As regular readers of my blog will know, I have had a longstanding professional interest in the psychology of sexually paraphilic behaviour. My interest in the topic first began when I was a 14-year old teenager listening to Adam and the Ants B-sides (all of which were about different types of extreme and/or unusual sexual behaviours. In one of my previous blogs, I argued that Adam Ant’s music has covered more atypical sexual behaviours than any other recording artist that I can think of (e.g. sadism, masochism, bondage, fetishism, transvestism, voyeurism, etc.). There is little doubt that Adam’s music had a great influence on my career, but what were Adam’s influences that made him the person he became?
In addition to the sexual content of his lyrics, Adam’s earliest stage personas were also very sexual. Adam bought his clothes from ‘SEX’, the shop run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood which was also infamous for selling rubber and leather fetish wear. (McLaren later briefly became The Ants manager and even tried to get Adam and his band to star in a pornographic film with female punk band The Slits). The first t-shirt he ever bought there was provocative and controversial (featuring the ‘Cambridge Rapist‘). One of McLaren’s best-selling t-shirts (‘Vive Le Rock‘) later became the title of Adam’s 1985 single and album. Adam’s interest in sex was all-consuming and spilled over into most areas of his and The Ants lives. It was common at early gigs for Adam to be dressed in bondage gear.
One infamous incident happened at their debut gig at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (10th May 1977). To get the gig, Adam said his band were a country and western band. He then got on stage dressed in bondage trousers and a leather head mask, and performed the future S&M classic Beat My Guest (later to be a B-side of their first No. 1 hit Stand and Deliver). Predictably, they were ‘asked to leave’ after that opening number.
Early gigs (1977-1979) were known as places to buy lots of eye-catching merchandise (t-shirts, badges, posters etc.) featuring sadomasochistic and bondage sex-themes designed by Adam. Advertisements for the 1979 tour were the first to use the slogan ‘Antmusic for Sexpeople’. To Adam, ‘sexpeople’ were people who got off on sexual phenomena, who liked sexual imagery and enjoyed being sexual. In a Melody Maker interview he said ‘What weʼre basically dealing with here with is taboos, and a lot of my work as a kind of music therapy‘. Adam’s first major interview as cover star in (the now defunct) Sounds was where he was described as ‘the face that launched a thousand whips’. His breakthrough album Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980) may have surprised his new young fan base as it came with a free booklet full of sexual imagery.
Although Adam clearly has musical influences, most of those he talks about or name checks in his songs appear to have more to do with image than music or his overriding interest in sex. Early influences like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates may have inspired some of his later images. The first record he bought was Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles, but rarely makes reference to them as any kind of musical influence. The early 1970s appear to have thrown up more influences where music and sexuality was talked about in relation to the person if not their songs (Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Roxy Music). For instance, he loved the New York Dolls ‘because they looked like drag queens‘. His inspiration for forming Adam & the Ants was seeing the Sex Pistols very first gig when they supported the first band he was in (a short-lived band called Bazooka Joe). It was after this that a plethora of sexual punky songs were written for the Ants.
In an interview with Derek Hardman (Inside Out magazine, 1979), Adam described the lyrical content of his songs as dealing with ‘subjects of interest, mystery and imagination‘ and that they came from ‘living my life, reading, films, events and history‘. This quote also carries the implicit assumption that musical influences paid little (if any) part in his lyrical obsessions. The only thing that really connects sex with music is the perception that being a ‘popstar’ will bring more sexual opportunities. For instance in the Antbox book, Adam says:
“I remember being in a room with four girls watching [Marc] Bolan on ‘Top of the Pops’ and it was the first time I had actually watched four girls just absolutely dripping, climaxing , looking at a guy… Whatever it is, I want some!”
Very few of his musical heroes wrote explicit songs about sex and it is clear that the (sometimes) extreme sexuality of his lyrics originate elsewhere. By digging a little deeper it becomes abundantly clear that his interest in art lay the foundations of his sexual interests. By looking at the individuals who Adam held in high esteem, it becomes very clear that Adam’s predisposition towards sex comes not from musical influences but from figures in the 20th century art world. Adam originally wanted a career in Art after seeing an exhibition of Pop Art at the Tate Gallery in London (1971). He ended up studying Graphic Design at Hornsey College of Art (now part of Middlesex University) in North London. His favourite class was the ‘Erotic Arts’ course taught by art historian Peter Webb. This concentrated on Indian, Chinese, and Japanese traditions of erotic painting, drawing, and sculpture. Adam was also interested by women’s role in society and he was the only male at his college to take the class in ‘Women In Society’.
Adam was inspired by the iconographic images of Andy Warhol, the autoerotic paintings of Allen Jones, the neo-sadomasochistic fantasies of Hans Bellmer, and ‘sexpop’ travellers like Eduardo Paolozzi, Francis Bacon and Stanley Spencer. All these people clearly influenced his music. In 1977, Adam said:
“The S&M thing stems from [when] I was at College Art School, with John Ellis (of the Vibrators), and all the time I was at Art College I was very influenced by Allen Jones the artist. All my college work is pretty much like this, this is just a musical equivalent of what I was visually doing at college. Iʼm not personally into S&M, I mean I never smacked the arse of anybody. It’s the power and the imagery. There’s a certain imagery involved with that which I find magnetic. It’s not done viciously, if you read S&M mags and spank mags or anything like that, it’s done with an essence of humour…war dress and stuff, that just appeals to my imagination.
While at Art College, Adam did a thesis on sexual perversion:
I read lots of books and discovered much to my surprise that it wasn’t just a kick, it was a deadly serious subject. A very sort of medical thing and I found I got a source of material for my songs. I wrote a song called ‘Rubber People’ which is a serious look at rubber fetishism. And I also wrote one about transvestism. Theyʼre not serious, none of my songs are serious, I mean fucking hell. Theyʼre serious to me. But the thing is that with, say, ‘Transvestism’ people just laugh at people. If somebody’s wearing a pair of rubber underpants under a pin-stripe suits it’s funny, y’know. But I don’t think itʼs funny. I don’t think it’s any more strange than watching fucking ‘Crossroads‘ every night”
It was perhaps Adam’s art heroes that most influenced him. By looking very briefly at each of Adam’s artistic heroes, it is easy to see where the inspiration for many of his early lyrics came from. The most important influences were Allen Jones, Stanley Spencer, Eduardo Paolozzi, Hans Bellmer, Francis Bacon (name checked in the song ‘Piccadilly‘), and Andy Warhol. These brief sketches show that his early music is a direct musical equivalent of his heroes’ artwork (particularly Jones, Bellmer and Paolozzi). The influence of Warhol, Bacon and Spencer is more subtle. These three individuals all produced controversial work (which Adam found inspiring).
It might also be argued that all three had a somewhat troubled or tortured sexuality. This again, may have been of interest to Adam. The only other artists that Adam has singled out are Pablo Picasso and the Italian futurists. Adam was impressed by Picasso’s “genius, energy and sexuality” and was the subject of one of Adam’s best album tracks ‘Picasso Visits The Planet of the Apes‘. A whole song (‘Animals and Men‘) is devoted to the Italian futurists on the debut album (Dirk Wears White Sox). In this song he writes about the influence of Filippo Marinetti (1876-1944), Giacomo Balla (1871-1958), Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) and Carlo Carra (1881-1966). The Futurists were a 20th century avant garde movement in Italian art, sculpture, literature, music, cinema and photography. Their manifesto broke with the past and celebrated modern technology, dynamism and power. The combination of different art media was appealing to Adam although there was nothing overtly sexual in the work of its exponents.
Film – like art – was also important to Adam, and as a teenage usher at the Muswell Hill Odeon he saw lots of films in his formative years. Adam has gone on record many times to say that his film hero is Dirk Bogarde. The Ants first album (the aforementioned Dirk Wears White Sox) was named after him and some of his films provided inspiration for his songs. Many of his most notorious films (The Servant, Death In Venice, The Night Porter) dealt with taboo areas with which Adam identified and/or had a fascination with. All these films feature taboo sexual subjects (or at least taboo at the time the film was made) and probably appealed to Adam because of their taboo nature. These were all a direct influence on Adam’s early songwriting.
Outside of Dirk Bogarde and his films, Adam cites his film heroes as Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Mongomery Clift and Charles Bronson. Adam makes few references to films or film stars in his song writing, although there are name checks for Michael Caine, John Wayne, Terence Stamp, and Charles Hawtrey in ‘Friends‘, Clint Eastwood in ‘Los Rancheros‘, Steve McQueen in ‘Steve McQueen‘, Robert de Niro in ‘Christian Dior‘, and Bruce Lee in ‘Bruce Lee‘. He also dedicated one song that he wrote about the film Psycho (‘Norman‘) to its star Anthony Perkins. Again, these film stars and their films (bar Bogarde) have had little influence on his sexually themed songs.
