“[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
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.
Just recently (and quite by accident while I was doing some research into fingernail fetishes – the topic of an upcoming blog) I came across a case study of an allegedly unique sexual paraphilia called ‘Sleeping Beauty’ paraphilia. The paper was by Dr. Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli and three colleagues, and published in a 2010 issue of the journal Medical Science Monitor. The case involved a 34-year old married man who was admitted to a psychiatric unit in February 2007 following a violent physical attack on his wife. The marriage had been failing for a number of years because of the man’s paraphilic actions in which his wife was an unwilling participant.
The man’s sexual focus was arousal from seeing women sleeping. This as I have written about in a previous blog on somnophilia is not unheard of. (Somnophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which sexual arousal is derived from intruding on, caressing, and/or fondling someone – typically a stranger – while they are asleep without force or violence.) However, where the paraphilia differed from ‘classic’ somnophilia was that the man liked to look after the woman’s hands and nails while they were asleep (this helps explain why I came across the case while researching into fingernail fetishism). The man also had an idealized routine and would always start with the women’s right hand before moving on to the left. Over the years of the marriage, the urge to control his paraphilic interest worsened. At the start of his marriage he used to give his wife sleeping pills that she consented to take. However, the wife eventually refused to take the medication given by her husband. Consequently, the man began to surreptitiously administer sleeping pills (the benzodiazepine Bromaezepam) to his wife without her knowledge. In 2006, the man’s wife discovered what her husband had been doing and the relationship deteriorated even further. The authors wrote that:
“Because of the extremely powerful obsession with sleeping women and painting their nails, the patient disguised himself with a latex mask and attacked his wife, as she returned from work, with an Olerosin Capsicum (OC) spray, to anaesthetize her. During this episode, his wife succeeded in taking off his mask, escaped and called the police who brought him to the psychiatric emergencies”.
Following a psychiatric assessment that was deemed “normal” the man revealed that when he was 10 years old he had an incident of head trauma that resulted in a four-day long coma. He subsequently received various neurological evaluations, including neuroimaging brain scans. The authors reported that:
“The cerebral MRI showed a moderate atrophy in the fronto-parietal region with a diffuse and severe white matter injury compatible with his previous head trauma. On a functional viewpoint, this brain network is known to sustain among others, the sense of self, body-image, and attention mechanisms. His neuropsychological exam was in line with this assumption. The patient was diagnosed with a moderate dysexecutive syndrome and a very specific body image disorder characterized by an incomplete mental image of his hands, mostly the right (i.e., personal representational hemineglect), as ascertained by his graphical representation of his body parts. The clinical hypothesis was that the paraphilia might be related to his post-traumatic disturbed body image and more specifically to the incomplete hands representation”.
The authors made reference to a number of studies that suggest paraphilic behaviour can appear following brain damage (see ‘Further reading’ below) and concluded that their case study highlighted “the potential link between paraphilia, deviant and aggressive sexual behaviour, neurological disturbance and self-representation…Presumably, the occurrence of head trauma leading to catatonia in adolescents might have played a critical role on the development of his sexual self and body image”.
A good critique of this particular case study was by The Neurocritic who wrote that:
“One puzzling aspect of this case is why the ‘Sleeping beauty paraphilia’ became uncontrollable only in adulthood, showing a progressive escalation during his marriage. This might be suggestive of a neurodegenerative disorder, but that was not part of his diagnosis. And I’m not sure why an old traumatic brain injury would have lead to ‘moderate’ atrophy in the fronto-parietal region. I might have expected more involvement of the orbitofrintal cortex, given the nature of the patient’s behavioral changes. However, many other examples of impulsive sexual offenses are even less obviously related to neurological status (e.g., after head injuries when the damage might not be visible on an MRI scan, and of course the population of offenders who have never sustained a TBI [traumatic brain injury]). Since the lesions were distributed and not focal, a final mystery is why the body image disturbance was confined to the right hand (implying a left hemisphere origin). This type of personal representational hemineglect (neglect for a mental representation of one side of the body) is most often associated with lesions in the right hemisphere”.
