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Crossing the see: A brief look at ‘strabismusophilia’

Some time ago I came across a 2012 online article entitled ‘18 Sexual Fetishes That Sound Made Up (But They’re Not)’ on The Date Report website. Of the 18 fetishes listed, I knew about 17 of them (15 of which I have written articles on for this blog including emetophilia [sexual arousal from vomit], dendrophilia [sexual arousal from trees], pyrophilia [sexual arpusal from fire], taphephilia [sexual arousal from being buried alive], and arachnephilia [sexual arousal from spiders]). The one that I had little awareness of was ‘cross-eyed fetishism’ (although I was aware of the sexual paraphilia ‘oculophilia’ in which individuals are sexually aroused by eyes and which I also covered in a previous blog). The article contained only one sentence relating to cross-eyed fetishes which read “Not sure what the scientific name for this fetish is, but this is good news for Dannielynn Birkhead, Anna Nicole Smith’s cross-eyed offspring”. If such a fetish exists, I would name it strabismusophilia (as strabismus is the medical condition of having non-aligned eyes).

Having already written my previous blog on eye fetishes more generally, I would argue that strabismusophilia is a sub-type of oculophilia as the condition manifests itself in a desire for actual physical contact and interaction with the eye (albeit a very particular type of eye). An online article at the Page Pulp website about sexual fetishes of famous authors alleged that F. Scott Fitzgerald had a foot fetish, James Joyce had a fart fetish, Lord Byron was a sex addict, Marquis de Sade had a fetish for “anything and everything”, (the most notable being sadomasochism), and that the philosopher Rene Descartes had a cross-eye fetish.

Descartes’ sexual fetish for cross-eyed women is well documented including the work of psychiatric sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Descartes himself wrote that:

“As a child I was in love with a girl of my own age, who was slightly cross-eyed. The imprint made on my brain by the wayward eyes became so mingled with whatever else had aroused in me the feeling of love that for years afterwards, when I saw a cross-eyed woman, I was more prone to love her than any other, simply for that flaw…The impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others, simply because they had that defect; and I did not know that was the reason.”

Descartes’ passion for cross-eyed women was also discussed in a 2011 paper in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, (by Alex Voorhoeve, Elie During, David Jopling, Timothy Wilson, and Frances Kamm). In one of the passages by Dr. Voorhoeve, he discussed Queen Christina of Sweden asking Descartes what causes us to “love one person rather than another before we know their merit”. According to Voorhoeve:

“Descartes replied that when we experience a strong sensation, this causes the brain to crease like a piece of paper. And when the stimulus stops, the brain uncreases, but it stays ready to be creased again in the same way. And when a similar stimulus is presented, then we get the same response, because the brain is ready to crease again. And what did he mean by all this? Well, he gave an example. He said that all his life he had had a fetish for cross-eyed women. Whenever he came across a cross-eyed woman, desire would enflame him. And he figured out…after introspection, that this was because his brain had been strongly creased by his first childhood love, who was cross-eyed”.

This classical conditioning type explanation was also alluded to in a 2011 article on the Psychology Today website by Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév that examined ‘Why Did Descartes Love Cross-Eyed Women?’ Dr. Ben-Zeév noted:

“It would appear that when Descartes fell in love with the young girl, he loved her whole Gestalt, which included other characteristics, but her crossed eyes were the most unique. This feature of the girl distinguished her from most other girls. It is as if he subconsciously thought that every woman who shared that distinctive feature would have the other positive characteristics of the girl with whom he had originally fallen in love and would therefore generate the same profound love. This attitude makes him perceive these women as beautiful…However, the fact that the girl he fell in love had the distinctive feature of crossed eyes did not mean that her other characteristics would be shared by other women who have the same feature. In fact, however, this mistaken association set off a feeling of love when he encountered this characteristic in other women…It is a kind of Pavlovian response which makes us more likely to love this person”.

It appears there are modern day adherents to cross-eyed fetishism as I found these extracts in online forums discussing the fetish:

  • Extract 1: “I get insanely turned on when I see a girl crosses her eyes. I go on video and image sites to see girls crossing their eyes. I have requested custom videos of girls crossing their eyes. I am not sure how to break this fetish. It is something that is hard for me to talk about and I recently revealed it to my girlfriend in a text. I have asked her to cross her eyes for me but she cannot do it. In fact my last two girlfriends have not been able to cross their eyes. I feel like if maybe we could play out that fetish in my personal life it would deter me from looking online at stuff. I am not sure what to do”
  • Extract 2: “I am attracted to people that have lazy eyes. The more lazy their eye, the more attractive it is to me.
It’s a huge turn-on, especially eyes that turn outward (e.g., exotropia)”
  • Extract 3: Them cross-eyed girls drive me wild! I’m a lazy eye man myself. I like when one gets a lil’ googly after they’ve had a few drinks”

