Regular readers of my blog may remember that my first academically published papers were on hypnosis (as I recounted in a previous blog I did on hypnofetishism). Consequently, I’ve always had a passing interest in stage hypnotism although some of those that I’ve seen sail close to the wind in terms of their ethics. In fact the following online query raised some of the sort of questions I have often asked myself when watching such shows:
“My in-laws recently attended an ‘adults only’ hypnotist show in Las Vegas. The hypnotist selected audience members to be hypnotized. I’m sure you all know the drill here. The selected individuals did all sorts of sexual (or inferred sexual acts) from masturbating a teddy bear to having an orgasm when another sneezes…Is it ethical? Is it a form of abuse if these people were not in full control of their capacities? I would think in this day of lawsuit happy lawyers a participant could easily sue a hypnotist for ‘suggesting’ this type of behavior”
Over the last few years there have been a number of high profile stories about ‘X-rated’ stage hypnotists. For instance, in 2012, Colin Adamson’s “raunchy hypnosis show” was banned for being “too rude” by the University of Kent’s student union after the hypnotist got his participants to simulate sex acts and lap dances on stage. Some of those on stage were made to believe they were having orgasms while others simulated masturbation. One of the women that was hypnotized into believing she had been touched indecently by someone watching the show and was left ”too upset to speak”. Sadaeva president of the University of Kent Feminist Society was “disgusted” and was quoted as saying: “[Adamson] shows a lack of empathy towards rape victims and all women, and a lack of basic human decency – he has no place at a student union”.
One infamous case of problems with someone that participated in stage hypnotism was recounted by Dr. Michael Heap in a 2000 issue of the journal Contemporary Hypnosis (as well as on his own website). Heap was an expert witness for the defendant in a case he calls ‘Norman versus Byrnes’ (Mr. Byrnes was the defendant, the stage hypnotist; Mr. Norman, the plaintiff was the person on stage under hypnosis). Dr. Heap began by briefly reviewing the main issues:
“Mr. Norman’s story is that on Wednesday June 30th 1993, he took part in Mr. Byrnes’s stage hypnosis show at a hotel. At some point in the show Mr. Byrnes offered to help Mr. Norman give up smoking. Amongst other things, he gave him a post-hypnotic suggestion that from now on cigarettes would taste foul. Towards the end of the performance Mr. Byrnes suggested to his volunteers that as they were sitting in their chairs they would feel more and more sexy. He then hit his microphone repeatedly calling out ’10 times more sexy’, ’20 times more sexy’…..and so on. Mr. Norman seemed to become carried away; he stood up and made thrusting movements at the chair. Mr. Byrnes then suggested to the participants that when they went to bed that night they would feel even 50 times more sexy than they did then. Mr. and Mrs. Norman both confirmed that when they went to bed that night, as soon as Mr. Norman laid down on the mattress he started shaking violently and bouncing up and down. Mr. Norman claimed that he was having sexual intercourse with the mattress and that indeed he did find the mattress sexually attractive. Thus he continued simulating intercourse with the mattress and the other contents of his bed, with the exception of his wife”.
Mr. Norman had sex with his hotel bedroom furniture for about four hours (1am to 5am). When Mr. Norman stopped at one point to smoke a cigarette he became violently sick. On resuming his furniture sex, Mrs. Norman managed to stop the activity by blowing cigarette smoke into her husband’s face. Over the following days, Mr. Norman’s sexual urges diminished during the day but the uncontrollable urge to have sex with the furniture and other domestic appliances came back each night in the hotel room. Mr. Norman and his wife reported that the objects that became sexually attractive included all the bed’s contents, the hotel ceiling, a variety of ornaments in the hotel room, the room’s armchair, the hotel bath, and a tumble dryer. Dr. Heap then reported:
“On Monday, five days after her husband’s stage hypnosis experience, Mrs. Norman went to see a lawyer; on Wednesday Mr. Norman went to see his doctor. He was prescribed antidepressants and several days later his doctor ‘performed hypnotherapy on him to remove the post-hypnotic suggestion’ and this appeared to be successful. However, about three weeks later he was referred to a psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas, with ‘depression and delusions’ and violent behaviour. Dr. Thomas saw Mr. Norman on October 18th…Dr. Thomas ascribed Mr. Norman’s problems to Mr. Byrnes’s failure to take him ‘out of the hypnotic trance’…Things appeared to go quiet, and Mr. Norman did not receive any medication or treatment for these problems until four months later…Mr. Norman continued to present with a bewildering array of mental symptoms variously diagnosed as dissociative state, hypomania, hysteria, Ganser’s syndrome, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid psychosis and schizo-affective disorder”.
