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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

Specs appeal: A beginner’s guide to glasses fetishism

I thought I had come up with a pretty good title for today’s blog on ‘glasses fetishism’ until I found our that Specs Appeal was the name of a 1975 album by the British pop group The Shadows. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, glasses fetishism refers to a “fetishistic attraction to people wearing prescription glasses, sunglasses, or cosmetic contact lenses or to the act of wearing glasses or the glasses themselves. Other related activities include wearing glasses during sexual acts and ejaculation on glasses”. It has also been implied in a Wikipedia article that glasses fetishism is a sub-type of clothing fetishism. The (clearly non-academic) Venus O’Hara website further claims that:

“Glasses fetishism is characterised by the effect that a pair of glasses can have on the erotic imagination of a spectator. Glasses are often a key component in many role-playing scenarios. Glasses of different shapes, sizes and prescription strengths allow the participants to invest more belief in the erotic reality of their chosen characters. Glasses can change the shape of a face, alter mannerisms and allow a fetishist to imprint almost any persona they prefer onto a wearer…The key moments that fetishists remember, when thinking about their formative experiences with people wearing glasses become vital, imaginative, starting points for them. In this way, the personas of teachers, students and secretaries become fetish stand-bys and a pair of glasses can summon up the erotic potentials of them with ease”

In popular culture, glasses fetishism is far from mainstream. In fact, the only mainstream movie I can think of that features a sexually related glasses scene is the 1959 comedy, Some Like It Hot (directed by Billy Wilder). The film touches on many sexual themes (trans-sexuality, androgyny, impotence) but also features an erotic glasses-kissing scene involving Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis. However, glasses fetishism is popular in Japanese anime cartoons, particularly on female characters (and is called meganekko-moe – for instance, check out Sky Over My Spectacles). According to Patrick Galbraith (at the University of Tokyo) nobody is sure when the first ‘girl with glasses’ became part of Japanese pop culture. In a 2011 article on glasses fetishism in the online Kotaku magazine, Galbraith was quoted as saying:

“Glasses were kind of was always around, like the animal ears in Tezuka Osamu manga, and slowly took on special meanings. In Japan, glasses have different meanings for both male and female characters. When male characters wear glasses, they are a dominant character. They are in control. But, when a female character wears glasses, it can also means she is shy or a wallflower. If the female character takes off the glasses, however, she tends to be stunningly beautiful”.

Back in 2009, Jerry Lowery of Illinois (US, and then aged 38 years) was charged with stealing more than 500 pairs of glasses from suburban spectacle shops because of his fetish for eyeglasses. The Associated Press reported that:

“Prosecutors said Lowery walked into three shops between April and July and said he had a gun. They say he took more than 500 pairs of high-end glasses including Prada and Gucci brands, but didn’t take cash. The criminal complaint quotes Lowery as saying he “really likes to be around glasses.” He told investigators he tries them on in front of a mirror and then discards them”

Anecdotally, there is certainly online evidence of the existence of glasses fetishism such as dedicated online forums (such as Eyescene“a different outlook on eyewear”) and pornographic websites (such as JOMF – please be warned that this is a very sexually explicit site). I also came across various admissions from people claiming to be glasses fetishists. For instance:

  • Extract 1: “My girlfriend is so-so when it comes to looks…I’ve had a major glasses fetish my whole life, but unfortunately she does not need them. I think it would make our relationship happier if I was actually turned on by her. I’ve heard isopropyl alcohol can damage vision…I don’t want to blind her, maybe just mess her up just slightly enough to get her to wear glasses. How much isopropyl alcohol should I give her?”
  • Extract 2: “A number of people I know are really turned on by glasses. I seem to come across an odd number of girls with perfectly healthy eyes sporting those little black framed emo glasses. The success of sites like Bookworm Bitches shows that this is a pretty common fetish. Then there is the whole school of sunglasses fetishists who pine for Tom Cruise in Risky Business with the Ray Bans”.
  • Extract 3: “There is no getting around it. I’ve got a thing for glasses. Glasses on women are plain hot. I am hardly alone in my fetish, as many guys seem to appreciate the librarian look”.
  • Extract 4: Glasses fetish, that’s me. I figure any woman who decides her perception of the world is more important than her vanity is OK by me. Contacts? Lasik? Waste of time. To me every woman is at least as hot with glasses than without. As for myself, my vision is nearly perfect. At time, I wish it weren’t”.
  • Extract 5: I have a thing for gorgeous young men with glasses. There is just something about a guy who’s sexy and intelligent, and wears glasses. A sight of such man makes me dazed”.
  • Extract 6: I’ve always enjoyed seeing a woman in glasses. It gives a touch of elegant intellectual to any appearance. Its so incredibly enticing to see the eyes underneath and to know that very soon, if it is a lover, I will be able to remove them and undress her face in a way that very few are able to do. I have these feelings for wireframes and for thick frames. I like the vintage styles and the nearly invisible modern frames. Glasses give that extra layer of protection between the portals to their soul and my searching gaze”.

