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Farm assist? A brief look at ‘tractor sex’

One of my good friends, Dr. Mike Sutton, recently sent me a story he’d come across with the headline “Suffolk man had sex with 450 tractors”. Given my academic interest in paraphilias and fetishism, I decided to try and track down the original source of the story and found that it was first published by the Suffolk Gazette back in 2015. According to the news report:

Ralph Bishop, 53, was found by police with his trousers around his ankles “interfering” with a tractor parked in a field outside Saxmundham. He was arrested on suspicion of outraging public decency, and admitted to having had sex with around 450 tractors all over the Suffolk countryside. When officers searched his terraced home they found a collection of more than 5,000 tractor images on his laptop. The photos showed Bishop had a special desire for John Deere and Massey Ferguson tractors, particularly green ones. A police insider said: “We couldn’t believe it when we found him in the field. He was wearing a white t-shirt and Wellington boots and very little else. He was clearly in state of high excitement at the rear of the machine. Thankfully nobody else was around, but the field is close to a village primary school so we had to arrest him and educate him about the error of his ways. He told us he was particularly ‘in to’ axle grease and the presence of this around the back of tractors was all too much for him.” Bishop, twice divorced, was released without charge on condition he sought psychological help. He was put on the sex-offenders’ register. “He is also banned from the countryside and is now forbidden to go within one mile of a farm,” the police insider added. “So he has to live and remain in the middle of Ipswich to comply with that. However, we are watching him because we are worried about the safety of several street-cleaning machines.” Another policeman added: “He’ll also need to keep away from the town’s gardens – if he takes a fancy to a lawn mower he might find he loses more than just his liberty.”

Since the publication of this story, it has been re-reported dozens of times including the Daily Star and has even had follow-up stories (also in the Suffolk Gazette) – just type in the words ‘Ralph Bishop’ and ‘tractor’ and you’ll see what I am referring to. Given that I have written a number of articles on what has been termed ‘objectum sexuality’ (involving individuals who have sexual relationships with cars, trains, and bicycles) I wouldn’t have been overly surprised to hear of such a story, but the story is a hoax. My suspicions were raised by some of the alleged quotes from the nameless police officers in the story but the real clue to the story being a hoax (along with the follow-up stories) was that these stories were written by a ‘Crime correspondent’ called ‘Hugh Dunnett’ (‘whodunit’).

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Despite the story being a hoax I decided to see if there were any real examples of ‘tractor sex’. A quick bit of Googling demonstrated that there is certainly a niche market for pornographic videos featuring individuals having sex in tractors including Porn Hub and elsewhere (please be warned that clicking on these links leads directly to sexually explicit material). I also found the occasional admission in online forums of individuals who had sexual fantasies concerning tractors but these appeared to be nothing more than isolated dreams rather than being a fetish that was enacted. I also discovered that there is a sexual practice colloquially known as a ‘Kentucky Tractor Puller’. According to online sources, the description is as follows:

“The act of a male and a male or male and a female preforming anal sex. During sex the receiver clenches their butt-cheeks tightly and runs with the penis still in the buttocks”.

I then went onto Google Scholar, and a just published 2018 paper appeared after I had typed in the words ‘tractor sex’. A paper in the journal Medical Journal Armed Forces India by Antonio Ventriglio and colleagues entitled ‘Sexuality in the 21st century: Leather or rubber? Fetishism explained’. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by what I found. In the very first paragraph of the paper, the authors repeated the hoax story:

“In the UK, in early October 2015, a man was arrested for having had sex with 450 tractors. According to the news report, he was found to have over 5000 tractor images on his laptop. He had a special desire for John Deere and Massey Ferguson tractors, particularly the green ones. He was into axle grease, which apparently turned him on sexually. He was placed on the Sexual Offenders’ Register”.

Although academics (including myself) can be fooled by hoaxes, the authors of the paper clearly didn’t even check out the original source. In fact, the authors cited the article that appeared in the Daily Star but if they had continued to read the story to the very end, they would have seen the fact that even the newspaper believed the story to be a hoax.

I then found a 2016 paper by Brian Holoyda and William Newman in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry entitled ‘Childhood animal cruelty, bestiality, and the link to adult interpersonal violence’. I knew the word ‘tractor’ appeared in the paper but I had no idea in what context. I emailed Dr. Holoyda who sent me the paper. I had been expecting to read that there was some kind of bestial act relating to a tractor but this wasn’t the case. It cited a paper published in a 1963 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry by Dr. John Macdonald which related sadistic acts by a farmer (the so-called ‘homocidal triad‘) towards animals:

“Macdonald described some patients who were “very sadistic,” including one patient who “derived satisfaction from telling his wife again and again of an incident in which he assisted in the birth of a calf by hitching the cow to a post and tying a rope from the presenting legs of the calf to his tractor,” the result being that he “gunned the motor and eviscerated the cow” (p. 126). He claimed that “in the very sadistic patients, the triad of childhood cruelty to animals, fire setting and enuresis was often encountered” (p. 126–127), though he never explicitly stated how many patients had a history of these comorbid behaviors. Macdonald reported that within six months of his study, two patients killed a person, neither of whom he identified as having a history of animal cruelty (or enuresis or fire setting, for that matter), and that one patient with schizophrenia committed suicide”.