Although there is no academic research on cross-eye fetishism, I did come across two other types of fetishistic behavior that overlaps with being cross-eyed. The first is in relation to balloon fetishism (i.e., individuals that get sexually aroused from inflating, deflating and/or popping balloons). I came across online sex videos that were tagged ‘cross-eyed balloon inflation’ comprising women blowing up big balloons where they were also cross-eyed (and to which male ‘looners’ found this both erotic and arousing. After watching one of these idiosyncratic videos, one looner commented: “I for one really enjoyed this [cross-eyed woman inflating a balloon] – makes it looks like she’s really concentrated on the inflation, which I like to see. And variety is nice; I, for one, get tired of clips that are too alike”. Perhaps more worryingly is the association of being cross-eyed with sexually sadistic acts of women being strangled on film on hard-core BDSM videos. As the blurb on one sex video available online noted: “There are women that are strangled, and sometimes become cross-eyed. It’s the stupid impression somehow, you will not ever afford to worry about such a thing is the person being strangled. Your beauty is one of [being] cross-eyed”.

I also wonder whether cross-eyed fetishism is a sub-type of teratophilia – typically defined as being sexually aroused by ugly people? According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, teratophilia is defined as those people who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from “deformed or monstrous people”. The online Urban Dictionary defines it as “the ability to see beauty in the unusual [and] clinically described as a sexual preference for deformed people”. Being cross-eyed could arguably fit these definitions (particularly the one from the Urban Dictionary of seeing beauty in the unusual).

From my own research, I have come to the conclusion that cross-eyed fetishism (that I have termed ‘strabismusophilia’) probably exists but is very rare with an incredibly low prevalence rate among the general population. It may be a sub-type of both oculophilia and teratophilia but further research is needed to confirm such speculations.

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.

Ben-Zeév, A. (2011). Why did Descartes love cross-eyed women? The lure of imperfection, Psychology Today, November 29. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201111/why-did-descartes-love-cross-eyed-women-the-lure-imperfection

Descartes, R. (1978). His Moral Philosophy and Psychology (translated by John J. Blom). New York: New York University Press.

Divine Caroline (2012). 18 Sexual Fetishes That Sound Made Up (But They’re Not). The Date Report, September 20. Located at: http://www.thedatereport.com/dating/sex/sexual-fetishes-emetophilia-tree-sex/

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

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

Page Pulp (2014). Sexual fetishes of famous authors. Located at: http://www.pagepulp.com/2091/sexual-fetishes-of-famous-authors/

Voorhoeve, A., During, E., Jopling, D., Wilson, T., & Kamm, F. (2011). Who am I? Beyond “I think, therefore I am”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1234(1), 134-148.

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

Top trumps: A brief look at ‘fartomania’

“I’m only interested in heavy metal [music] when it’s me playing it. I suppose it’s a bit like smelling your own farts” (quote by John Entwistle, bassist with The Who)

Despite the fact that the average person breaks wind 14 times a day, farting is one of those subjects and behaviours that tend to elicit two main responses – laughter or disgust (and embarrassment if someone farts in a situation that they would rather not have). In my early teens I remember watching a drama on television in 1979 about a professional farting entertainer starring comic actor Leonard Rossiter (i.e., it was about a guy who could fart at will and who made his professional living as an entertainer). I later found out that Rossiter was playing Joseph Pujol (1857-1945), the French flatulist (i.e., professional farter sometimes referred to as ‘fartiste’ or ‘farteur’) who performed under the stage name Le Pétomane. Pujol’s stage name literally means “fartomaniac” (as it combines the French verb ‘to fart’ [péter] alongside the French word for ‘maniac’ [-mane]). Pujol was able to control his farting via a rectal ‘inhalation’ method that allowed him to control the air with his anal sphincter muscles.

In researching this article, I only came across one academic reference to ‘fartomania’. In a 2002 issue of the Journal of the History of Sexuality, Dr. Frank Proschan wrote a paper about Paul Michaut, a French physician and member of the Société d’anthropologie de Paris. Dr. Proschan recounted that Michaut had spent the late nineteenth century studying medical, erotic, and scatological matters in South East Asia. One of the topics that Michaut wrote on was “fartomania” but Proschan’s paper did not give any details as to what Michaut had uncovered on this subject.

Perhaps the most infamous ‘fartomaniac’ was Adolf Hiter. I wrote about Hitler in a previous blog on coprophilia but according to his medical reports, Hitler is believed to have suffered from “uncontrollable flatulence”. The reason for this is thought to have been Hitler’s regular and seemingly relentless diet of prescription drugs and illicit drugs. His medical records also indicated that he took up to 28 different drugs to attempt to restrain his excessive flatulence. An article in Intelligent Life magazine noted that:

“Medical historians are unanimous that Adolf was the victim of uncontrollable flatulence. Spasmodic stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea, possibly the result of nervous tension, had been Hitler’s curse since childhood and only grew more severe as he aged. As a stressed-out dictator, the agonising digestive attacks would occur after most meals”.

