Playing with mouth organs: A brief look at lip fetishism
“Dear Abby. Please help save my marriage. My wife of five years discovered an Internet browser history of 13 Web pages I had clicked on the previous day. The pages were of women’s sexy lips. My wife is calling it ‘porn’ and a ‘gateway to porn’. I feel guilty about it, but I told her it isn’t pornography. I think it’s a fetish. She says I’m using that word to get off the hook. Will you please tell her that this probably is a fetish?” (Letter sent to the ‘Dear Abby’ column in Buffalo News, December 26, 2012).
Lips play an important role in human sexual behaviour. Given how important lips are in traditional courtship rituals and sexual intimacy it is perhaps surprising that lip fetishes appear to be relatively rare (at least based on the complete lack of published papers on the topic). Maybe because lips are so integral to sexual courtship is the reason that they are rarely seen as the object of fetish desires.
“Lips are soft, movable, and…are a tactile sensory organ, and can be erogenous when used in kissing and other acts of intimacy…The lip has many nerve endings and reacts as part of the tactile (touch) senses. Lips are very sensitive to touch, warmth, and cold…Because of their high number of nerve endings, the lips are an erogenous zone” (Wikipedia entry for ‘Lip’).
The behaviour in which individuals have a sexual interest concerning a specific (and often exclusive) body part is known as ‘partialism’. In the latest (fifth) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), partialism is categorised as a ‘fetishistic disorder’ if (i) it is not focussed on the genitals, and (ii) causes significant psychosocial distress for the person or has detrimental effects on important areas of their life. Partialists will often describe the body part of interest to them as having as much (if not greater) sexual arousal for them than the genitals. The Wikipedia entry on lip augmentation makes a number of claims about lip sexuality but few of the assertions are referenced:
“Surveys performed by sexual psychologists have also found that universally, men find a woman’s full lips to be more sexually attractive than lips that are less so. A woman’s lips are therefore sexually attractive to males because they serve as a biological indicator of a woman’s health and fertility. A woman’s lipstick (or collagen lip enhancement) attempts to take advantage of this fact by creating the illusion that a woman has more oestrogen than she actually has, and thus that she is more fertile and attractive. Lip size is linked to sexual attraction in both men and women. Women are attracted to men with masculine lips, that are more middle size and not too big or too small; they are to be rugged and sensual. In general, the researchers found that a small nose, big eyes and voluptuous lips are sexually attractive both in men and women. The lips may temporarily swell during sexual arousal due to engorgement with blood”.
As with other sexual fetishes that I have examined in previous blogs (and where there is little written academically), I went online and tried to locate online forums and dedicated websites where lip fetishism was the sole focus. However, there appears to be very little online. The types of people who claimed to have lip (or lip-related) fetishes were both male and female but provided almost no details. For instance, here are three representative of those I found online (and obviously I have no way of knowing to what extent these are truly representative and/or telling the truth):
- Extract 1: “Is a lip fetish bad? I love big lips on girls and always have the feeling of wanting to kiss and make out a lot with tongues. Is this normal?”
- Extract 2: “I think I may have a lip fetish. Whenever I see a man with full lips, or a lip that have a slight fullness or pucker…I immediately want to touch them and later kiss him. And even with my [boyfriends], I’ve wanted to kiss and suck on their lips”.
- Extract 3: “Has anyone come across a friend, partner, etc. with a serious lipstick fetish before? Now, I love me my lipstick as much (if not more so) than the next girl, but I’ve been hanging out with someone lately who seems really smitten with lipstick on me. I’m thinking of going to buy some nice over-the-top smeary lipstick to tease them with”.