The Neurocritic also makes a point that I have raised in other blogs that I’ve written on various paraphilias concerning the issue of whether something is problematic if there is a willing participant to share the sexual urges. The Neurocritic concludes:
“What is considered acceptable can vary widely across cultures and subcultures (Bhugra et al, 2010) and across individuals. If the patient of Bianchi-Demicheli et al. found a partner willing to have her fingernails done while sedated with sleeping pills, perhaps the classification would change from paraphilic disorder to something that might be considered strange and paraphilic to most people, but causing no distress to the two willing participants”
Personally, I feel this paraphilic behaviour is just a sub-type of somnophilia or somnophilia overlapping with hand fetishism. However. Given the complete lack of case studies ion the clinical literature on somnophilia, who is to say that this case study is not representative of somnophiles more generally?
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Bianchi-Demicheli F, Rollini C, Lovblad K, & Ortigue S (2010). “Sleeping Beauty paraphilia”: Deviant desire in the context of bodily self-image disturbance in a patient with a fronto-parietal traumatic brain injury. Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, 16(2), C15-C17.
Bhugra D, Popelyuk D, McMullen I. (2010). Paraphilias across cultures: Contexts and controversies. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 242-56.
Briken, P., Habermann, N., Berner, W. & Hill, A. (2005). The influence of brain abnormalities on psychosocial development, criminal history and paraphilias in sexual murders. Journal of Forensic Science, 50, 1204-1208.
Lehne G.K. (1994). Brain damage and paraphilia treated with medroxyprogesterone acetate. Sex and Disability, 10, 145–158.
Miller, B.L., Cummings, J.L,. McIntyre H et al (1986). Hypersexuality or altered sexual preference following brain injury. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 49, 867–873
The Neurocritic (2010). “Sleeping Beauty Paraphilia” and Body Image Disturbance After Brain Injury. April 11. Located at: http://neurocritic.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/sleeping-beauty-paraphilia-and-body.html
In previous blogs I have looked at doll fetishism (i.e., individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from dolls and doll-like objects) and the ‘reborn baby doll’ phenomenon (i.e., individuals who collect and look after liefelike baby dolls). Today’s blog examines the world of ‘rubberdolling’ – the practice of individuals dressing up head-to-toe as a rubber doll. As far as I am aware, there is no academic research on rubberdolling although there are clearly psychological and behavioural overlaps with other more academically researched areas including transvestic fetishism, rubber/latex fetishism, and sadomasochism. In fact, many people might view such activity as ‘extreme cross-dressing’ where men (but occasionally females) transform themselves into walking talking dolls, completely concealing their real identities. According to the Latex Wiki entry on rubberdolling:
“A doll (a.k.a. Rubber doll, rubberdoll, rubberdolly, v. dolling, v. rubberdolling) is a latex fetishist whose desire is to acquire the appearance of a doll, usually a female doll, through a mostly latex costume that completely covers the face and skin… A doll’s suit is often a catsuit, which might have been specifically designed to mimic a store mannequin or a blow-up doll. Common colours thus include approximations of skin tones, white and black (for a Heavy Rubber look)…For nude (a nude doll, that is) applications the suit may feature blow-up-doll-like openings with insertable pouches. Some manufacturers offer catsuits designed to look like a blow-up doll. These might include inflatable bosom, hips or other regions to enhance the visual effect of an artificial doll – or to give a male wearer the shape of a female”.
