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Car-struck: Another look at mechanophilia and objectum sexuality

“There is no one in the world Darius Monty loves more than Goldie. With her perfect curves and flawless body, she’s a beauty. And the pub boss’s sex life with the hot model less than half his age is better than with any previous girlfriends. But shockingly the object of his full-on passion is a CAR. While many men claim to love their motors, Darius is IN love with his gold-coloured X-Type Jaguar – and makes love to ‘her’” (Sunday Mirror, July 30, 2017).

The opening quote comes from a story that appeared in last weekend’s Sunday Mirror and for which I also supplied some accompanying text in the published article. I described Darius as more of an objectophile than a mechanophile (although he does fit both definitions). According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, mechanophilia refers to those being sexually turned on by machines although Cynthia Ceilán in her 2008 book Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad describes the same sexual paraphilia as ‘mechaphilia’.

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Objectum sexuality refers to those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to (and have relationships with) specific inanimate objects or structures. Such objectophiles express a loving and/or sexual preference and commitment to particular items or structures (and this is why I view Darius as more of an objectophile than a mechanophile). It has also been claimed (by academics such as Amy Marsh – see ‘Further reading’ below) that such individuals rarely (if ever) have sex with humans and they develop strong emotional fixations to the object or structure. Unlike sexual fetishism, the object or structure is viewed as an equal partner in the relationship and is not used to enhance or facilitate sexual behaviour. Some objectophiles even believe that their feelings are reciprocated by the object of their desire. According to the Sunday Mirror article:

“Darius fell in love with his Jaguar after buying the executive saloon two years ago [in 2015]. His second-hand limo, which was built…in 2004, has startled Darius with the feelings it has aroused. Yet Darius could not fight the urge to live out his sexual fantasies with the car. His passion for Goldie soon became a daily ritual after he returned from his night shift at the pub. And eventually he realised he could no longer hide it from his loved ones. Darius resisted professional help because he thought his liaisons with his motor would become less exciting with time. Despite the negative reaction from his mates, Darius refused to give up on Goldie. Bizarrely, Darius says his relationship with Goldie has gone from strength to strength. He has even retired her from life on the road to keep her in pristine condition. Astonishingly, Darius would still like to find a human girlfriend”.

Unlike most objectophiles I have read about, Darius had sexual relationships with women prior to falling in love with Goldie, and still wants sex with women in the future. In his interview with the Sunday Mirror, he was reported as saying:

 “I don’t expect people to understand because it’s not something I fully understand myself. I didn’t choose this but I have fallen for a car, just like other people fall for women. I find her arousing, I love spending time with her and she is very important to me. I don’t see her as an object, I look at her and I see my lover. Before I bought Goldie I was in a normal loving relationship with a woman. I didn’t see anything strange about myself or my sexuality at all. I’ve always been a car lover, but if someone told me it was possible to have sexual feelings towards something that’s not human I’d have laughed them off just like people laugh at me now. I can’t really explain what triggered it, but I went to view Goldie and had always wanted an X-Type Jaguar. Her colour is so unique and after I’d handed over the cash, all I wanted to do was go and polish her. I pulled into the jet wash and was making circular motions on her bonnet with a cleaning cloth when I suddenly felt unexpectedly aroused. It was something about the smooth, shiny paintwork and the perfect curves of the car that got me turned on. I tried to ignore the feeling and just put it down to excitement about having a new car. But when I got home and sat down to watch TV I had a real urge to venture into the garage and visit her in private”.

The unexpected sexual arousal that Darius felt when first polishing Goldie appears to be the initial spark of his relationship with the car. Psychologists like myself would claim that this unexpected associative pairing of polishing the car with sexual arousal is something that repeatedly played on Darius’ mind and that this formed the basis for a classically conditioned response where the car itself ended up causing the sexual arousal. As he also explained in his newspaper interview:

“I had a girlfriend at the time and I didn’t dare tell her what was going through my mind so I used the excuse that I’d left my wallet in the car and headed out. I wasn’t exactly sure what would happen as the feelings were all new to me. I just knew I felt really turned on by the notion of having sexual intercourse with my new car. Immediately afterwards I felt ashamed and guilty, but I knew right then it wouldn’t be the last time. I walked away feeling so confused about what I’d just done. As disturbing as it was, I told myself I couldn’t be the only person in the world who had experienced these kinds of feelings”.

And Darius was right. There are dozens of objectophiles around the world, and while the behaviour is rare, he is certainly not alone. For instance, in a previous blog I recounted the stories of Edward Smith (an American man who has who has had sex with over a 1000 cars), and Robert Stewart (a British man who ended up in court after being caught having sex with a bicycle). It was when Darius started doing his own research on his behaviour that he began to feel better, knowing there were other objectophiles:

“Knowing others had [sexual and romantic] feelings towards cars, bikes or planes definitely put me at ease but it was a really difficult thing for me to accept. I was enjoying having sex with my car more than with my girlfriend. I even missed the car when I went up to bed at night and felt bad for leaving her alone in the garage. When I broke the news to my girlfriend she left me right away. I could understand her thinking my behaviour was odd, but deep down there was a sense of relief there for me in knowing that I had got things out in the open and I was free to pursue my relationship with Goldie”.

Having accepted that the feelings towards his car were not unique, Darius began to share the details of his new love with his closest friends:

“They laughed at first thinking I was joking, but once they realised I was being serious they told me I was weird and that I need to get psychological help. It really upset me knowing I didn’t have any kind of support or understanding from other people. My feelings for [the car] just grew stronger and stronger. I have never had loving or sexual feelings for any other vehicle, and I firmly believe I have something special with Goldie. I realise most people will think what I do is wrong in some way, but I’m not hurting anyone so what’s the harm?”

In my commentary on the case for the newspaper, I claimed that there was nothing wrong with Darius in a psychological sense. Yes, his behaviour is strange, yes his behaviour seems bizarre to most people, and yes it’s unusual, but he Darius doesn’t appear to need psychological treatment. I noted that if Darius wanted to spend the rest of his life living in a non-normative relationship with Goldie that does no harm to him or anybody else, that was OK by me. I have no problems with anybody’s sexual behaviour as long as it’s consensual (and in this case, the car can’t say it’s not OK). If others see his behaviour as bizarre, it is totally irrelevant. Darius can seek treatment if it’s psychologically harming him, but it sounds like he knows it’s unusual and he seems fine with it. As he went on to say:

“[Goldie] doesn’t cheat on me or moan about me not doing the washing up. She doesn’t have the ability to be in a bad mood. I haven’t lost sight of the fact Goldie is a machine and probably doesn’t love me back – I am not delusional in the sense I’d think she has her own mind. I’ve met a few women since falling in love with Goldie and I am always completely open about her from the start. A couple of them have been open to giving things a go, but when I take my trips out to the garage to see her they say they just find it all too weird. I’d love to get married and have a family if I’m honest. But the next woman I date will have to be OK about sharing me with Goldie”.

In a previous blog, I provided details of the only academic paper that has been published concerning a car-loving objectophile but that case was very different to that of Darius. The paper was a case study by Dr Padmal De Silva and Dr Amanda Pernet published in a 1992 issue of the journal Sex and Marital Therapy. The case involved an unusual sexual deviation in a young 20-year old British man (‘George’) who had little social interaction and was incredibly shy. They reported that his main sexual interest and excitement was from cars – particularly Austin Metro cars. George’s family belonged to a strict religious sect who strongly disapproved of any sexual involvement by their son with women. Things changed for George when his parents bought an Austin Metro car. George began masturbating inside the car, and then outside masturbating outside the car while crouching down next to the car’s exhaust pipe. So that he couldn’t be caught masturbating, he would go to great lengths to find deserted places to engage in his sexual activity with the car.

George used to become very sexually excited when the car’s exhaust pipe was running and pumping out car fumes. This aspect of “elimination” – according to De Silva and Pernet – was an important central element in George’s other sexual preferences – particularly his fascination of urination. As a very young child he had an unusual interest in dogs urinating. After the age of 10 years, he was more interested in children and adult women urinating. The authors also speculated there may have been an increase in George’s arousal due to a “reduction of oxygen intake and related asphyxiation”. This was possibly seen as a mild form of hypoxyphilia.

As you can see, the case of ‘George’ and Darius share few similarities apart from the fact they both have sexual relationships with cars. The fact that two case studies can be so different is terms of aetiology and development of the behaviour suggests that car-loving objectophiles should be an avenue of further research because there are likely to be very different explanations and motivations for the behaviour.

Dr Mark Griffiths, 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.

Browne, R.B. (1982). Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture. Popular Press.

Ceilán, C. (2008). Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad. The Lyons Press.

De Silva, P. & Pernet, A. (1992). Pollution in ‘Metroland’: An unusual paraphilia in a shy young man. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 7, 301-306.

Hickey, E.W. (2006), Sex crimes and paraphilia. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Levy, D. (2017). Man’s bizarre medical condition means he’s in love with his CAR and even has sex with motor he calls Goldie. Sunday Mirror, July 29. Located at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mans-bizarre-medical-condition-means-10896296

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

Nelson, S. (2012). Fetish spotlight: Mechanophilia. Located at: http://www.thehoneybunnys.com/fetish-spotlight-mechanophilia/

Schlessinger (2003). Mechaphilia: Sexual Attraction to Machines. Please Press.

Thompson, S.L. (2000). The arts of the motorcycle: Biology, culture, and aesthetics in technological choice. Technology and Culture, 41, 99-115.