Mr. Norman’s legal team then secured the services of a consultant psychiatrist Dr. James, who was former official of the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis. Dr. James then made a number of allegations of negligence against Byrnes (e.g., Byrnes didn’t establish what the exact counter-suggestion should have been to dispel the post-hypnotic suggestion). Dr. Heap then claimed:
“When I consider these serious allegations against Mr. Byrnes, I cannot help hearing in my mind the music ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’. Dr. James casts Mr. Byrnes in the role of an inept would-be wizard whose task, under the stern eye of a properly qualified master wizard, is to discover the best counter-spell or incantation that would lift the evil curse with which he had previously inadvertently bewitched Mr. Norman…This case came to trial in September 1997. I sat in Court every day…but on the fifth day, long before the defence had opened its case, the trial collapsed. Mr. Norman’s financial backer withdrew, his legal aid having already been rescinded. The reason for the latter was as follows: had Mr. Norman won his case, the compensation that he would have received would have been claimed back by the state to offset the considerable welfare and sickness benefits he had received while indisposed. Thus he would have been financially no better off and legal aid is not granted when such is the case”.
Dr. Heap was under the view that Mr. Norman was “clearly malingering in his claims to have been afflicted with his unusual sexual compulsions”. Heap claimed that there were grounds for considering Norman’s symptoms as a factitious disorder (like Munchausen’s Syndrome).
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Heap, M. (2000). A legal case of a man complaining of an extraordinary sexual disorder following stage hypnosis. Contemporary Hypnosis, 17(3), 143-149.
Heap, M. (2001). Some stories about hypnosis. The Skeptical Intelligencer, 3(4), 29-35
Heap, M. (2014). Some stories about hypnosis. Located at: http://www.mheap.com/hypnosis.html
What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you hear the words ‘furniture sex’? Maybe you think about people having sex on particular items of furniture? Maybe you think of specially designed ‘sexy furniture’ such as the items featured on the Pinterest website? Maybe you think about people displayed and used as pieces of human furniture (see my previous blog on forniphilia if you have no idea what I am talking about). There are also those who design bespoke furniture to enhance sexual pleasure. For instance, a recent article in The Frisky examined the ‘sex furniture’ designed by Josh and Jasmine whose entire house is furnished with sex furniture. According to the article “each piece [of furniture] supposedly accommodates multiple positions and enhances orgasm”.
The origin for this blog came when I read a September 2012 story in both the Smoking Gun and The Inquisitor about an American married man (46-year old Gerard Streator) who was accused of having sex with a yellow sofa that had been abandoned on the pavement in Waukesha (Wisconsin, US). At 11pm on September 3rd (2012), Streator had the misfortune to be spotted by an off-duty policeman (Officer Ryan Edwards), who saw Mr. Streator copulating with the sofa while he was out on a late night run. The police officer was quoted as seeing:
“A subject leaning over the couch facing down and it looked like he was having sexual relations with someone on the couch. [I] could see the male’s hips thrusting up and down on the couch [and] could see that the defendant’s penis was erect. [He] had been thrusting his pelvic area against the cushions and trying to sexually gratify himself by rubbing his penis between the two cushions. [He was] thrusting his hips as if he was having sex with a person”
The officer chased Mr. Streator back to the suspect’s apartment and was arrested the following day for the criminal misdemeanor at the County Springs Hotel where Streator worked. The article in The Inquisitor described Streator as a “couch fetishist” who engaged in “bizarre sexual conduct with the abandoned couch”.
Another strange case involved a man in Hong Kong who late one night attempted to have sex with a local park bench. He penetrated one of the holes in the park bench but disaster struck when his penis got stuck and the emergency services had to be called out to try and cut him free. Unfortunately, there is now a video that was posted on the YouTube website of the emergency services cutting the man free which has already been seen by almost 750,000 viewers. (You can check it out for yourself here, and if you are really curious, there are also other videos on YouTube of sex with furniture such as this one).
In March 2008, the Daily Telegraph here in the UK reported that an American married man (40-year old Art Price, father of three children) had been observed on four separate occasions in Bellevue (Ohio, US) of having sex with a picnic table (the most recent being March 14, 2008 when a neighbour filmed the incident to show the police). The neighbour had observed Mr. Price “in his garden turning over a round metal table before performing a sex act upon it”. A spokesman for the local police, Police Captain Matt Johnson said: “He was completely nude. He would use the hole from the umbrella and have sex with the table. Once you think you’ve seen it all, something else comes around”. Mr. Price was charged with four counts of public indecency because his sexual frolics with the picnic table occurred near an elementary school. For others, sex with furniture doesn’t seem to be a problematic issue. Consider this little snippet I came across online”
“Is there anything wrong with having sex with furniture? I mean really? It doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s a very natural thing too. Just look at animals. They do it all the time! How would you think that it’s wrong? And what if you don’t like falling in love with people? How do you tell me who or what to love?