Rubberdolling is relatively new phenomenon that has come to the fetishistic fore over the last two decades. Most rubberdollers attribute the rise of rubberdolling to the work of German fetish photographer Peter Czernich who started the fetish magazines Marquis and Heavy Rubber. Rubberdollers are typically encased in latex rubber with exaggerated and accentuated Barbie-type female features (i.e., huge breasts, incredibly small waists, exaggerated thighs and hips, elongated fingernails, extra long eyelashes, bright and excessive make-up, etc.). Typically, the only areas of human flesh that remain uncovered are holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. According to an article on rubberdolling at the Rubber World Rendezvous website, there are four basic categories to which rubberdolling can apply:
- Submissive dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll as part of a submissive role within a sadomasochistic relationship. Here the doll acts as a service submissive/slave and is utilized by others (usually the dominant partner) for their own sexual entertainment purposes. The dominant partner controls everything that the doll does and the costume often restricts the doll’s movements. The doll essentially becomes totally objectified and is at the total mercy of their dommes or mistresses. Here, rubberdolls may also be engaging in the behaviour as part of an encasement and/or rubber bondage fetish.
- Sissy dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a fetishistic ‘sissy’ rubber doll within the transgender and transvestite community. The activity may also be part of ‘cosplay’ (i.e., costume play). As the article at the Rubber World Rendezvous website claims, these people use “the rubber doll theme as a vehicle for play, disguise, sissification, cross dressing…This generally follows a common theme of Forced Femme or being turned into a female doll animate or inanimate. Again shape altering garments and female masks figure in this identity change. Many equate this to being turned into a Barbie Doll. Many [transvestites] who like shiny materials are now dressing in Latex and rubber as part of their look and while not wearing masks they are considered a rubber doll”.
- Show dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll for exhibition purposes and may be part of either the BDSM and/or transvestite and transgender communities. In sadomasochistic relationships, show dolls are made to look as pretty as possible by their dommes or mistresses to show off to others in the rubberdolling scene (e.g., at fetish balls). Here, the dominant partner may actually play with the submissive as if it was a real doll. Show dolls are typically female in appearance, and the female form is accentuated and exaggerated.
- Art dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll as an art form or art statement (i.e., a piece of ‘living art’ or ‘street theatre’) and may have nothing to do with sex or fetishistic sex (i.e., it is purely about seeing the doll from an aesthetic perspective). Such dolls may also be used to feature in fetish photography magazines (of which there seem to be a growing array based on what I came across while researching this article).
So how does someone actually transform another person into a doll? The Rubber World Rendezvous claims:
“This is done through dressing the subject in latex rubber garments and specialty items to change their form and look. Generally the basis for all of the forms of rubber doll is the female type cat suit which has a tight waist, bust cups for breast forms or attached inflatable breasts. The cut of the suit is usually female. Add to this the bra, breasts and padded hips along with a female mask and wig (if required) you have a basic naked doll. From here one dresses the doll however you desire to achieve the look you want”.
The Latex Wiki entry on rubberdolling claims that some people attempt to use (“and have variably succeeded”) the outer shells of blow-up sex dolls as full body suits. However, it then goes on to say that most inflatable dolls are too small to totally engulf someone, but that some varieties are reasonably life size. Blow-up dolls are usually made from materials such as PVC and latex, and therefore are not always sufficiently flexible for comfortable wear. The same article also claims that looners (i.e., balloon fetishists) may use heated air to stretch various plastic inflatables whilst retaining the proportions of the object close to original.
There is little in the way of an established literature on rubberdolling although there are quite a few rubberdollers that have their own webpage. One of the more interesting (and in-depth) ones is the Swedish Rubber Puppett site. The site’s owner is very open and reflective about his rubberdolling and I reproduce here what he has to say in his own words:
“I am a rubberdoll from the very south part of Sweden with a deep love for latex. I created this site to be able to reach out to other latex lovers and to make new friends all over the world. The rubber scene in Sweden is quite limited, especially if you are into dolling. I have been into latex and anything tight and shiny for as long as I can remember and some time ago I dressed up as a doll and I instantly felt this was my ‘thing’…Many people think of a rubberdoll as something passive and submissive, which is often the case. However, I am neither passive nor submissive and do this for entirely different reasons. For me it is all about dressing up and [transforming] myself into a different character. Perhaps this is similar to people who are into cosplay…Like an exhibitionist I love the way people turn their heads and look at me, some with fascination and some with fear in their eyes”.
