Crash and turn on: A brief look at chremastistophilia and symphorophilia
“Okay so I was chatting on a website and this guy approached me saying he wanted to be blackmailed for money. He told me he would give me $100 on Thursday if I logged into his Facebook account and humiliated him. I’m a little freaked out, but what should I tell him??” (query from ‘answers.yahoo.com‘)
In a previous blog I examined hybristophilia (a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from having a sexual partner who is known to have committed serious crimes, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery). Another criminally-related paraphilia is chremastistophilia. In this paraphilia, the individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from being robbed, conned, cheated, blackmailed and/or being held up by the individual’s sexual partner (or in a few cases, a complete stranger). Some websites (such as kinkify.com) colloquially refer to it as the “hold-up kink”.
Some have speculated that the strong emotions of frustration, fear, annoyance, rage, and/or submission are subconsciously drawn upon by chremastistophiles and then focused into sexual arousal/gratification. This could be viewed as ‘edge play’ (i.e., rough and deviant sexual play enjoyed by sexual masochists and sexual sadists) as the behaviour can be life threatening for chremasistophiles to actively seek out someone to steal from them purely for sexual kicks.
The reciprocal condition where the sexual focus is on charging or robbing one’s sexual partner has not been given a name. Those people who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from breaking and entering a property (and then stealing) is known as kleptophilia (which I overviewed in a previous blog). In my research into chremastistophilia, I have yet to come across a single piece of empirical research on the topic. Most of the evidence appears to be anecdotal. For instance, the cult novelist and multi-media artist Kris Saknussemm has noted:
“I’ve met several chremastistophiles, all of whom had been arrested on petty charges at some point in their lives – drug possession, minor theft, etc. All expressed a strong libido, but also a climax dysfunction. They got aroused, they just didn’t get off easily. What magical thing finally provided that long-awaited release? The experience of being taken advantage of – which is different from out-and-out assault. It’s a variation on biastophilia, the perverse attraction to being raped, but the key distinction seems to lie in the impending threat itself. “Give me your wallet and nobody gets hurt” – that kind of thing. One British gentleman proudly displayed the scar he received from a knife wound in the course of a mugging – an event which he said led to a spontaneous ejaculation, the most powerful and substantial he’d ever experienced”
Dr Billi Gordon and Dr James Elias claim that chremastistophilia is accepted as potentially lethal alongside other criminally related paraphilias such as hybristophilia and autassassinophilia (where the individual derives sexual arousal by the by the risk of being killed). Unfortunately, I cannot find a single academic or clinical study that has ever been published in a peer reviewed journal so this is clearly an area that is crying out for some empirical research. There was a theoretical paper published in 2004 on autassassinophila by Lisa Downing (Queen Mary, University of London). She used used the case of Sharon Lopatka, a Maryland woman who instigated her own sexual murder in 1996. She said:
“It demonstrates that the phenomenon of being murdered for pleasure problematizes commonplace assumptions about the legitimacy to consent. The discussion recalls and refreshes existing debates in feminism and the politics of sadomasochism and reads them alongside the rhetoric surrounding the ethics of medically assisted suicide. Consenting to murder for pleasure is revealed as a formulation that exceeds the terms of informed consent as it is currently understood and thereby constitutes an ethical and logical aporia”.
Another strange paraphilia with a potentially criminally-based sexual focus is symphorophilia. This is a paraphilia that Professor John Money said related to individuals who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from witnessing and/or stage-managing a “disaster, such as a conflagration or traffic accident, and watching for it to happen”. Again, I have yet to come across any empirical research on the topic although I did briefly examine this paraphilia in relation to sex and cars in one of my previous blogs (and another blog I wrote on objectum sexuality). It has been alleged that in very rare cases, an accident that may injure or even kill someone may bring the symphorophile to the point of orgasm quicker. The condition is probably better known in popular culture than in academic terms. For instance, the main characters in the 1973 novel Crash by British author J.G. Ballard (and the subsequent 1996 film adaptation of the same name) were symphorophiles. Part of the Crash Wikipedia entry on Ballard’s Crash novel motes:
“The story is told through the eyes of narrator James Ballard, named after the author himself, but it centers on the sinister figure of Dr. Robert Vaughan, a ‘former TV-scientist, turned nightmare angel of the expressways’. Ballard meets Vaughan after being involved in a car accident himself near London Airport. Gathering around Vaughan is a group of alienated people, all of them former crash-victims, who follow him in his pursuit to re-enact the crashes of celebrities, and experience what the narrator calls ‘a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology’. Vaughan’s ultimate fantasy is to die in a head-on collision with movie star Elizabeth Taylor”.
In the film, the Wikipedia entry notes:
“Ballard becomes one of Vaughan’s followers who fetishise car accidents, obsessively watching car safety test videos and photographing traffic accident sites. Ballard drives Vaughan’s Lincoln convertible around the city while Vaughan picks up and uses street prostitutes, and later Ballard’s wife. In turn, Ballard has a dalliance with one of the other group members, Gabrielle a beautiful woman whose legs are clad in restrictive steel braces, and who has a vulva-like scar on the back of one of her thighs, which is used as a substitute for a vagina by Ballard. The film’s sexual couplings in (or involving) cars are not restricted to heterosexual experiences. While watching videos of car crashes, Dr. Remington becomes extremely aroused and gropes the crotches of both Ballard and Gabrielle, suggesting an imminent ménage a trios”.
As with chremastistophilia, I have been unable to find a single clinical or academic study published in a peer-reviewed journal so it wouldn’t be too much an educated guess that such a paraphilia is incredibly rare.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Downing, L. (2004). On the limits of sexual ethics: The phenomenology of autassassinophilia. Sexuality and Culture, 8, 3-17.
Gordon, W.A. & Elias, J.E. (2005). Potentially lethal modes of sexual expression. Paper presented at the 2005 Western Region Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.
Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books
Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.
Wikipedia (undated). Crash (1996 film). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crash_(1996_film)
Wikipedia (undated). Crash (J.G. Ballard novel). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crash_(J._G._Ballard_novel)