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Elevation elation: A brief look at ‘lift and carry’ fetishism

In previous blogs on both muscle worship (i.e., sthenolagnia) and sexual piggybacks, I briefly mentioned that some individuals have ‘lift and carry’ (L&C) fetishes. To my knowledge, there has been no academic research on L&C fetishism but it did make it into the Buzzfeed website’s ‘11 Most Unlikely Sexual Fetishes’ list along with balloon popping, gut flopping, beard rubbing, masking, and pedal pushing. According to an article on L&C fetishism at the Area Orion website:

“The fantasy world of female muscle is no stranger to the odd and weird. Another such addition is Lift and Carry, a fetish where someone is aroused by being lifted and carried away, most often by a woman. She doesn’t need to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter, just strong enough to carry the weight of a full grown man. So what is the turn on with Lift and Carry? To many, it can be harmless fun or even part of foreplay. Some like the helpless feeling of domination by a powerful woman with no control. Others like the difference in size and enjoy the feeling of having the women struggle beneath their weight. There are various types of lifts popular to L&C. Piggy-back rides, shoulder rides, over-the-shoulder carries, pony & donkey rides and Fireman’s carry are just a few. These obviously depend on the strength of the woman and weight of the man to pull off successfully…Many men are embarrassed to have this fetish, feeling the gender role reversal makes them appear weak. Fortunate for them, there are websites, videos, stories, forums and even porn for Lift and Carry where fans can live out there fantasies in private”.

A short article about L&C at the Nation Master website makes a number of claims. It asserts that the fetish is popular, harmless, used by some as a form of sexual foreplay, and is engaged in by both genders and (implicitly) by all sexual orientations. More specifically:

“Lift & Carry is an interest wherein a person may receive sexual stimulation by either being carried around by another person or carrying one yourself. Several forms exist: Male/Male, Female/Female, Female/Male and Male/Female. Especially Female/Male and Female/Female…Some are aroused by the fact that they feel dominated because another person carries them and they have no control. In this case, the person usually likes the one who is carrying them to be strong and muscular. Others enjoy the feeling of having a person struggle to carry them and enjoy feeling the person under them having a hard time. Still others may enjoy the surprise of a smaller, lighter girl who suddenly lifts another off his or her feet”.

L&C fetishism may also have psychological and behavioural overlaps with anasteemaphilia (i.e., a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from those who are much taller or shorter than themselves – here, it is the large difference in height that is the primary source of sexual arousal). This is because the Nation Master article claims:

“The people who have this fetish are usually interested in the height and weight differences between the person carrying and the person being carried, and often prefer to see a small person carry a big person, but there are also some who prefer the opposite situations. There are several sites catering to most tastes of Lift & Carry and also [pornographic] pay sites serving customers who have this fetish”.

The article also claims that L&C fetishism is “somewhat related” to ponyplay fetishism (that I examined in a previous blog) where people get sexually aroused from dressing up like horses and engaging in horse-like activity. Although this has some face validity, this is the only article that I have seen mention the link between L&C fetishism and ponyplay. In researching this blog I visited lots of online forum and discussion sites where various individuals discussed their love of this activity or how they wanted to stop liking the activity and be ‘normal’, or from women who have partners that are into it. Here are a few selected extracts:

  • Extract 1: “This fetish has been bothering me forever and I just want to be the normal guy I am. I heard that it might be because I am submissive, but I don’t want to be like that at all, I just want to be a man. Any tips from anybody?”
  • Extract 2: “I have strong fetish of lift and carry and I want to heal it. How can I do that?”
  • Extract 3: I am the caring and compassionate kinda guy. I admit that I enjoy both carrying girls (all different kinds of ways) and being carried by girls (again in any kinda way). I find that either way arouses me…I just like them to be regular, feminine-figured women. I discovered this when one day I was playing around with my then [girlfriend], and I held her around my waist as we kissed – I had a huge rush. For some strange reason, she decided she wanted to reverse it, and she held me around her waist as we kissed. I had an even bigger rush!! Is there anyone else out there with similar desires?”
  • Extract 4: My boyfriend recently told me that he has what is referred to as a lift/carry fetish. Specifically, he fantasizes about me giving him piggy-back rides. I would love to be able to satisfy his desires; he tends to be pretty reserved and undemanding, so I was ECSTATIC that he was able to tell me about this. But our size difference makes the idea a little terrifying (me: 5’5″, 160lb; him: 6’2″, 200lb)”
  • Extract 5: “I’d like to know if this one has a name…several men have contacted me online because I’m tall, all wanting to know if I could pick them up and carry them around like they were a toddler…I’ve also been hit on by men with a thing about being shrunken to a few inches tall and carried around…In my travels about the [internet] I’ve stumbled across entire sites devoted to the Lift-And-Carry fetish (which doesn’t seem to have a snazzy name). I don’t quite understand it myself – it seems to be a subset of guys who get off on giant women”.
  • Extract 6: “I have a lift and carry fetish and I would really love a woman to carry me(especially the piggyback rides)”
  • Extract 7: “I’ve long been fascinated with lift & carry, but honestly, it all depends. I’m really not at all into guys lifting other guys. I mean, I’m a straight male for starters, but beyond that? My fave thing is seeing women strong enough to lift and carry other women or men. My ex-wife was awesome in that respect. She was *really* strong with a thick build. She weighed a lot more than people ever guessed (around 200lbs at 5’6″ when people usually guessed at least 50lbs. less). So it was always amusing when a guy (or a couple times, even a female friend) would try to pick her up”