This latter extract is obviously not lip fetishism but lipstick fetishism and my own research online suggests that this is much more prominent (and discussed) online than lip fetishism per se. For instance, there are dedicated lipstick fetish forums (e.g., The Lipstick Fetish Forum), dedicated lipstick domination and ‘point of view’ humiliation pages (e.g., ClipVia.com, HumiliationPOV.com) [please be warned that if you click on the hyperlinks that these are sexually explicit sites]. I also came across lip fetishism being associated with other types of sexual fetishism (most notably smoking fetishism which I examined in a previous blog). Obviously, lip fetishism (and probably lipstick fetishism more so) is hard to separate it from the visual metaphor it represents (i.e., the female vulva). As an online article at the Venus O’Hara website notes (more literary than academically):
“A pair of expressive lips, shiny and smooth, are an easy indicator of health and vigour and they draw the fetishistic gaze at least as much as a pair of attractive eyes but to a completely different effect. They recall the last pair of lips that a man has kissed, reminding him of shared breath, intimate heat and his sensual longing to return to that moment. This is particularly true if the allure of the lips is enhanced by smooth movements, casual licks and oblivious bites that signify interest, shyness and arousal in the woman. Lips can project much more than just personality. They they can show attitude, emotion and forcefulness and can be altered, subtly, to achieve specific fetish effects as well, the cupid’s bow suggests innocence, rich colour hints at debauchery and natural lips speak of confidence and individuality”.
Perhaps the strangest type of lip-related fetishism is one that I wrote about an academic paper that I published with Richard Greenhill in the International Journal of Sexual Health. Our paper was actually about dacryphilia (sexual arousal from crying) and comprised data collected from online interviews with eight dacryphiles (six females and two males aged 20 to 50 years). One of the males expressed his dacryphilia primarily through an interest in curled-lips. More specifically, he was aroused by the sight of someone’s bottom lip curling while crying. Two sub-themes were identified as characteristic of this individual’s interest in curled-lips: (i) attraction to lips during crying; and (ii) rarity of this dacryphilic interest. In the first instance, he suggested that his interest was rare, or perhaps unique:
“My own dacryphilia focus (lip curling) is pretty much unique, as far as I can tell. I haven’t found any dacryphiliacs who focus on this aspect of crying. I have come across a minority of people who like it, but it is still not their main kink…[I personally like the] protruding, curling, contorting or bulging of the bottom lip when women cry”.
Here, the fetish focused primarily on the physical (i.e., the lips, a physical part of the body), and differed from other dacryphiles (who focus on either on compassionate or dominant/submissive interests, and which both involve emotional components). We claimed in our paper that this ‘curled lip’ dacryphile was different from lip fetishism and was more linked to one of the secondary products of crying (i.e., the movement of the lips):
“I’m definitely a big fan of women’s lips in general, but I feel there’s a definite difference between being attracted to lips and being attracted to lips curled as a result of crying”.
In this extract, our participant’s interest in curled lips appeared to be a dacryphilic interest, rather than a form of partialism. He expressed his interest as focussed on the movement of the bottom lip during crying. Although the sexual arousal being caused by the movement of the bottom lip would initially appear to be linked with partialism, our participant clearly distanced his dacryphilic interest from this sexual interest by specifically differentiating the two. This suggests that dacryphilia may not only be concerned with the primary product of crying (i.e., tears), but also with the secondary products (i.e., how the rest of the face moves during crying).
Given that the love of lips (or lip-related behaviours) is unlikely to cause problems, it is therefore unsurprising that there is so little academic or clinical literature on the topic as most sexual fetishes are written about only when the behaviour is problematic (e.g., an individual seeks help for their problem, partner discovers the fetish and doesn’t like it) – something that appears to be incredibly rare where lip fetishism is concerned.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unususal Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). The use of online asynchronous interviews in the study of paraphilias. SAGE Research Methods Cases. Located at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305013508526
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Compassion, dominance/submission, and curled lips: A thematic analysis of dacryphilic experience. International Journal of Sexual Health, doi: 10.1080/19317611.2015.1013596.
Griffiths, M. D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilias – A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.
Milner, J. S. Dopke, C. A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.
