia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from the odour of perspiration, especially from the genitals. This would appear to be a sub-type of olfactophilia (sexual arousal from smells and odour).
  • Juvenilophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from having sex with juveniles.
  • Knismolagnia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from tickling. Since writing this article I managed to collect enough anecdotal material to write a whole blog on this paraphilia.
  • Lyssophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from becoming angry or upset.
  • Moriaphilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from telling sexual jokes. This may be related to other psychological conditions such as ‘punning mania’ although this sexual paraphilia (if it really exists) could be argued to be a sub-type of narratophilia.
  • Nosolagnia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from knowing partner has terminal illness. Although I have never come across a case of nosolagnia, I would imagine it has psychological overlaps with those individuals who seek sexual arousal from vulnerable individuals (such as those who sexually exploit the learning disabled).
  • Ochlophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from being in a crowd. This would appear to have some overlap with frotteurism (sexual arousal from rubbing up against people and which I examined in a previous blog).
  • Placophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from tombstones. After finding out what placophobia was, the musician and author Julian Cope claimed he must be a placophile on a post at his Head Heritage website (although my guess is that his love for tombstones is not sexual).
  • Quadoshka: OK, I admit this a little bit of a cheat as there are so few sexual paraphilias beginning with the letter ‘Q’ (and I’ve already covered queefing in a previous blog). Quadoshka is where individuals derive sexual arousal American Indian form of tantric sex.
  • Rhytiphilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from facial wrinkles. This would appear to be related to gerontophilia (sexual arousal to people who are much older than the individuals themselves).
  • Septophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal to decaying matter (presumably human or something else that was once living, but none of the definitions I have come across make any specific references). This paraphilia would therefore appear to have clear overlaps with necrophilia (sexual arousal from dead people) and necrobestiality (sexual arousal from dead animals).
  • Timophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal comes from gold or wealth. Given that money and/or wealth are often said to be aphrodisiacs, I would have thought there would be lots of research into this, but I have yet to come across any. However, it is one of the few paraphilias that is listed here that appears on the Right Diagnosis online medical website. This also reminds me of the interview on the Mrs. Merton Show where Debbie McGee was asked So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”
  • Uranophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from heavenly thoughts. One online definition claims that uranophilia is the “ultimate expression of faith in that you can take such joy, such pleasure from the mere thought of heaven alone”. I am very doubtful that this paraphilia even exists.
  • Vicarphilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from other people’s sexual experiences. To me, this sounds remarkably like a form of narratophilia (that I covered in a previous blog). One online dictionary goes much further in its definition and defines vicarphilia as vicarious arousal sexual arousal from other peoples’ exciting actions, experiences and behaviors and sexual attraction for people who lead exciting lives, such as influential people, celebrities, gangsters, and people who engage in dangerous sports such as racers, daredevils, and action sportsters”.
  • Wing Fetishism: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from wings – but not from bird or animal wings but from angel or demon wings. I know of no literature on this at all but I am assuming it is a fantasy-based paraphilia like macrophilia (sexual arousal for giants).
  • Xylophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from wooden objects. This may have some overlap with the next sexual paraphilia on this list (i.e., ylophilia).
  • Ylophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from forests. The Fetish News website defines ylophilia as an extreme affinity for forests, including sexual attraction to or arousal from the texture and shape of trees and shrubs. This would therefore seem to overlap with dendrophilia (sexual arousal from trees, that I covered in a previous blog).
  • Zelophilia: This is where individuals derive sexual arousal from jealousy.

So did you spot the one I made up? If you think you know which one it is or want to know, email me directly at: mark.griffiths@ntu.ac.uk. Also, if you have any information on any of the paraphilias listed here I would love to hear from you.

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.

Caust, D. (undated). Sex sense: Unusual sexual behavior. Located at: http://www.drdeborahcaust.com/articles/pdf/ss9_unusual.pdf

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

Leather, T. (2012). What floats your sexual boat? Wikinut, September 9. Located at: http://news.wikinut.com/What-Floats-Your-Sexual-Boat/3vg12rx5/

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

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Wikipedia (2013). Clothing fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_fetish

Wood you do it for me: A beginner’s guide to dendrophilia

Dendrophilia (also known as arborphilia) literally translates as a love of trees (in fact, I was originally going to try and get the words “pining for it” in the title of this blog but decided against it in the end). For me, human sexual contact with trees is not something that I think of as naturally going together. The only modern day “cultural” reference I can recall (an I use the word “cultural” in its loosest sense) was in the 1981 film The Evil Dead when the character Cheryl is attacked by trees possessed by the demons, that then come to life and brutally rape her (a scene that director Sam Raimi has since regretted including in the film).

