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Speaking a phlegmish language: A brief look at cough fetishism

While I was doing some research for a blog on sex and sneezing, I came across quite a few online confessions from people on sneeze fetish sites who also claimed they had a coughing fetish. As far as I am aware, there is no scientific name for coughing fetishes or paraphilias and it does not appear in either Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices or Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. However, it does make an appearance in the Social Kink’s online sex dictionary (aka the ‘kinktionary’). It says that:

“Coughing fetish involves the arousal of a male or female when they hear or see someone cough. The sometimes-quick sound of a slight hack is also thoroughly enjoyed. Some people like to see phlegm coughed up in the process. This may be intertwined with a slight bodily fluid fetish as well. Coughing is sometimes done when the deepthroating of a penis is involved, as the body tries to gag, but it comes out as a cough”

Coughing fetishes also make a brief appearance in the online Chemistry Daily encyclopedia:

“Coughing fetishism is a sexual fetish in which people like to watch other people coughing. It is often related to the smoking fetish. Some people fascinated with coughing require a certain sound or effect, such as a smoker’s cough, a dry cough, a wet, productive cough, etc. For some, it’s more important to hear a cough than to watch it”.

Finally, I came across a posting on the Is It Normal?’ website. In one of the answers to a question on bizarre fetishes and paraphilias, one of the respondents posted the verbatim text of an unattributed lecture that he had attended. I have tried (and failed) to track down the original source but the information given in the rest of the verbatim report is authoritative and scientific so I have no reason to doubt that the unnamed author believes what they are saying about coughing fetishes (although I have to add that it’s almost all speculation). The brief overview also includes hiccupping fetishes – presumably because ‘hiccups’ are a derivation of ‘hiccoughs’ and therefore – technically – a type of coughing:

“A coughing fetish involves finding women who cough as something fascinating, appealing and sexy. Enthusiasts often don’t know why they find this appealing and report it’s an interest since early childhood. Perhaps it’s the sound, the facial expression, the way of moving the body, the way the chest expands, or the way the hand covers the mouth. A hiccupping fetish among males usually involves a preference for seeing big breasted or pregnant women hiccupping. For females, it’s usually seeing male celebrities or authority figures with the hiccups.  For both, the turn-on is that it’s uncontrollable and publicly embarrassing. It’s rare to see sex while hiccupping, so the practice is usually confined to fantasy or a precursor to sex with both parties regressing to a childlike state of kidding, ridiculing, and tickling each other”.

In an article on sexual fetishes in The Wave magazine, Sandy Brundage included a brief section on coughing fetishes (“Coughing Your Way to Love”). He interviewed Nabucco Zach, a self-confessed cough and smoking fetishist. Zach was asked about why he found coughing such a sexual turn on and he replied:

“My own theory is that it has something to do with my aunt who died of lung cancer when I was four. There was a lot of talking about her lungs around me, and I probably understood that something serious was happening to her because of her lungs, so to speak. So, I think it’s a sort of fear that the coughing or smoking woman would pass away, that the brain handles by turning the fear into a sexual activity. Just a theory, and maybe a psychologist would laugh”.

Well, as a psychologist I’m not laughing, and Zach has obviously tried to attribute the motivation to something rooted deep in his childhood, but ultimately, this is yet more speculation as to the cause of coughing fetishes. This quote also provides more anecdotal evidence that – for some people – there is an overlap with smoking fetishism. Zach also added that:

“The cough fascination is something that turns me on, sexually – it’s a part of my sexual life and sex is not the first thing I start talking about when meeting a person. I’m not sure if I would ever reveal it”.

It wasn’t until Zach came across on online fetish discussion forum that he realized he wasn’t the only person who was sexually aroused by coughing, and where participants in the discussion group traded “secrets, stories and recordings of coughs”. Zach was also surprised that there were women on the online forum who had coughing fetishes because he viewed sexual fetishes as mainly male dominated.

After reading Brundage’s article, I went online and specifically started looking for coughing fetish forums. I have to admit that I didn’t find any dedicated coughing fetish discussion sites although I came across lots of fetish sites where the issue was raised as well as anecdotes from people about the sexual side of coughing on sneeze fetish forums. (I also came across sites that feature nothing but coughing videos aimed at people with coughing fetishes such as the one at

Here are five of the confessions I came across:

  • Extract 1: “I know this is a little weird, but does anyone have a thing for coughing? I know lots of people find it gross or irritating, but I love it. I think it’s so hot. And it’s almost always an indication the person’s sick which can lead to sneezing *melts* I probably should have made myself more clear I don’t like just any old coughing. I would only enjoy it if it were by a person (mainly male) that I’m attracted to, from a cold only (not smokers cough, or asthma or anything like that), and dry coughs. No phlegm whatsover”.
  • Extract 2: “You’re definitely not alone! For me, coughing is just as good as – if not better – than sneezing…I’m not entirely sure why this is, but, like you said, maybe it’s the way it’s kind of a blaring indication that the person is sick?”
  • Extract 3: “I actually found my way to this forum by searching for coughing-related things. I’ve got a general fetish for colds, illness and allergies, but I really do love a good coughing fit”.
  • Extract 4: “I have a coughing fetish too! It’s always been secondary to the sneezing fetish, but it’s definitely right up there…I’ve been looking for some coughing discussion forums like this one for a while, but none seem to exist…In my clip store I’ve got quite a few coughing clips too, as well as sneezing ones”.
  • Extract 5: “While I wouldn’t have fantasies about being coughed on, as I have with being sneezed on, I really, really like coughing as well. As long as it’s not from smoking or the extreme lung cancer, pretty much any cough is okay with me too. I naturally prefer when it’s from a cold or flu, but I can also appreciate other coughing. Like from tuberculosis, injury or even from choking on something. To me, it’s always a sign that the person coughing is somehow weakened for the moment. And that is sexy. Also, I should add, this applies mostly to men…I don’t mind a little mess in coughing either. I like the sound a little phlegm can do very much, but dry is more than fine too”.

All of these quotes are interesting and suggest coughing fetishes can and do exist. They also show that there appears to be some overlap between coughing and sneezing fetishes, and that there are slight differences in what kind of coughs are sexually arousing. They also demonstrate that there are idiosyncratic differences even among a fetish type that I think is very rare. The theme of being sexually aroused because someone is all also seems to be important for some cough fetishists. Maybe illness is associated with vulnerability that to some people may equate with some psychological equivalent of submissiveness (which brings to mind both sexually sadistic and masochistic undertones – but this, admittedly, is pure speculation on my part). Until any research is carried out on this tiny minority, we may never know what the roots, causes and motivations of cough fetishism.

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

Further reading

Brundage, S. (2002). Fetish Confessions: Telling loved ones about your fetish is as easy as solving fractured quadratic equations. The Wave Magazine, July 31. Located at:

Smoking Sweeties (2010). Women with coughing fetish. Located at:

Social Kink (undated). Coughing fetish. Located at: (

Wikipedia (2012). Smoking fetishism. Located at: