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Viagra falls: Is there a relationship between sex and nosebleeds?

In previous blogs I have covered a number of different topics relating to various human behaviours involving blood including haematophagia (the eating and/or drinking of blood products), haemolacria (the crying of blood), clinical vampirism as a sexual paraphilia, and menophilia (sexual arousal from women menstruating). Today’s blog adds to the list by taking a brief look at sex and nosebleeds (medically known as epistaxis).

There are many causes of nosebleeds. The two most common are nose picking and being exposed to dry air for long periods. Other reasons include having high blood pressure, having a cold or flu, allergic rhinitis (nose allergies), acute sinusitis, heavy alcohol use, being exposed to chemical irritants, being on certain medications (such as blood thinners and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), nose trauma, cocaine use, and haemophilia. Added to this, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of people claiming to get nosebleeds during vigorous sex.

However, an article in Culture Smash by Brian Ashcroft quoted an otolaryngologist, Dr. Kouichirou Kanaya (an ear, nose, and throat specialist) who was quoted as saying:

“The notion that sexual arousal causes the heart rate and blood pressure to rise is something that’s a well documented fact; however, in actuality, sexual arousal and bloody noses have no direct connection”

However, while researching this article I came across a number of medical papers showing that there is one area where nosebleeds have been related to sexual activity. More specifically, there have been a number of cases in the literature where men taking sildenafil (Viagra) and/or tadalafil (Cialis) have had nosebleeds during sex. For instance, Dr. L.A. Hicklin and colleagues reported two cases in a 2002 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. These are reported verbatim below followed by a 2006 case by Dr. G. Pomara and colleagues in the International Journal of Impotence Research, and a 2005 case by Dr. H. Ismail and Dr. P.G. Harries in the journal Acta oto-laryngologica:

  • Case 1: “A man in his late 50s was admitted from the emergency department with heavy prolonged epistaxis…During the admission the patient volunteered that, in the hours before his first nose-bleed, he had been engaging in energetic sexual activity. To enhance his sexual performance he had taken 50 mg sildenafil. Over the subsequent few days he had had several short but heavy epistaxes, and on the day of admission bleeding had continued for 6 hours without stopping. With packing and bed rest the bleeding gradually settled and he was discharged after six days”.
  • Case 2: “A man in his early 70s was admitted from the emergency department after 5 hours of epistaxis. He had taken sildenafil to enhance his sexual performance in the morning before his epistaxis…This was his first nose-bleed requiring medical attention…[After] two days and he was discharged home with no further epistaxis”.
  • Case 3: “A 32-year-old male presented to our department for recurrent epistaxis during sexual intercourses…During the consultation, he volunteered that the trigger for the epistaxis appeared to have been misuse of phosphodiesterase (PDE)-5 inhibitors, Viagra and Cialis. This first report of epistaxis after PDE-5 inhibitors in a young patient underline the possibility that in the next years the number of similar cases might increase due to the diffusion of PDE-5 inhibitor misuse in recreational settings”.
  • Case 4: A 66-year-old male presented to our department with recurrent epistaxis. On examination it was not possible to identify the source of the bleeding, despite various measures…During a consultation the patient volunteered that the trigger for the epistaxis appeared to have been energetic sexual activity. To enhance his sexual performance he had taken Viagra; however, on stopping the Viagra and changing to the newer drug Cialis, the episodes of epistaxis continued. We document what we believe to be the first case of epistaxis caused by Cialis”.

So why would Viagra and Cialis cause nosebleeds? Given that these medications help engorge erectile tissue, the nose also contains erectile tissue and the authors of these case reports believe that nasal engorgement also took place and lead to the nosebleeds. The phenomenon may be under-reported because individuals that use Viagra to enhance their sex lives may be too embarrassed to discuss this with doctors if it relates to sexual dysfunction. (I also came across a case report in a 2009 issue of the Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences by Dr. R. Dixit and colleagues of a 38-year old man persistently coughing up of blood [haemoptysis] whenever he used Viagra during sex).