There are very few references to literary heroes in Adam’s work and even less that is sex-related. The gay playwright Joe Orton (1933-1967) is one influence who has impacted on Adam’s life. Adam wrote one song about Orton’s homosexual relationship with his lover Kenneth Halliwell (‘Prick Up Your Ears’ on the Redux LP). However, the lyrics didn’t fit the pirate theme of the second album (Kings of the Wild Frontier) and were changed. This song eventually became ‘The Magnificent Five‘. In 1985, as part of his acting career, Adam performed in Joe Orton’s play Entertaining Mr. Sloane on stage at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Adam claimed that the ‘idea of playing a psychotic bisexual thug was good’. Ortonʼs comedies (Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot, and What The Butler Saw) are all black, stylish, and violent. Furthermore, they all have an emphasis on corruption and sexual perversion. With such content it is easy to see why Adam enjoyed these. However, it is not known when Adam was first aware of Orton’s work. The likelihood is that his appreciation of Orton was after many of his initial songs were written.
The German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was also one of Adamʼs literary inspirations and the subject of early live favourite ‘Nietzsche Baby‘. Nietzsche is most well known for his rejection of Christian morality (which no doubt appealed to Adam) and the ‘revision of all values’. Despite the influence, there was little in his writings that would have inspired Adam’s sex- related writings. Passing reference to both the US ‘beat generation’ writer Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) and the French novelist and playwright Albert Camus (1913-1960; a protagonist of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd‘ movement) make an appearance on his 1985 song ‘Anger Inc..‘ Again, these influences appear to be post-musical success and would have had little impact on his early sexual songwriting.
As a psychologist myself, I couldnʼt help make reference to Adam’s ‘psychological’ influences. The only time he has made reference specifically to a psychologist is a name check of Erich Fromm in his song ‘Friends’. It is obvious that Adam has read some of Fromm’s work as there are Frommian influences in his work. The ‘dog eat dog’ personality type (consciously or unconsciously) inspired his first big hit single (‘Dog Eat Dog‘). The ‘masochistic’ personality type permeates many of his early songs. The ‘marketing’ subtypes who concern themselves with image and style (and who feel inadequate if they are not admired) could be argued to be Adam himself. Alternatively he may have seen himself as the ‘productive’ type because of his creativity and ability to change himself.
By just scratching a little deeper at the surface of Adam’s influences, we see the roots of his lyrical sexuality. As time has gone on, less and less of Adamʼs songs have concerned sex. Furthermore, more love songs have made an appearance ( the LP Wonderful being a prime example). Maybe this is just an overt sign of the maturation process. Whatever it is, there is little to take away Adam’s crown as the king of sexual diversity.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Ant, A. (2007). Stand and Deliver: The Autobiography. London: Pan.
Griffiths, M.D (1999). Adam Ant: Sex and perversion for teenyboppers. Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 19, 116-119.
Wikipedia (2013). Adam and the Ants. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_and_the_Ants
Wikipedia (2013). Adam Ant. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Ant
According to Dr. Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, zelophilia is a sexual paraphilia and refers to individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from jealousy. This is the only academic definition I have come across and as academic definitions go, it is not the most helpful as it doesn’t say what kind of jealousy sexual arousal is linked to. Anecdotally, I am assuming that at the heart of zelophilia is a person being turned on by their sexual partner having a sexual and/or romantic relationship with another person. For instance, here are a few online posts to the Is It Normal? website:
- Extract 1: “Is it normal to get horny over being jealous? When my boyfriend gets hit on by other girls it really turns me on and I’ve even fantasized about walking in on him having sex with another girl even though I know it’d make me angry and upset and I’d probably dump him”.
- Extract 2: “I have the same turn on. I always picture me being tied down and having to watch someone else f**k my girlfriend. I don’t want them too, but she does. I think it’s part of the whole humiliation/submissive fetish I have”.
- Extract 3: “I can relate to the idea of being turned on by jealousy. My [boyfriend] has been on at me to have a [threesome] for about 18 months now finally I’m thinking about it. When I asked him why he wants me to do this he said he’d like to see another man giving me a good time an that he’d be jealous as hell, but as long as I was safe and having a good time then he’d be okay with that. He wants me to try a [foursome] but I can’t cope with girl on girl action, but the thought of another girl sucking him is a turn on even though I’m secretly jealous that he might prefer her to me”.
If zelophilia genuinely exists, then these online posts suggest that some people have indicative signs of what I would expect zelophiles to experience. They would also seem to psychologically and behaviourally overlap with cuckold fetishes (which I covered in a previous blog). A short article on zelophilia at the Kinkly website (like Dr. Aggrawal) says that the primary source of the sexual arousal is jealousy but also makes other (unsubstantiated) claims. More specifically it noted that:
“Zelophilia is a condition in which a person becomes sexually aroused by feelings of jealousy. This is a diagnosed medical condition that can be managed if the sufferer is able to learn to deal with and accommodate the fetish in some way. However, if zelophilia becomes an issue, it can be treated with psychoanalysis, hypnosis and therapy…While jealousy most often leads to harsh words, angry feelings, tears and sometimes break-ups, those with the zelophilia fetish get sexually aroused by jealous feelings. Managing this fetish within a healthy sexual relationship can be a real challenge”.
The information that was in the Kinkly article may have been based on the zelophilia entry at the Right Diagnosis online medical website as the wording and claims are very similar. The Right Diagnosis website claims that:
“Treatment [for zelophilia] is generally not sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way, or they come under scrutiny of the legal system, and become compelled to address their condition. Many people simply learn to accept their fetish and manage to achieve gratification in an appropriate manner”.
There are quite a few online articles on zelophilia but most of these are just personal opinion pieces with almost zero academic content (such as the one written by ‘Kinky Kelly’). However, another interesting online article I came across was one by Drew Albright who examined the (sometimes) paradoxical relationship between jealousy, envy and the BDSM scene. She made the following observation:
“In many ways envy and jealousy in relation to sex is a paradox. On the one hand, envy and jealousy is at the core of eroticism – I want that, ‘I want to do that’, ‘That body is mine!’ are all examples of lust, a.k.a envy. Fetish and BDSM play and behaviors are ways that many find fun to explore and safely let their inner piggy out! On the other hand, when we are unaware of our own propensity for envy on the grand scale and in our everyday lives, we can act them out in sexualized power struggles, which ultimately have nothing to do with sex or sex interest itself”.
While researching this blog I also came across the following post at the Answers Yahoo website.
“I thought I’d ask this in the dating section but I figured I would get better answers here. It is not out of insecurity because truthfully (call me whatever you want) I am considered extremely attractive and I can say myself that I get plenty of attention whenever I am out. For some reason I have this sick and disgusting addiction to making guys jealous. Especially the confident type. If I can tell a guy is sweet and genuine I do it still but less. However, when the guy seems shady to me and is approaching and pursuing me, I for some reason LOVE for him to see me hit on my other guys, etc. I see their reactions and it turns me on like none other. It is an addiction and a sick one. Not sure what to do what is wrong with me? Maybe I am insecure and don’t know it?”
This online self-admission appeared to fit Dr. Aggrawal’s definition of zelophilia but is different from the self-confessions at the beginning of this article because the person gets aroused from making her sexual partners jealous rather than the sexual arousal being caused by the sexual partner being with another person. My own observation that zelophilia shares similarities with cuckold fetish, has also been made by others. For instance, the article on zelophilia by the (admittedly non-academic) ‘Fetish University’ run by female dominatrix ‘Empress Ivy’ on her Masturbation Fascination website noted:
“I see this particular fetish most frequently with cuckold and coerced [fellatio] or bisexual fantasies. Most start out with the admission of their wife’s infidelity and they go into great detail about how jealous they felt that their wife was with another man. A man that is stronger, more masculine, has a bigger [penis], and can sexually satisfy her in ways the husband could not. Obviously the initial admission of this would spark jealousy, or perhaps resentment, but at the same time – when these events are recalled the callers clearly become aroused by it”.
Zelophilia appears to be yet another sexual paraphilia of which we know next to nothing about, and although there appears to be some anecdotal evidence that it exists, the “evidence” (such that it is) is far from conclusive.
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.
Albright, D. (2005). Fetish & BDSM: Fantasy Fun or Envy & Jealousy Taken to the Extreme, World of Jimmy Star. Located at: http://worldofjimmystar.com/Issue10/fetish_bdsm_fantasy_fun_or_jealousy_to_extreme_drew_albright.htm
Harris, C. R. (2002) Sexual and romantic jealousy in heterosexual and homosexual adults. Psychological Science, 13, 7–12.
Kinky Kelley (2011). Fetish: Zelophilia, January 26. Located at: http://kinkykelleykicksthekurse.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/fetish-zelophilia/
Simons, I. (2009). On fetishes and clean pencil tips. Psychology Today, March 8. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-literary-mind/200903/fetishes-and-clean-pencil-tips
Wikipedia (2013). Cuckold. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuckold
The words ‘sex’ and ‘radiator’ probably don’t appear in the same sentence too often but today’s blog is the result of a bet I made with a good friend of mine who – knowing some of the weird topics and behaviours that I have covered in my blog – wagered that I couldn’t write a blog on ‘radiator sex’ (whatever that is). Obviously there is no academic literature on such a topic and the sources that I have used in this article are far from being scientific and empirical. But being a Professor of Gambling Studies, a bet is a bet.
In a previous blog I examined objectophilia (or ‘objectum sexuality’ [OS] as it is known within the scientific and sexology community). OS 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. 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.