Wikipedia (2017). Mechanophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanophilia

To pee or not to pee? Another look at paraphilic behaviours

Strange, bizarre and unusual human sexual behaviour is a topic that fascinates many people (including myself of course). Last week I got a fair bit of international media coverage being interviewed about the allegations that Donald Trump hired women to perform ‘golden showers’ in front of him (i.e., watching someone urinate for sexual pleasure, typically referred to as urophilia). I was interviewed by the Daily Mirror (and many stories used my quotes in this particular story for other stories elsewhere). I was also commissioned to write an article on the topic for the International Business Times (and on which this blog is primarily based). The IBT wanted me to write an article on whether having a liking for strange and/or bizarre sexual preferences makes that individual more generally deviant.

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Although the general public may view many of these behaviours as sexual perversions, those of us that study these behaviours prefer to call them paraphilias (from the Greek “beyond usual or typical love”). Regular readers of my blog will know I’ve written hundreds of articles on this topic. For those of you who have no idea what parahilias really are, they are uncommon types of sexual expression that may appear bizarre and/or socially unacceptable, and represent the extreme end of the sexual continuum. They are typically accompanied by intense sexual arousal to unconventional or non-sexual stimuli. Most adults are aware of paraphilic behaviour where individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from sex with children (paedophilia), the giving and/or receiving of pain (sadomasochism), dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex (transvestism), sex with animals (zoophilia), and sex with dead people (necrophilia).

However, there are literally hundreds of paraphilias that are not so well known or researched including sexual arousal from amputees (acrotomophilia), the desire to be an amputee (apotemnophilia), flatulence (eproctophilia), rubbing one’s genitals against another person without their consent (frotteurism), urine (urophilia), faeces (coprophilia), pretending to be a baby (infantilism), tight spaces (claustrophilia), restricted oxygen supply (hypoxyphilia), trees (dendrophilia), vomit (emetophilia), enemas (klismaphilia), sleep (somnophilia), statues (agalmatophilia), and food (sitophilia). [I’ve covered all of these (and more) in my blog so just click on the hyperlinks of you want to know more about the ones I’ve mentioned in this paragraph].

It is thought that paraphilias are rare and affect only a very small percentage of adults. It has been difficult for researchers to estimate the proportion of the population that experience unusual sexual behaviours because much of the scientific literature is based on case studies. However, there is general agreement among the psychiatric community that almost all paraphilias are male dominated (with at least 90% of all those affected being men).

One of the most asked questions in this field is the extent to which engaging in unusual sex acts is deviant? Psychologists and psychiatrists differentiate between paraphilias and paraphilic disorders. Most individuals with paraphilic interests are normal people with absolutely no mental health issues whatsoever. I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with any paraphilic act involving non-normative sex between two or more consenting adults. Those with paraphilic disorders are individuals where their sexual preferences cause the person distress or whose sexual behaviour results in personal harm, or risk of harm, to others. In short, unusual sexual behaviour by itself does not necessarily justify or require treatment.

The element of coercion is another key distinguishing characteristic of paraphilias. Some paraphilias (e.g., sadism, masochism, fetishism, hypoxyphilia, urophilia, coprophilia, klismaphilia) are engaged in alone, or include consensual adults who participate in, observe, or tolerate the particular paraphilic behaviour. These atypical non-coercive behaviours are considered by many psychiatrists to be relatively benign or harmless because there is no violation of anyone’s rights. Atypical coercive paraphilic behaviours are considered much more serious and almost always require treatment (e.g., paedophilia, exhibitionism [exposing one’s genitals to another person without their consent], frotteurism, necrophilia, zoophilia).

For me, informed consent between two or more adults is also critical and is where I draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable. This is why I would class sexual acts with children, animals, and dead people as morally and legally unacceptable. However, I would also class consensual sexual acts between adults that involve criminal activity as unacceptable. For instance, Armin Meiwes, the so-called ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’ gained worldwide notoriety for killing and eating a fellow German male victim (Bernd Jürgen Brande). Brande’s ultimate sexual desire was to be eaten (known as vorarephilia). Here was a case of a highly unusual sexual behaviour where there were two consenting adults but involved the killing of one human being by another.

Because paraphilias typically offer pleasure, many individuals affected do not seek psychological or psychiatric treatment as they live happily with their sexual preference. In short, there is little scientific evidence that unusual sexual behaviour makes you more deviant generally.

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

Further reading

Abel, G. G., Becker, J. V., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M., & Rouleau, J. L. (1988). Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 16, 153-168.

Buhrich, N. (1983). The association of erotic piercing with homosexuality, sadomasochism, bondage, fetishism, and tattoos. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 12, 167-171.

Collacott, R.A. & Cooper, S.A. (1995). Urine fetish in a man with learning disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 39, 145-147.

Couture, L.A. (2000). Forced retention of bodily waste: The most overlooked form of child maltreatment. Located at: http://www.nospank.net/couture2.htm

Denson, R. (1982). Undinism: The fetishizaton of urine. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 27, 336–338.

Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Compassion, dominance/submission, and curled lips: A thematic analysis of dacryphilic experience. International Journal of Sexual Health, 27, 337-350.

Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2016). Sexual interest as performance, intellect and pathological dilemma: A critical discursive case study of dacryphilia. Psychology and Sexuality, 7, 265-278.

Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Eproctophilia in a young adult male: A case study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1383-1386.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilias: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.

Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Bizarre sex. New Turn Magazine, 3, 49-51.

Massion-verniory, L. & Dumont, E. (1958). Four cases of undinism. Acta Neurol Psychiatr Belg. 58, 446-59.

Money, J. (1980). Love and Love Sickness: The Science of Sex, Gender Difference and Pair-bonding, John Hopkins University Press.

Mundinger-Klow, G. (2009). The Golden Fetish: Case Histories in the Wild World of Watersports. Paris: Olympia Press.

Skinner, L. J., & Becker, J. V. (1985). Sexual dysfunctions and deviations. In M. Hersen & S. M. Turner (Eds.), Diagnostic interviewing (pp. 211–239). New York: Plenum Press.

Spengler, A. (1977). Manifest sadomasochism of males: Results of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 441–456.

Choking aside: Another look at self-asphyxial risk-taking behaviour in adolescence

In a previous blog I examined the ‘choking game’ (also known by dozens of names including the ‘fainting game’ and ‘suffocation roulette’). This was a game that I played a couple of times as an adolescent (although we called it ‘Headrush’). This was a game where I would have my breathing temporarily stopped by someone holding onto my chest after a deep expiration and hyperventilation (so that I could not breathe). It induced feelings of light-headedness and dizziness followed by temporary unconsciousness (usually lasting 10 to 15 seconds).

This activity that I engaged in as a teenager is an example of self-asphyxial risk-taking behaviour (SARTB). It also appears that what I did when I was an adolescent was a form of ‘self-induced hypocapnia’ (i.e., a state of reduced carbon dioxide in the blood). It has also been reported that these ‘games’ can be played alone and typically involve self-strangulation, or sometimes with others, and where like my own experiences, the cutting off of the oxygen supply was carried out by somebody else.

Reports of SARTB date back to the early 1950s in the medical literature (for instance, Dr. P. Howard and his colleagues reported a case in a 1951 issue of the British Medical Journal). SARTB has been defined by R.L. Toblin and colleagues in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Safety Research as self-strangulation or strangulation by another person with the hands or a noose to achieve a brief euphoric state caused by cerebral hypoxia. As with autoerotic asphyxiation (i.e., suffocation as a way of enhancing sexual arousal), the aim of SARTB is to intentionally cut off the oxygen supply to the brain to experience a feeling of euphoria (the only difference being that in children’s games, it is not done for a sexual reason).

How prevalent the activity is debatable as most of the academically published studies are case reports (usually when a problem – and in some cases, death – has occurred). However, a comprehensive systematic review of SARTB was recently published by Busse et al (2015). They attempted to assess the prevalence of engagement in SARTB and associated morbidity and mortality in children and adolescents (and up to early adulthood). Busse and colleagues examined every survey and case study that had been published on SARTB, and more specifically examining the behaviour among those aged 
0–20 years (excluding any study where the motive was autoerotic, suicidal or self-harm). They reported that 36 studies had examined child and adolescent SARTB in 10 different countries (North America and France being the most common, but also reports in the UK).

Risk factors for SARTB were hard to assess because most of the studies examining such risks did not control for other confounding variables. However, five of the studies reported an association between SARTB and a number of other risky behaviours including substance misuse, risky sexual behaviours, poor mental health, poor dietary behaviours, and engagement in risky sports. The review also reported that there did not seem to be any association between SARTB and engagement in physical activity, and experiencing accidents, and/or hospital admissions. It was also noted that a number of other behaviours increased the likelihood of engaging in SARTB including experiences of violence, being more impulsive, having a thrill-seeking personality, and having lower school achievement. However, only six of the 36 studies they reviewed reported the potential for SARTB to be associated with other risky behaviours. No consistent findings were found between SARTB and gender, age and other demographic factors (such as socio-economic status).

Examining the studies as a whole, Busse and colleagues reported that awareness of SARTB ranged from 36% to 91%, and that the median lifetime prevalence of engagement in SARTB was 7.4% (however, these were studies that used convenience sampling, therefore none of the studies were necessarily representative). In the SARTB literature, a total of 99 fatal cases were reported (and of the 24 detailed case reports, most of the deaths occurred when individuals were engaged in SARTB alone and used some type of ligature).