However, the word ‘dendrophilia’ has now been adopted by some in the sexology field to refer to those who have a fetishistic or paraphilic interest in trees (i.e., individuals who derive sexual pleasure, sexual arousal and/or are sexually attracted to trees). This may involve actual sexual contact with trees and/or (as Raymond Corsini notes in his 1999 Dictionary of Psychology) veneration as phallic symbols. In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) defines dendrophilia as arousal from trees or fertility worship of them” whereas Dr. G.R. Pranzarone in his online Dictionary of Sexology says it is the love of trees. But categorically states “it is not a paraphilia” (but doesn’t give any reason as to why).

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices writes about dendrophilia and notes that trees were ancient symbols of fertility and that on designated holy days, men had to go into the fields and ejaculate onto the trees. She also cites the work of anthropologist Thomas Gregor who studied the South American people of Mehinaku (a village of the Amazonian Xingu tribe) and described the following folk tale of a dendrophilic act in his 1985 book Anxious Pleasures; the Sexual Lives Of An Amazonian People:

“I have been able to find only two other stories of masturbation, and in both, men are the principal actors. In one tale we learn of a man who found a remarkably gratifying hole in a tree, which he began to use to the exclusion of his wife and girlfriends. In the second story, a man made an artificial vagina of leaves to which he became similarly attached. In both myths, the culprits were seen by other villagers who hacked away the hole with an axe and tore the leaf vagina to shreds. In both stories, the masturbators behaved as if their leafy companions had been real women. They wailed for the deceased plants, cut their hair short, and took off their belts as a symbol of mourning”.

Just to put these observations into context, Dr. Theodore Lidz in reviewing Gregor’s book for the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, notes that the Xingu tribe are a small society that not only permits extramarital promiscuity (to an extent perhaps never before recorded), but the promiscuity promotes rather than disrupts the societal integration.

A fairly recent British case of dendrophilia came to light when 21-year old Scottish man William Shaw received a lifetime ban from Airdrie’s Central Park for attempting to have sex with one of the trees (with The Sun winning the best headline with “Fancy a treesome?”). He dropped his trousers and underpants and simulated sex with a tree while in the visitor attraction in September 2009. 
he was subsequently charged with an act of public indecency at the town’s sheriff court.
 The Sheriff (Frank Pieri) released Shaw on bail on the condition that he did not set foot in Central Park again. I also feel duty bound to point out that there was also a YouTube video posted in March 2012 showing a very intoxicated woman trying to have sex with a tree.

Willow Monrroe in her regular ‘Fetish of the Week’ column also briefly examined dendrophilia (although none of her claims were supported by any evidence). In relation to this fetish she claimed:

“I can see it. The metaphors are obvious and long over-drawn. And experience has proven that sex and the wild world of nature go together like cheese and wine, one being the natural complement of the other”…Dendrophilia is considered a pathology. There are documented cases of persons seeking and receiving treatment for what’s perceived as a psychological disorder. For example, one psychologist reported treating a man who had a long running affair with an oak tree”

The Deviant Minds website also featured an article on dendrophilia and speculated about the condition’s origins. The article asserted that dendrophiles “go beyond simply looking for new textures, for under their hands and other regions. It may involve deep emotional bond towards nature only a few might understand”. However, as with most online articles, there is absolutely no empirical evidence to back up a single claim made, and as far as I am aware, there is not a single academic or clinical study published – not even a case study.

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.

Corsini, Raymond J. (1999). The Dictionary of Psychology. London: Psychology Press.

Daily Telegraph (2010). Tree sex man ordered to leave park. Daily Telegraph, January 21. Located at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/weird/tree-sex-man-ordered-to-leaf-park/story-e6frev20-1225821689910

Deviant Minds (undated). Dendrophilia. Located at: http://www.deviantminds-central.com/articles/fetisharchives/dendrophilia.php

Gregor, T. (1985). Anxious Pleasures; the Sexual Lives Of An Amazonian People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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

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

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