In my previous OS blog, I briefly recounted the story of 41-year-old Joachim A. from Germany, a man who self-admittedly fell head over heels “into an emotionally and physically very complex and deep relationship, which lasted for years.” His partner as a teenager was a Hammond organ. He now claims to have been in a steady relationship for years with a steam locomotive The reason I mention this case was that Joachim A. was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel and was reported as saying:
“We’re by no means just straightforward fetishists…For some people, their car becomes a fetish which they use to put themselves in the limelight. For the objectum-sexual, on the other hand, the car itself – and nothing else – is the desired sexual partner, and all sexual fantasies and emotions are focused on it…A love affair could very well begin with a broken radiator…You can reveal yourself to an object partner in an intimate way, in a way that you would never reveal yourself to any other person [including the desire to] experience sexuality together”.
Obviously the reference to a love affair for an objectophile beginning with the “broken radiator” was probably hypothetical on Joachim’s part (although there’s always the possibility he was speaking from personal experience). Whether actual or hypothetical, the fact that an objectophile gave the example of possible love and sex with a radiator suggests there might be a few individuals out there who are sexually attracted to radiators. My next (predictable) course of action was to type ‘radiator fetish’ into Google. On one website I came across the following post written by a woman entitled ‘Hot sex fetish (very weird)’ that if true (and I can’t prove it is but it appears genuine) appears to suggest that ‘radiator fetishism’ exists:
“I’m about to buy a house and be locked into it for the next 15-20 years because I have a radiator fetish. What can I do? It started way back in school. i had got my first period and was whisked off to the gym’s changing rooms with my friend. Blood in my panties and it had started to show on my trousers as well. So [I] had a shower, washed out my panties and give my trousers a bit of a scrub. Now half naked with just spare towel around me I cuddled against the radiator next to my clothes in an attempt to dry them and keep warm so I didn’t have to wear the lost property. [I then talked to one of my friends]. We just chatted for about 20 minutes about random stuff until the topic got on to the subject of boys and sex…At this point, I have to say I’ve never even kissed a boy, never mind sex…but my friend was telling me how hot a penis feels and started to rub herself up the corner of the radiator saying this feels like him on top of you and it just kinda started from there.
Throughout my teenage years I’d leave my homework until last moment and copy other girls, just so I could do it [in] the break before class. I’d stay in the hall way out of sight of the teachers and other students and lean over a radiator onto the shelf while I [copied the] work, rubbing myself (making it look like I was tapping my feet as I was rushing, in case anyone caught me) until I mostly [reached orgasm] and then off to class I’d trot, happy and red face glowing. Later on, I needed that ‘warm’ feeling all the time to orgasm. It’s now 15 years later and I still masturbate while sitting on a hot radiator, the smell of the heat or just catching an unexpected glimpse of a radiator gets me wet. Not any radiator will do though, they have to be the old cast iron, column ones like I had at school. I’ve had sex in more pubs then I’d like to remember, but mostly because they commonly have the cast iron type that I can get pushed up against or layback on.
My fetish has escalated to the point its out control now. I have a really nice boyfriend who doesn’t know about my fetish. I just tell him I like Victorian features, hot water bottles are for period cramps, etc. We’re just about to get a mortgage on a house because [it has] a bay window with a large cast iron radiator in the middle. We’ve already had sex over one like it several times before (yes I told you it was out of control) from a house I rented a few years back… and can’t wait for winter when the heating will be set to max. What do I do to stop this weird fetish? Do I embrace it or stop it? Very confused”
To me, this story sounds very believable and fits the adolescent development pattern of other accounts of how other fetishes often develop (i.e., through early associative pairing and classical conditioning). I also came across another online snippet that bore similarities with the story above:
“There used to be a picture (maybe there still is) on a DJ Black hard drive of three girls bending over a radiator to look out a window with their bare bottoms showing…You have to wonder if there is a fetish about radiators. At school the girls used to sit on the radiators that teachers had to start handing out detentions like sweeties to keep them off them. Okay so this is tenuous, but a while back there was a brief discussion on one of the boards about who got the cane and why. One of the women said she had got the cane for ‘persistently sitting on school radiators’. Being 16, at the time she thought the worst thing was being teased about sitting and punishments fitting the crime. That is until she was 18 and ended up at the school leaving do with some friends and beers in the head’s office. One of the kids went through his files and pulled out her school record. There in black and white were the words ‘caned, six strokes, deterrent against sitting on school radiators.’ You have got to wonder if she ever looked at a radiator the same way again”
Again, this observation suggests that a few females may have developed a strong liking for sitting on warm radiators because they produce a warm sexual feeling that leads to repetitive behaviour. Another person claimed to be turned on by a radiator on the Intimate Medicine website (but provided no details)
The only other type of sexual behaviour that I have come across (where radiators are part of the sexual act) are within sadomasochistic acts where individuals handcuff their sexual partners (consensually or non-consensually) to old style radiators (like the examples described above). Fictionally, there are a number of examples of people being handcuffed to radiators that have sexual connotations. Perhaps the most infamous recent example is in the film Black Snake Moan where Samuel L. Jackson’s character chains a skeletal Christina Ricci to his radiator in an attempt to “cure her of promiscuity”. The New York Times noted it their review of the film that:
“No doubt ‘Black Snake Moan’ is a provocative title, but a more accurate one might be ‘Chaining Miss Daisy to the Radiator in Her Underwear’”
A more real-life example was reported in a 2011 Daily Mail story. A judge, Patricia DiMango declared that sadomasochism can be criminal even if it’s consensual. The ruling occurred during the trial of 45-year old New York man John Hopkins, a self-confessed sex-slave master accused of raping a 27-year-old female sex slave from Wisconsin “who would be flogged and chained to a radiator if she disobeyed his rules”. Hopkins pleaded not guilty to all charges claimed that they were a couple into sadomasochistic role-playing. DiMango was quoted as saying:
“In these types of situations, with the facts presented by both sides, both the consensual and criminal can co-exist. At some point, it can change to a situation where no means no. There comes a time when they’re not playful fun any more and they become dangerous – criminally dangerous”.
I’ll end today’s blog (and win my bet) by briefly recounting another radiator sex story that appeared in many news outlets (and arguably has some similarities with the infamous Gimp scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction). Viktor Jasinski, a Russian man broke into Olga Zajac’s hair salon looking for cash but instead of calling the police (and using her black belt martial arts expertise), the salon owner beat up the Russian, tied him to a radiator with a hair dryer cord in the salon’s back room, and kept him as a sex slave for three days (using Viagra against the man’s will) before letting him go.
My brief examination of sexual radiator use hopefully shows that radiator fetishism may exist (and that it appears to be more female-based than male-based), that it’s theoretically possible for a human being to fall in love with a radiator (and have sexual relationship should they so wish), and that sadomasochistic practitioners may use radiators as part of their sexual role-playing games (either consensually or by coercion).
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Daily Mail (2011). S&M can be ‘criminal even if it’s consensual’ says judge in Craigslist sex-slave case. March 12. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365531/S-M-criminal-consensual-says-judge-Craigslist-sex-slave-case.html
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
Moylan, B. Robber beat up by hair salon owner and kept as sex slave. The Gawker, July 12. Located at: http://gawker.com/5820419/robber-beat-up-by-hair-salon-owner-and-kept-as-sex-slave
Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships
Thadeusz, F. (2007). Objectophilia, Fetishism and Neo-Sexuality: Falling in Love with Things. Der Spiegel, November 5. Located at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,482192,00.html
In previous blogs, I have looked at various aspects of sexually masochistic behaviour. However, some masochistic behaviours have religious (rather than sexual) motivations. Many people’s first awareness of religious masochism might have been Paul Bettany’s portrayal of the self-flagellating albino Catholic monk (Silas) in The Da Vinci Code film (based on Dan Brown’s bestseller). Silas was a member of Opus Dei, a branch of the Catholic Church that has a reputation of being highly secretive. The inflicting of pain upon oneself by Opus Dei adherents is one of a number of self-initiated behaviours involved in the practice of mortification. According to the Wikipedia entry on Opus Dei:
“Mortification the voluntary offering up of discomfort or pain to God; this includes fasting, or in some circumstances self-inflicted pain such as self-flagellation. Mortification has a long history in many world religions, including the Catholic Church. It has been endorsed by Popes as a way of following Christ, who died in a bloody crucifixion and who gave this advice: ‘let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Lk 9:23). Supporters say that opposition to mortification is rooted in having lost (1) the ‘sense of the enormity of sin’ or offense against God, and the consequent penance, both interior and exterior, (2) the notions of ‘wounded human nature’ and of concupiscence or inclination to sin, and thus the need for ‘spiritual battle’, and (3) a spirit of sacrifice for love and ‘supernatural ends’, and not only for physical enhancement. Critics claim that such practices that inflict pain are counterproductive given modern advances. As a spirituality for ordinary people, Opus Dei focuses on performing sacrifices pertaining to normal duties and to its emphasis on charity and cheerfulness. Additionally, Opus Dei celibate members practise ‘corporal mortifications’ such as sleeping without a pillow or sleeping on the floor, fasting or remaining silent for certain hours during the day”.
According to a BBC news story on why Catholics engage in self-flagellation the article asserted that such behaviour is acted out for symbolic purposes during penitential processions (typically in Mediterranean countries during Lent – to remind devout believers that Jesus was whipped before he was crucified). It was even alleged that Pope John Paul II (who was made a saint by the Catholic church earlier this week) possibly engaged in self-flagellation. Other devotees in other countries (such as the Philippines, and some South American countries) participate in ‘Passion Plays’ where people will engage in painful practices that draw blood.