Another interesting angle on sexual nosebleeds comes from Japanese cartoon animation (and more specifically Manga comics). In an online article entitled ‘Nosebleeds: Manga just wouldn’t be the same without them’, the author argues that Manga cartoons contain a number of specific tropes (i.e., a significant or recurrent theme). These tropes (amongst others) included nosebleeds, sweat drops, snot bubbles, and popping veins. Sexual nosebleeds were the number one trope in the article. The article noted that:

“A nosebleed, in the wonderful world of manga, equates to sexual arousal. I saw this trope for the first time in Dragonball, when Bulma lifts her dress and the lecherous Master Roshi spurts blood from his nose. Although Bulma was commando at the time, nosebleeds can be triggered by seeing something as mild as a pair of panties. In the case of the boy in the following image, it seems his bloody nose was triggered more by a fetish for swimsuits rather than the girl wearing them: Clearly, horn dogs don’t spontaneously get nosebleeds in real life. So why is it so in manga? I think it’s generally accepted that a rush of blood to the head and the resulting nosebleed is a visual metaphor for blood rushing to, er, somewhere else – which probably explains why I’ve only ever seen guys get nosebleeds, although I could be wrong about that”.

I’ve never watched a full Manga cartoon in my life but from everything I’ve read, male nosebleeds are common cliché in anime cartoons and are known as ‘hanaji’. According to the online Urban Dictionary, hanaji is “when you see a boy get a nosebleed in anime, [and] usually means his blood pressure has suddenly severely increased from seeing a really cute girl”. In an article by Brian Ashcroft for Culture Smash, he also noted the nosebleed trope in Manga cartoons:

A character, male or female, gets excited—often sexually excited. Blood dribbles, or squirts, out of the character’s nose. The notion that arousal or excitement induces bloody noses…isn’t just part of anime or manga iconography. It’s also become an old wives’ tale of sorts…The trope is very much a Japanese one, appearing throughout the country’s popular culture and with various nuances in anime and manga. It is not a new trope and has existed for years…Manga artist Yasuji Tanioka is believed to be the first one to introduce the motif with his early 1970s manga Yasuji no Mettameta Gaki Dou Kouza. Other manga artists liked the expression and began replicating it in their own work”.

In relation to the nosebleed trope in anime cartoons, Dr. Kouichirou Kanaya (the ear, nose, and throat specialist quoted above) speculated that:

“Bloody noses are probably used to show in a powerful way just how excessively large the change induced by sexual arousal is. It’s a climax, and in manga, it often seems to be code for ejaculation”.

There are also anecdotal cases of nosebleed fetishes (called epistaxiophilia). However, the love of nosebleeds appears to have been created by using the name of nosebleed phobia (epistaxiophobia) and changing the suffix ‘phobia’ for ‘philia’. To my knowledge, there has never been an academic paper or clinical case study published on epistaxiophilia. However, I did come across a number of online confessions of individuals that admitted (if they are true) that they were sexually aroused by nosebleeds. Here are some extracts that I found in various online forums:

  • Extract 1: “Was just reading a thread on r/Askmen about men who get nosebleeds during sex. My brain processed SEX and NOSEBLEEDS and I immediately imagined myself riding a guy home when he suddenly got a nose bleed. I was strangely turned on by that idea. I don’t think I’d be comfortable sharing this newly discovered turn on with any of my friends because I feel like it’s so damn weird” (Female, Reddit, AskWomen forum)
  • Extract 2: “Nosebleed fetish? Does anyone have it? I normally don’t like blood but I find nosebleeds really hot. I wouldn’t ever hurt my loved one, but I have to admit that I’m quite aggressive towards normal people because of it” (Inwealorwoe [Male], Yahoo! Answers)
  • Extract 3: “I’ll completely understand and I won’t take offense if you run from this post flailing and gagging…For the longest time, I’ve had a nosebleed Maybe that links to the fact that I’ve also got haematophilia and a vampire fetish. But you know what I really like? When someone sneezes while they have a nosebleed” (Proclaimer, Female, 21 years old)
  • Extract 4: “I think it’s incredibly sexy when a guy has a nosebleed. Sneezing while having a nosebleed. I would agree that nosebleeds are probably a turn-on for me because of the whole vulnerability/loss of control factor. Same as with sneezing and colds and things like that” (Helter Skelter, female, 19 years old)
  • Extract 5: “I actually do have a blood/vampire fetish. I often find myself getting very thirsty as well as aroused when watching vampires feed in movies. However I don’t really find nosebleeds all that appealing. I’m not disgusted by it or anything, but it just wouldn’t really do anything for me. I guess it’s just not the type of bleeding that I’m attracted to. I can see how it might be appealing to others though” (Shayla, female 31 years)