In a different analysis in the Journal of Safety Research, Dr. R.L. Toblin and colleagues used US news media reports to estimate the incidence of deaths from SARTB. Their report identified 82 probable SARTB deaths among youths aged 6-19 years during 1995 and 2007. Of these 82 cases, 71 (86.6%) were male, and the mean age of death was just over 13 years of age. The study also noted that deaths were recorded in 31 US states and were not clustered by location, season or day of week. Busse and colleagues assert the importance of education and prevention and more specifically note:

“As it has been suggested that knowledge and identification of symptoms and signs of engagement in [SARTB] could have possibly enabled early identification and possible prevention of fatal cases, we believe that clinicians, paediatricians, health professionals and teachers should receive education on the symptoms and signs of [SARTB]. The need to educate health professionals has been highlighted as awareness of [SARTB] will enable these individuals to identify symptoms and signs and to act as educators to young people and their parents…We further recommend that more research is carried out together with young people to develop appropriate education material. In line with recommendations from others, we further recommend removing existing videos about [SARTB] from the internet and ensuring that preventative website rather than promotional websites appear first on internet searches” (p.8).

This brief examination of the literature suggests that a significant minority of adolescents have engaged in SARTB and that in extreme cases it may lead to death. Despite being known about for over 60 years, the data concerning SARTB are still limited and relatively little is known about the associated risk factors. However, SARTB certainly appears to be an activity that parents and teachers should be made more aware of even if the prevalence of such activity among children and adolescents is low.

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.

Busse, H., Harrop, T., Gunnell, D. & Kipping, R. (2015). Prevalence and associated harm of engagement in self-asphyxial behaviours (‘choking game’)
in young people: A systematic review. Archives of Disease in Childhood, doi:10.1136/archdischild-2015-308187.

Drake, J.A., Price, J.H., Kolm-Valdivia, N. & Wielinski, M. (2010). Association of adolescent choking game activity with selected risk behaviors. Academic Pediatrics, 10, 410-416.

Egge, M.K., Berkowitz, C.D., Toms, C. & Sathyavagiswaran, L. (2010). The choking game: A cause of unintentional strangulation. Pediatric Emergency Care, 26, 206-208.

Griffiths, M.D. (2015). A brief review of self-asphyxial risk-taking behaviour in adolescents. Education and Health, 33, 59-61.

Howard, P., Leathart, G. L., Dornhorst, A.C., & Sharpey-Schafer, E.P. (1951). The mess trick and the fainting lark. British Medical Journal, 2, 382-384.

MacNab, A.J., Deevska, M., Gagnon, F., Cannon, W.G. & Andrew, T (2009). Asphyxial games or “the choking game”: A potentially fatal risk behavior. Injury Prevention, 14, 45-49.

Shlamovitz, G.Z., Assia, A., Ben-Sira, L. & Rachmel, A. (2003). “Suffocation roulette”: A case of recurrent syncope in an adolescent boy. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 41, 223-226.

Toblin, R.L., Paulozzi, L.J., Gilchrist, J. & Russell, P.J. (2008). Unintentional strangulation deaths from the “choking game” among youths aged 6-19 years -United States, 1995-2007. Journal of Safety Research, 39, 445-448.

Urkin, J. & Merrick, J. (2006). The choking game or suffocation roulette in adolescence (editorial). International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 18, 207-208.

Hoovers and shakers: Another look at vacuum cleaner sex

In a previous blog I briefly looked at the medical literature relating to penile injuries arising from autoerotic interactions from vacuum cleaners. While researching that blog I also came across other literature that had examined vacuum cleaners being used for sexual purposes that I thought I would make another interesting blog. A number of references in the psychological literature make reference to particular types of people using vacuum cleaners as a source of sexual stimulation for masturbatory purposes. For instance, in a 2005 chapter by Lynne Moxon about sexuality and Asperger Syndrome (i.e., an autism spectrum disorder typically characterized by major difficulties in social interaction and non-verbal communication) noted that among Asperger’s sufferers:

“Lack of awareness of the use of the imagination for sexual fantasy can lead to the use of more physical forms of stimulation, such as the vibration of washing machines or public transport, or the use of vacuum cleaner pipes, holes in chair backs, socks, bottles and more unusual items, such as TV remote controls and golf clubs. Females unaware of the use of sex toys have used deodorant cans, scissors, keys and candles”.

In a 2013 study by Dr. Remigiusz Kijak published in the journal Sexuality and Disability, 133 people (mainly older age teenagers with ages ranging from 17 to 25 years) with mild intellectual disability were surveyed about their sexuality and sexual practices. Dr. Kijak reported that:

“During the studies it has also been determined that 7 % of the studied teenagers stimulate themselves in an untypical manner. The teenagers studied admitted to masturbating with tools, certain objects or to masturbating in a way other than a natural one. The study subjects masturbate using grease, food, furniture and even vacuum cleaners. Such masturbation can be determined as dangerous, mainly due to the fact that it fixes a certain, repeatable chain of strange rituals, often impossible to use in a partner relationship, and may result in a pleasure decrease”. 

As noted in my previous blog on the use of vacuum cleaners as a masturbatory aid, most writings on the topic concern penile injuries that have come to the attention of medics when things go wrong. However, there are a couple of case studies in the forensic literature that have featured vacuum cleaners in autoerotic deaths. In 1988, Dr. R.H. Imami and Dr. M. Kemal published a paper in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology about a 57-year old white American male with a history of heart disease and chronic pancreatitis. The man was found naked slumped over his vacuum cleaner after a neighbour wondered why the vacuum cleaner had been on continuously for a long time. The man was found leaning against the dining table with his testicles, buttocks and thighs tightly bound with women’s tights. Near the table was a jar of urine, jars of lubricant and a wooden table leg covered in faecal excrement. The man was covered in burns from the vacuum cleaner. No defect was found in the vacuum cleaner. The autopsy revealed that the man had a heart attack while engaged in the autoerotic activity. The wooden table leg had been used in an attempt to stimulate orgasm via anal penetration. His wife had caught him masturbating with the vacuum cleaner before (and they hadn’t had sex for five years). The death was classes as natural rather than accidental.

In 1994, Dr. Clive Cooke, Dr. Gerard Cadden and Dr. Karin Margolius published a paper concerning four “unusual fatalities where death occurred during autoerotic practice”. Three of the four accidental deaths (electrocution, hanging, and courgette inhalation) involved young to middle-aged men. However, it is the fourth case that is of interest here. This involved an elderly man that (like the previous case) had heart disease. The authors reported that:

“The naked body of this 77[-year] old widower was found in the bathroom of his home…Adjacent to the body, and switched on and working, were a vacuum cleaner and a hair dryer. A pair of men’s underpants was impacted in the hose of the vacuum cleaner. Autopsy examination showed the body of an elderly man of normal build. There was no evident injury; in particular there were no apparent marks of electrical injury. Internal examination showed enlargement of the heart with extensive ischemic fibrous scarring of the thickened left ventricular myocardium. Extensive calcified coronary arteriosclerosis was present, with no thrombosis. There was no significant valvular disease. The lungs were mildly congested and there was benign hypertensive nephrosclerosis. Toxicological analysis was unremarkable. The vacuum cleaner and hair dryer, together with the electric circuitry of the house, were assessed by an electrical inspector and cleared of malfunction. The cause of death was therefore believed to be combined arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease. The scene examination suggested the likelihood that the electrical appliances were being used autoerotically”.

In their discussion of this particular case, Cooke and colleagues noted that sudden autoerotic deaths due to a natural disease process (e.g., heart disease) have seldom been reported in the forensic literature. To their knowledge, only two previous case reports had been published prior to their own study – both males who after autopsy:

“…showed significant arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. One was the case of a 61 [-year] old man who died whilst bound with chain restraints; a vibrator was nearby [Hazelwood, Dietz & Burgess, 1981]. The second case was of a 57 [-year] old man whose body was found naked alongside a running vacuum cleaner; the testicles, thighs and buttocks were tightly bound with pantyhose [Imami & Kemal, 1988]. Such deaths are probably less frequent than sudden natural death associated with heterosexual or homosexual activity, particularly if with a novel partner [Malik, 1979]”.

Finally, the only other vacuum cleaner-related autoerotic death I located in the forensic literature was a 2005 case study report by Dr. Andrew Hitchcock and Dr. Roger Start in the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine. This was actually a case of hypoxyphilia where the device built to cut off the oxygen supply involved a vacuum cleaner. More specifically, the paper reported:

“A case is reported of a 36-year-old man who died following occlusive entrapment within a device for the purpose of hypoxyphilic gratification. The device was constructed in his own home using instructions found on his home computer down-loaded from the Internet. The device comprised a tough plastic cocoon large enough to accommodate an adult human and incorporating a system of plastic piping connected to a household vacuum cleaner for the evacuation of air within the cocoon. The mechanism of death was thought to be traumatic asphyxia after examination of the deceased and re-construction of the apparatus with the body in situ”.

The prevalence of autoerotic acts involving the use of vacuum cleaners is unknown as only those cases that result in serious genital injury and/or death come to the attention of medics and/or forensic scientists. As noted in my previous blog, the number of cases that are being reported is on the decrease but this may be because the topic is less novel than it used to be and may not be seen by journal editors as worthy of publication.

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

Further reading

Benson, R. (1985). Vacuum cleaner injury to penis: A common urologic problem? Urology, 25(1), 41-44.

Citron, N.D., & Wade, P.J. (1980). Penile injuries from vacuum cleaners. British Medical Journal, 281(6232), 26.

Cooke, C.T., Cadden, G.A., & Margolius, K.A. (1994). Autoerotic deaths: Four cases. Pathology, 26(3), 276-280.

Hazelwood, R.R., Dietz, P. E., & Burgess, A.W. (1981). The investigation of autoerotic fatalities. Journal of Police Science & Administration, 9, 404-411.

Hitchcock, A., & Start, R.D. (2005). Fatal traumatic asphyxia in a middle-aged man in association with entrapment associated hypoxyphilia. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 12, 320-325.

Imami, R. H., & Kemal, M. (1988). Vacuum cleaner use in autoerotic death. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 9, 246-248.

Kijak, R. (2013). The sexuality of adults with intellectual disability in Poland. Sexuality and Disability, 31(2), 109-123.