Last year, I was interviewed about religious self-harm as part of the television series Forbidden – a program on which I was the resident psychologist. The documentary focused on a man from Brazil (Adriano Da Silva) who was totally devoted to God. However, weekly praying wasn’t enough to prove their dedication and faith. As the production notes reported:
“They are hardcore penitents who feel to get closer to God you need to endure the literal suffering of Jesus Christ – you need to cut yourself with razor blades…[Adriano is a] very spiritual man, he prays many times a day, reads his bible, and attends church. However, Adriano is about to take his faith to a completely new level. He’s about to undergo the biggest change of his young life. He is about to become the leader of a group of hardcore and extreme religious penitents, The Brotherhood of Canindezinho. He’s been in training for this moment for a long time, self inflicted punishment is what being a penitent is all about. He’s gone without food for days, walked for miles and miles in the desert to get closer to God. But before he can become leader he must do something he’s never done before. He must make a leap of faith he’s observed for years but always been too frightened to go ahead with. On the biggest day of their religious calendar, Adriano will self-flagellate for the first time, cutting himself with blades until the blood runs down his back and drips to the street below”.
Adriano was taking over as the leader of the ‘Brotherhood of Canindezinho’ (Chico Varela). In fact, Chico was the person that taught Adriano how to attach the razor blades to the string and mentored him through the process of how to psychologically prepare himself for the self-inflicted harm he was about to undertake. His first self-flagellation took place in front of his fellow penitents in the resurrection ritual – the largest religious event of the Brotherhood calendar:
“This is a mass self-flagellations event where The Brotherhood of Canindezinho join up with a neighbouring group of penitents – The Brotherhood of Varzea Alegre [led by Antonio Viera]. They will meet up in the local town square and then drag a giant cross through the town till they get to the cemetery. It is here that they will then begin to cut themselves. Chico will be performing a vital task during the event. He’ll be monitoring Adriano and the other penitents to ensure their safety so that they don’t lose too much blood. ‘When consumed with the passion of the Christ it is easy to lose yourself in the pain, your own safety becomes secondary, this is why it’s important for us to look after our fellow Brothers’. The sun goes down over the cemetery and still the penitents continue to lash themselves…As blood drips down, the penitents report feeling no pain or withstanding the pain for a higher purpose: ‘Jesus gives me the power’, says a penitent”
For the Brotherhood of Canindezinho, the purpose of self-flagellation ritual is to (i) purify their soul and redeem them on unholy acts, such as women and alcohol, as a step to be closer to God; and (ii) thank God for granting them graces they previously petitioned for (e.g., somebody recovering from a serious illness or somebody that got themselves out of a serious financial situation). The television production notes also reported that:
“The selected penitents take their shirts off, at once, and go at it. They self-flagellate for 20 minutes, approximately, hitting their backs with sharp razor blades attached to the end of a string relentlessly. Children, from age 10 up can also participate in the ritual. Women, on the contrary cannot, since they are already believed to be ‘sufferers’. Once the self-flagellating is over, the penitents put their shirts back on – as if nothing just happened, and go home to cleanse the wounds”.
Other articles on religious flagellation (such as one by Geoffrey Abbott in the online version of Encyclopaedia Britannica) also claim that self-flagellation is used as a way to drive out evil spirits, to purify, and “as an incorporation of the animal power residing in the whip” but that none of these reasons encompass the whole range of the religious custom. In fact, Abbott claimed:
“In antiquity and among prehistoric cultures, ceremonial whippings were performed in rites of initiation, purification, and fertility, which often included other forms of physical suffering. Floggings and mutilations were sometimes self-inflicted. Beatings inflicted by masked impersonators of gods or ancestors figured in many Native American initiations. In the ancient Mediterranean, ritual floggings were practiced by the Spartans, and Roman heretics were whipped with thongs of oxtail, leather, or parchment strips, some being weighted with lead”.
During my research for this article, I came across numerous academic papers that noted religious and cultural factors may influence self-harm but none of these papers indicated how prevalent religious self-harm was (but I am assuming it was rare given the lack of statistics). Given that we know little about the incidence or prevalence of such behaviour, this is certainly an area worthy of further academic research.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Abbott, G. (2013). Flagellation. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, June 6. Located at: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/209255/flagellation
Babiker, G. & Arnold, L. (1997). The Language of Injury: Comprehending Self-Mutilation. Leicester: British Psychological Society Books
BBC News (2009). Why do some Catholics self-flagellate? November 24. Located at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8375174.stm
Walsh, B.W. & Rosen, P.M. (1988) Self-Mutilation: Theory, Research and Treatment. New York:Guilford Press.
Wikipedia (2014). Mortification of the flesh. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortification_of_the_flesh
Wikipedia (2014). Opus Dei. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opus_Dei
In previous blogs I have examined both people’s fascination with death and human near death experiences (NDEs). Another aspect to NDEs that I didn’t mention in those articles was the idea of people being “addicted” to NDEs. Arguably, most people’s perceptions of ‘near death addiction’ are probably based on the 1990 US film Flatliners. In that film, a group of five medical students (played by Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt and William Baldwin) attempt to examine whether there is anything beyond death by carrying out experiments into NDEs. Keifer Sutherland’s character (Nelson) is continually made to experience clinical death (i.e., flatlining with no heartbeat) before being brought back to life by his classmates.
This Hollywood portrayal of possible ‘near death addiction’ bears little resemblance to the academic literature – most of which has been written from a psychodynamic perspective – and relates more to continual self-destructive experiences (usually by adolescents or young adults). The concept of ‘addiction to near death’ (ATND) originates from the writings of Dr. Betty Joseph, a distinguished psychoanalytic clinician often lauded as “the psychoanalysts’ psychoanalyst” and known for her work with highly resistant ‘difficult to treat’ patients. Dr. Joseph first wrote about the ‘addiction to near death’ concept in a 1982 issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. This form of masochistic pathology was a concept that she found useful when working with psychologically dysfunctional adolescents. As Dr. Janet Shaw noted in a more recent 2012 paper on ATND in the Journal of Child Psychotherapy:
“At [the adolescent] stage of development, there is a tendency for adolescents who are troubled to turn to destructive or self-destructive behaviour, suicidal ideation, self-harm, self-starvation and inappropriate sexual behaviour. This is often profoundly shocking and alarming to others, especially if the young person finds the impact on others pleasurable. [Betty] Joseph described a patient addicted to near death as being caught up in a wish to gain pleasure by destroying both himself and the analytic relationship…[She] described masochistic destruction of the self taking place with libidinal satisfaction, despite much concomitant pain. The masochistic position is deeply addictive and this way of using pain for the purposes of pleasure becomes habitual. She summed this up as, ‘the sheer unequalled sexual delight of the grim masochism’ and described the awful pleasure that is achieved in this way”.
However, as Dr. Shaw rightly points out, not all types of destructive and self-destructive behaviour fall into such a category. In her 1982 paper, Dr. Joseph outlined case studies she had treated psychoanalytically from her private practice. Here, she described the masochistic dynamics of her patients, and how hard it was for them to alter these dynamics and get better. She noted that one of the key aspects of the dynamics she described was that her patients derived immense libidinal satisfaction from engaging in destructive near-death behaviours. More specifically, she wrote:
“There is a very malignant type of self-destructiveness, which we see in a small group of our patients, and which is, I think, in the nature of an addiction – an addiction to near-death. It dominates these patients’ lives; for long periods it dominates the way they bring material to the analysis and the type of relationship they establish with the analyst; it dominates their internal relationships, their so-called thinking, and the way they communicate with themselves. It is not a drive towards a Nirvana type of peace or relief from problems, and it has to be sharply differentiated from this. The picture that these patients present is, I am sure, a familiar one – in their external lives these patients get more and more absorbed into hopelessness and involved in activities that seem destined to destroy them physically as well as mentally, for example, considerable over-working, almost no sleep, avoiding eating properly or secretly over-eating if the need is to lose weight”.
In a 2006 issue of Psychanalytic Psychology, Dr. William Gottdeiner also noted that the ATND is such a strong motive that successful treatment of such individuals is unusually difficult. However, Dr. Gottdeiner asserted that one of the severe weaknesses of Joseph’s writings is that she failed to provide in-depth clinical examples of anyone who had engaged in potentially deadly activities. This, Gottdeiner contended, threatened the validity of the ATND construct. Despite such inherent weaknesses, Gottdeiner still believed the ATND construct had strong face validity (i.e., “there are people who seem to repeatedly engage in potentially lethal behavior, making the ATND construct plausible”). Consequently, Gottdeiner tested the construct validity of ATND on females with substance use disorders (SUDs). His argument was that:
“If individuals who are diagnosed with an SUD are successfully treated and they continue to engage in potentially deleterious behavior, then that finding would support the notion that the individual has an addiction to near-death experiences, and that the individual’s substance abuse was a comorbid disorder”.
