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Guilty pleasures: A brief look at pecattiphilia‬

Arguably one of the rarest sexual paraphilias is pecattiphilia. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, pecattiphilia refers to individuals that derive sexual pleasure from sinning or having committed an imaginary crime (although later on the same page, Dr Aggrawal simply defines it as “sexual arousal from sinning or guilt”). Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices also provides a similar definition and says that pecattiphilia is “the sexual arousal one gets from sinning…this may also display itself as a form of guilt”. The Wikipedia entry on pecattiphilia is also similar and defines the behaviour as “sexual arousal from performing an act one believes is a sin”. The short entry then speculates that it “would presumably include, for example, such acts of lust as fornication or sodomy, or also the acting out any of the other seven deadly sins beside lust”.

Finally, the online medical website Right Diagnosis describes the symptoms of pecattiphilia as (i) sexual interest in stealing or sinning, (ii) recurring intense sexual urges involving stealing or sinning, and/or sexual arousal from stealing or sinning. As far as I am aware, there is absolutely no academic or clinical research on pecattiphilia, and much of what I have read on the topic is purely speculative. In her encyclopedia entry, Dr. Love wrote that:

“Religious teenagers sometimes suffer from a dilemma when they masturbate because they are taught that God will punish or perhaps kill them for this ‘perversion’. A few have grown up with a fascination for sex play that involves life and death risks in order to recapture the same emotional intensity that this fear created. Anther type of ‘sinner’ may intensify their feelings of guilt by seducing a virgin, a member of the clergy, wearing religious costumes, listening to hymns during sex, or breaking into a church and using the altar to engage in a form of ritual sex. They may also have their partner say things to make them feel shame or guilt”.

I have no idea where Dr. Love got her information but it certainly wasn’t from any scholarly texts. I would also argue that some of the types of behaviour listed above overlap with other sexual paraphilias and sexual fetishes including melognia (sexual arousal from music), parthenophilia (sexual attraction to, and arousal by virgins), harmatophilia (sexual arousal from sexual incompetence or mistakes), hierophilia (sexual arousal from religious and sacred objects) and uniform fetishism. Dr. Love then goes on to say (again in the absence of any empirical evidence) that:

“Those suffering from extreme pecattiphilia may feel an overabundance of guilt and try to reduce these feelings by having their partner chastise or punish them before they orgasm. This seems to relieve their guilt feelings. Some develop a fear of sexually transmitted diseases afterward or salve their conscience by judging their sex partner. In extreme cases, a psychotic person will murder their victim (usually a prostitute) to expiate both their sins”.

I’m not entirely sure how “extreme pecattiphilia” manifests itself any differently from less extreme pecattiphilia but the whole paragraph is highly speculative. Nothing that I have read on the origins relating to a fear of sexually transmitted diseases (such as my previous blog on syphilophobia) is linked to pecattiphilia. To conclude, Dr. Love writes about both the positive and negative role that guilt may play in the development of pecattiphilia:

“Guilt can have a positive force in our lives if it calls attention to conduct that requires more responsible action. Additional understanding of our behavior, values, and needs help to prioritize our goals and make relevant changes. Guilt can help us to become more empathetic toward the weaknesses of others making it easier to develop and maintain relationships. Conversely, guilt can have negative effects when people use it to judge and inflict emotional and physical pain on themselves and others. Some psychologists believe that guilt is higher among people who have a more limited awareness of life and who have a more limited awareness of life and who are stuck in a restrictive and repressive lifestyle. A person who imposes guilt on others is practicing a form of sadism because they expect the person to self-inflict emotional pain”.

Dr. Love’s assertion that imposing guilt upon others is a form of sexual sadism is not one that I personally adhere to as I personally think guilt is not a form of pain (although I acknowledge that for some people extreme guilt can be psychologically painful). The only other article I have found on pecattiphilia was an admittedly non-academic one by Susan Edwards writing on Lady Jaided’s Sex Talk for Wicked Women website. Her article noted:

“Sin is sexy. Probably has something to do with the belief that sex is sinful. The more taboo you make it, the more compelling it is. If I had known about [pecattiphilia] in junior high, I would have thought of it as the Catholic School Girl and Preacher’s Kid Fetish. Those were the two groups in my neighborhood who seemed to get off the most on sinning, who were the most creative in coming up with ways to sin and the most energetic in pursuing its pleasures. When Wynona Ryder got busted for shoplifting, people wondered why such a rich, famous person would so such a thing. Maybe she’s a pecattiphiliac”.

