Nailed it: A brief look at onychophilia
In a previous blog, I looked at fingernail fetishism. Since writing that article, I’ve had a few individuals get in touch with me to say that they had very specific fingernail fetishes (such as a keen interest in very long nails). As the Kinkly website notes:
“A fingernail fetish can hinge on the nail color, texture, or length. If the fetish hinges on long nails, the fetish is sometimes referred to as onychophilia. For the fingernail fetishist the excitement is in the details, so nail art is given special attention”.
However, a really short article on ‘Lady Zombie’s World of Pain, Pleasure and Sin’ website also notes that onychophilia as a fingernail fetish but says it only refers to long nails (rather than nails more generally):
“Onychophilia is a fetish for extremely long nails (either real or fake) and/or painted fingernails. As with all fetishes, preferences vary! While some fetishists say, ‘The longer, the better,’ many others find them to be repulsive after a certain length”.
In my previous article I mentioned the the only specific case of fingernail fetishism that I found in the academic literature was a 1972 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, by Dr. Austin McSweeny who successfully treated a young male fingernail fetishist using hypnosis (although other sexologists such as Willem Stekel and Martin Kafka had mentioned such a fetish in passing). The same case study was cited by Dr. Jesse Baring in a blog on fingernail fetishism for Scientific American. He noted:
“He could [only] become sexually aroused and experience penile erection by seeing or fantasizing the fingernails of a woman as they were being bitten by her. Occasionally, the mere sight of a woman’s severely bitten fingernails would cause the patient to experience a spontaneous erection … When the patient experienced the proper fetish situation, he could masturbate to the point of ejaculation and experience gratification. This was his only means of expressing his sex drive…The psychotherapist’s request for the man to picture heterosexual intercourse or a vagina in his mind’s eye was enough to make him vomit”.
A 2019 article by Stephen Alexander (‘Onychophilia: Two types of nail fetish’) notes that fingernail fetishes are subsumed within ‘hand partialism’ (which can arguably include other fetishes I have examined including ‘handwear fetishism’ and ‘hands on hips fetishism’). Alexander asserts:
“I think that [fingernail fetishism] deserves critical attention in its own right. For the nails are not like any other part of the hand in that they are not composed of living material; they are made, rather, of a tough protective protein called alpha-keratin. D. H. Lawrence [in his 1963 essay ‘Why the novel matters’] describes his fingernails as ‘ten little weapons between me and an inanimate universe, they cross the mysterious Rubicon between me alive and things […] which are not alive, in my own sense’. Thus, I think there’s something in the claim that what nail (and hair) fetishists are ultimately aroused by is death; that they are, essentially, soft-core necrophiles. Having said that, the human nail as a keratin structure (known as an unguis) is closely related to the claws and hooves of other animals, so I suppose one could just as legitimately suggest a zoosexual origin to the love of fingernails”.
To support his claim that fingernail fetishists are “soft-core necrophiles”, Alexander noted that there had been a recorded case in the 1963 book Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving concepts of sadism, lust-murder, and necrophilia – from ancient to modern times (by R.E.L. Masters and Eduard Lee) where “an illicit lover derived pleasure from eating the nail trimmings of corpses (necro-onychophagia), thereby lending support to the theory that nail fetishism has a far darker and more ghoulish undercurrent”.
I also learned in Alexander’s article that there is another related paraphilia – amychophilia – which refers to sexual arousal from being scratched (or as Alexander puts it: “a love of the pain [fingernails] can inflict, when grown long and sharp”). I went and checked if amychophilia was in my ‘go to’ book on paraphilias (i.e., Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) – and it was. Dr. Aggrawal defines amychophilia as “deriving sexual pleasure from being scratched” which technically could mean sexual arousal from being scratched by things other than fingernails (e.g., toenails, back-scratcher) although scratching for most people will be synonymous with fingernail scratching. Given these definitions, I would argue that amychophilia is more akin to masochism than onychophilia because the root of amychophilia is in the feeling provided rather than what is doing the scratching. Alexander also quotes at length from Daphne du Maurier’s short story ‘The Little Photographer’ (from The Birds and Other Stories) and says that one scene in the book describes onychophilia in “fetishistic detail”. (I won’t reproduce it here but you can check it out in Alexander’s online article here).