Klintschar, M., Grabuschnigg, P., & Beham, A. (1998). Death from electrocution during autoerotic practice: Case report and review of the literature. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 19, 190-193.

Malik, M. O. (1979). Sudden coronary deaths associated with sexual activity. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 24, 216-220.

Moxon, L. (2005). Diagnosis, disclosure and self-confidence in sexuality and relationships. In D. Murray (Ed.), Coming out Asperger: Diagnosis, Disclosure and Self-Confidence (pp. 214-229). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Rossi, M., Cascini, F., & Torcigliani, S. (1991). [Penile injuries caused by masturbation with a vacuum cleaner. Description of a case and review of the literature]. Minerva Urologica e Nefrologica, 44(1), 43-45.

Packed punch: A very brief look at “gastergastrizophilia”

One of the weirdest sounding sexual paraphilias that I have come across is gastergastrizophilia in which individuals allegedly derive sexual pleasure and arousal from bellypunching. I use the word ‘allegedly’ as I have never seen this sexual paraphilia listed in any reputable academic source (and it certainly does not 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). The lengthiest article on that I have come across on gastergastrizophilia is on the Full Wiki website. The article claims that:

“Bellypunchers, as they are known, derive erotic and/or aesthetic pleasure from the sight of and sensation associated with a woman physically struck in the stomach usually with a bare fist. The specifics associated with this paraphilia vary considerably, sometimes with the woman possessing a toned and muscular stomach, other with the woman possessing a soft and even chubby stomach. Often fetishists desire her to receive blows to the lower stomach specifically; other times, to the upper stomach. Often the woman is struck by other women, but many times the fetishists will fantasize about doing the beating themselves. With the rise of the internet, a wide variety of websites and online groups have risen which house related fiction, photos, stories, and videos, the latter either custom-made or copied from a variety of films and videos. The male-to-male variety of the fetish is frequently called gutpunching, or abspunching”

The fact that someone has written about sexual bellypunching in no way proves that the behaviour exists. In a previous blog I examined a hoax paraphilia called emysphilia (sexual arousal from turtles). In researching that blog, I came to the conclusion that the paraphilia simply didn’t exist as there was no evidence of any kind except the originally published article (plus the fact that the author later admitted it was a hoax). Sexual bellypunching as a fetish or paraphilia is something that I do not think can easily be so dismissed. I managed to collect a few first-hand accounts of sexual bellypunching (such as those at the online at the Dark Fetish website). For instance:

  • Extract 1: “[I am a] masochist [and] let people thump me in my belly. Although it hurts (and it hurts like hell sometimes) the pain does give me an erotic buzz. BUT (and this is the other side of the coin) I do get to punch other women and that also gives me a buzz – it turns me on.
  • Extract 2: “There is a difference between a ‘friendly’ (I use the word advisedly) punch up between two women (which might even end in sex) and a really heated contest where there maybe some prize, physical or emotional. Then it’s a pure pain contest… just to see which woman can take the most pain in her guts. In such contests there is a moment when having delivered a punch, I watch my opponent’s face crease in agony, watch her fight the pain, watch her desperately trying to keep her hands from going to her belly… hear her panting for breath as she tries to control the agony in her guts. Oh so delicious…it’s a real turn-on for me. The downside is that I have to take and absorb the punishment too. [However], that turns me on too!!”
  • Extract 3: My ex-boyfriend loved being punched in the belly. We both went to couples therapy and [this is] how the psychologist explained it to me…The physical flow-on effect of bellypunching is peptic reflux, which triggers the brain to release a sudden adrenalin rush to cope with the shock of (temporarily) depriving the brain of oxygen. This adrenalin rush can be experienced as sexual arousal for those with a fetish complex for feeling ‘subverted’ or ‘abused’”

Based on the research I did for this blog, it would appear that there used to be a Wikipedia entry on sexual bellypunching but it was removed back in 2006. Some people claimed that the information provided in the original webpage was unable to be verified, and that it might even have been made up by the person who created the original Wikipedia entry. As one person noted in the Wikipedia discussion, the original author of the bellypunching article had:

“…added a bunch of links, but they consist of Yahoo! groups, personal websites, and a couple [of] porn sites which themselves are non-notable. None of these are reliable sources, none of them help with the fact that this article still violates Wikipedia’s verifiability. Unverifiable content can’t stay on Wikipedia, no matter how much some people might like said content”.

Comments were also made along the lines that Wikipedia does not need to have a separate page for every single obscure fetish. Personally, I don’t see this as an argument for not having a Wikipedia entry. However, the original author of the page countered by saying:

It’s not about liking (or in your case, disliking) [the bellpunching] entry, but about showing diligence in mapping out within Wikipedia all these various concepts that exist in the world. Some concepts are better cited than others, it’s true. However that doesn’t mean that some things, which are perhaps more ephemeral, or which came into their own with the rise of the internet, can’t be listed…I suggest that if one can prove that a lot of people are involved in a concept, and that this concept exists as such, then the concept must surely merit some inclusion, even if that inclusion is limited only to what one can source…I have shown that thousands of people have taken it upon themselves to join public groups around this [bellypunching] fetish; and found any number of websites, most which have been around for years, creating a sort of community…It would be a mistake to make an article called bellypunching videos on the basis of the fact of such videos existing, because that would ignore the evident existence of the concept of the fetish”.

I have to admit that having done my own search on the internet, I can certainly vouch for the fact that there are hundreds of sexual bellypunching videos available online (e.g., websites such as Belly Punching Fetish, Heroine Movies, and Teen Bellypunch – please be warned that these are sexually explicit sites), and there are online discussion groups that discuss bellypunching as a sexual preference and/or sexual fetish. Personally, I think there’s enough to suggest that the activity exists and that there is no reason why a separate Wikipedia page should not exist. The fact that sexual bellypunching videos are for sale online suggests there is a market for it. I also came across some Japanese anime that featured sexual bellypunching (along with anecdotal evidence that bellypunching is part of Japanese sexual culture). However, I am the first to admit that such videos might appeal to sadists and masochists who are simply sexually turned on by the giving or receiving of pain (rather than being sexually aroused by bellypunching per se. The author of the original Wikipedia entry on sexual bellypunching then goes on to say:

“If [someone] starts a blog on any obscure fetish, it can’t be included [on Wikipedia]; but if 30 or 40 different organizations and people start websites, both personal websites and business websites, combined with free public groups that require membership (membership to which groups as I’ve stated reaches the thousands) I suggest that a certain minimum has been reached to make it a bona fide concept that some people hold…If you really believe that only things that show up in journals are worthy of existence in Wikipedia, I think Wikipedia will be much the poorer for it. It seems unreasonable to ignore the existence of something that is obvious and evident, from the links I’ve found (which were incidentally only a small percentage)”.

My guess is that the original article on sexual bellypunching was removed because the evidence base did not fulfil Wikipedia’s minimum evidence threshold. As the Wikipedia page on verifiability points out:

“Posts to bulletin boards, Usenet, and wikis, or messages left on blogs, should not be used as primary or secondary sources. This is in part because we have no way of knowing who has written or posted them, and in part because there is no editorial oversight or third-party fact-checking…The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth”.

Another contributor to the debate on whether sexual bellypunching should have its own Wikipedia entry shares my own view on this topic and stated:

Our inability to find gastergastrizophilia on the net neither proves nor disproves anything – detailed texts on sexual paraphilia aren’t left around laying open on the net, and a mild amount of Googling for ‘erotic punching’, ‘belly punishment’ or ‘rough body play”’… will show that the practice is neither ‘unlikely’ nor even uncommon. Some of it is obviously sex play with a consenting partner; some is not so consensual, and there is a shaded continuum…Even in this supposedly liberated age, nobody has any real numbers, in part because the participants themselves don’t know where the line actually divides consent and abuse. I think it’s an important topic, and a research failure isn’t a good reason to have no article in this instance”

The one thing that is made up is the name given to describe the love of sexual bellypunching (‘gastergastrizophilia’). The author if the original Wikipedia article (who goes by the pseudonym ‘Brokerthebank’) wrote that:

“I made up the word gastergastrizophilia, since I’ve studied classical languages a lot (in this case Greek) and it seemed like the appropriate move to put this article in the list of sexual paraphilias on such a page. Maybe I should have not done that; in any case bellypunching still is a known term”.

However, as regular readers of my blog will know, I too have coined the names of at least three sexual paraphilias (porciniphilia – sexual arousal from pigs, epiplophilia, sexual arousal from furniture, and glossophilia – sexual arousal from tongues) so I can’t really complain if someone also created the name of a sexual paraphilia based on their own anecdotal observations.

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.

The Full Wiki (2013). Bellypunching. Located at: http://www.thefullwiki.org/Bellypunching

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

Gas roots: A beginner’s guide to anaesthesiophilia

“I love the idea of being wheeled in my bed along the hospital corridors before bursting through the swing doors of the Anaesthetic Room. The lady anaethetist then smiles and tells me that she has decided to put me to sleep with the Gas. ‘NO! Not the Gas!’ The lady then insists by saying that it is her treat and that she has been looking forward to this moment! She smiles as she lowers the black rubbery mask and whispers, ‘Now just relax. IT’S TIME! Breathe in the Gas nice and deep. I look forward to seeing you struggle to keep your eyes open; but very soon you will succumb to the lovely Gas and you will have to close your eyes! Sleep well!’ She leans closer to me and laughs as I take deep breaths of the lovely Gas!!” (Participant at Sleep Peeps website).

In a previous blog, I examined medical fetishism that refers to an umbrella group of related sexual fetishes in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from medical and/or clinical practices and procedures (e.g., undergoing a rectal examination or urethral swab, having temperature taken), objects (e.g., stethoscope, hypodermic needle), situations (e.g., waiting to see a nurse), and environments (e.g., being in a hospital waiting room). One form of medical fetishism is anaesthesia fetishism in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from either administering and/or receiving some kind of anaesthetic such as chloroform, ether, butane, etc. As an entry in Wikipedia notes:

This may include the sexual attraction to the equipment, processes, substances, effects, environments or situations. Sexual arousal from the desire to administer anesthesia, or the sexual desire for oneself to be anaesthetized are two forms in which an individual may exist as an arbiter of the fetish. Older-style anesthesia masks of black rubber, still in occasional use today, are one of the more common elements fetishized, and have earned the nickname Black Beauty by many fetishists…The Internet has enabled people with this relatively rare paraphilia to discuss the subject and exchange anesthesia-related multimedia”.

Back in 1999, I had my first ever article published on sexually paraphilic behaviour in the magazine Bizarre. It was an article on autoerotic deaths and it featured the cases of ten people who had died in strange sexual circumstances. One of the cases I featured was originally published in a 1988 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology (by Dr. J.J. McLennan and colleagues). The case involved a single 59-year old white US male antiques dealer. The man was found dead in his locked apartment. He was seated in front of a dental anaesthetic machine with the anaesthetic face-mask over his face. He was sucking on a rubber teat similar (but much bigger) than a baby’s feeding bottle. There were other anaesthetic machines around the apartment as well as a lot of sexual literature (magazines, photographs, paintings, manuscripts all concerned with his elaborate fetish some of which included photographs of himself in these situations). He was wearing a rubber type apron, three woolen cardigans, a woman’s blouse and two pairs of women’s trousers and a pair of women’s bloomers. This appeared to be a genuine case of anaesthesiophilia. (A similar case was also reported in 1988 the same journal by Dr. S. Leadbeatter. Here, the method of induction of cerebral hypoxia was inhalation of nitrous oxide [i.e., ‘laughing gas’] from a dental anesthetic machine).

In the same article I featured the case of a single 32-year old white US male computer programmer that was published in a 1983 issue of Medicine, Science and the Law (by Dr. S.M. Cordner). Here, the man was found dead in bed with cassette recorder next to him and covered in dry semen stains. He was wearing headphones which playing “snorting” horse sounds. There was also a can of aerosol propellant. At the end of the bed was a large painting of a male strapped to the hind legs of a horse who was being anally penetrating by the horse. The horse was ridden by a leather-clad woman. He was also wearing some kind if homemade masturbatory device. His death was recorded as cardio-respiratory failure consistent with aerosol propellant abuse (death by misadventure).

Although this case wasn’t technically anaesthesiophilia, it did involve self-administration of a chemical agent to modify the sensations of masturbation. However, in a 2009 book chapter on ‘adult sexual offences’ by Dr. Deborah Rogers (in the book Clinical Forensic Medicine), she seems to suggest that the case I have just described would be classed as anaesthesiophilia as she defines such a paraphilia as it involves the person using a volatile substance (e.g., chloroform, ether, butane) as a source of sexual arousal. She also points out the commonalities between anaesthesiophilia, hypoxyphilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from oxygen deprivation), and electrophilia (sexual arousal and pleasure from electricity and electric stimuli). More specifically she notes:

“Some sexual variations involve inherently life-threatening practices. These include autoerotic asphyxia (using strangulation, hanging, gagging, plastic bag asphyxia, inverted suspension), electrophilia and anaesthesiophilia. When accidental deaths do occur in these circumstances associated paraphernalia may be present at the scene, such as evidence of transvestism, bondage, pornographic material or mirrors. Family members or friends who discover the body in these situations may, in an attempt to preserve the reputation of the deceased, remove certain articles. In doing so they may create a scene erroneously considered a suicide or homicide. When the truth is divulged sympathetic explanations are necessary for reassurance that these deaths are usually accidental”.

Many of the same points were made by Dr. Stephen Hucker writing in a 2011 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Hucker compared electrophilia and hypoxyphilia and electrophilia with anaesthesiophilia. He also stated that all these behaviours have potential “to result in a well-recognized mode of accidental death” and come “under the general rubric of sexual masochism.

Using Dr. Rogers’ wider definition of anaesthesiophilia indicates that the practice – while rare – is well known in the forensic literature where a number of autoerotic deaths have been reported as arising from the sexual use of volatile substances. One of the first such deaths reported in the literature dates back to a 1933 German report (by Dr. F. Schwarz). He recounted the case of a man who had used a complex system of valves, tubes, and balloons to get sexually aroused from nitrous oxide (stolen from his dad’s medical practice).

Another lethal German case from 1997 was reported by Dr. M. Rothschild and Dr. V. Schneider. Again, the source of sexual arousal was nitrous oxide (this time dispensed from cream dispenser cartridges via a homemade system of anesthetic tubes, plastic bags, and an anesthetic face mask. A paper by Dr. D. Breitmeier and colleagues in a 2002 issue of the Journal of Legal Medicine reported an autoerotic death of a man due to a bizarre combination of asphyxia by suffocation and intoxication with (the drug) ketamine that was self-administered by an intravenous catheter.

Dr. R.W. Byard and his colleagues also reported an unusual autoerotic death in a 2000 issue of the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine. They reported the case of a 38-year-old man who was “found dead in bed dressed in female clothing with a mouth gag, handcuffs and bindings around the genitals and limbs”. A gas mask respirator was also covering the mouth and nose and death was attributed to a combination of chloroform toxicity and upper-airway obstruction. Another autoerotic death involving chloroform was reported by Dr. Peter Singer and Dr. Graham Jones in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.

“He was found lying on the floor of his apartment, prone on a piece of foam and a towel. His eyes were bound with a towel, his lower face and nose were almost entirely covered with duct tape surrounding a rubber hose in his mouth. The other end of the hose was loosely sitting inside an open bottle which was in a box beside him. He was bound-up by an intricate system of ropes, handles, and rods, ending with a noose around his neck”

Clearly, much of what we know about anaesthesiophilia appears to be based on case reports where the use of an anaesthetizing agent during the sexual act has gone horribly wrong. Most of the deaths occurred because the person appears to have been on their own and was presumably a masturbatory act. Engaging in the act where more than one person is present significantly reduces the chances of anything unwanted happening for the anaesthesiophile.

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

Further reading

Breitmeier D., Passie, T., Mansouri, F., Albrecht, K, Kleemann, W.J. (2002) Autoerotic accident associated with self-applied ketamine. Journal of Legal Medicine, 116, 113-116.

Bungardt, N. & L. Pötsch, (2003). [Report on a methemoglobinemia associated death]. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 212, 176-183.

Byard, R.W., Kostakis, C., Pigou, P.E. & Gilbert, J.D. (2000). Volatile substance use in sexual asphyxia. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, 7, 26-28.

Cordner, S.M. (1983). An unusual case of sudden death associated with masturbation. Medicine, Science and Law, 23, 54-56.

Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Dying for it: Autoerotic deaths Bizarre, 24, 62-65.

Hucker, S. (2011). Hypoxyphilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1323-1326.

Leadbeatter, S., (1988). Dental anesthetic death: An unusual autoerotic episode. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 9, 60-63.

McLennan, J.J., Sekula-Perlman, A., Lippstone, M.B. & Callery, R.T. (1998). Propane-associated autoerotic fatalities. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 19, 381-386.

Musshoff, F., Padosch, S.A., Kroener, L.A, et al., (2006). Accidental autoerotic death by volatile substance abuse or nonsexually motivated accidents? American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 27, 188-192.

Rogers, D.J. (2009). Adult sexual offences. In McLay, W.D.S. (Ed.). Clinical Forensic Medicine (3rd Edition, pp. 137-154). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rothschild, M.A. & Schneider, V. (1997). Uber zwei autoerotische Unf T Lachgasnarkose und Thoraxkompression. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 200, 65-72.

Schwarz, F. (1933). T Lachgasvergiftung bei Selbstnarkose. Archiv fur Kriminologie, 93, 215-217.

Singer, P.P. & Jones, G.R. (2006). An unusual autoerotic fatality associated with chloroform inhalation. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 30, 216-218.

Stemberga, V., Bralić, M., Bosnar, A. & Coklo M. (2007). Propane-associated autoerotic asphyxiation: accident or suicide? Collegium Antropologicum, 31, 625-627.

Thibault R, Spencer JD, Bishop JW, Hibler NS (1984) An unusual autoerotic death: asphyxia with an abdominal ligature. Journal of Forensic Science, 29, 679-684.

Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_fetishism

Loving on the edge: A brief look at extreme sexual behaviour

In my previous blogs I have examined a wide variety of different – but potentially dangerous – sexual fetishes and paraphilias including sexual masochism, autoerotic asphyxiation (breathplay/hypoxyphilia), enema play (klismaphilia), scat play (coprophilia), watersports (urophilia), and electricity play (electrophilia). All of these sexual behaviours could arguably be classed as ‘edgeplay’. The online Urban Dictionary, edgeplay is “sexual play that is very extreme in nature. Said to be on the edge of safety and sometimes even sanity. Can be very dangerous if not practiced correctly. [Examples include] breathplay, bloodplay, humiliation play, Total Power Exchange (TPE), [and] rape roleplay”. According to ‘lunaKM’ who describes herself as a “full-time slave in an M/s relationship” and the editor (and founder) of the online Submissive Guide, edgeplay has three definitions (that I have reproduced verbatim below)

  • Definition 1: Edgeplay is SM play that involves a chance of harm, either physically or emotionally. It’s also subjective to the players involved; what is risky for me might not be risky for you and visa versa. A few examples of edge play under this definition are fireplay, gunplay, rough body play including punching and wrestling, breath play and blood play.
  • Definition 2: Edgeplay can also literally mean play with an edge. Such examples of play are cutting, knives, swords and other sharp implements. These forms of edge play also fall under the broad term in [the definition above]
  • Definition 3: Any practice which challenges the limits or boundaries of one or more of the participants.