Arguably the most interesting part of Rubber Puppett’s account is where he talks about where his love of dressing in rubber came from. He reported that:
I have been into rubber, latex and all shiny and tight things for as long as I can remember. As a young child I loved to dress up in rain clothes. I can remember the nice feeling I got the first time I tried a couple of waders. Now I am more focused towards latex, but I am still quite fond of those things, especially rubber boots. It wasn’t until I left home to study that I came into contact with latex…I did like the look of it and I decided to buy some simple garments for me and my girlfriend. I instantly fell in love with the tight feeling of the rubber clothes, the smell and the look of them. I soon ordered some more latex clothes such as hoods, stockings and dresses. When I first saw myself in the mirror wearing a hood I was instantly hooked. Since that day I have worked on my rubberdoll persona to create my fantasy woman”.
Based on what I have read elsewhere, I wouldn’t describe this account of rubberdolling as typical (and neither does he). Whether any academic research ever gets carried out on the topic remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an area that is of psychological interest.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Latex Wiki (2011). Doll. Located at: http://www.latexwiki.com/index.php?title=Doll
Rubber Puppett (2012). About Rubber Puppett. Located at: http://rubberpupett.com/about.html
Rubber World Rendezvous (2013). Frequently asked questions. Located at: http://www.rubberdollworldrendezvous.com/faq.php
“In terrible news for nun fetishists everywhere, the nun beauty contest has been cancelled. The Italian priest who had planned the online ‘pageant’ for nuns has suspended the project, saying he was misinterpreted and never had any intention of putting sisters on a beauty catwalk. Apparently, he’s been feeling some heat from the higher-ups.‘My superiors were not happy. The local bishop was not happy, but they did not understand me either,’ Father Antonio Rungi told Reuters by telephone from his convent in southern Italy on Tuesday. ‘It was not at all my intention to put nuns on the catwalk,’ said Rungi, a priest of the Passionists religious order, speaking from his convent in the town of Mondragone. Rungi’s idea appeared in newspapers around the world after he floated the idea of a contest for nuns on his blog, referred to by some as ‘Sister Italy 2008.’ ‘It was interpreted as more of a physical thing. Now, no-one is saying that nuns can’t be beautiful, but I was thinking about something more complete,’ he said” (Metro newspaper, 27/8/2013).
“What Does a Squad of Gun-Toting Fetish Nuns Have to Do With Hitman: Absolution? [The] release of the official Hitman: Absolution E3 trailer…teases us with an image depicting eight ladies dressed in vinyl nun costumes wielding a wide variety of powerful firearms. Could Hitman: Absolution feature the world’s first nun-based online multiplayer? God I hope so…There could be any number of explanation as to why [the game’s developer] is rolling out nuns in high heels so late in the game” (Kotaku.com)
Hitman: Absolution‘s 2012 trailer depicting Agent 47 brutally dispatching a group of killers dressed as sexy nuns caused quite a stir. People called it exploitatitive. People called it misogynistic…It seems silly to me that Square Enix decided to play up the fetish nun angle…only to have Agent 47 viciously take them all out in [the] trailer” (Kotaku.com)
I came across these opening stories a few months ago and filed the away as I thought it might make the start to a short blog on ‘nun fetishism’. Obviously, the words ‘nun fetish’ used in these contexts don’t really equate into genuine ‘nun fetishes’ but the news snippets did make me go away and look into the whether such a fetish really exists.