The activity (while niche) appears to have a large online following with discussions on sex and fetish forums, and seemingly masses of pornographic L&C videos. There also appears to be a market for men buying the services of strong women and bodybuilders that supplement there income with those that desire to be lifted and carried. As the Area Orion article on L&C fetishes reported the case of the ‘Lift Goddess’:

“Lift Goddess is one such professional, a Lift and Carry dominatrix who can lift a 250 lb man while wearing stilettos. She is a naturally strong athlete, former Las Vegas Showgirl and classically trained dancer. A one-hour session runs $400 plus a $100 booking fee. She describes the experience as ‘You will be lifted born upon the wings of my superior strength. I may carry you in my arms like a child. And you will wonder… am I your Protector, or are you my prey?’”

As I have noted in other blogs on strange fetishistic behaviour, it never ceases to amaze me what arouses people sexually. A couple of people in the extracts above claim they have this fetish but do not want it (suggesting they want their fetish to be ‘treated’) but I doubt whether L&C fetishism will ever be the subject of empirical research.

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.

Area Orion (2011). Lift and carry. October 19. Located at: http://areaorion.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/lift-and-carry.html

Klein, A.M. (1993). Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction. Albany: State University of New York Press.

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

Nation Master (2013). Lift and carry. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Lift-and-Carry

Richardson, N. (2008): Flex-rated! Female bodybuilding: feminist resistance or erotic spectacle? Journal of Gender Studies, 17, 289-301

Sex and the University (2008). Sthenolagnia: Muscle fetishism. Located at: http://sexandtheuniversity.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/sthenolagnia-muscle-fetishism/

Wikipedia (2012). Muscle worship. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_worship

Snoozing personality: The strange case of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ paraphilia

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

Further reading

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

Breath duties: A brief look at gas mask fetishism

In a previous blog, I examined mask fetishism that involves individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from either wearing masks and/or seeing others wearing masks. Today’s blog takes a more detailed look at gas mask fetishism. As with mask fetishism more generally, there is little in the way of academic or clinical research on gas mask fetishism, and much of what is known can best be described as anecdotal.

Gas mask fetishism appears to have potential overlap with other types of paraphilic and/or fetishistic behaviour, particularly hypoxyphilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from oxygen deprivation). For instance, a recent 2011 paper in the Romanian Journal of Legal Medicine led by Dr. Oleg Skugarevsky, examined a couple of deaths due to hypoxyphilia, one of which was wearing a gas mask at the scene of death. They noted that:

[Hypoxyphiliacs] use a variety of techniques to produce the hypoxia like strangulation, suffocation or reduction of the oxygen in the inspired air that may be achieved with plastic bags or gas masks that may allow inhaling some anesthetic gases (chloroform, nitrous oxide) and volatile chemicals (isopropyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite (“poppers”)”.

A recent (and interesting) 2011 multi-authored paper led by Joe Marshall (Nottingham University, UK) examined the entertainment value of gas masks in a paper entitled: “The gas mask: A probe for exploring fearsome interactions”. They argued that a range of popular entertainment clearly demonstrates that there is “widespread and growing public appetite for extreme, visceral, and horrifying experiences”. Their idea of a gas mask interface emerged out of a long-term project “to develop interactive entertainments using biological sensing, which led to the idea of exploring the aesthetics of respiration monitoring as a form of engaging spectacle and gaming interaction”. Reflecting on their experiences with gas masks as part of the entertainment experience, they identified six key dimensions in designing fearsome interactions, some of which I think are applicable to the use of gas masks in sexual play and gas mask fetishism.