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 (2015). Dacryphilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dacryphilia
Wikipedia (2015). Lip. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lip
All around the lobe: A brief look at ear fetishes
“I’m obsessed with guys with tiny ears. They turn me on. Isn’t that weird? When I’m dating someone, I always think, ‘Could I marry this person?’ And, ‘What would my kids look like?’ ” (Quote from reality television star Kim Kardashian)
Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have covered a very wide range of different bodily fetishes but never the ear. Most of the body parts I have examined are arguably devoid of any sexual sensitivity and would not be described as erogenous zones but the earlobe is not one of those non-sensitive areas because it contains many nerve endings. As Wikipedia notes:
“An erogenous zone is an area of the human body that has heightened sensitivity, the stimulation of which may result in the production of sexual fantasies, sexual arousal and orgasm. People have erogenous zones all over their bodies, but which areas are more sensitive than others vary. Some may resent stimulation that others find arousing. The stimulation of these areas can produce gentle, mild or intense arousal. Some people find whispering or breathing softly in the ear to be pleasurable and relaxing, as well as licking, biting, caressing and/or kissing it especially the area of and behind the earlobe”.
Dr. Lou Paget, sex educator and author of The Big O: How to Have Them, Give Them, and Keep Them Coming notes that one of the most stimulating spots on the female body is “the pyramid from the front and back of the shoulder blades, up to the apex of the ear lobe. It’s a fabulous area to play with, second only to a woman’s mouth in terms of getting her motor running”.
As far as I am aware, there has never been any research on ear fetishism and the only remotely scholarly thing I learned from researching into this topic is that ‘gynotikolobomassophilia’ refers to sexual pleasure from nibbling on a woman’s earlobe (as noted in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices). At least four websites list this as a bona fide sexual activity according to the One Look webpage although other definitions include slight variations such as “a proclivity for nibbling on women’s earlobes” and “a love of biting female’s earlobes”.
Although there are earlobe fetish videos on YouTube, and dedicated ear fetish channels (including ear cleaning, ear twisting, ear pulling, ears of Japanese women played with by various items), I went in search of first-person accounts of ear fetishes on the internet and located quite a lot and of a number of different varieties. I also located first-person accounts from the partners of individuals with alleged ear fetishes (and not always consensual). My own research suggests there are at least four different types of ear fetishism: (i) general ear fetishes (including arousal related to the size of ears, protruding ears, and actions performed on the ears such as licking, smelling, rubbing, and massaging them), (ii) earlobe fetishes, (iii) pierced ear fetishes, and (iv) earlobe gauge fetishes. In the rest of this blog, I provide some examples of what I found online:
- First-person accounts of general ear fetishes
- Extract 1.1: “I have a bit of a fetish for ears – I love kissing, nibbling and touching them during foreplay and sex! Is this odd and how common is it?”.
- Extract 1.2: “So I have an ear fetish for big ears. My problem is that it’s only towards people of the same sex. I don’t understand why it is but really wish it was towards the opposite sex since it makes me feel really weird. As if an ear fetish isn’t already enough weird. I do like it though if my ears are touched but same deal, with it only being with the same sex…I am adopted so I don’t know if that plays a role in it. Though I highly doubt it…I am aware its weird. I’ve just been trying to change it”.
- Extract 1.3: “If a guy has a nice face with sticking out ears, its like BOOM. Does anyone else have an ear fetish?”
- Extract 1.4: “Is it odd to have an ear fetish?…I like seriously just love ears…I just like rubbing them nibbling them, stuff like that…Is that weird?”
- Extract 1.5: “I have a strange fetish for ears. I like to hold ears and feel it, smell it, licking nibbling it. I cannot sleep at night without imagining a girl’s ears be it thin or fat ears”.
- Extract 1.6: “I’m not sure if this is common, but I’ve got a bit of an ear fetish. Nothing like an obsession, but I think it’s really cute when a girl has long, straight hair and the tips of her ears stick out a little through it. I don’t think it has anything to do with elves…I mean, I don’t really like that pointy look”.
- Partner’s accounts of possible ear fetishes
- Extract 2.1: “My boyfriend and I were just messing around and I started kissing/sucking his ear lobe and he freaked out! He told me to keep going so I sucked on it and licked behind his ear and sucked on the skin around it. He told me afterwards that no one has ever done that to him before and he really liked it…Does he have an ear fetish or something?”