In his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Anil Aggrawal notes that edgeplay is dangerous in many different ways as the activities may involve (i) increased risk of spreading disease (e.g., through cutting or bloodplay), (ii) psychological danger (e.g., humiliation play, incest fantasies, rape roleplay), (iii) challenging social taboos (ageplay, scat fetishism, and racial slurs), and (iv) even permanent harm or death (e.g., gunplay and breathplay). Such activities can be done alone, with a partner, or with a group of people. From what I have read anecdotally online, edgeplay enthusiasts claim they know the human body better than most medical professionals, and attempt to exercise as much safety as is humanly possible when going to the point of near death and then resuscitation.

The Wikipedia entry on edgeplay also roots edgeplay within BDSM sexual practices but adds that it is a “subjective term for types of sexual play that are considered to be pushing on the edge of the traditional SSC [safe, sane and consensual] creed [and] considered more RACK [Risk-Ware Consensual Kink]”. The article also notes that such sexual acts involve risking serious (and sometimes permanent) harm including possible death. The same article also notes that what constitutes edgeplay may depend upon both an individual’s viewpoint and may change over time. Activities such as ‘ageplay’ (a form of roleplaying in which an individual acts or treats another as if they were a different age, for example a baby or toddler) or ‘rape roleplay’ (involving imagining or pretending being coerced or coercing another into sex) may be considered ‘edgy’ by some but not others. Activities such as ‘scatplay’ (coprophilia) that were considered edgy in the 1990s have arguably shifted into mainstream BDSM practices.

Journalist Rachel Rabbit White is one of the few people to have written an article on edgeplay. As she writes:

“Edgeplay is a sex thing. It is a BDSM thing. And while BDSM among consenting adults is considered cool and OK by most reasonable people, edgeplay is sort of not OK. Edgeplay refers to acts are those deemed not safe, sane, or consensual, which are the watchwords for “normal” kinky sex. This is the BDSM that is never going to end up in a bestselling erotica novel for moms….Like every flavor of kinkster, edgeplay enthusiasts talk to each other online…There’s a group devoted to the topic on FetLife, the sex-based social networking site. One of the group’s threads asks members what the ‘edgiest’ thing they’ve ever done is. Responses ranged from ‘gun play with a cop’ to ‘as a black woman, going to a 1920s themed party chained to my white partner and dressed as a piccaninny’ to ‘smearing Icy Hot on his fresh Prince Albert piercing – while he slept’. I can’t imagine a world in which that last one is sexy but just because it isn’t my thing doesn’t mean it’s wrong”.

She also confirms that what is considered ‘edgy’ has changed over the last three decades. She claims that in the 1980s and 1990s sexual activities such as scatplay, ageplay, puppyplay, and suspension by skin hook piercings were not allowed at BDSM sex conventions. However, all of these can now be found at such events. This is because “attitudes about what should be forbidden seems to have shifted thanks to people getting better [sexually] educated”. Much of this has coupled the rise of the internet where there are now numerous ‘how to’ guides on almost every type of ‘adult’ sexual activity, and articles on sexual ethics. One of the interviewees for her article (Madeline) describes edgeplay (somewhat paradoxically) as a “consensual non-consent” where activities like ‘rapeplay’ do not involve ‘safewords’ (typically used by BDSM practitioners to signal for the activity to cease). Madeline “talks lovingly” about the rapeplay between her and her husband, and claims it keeps “their long-term relationship tender and fresh, and likewise, their trusting relationship allows them to do rape play”. The article also notes that:

“Rather than glorifying [edgeplay], the BDSM community might be headed in the direction of eradicating the idea of ‘edge’ altogether. That way, the focus can be on how to communicate consent – rather than labeling acts ‘good’ or ‘bad’”.

Another article on edgeplay published by The Dominant Guide by an edgeplay practitioner also made some interesting observations. For instance:

“To understand what edge play is you must first understand that there are actually two types of edge play, personal edge play and general edge play. Personal edge play is any activity that pushes one’s personal limits. It can be anything; there honestly is no limit to what someone might consider stretching their personal boundaries. If someone were afraid of single tail [whips], then using a single tail [whip] on them would be edge play to that individual. If someone were afraid of closed in spaces, then putting him or her in a cage would be considered edge play. So you see personal edge play is different for everyone, but one thing is true in all forms, this type of play is dramatic both mentally and physically. The second type of edge play is what most people refer to as edge play. This is any activity that by common consensus is to be considered pushing the limits of safety and or sanity. Normally people consider such activities as blood play, breath play, gunplay, fireplay, needleplay and knifeplay to be edgeplay”.

The article also discusses whether those into edgeplay are insane to do what they do. (I am well aware that ‘insanity’ is a legal terms and not a psychological one, but this was the word used in the article). The author of the article asserts:

Can something be considered insane if you are aware of the risks and accept all the possible outcomes…ask a skydiver, or perhaps an astronaut, even a policeman or fireman. Every activity has some level of risk, it is only when one ignores the risks or does not logically think out all possible dangers that the action may be considered insane. If one enters into an activity informed, and educated of the risks then the activity should not be considered insane, but is should be considered dangerous, hence edge play”.

The author also claims that edgeplay is “an extremely fascinating type of BDSM” because it challenges participants mentally, physically and emotionally. I will leave you with this encapsulation of why edgeplay enthusiasts do what they do. They feel fear, pain, love, and trust takes them “to a level of experience that [they] can reach by no other manner. This activity will stretch all boundaries and affirm the relationship between two individuals in a way that no other activity can”.

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.

Caged Heart (2006). Canes & caning: Introducing Edgeplay into your relationship. Yahoo! Voices, August 2. Located at: http://voices.yahoo.com/canes-caning-introducing-edgeplay-into-bdsm-relationship-59477.html

London Fetish Fair (2014). Edgeplay Top 10 Medical Play Kit. Located at: http://www.londonfetishfair.co.uk/index.php/stands/137-top-10-essential-medical-play-items

Norische (2013). Standing on the edge: Is it edge play or not? Dominant Guide, April 26. Located at: http://dominantguide.com/172/standing-on-the-edge-is-it-edge-play-or-not/

Sir Bamm! (undated). Edge Play. Located at: http://www.sirbamm.com/edgeplay.html

White, R.R. (2012). Edgeplay isn’t your grandmother’s BDSM scene. Vice, September 12. Located at: http://www.vice.com/read/edgeplay-isnt-your-grandmothers-bdsm-scene

Wikipedia (2014). Edgeplay. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgeplay

Duty bound: A beginner’s guide to mummification fetishes

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how specific some of the objects of erotic and sexual focus are when it comes to sexual fetishes and sexual paraphilias. A case in point is mummification (the wrapping the full body in a manner that prevents movement). In a previous blog on sexual masochism, I briefly mentioned the practice of mummification within a sadomasochistic context. According to Dr. Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, mummification is:

“An extreme form of bondage in which the person is wrapped from head to toe, much like a mummy, completely immobilizing him. Materials used may be clingfilm, cloth, bandages, rubber strips, duct tape, plaster bandages, bodybags, or straitjackets. The immobilized person may then be left bound in a state of effective sensory deprivation for a period of time or sensually stimulated in his state of bondage – before being released from his wrappings”.

The Wikipedia entry on mummification within a BDSM and bondage context includes verbatim text from Dr. Aggrawal’s definition (although doesn’t acknowledge the source of the material whatsoever). However, it does add that those who have undergone the process end up “looking like an Egyptian mummy” and that the act of mummification is typically used to enhance the feelings of total bodily helplessness, and is incorporated with sensation play (i.e., a group of erotic activities that facilitate particular physical sensations upon a sexual partner). Some mummification practitioners completely cover themselves with only one or two body orifices exposed (i.e., nose and/or mouth so that the person mummified can breathe without restriction). Sensation play typically differs from more mental forms of erotic play (e.g., sexual role playing). The Wikipedia entry on sensation play notes that:

“Sensation play can be sensual, where the sensations are generally pleasing and light. Many couples that would not consider themselves active in BDSM are familiar with this kind of play: the use of silk scarves, feathers, ice, massage oils, and other similar implements. Sensation play in BDSM can also involve sadomasochistic play, involving the application of carefully controlled stimuli to the human body so that it reacts as if it were actually hurt. While this can involve the infliction of actual pain, it is usually done in order to release pleasurable endorphins, creating a sensation somewhat like runner’s high or the afterglow of orgasm, sometimes called ‘flying’ or ‘body stress’”.

It’s probably stating the obvious to say that mummification can be risky for those who engage in the activity. Complications may arise if those encased (in materials such as clingfilm) are unable to signal to their sexual partner that they are having trouble breathing, sweating too much, and becoming severely dehydrated, or that their blood supply is being severely restricted. Straight after the ‘unwrapping’ process, body temperature may have significantly decreased so being in a warm environment and/or having warm blankets on hand is an absolute must. Sexual partners are also advised to have ‘panic shears’ (sometimes called ‘trauma shears’ by BDSM regulars) readily available at all times so that mummification binding can be cut through quickly and easily should things go awry. Mummification can also include more ‘innovatory’ techniques. For instance, in an article I read on ‘Shibari’ (Japanese bondage) by Hans Meijer in a 2000 issue of the Secret Magazine, he noted that wet sheets can be a particularly good material for sexual mummification of submissive sexual partners:

“A non-rope Japanese mummification is done with wet sheets. Wrap your sub in wet sheets and pull them tight. As the sheets dry they will shrink and the mummification will become even tighter. By using a hair dryer you can not only speed up the process, but also determine what areas you want to shrink first and by doing so will ass accents to your bondage”.