Other anecdotal evidence is provided in an interview with ‘Jon’, a 24-year old male glasses fetishist by Alice Huber in the online Europe and Me Magazine, Jon was asked how and where his glasses fetish began. Jon replied:

“When I was 19 there was a clear trigger, during a seminar at [university]. Our professor was a Greek guy with loads of temperament, and one day, in walks his teaching assistant, looking very strict in a suit jacket and skirt, hair put up in a ballerina knot and wearing big, black glasses. Every time she was taking notes, she would be wearing her glasses, but as soon as she stopped to listen to the professor, she took them off. I think it was the contrast of her being so submissive, next to this powerful male professor that intrigued me”.

Jon also admitted that he asked his sexual partners to wear glasses when engaging in sexual activity, and that when they wore glasses, it made him feel like he was the ‘boss’. He also said he found the ‘geek’ look attractive. Jon also claimed that there was a particular type of glasses that turned him on the most – “large, thick black frames. Square lenses. So-called media glasses”. In an online article by Karen Cotton on the Philia Phrenzy website noted that:

“Anyone who has had a fantasy involving the headmistress or master disciplining them, will most likely imagine them in glasses. Or perhaps your taste is more in corrupting a schoolboy or transforming an uptight bespeckled bookworm into a wild, crazy nymph. Perhaps if eyes are the windows to the soul, glasses frame its desires. While the glasses themselves can be a turn on for some, fetishists cite a variety of sources for arousal including: (i) watching women struggle – either with losing their glasses or adjusting to a new pair; (ii) spectacles slipping down the nose; (iii) the cleaning of smudged lenses; and (iv) seeing a person wearing or manipulating eyewear both sexually and non-sexually…Some fetishists wear eyeglasses – sometimes even over contacts. This practice, glasses over contacts (GOC), requires the use of contact lenses prescribed at a strength which allows the user to see clearly through strong eyeglasses. For some hopeful fetishists, they let their eyes go overcorrected for a length of time so that stronger glasses will be necessary”.

As there is no academic or clinical research on glasses fetishism, I can’t conform or refute any of the claims that Cotton makes in her. Cotton quoted Bobby Laurel a self-confessed Czech-born GOC fetishist who runs his own specialist GOC website. Laurel asserted that his fetish for very thick lensed glasses is psychologically similar to those who are into abasiophilia (sexual arousal from pretending to be handicapped) and apotemnophilia (sexual arousal from wanting to be an amputee):

“All of them pretend a kind of disability. Please, do not misunderstand the concept of this pretending. They do not do it to lodge a fraudulent claims, to get benefits, to get money, to beg etc. No! They wheel or crutch just for the pleasure (Yes, they like it!) … Those pretenders and us – the GOC wearers – are the same kind of ‘freaks’. None of us know exactly what happened in our brains that we like pretending to be disabled. We just like it. Please, realise we do not harm anybody. We do not wish that the other people really needed thick glasses, wheelchairs or crutches. Of course, we like the people who happened to need the stuff. They attract us, it is true, it often makes us excited or even sexually stimulated when we see a person who wears strong glasses or needs crutches or a wheelchair”.

In a 2007 issue of the International Journal of Impotence Research, Dr. C. Scorolli and his colleagues examined the relative prevalence of different fetishes. Fetishes for glasses featured in a small number of the fetishistic groups located. Glasses were then mentioned in their discussion concerning the formation of fetishes and sexual paraphilia. Glasses fetishism was used as an example to argue against genetic and evolutionary biological theories. More specifically, they noted:

“The lack of epidemiological data and of a shared taxonomy for describing paraphilic behaviors is one of the primary factors that has hampered the scientific scrutiny of Fetishism as well as the search for etiological mechanisms. Although many theories have been advanced to account for the development of typical and atypical sexual behaviors, none has been fully convincing. By applying evolutionary biology to human sexuality, some authors aimed to demonstrate an innate mechanism(s) to explain sexual preferences. Others consider sexual preferences, such as male homosexuality, genetic in nature. Our results partially agree and partially contrast this theory, at least for fetishes. In fact, the highly frequent preference for artificial objects here demonstrated seems not consistent with the genetic determination of preferences. It is unlikely that a particular genetic makeup should result in a preference for specific stimuli such as, for instance, coats, balloons, eye-glasses or headphones – all of which we found in our data”.

In all honesty, the chance of glasses fetishism becoming the topic of serious academic or clinical research is probably minimal. My own brief foray into the area suggests that it exists (as evidenced by dedicated fan and video websites). However, as fetishes go, most of these appear to be relatively harmless.

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.

Ashcroft, B. What is Japan’s fetish this week? Glasses. Kotako, April 21. Located at: http://kotaku.com/5792396/whats-japan-fetishizing-this-week-glasses

Cotton, K. (2007). Frame your desires. Philia Phrenzy, March 26. Located at: http://philia-phrenzy.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/frame-your-desires.html

Huber, A. (2012). World of fetishism: Has the cool gadget era made geeks, and the specs stereotypically associated with them, the new sex symbols? Europe and Me Magazine, 17. Located at: http://www.europeandme.eu/17baby/915-a-world-of-fetishism

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 fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_fetish