Obviously I cannot vouch for the veracity of these claims but I have no reason to doubt them (and the final extract liked other blood fetishes but not a nosebleed fetish). There is no detail in any of these extracts to speculate as to why anyone develops a fetish to nosebleeds. However I’ll leave you with a reply to the person in Extract 2 above:

“[Nose bleed fetishes] makes sense. A sexual therapist said that our sexual fantasies are derived from non-sexual things in our life. So your fetish for nosebleeds could actually stem from something non-sexual in your life. For example, it probably turns you on because it makes you feel empowered and aggressive, since if the person you are with has a nosebleed it means you must have been rough with them. So I would say that your fetish is probably normal, because many people are turned on by feeling empowered and aggressive. Sounds normal to me” (The Way It Is, Yahoo! Answers)”.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Ashcroft, B. (2012). Sexual arousal doesn’t cause bloody noses, says medical science! Culture Smash, October 19. Located at: http://kotaku.com/5953124/sexual-arousal-doesnt-cause-bloody-noses-says-medical-science

Dixit, R., Jakhmola, P., Sharma, S., Arya, M., & Parmej, A. R. (2009). Recurrent haemoptysis following sildenafil administration. Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences, 15, 119-120.

Hicklin, L.A., Ryan, C., Wong, D.K.K., & Hinton, A.E. (2002). Nose-bleeds after sildenafil (Viagra). Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 95(8), 402-403.

Ismail, H., & Harries, P. G. (2005). Recurrent epistaxis after treatment with tadalafil (Cialis). Acta oto-laryngologica, 125(3), 334-335.

Pomara, G., Morelli, G., Menchini-Fabris, F., Dinelli, N., Campo, G., LiGuori, G., & Selli, C. (2006). Epistaxis after PDE-5 inhibitors misuse. International Journal of Impotence Research, 18(2), 213-214.

Blood discussed: A brief look at haematophagia

Haematophagia usually refers to the practice of animals feeding on the blood of another species. However, the term has also been applied to humans that consume blood (something that I have referred to in previous blogs on clinical vampirism and menophilia). Most writings on human haematophagia usually refer to the practice in some sexual and/or vampiric capacity (e.g., some individuals in China and Vietnam believe certain types of snake blood are aphrodisiacs and are drunk with rice wine) but haematophagia can also occur for other reasons.

While I working was in Spain, I was taken to one of the best Castilian restaurants, and as part of the starter I was served morcilla sausage. Morcilla sausage is basically a Spanish version of black pudding (aka ‘blood pudding’) and made from pig’s blood. I absolutely loved it. It did make me wonder what other ‘blood’ foods I might enjoy. I did a bit of research into the making of blood sausages and found out that variations of this dish exist in cultures all over the world (e.g., Europe, Asia, and the Americas), and that all kinds of different animals’ blood can be used (including pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, and ducks). According to the Wikipedia entry on human haematophagia:

“Drinking blood and manufacturing foodstuffs and delicacies with animal blood is also a feeding behavior in many societies. Cow blood mixed with milk, for example, is a mainstay food of the African Massai. Some sources say that Mongols would drink blood from one of their horses if it became a necessity. Black pudding is eaten in many places around the world. Some societies, such as the Moche, had ritual hematophagy, as well as the Scythians, a nomadic people of Russia, who had the habit of drinking the blood of the first enemy they would kill in battle…Psychiatric cases of patients performing hematophagy also exist. Sucking or licking one’s own blood from a wound is also a behavior commonly seen in humans, and in small enough quantities is not considered taboo. Finally, human vampirism has been a persistent object of literary and cultural attention”

There a numerous YouTube videos of the African Massai (in Tanzania) drinking blood directly from the necks of live cattle (such as here and here). Cattle blood drinking typically occurs after special celebrations (such as births, ritual circumcisions, etc.), but the special occasions are not compulsory for blood drinking to occur. The cattle are never killed and the cuts made to drink blood from appear to heal quickly. One report on the Environmental Graffiti website described the practice:

“Half a dozen Maasai warriors wrestle with the struggling cow. Another waits with his bow drawn, arrow at the ready. Finally, they have the straining animal in position. The warrior with the weapon shoots straight for the bovine’s jugular. Warm blood gushes into a waiting bucket, pumped out by the animal’s still-beating heart. The blood keeps flowing, almost filling the container, before the cow is released – its punctured neck sealed with a dab of cow dung. It will live to see another day. Its’ blood-donating job is done, at least for another month. The Maasai men who perform this blood-draining ritual do not intend to kill, or even harm, the animal. They merely want some of its nourishing crimson fluid to drink”.