Gottdeiner’s paper attempted to validate the ATND construct via secondary analysis “of data from a treatment outcome study of individuals who were in residential therapeutic community treatment for SUDs and who received simultaneous safe-sex education during treatment”. His study findings showed that despite safe-sex education and sexual activity in the therapeutic communities being prohibited, that some of the participants still engaged in risky sexual behaviour (irrespective of whether their sexual partners were HIV-positive or not). Gottdeiner argued that these findings tentatively supported the ATND construct. However, Gottdeiner was the first to admit that his study had inherent weaknesses. As he noted:
“The limitations were: data were from retrospective self-reports [and] contained no baseline measures of sexual activity, safe-sex knowledge, condom use, HIV status; it had no male participants, no specific questions about near-death behavior, nor whether alternative safe-sex activities were practice…The limitations of [the] study are considerable, and some might even argue that the connection between the ATND construct and the data presented herein is too much of a stretch to be scientifically useful…Obviously, stronger data would lead to stronger conclusions. Despite the limitations of this study, the findings should motivate clinicians to more seriously consider the existence of an addiction to near-death in their clients”.
More recently, Dr. Janet Shaw examined the ATND construct through the description and evaluation of an in-depth case study account of an adolescent female (‘Susan’). Her paper explored “the way in which pleasure, which is sadistic and masochistic in nature, is associated with cruelty towards the self or others in adolescence”. Dr. Shaw wrote that it felt as if Susan’s main aim was to torment her. As Shaw reported:
“In addition to suicide threats, similar to those she made in the assessment, she made constant reference to systematically starving herself. She was painfully thin, although not actually anorexic and she was poisoning herself by repeatedly taking paracetamol. Susan’s threats to self-harm had a deeply disturbing quality and she clearly enjoyed making them. There was a wish to punish me, as well as herself, through her phantasised attacks…The case material is an example of an adolescent girl with ‘an addiction to near death’ constituting a dominant way of relating to others. Her relentless and manipulative references to self-harm, suicide and dangerous behaviour at various stages of the work were designed to shock and alarm…Susan’s self-destructive behaviour was also continuing in relation to her self- starvation. She said she took laxatives in an attempt to lose more weight. She was becoming dangerously thin and three years into her psychotherapy an appointment with the referring psychiatrist resulted in a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa”.
This quote doesn’t do justice to the very detailed account that Dr. Shaw provided in her lengthy paper. However, her written account is heartfelt and brutally honest. Shaw concludes that the compelling power of addiction overviewed in Susan’s case mustn’t be underestimated. As she notes:
“The narcissistic idealisation of sadistic and masochistic behaviour offers some protection from fear and terror for the patient, but the consequence is to severely limit capacity for thought and imagination, and to restrict awareness. ‘Addition to near death’ forms a small but significant component of the clinical casework of a child and adolescent psychotherapist: it is hoped that Susan’s case material serves to illuminate the phenomenon further and its technical challenges”.
Whether the clinical case of Susan provides any more evidence for validation for Joseph’s ATND construct than the more empirical work of Gottdeiner is debatable. However, this is certainly a fascinating – if somewhat harrowing – area of clinical and academic work that certainly warrants further empirical examination.
Gottdiener, W.H. (2006). A preliminary test of the Addiction-to-Near-Death construct. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23, 661-666.
Joseph, B. (1982). Addiction to near death. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 449-456.
Joseph, B. (1988). Addiction to near death. In Bott Spillius, E. (Ed.) Melanie Klein Today (pp.311-323). London and New York: Routledge.
Ryle, A. (1993). Addiction to the death instinct? A critical review of Joseph’s paper ‘Addiction to near death’. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 10, 88–92.
Shaw, J. (2012). Addiction to near death in adolescence. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 38, 111-129.
In a previous blog I examined the Furry Fandom (FF) and the people who like to dress up as animals and have sex dressed as animals. One particular subset of the FF is a group of people who engage in ‘pony-play’ (PP). PP is overtly more sexualized than FF and is a form of bondage that involves a person dressed as a ‘pony’ and a ‘rider’. The human pony (the submissive partner) can comprise ‘ponyboys’ or ‘ponygirls’ typically wears stylized horse adornments including riding straps, a leather saddle, reins, and a bit in the mouth. The human rider (the dominant) also wears stylized riding accessories such as a riding crop or a horse-whip. The riders may sit on the human pony and/or get the pony to cart them around. In his 2010 book, Pony training: Five case studies on pony play, ownership and kinky submission, Dr. Garth Mundinger-Klow notes that “Ponygirl, Ponyboy” was:
“A classic [sadomasochistic] fantasy immortalized in the drawings of of John Willie and used in the Sleeping Beauty Triology by Anne Rice. Typical pony garb includes a horsehair tail attached to a butt plug, a bit gag and/or bridle head harness, and reins. Often very high heels, a corset, and feather plumes in the hair are added. The arms are typically bound behind the back”.
However, many people’s views of PP (if they even have them) may have come from the documentary film Born In A Barn. This film was:
“An intimate and occasionally humorous look into the extraordinary erotic lives of four seemingly ordinary people. Born In A Barn takes us deep into the world of pony play, a fetish in which enthusiasts role-play as human ponies and handlers. Revealing the complex motives that drive each character to pursue this unusual passion and following them as they each confront the questions that being an erotic equine present, Born In A Barn is a film about finding an identity in the pursuit of an unconventional desire”.
Role-play is nothing new and the Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle is alleged to have loved being ridden like a horse. In fact, PP is (in some circles) referred to as ‘The Aristotelian Perversion’. In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates makes reference to the fact that ponyplay was depicted in Assyrian art dating back to 2000 B.C. More recently Gates notes that in the 19th century human ponyplay existed as an erotic amusement for the upper classes in British colonies.
As mentioned in my previous blog on the FF, the primary theme of such animal role-play is often the voluntary (and sometimes) involuntary reduction (or transformation) of human beings to animals, and a subsequent focus on the altered mind-space created by the transformation. The ponies in PP comprise three different groups although the activities are not mutually exclusive for the participants.
- Cart ponies: These are human ponies that pull a sulky with their rider (A sulky is a lightweight two-wheeled cart with a seat for the rider). These ponies wear bit-bridles and harnesses, blinkers, walk standing up, and have their hands secured behind their backs.
- Riding ponies: These are human ponies that are ridden on while they are on all fours or partly standing up on two legs by their rider (custom made saddle or bareback). Some (usually male) ponies prefer their riders to be on their shoulders. Riding ponies are harnessed, bridled and may wear blinkers.
- Show ponies: These are human ponies that show off their skills in dressage (e.g., choreographed pony-dance, cantering, etc.), can walk standing up or on their hands and knees, and typically wearing ornate and elaborate harnesses, plumes, etc.).
For the human pony, the sexual thrill rarely involves normal sexual contact. The sexual thrill is the fantasy of actually being a horse under the control of their dominant rider. The only time that actual sex takes place in PP is when the human ponies are engaged in a ‘stud service’ and one pony is bred to another. This requires explicit permission from the human pony’s “owner”. The practice of stud farming may also be role-played and fantasy-based (i.e., no real sexual intercourse taking place). It is believed that many submissive human ponies and their dominant riders are in a romantic, emotional and/or sexual relationship outside of PP although some only know each other in the context of PP.
In an online essay on PP, Malfouka makes the point that this particular fetish is “not for the lazy” as the preparation involved for all PP participants (i.e., trainers, owners, groomers and riders) is time intensive. Malfouka gives a detailed description of the main PP protagonists.
- Trainers: These are the people who actually train the human pony (and may train many such people). The trainer is responsible for turning those who wish to be pony into an actual pony. Malfouka says “this distinction is important in that in the world of ponyplay, there is protocol to follow”. The most important thing to take on board is that no-one is a pony simply because they pretend to be one. It takes a long time of training for the human pony be taught the appropriate stance, demeanour, behaviour, showmanship and submission. Trainers can also be owners, riders, and/or groomers.
- Owners: These are the people who “own” the human pony and are typically the riders too (i.e., the masters or mistresses). Owners plan the pony’s schedule, dress, and all associated activities (including which other riders can access the pony). Owners can also be trainers, riders, and/or groomers.
- Groomers: These are the people (often trainers and/or owners) who take charge of pony care (washing, bathing, petting, massaging, brushing hair), bathing.
- Riders: These are the people who ride the pony. Riders can comprise anyone that the owner and/or trainer have given permission to ride.
To date, there has been little empirical research on the topic of pony-play. An anthropological paper by Margot Weiss (Wesleyan University, US) in a 2006 issue of Anthropologica, examined the BDSM community in the San Francisco Bay Area (US). Her interviewees included people who identified themselves primarily as a pony (within a BDSM context). She argued that BDSM sexuality (including those who self-identified as a pony) should be conceptualized as a form of ‘working at play’ (WAP). WAP recognizes the ways that BDSM practitioners move between registers of work (productive labour) and play (creative recombination). Weiss’ analysis situates BDSM (and other sexualities) within “the shifting cultural geography of U.S. late-modernity, drawing attention to the ways sexuality blurs boundaries between individual-social, real-pretend and leisure-labour)”.
At the end of 2011, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) published an interesting paper on zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine (which I examined in a previous blog) and categorized those into pony-play as Class I zoosexuals (i.e., human–animal role-players). According to Aggrawal, Class 1 zoosexuals never have sex with actual animals but become sexually aroused through wanting to have sex with humans who pretend to be animals and who engage in pseudo-zoophilic acts (e.g., pet play, pony play, ponyism or pup-play). Personally, I don’t class this as a type of zoophilia at all but I can see Aggrawal’s logic in including the Furry Fandom and PP communities.