I ought to add that bestial acts by farmers is not uncommon. The Kinsey Reports (of 1948 and 1953) arguably shocked its readers when it reported that 8% of males and 4% females had at least one sexual experience with an animal. As with necrophiliacs who are often employed in jobs that provide regular contact with dead people, the Kinsey Reports provided much higher prevalence for zoophilic acts among those who worked on farms (for instance, 17% males who had worked on farms had experienced an orgasmic episode involving animals). A more recent reference by Dr. Anil Aggrawal outlining his new typology for zoophilia (which I overviewed in a previous blog) noted the cases of what he described as opportunistic zoosexuals who have normal sexual encounters but who Aggrawal argued would not refrain from having sexual intercourse with animals if the opportunity arose. Aggrawal claims that such behaviour occurs most often in incarcerated or stranded persons, or when the person sees an opportunity to have sex with an animal when they are sure no-one else is present (e.g., farmhands). Aggrawal claims that opportunistic zoosexuals have no emotional attachment to animals despite having sex with them.

Thankfully, I did manage to locate one paper in the academic literature where tractors were inextricably linked with paraphilic behaviour. In 1993, a paper by P.E. Dietz and R.L. O’Halloran entitled ‘Autoerotic fatalities with power hydraulics’ published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. They reported two case studies of men who used “the hydraulic shovels on tractors to suspend themselves for masochistic sexual stimulation”. One of the men was an objectophile (although the authors didn’t call him that – I am using Dr. Amy Marsh’s definition in a 2010 paper on objectum sexuality in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality to classify him as such). This man actually developed a romantic attachment to his tractor, and went as far as giving his tractor a name and writing poetry about it. Unfortunately, the man “died accidentally while intentionally asphyxiating himself through suspension by the neck, leaving clues that he enjoyed perceptual distortions during asphyxiation”.

The second case was a man who was found dead in a barn lying on his front pinned under the hydraulic shovel of his tractor. His body was covered with semen stains and there was evidence of masochistic sexual bondage. His clothes were folded neatly away nearby. He was found naked except for a pair of women’s red shoes (with 8 inch heels), knee high stockings and tape duct wrapped around his ankles. Ropes led from his feet to the tractor which when raised would lift his inverted body causing complete suspension. It is not known exactly what happened but it is likely that the engine stalled and he was crushed underneath the tractor shovel. He died of positional asphyxiation by chest compression. This was an atypical autoerotic fatality because he did not purposely use asphyxiation but it did cause his death.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction, 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.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Dietz, P. E., & O’Halloran, R.L. (1993). Autoerotic fatalities with power hydraulics. Journal of Forensic Science, 38(2), 359-364.

“Dunnett, H.” (2015). Suffolk man ‘had sex with 450 tractors’. Suffolk Gazette. Located at: https://www.suffolkgazette.com/news/suffolk-man-sex-with-tractors/

Holoyda, B. J., & Newman, W. J. (2016). Childhood animal cruelty, bestiality, and the link to adult interpersonal violence. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 47, 129-135.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C.E., Gebhard, P.H. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C.E., (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.

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

Macdonald, J. M. (1963). The threat to kill. American Journal of Psychiatry, 120(2), 125-130.

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm

Rawle, T. (2015). Perv who romped with 450 TRACTORS caught with 5,000 racy pics of farming vehicles. Daily Star, October 21. Located at: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/471306/Pervert-tractor-sex-fetish-farm-vehicles-arrested

Ventriglio, A., Bhat, P. S., Torales, J., & Bhugra, D. (2018). Sexuality in the 21st century: Leather or rubber? Fetishism explained. Medical Journal Armed Forces India. Epub ahead of print. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mjafi.2018.09.009

Me, myself-itis: A brief overview of obsessive selfie-taking

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a selfie is a “photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media”. From a psychological perspective, the taking of selfies is a self-oriented action that allows users to establish their individuality and self-importance; it is also associated with personality traits such as narcissism.

However, selfie-taking is more than just the taking of a photograph. It can include the editing of the color and contrast, the changing of backgrounds, and the addition of other effects before uploading. These added options and the use of integrative editing have further popularized selfie-taking behavior, particularly amongst teenagers and young adults.

On March 31, 2014, a story appeared on a website called the Adobo Chronicles that claimed that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) had classed “selfitis” as a new mental disorder. According to the author, the organization had defined selfitis as “the obsessive compulsive desire to take photos of one’s self and post them on social media as a way to make up for the lack of self-esteem and to fill a gap in intimacy”. The same article also claimed there three levels of the disorder: borderline (“taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day but not posting them on social media”), acute (“taking photos of one’s self at least three times a day and posting each of the photos on social media”), and chronic (“uncontrollable urge to take photos of one’s self round the clock and posting the photos on social media more than six times a day”).