A 2004 article on the Forbidden Sexuality website claims that mummification bondage is “a new practice related with BDSM that is becoming more and more popular in the recent years”. Unsurprisingly, the article also states that mummification bondage is strongly associated with feelings of domination and submission. The article notes that:

“For some reason, people engaged to mummification bondage feel an intense sexual arousal and pleasure by being wrapped in bandages, and even being bound and encapsulated in a coffin after that…There has to be a strong connection of trust between the dominant part and the person who’s going to be mummified. It’s also a practice that also needs to be completely, 100% consensual, otherwise, it may be even faced as a crime of aggression. Mummification bondage also requires precaution and training to not suffocate the person who’s playing the submissive part. Some people who are engaged to mummification bondage also reports a connection with the feeling of being immortal which was associated with mummification in ancient Egypt, preserving the body youth to immemorial times”.

There would appear to be strong psychological and behavioural overlaps between mummification fetishism and ‘total enclosure’ fetishism (in fact I would argue that mummification fetishes are a sub-type of total enclosure fetishes). The Wikipedia entry on total enclosure fetishism highlights that such individuals find the claustrophobic and helplessness aspects sexually arousing (and would appear to be similar to claustrophilia that I covered in a previous blog). The Wikipedia entry notes that total enclosure sexual activities can include:

  • Rubber fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from rubber suits, gas masks and similar garments and accessories.
  • Vacuum pack fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from vacuum beds that rigidly enclose the entire human body inside a rubber sheet (apart from a small breathing tube).
  • Sleepsack/bodybag fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from sleeping bags and bodybags (some of which increase pressure on the fetishist’s body).
  • Spandex fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from such things as zentai suits that are used for total enclosure from head-to-toe in skintight fabric. Zentai suits have the advantage that the fetishist can breathe through the loose-woven fabric in a way that is impossible with PVC or rubber.

A few academic studies have examined mummification within the wider gamut of sadomasochistic activities. For instance, a Finnish study on BDSM activities led by Dr Laurence Alison and reported in the Archives of Sexual Behavior described the wide range of activities in which their 184 sadomasochistic participants engaged in (162 men and 22 women). This included flagellation, bondage, piercings, hypoxyphilia, fisting, knifeplay, electric shocks, and mummification. They reported that there were major differences in these activities depending upon sexual orientation (for instance, gay men were more likely to engage in activities such as “cock binding”). Most interestingly, the research team identified four sadomasochistic sub-groups based on the type of pain given and received. These were:

  • Typical pain administration: This involved practices such as spanking, caning, whipping, skin branding, electric shocks, etc.
  • Humiliation: This involved verbal humiliation, gagging, face slapping, flagellation, etc. Heterosexuals were more likely than gay men to engage in these types of activity.
  • Physical restriction: This included bondage, use of handcuffs, use of chains, wrestling, use of ice, wearing straight jackets, hypoxyphilia, and mummifying.
  • Hyper-masculine pain administration: This involved rimming, dildo use, cock binding, being urinated upon, being given an enema, fisting, being defecated upon, and catheter insertion. Gay men were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in these types of activity.

The same authors published a follow-up using the same dataset, and reported that within those who enjoyed physical restriction, 13.4% engaged in mummification activities. In another study published in a 2002 issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, the same authors combined the results from five previously published studies on sadomasochistic behaviour. They reported that 12.9% of all their sadomasochistic participants had engaged in mummification as a sexual practice.

These studies seemed to confirm and expand on a previous 1984 study published in the journal Social Problems by Dr. Martin Weinberg and colleagues. They interviewed sadomasochists over an eight-year period and reported that their behaviour comprised five distinct features: (i) dominance/submission, (ii) role-playing, (iii) consensuality, (iv) sexual context, and (v) mutual definition. Although not directly concerning mummification, it is clear that these features are critical in the extent to which those mummified experience the activity as sexually stimulating. A less than academic (but interesting) article on the What To See In Berlin website also observes:

“We must not lose sight that these mummies are used as foreplay, and should provoke pleasure in the submissive, allowing them to enjoy the feeling of subjugation and helplessness caused by having their motion restricted, all the while they resist the ‘evil’ that the dominant may want to practice with them. BDSM enthusiasts tend to fall into the temptation of taking a whip, a cane or tweezers to their mummy, because both participants find it stimulating! To maximize the game’s success, couples who seek to take the game to new erotic heights generally leave their favourite erogenous zones exposed following the sexual mummification (i.e. not covered by bandages, plastic or tape)… The most obvious and usual place of erotic stimulation, either by blows or strokes, are the nipples, genitals and buttocks, although the only limit is the imagination”.

It would appear from both anecdotal evidence and empirical research that mummification within a BDSM context comprises a significant minority interest and is probably nowhere near as rare as some other sexual behaviours that I have covered in previous blogs.

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.

Alison, L., Santtila, P., Sandnabba, N. K., & Nordling, N. (2001). Sadomasochistically oriented behavior: Diversity in practice and meaning. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 1–12.

Forbidden Sexuality (2004). Mummification bondage. Located at: http://www.forbiddensexuality.com/mummification_bondage.htm

Meijer, H. (2000). Shibari: House of Japanese Bondage. Secret Magazine, 18, 23-46.

Sandnabba, N. K., Santtila, P., Alison, L., & Nordling, N. (2002). Demographics, sexual behaviour, family background and abuse experiences of practitioners of sadomasochistic sex: A review of recent research. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17, 39–55.

Sandnabba, N. K., Santtila, P., & Nordling, N. (1999). Sexual behavior and social adaptation among sadomasochistically oriented males. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 273–282.

Santilla, P., Sandnabba, N.K., Alison, L. & Nordling, G.N. (2002). Investigating the underlying structure in sadomasochistically-oriented behaviour: evidence for partially-ordered scales. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 185-196.

Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J. & Moser, C. (1984). The social constituents of sadomasochism. Social Problems, 31, 379-389.

Wikipedia (2014). Sensation play (BDSM). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensation_play_(BDSM)

Wikipedia (2014). Total enclosure fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_enclosure_fetishism

Wikipedia (2014). Mummification (BDSM). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummification_(BDSM)

Built from kicks and water: A brief look at scuba fetishism

“[Question] Is it normal to have a scuba fetish about scuba diving and snorkeling and having scuba diving gear on and walking around in public for every one to see? [Response] I have a fetish of scuba diving and snorkeling and I feel really good about it” (Is It Normal? website).

In a previous blog I looked at aquaphilia (a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from water and/or watery environments including bathtubs or swimming pools – and sometimes referred to as hydrophilia). However, I recently came across a sub-type of aquaphilia (i.e., scuba fetishism) where according to an article in The Gazette on the ‘world’s freakiest fetishes’ are where individuals are sexually aroused by scuba diving, snorkeling, or the wearing of diving equipment. Scuba fetishism may also have some psychosexual crossover with athyphilia (a sexual paraphilia where individuals get sexually aroused by depth or deep water). The most detailed article that examines scuba fetishes is that on the Nation Master website. The article claims that:

“There are many aspects to the scuba fetish which attract fetishists. First, there is the sensual pleasure of being in a liquid environment. One is weightless and free to move in three dimensions which allows for a wider variety of sexual positions. Often, the sexual arousal comes in the form of wearing wetsuits, swim caps, and other rubber articles which serve as a second skin [i.e., rubber fetishism]. For many, the arousal comes from the wearing of face masks; this is related to fetishes involving gas masks, hazmat suits, and decorative masks [i.e., mask fetishism]. Other fetishists are aroused by other diving gear such as swim fins, snorkels, regulators, and technical diving equipment”.

The article also makes reference to various ‘scubaphile’ websites and in the name of ‘research’ I felt duty bound to check them out. The sites I visited included HapWater (that specialises in scuba diving-related fetish photography featuring beautiful frogwomen in classic SCUBA gear”), Atlantis Bizarre (a subsection of the fashion fetish site Jazzy Fashion where individuals can buy scuba-related fetish wear), Underwater Fans (a web portal with many links to other underwater fetish websites such as Aqua Maidens), and Rub Aqua Girl who begins her blog by letting readers know:

“Me? I’m just a rubber lover who likes being underwater…holding my breath.I’ve always loved rubber but after finding out my partner was into the water thing, I tried it. This was as much a surprise to me as it was to him coz I’ve been frightened of water since nearly drowning when I was younger. Now you can’t keep me out of it – the feeling of being rubber-clad and underwater is indescribable!”

There are many other scuba fetish websites including some that also feature ‘drowning fetishes’ such as that at the Aqua Entertainment website (please be warned that this and the other sites mentioned are sexually explicit). As far as I can ascertain there is no academic research on scuba fetishism so everything in this blog is (at best) anecdotal. The Nation Master article claims that in relation to scuba fetishism:

“As with other fetishes, actually living out fantasies with a partner is the exception rather than the rule. Not only is it predominantly a male fetish, but the sole fact that not everyone has a large enough indoor pool often enough prohibits living out fantasies with a partner. Some may develop an emphasis on the scuba gear and any clothing involved, so unlike with aquaphilia, water, or actual scuba diving is not a strict requirement. Often enough this merely adds to the thrill. Thrill often is a keyword here as well. People by and large tend to associate fun and adventure with scuba diving so a prospective partner who actually does scuba diving may appear more attractive anyway, but to a scubaphile who actually does scuba diving him or herself this will almost be a requirement. To have a partner who is geared for fun and adventure just seems more promising and the ability to spend vacations on live aboards or in tourist resortsthat offer scuba diving in order to share the passion for scuba diving with each other will certainly be of concern”.