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.
Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.
Malfouka (undated). My Little Pony: The Aristotelian Perversion. Maximum Awesome. Located at: http://www.maximumawesome.com/pervfriday/ponypeople.htm
Mundinger-Klow, G. (2010). Pony training: Five case studies on pony play, ownership and kinky submission. Olympia Press.
Weiss, M.D. (2006). Working at Play: BDSM Sexuality in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anthropologica, 48, 229-245.
In previous blogs I have examined many different bodily substances that have formed the basis of paraphilic and/or fetishistic behaviour including urine (urophilia), faeces (coprophilia), blood (menophilia and clinical vampirism), and breast milk (lactophilia). One bodily fluid that has not really been the subject of scientific research is saliva in relation to saliva fetishes and spit fetishes. In fact, the only purely academic reference I could find was from sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel who suggested in a 1991 book that many Americans seem to find sex “morally repugnant” and that it is because of the bodily fluids associated with sex (i.e., saliva and semen) are sticky, a liminal category between solid and liquid.
From my reading on this topic, there appears to be a difference between saliva fetishes and spit fetishes (which I will explain below). In researching this blog I came across two cases of saliva fetishes (one from New Zealand and one from Japan) that were both very similar.
- Case 1: Back in 2007 in Christchurch (New Zealand), a 28-year old male vineyard worker – Jared Simmonds – was jailed for 32 months because of his “deviant sexual arousal” towards saliva from young girls. He was arrested following an indecent sexual attack on an 11-year old girl. Simmonds had been previously convicted in 2005 for obtaining saliva from four pre-pubescent girls that he would use as a lubricant for masturbatory purposes. He had also been trying to do the same thing with the 11-year old girl. The court was told that Simmonds was incapable of relating to women of his own age and therefore targeted young girls to help maintain his sexual saliva fetish. The court was also told that Simmonds’ behaviour was premeditated as he approached the girls with plastic cups and chewing gum, and pretending to the girls that he was conducting a scientific survey and that their saliva would be analysed at Christchurch Polytechnic. He would give the girls gum to chew to stimulate salivation, and then get the girls to spit into the cup. As soon as the spittle was collected, he would rush back to his house to masturbate using the girls’ saliva as a lubricant.
- Case 2: More recently, at the end of 2011, there was a news report of a 55-year old Japanese man with an alleged saliva fetish. The man in question – Toshiko Mizuno – was arrested after approaching young women, and asking them to spit into a jar. While they spat into the jars, Mizuno filmed them and then kept their saliva to drink at a later point. To get them to spit in the jar, Mizuno used a cover story that he was doing research on saliva. After searching Mizuno’s house, they found over 200 video taped recordings of women spitting into jars, and dozens of empty jars that had once had women’s saliva in them. The police also found other videos of Mizuno masturbating and using the female saliva as a masturbatory lubricant. The man was charged with indecency as he had not actually caused any knowing harm to the women he had approached.
The online Urantia Book claims that (historically) saliva was a potent fetish. Apparently, “devils could be driven out by spitting on a person” and “for an elder or superior to spit on one was the highest compliment”. Furthermore, it could perhaps be argued that saliva plays a (direct or indirect) role in a lot sexual behaviour that raises the question of how “deviant” saliva fetishes actually are. However, in the case of Simmonds, the use of saliva from prepubescent girls suggests that the behaviour was a paedophilic precursor. There are also cultural variations that need to be taken into account. Few Westerners would disagree that kissing can be erotic and enjoyable. However, other cultures view kissing as simply the human exchange of saliva. For instance, the Amazonian Mehinaku tribe view kissing as disgusting and a sexual abnormality.
The saliva fetishists above don’t really appear to share much in common with spit fetishes that appear to be more a part of sadomasochistic sexual activity. For instance, at the ‘All Experts’ website, one of the female “experts” (“Hollie”) wrote speculatively about spit fetishes in response to one man’s question about what spit fetishes actually involved. Her perspective was clearly from those with an interest in sexual sadism and sexual masochism. She wrote:
“A spit fetish could manifest itself in a number of ways…either partner could have a fetish to be spat on, usually this is always closely linked to that individual seeking domination from the spitter, making the person being spat on submissive. it may also be part of sexual humiliation and other aspects of BDSM [Bondage, Discipline, Submission, Masochism]. Or, an individual could have the need to spit on someone, that would probably make them dominant and to want to control and/or humiliate their partner sexually. Or…both people could either enjoy to be spat on or to be the spitter…this could work both ways and simultaneously”.
In fact much of the online literature on spitting fetishes (as opposed to saliva fetishes) appears to be rooted in BDSM and is usually referred to as ‘spitting domination’. The dominant partner may spit into their submissive partner’s face and/or mouth. The submissive partner may also be forced to swallow the liquid spit if their mouth is spat into. Many of the online articles about spitting fetishes see parallels between the act of spitting and the act of ejaculation – particularly in relation to ‘facials’ (i.e., the act of men ejaculating onto someone’s face) and the practice of bukkake (i.e., the act of many men simultaneously ejaculating onto someone’s face and/or body).
In an online article on “Spit feeding [and] eating”, the [anonymous] writer examines spit fetishes, and asks whether spitting is an aggressive act of degradation, and if being spat on is always humiliating. The response was:
“Like any sex act, it all depends upon the attitudes of those involved. A slap can be aggressive or playful, hurtful or stimulating. Likewise, a wad of spit can be contemptuous or loving, depending on the intention. There’s nothing inherently demeaning about wanting to devour your lover’s liquid essences”.
In researching this blog I came across various people’s experiences of spit fetishism. The following quote was typical:
“I actually was in a relationship with a individual who had a spit fetish. He longed for me, while we were having intercourse, to spit on him, his face all over him, he didn’t mind where but he especially liked it if I was dominant with him in doing so, maybe called him names at the same time, played a Dom to him. His fetish for spit also extended into dribbling, where he liked for me to dribble on myself, preferably across my chest, and for him to rub his face in it, in the spit. He loved the moistness physically, but it was more mental for him, the control aspect, the humiliation of it all, the dominance”.
Compared to all other paraphilic and fetishistic behaviours concerning sexual arousal to human bodily fluids, there is significantly less written about saliva and spitting fetishes. Whether academic and/or clinical research is needed is – at present – debatable.
All Experts (2004). Fetishism/Spit fetish. January 14. Located at: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Fetishism-2835/spit-fetish.htm
Backdrop.net (2007). Spitting fetishism. Located at: http://www.backdrop.net/sm-201/index.php?title=Spitting_fetishism
Dahmer, J. (2011). The Guy with the Creepiest Fetish Ever! WDRG, December 14. Located at: http://wgrd.com/the-guy-with-the-creepiest-fetish-ever-yuk-bar-stool/
New Zealand Herald (2007). ‘Deviant saliva fetish’ led to attack, court told. July 30. Located at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10454692
Pervscan (2007). Deviant saliva fetish led to attack. August 19. Located at: http://pervscan.com/2007/08/19/deviant-saliva-fetish-led-to-attack/
UB The News (undated). Fetishes, charms and magic. The Urantia Book (Paper 88). Located at: http://www.ubthenews.com/UrantiaBook/papers/p088.htm
World of Sexual Fetishes (2012). Swapping spit. March 5. Located at: http://worldofsexualfetishes.com/wordpress/?p=158
Zerubavel, E. (1991). The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
There has long been an association between eating and sexual behaviour on many different levels. Eating and sex are both basic human needs and sometimes interact more directly. Many would also agree that eating (in and of itself) can be a sensual activity. There are also some foods that are considered to be aphrodisiacs. For example, foodstuffs such as oysters and chocolate are considered to have aphrodisiac properties (even if there is a lack of empirical evidence). The important factor is that if people believe the food in question has such arousing properties then there is likely to be some kind of a placebo effect.
In previous blogs I have looked at both feederism (in which sexual arousal and gratification is stimulated through a person gaining body fat) and vorarephilia (in which people are sexually aroused by the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification). Another eating-related sexual behaviour is sitophilia. This is a sexual paraphilia in which the individual has an erotic attraction to (and derives sexual arousal from) food. Sitophilia can also include sexual arousal caused by erotic situations involving food. This may comprise many different types of activity including those who:
- Eat one particular foodstuff from the body of another (e.g., licking chocolate mousse off the breasts of a naked partner).
- Eat a variety of foods or a whole meal off somebody’s naked body (such as the Japanese practice of nyotaimori – see below).
- Use a foodstuff to enhance a particular sexual act (e.g., sucking on a lime before engaging in oral sex to swell the taste buds and create more sensitivity when licking genital tissue). This could also technically involve the use of a foodstuff to enhance genital lubrication (e.g., use of olive oil).
- Use food as a method of control and/or flagellation in sadomasochistic activity (e.g., the throwing of oranges at the buttocks as a from of sexual humiliation or punishment). Dominant partners can also choose to control their submissive partner’s eating habits and food intake as a regular part of their sex play. Some dominant individuals will restrain their submissive partner’s hands, and order them to eat from a dish on the floor. This can be a highly sexually charged situation for those into erotic humiliation.