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The story was republished on numerous news sites around the world, but it soon became clear the story was a hoax. However, one of the reasons that so many news outlets republished the story – other than that it seemingly fit certain preexisting stereotypes in people’s minds – was that the criteria used to delineate the three levels of selfitis (i.e., borderline, acute, and chronic) seemed believable.

Therefore, we thought it would be interesting to examine whether there was any substance to the claims that taking selfies can be a time-consuming and potentially obsessive behavior – the stereotype underlying many people’s credulity about the fake story. We empirically explored the concept of selfitis across two studies and collected data on the existence of selfitis with respect to the three alleged levels (borderline, acute, and chronic), ultimately developed our own psychometric scale to assess the sub-components of selfitis (the Selfitis Behaviour Scale).

We used Indian students as participants in our research because India has the largest total number of users on Facebook by country. We also knew India accounts for more selfie-related deaths in the world compared to any other country. with a reported 76 deaths reported out of a total of 127 worldwide since 2014. (Those deaths usually occur when people attempt to take selfies in dangerous contexts, such as in water, from heights, in the proximity of moving vehicles, like trains, or while posing with weapons).

Our study began by using focus group interviews with 225 young adults with an average age of 21 years old to gather an initial set of criteria that underlie selfitis. Example questions used during the focus group interviews included ‘What compels you to take selfies?’, ‘Do you feel addicted to taking selfies?’ and ‘Do you think that someone can become addicted to taking selfies?’ It was during these interviews that participants confirmed there appeared to be individuals who obsessively take selfies — or, in other words, that selfitis does at least exist. But, since we did not collect any data on the negative psychosocial impacts, we cannot yet claim that the behavior is a mental disorder; negative consequences of the behavior is a key part of that determination.

The six components of selfitis, tested on the further participants, were: environmental enhancement (e.g., taking selfies in specific locations to feel good and show off to others); social competition (e.g., taking selfies to get more ‘likes’ on social media); attention-seeking (e.g., taking selfies to gain attention from others); mood modification (e.g., taking selfies to feel better); self-confidence (e.g., taking selfies to feel more positive about oneself); and subjective conformity (e.g., taking selfies to fit in with one’s social group and peers).

Our findings showed that those with chronic selfitis were more likely to be motivated to take selfies due to attention-seeking, environmental enhancement and social competition. The results suggest that people with chronic levels of selfitis are seeking to fit in with those around them, and may display symptoms similar to other potentially addictive behaviours. Other studies have also suggested that a minority of individuals might have a ‘selfie addiction’ (see ‘References and further reading’ below).

With the existence of the condition apparently confirmed, we hope that further research will be carried out to understand more about how and why people develop this potentially obsessive behaviour, and what can be done to help people who are the most affected. However, the findings of our research do not indicate that selfitis is a mental disorder based on the findings of this study – a claim made in many of the news reports about our study, possibly demonstrating how deep the stereotypes about selfie-takes run – only that selfitis appears to be a condition that requires further research to fully assess the psychosocial impacts that the behaviour might have on the individual.

If you are interested in assessing your own behavior, click here to download where you can complete the self-assessment test in the Appendix of our paper.

Please note: This article was co-written with Dr. Janarthanan Balakrishnan (Thiagarajar School of Management, India)

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Balakrishnan, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2018). An exploratory study of ‘selfitis’ and the development of the Selfitis Behavior Scale. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-017-9844-x.

Gaddala, A., Hari Kumar, K. J., & Pusphalatha, C. (2017). A study on various effects of internet and selfie dependence among undergraduate medical students. Journal of Contemporary Medicine and Dentistry, 5(2), 29-32.

Griffiths, M.D. & Balakrishnan, J. (2018). The psychosocial impact of excessive selfie-taking in youth: A brief overview. Education and Health, 36(1), 3-5.

Kaur, S., & Vig, D. (2016). Selfie and mental health issues: An overview. Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing, 7(12), 1149

Khan, N., Saraswat, R., & Amin, B. (2017). Selfie: Enjoyment or addiction? Journal of Medical Science and Clinical Research, 5, 15836-15840.

Lee, R. L. (2016). Diagnosing the selfie: Pathology or parody? Networking the spectacle in late capitalism. Third Text, 30(3-4), 264-27

Senft, T. M., & Baym, N. K. (2015). Selfies introduction – What does the selfie say? Investigating a global phenomenon. International Journal of Communication, 9, 19

Singh, D., & Lippmann, S. (2017). Selfie addiction. Internet and Psychiatry, April 2. Located at: https://www.internetandpsychiatry.com/wp/editorials/selfie-addiction/

Singh, S. & Tripathi, K.M. (2017). Selfie: A new obsession. SSRN, Located at: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2920945