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Heard mentality: A brief look at headphone fetishism

“Just wondering why some of us like seeing pictures of women in headphones? I think it can be a bit creepy and fetishist. Do we have reclusive guys on this board that (a) don’t have girlfriends and (b) are also so enamored with gear that they want their dream girl to be utilizing or associated with said gear? I will say that if I ever desire to see women in headphones, please slap me. I really don’t want to get that deep into gear-love!” (American male, post at Head-Fi website)

I can honestly say one of the strangest sites that I’ve come across in my search for weird sexual fetishes is the Headph0ne Fet1sh website. Not surprisingly, it’s a site dedicated to “all manner of ladies wearing all kinds of headphones”. There appears to be thousands of photographs and video clips of attractive woman wearing headphones. Even the site itself acknowledges that its topic matter is strange and that the attraction is aesthetic rather than overtly sexual:

“You might wonder why such a strange fetish has a huge website devoted to it, well the answer is simple – it has lots of really devoted fans, who scour the internet day and night to find awesome pictures for the site. There are many more popular fetishes, the websites of which don’t add up to the content of this one site for this fetish. So don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…You won’t find any explicitly sexual images on the site, as this fetish tends be more orientated towards an aesthetic appreciation of ladies in headphones, rather than the more run-of-the-mill ‘wearing the fetish object during sex’ sort of thing. There are visitors to this site who do enjoy that sort of thing, but they are in the minority”.

I also came across a webpage hosted by The Church of Headphone Fetish that appears to be more geared towards anime-type illustration material rather than the photograph and video clips found on the Headph0ne Fet1sh website (a similar selection of headphone fetish illustrations – although not just restricted to anime – can also be found on the Deviant Art website). The opening blurb (in the style of a vicar’s sermon) and somewhat tongue-in-cheek announced:

“All rise. In the name of past headphone girls, current headphone girls, and future headphone girls, amen. We thank you, headphone goddess, for blessing us with past headphone girls, current headphone girls, and future headphone girls. When all other fetishes fail, headphones rose majestically to the challenge. Reestablished the otaku/perverted spirit inside all men, rekindled our fire of passion for the mighty search engine of Google. And so today we offer our utmost respect for the Goddess of Headphone, and will recruit countless believers in the name of headphones. May the eternal light of Headphone Fetish guide us to salvation”.

Headphone fetishism would appear to be a relatively rare sexual activity, as it doesn’t appear in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Furthermore, there is not a single reference to headphone fetishism in any academic article or book that I am aware of. Therefore, I went online in search of people that had confessed to this strange fetish. I have to admit that it was fairly slim pickings but I did find the following admissions:

  • Extract 1: “I dunno why, but I find hot girls with a headphone hot. True story. And I hope I am not the only one” (9mm, heterosexual male)
  • Extract 2: “I don’t know why but I find girls with headphones extremely attractive! She could be a normal girl, everyday run of the mill average 6.5-7 [out of 10], but put a pair of phones on her, and she shoots up to an 8-9 to me automatically! It’s crazy how attractive they get to me. Not just these pics specifically, but in general, it’s a BIG turn-on and I would absolutely lose it if they wore a skirt, tank top and knee socks while rockin’ out with a pair of oversized headphones” (Steven, heterosexual male)
  • Extract 3: Anyone else find headphones kind of sexy, especially when paired with another fetish? I was wearing headphones the other day to block out distracting outside noise when I noticed. I kind of like the way they feel. It was kind of…sexy. Now that I’ve discovered some sexy sounds/songs they’re kind of like a kinky sex toy” (Erobert, homosexual male)
  • Extract 4: I don’t have any fetishes (that I’ll admit to publicly). But I have to confess that hot women in headphones touches a chord. Earbuds just don’t do it for me, ya know? But princess Leia’s ludicrous locks? Mmmm. What is it about muffins around the ears I like so much? I don’t know what is. Maybe it’s because every picture of a girl you see with headphones on – she’s happy – or intensely channeling her muse – singing….something” (David, heterosexual male)
  • Extract 5: “I am [a headphone fetish sex man]. [Although] headsets are often used in bondage experiences, I find headphones highly sexy, especially huge, complicated and elaborate military headsets…This is the source of a lot of fantasies and erotic situations. I’ve wide collection of pics with men in headsets and headphones” (Ted, homosexual male)
  • Extract 6: “I have a headphone fetish…Then, I stumbled on Headphone Muslims and my eyes were opened to the brilliance of pretty anime-style girls wearing new and antique high-quality headphones! Musume is a Japanese term for ‘girl’…But what’s so cute about a girl wearing headphones? Is it the way the phones look like large ears? Is it the way the headphone cord tends to run and drape and tangle across the girl’s body, somewhat like a snake or a string of flowers? Or, maybe it’s the deep sense of relaxation that the girls seem to possess? Well, whatever it is, the image is certainly rather sexy, in a geeky way at least” (Jae Mie, heterosexual male).

To be honest, I can’t really be sure that any of these quotes in any way show a genuine fetish (as most seem to be a sexual preference rather than an exclusive focus for sexual arousal). However, if they are honest quotes (and I have no reason to suspect otherwise), the only conclusions I can draw are that the fetish is (i) male-based, (ii) found across the sexual orientation spectrum as both heterosexual and homosexual appear to have such sexual preferences, and (iii) not just restricted to real humans (as some appear to be sexually attracted to cartoon-like representations). This latter observation suggests there may be some psychological and behavioural overlaps with toonophilia (which I covered in a previous blog). There may also be overlaps with other sexual behaviours such as sadomasochistic bondage. The person in Extract 3 above (Erobert) also noted in his posting on the topic that:

“I guess we are out there as a sub fetish group – a very small one at that…I like sleek headphones; though large one’s aren’t bad either. Very hot when used in bondage, some sexy scenarios like listening to erotic music or sounds are a big turn-on. Or binural sounds that reportedly can cause an orgasm. Wouldn’t mind being tested a test subject for that”

In the absence of scientific research, why anyone should be sexually attracted to headphones is anyone’s guess. David Täht, writing on his Postcards From The Bleeding Edge website speculated as to what makes wearing headphones so fetishistic. He said:

‘I think it’s because as a female they are so alien to males…that wearing a pair of big cans is a bold statement ‘I’m listening to music’. There are so many ways you use that or can use that. Right from the start you can relate to what they are doing and their attention is focused on the music, i.e., not another man so you can’t even use the music/phones, as a pickup line”

The Is It Normal? website included a discussion thread on headphone fetish following a post from someone who started a discussion thread by saying girls wearing headphones are extremely attractive”. The site also featured a poll for its readers and the overwhelming majority (86%) responded by saying headphone fetish is normal (although I have no idea how many people voted – it might just have been the six people who took part in the discussion). Elsewhere, another online discussion on the Banging Tunes website prompted one discussant to say that headphone fetish is strange [but] not as odd as balloons or clowns but still very strange”. Personally, if headphone fetish really exists, my own view is that its etiology is most likely explained by behavioural conditioning in childhood and adolescence.

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.

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.