- Use food as a masturbatory aid. This may include males hollowing out foodstuffs (such as a pumpkin) into which they simulate intercourse, and females using phallic shaped foods as a penis substitute (e.g., cucumbers).
- Drink bodily fluids (such as semen) after it has been blended into other foods (e.g., mashed potato) following masturbation.
- Drink bodily fluids as part of another drink (e.g., adding ice cubes made of semen to a pina colada where the saltiness of the semen counteracts the sweetness of pineapple).
- Use food as an enhancement to sexual intercourse (e.g., the use of a slitted plum placed over an erect penis and then inserted into a partner’s vagina to add volume and pressure to the sexual act for both partners.
- Use food to aid sexual stimulation and erotic pleasure (e.g., the insertion of grapes into the rectum). This latter type of act also includes particular foodstuffs such as the insertion of ginger into the rectum (called ‘figging’ – check it out on Wikipedia if you find this hard to believe). The use of ginger has also been documented as being inserted into the vagina and urethral opening.
There are also various sub-types of sitophilia (such as botulinonia that involves the sexual use of sausages). Similarly, as mentioned in the list above, those who use various foods as dildo substitute masturbatory aids (e.g., cucumbers, aubergines, carved out melons, butternet squash, etc.) may also be sitophiles.
Sitophilic acts have appeared in popular films and books. The most infamous are probably (i) the lead character Jim Levenstein (Jason Biggs) in the film American Pie is caught masturbating into a pie after being told that third base (i.e., fellatio) feels like “warm apple pie”, (ii) the sex scene in the film 9½ Weeks where John Gray (Micky Rourke) spoon feeds Elizabeth McGraw (Kim Basinger) various kinds of food while blindfolded, and (iii) the Philip Roth book Portnoy’s Complaint that features detailed depictions of masturbation – the most infamous being the use of a piece of liver steak by the male protagonist (Alexander Portnoy) to masturbate into and which is later served at a family dinner. However, one of the weirdest sitophilic acts I have come across is in Seijun Suzuki’s film Branded to Kill (1967) where the leading man Goro Hanada (Joe Shishido) has a food fetish where he has to sniff boiling rice in order to become sexually excited.
I have also come across descriptions of food orgy parties. These are:
“Organized by individuals where friends bring either an erotic arrangement of food on a dish to share, or food that feels sensuous when rubbed onto a partner and licked off. Afterwards, everyone soaks in a hot tub. There are also all-male games such as ‘Shoot the Cookie’ and ‘Soggy Biscuit’ where males stand in a circle around a cookie and masturbate. The rule dictates that the last one who ejaculates on the cookie has to eat it”.
There are also those who use foodstuffs to make the sexual act messier (i.e., “sploshing” – a form of salirophilia) that I briefly examined in a previous blog on salirophilia (in which individuals experience sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire). Sitophilia can also play a part in the activity of ‘food play’ (which doesn’t always have sexual connotations so should not be used synonymously). For instance, nyotaimori and nantaimori (the obscure Japanese practice of ‘female body presentation’ and ‘male body presentation’ respectively) is not usually seen as either fetishistic or paraphilic for those who participate. This practice is also known as “body sushi” and involves people eating food from the body of a naked person). Some websites (such as Muki’s Kitchen) have turned such behaviour into an art form.
Some reports claim that the person covered in food has to learn to withstand the coldness of the food and is trained to lie and keep still for hours while those around eat off their body. However, the Guardian journalist Julie Bindel who attended a nyotaimori platter in London says that the women she ate off were models with no prior training.
I have yet to read a single academic or clinical paper that has been published on the topic although there is a lot of online activity surrounding those who get sexually aroused by food (check out the links in the ‘Further reading’ section). For instance, here is one story I found from a homosexual man into both feederism and sitophilia.
“I love to eat. I am a chubby guy, 5’4″ and currently 200 lbs. I attempt to maintain around 200 lbs if I can manage it. Along with sitophilia I am also attracted to other chubby guys. Well I get extremely turned on by food. I love the look of food, the smell of food, the taste of food. The act of eating food also is such a turn on. Feeling food in my mouth, chewing it and the act of swallowing food and feeling it slide down to my stomach gets me totally aroused. I love to indulge in buffets. Going to a buffet is better than any porn I could ever watch. Usually there are lots of chubby men there for me to watch and satisfy my chubby guy fetish too. I have spent several hours at a buffet indulging. I usually walk around half hard the whole time. In private I love to include food in sex. Just earlier I had a piece of chocolate cheescake. It was a very rich, dense and decadent cheescake. I took it out of the fridge and took it into my bedroom. I got naked and laid on the bed. My cock was instantly hard. I took the slice of cheesecake in one hand and my cock in the other hand. I started to masturbate while slowly tasting the cake. I became so aroused that I began to furiously pound my cock and I just stuffed the whole piece of cheesecake into my mouth. It was a huge piece and I could almost not fit it all in. My mouth was stuffed and my cheeks puffed out totally filled with the cheesecake. As I chewed and felt the creamy chocolate cheesecake in my mouth, I felt my arousal build and that familiar sensation of being close to an orgasm. I pounded my cock even harder and then I took one swallow…feeling the bit of cheesecake sliding down my throat brought me just to the edge of orgasm. I could not stand it any longer. I began to chew and swallow all of the cheesecake and I erupted in a very powerful and intense orgasm”
Here are two confessions from female sitophiles. They wrote:
Extract 1: “Something about watching a man eat turns me on like crazy. I like to cook for men just so I can watch them eat my food. When men eat, they attack, and I find it incredibly sexy. If any professional might know the reason for this, I would greatly appreciate your insight. It is not getting in the way of my everyday life, it is just something that gets me going”.
Extract 2: “I used to be bulimic in high school (that’s when I realized I like sticking my fingers in food) and now I’m on a strict diet and my sitophilia is worse than ever! I love watching people eat fatty foods and I want to know what sploshing is like. I lay awake at night fantasizing about being covered in cake batter or spaghetti-o’s and rubbing it onto my skin. I’ve been weird about food since my eating disorder, but sitophilia was not in my vocabulary until very recently”.
Despite such online confessions, sitophilia appears to be one of many paraphilias that have passed the academic and clinical world by. This may be because food play is quite common among ‘normal’ and ‘experimental’ sex, and/or may be seen as academically and/or clinically trivial.
Bindel, J. (2009). ‘I am about to eat sushi off a naked woman’s body’. The Guardian, February 12. Located at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/feb/12/nyotaimori-eating-sushi-naked-woman
Sense and Sensuality Website (Education and Discussion website). Located at: http://sensesensuality.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/sex-ed-paraphilia-sitophilia.html?zx=879c2fb6531ed60d
Spiritual BDSM (2011). What is sitophilia? December 6, Located at: http://www.spiritualbdsm.com/2011/12/what-is-sitophilia.html?zx=69b8151a4d2896e3
Salirophilia – sometimes called saliromania – is a paraphiic sexual fetish in which individuals experience sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire (typically an attractive person). Salirophilic behaviour may include a range of activities such as tearing or damaging the desired person’s clothing, covering them in mud or filth, or messing their hair or makeup. The fetish never involves harming or injuring the person in any way, only messing up how they look in some way, shape or form. The fetish was thought to be mainly heterosexual in origin although a 1982 book (Human Sexuality, by James McCary and Stephen McCary) said that it was known to occur within same sex relationships.
It is sometimes related to other fetishes and paraphilias including urophilia (deriving sexual pleasure from urine), coprophilia (deriving sexual pleasure faeces), mysophilia (deriving sexual pleasure from filth), sploshing (deriving sexual pleasure from wet substances – but not bodily fluids – being deliberately and generously applied to either naked or scantily clad individuals, and sometimes referred to as ‘wet and messy’ fetishism), bukkake (the act of many men ejaculating over a man or women simultaneously; there are also variations of this where men ejaculate over photographs and pictures and referred to as ‘face painting), and omorashi (deriving sexual pleasure from having a full bladder and/or feeling sexually attracted to someone else who has a full bladder). Salirophilia may also extends to other areas such a forcing a sexual partner to wear torn or poorly fitting clothing that make the person look more unattractive.
Other variations of the fetish may also include people become sexually aroused from acts of vandalism and defacement of statues, photos of attractive people (including celebrities). Videos of individuals ejaculating over celebrity photographs are known as “tributes” within the fetish community.
As far as I have been able to establish, there is not a single piece of empirical research directly on salirophilia. Not even a single case study. All the information, I have compiled in this blog comes from online sources and books on sexuality and sexual paraphilias (where salirophilia is only mentioned in passing, if mentioned at all). Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York City sex therapist, says that salirophilia often involves domination and submission fantasies. McCary and McCary noted that although salirophilia has been described as a category separate from sexual sadism, they claim that most cases of saliromania would meet the criteria for sexual sadism, as described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. However, as Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified, it is unclear whether cases exist in which the salirophilic behavior (e.g., the act of damaging clothing) is distinct from a focus on the suffering and humiliation of the sexual partner. They also noted that the extent of overlap of salirophilia with fetishism, bukkake, mysophilia, urophilia, and coprophilia is unknown.