  • The cultural dimension: Many scholars have argued that emotions and culture are intertwined, therefore, when it comes to the use of gas masks in a leisure context, it has to take into account the cultural context. Marshall and colleagues argue that gas masks clearly have a very striking and unusual aesthetic with strong cultural associations. Clearly, gas masks are likely to evoke images of warfare, law enforcement, riot control police, etc. For those using gas masks as part of bondage and BDSM play, these associations of power and strength may be an important part of sexual roleplay. Marshall and colleagues themselves also note that:“[Gas masks] are also associated with sexual behaviour as part of sexual practices surrounding breathplay and erotic asphyxiation. Moreover, bondage wear is now increasingly fashionable – for example London’s Torture Garden fetish and body modification nightclub has moved over the last 20 years from being a semi-legal club, regularly shut down by the police, to become a well established entertainment and fetish clothing brand. Interestingly, other researchers have noted [human-computer interaction’s] ‘tendency to desexualise technology and have sought to raise an agenda for researching ‘sexual interactions. It is therefore important to recognise that gas masks may suggest various fearsome and/or sexual associations and possibly heighten both kinds of arousal”
  • The visceral dimension: Marshall and colleagues note there is “a striking physicality to donning a gas mask which may amplify the fearsome nature of horror experiences in several more direct ways”. This again is likely to enhance the experience for sadomasochists who utilize gas mask equipment. As they also note, for many this results in “an unusual and somewhat uncomfortable physical sensation, while others may experience something closer to claustrophobia”. As I noted in a previous blog on claustrophilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from being confined in small places), gas masks for this type of paraphiliac might be a sensual turn on.
  • The control dimension: Marshall and colleagues note that an important aspect of fearsome experiences is the “committing to a scary and unknown experience and not being able to back out, either physically or socially”. This again, is critical in some BDSM scenarios and is critical in ‘breath play’ aspects of sadomasochistic activity. Additionally, it allows one dominant participant to control, through their breathing, the physical experience of a submissive other and “playing on the fear and thrill of being controlled by, and controlling, others”.
  • The social dimension: Marshall and colleagues note that by enclosing a person’s face in a gas mask creates a situation whereby the mask wearer is made anonymous. This leads to effects that may be especially important in BDSM situations. Firstly, the wearer feels isolated and/or dehumanized. Secondly, those viewing the person wearing the gas mask may see the person as anonymous and (potentially) non-human.
  • The performance dimension: Marshall and colleagues argue that the performance dimension has the potential to amplify the scary and fearsome nature of interactions while wearing a gas mask. This form of viewing via gas mask has the potential keeping social interactions somewhat ambiguous, allowing the participant to interpret the situation themselves. This again may be an important part of fantasy-based BDSM play, and the anticipation of what may happen may be more sexually exciting for the mask wearer than what happens in actuality.
  • The engineering dimension: Finally, Marshall and colleagues acknowledge the significant engineering challenges involved in creating wearable sensors that are sufficiently robust to operate within leisure contexts (although personally I don’t think there are many implications for sexual use from an engineering perspective).

Marshall and his colleagues concluded that many popular entertainments involve people voluntarily undergoing fearsome experiences (and my own take on this is that it can involve sexual behaviour and experiences). Ultimately, they argued that the creation of scary experiences has to take account of the multi-faceted nature of fear, that involves cultural, visceral, social, and control factors outlined above.

I’ve yet to come across any focused research on gas mask fetishes and/or sexuality. There are a few first person articles examining the issue although not from the user perspective. I’ll leave you with perhaps the most interesting by artist Callidus who examined gas mask fetishism from an aesthetic perspective after coming across (by accident) some gas mask imagery:

“I’m not sure why gas mask imagery has never really appealed to me; any more than I understand why its such a turn-on for others…When I came across this particular series of images, what really grabbed my interest was the contrast…Contrast is the foundation of all design. Whether its contrast between form, color, or aesthetic, the difference between A and B is where interesting things happen. In this case, I found the contrast between the beautiful lines of the female form and the harsh, industrial design of a gas mask to be very striking…I find bondage to be especially potent here. The image of a woman encased in this foreboding mask, unable to shut out the sights or sounds engulfing her senses while her limbs are restrained from affecting any sort of aid. It works for me”

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

Further reading

Bebbington, P.E. (1977). Treatment of male sexual deviation by use of a vibrator: Case report. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 21-24.

Callidus (2011). I don’t have a gas mask fetish…and yet. August 3. Located at: http://callidus-mc.com/animated-manips/i-dont-have-a-gas-mask-fetish-and-yet

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

Marshall, J., Walker, B., Benford, S., Tomlinson, G, Egglestone, S.R., Reeves, S. Brundell, P., Tennent, P., Cranwell, J., Harter, P. & Longhurst, J. (2011). The gas mask: A probe for exploring fearsome interactions. Proceedings of the 2011 Annual Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp.127-136). New York, NY.

Nation Master (2012). Mask fetishism. Located at: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Mask-fetishism

Skugarevsky, O., Ehrlich, E., & Sheleg, S. (2011). Accidental strangulation resulted from hypoxyphilia associated with multiple paraphilias and substance abuse: a psychological autopsy case report. Romanian Journal of Legal Medicine, 19, 249-252.