Although I started this blog by saying pecattiphilia is very rare, one very small (very unscientific and self-selected sample) 2007 survey of 40 people (32 men and 8 women) responded to the ‘First Ever Viner Fetish Survey’ at the Celestina Newsvine website. The survey listed dozens of sexual paraphilias and asked respondents to tick any of them that they had “enjoyed” or “think they would enjoy”. Four of the respondents (10%) responded affirmatively. Obviously, I have no why of knowing the extent to which the four people had or hadn’t engaged in a pecattiphilic cat (or whether they were even telling the truth). However, it is the only statistic I have ever come across relating to the behaviour. Given the arguable overlaps with other sexually paraphilic behaviours, I’m really undecided about whether pecattiphilia really exists. As far as I can see, there are no published case studies, no online forums for pecattiphiliacs to discuss their sexual preferences, and no niche pornographic sites associated with the behaviour. In short, I have found very little evidence (even anecdotally) that it exists and/or or is a genuine sexual paraphilia.

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.

Celestina (2007). First ever Viner fetish survey, December 3. Located at: http://celestina.newsvine.com/_news/2007/12/03/1138900-first-ever-viner-fetish-survey

Edwards, S. (2008). Tempting transgressions. Sex Talk for Wicked Women, September 10. Located at: http://sextalkforwickedwomen.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/tempting-transgressions.html?zx=b773f275f414b3f9

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Right Diagnosis (2013). Pecattiphilia. May 7. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/p/pecattiphilia/intro.htm

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

Sacred hearts: What is the relationship between sex and religion?

“I have a sexual attraction and fetish for religious objects and people who get off on having sex or masturbating while in a religious setting. People might think that this type of fetish is an act of deliberate blasphemy, complete with visions of Linda Blair ramming a crucifix into herself while mocking a priest” (quote supplied by ‘The Goddess’)

Sex and religion have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship. When the two intersect there is often controversy, heated debate, and/or scandal. A book chapter by David Steinberg on sexologist Alfred Kinsey (in Russ Kick’s 2005 edited collection Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong) noted that:

“The publication of Kinsey’s study in 1948 [on male sexual behaviour] was the opening salvo of a monumental battle that has been raging ever since between science (factual information) and religion (moral judgment) on the subject of sex. [There is an] ongoing conflict between secular and theological forces for control of sexual desire and behavior in America”

In the same book, Joseph Slade also made the interesting observation that talking about pornography is a lot like talking about religion: Nearly everyone brings to the subject assumptions that color the debate”. When I started researching material for this article I came across a really interesting historical aside in relation to religion and fetishes. Dr. AnilAggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices wrote that the word ‘fetishism’:

“…arose from ‘fetish’, a term used in anthropology for an object believed to have supernatural powers. Early Christians frequently attributed magical and metaphysical powers to such objects as skulls, bones of saints, severed and mummified fingers and arms, etc. These objects were referred to as ‘fetiches’ (sic). When 15th century Portuguese explorers arrived in West Africa and discovered that local people had their own fetiches in the form of religious carvings and other inanimate objects, they began to refer to those inanimate objects as fetiches too. The French writer Charles de Brosses (1709-1777) coined the term fetishism in 1756 (in an anthropological sense) and developed the concept of religious fetishism in his 1760 [book] Duculte des Dieux Fétiches, where he discussed the worship of material objects such as amulets and talismans among ancient and contemporary African populations. De Brosses called this cult ‘fétichisme’ after ‘fétiche’ derived from the Portuguese trading term ‘feitiço’, which designated the small objects and charms on which European merchants would take oaths in sealing commercial agreements with Africans”.

Dr. Aggrawal then noted that when early sexologists were looking for a term to describe sexual fixation on inanimate objects, they borrowed from the Portuguese term because – like a religious fetish – an erotic fetish “also possessed magical powers” (i.e., it had the capability to sexually arouse emotions in those who otherwise seemed asexual).