- Extract 2.2: “So my boyfriend loves my ears, he loves how they’re big. He also loves to pull, kiss, sniff, massage, lick them. And at first it was creepy. But then I started to like it. But is it okay for him to be ear fetish?”
- Extract 2.3: “So, I’ve only made out with this guy once, last night…But at one point he moved to my ear and basically made out with the inside of it until I squirmed and pretended it tickled…but really…I was grossed out by it. Obviously he has some sort of ear fetish. But what I want to know is… why? What exactly turns the guy on about this?…When he returned to kissing my mouth I could literally taste my own earwax…it was pretty disturbing. And I was embarrassed cause I felt like I had dirty ears or something…What about this turns a guy on and how is he not grossed out by earwax taste?”
- Extract 2.4: “Ear fetish?…My current beau and I have a very passionate sex life, no complaints. Except one. He likes to lick the inside of my ears, pretty vigorously, when we are in bed. I have never experienced this before. Does this turn most guys on? I don’t know how to tell him without hurting his feelings. But this can’t go on for much longer”.
- Extract 2.5: “What the heck is an ear fetish? There is this person at work that touches everyone’s ears, but subtly. I’ve noticed that he walks around from time to time and runs the palm of his hand or fingers through someone’s ear. I have big ears so I’ve been getting targeted a good deal lately”
- First-person accounts of pierced ear fetishes
- Extract 3.1: “When growing up, earrings weren’t widely worn. According to mom, only ‘bad girls and gypsies’ wore earrings. Pierced ears were rare – usually our ‘local characters’. From [being] a toddler…I ENJOYED examining women’s ears. Pierced, and I’d almost faint…I had no idea how that hole was made. And somehow, I came up with the idea that it was for pleasure that they did it. (I only know that at a really young age it aroused me). I dream of earrings and having my ears pierced – of feeling that weight pulling on my ear lobes and dangles swaying into my neck. When pierced ears became common in the 1960s, it drove me even wilder. Women’s earrings and especially pierced ears”
- Extract 3.2: “[I’ve been] fascinated with pierced ears and earrings as far back as I can remember. I have no idea where this fascination came from as no one in my family or in the small village where we lived had pierced ears when I was a young boy. The only time I actually saw women with pierced ears was when we went to a nearby town to do our shopping. In those days women with pierced ears were often considered ‘cheap’ and ‘trashy.’ Fast forward to the 1950s when pierced ears were just starting to become more common. Many parents would not allow their daughters to get their ears pierced, so the earring manufacturers responded with screw on earrings that made their ears look like they were pierced. I bought two pairs [of these] earrings for myself, but wore them only in the privacy of my bedroom as boys wearing earrings [was] completely unheard of. The tighter you screwed the earrings on your ears, the more your ears looked like they were actually pierced…One night I fell asleep with earrings screwed tightly on my ears. I took them off the next morning as soon as I woke up and was fascinated by the marks they left on my ears. I went to school wondering and worrying about what people would say when they saw the marks that made my ears look like they were pierced…the whole experience made me more fascinated with pierced ears than ever before. When the girl who became my wife and I were seriously dating I asked her to have her ears pierced which she did for me. She knew I was fascinated with pierced ears and earrings and shortly after we were married she suggested I fulfill my fantasy and have my ears pierced. Men with pierced ears were still virtually unknown and neither of us was brave enough to ask a jeweler or a doctor to pierce my ears, so she pierced them for me using the ice cube and needle technique that was popular back then. That was a very exciting and emotional day for me. I knew that from that day forward whether I was wearing earrings or not I would always have those little holes in my ears proclaiming my feminine persona…I continued to cover my holes with makeup for several years until men with pierced ears became more common…Now that I am retired I wear earrings most all the time…In the days before the Internet I thought I was the only man who had a fetish for pierced ears and earrings, but now with [online forums] such as this I find there are a good number of men who enjoy wearing earrings”.