In a previous blog, I wrote about the novelist James Joyce who appeared to have many sexually paraphilic interests including somnophilia and coprophilia. However, I have since come across references to Joyce’s obsession with farting in his many letters to his wife (Nora). For instance, one of his letters to Nora said:

 “I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have”.

There are also a number of reports that claim Mozart was “obsessed” with farting and scatalogia (which biographers attribute to alleged Tourette’s Syndrome), and which made many appearances in his “excrement-obsessed” letters. He even wrote a song called Lick Out My Arsehole. However, for some people, flatulence appears to be something that borders on the excessive and/or obsessive. The word ‘fartaholic’ appears in the online Urban Dictionary and is defined as one who is addicted to farting, passing gas, breaking wind, fumigating the room, etc.”

While I was researching my previous blog on eproctophilia (i.e., individuals who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from flatulence), I came across these confessions online (click on the ‘extract’ number to go to the original source of each quote):

  • Extract 1: “My name is Phil Philups. I am 105 years old, and I am addicted to smelling my own farts. It all started 40 years ago when my first grandchild was born. Whenever I changed her diaper, she would always fart. I soon realized that I love the smell. I would always offer to change her diaper, just so I could get a whiff of it. Ah, the sweet smell of gassy fumes. But eventually she grew up. I no longer had a diaper to change. As I had no more grandchildren, much to my dismay. That’s when it really started. Eventually, I realized that my own farts smell just as good. As soon as the fumes drifted up my nose, I was happy again. I would go into a closet and just let rip. I would sit there for hours, engulfing the scent…At night, I would stick my head under the covers and take in the sweet scent, so I was satisfied until morning. When I was alone, I found jars and let out my precious juices into them, so I could use them later, when I could not force myself to fart. I know this is weird, so I would like help”.
  • Extract 2: “This sounds like a silly problem and some of you may laugh, but I love the smell of farts. If someone farts I have to go over and smell it, and I especially love smelling farts in the bath. I know this sounds disgusting or crude or whatever, but I think I need help. I’m the only person I know who enjoys this. I confided in my friend and she looked at me like I was psycho. Is there something wrong with me? Please help”
  • Extract 3: “Is it normal to think that my fart smells really good? Every time I fart, I wait for it to get to my nose and I sniff it really hard. It smells fine for me. It only happens to my own fart. I think other people’s fart smells gross. I wait for my fart and I smell it every time! It smells good and I feel like I’m addicted to it! I couldn’t help but sniff it in”
  • Extract 4: “My guy farts so much and when we are round his house he decides to fart on his cat’s head and then he sometimes does it up against the wall so it sounds louder. I’m getting scared. Sometimes he farts on me too. I don’t know how to stop him”
  • Extract 5: It’s killing me, everywhere I go if someone farts I’m right there sniffing it. How do I stop my addiction to fart sniffing?”

These short accounts did make me ask to what extent can farting be considered an addiction. In my eproctophilia blog (examining individuals who are sexually aroused by flatulence), there certainly seemed to be some evidence that some individuals seem to be obsessed with farting, and the self-confessed online admissions above (if true, and I can’t guarantee that they are) are suggestive of some people’s enjoyment of farting – beyond what most people would see as normal. However, I can’t ever imagine that the topic would become a topic of psychological research unless it leads to a negative psychosocial impact on the individual’s day-to-day life.

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

Further reading

Gore-Langton, R. (2004). I know what made Mozart tic. Daily Telegraph, October 13. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3625399/I-know-what-made-Mozart-tic.html

The Inquisitor (2012). Adolf Hitler was a farting coke head, study finds. May 4. Located at: http://www.inquisitr.com/230386/adolf-hitler-was-a-farting-coke-head-study-finds/#pRE7dLhQKcyh9DEe.99

Intelligent Life (2007). The madman at the breakfast table: Hitler was even sicker than you thought. November 7. Located at: http://moreintelligentlife.com/node/399

Jameson, C. (2010). 6 famous geniuses you didn’t know were perverts. Cracked.com, June 1. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_18559_6-famous-geniuses-you-didnt-know-were-perverts.html

Proschan, F. (2002). Syphilis, Opiomania, and Pederasty: Colonial Constructions of Vietnamese (and French) Social Diseases. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 11, 610-636.

Wattpad (2012). My strange addiction (4: Gassy fumes). Located at: http://www.wattpad.com/4112339-my-strange-addiction-4-gassey-fumes

Wikipedia (2012). Le Pétomane. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Pétomane