This quote would probably find a lot of support from objectophiles (that I examined at length in a few previous blogs including those who have had sexual relationships with cars). Object sexuality refers to those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to (and have relationships with) specific inanimate objects or structures. Such objectophiles express a loving and/or sexual preference and commitment to particular items or structures. Such individuals rarely (if ever) have sex with humans and they develop strong emotional fixations to the object or structure. Unlike sexual fetishism, the object or structure is viewed as an equal partner in the relationship and is not used to enhance or facilitate sexual behaviour. Some objectophiles even believe that their feelings are reciprocated by the object of their desire.
As far as I am aware, there is no specific paraphilia that is associated with getting sexual pleasure and arousal from furniture items so I decided to name a new paraphilia based on this (and other similar cases) I have read about. There are three ways in which paraphilias appear to derive their names.
(1) The paraphilic word can be derived from two or more Greek words relating to the focus of the sexual desire with the Greek word for ‘love’ (i.e., ’philia’ added). For instance, Professor John Money coined the word ‘acrotomphilia‘ (sexual desire from amputees) from the Greek ‘akron’ (‘extremity’), ‘tome’ (‘a cutting’) and ‘philia’ (‘love’). In ‘stigmatophilia‘ (from the Greek, stigma, “mark”; philia, “love”—Money, 1986)
(2) The paraphilic word is derived from the opposite of an existing word for some kind of phobia. For instance, the fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia and the love of clowns is coulrophilia,
(3) The paraphilic word is simply derived from the English word for the focus of sexual desire followed by the greek suffix ‘philia’. For instance, ‘acnephilia’ (sexual pleasure and arousal from those individuals with acne).
Therefore, I could perhaps call this type of sexual behaviour ‘furniturephilia’ (which certainly has an alliterative ring to it) but is not very original. As far as I am aware, there is no named phobia for fear of furniture, so this avenue is closed. Finally, I tried to track down the Greek word for furniture. The word ‘furniture’ is derived from the French word ‘fourniture’ (which means ‘the act of furnishing’) so does not really exist historically in Greek. However, one of my research colleagues (from Greece) informed me that ‘epiplo’ is the singular for furniture and that ‘epipla’ is the plural. I am therefore going to name those with a ‘furniture sex’ paraphilia as engaging in epiplophilia. Additionally, given that some individuals seem to only like seated furniture, I found out that the word ‘throne’ is of Greek origin (from the word ‘thronos’). Therefore, in the absence of any other names for paraphilias involving seated furniture, I hereby name this as ‘thronosphilia’ that I will operationally define not just as the gaining of sexual pleasure and arousal from furniture chairs and seating.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Angelowicz, A. (2012). TLC’s “Strange sex”: Sex furniture and sleep orgasms. The Frisky, Augsut 28. Located at: http://www.thefrisky.com/2012-08-28/tlcs-strange-sex-sex-furniture-sleep-orgasms/
Barton, D. (2009). The 6 strangest objects people were caught having sex with. Cracked.com, February 28. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_17098_the-6-strangest-objects-people-were-caught-having-sex-with.html
El Dorado Furniture (2010). Wordplay: Etymology of Furniture Terms, October 4. Located at: http://eldoradofurniture.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/wordplay-etymology-of-furniture-terms.html
Hazell, B. (2008). American caught having sex with picnic table. Daily Telegraph, March 28. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1583118/American-caught-having-sex-with-picnic-table.html
Jowaheer, R. (2012). Hotel worker could face jail after being caught ‘having sex with sofa’. AOL Travel, September 26. Located at: http://travel.aol.co.uk/2012/09/26/hotel-worker-faces-jail-caught-having-sex-sofa-street/
Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm
Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.
Money, J. & Simcoe, K.W. (1986). Acrotomophilia, sex and disability: New concepts and case report. Sexuality and Disability, 7, 43-50.
Rigney, T. (2012). Abandoned couch sex: Man arrested for getting busy with furniture. The Inquisitor, September 27. Located at: http://www.inquisitr.com/345157/abandoned-couch-sex-man-arrested-for-getting-busy-with-furniture/
The Smoking Gun (2012). Man busted for curbside sex with old couch. The Smoking Gun, September 24. Located at: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/man-busted-for-couch-sex-684512
Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships