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The skin I’m in: A beginner’s guide to doraphilia

In one of my previous blogs on the ‘A to Z of non-researched sexual paraphilias’ I briefly mentioned doraphila. Most definitions of doraphilia are fairly consistent. For instance, Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices simply defines doraphilia as the love of animal fur, leather or skins”. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices says doraphilia is the attraction…usually for animal skin or leather, which has been used as clothing throughout human existence. It is considered a fetish when it has to be present during sex”. Other online definitions claim doraphilia is abnormal affection towards fur or skins of animals”. I’ve also come across online definitions that subsume doraphilia as a type of dermophilia (in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from the skin). However, I think it’s more logical to view dermaphilia as a sub-type of doraphilia (or not a sub-type at all if it doesn’t include the love of animal skin).

Somewhat confusingly, Dr. Brenda Love in her account of doraphilia in her sex encyclopedia spends a lot of the entry talking about the sexual aspects of human skin (rather than animal skin). She noted that:

“Human skin holds a fascination for some people. The 1950s sex criminal Edward Gein, who derived pleasure skinning female corpses he exhumed from local graves and then wearing them like a garment, is reported to have become fascinated with the idea of changing himself from a male to female. There have been cases where people have used human skin to make purses, lamp shades, belts, and upholstery. This was apart from similar things doe to men with tattoos during the Holocaust. Captain John Bourke wrote of human flesh being used as girdles or mummies that were worn by pregnant women to assist them in labor”.

Anyone that has read (or watched) The Silence of The Lambs (the third of Thomas HarrisHannibal Lecter quadrilogy) or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre can see where the inspiration for the Jame Gumb character (‘Buffalo Bill’) and the Leatherface character came from. As the Wikipedia entry on Buffalo Bill notes:

“Both the novel and film [of Silence Of The Lambs] tell of Gumb wanting to become a woman but being too disturbed to qualify for gender reassignment surgery. He kills women so he can skin them and create a ‘woman suit’ for himself. He is described as not really transgender but merely believing himself to be because he ‘hates his own identity’.

Personally, I don’t see Ed Gein or the many film characters he has ‘inspired’ as doraphiles. The motive for wearing the human skin of other people was not to get sexually aroused. The wearing of leather is of course commonplace in many sexual practices such as sexual sadism and sexual masochism (in fact, it’s arguably become a uniform or even a stereotype such as ‘The Gimp’ character in the film Pulp Fiction). As Dr. Love notes in her encyclopedia entry:

Erotic leather apparel can be purchased at some lingerie and leather shops or ordered from Europe. Leather jock straps (some with chrome studs), bikini panties with zippered crotches, body suits, bras, corsets, dresses, skirts, pants exposing the rear, costumes, and accessories are all available”.

She also speculates about the psychology of wearing of leather and fur and mentions Dr. Harry Harlow’s classic studies on maternal attachment on rhesus monkeys as evidence (at least in part) for her claims:

“The feel and smell of leather gives many people a feeling of power. Some explain this as subconsciously as taking on the character of the animal with whose skin they cloak themselves. This was a common belief of holy men during their ancient religious ceremonies. The Roman emperor Nero dressed in an animal skin and then emulated the beast’s ferocious behavior as he sexually assaulted the people he had tied to stakes. An explanation for the continued appeal of leather or fur is that some people feel secure and nurtured by being wrapped in skin, a sort of surrogate mother effect. Clinical studies showed that rhesus monkeys who had their mothers replaced by inanimate objects responded better or clung to the ones that were wrapped in some type of fur”

For sexual leather enthusiasts, the colour black appears to be especially important. Although I have carried out research on the importance of colour in gambling (see me previous blog on the topic), I have never thought about it from a sexual clothing perspective. Again, Dr. Love provides some narrative on this (citing Jane Polley’s 1980 book Stories Behind Everyday Things).

“Many people who use leather for erotic feelings or as a symbol for their sexual power prefer the color black. The motives behind this preference are not clear. Historical facts regarding the color reveal that the ancient Egyptians revered the color as a sign of fertility because black was the color of the rich soil along the Nile. This may also be the origin of the black gowns used in witchcraft or other ancient religions. The Japanese, some Egyptians, American Indians, Christians, and Hindus saw it as a sign of destruction or death. Europeans dressed in black garments to attend funerals so that they would not be recognized as human and harmed by ghosts. Conversely, black Africans dressed in white clothing at funeral for the same reason. Today black is perceived as a symbol of evil, elegance, authority, and religion”.

I know of no empirical research into doraphilia although I did come across an interesting paper by Jared Christman published in the journal Society and Animals on zoocidal practices and made these really interesting observations:

“Fur and leather in particular are common tokens of material abun- dance for the doraphilic shopper, the lover of animal skins who yearns for womb-like protection from the frailty of the human frame. Were it not for such a wellspring of doraphilic sentiment in modern consumer culture, marketing strategists would hardly be able to churn out trade publications with titles like ‘The Smell of Success – Exploiting the Leather Aroma’ (Lente & Herman, 2001)…Where sexuality and power converge most implacably, the integuments of animals figure most prominently. Hence, the skins of animals are often indispensable tools in the rites of sadomasochism, adding an all-pervading element of dominion over life and death. Most tellingly of all, the term ‘masochism’ comes eponymously from von Sacher-Masoch (2000). The doraphilic liturgies of sadomasochism, in the bedroom or in the fascist amphitheater, purport to dissolve the participants in a microcosm of divinity, fashioning the milieu of predatory mastery they need to stamp out their fear of futility. Wreathed in animal remains, the sadist has already vanquished the vitality of natural life, the first step in the subjugation of people. The masochist, on the other hand, finds method in the malice of autocratic authority, delegating responsibility for victory over death to the powers that be. Either way, sadomasochists wallow in the skins of animals in order to neutralize their “sense of vital impotence” (Fromm, 1973, p. 326), of an endless ebbing of purpose in a world of boundless putrescence. People who resort so eagerly to the lifeblood of animals to stave off the vicissitudes of their own lives can easily become inured to truculence—if they are not already predisposed to it”.

Finally, examining the paraphilia literature, it could perhaps be argued that doraphilia has overlaps with some types of zoophilia. In 2011, Dr. Anil Aggrawal published a new classification of zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine comprising ten different types of zoophile based on their primary erotic focus. One of the ten types was what Aggrawal called fetishistic zoophiles. These are individuals who keep various animal parts (especially fur) that they then use as an erotic stimulus as a crucial part of their sexual activity. Such individuals have been reported in the clinical literature including the case of a woman (reported in a 1990 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology) who used the tongue of a deer as her primary masturbatory aid (and which I examined in detail in a previous blog and was described by the authors as a case of ‘xenolingual autoeroticism’).

Given that most doraphilic practices are non-problematic and (presumably) occur between consensual adults, I don’t foresee much research being done in the area. If data are collected, it’s more likely to come from sexual practices associated with doraphilia (e.g., uniform fetishism, sado-masochism, etc.) than on doraphilia itself.

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.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Christman, J. (2008). The Gilgamesh Complex: The Quest for Death Transcendence and the Killing of Animals. Society & Animals, 16(4), 297-315.

Fromm, E. (1973). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Colour atmospherics and its impact on player behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 6(3), 91-96.

Harlow, H. F. & Zimmermann, R. R. (1958). The development of affective responsiveness in infant monkeys. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 102, 501-509.

Lente, R. V., & Herman, S. J. (2001). The smell of success—Exploiting the leather aroma. In Human factors in automotive design (pp. 21-28). Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers.

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

Polley, J. (1980). Stories Behind Everyday Things. London: Readers Digest.

Randall, M.B., Vance, R.P., & McCalmont, T.H. (1990). Xenolingual autoeroticism. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 11, 89-92.

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.

von Sacher-Masoch, L. .(2000). Venus in Furs (J. Neugroschel, Trans.). New York: Penguin.

Wikipedia (2015). Buffalo Bill (character). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Bill_(character)

Wikipedia (2015). Clothing fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_fetish

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