In a previous blog I briefly looked at plushophilia. In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Anil Aggrawal defines plushophilia as a “sexual attraction to stuffed toys or people in animal costume, such as theme park characters”. However, as I also noted in my previous blog, other online sources simply define plushophilia as a sexual paraphilia involving stuffed animals. Sexual and pornographic activities involving animal anthropomorphism (including plushophilia), is known among the plushophile community as ‘yiffing’. Plushophiles are often referred to as plushies, although as I noted in a previous blog on the Furry Fandom, the term can also refer to stuffed animal enthusiasts who have no sexual interest at all (i.e., people who just love cuddly toys).
Regular readers of my blog will know that in 2014, I was the resident psychologist on 12-episode television series called Forbidden made for the Discovery Channel. One of the stories that the series reported on concerned Dr. Peter Banki, a plushophile who appeared in the ‘Odd Man Out’ episode. Before I was interviewed for the story, I had to research the story and was also given some production notes as background material.
According to the material I was provided with, Banki has a PhD in German Philosophy and is a member of the Philosophy Research Initiative at the University of Western Sydney (In Australia), where he lectured and tutored in the School of Humanities and Languages. He is also the founder and host of ‘Schwelle’, a non-profit-organization that offers unusual and experimental workshops promoting a ‘different intellectual and sexual culture.’ He is also the curator of ‘Xplore’, an annual sex education event. He lives with his girlfriend and is currently living off profits from the festival and taking Shibari Rope classes at home in Bondi (Shibari is a form of Japanese rope bondage). His hobbies were listed as including cross-dressing, sex education, and reading. The production notes also informed me that:
“Peter Banki has lectured to hundreds of university students. He’s a fully-grown eloquent and intelligent man but he also plays with stuffed toys. In fact Peter sees himself as an advocate for plush play enthusiasts or ‘plushies’ as they’re called. What most would interpret as childish nonsense, Peter sees as a form of self-expression and a creative outlet. With 40 odd animals in his collection, each with their own invented character, profession and history, Peter has created his own fantasy world. His plushies are very important, ‘My close friends all know about it, some of them I even involve in playtime with the animals. But generally I only share this world with people I trust.’ He’s not completely secret about his pastime though. He’s given theatrical performances creating voices and characters for stuffed toys to demonstrate to audiences what plush play is all about”.
Dr. Banki claimed he had been obsessed with plushies ever since he was a child when he would get his parents to talk to his toys.
“It’s something I’ve always done. I once tried to give it up to keep a girlfriend but I couldn’t do it. I got too depressed”.
Instead of trying to repress his urges Dr. Banki embraces it. He regularly sleeps with the toys. Although Dr. Banki is heterosexual he admitted that he’s not a typical man.
“Being a man I think implies being an adult and strong and responsible. When I play with the plushy animals I think I’m like a little boy.”
The programme presented Dr. Banki as what the production notes described as a “quirky dichotomy”. On one hand, he’s a cultured academic, an adult who lectures and curates festivals. On the other, he’s a naughty child that plays with cuddly toys. Banki has created a fantasy world, something that he cultivated from his vivid imagination. Sometimes his behaviour involves erotic role-playing games. It’s the polarity that the documentary wanted to capture (something that Dr. Banki liked the idea of).
On screen, Peter is filmed sitting in his lounge watching television, and relaxing. He casually mentions that there’s no fun when it’s all work and no play, that he enjoys a little downtime with his ‘friends’. The camera then pulls out to a wider screenshot and reveals his furry plush toy friends sitting either side of him on the couch and on the floor. Peter introduces each and every plush toy friend and describes each toy’s back-story. He explained that some of his plush toys are in monogamous relationships, some are in naughty adulterous relationships, and that others are polyamorous. The production notes highlighted that:
“We see how his plush toy relationships manifest into the day-to day. He plays with them on the couch, on the floor of the lounge room, in the laundry, at the dining table, on his balcony/yard and baths them. We see a series of moments where the plush toys are passive participants: he prepares lunch, they’re watching; he works at his desk, they’re watching; he hangs his washing on the line, they’re watching from all the way the balcony. Peter even enjoys the odd social outing with his toys. We see him playing hide and seek in the park, pushing them on the swings”.
Dr. Banki also enjoys playing with other plushie enthusiasts. The documentary filmed other plushies playing with their stuffed animals during Banki’s Plush toy workshop at the Xplore Festival. Bankie also showed the programme makers the ‘Plush Toy Animal Collective’ Facebook page and described their various outings such as dinners and speed dating nights. One of his toys (‘Bunny Junior’, described as an old style Marxist) even has his very own Facebook page featuring photos of his Shibari rope therapy.
Banki was also filmed on his way to buy a new plush toy to add to his collection. He put three of his animal ‘friends’ into the back of his car and put on their seatbelts. He then goes to a restaurant and has dinner with all his plush toys at the table with him. The notes I was given provide a useful case summary:
“Dr Peter Banki has always played with Plush Animals. He used to ask his parents to talk to them and they would invent stories. He carried this play onto adulthood. They were always played with in a more intimate environment with people in the bedroom. Now Peter shares his play with the public and with friends. They go to restaurants, they go to parties. The Plush animals have names, some speak German, some speak French, Junior the rabbit, for instance, is an old style Marxist labor leader. As Peter grew older, the animals developed sexual relationships: some are straight, some are homosexual and some like to be spanked. For Peter, it’s a way of saying things that can’t be expressed otherwise. After simulating sexual play, Peter says he feels really exposed, but in a good way”.
Given the lack of research into plushophilia, case studies such as Dr. Banki give us an insight to the life of a plushophile. We don’t know how representative Dr. Banki is of other plushophiles but at least his story is out there.
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.
FoxWolfie Galen’s Plushie Page (2012). Definitions. Located at: http://www.velocity.net/~galen/furrydef.html
Gerbasi, K. C., Paolone, N., Higner, J., Scaletta, L. L., Bernstein, P. L., Conway, S., & Privitera, A. (2008). Furries from A to Z (anthropomorphism to zoomorphism). Society & Animals, 16(3), 197-222.
Hill, D. (2000). Cuddle time: In the world of plushophiles, not all stuffed animals are created equal. Salon, June 19. Located at: http://www.salon.com/2000/06/19/plushies/
Wiki Fur (2015). Animal totem. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Animal_totem
Wiki Fur (2015). Plushophilia. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Plushophilia