Like salirophilia, there is little empirical data on mysophilia. As mentioned above, mysiophiliacs derive sexual pleasure from filth and unclean items such as soiled knickers (but may also include related activities such as sexual arousal from seeing people wearing the same clothes for days or weeks on end). Magazines such as the Penthouse Forum: The International Journal of Human Relations has (for many years) contained classified advertisements for soiled women’s underwear for mysophiliacs to buy. According to Professor John Money, this focus may involve the “smelling, chewing or other-wise utilizing sweaty or soiled clothing or articles of menstrual hygiene”. Back in the late 1940s, the American psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Karpman put forward a number of psychodynamic speculations on the etiological factors associated with mysophilia in a couple of papers that focused on coprophilia. One of Karpman’s analytic interpretations concerning mysophilia was that it involves a symbolic association of sex with something that is dirty (i.e., bad). He said that the pairing of sex and filth was functional, because any guilt associated with sexual behavior could be washed away.
In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). Their results showed that body part fetishes were most common (33%), followed by objects associated with the body (30%), preferences for other people’s behavior (18%), own behavior (7%), social behavior (7%), and objects unrelated to the body (5%). Feet (and objects associated with feet) were by far the most common fetishes. They also reported that some of the sites featured references to mysophiliacs but that this particular fetish accounted for less than 1% of all fetishes
As with salirophilia, case studies of mysophilia appear hard to come by. In a paper by Dr John White published in a 2007 in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, he examinedevidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. Two of the cases he reported involved mysophilia. In the first case, the offender was engaged in multiple paraphilias including mysophilia, picquerism (stabbing or cutting victims of sexual attacks), and attempted paraphilic rape intended to degrade the victim. In the second case, the offender manifested an even wider range of paraphilias including mysophilia, pogophilia (fascination with women’s buttocks), paedophilia, masochism, and urophilia. In both of these cases, the mysophilic tendencies did not seem to be central to the crimes committed, and mysophilia was clearly part of a much wider range of paraphilic behaviour.
There are also first person accounts of salirophilia and/or mysophilia on the internet. I came across this account (which I have edited down from a much longer posting on a psychology bulleting board:
“First of, let me say I’m not a dangerous or mean person. I really almost never hurt other people, and I really don’t want to. I’ve never really told anyone about this. When I was younger, I don’t know how young exactly, I had kind of unusual sexual fantasies. I think I was 6/7/8/9 [years old]. I don’t really remember. I used to think about them while lying in bed before I was going to sleep. Things I fantasized about, and this is a really hard part to type out for me, is people wearing diapers, people wearing clothes in weird ways, and people that got messy. Please don’t think I’m a sick person or something. If I could change it, I would, although it didn’t really harm anyone. When I got a little older, I think I was 9 or 10, maybe 11, I searched on the internet for people that got messy. I don’t know if that was because of fetish, or just because of normal interest in that. [After that] I mostly watched videos of game shows in which people got messy. Sometimes they were my age, sometimes they were younger, sometimes they were older. Only recently I started to realize that the fantasies I had when I was younger weren’t normal, and that I could have had a fetish. It kind of shocked me. Sometimes, I dream about it. I start watching those videos again. In others, I get messy myself, and in those dreams, I get aroused by that. Did I do anything wrong? Do I need to get help? Am I a bad person? Will this affect the rest of my life badly? I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just really had to tell this somewhere on some moment”.
Treatment for salirophilia and mysophilia is rarely sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the individual in some way. Although the individual may feel compelled to engage in the paraphilic behaviour, anecdotal evidence suggests that the great majority manage to integrate their fetishistic behaviour within their day-to-day life without harm to anyone (including themselves).
Butcher, Nancy (2003). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. New York: Avery.
Holmes, R. M. (2009). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Karpman, B. (1948). Coprophilia: A collective review. Psychoanalytic Review, 35, 253–272.
Karpman, B. (1949). A modern Gulliver: A study in coprophilia. Psychoanalytic Review, 36, 260–282.
McCary, J.L. & McCary, S.P. (1982). McCary’s Human Sexuality (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.
Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.
Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.
White, J.H. (2007). Evidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 52, 1194-1201.
Crush fetishism is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from watching (or fantasizing about) someone of the opposite sex crushing items (e.g., toys, cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops), food (e.g., fruit), and (in extreme cases) small animals and insects, and/or being stepped on, sat upon, and/or crushed on by a person. The latter variant is a type of sexual masochism. There are also dedicated phone sex services that cater for crush fetishism suggesting overlaps with telephonicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused from telephone sex talk).
Another similar fetish appears to be ‘trampling fetishism’. This comprises paraphilic fantasies and/or practices of being trampled underfoot by another person (and is found in both homosexual and heterosexual acts). As the trampling often produces pain, trampling fetishes are considered a variant of sado-masochism.
Crush fetishism has also been associated with formicophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from insects. For instance, in the journal Cultural Entomology, G.A. Pearson (North Carolina State University, USA), described the fetishistic behaviour where people get sexual pleasure from watching insects, worms and spiders being squashed (particularly men watching women doing it). If the fantasy or behaviour involves giant people, it is often considered a variant of macrophilia (i.e., a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants). As Jeremy Biles notes in a 2004 essay on crush fetishists in Janus Head:
“Among the many obscure and bizarre sects of fetishism, few remain so perplexing or so underexamined as that of the ‘crush freaks’. At the cutting edge of the edgy world of sexual fetishistic practices, the crush freaks are notorious for their enthusiasm for witnessing the crushing death of insects and other, usually invertebrate, animals, such as arachnids, crustaceans, and worms. More specifically, crush freaks are sexually aroused by the sight of an insect exploded beneath the pressure of a human foot–usually, but not necessarily, a relatively large and beautiful female foot”
Crush fetishes comprise two types – hard crush and soft crush. Soft crush fetishes are apparently more common and typically refer to the crushing of invertebrates (e.g., spiders, beetles, worms, etc). Hard crush fetishes typically refer to the crushing of larger (vertebrate) animals (e.g., reptiles, birds, mammals). Some crush fetishists are very specific about how they like to see the insects and/or animals crushed (i.e., some prefer the person doing the crushing to be wearing particular types of footwear [e.g., high heels, flip-flops, etc.] or no footwear at all). Hard crush fetish videos have recently attracted worldwide media attention and have prompted criminal actions in a number of jurisdictions.
For instance, back in August 2011, police in the Philippines arrested Vicente Ridon and Dorma Ridon, a married couple that had filmed dozens of ‘crush fetish’ videos (often referred to as ‘animal snuff’ films). These films showed six female teenagers (aged between 12 and 18 years) torturing and killing animals before being posted onto online “crush fetish” websites all over the world. The case was initiated by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who helped track the couple down over the course of a year’s detective work. Mr and Mrs Ridon were eventually charged with animal cruelty, child abuse and human trafficking.
This is by no means an isolated incident and is not the product of mentally ill people. Earlier this year in Milan (April 2012), a 40-year old mother of three children (“Anna B”) was given a $5400 fine and a four-month suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of being sexually aroused by crushing animals while wearing stockings and stiletto heels. She had posted dozens of online videos of herself crushing rabbits, mice and chicks. Following the banning of crush videos in 2010, this case was the first prosecution under the new law in Italy Paolo Iosca, the lawyer representing the Italian Anti Vivisection League said:
“This case was brought to our attention following a tip off to us and we acted immediately to bring this woman to justice. The videos she posted showed her semi-naked, wearing tights and high heels and crushing innocent animals such as rabbits, chicks and mice to death. They were particularly crude and offensive. This woman, who is a mother of three children, was clearly enjoying herself as she was slaughtering these animals and filming their agony”.
The legality of erotic crush films and the actual practice of crushing animals vary by region and country. For instance, China does not have any animal cruelty laws, and therefore no criminal acts are being violated in that jurisdiction. Here in the UK, crush videos are illegal. However, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there are currently no laws forbidding the crushing of insects in any country. In November 2010, a Chinese crush fetish video was posted online featuring a young attractive girl, sitting on the rabbit, and crushing it to death. In a journalistic investigation by China Hush, an online user with the pseudonym “Sound of Heaven” (天堂之音) said that:
“People who like Crush Fetish are not promoting and encouraging violence and murdering people, but it is an extension to [sadomasochism], a state, crushed to death by a woman, a spirit of sacrificing oneself for her”.
Other similar videos including the abusing and killing of cats and dogs have also appeared online. Although these acts of killing could be viewed as acts of zoosadism (because of the sexual element), the person doing the killing of the animals is usually paid for their “services” and does not appear to get any sexual satisfaction from the act itself. It is the person watching the ‘hard crush’ videos that typically derive the sexual pleasure from it. In this sense, the act could be described as a type of ‘zoosadism by proxy’ (at least that’s my own take on this).
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.
Inquirer Global Nation (2011). Police nab Filipino ‘crush fetish’ couple. Located at: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/8219/police-nab-filipino-crush-fetish-couple
Intentious (2011). Rabbit crushing outrage – Animal snuff film offends. December 9. Located at: http://intentious.com/2011/12/09/rabbit-crushing-outrage-animal-snuff-film-offends/
Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).
Pisa, N. (2012). Animal crushing fetish mum fined. Herald Sun, April 25. Located at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/animal-crushing-fetish-mum-fined/story-e6frf7lf-1226337848931