“If a person who could not be aroused by normal erotic stimuli (say, a nude woman) could be aroused by an inanimate object, say, a sandal or a shoe, the object did have a kind of magical power on that person, and was thus a fetish”.

However, there are small numbers of people who are allegedly sexually aroused by religious artefacts, rituals, and/or behaviour. For instance, hierophilia was defined by Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices as a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from religious and sacred objects. He also made reference to teleophilia (i.e., those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from religious ceremonies). Aggrawal reported that elements of sexual sadism were present in several Western European medieval religious ceremonies involving flagellation. For instance, in an early 15th-century Catalan painting (The Flagellation of Christ), those inflicting pain on Jesus appeared to be deriving sexual pleasure from their activities.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices described hierophilic acts as including masturbating with crosses or masturbating on church pews. She also notes that someone from Austin, Texas (US) wrote to her to say they had broken into churches at night to have sex on the altar. She also reported that:

‘Many of the early goddess religions revered sex and included it as part of their worship. Statues, animals, priests, and priestesses were all provided for congressants’ sexual gratification at one time or another”.

A 2005 book chapter by Dr. Jenny Wade (also in Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong) makes some interesting connections between transcendent sex and religion. More specifically she says:

“The fact is, the ordinary act of lovemaking can be the most widely available path to higher consciousness for most people. People who have experienced a transcendent episode during sex usually believe they have tapped into divine forces, even if they are atheists or agnostics. These experiences are so extreme, they change people’s views of sex and spirituality…This provides an explanation for the sexual-spiritual basis of most ancient religions by showing that mystical experiences happen every day in the bedroom to a significant portion of the population. Sacred sex is still going on…The act of lovemaking can trigger intense episodes that feature the identical characteristics found in the highest spiritual states documented in such diverse religions as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as those cited in the annals of yoga and recent research on shamanism”.

In a previous blog examining genital self-mutilation (GSM), I noted that some research had indicated that some males who engage in GSM do so for religious reasons. GSM as part of a religious belief are typically diagnosed as having Klingsor Syndrome. This was derived from the character Klingsor in Parsifol (a Wagner opera) who engaged in an act of self-castration to gain entry into the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Holy Grail. According to Samir Shirodkar and colleagues in the Saudi Medical Journal, group genital mutilation is a custom of a sect of Australian Aborigines where the blood is drunk by the infirm (who believe it restores their health).

A speculative online essay abut hierophilia written by ‘The Goddess’ made a number of claims about the behaviour although there was no empirical support to support her claims. The said that:

“The majority of those who reportedly practice hierophilia are in fact deeply devoted to their religion. Theories as to why a person may develop this unusual fetish go to both biological and psychological levels. Frequent churchgoers are often subjecting themselves to a very highly charged atmosphere (such as a religious revival) that tends to get emotions running high among the congregation. These joyous emotions can often manifest themselves into sexual arousal, especially if the members of the congregation have very close bonds to one another…It is not difficult for one to make the connection between religious settings and sexual arousal. Over a period of time, a hierophiliac becomes conditioned to respond to religious icons or locations with feelings of sexual excitement, or even begin to associate the act of sex itself as a religious experience”.

The article also claims that hierophilia is far less common among atheists. She also speculates that the hierophile derives sexual pleasure from the objects or in the places of their particular religion, but is simultaneously overwhelmed with the guilt that their sexual behaviour is sinful and that they are an evil person for having such thoughts. Because of this, the hierophilic behaviour is claimed to be sexually masochistic.

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.

Gibson, I. (1978). The English Vice: Beating, Sex and Shame in Victorian England and After. London: Duckworth.

The Goddess (undated). My strongest proclivities: Religious sexuality. http://www.angelfire.com/vamp2/kinkygoddess/Religion.html

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Shirodkar, S.S., Hammad, F.T. & Qureshi, N.A. (2007). Male genital self-amputation in the Middle East: A simple repair by anterior urethrostomy. Saudi Medical Journal, 28, 791-793.

Steinberg, D.  (2005). Everybody’s sin is nobody’s sin: Alfred Kinsey and the breaking of sexual silence. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.57-60).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Wade, J. (2005). Transcendent sex. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.13-17).  New York: The Disinformation Company.