Which brings me to the final article I came across on onychophilia by Liz Lapont on The Naked Advice website. She was writing in response to an email she had received:
“I’m a guy with a sexual fetish for long fingernails (not too long, usually the length that people get when they get their nails done). I beat off to pictures of nails and I have conversations with female friends about their nails. I wanted to know if you can make a video about this type of fetish. Seeing as not a lot of people talk about or show interest in this fetish, am I weird?”
Lapont replies that the fetish is both atypical and uncommon but not weird (“as in creepy and in need of psychiatric help”). My own take is that this is a non-normative sexual behaviour but agree with Lapont that there is nothing to worry about if the behaviour causes no problems in the individuals’ lives. She concludes by saying:
“Consult any list of the most common sexual fetishes and nails don’t crack the top 10. However it’s not unheard of, and toenails are often an associated turn-on for men with a fetish for feet. The clinical term for a fingernail fetish is onychophilia. For some, it’s the act of biting the fingernails that turn them on. For others, it might be their extreme length that is most erotic. Hands and nails play a big role even during the most vanilla sex in the world…So it’s not a stretch to see how for some men, fixating on fingernails would be IT for them”.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, 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.
Alexander, S. (2019). Onychophilia: Notes on two types of nail fetish. Torpedo The Ark. March 18. Located at: http://torpedotheark.blogspot.com/2019/03/onychophilia-notes-on-two-types-of-nail.html
Baring, J. (2013). Bite those nails, baby: A “quick” tale of fingernail Fetishism. Scientific American, August 14. Located at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/bite-those-nails-baby-a-e2809cquicke2809d-tale-of-fingernail-fetishism/
Baring, J. (2013). Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All Of Us. New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.
Kafka, M. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 357-362.
Kinkly (2020). Fingernails fetish. Located at: https://www.kinkly.com/definition/6664/fingernails-fetish
Lady Zombie (2011). Onychophilia – Long nail fetish. February 4. Located at: http://ladyzombienyc.blogspot.com/2011/02/onychophilia-long-nail-fetish.html
Lapont, L. (2017). Fingernails aren’t just great for back scratching. The Naked Advice, August 21. Located at: https://thenakedadvice.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/fingernails-arent-just-for-great-back-scratching/
Lawrence, D.H. (1985). Why the novel matters. In Steele, B. (Ed.), Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Masters, R.E., & Lea, E. (1963). Perverse crimes in history: Evolving concepts of sadism, lust-murder, and necrophilia, from ancient to modern times. New York: Julian Press.
McSweeny, A.J. (1972). Fetishism: Report of a case treated with hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 15, 139-143.
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.
Stekel, W. (1952). Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1) (Trans., S. Parker). New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.
Stekel, W. (1952). Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1) (Trans., S. Parker). New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.
Take a stance on me: A brief look at ‘hands on hips’ fetish
I can’t remember exactly how, but one day last year I came across a website called ‘Hands On Her Hips’ which is totally dedicated to pictures of females posing with their hands on their hips. As the website states:
“The mission statement of this blog is very simple. The blog contains picture of women holding their hands on their hips. To me the pose is very feminine, attractive, powerful and confident. The simple gesture of a woman putting her hands on her hips appeals to me and this blog is dedicated to that pose”
However, I soon discovered on doing a little Googling that there appears to be a niche community of ‘hands on hip’ [HoH] fetishists out there. I’m not aware of any academic research on HoH fetishism but there are a number of online references to the practice. According to a short 2009 online article on ‘eight freaky fetishes’ by Grace Murano, she claims that:
“Hands on the Hip is a type of hand partialism, which means the attraction to a specific action performed by the hands. It’s very hard to explain the presence of a fetish site devoted entirely to women posing with their hands on their hips, standing defiantly and angrily in the way so many mothers do when their children misbehave. Somewhere, deep in the psyche of the site’s creator, he desperately wants to find a mother figure who will discipline him with nothing harsher than a time out and denial of television”.
Murano’s brief description appears to somewhat concur with Wikipedia’s brief entry on hand fetishism (that appears to have come from Dr. Ellen McCallum’s 1998 book Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism). This entry claims that hand fetishism:
“…may include the sexual attraction to a specific area such as the fingers, palm or nails, or the attraction to a specific action performed by the hands; which may otherwise be considered non-sexual – such as washing or drying dishes. This fetish may manifest itself as a desire to experience physical interaction, or as a source of sexual fantasy”.
Another 2009 short online article by Gloria Brame asserts that HoH fetishism is actually an ‘action fetish’ (i.e., an individual who derives sexual arousal not from an object or body part but from an action that someone performs). Brame then goes on to assert that:
“For most, that includes seeing it, but it isn’t just a branch of voyeurism: the fundamental thrill attaches to the action itself, and not just its visual or auditory pleasures. One very broad example would be spankers who get off on the action (of spanking) itself, and not – as is more common among [sadomasochists] – the pain or humiliation or its place in a power dynamic…Some of us know SM players too who are turned on by the actions but not the psychological space…It’s a bit easier to sort out when the action fetish is highly particularized. For example, a fetish for watching a woman in stockings and high heels step on a car’s brakes, or a fetish for seeing a coed in her underwear bouncing on a big balloon There are scores of barely documented action fetishes, so I’m always happy when I see an enthusiast build a blog to his/her own fetish, like this one [Hands on her hips]”
In another list of ‘weird fetishes’ from 2007, Anthony Burch and Frank Movsesian also listed HoH fetish and tried to add in a bit of psychodynamic psychology into the mix. They claimed that HoH fetish sites prove that Sigmund Freud was right. I personally don’t adhere to this viewpoint at all but given the lack of any psychological insight and theorizing, they go as far as to say:
“There’s no other way to explain the presence of a fetish site devoted entirely to women posing with their hands on their hips, standing defiantly and angrily in the way so many mothers do when their children misbehave. Somewhere, deep in the psyche of the site’s creator, he desperately wants to find and have sex with a mother figure who will discipline him with nothing harsher than a Time Out and denial of television. I guess this fetish is for people who aren’t quite into sadomasochistic discipline, but think they might one day be. Bondage training wheels, if you will”.
There are loads of articles and papers on various aspects of non-verbal communication and to be honest (and because it is not my area of expertise) I haven’t got the time to read everything that’s been written about ‘hands on hips’ gestures, but most online sources appear to indicate that the ‘hands on hips’ stance helps give the appearance of being physically bigger and is a non-verbal cue that shows others that we are “ready for action” (i.e., a ‘readiness gesture’) but is sometimes mistaken for unfriendliness. One website claims that the people most likely to be observed in are “workaholics, athletes and productive people” and can demonstrate a show of authority and superiority. Another website article notes that:
“Hands-on-Hips is used by the child arguing with its parent, the athlete waiting for his event to begin, the boxer waiting for the bout to start and males who want to issue a non-verbal challenge to other males who enter their territory. In each instance the person takes the Hands-on-Hips pose and this is a universal gesture used to communicate that a person is ready for assertive action. It lets the person take up more space and has the threat value of the pointed elbows that act as weapons, preventing others from approaching or passing. The arms being half raised show readiness for attack and this is the position taken by cowboys in a gunfight. Even one hand on the hip will send the intended message, particularly when it’s pointed at the intended victim. It’s used everywhere and in the Philippines and Malaysia it carries the even stronger message of anger or outrage…Its basic meaning carries a subtly aggressive attitude everywhere. It has also been called the achiever stance, related to the goal-directed person who is ready to tackle their objectives or is ready to take action on something. Men often use this gesture around women to display an assertive male attitude”
If these observations are true, it would seem to suggest that those who have HoH fetishes may like being/feeling in submissive positions and being sexually dominated (although that’s pure speculation on my part as there is simply no empirical research whatsoever). I honestly can’t see HoH fetishes ever being the subject of serious scientific study as they are unlikely to have any appreciable negative impact in the lives of such people (if such people even exist).
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Brame, G. (2009). Action fetishes and hands on hips. July 28. Located at: http://gloriabrame.typepad.com/inside_the_mind_of_gloria/2009/07/hands-on-her-hips.html
Burch, A. & Movsesian, F. (2007). 10 really weird fetishes. Double Viking, November 9. Located at: http://www.doubleviking.com/bullet-points-10-really-weird-fetishes-6984-p.html
McCallum. E.L. (1998.) Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism. New York: State University of New York Press.
Murano, G. (2009). 8 freakiest fetishes. Oddee, June 18. Located at: http://www.oddee.com/item_96718.aspx