I’ve actually mentioned nuns in a previous blog on ‘uniform fetishes’. In that blog I mentioned the Visual Dictionary of Sex (edited by Dr. Eric J Trimmer) his reference to uniforms and sexual fantasy. Dr. Trimmer reported that in the fetish world of dressing-up, the rough rank order of sexual uniform popularity has nun’s uniforms as the least popular (as the list in order of sexual preference was cheerleader, waitress, nurse, maid, secretary, office worker, schoolgirl, fitness trainer, prison guard, postal worker, military, Cleopatra, ballerina, cab driver, and nun). I have no idea on what empirical basis Dr. Trimmer made his claims although the Wikipedia entry on uniform fetishism also made similar types of claims. It claimed the most popular sexy uniforms were police officer, soldier, schoolgirl, nurse, French maid, waitress, cheerleader and Playboy bunny. However, the article also made reference to some people regarding nun’s habits and aprons as sexy uniforms.
As far as I am aware, there is no academic literature on nun fetishes although there is online anecdotal evidence in the form of dedicated nun fetish sites – such as the (i) Fetish For Nuns, (ii) Whore Nun and (iii) Badjojo websites (please be warned these are sexually explicit sites if you click on the links) – and individuals confessing their sexual arousal towards nuns on various online forums. For instance:
- Extract 1: “I have a nun fetish. Is that weird? [However], how in the heck would one go about seducing a nun?”
- Extract 2: “I have a nun fetish. And thank god for the internet. Great times we’re living in, because it would have been hard back in the 80s”
- Extract 3: “[I have a] fetish for religous outfits (nun habit, Muslim burka, etc.). I was wondering if there are other out there that also find these very restrictive clothes erotic. While this is completely the opposite effect they should have one you I think this is what makes them so appealing to some. I know in some adult shops you can buy sexy latex and PVC version of the nun’s habit…So, which religious outfit do you find the most fetish like? And in what material to you prefer them? Cloth, PVC, Lycra, Latex?”
- Extract 4: “There are fetishes for almost every normal thing you can think of. Wetsuit fetishism falls under the greater section of rubber fetishism. Religious outfits fall into one or more categories depending on what materials they are made off. For example on their own they can be seen as uniform fetish but if you make them of say latex or rubber then would fall into rubber fetishism as well.The reason why I like them is their bondage/submissive qualities…that is really a massive turn on”
In a short 2008 online article on ‘bizarre underground fetish convents’, the Trend Hunter website reported that nuns dressed in rubber are “an immensely popular facet of the underground fetish community”. The article highlighted (along with lots of anecdotal photographic evidence) that such people are typically clothed in latex or leather nun uniforms, and may optionally wear a gas mask (see my previous blog on gas mask fetishism). The article also claims that:
“The subversion of a nun, a paragon of religious virtue, by the latex fetish community is both fantastic and messed up. No wonder this underground cultural icon of a nun in a gas mask is found in art that ranges from street art to sculptures. Chances are good that if you start looking, it won’t be long before you see your first rubber nun”.
In a blog post on ‘Latex Nun Fetishists’, the dominatrix ‘Mistress Maryse’ noted that the majority of her clients were Catholic and that within her dominatrix work, religion is always an interesting topic that is up for discussion. More specifically she said that her clients’ religious views:
“…can provide a lot of insight into where their fetishes might have originated, as well as offer some good material for a future scene. I’ve wanted to do a sadistic nun scene for a while, but I haven’t had any takers. That’s until one of my clients, ‘Mike’ recently e-mailed me and expressed interest in either doing a nun or evil school-girl session. The irony (or perhaps it’s not that surprising) is that Mike was raised atheist. I think my Catholic [submissives] still have some fear [and] playing around with this theme is uncomfortable (which, of course, makes it perfect for a scene!). Mike, being the dear that he is, has offered to buy me a new latex nun uniform from Westward Bound”
A short article on the Latex Wiki website argues that since nuns are members of a female monastic order taking vows of sexual abstinence and chastity, the fetish community has taken the nun’s image and perverted it. The article claims:
“The fetish nun is now as much of an icon of sexual perversion as a real nun is of sexual purity. Many fetish designers have taken the theme of the nun and produced their own take on the nun’s habit in latex or PVC. Such outfits may include for example a miniskirt, stockings, fishnet tights or high heels. Fetish nuns are a common sight at fetish clubs. Much of the pleasure may derive from the thought of having sexual intercourse with a virgin, or the contrast between the real behaviour of the person and symbols of sexual abstinence”.