As mentioned above, there appear to be psychological and behavioural overlaps between scuba fetishism and other types of fetishism. The Latex Wiki website claims that:

“[Scuba fetishism is] usually appreciated as one of the forerunners of the latex fetish and gas masks enthusiasts as these were the earliest full body rubber suits designed and obtainable. However, as they were highly expensive, few had the money to purchase such suits. In the later era of early mass production, full rubber suits were purchased more easily…Today, many latex fetishists prefer the more form-flattering sheet pressed latex costuming (usually referred to ‘drywear’ indicating that it is not really meant to be worn in or under water due to the pressure on the suit from the water) as opposed to the thick rubber or neoprone suits that divers actually use in underwater travel (‘wetwear’ which usually refers to a suit that is specifically designed to resist the pressures of water when submerged). However, some still prefer the thick containing format of scuba-like suits or actual scuba suits on such models and performers and themselves. Scuba fetishism has many fans; some are turned on because of the tight clothing, others because of the water environment, others because of the masks and also breathplayers (although those last two are few and rare)”.

It is hard for me to either confirm or disconfirm any of the assertions made in this online article but personally I think the claims made have good face validity. I certainly came across other online references supporting the things claimed here (especially the relationship and overlap between scuba fetish and ‘breathplay’ (i.e., hypoxyphilia: the restriction of breathing, usually during sex, to gain erotic satisfaction). For instance, one person writing at the Answers.Yahoo.com website stated:

“I think that you might find that [scuba fetish is] a fairly specialised fetish and not overly common. However, someone who is into breath-play might find it appealing. It would be interesting to be bound by the feet to the bottom of a body of water so that you cannot rise to the surface and are trapped underwater with your air supply controlled by another person”.

Although scuba divers sometimes wear nappies (i.e. diapers) because they are in the water so long, there is little to suggest that this particular type of fetishism is related to ‘diaper fetishism’. An article on adult babies at the Odd Sex website reports that:

“Those who wear diapers because of incontinence are probably not [Adult Babies/Diaper Lovers]. While they may wear and use diapers, they aren’t necessarily doing it to express an alternate self-image or indulge a fetish. This also applies to those who use diapers for practical reasons, such as astronauts and scuba divers. Finally, there are some who start wearing diapers as a ‘new kink’”.

As with other rare sexual behaviours that I have examined in my blog, I can’t see scuba fetishism ever becoming an area of scientific research although the occasional case may make its way into the forensic literature if things go tragically wrong (i.e., accidental death from asphyxiation). However, as I noted in my previous blog on aquaphilia, there have only been two autoerotic water-related deaths published in the medical forensic literature (see ‘Further reading’ below) but neither of these involved the use of scuba gear.

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.

Gamotin, D. (2009). World’s freakiest fetishes. The Gazette, February 14. Located at: http://www.gazette.uwo.ca/article.cfm?section=Campus&articleID=288&month=2&day=14&year=2007

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

Nation Master (2013). Scuba fetishism. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Scuba-fetishism

Sauvageau, A. & Racette, S. (2006). Aqua-eroticum: An unusual autoerotic fatality in a lake involving a home-made diving apparatus. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51(1), 137–39.

Sivaloganathan, S. (1984). Aqua-eroticum – A case of auto-erotic drowning. Medicine, Science and the Law, 24, 300–302.

Hot flat mate: The unusual case of co-existent pyrophilia and crush fetishism

Over the Christmas period, I was at a family wedding in the Cotswolds when by chance I came across Dr. Raj Persaud’s 2003 book From The Edge of the Couch (subtitled ‘Bizarre psychiatric cases and what they teach us about ourselves’) for sale in a charity shop in nearby Moreton-in-Marsh. As it was selling really cheaply I decided to buy it (even though this was the book where a number of the cases Dr. Persaud recounted were plagiarized from other people’s work).

One of the more interesting case studies in the book concerned a 1998 case study published by Dr. R.S. Shiwach and Dr. J. Prosser in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. The paper concerned the treatment of an “unusual case of masochism (where the individual gained sexual arousal and pleasure from being burnt (i.e., pyrophilia) and crushed (i.e., ‘crush fetishism’) that often meant he was in dangerous and potentially life threatening situations. As the authors summarized:

“Masochistic sexual activity is potentially dangerous, rarely reported voluntarily, and hard to treat. [Our paper] describes a masochist patient who received sexual gratification from being burnt or crushed. Anti-androgen medication [leuprolide acetate], serotonin uptake inhibitor [fluoxetine], and psychodynamic psychotherapy along with sexual education and social-skills training and aversive behavior therapy [covert sensitization and olfactory aversion] were all tried over a period of 9 months. The response was measured by effects of treatments on the frequency of erotic fantasies and masturbation”.

The male masochist was a single 38-year-old man that turned up at a hospital burns unit for treatment to extensive burns on his lower body (around 20% of his total body area) before being referred to the psychiatric unit. His pyrophilic urges and interest in being crushed were long-standing and dated back to mid-adolescence. The incident that led to the hospital admission had involved one of the man’s regular ways of gaining sexual arousal which was to set fire to refuse collecting trucks (i.e., ‘dumpsters’) while he was inside of them and simultaneously masturbating. Dr. Persaud’s reported that:

‘[The man] would then masturbate before getting out [of the dumpster]. His burns had occurred when a plastic dumpster melted and turned over. His first sexual experience at age 15 [years] had occurred when he curled himself up in an oven and ejaculated – an adventure that had been prompted by having been threatened as a child with being roasted ‘like a pig’ as a punishment. A social isolate, he enjoyed watching videos and reading about people being burned at the stake or crushed. He had also attempted autoerotic asphyxia, but relinquished this as ‘too dangerous’”.

The recollection of ejaculating while inside an oven appears to be a critical event in the acquisition and development of the man’s unusual sexual preferences. As Dr. Persaud noted:

“[The man remembered] entering a big unlit oven out of curiosity and liking the warmth and sense of suffocation but did not realize he had ejaculated until the third such instance. He remained a socially isolated virgin and gave a history of sexual disinterest in males or females and of ignorance of sexuality in general…Twice he came close to self-immolation after pouring gasoline on himself…he denied getting any pleasure out of seeing other people suffer…he worked in places where he could have easy access to large waste disposers, ovens, and box compactors”.

Consequently, Dr. Persaud thought (as I do) that learning theory best explained this man’s etiology and that psychoanalytic factors like guilt and punishment may have also been important. This particular case was also reported in a 2006 paper by Dr. D.J. Williams (i.e., ‘Different [painful) strokes for different folks) in the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity. Williams noted that the man had been arrested on a number of different occasions for climbing into refuse collecting dumpsters and had also broken his pelvis as a consequence of being crushed by a box compactor. Williams noted that: “clearly, most experts would agree that acting out fantasies in these dangerous situations posed a significant risk of severe physical harm and death, not to mention being illegal”. Dr. Persaud’s account also more specifically reported that:

‘[The man] would climb into refuse collecting trucks and ejaculate at the sensation of being crushed, only escaping at the last possible minute. He admitted masturbating almost daily to deviant sexual fantasies or to pictures of fire, people being burned or crushed, and even just the sight of chimneys. Recently he had been climbing into a large dumpster, pouring alcohol on the refuse and setting it on fire. He managed to masturbate and get out of the refuse bin with minor burns twice, but the plastic dumpster eventually melted and overturned, causing the injuries he now had”.

Despite the many different pharmacological and psychological interventions, none appeared to have any long-lasting effect. The first intervention was pharmacological and involved being injected weekly with an anti-androgen. This treatment resulted in a decrease of his fetishistic sexual fantasies and an overall decrease in his sex drive. However, the man didn’t like the fact that his sex drive has been significantly inhibited and asked to be taken off the medication. He also took anti-depressants over an 18-week period and then had aversive behaviour therapy (olfaction aversion) and psychodynamic therapy, social skills training, and sexual education. He was discharged after 34 weeks of treatment but on follow-up had resumed his fetishistic behaviour. Drs. Shewach and Prosser concluded that: Anti-androgens and aversive behavior therapies may be the most effective treatments for such cases, at least in the short-term, although the underlying social deficits and the need to reshape the sexual behavior ought to be addressed in the long-term”.

One of the observations that Dr. Persaud made about this case was that the masochism in this case did not involve psychological humiliation or any interaction with other people in the man’s life. I would also add that most of the focus and commentary in this particular case has been on the pyrophilic aspects rather than the crush fetishism aspects. This may be because there has been far less in the medical and clinical literature on crush fetishism than pyrophilia. However, this is not the only case where crush fetishism has been associated with another sexual paraphilia. At the end of last year, my case study of eproctophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from flatulence) in the Archives of Sexual Behavior involved an eproctophile that was also a crush fetishist.

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

Further reading

Balachandra, K. & Swaminath, S. (2002). Fire fetishism in a female Aasonist? Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 47, 487-488.

Bourget, D. & Bradford, J.M.W (1987). Fire fetishism, diagnostic and clinical implications: A review of two cases. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 32, 459-462.

Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Eproctophilia in a young adult male: A case study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1383-1386.

Litman, L.C.  (1999). A case of pyrophilia. Canadian Psychological Association Bulletin, February, 18-20.

Persaud. R. (2003). From The Edge Of The Couch. London: Bantam Press.

Quinsey, V.L., Chaplin, T.C. & Upfold, D. (1989). Arsonists and sexual arousal to fire setting: Correlation unsupported, Canadian Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 20, 203-209.

Shiwach, R. S., & Prosser, J. (1998). Treatment of an unusual case of masochism. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 24, 303-307.

Williams, D. J. (2006). Different (painful) strokes for different folks: A general overview of sexual sadomasochism (SM) and its diversity. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 13, 333-346.