- Extract 3.3: “I’m a woman and I love earrings in my ears. I easily get aroused if my earrings are [on] and someone is tugging on my ears. I thought I was the only person in the world to have this fetish. Yes I said fetish because that’s what mine is I can actually have an orgasm by pulling lightly and or tugging on my own ears. I realized I can get aroused when I was going through puberty at the age of 12…Now I’m 40 now…I also love to play with people’s ears and pull their earrings too! I can actually make myself climax by playing with my ears as long as earrings are in them…I love the way it makes me tingle. I climax all day long just by tugging on my ears… ummmmm, what a feeling”.
- Extract 3.4: “The fascination or obsession with earrings and especially the holes required to wear them is rare but not at all unheard of! I had the obsession from a very early age…I’ve been chatting a handful of different people [and] shared opinions on the subject…We’re all freakishly similar in the way we’re fascinated or obsessed with the subject. Of course everyone I met who felt like this were guys… I don’t think any women…developed any kind of obsession about this because they don’t have to…They can just go and have their ears pierced and wear all the ear jewelry they like and nobody will find it strange”.
- First-person accounts of earlobe fetishes
- Extract 4.1: “I have an earlobe fetish…I have a fetish for big earlobes. Is it normal or weird?…It excites me to much. I like big earlobes and to see [them in] slow motion [on] video”
- Extract 4.2: “I have very strong ear fetish for my wife of 6 months, she has the most beautiful ear lobes and ears…delicate, soft and very pretty ear holes…I initiated ear play with her by first few months by kissing, licking and sucking on her soft ear lobes, and found that she liked them and would start to moan…she had some wax [in her ears] and the taste I cannot describe in words but found very likable. This experience for both of us was very exciting. I got very hard on and she became very wet. I am glad that she found the experience an enjoyable one”.
- Extract 4.3: “I think I may have an ear lobe fetish. I always notice girls [with] short hair or hair in a ponytail immediately. It just occurred to me that I have been this way for a long time. Fetish or just a quirk?”
- Extract 4.4: “Ears: my strange fixation. Yep! Ears. So I have an ear fetish…I refuse to let my ear fetish embarrass me…To be honest, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t notice ears…I guess I should clarify that I never intentionally went around playing with random peoples ears. If I felt your ears, I knew you really well…maybe a close friend or two, having to endure me during movies and such, absent mindedly reaching over and starting to flick their ears. I tried to tell them it was all in affection. I have never really convinced them of that…I have no clue what it is about ears that attracts me so. Big, little, sticky-out, large lobed, no lobed, soft curly baby ears (especially those), pointy looking ears, normal ears, unusual ears. I notice them all”.
- First-person accounts of ear lobe gauge fetishes
- Extract 5.1: “[I’ve got a] earlobe fetish. Specifically with the ones the wear gauges. This is why people stretch the holes so big”.
- Extract 5.2: “Does anyone ever have ear lobe sex? Like if your partner had big gauges in their ears. Would you put your penis in?”
- Extract 5.3: “So my boyfriend always says to me ‘why don’t I ever suck on his earlobe…this seems so weird to me…I mean we do stuff so it’s not like I’m being prude but I don’t really know what he means”.
Obviously I have no idea whether all of these confessions and stories are truthful (although I have no reason to suspect not), and I have no idea how representative these accounts are. However, taken as a whole, a number of tentative conclusions can be made. Firstly, there is a wide variety as to what the arousing factor is and can be concerned with either the shape or size of the ear, a particular part of the ear, and/or something that adorns the ear. Secondly, some of the fetishes may be subtypes of other fetishes (e.g., piercing fetishes) rather than being a true body part fetish. Thirdly, most of the fetishes appear to involve heterosexuals (although one account did mention being aroused by ears from someone of the same sex) and can be experienced by both men and women. Finally, there appear to be other by-products of sexual ear play that may also be arousing (e.g., the taste of earwax).
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Arthur, C. (1997). The truth about love: It’s all just lust and earlobes. The Independent, February 16. Located at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/the-truth-about-love-its-all-just-lust-and-earlobes-1278832.html
Paget, L. (2002). The Big O: How to Have Them, Give Them, and Keep Them Coming. Piatkus.
Wikipedia (2015). Erogenous zone. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erogenous_zone