Another Wikipedia entry focusing on blood as food notes that in addition to blood sausages, animal blood has also been used to thicken, colour, and/or flavour sauces and gravies, and for various types of blood soup (such as ‘czernina’ in Poland, ‘papas de sarrabulho’ in Portugal, and ‘svartsoppa’ made with goose blood in Sweden). Although blood is a taboo food in some cultures, in others it is perfectly acceptable – particularly in times when food has been scarce. Other cultures have other blood foods including blood pancakes (in Scandinavian and Baltic countries), blood tofu (China, Thailand, Vietnam), blood cake (Taiwan), blood potato dumplings (‘blodpalt’ made with reindeer blood in Sweden) and blood bread (‘paltbrod’ in Sweden). Additionally, Wikipedia noted that:

“Blood can also be used as a solid ingredient, either by allowing it to congeal before use, or by cooking it to accelerate the process. In Hungary when a pig is slaughtered in the morning the blood is fried with onions and is served for breakfast. In China, ‘blood tofu’ is most often made with pig’s or duck’s blood, although chicken’s or cow’s blood may also be used. The blood is allowed to congeal and simply cut into rectangular pieces and cooked. This dish is also known in Java as saren, made with chicken’s or pig’s blood. Blood tofu is found in curry mee as well as the Sichuan dish, maoxuewang. In Tibet, congealed yak’s blood is a traditional food”.

The Tanzanian Massai people are not the only culture to consume uncooked animal blood products. For instance, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle consume seal blood and believe it to have health and social benefits. According to a paper on consuming seal blood in a 1991 issue of Medical Anthropology Quarterly, seal blood is “seen as fortifying human blood by replacing depleted nutrients and rejuvenating the blood supply, [and] is considered a necessary part of the Inuit diet”. Another academic paper by Dr. Edmund Searles in a 2002 issue of the journal Food and Foodways reported that in relation to the drinking of seal blood: Inuit food generates a strong flow of blood, a condition considered to be healthy and indicative of a strong body”. Historically, there are accounts of Irish people bleeding cattle as a preventative measure against cattle diseases. The Wikipedia entry on blood as food claims that the Irish mixed the drawn blood with butter, herbs, oats or meal” to provide a “nutritious emergency food”.

During my research I also came across a story in The Atheist Times (with photographic evidence) of Hindus engaged in the practice of decapitating and drinking goat blood directly from its body (a blood sacrifice). The report claimed the practice was widely prevalent throughout India and Malaysia. These Hindus believe that the Hindu goddess Kali descends upon those drinking the goat’s blood.

Staying on the religious theme, there are (of course) many (arguably ‘mainstream’) simulated acts of haemotphagia – most notably in various religious ceremonies and rituals. The most obvious is in the transubstantiation of wine as the blood of Jesus Christ during Christian Eucharist (where religious followers believe they are drinking the blood of Christ). Various religions engage in such pseudo-haemotophagic practices including the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, some Anglican, and Lutheran churches. (Other religions are the exact opposite and consider the drinking of blood taboo such as Jewish and Muslim cultures).

As this brief review demonstrates, non-sexual and non-vampiric human haematophagia and pseudo-haematophagia appear to be common and widespread in many cultures and countries. Academic research on the topic appears to be limited although it certainly warrants further investigation.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Borré, K. (1991). Seal blood, Inuit blood, and diet: A biocultural model of physiology and cultural identity. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 5, 48-62.

Davidson, A (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Searles, E. (2002). Food and the making of modern Inuit identities. Food and Foodways, 10(1-2), 55-78.

Wikipedia (2013). Blood as food. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_as_food

Wikipedia (2013). Hematophagy. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hematophagy