In my research for this blog I came across an interesting website that focused on 1970s and 1980s ‘Nunsploitation’ video clips and “nuns behaving badly in bizarre fetish films” such as the trio of Italian films, The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine (1974), Images from a Convent (1979) and Convent of Sinners (1986) and the 1975 Mexican film Satánico Pandemonium. As the anonymous author commented that it was particularly the underground cult cinema in Italy, Spain and Mexico where Catholic guilt was most likely transmuted “into sexual fetishism involving naughty nuns, masochism, sadism, whipping and lesbianism”. Pierluigi Puccini has a more mainstream selection of films on his Nun’s Habit’s: A Cinematic Fetish webpage including The Devils (directed by Ken Russell, 1971), Killer Nun (directed by Giulio Berruti, 1978), Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (directed by Jesus Franco, 1977), The Story of a Cloistered Nun (directed by Domenico Paolella, 1973), and To The Devil A Daughter (directed by Peter Sykes, 1976).
In a 2005 book chapter by Richard Zacks in Russ Kick’s Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong, he described what he claimed was “unquestionably the longest and kinkiest list of medieval sexual practices still in existence”. The reason I mention this is because Zacks tracked down a medieval text that refers to having sex with nuns. He wrote that in 1012, a German bishop called Burchard of Worms wrote a 21-volume text including a long section on sexual sins. In Chapter 5 of Volume 19, Burchard lists 194 different sexual sins. In this list there is a section entitled ‘Questions for Men’ relating to the penance for having sex with a nun. More specifically, the entry reads:
“Have you committed fornication with a nun, that is to say, a bride of Christ? If you have done this, you shall do penance for forty days on bread and water, which they call a “carina,” and [repeat it] for the next seven years; and as long as you live, you shall observe all six holy days on bread and water”
In one online opinion piece, Jodi Dean briefly wrote about fetishized religions and claimed the only one that she could think of was Catholicism:
“The Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform is the most obvious, but sexualized nun toys and habits, and games about priests are close behind, traditional fetishist scenes predictable to the point of boredom…I think that charismatic Christianity could probably slink into the category; baptism scenes can have a wet t-shirt quality and the laying on of hands is intense to the point of eroticism. But I almost think this is derivative of Catholicism…What is it about some religions that makes them available for fetishization?”
A fair amount of discussion was generated in response to Dean’s thoughts on religious fetishism. One respondent speculated that the important element was the ‘icon heavy ritualism’ and that any religion in which people were raised in an icon-rich background was ripe for fetishization (and parody). One of the respondents (Mehmet Catagay) made some interesting observations:
“Unlike a fantasy that enables love to pass through the real to field the imaginary, an object of fetishism operates as ‘the return of the repressed’, the substitute material filling the cavity which originates from the act of denial of the symbolic castration. Therefore, the pervert subject of fetishism could cross the boundary of the symbolic only by use of the object of fetishism as the authorization certificate, i.e. the transit visa for the passage from the symbolic to the real…As regards to the Catholicism that you mention as the only fetishized religion that you come up with, for my part, I don’t see an exceptionally distinctive characteristic in the Catholic practice of Christianity that reinforces nunsploitation and nun fetishism. I think any particular outfit, especially uniforms, (the uniform of the women of God in the naughty nun case) that relates the human body with Lacanian big Other has the potential to serve as an object of fetishism that substitute the missing symbolic phallus and make the sexual intercourse possible while the complication of the denial of symbolic castration is still in the view”.
My search for academic material on nun fetishism proved fruitless (although I did come across some interesting research papers on the sex lives of nuns which I will look at in a future blog). Nun fetishism appears to be a niche market when it comes to genuine sexual fetishes but this is purely based on the fact that I found a lack of empirical evidence.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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