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Car-struck: Another look at mechanophilia and objectum sexuality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

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

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

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

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

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

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm

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

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

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

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

The birds’ and the bees’ knees: A very brief look at genuphilia

One Saturday night while my family was watching Strictly Come Dancing, I found myself idly Googling looking for inspiration for a new blog. One of the pages I found myself on was Kinkopedia’s ‘Kink of the Week’ website. This particular page made reference to ten “paraphilias you may never heard of”. The list (in alphabetical order and the website’s definition) included bromidrophilia (sexual attraction to body odours and smells), genuphilia (sexual attraction to knees), mechanophilia (sexual attraction to cars),
 mythophilia (sexual attraction to myths, stories, or gossip), nasophilia (sexual attraction to noses), onomatophilia (sexual attraction to words, or a certain word),
 rupophilia (sexual attraction to dirt), sitophilia (sexual attraction to food), spectrophilia (sexual attraction to ghosts) and 
vorarephilia (sexual attraction to eating or be eaten by another).

Regular readers of my blog won’t be surprised to know that I was aware of almost all the paraphilias on the list (in fact I’ve written blogs on most of these). However, the one that jumped out at me (no pun intended) was genuphilia. Given the fact that (i) there is absolutely no scientific research on genuphilia, and (ii) genuphilia does not make an appearance in either Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices or Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices suggests one of two things – either that this particular paraphilia does not really exist, or that it is a relatively newly realized fetish. It’s also another paraphilia where the name appears to have been derived as the opposite of a known phobia (i.e., genuphobia – an irrational fear of knees).

In researching this article, I have to admit that I almost gave up on trying to put a blog together given the lack of material (academic and anecdotal). I read an online article about sexual paraphilias in the new (fifth edition) of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that referred to genuphilia being related to gender but then quickly realized the article was a funny April Fool’s Day spoof (still worth a read though! See ‘Further reading’ below for a link to the article). Over at the Psyche Time-Lapse website, genuphilia made an appearance in their regular ‘Word Of The Day’ column. The writer of the short article noted:

“Getting on your knees is usually a prelude to some sexy fellatio initiation or submissive roleplay. But sexiness isn’t always just coded into the act of falling to your knees; it can be on the knees themselves Genuphilia refers to a special, sexual attraction for knees: knock-kneed, knobby knees, replaced knees, any one of the jumbly joints that allows our legs to move efficiently and helps support body weight. The area right behind the knee can be a sensitive, often-ignored erogenous zone, and light, tantalizing strokes on and around them with your fingers can bring shivers to a partner’s body. And with fall approaching, showing off your knees with a variety of knee socks, boots, and fall-length coats has never been easier!”

As a last resort I went online searching on various forums and discussion groups and only located a handful of self-admitted accounts of people claiming to have a knee fetish:

Extract 1: “I think I must have had something like this for as long as I can remember. When I was aged 12 [years old] I was nearly always in shorts and there was a near neighbour who was a girl of about the same age who had a mix of boys and girls as friends and she liked us to show our legs as she thought it was cute that boys were in shorts and that we boys showed more leg than the girls. As I got older I always thought that boys in school shorts looked cute and was jealous that their uniforms allowed shorts while the school I was at would not allow shorts. I was attracted to my ex-boyfriend when I moved to another school and saw a guy in shorts which showed off his long sexy smooth legs. As he and I saw each other out of school, he encouraged me to shave my legs so that we could rub our bare legs together. I noticed in particular his knees were turning me on and we took it in turns to feel each other’s legs and I concentrated on rubbing his knees with mine. I love to show off my knees as much as possible and when I see both guys and girls showing theirs, I feel very aroused. There is nothing so good as a pair of sexy knees”

Extract 2: I got a foot fetish and a leg/knee fetish, but I also got a fetish for a girl’s hands too. Anybody find that to be common out there?”

Extract 3: Hairless Inside Knees on gay men are amazing! That we are agreed that is why you are here at the internet’s premier Hairless Inside Knee Gay Fetish Website! Don’t get us wrong we love hairy legs on our gay men. But there is something about the inside of the knee that when it’s hairless sends our pulses racing. Here at THIKFG you’ll find sexual tips to satisfy your hairless inside knee gay partner as well as fantasies and the best photos and videos of the best hairless inside knees around. So sit back and enjoy!”

Extract 4: “I haven’t explained what my happy page is about yet. Knee Fetishes!…I know you guys are thinking. THIS IS WEIRD! But [you] know what? It is weird. It’s the next big thing. Haven’t you heard? Pretty soon everyone will be having knee, elbow and ankle fetishes…So I would just like to take this moment to tell all you people, look around. There are many knees. Some are ugly, some are beautiful, some are hairy, some are lumpy, some are squishy. Just enjoy yourself. Stop and look at the knees”

Presuming these extracts are genuine (and I have no reason to suspect they’re not), a few tentative conclusions can be drawn (even from such a few extracts). Firstly, based on these accounts, knee fetishes (and genuphilia paraphilias) genuinely exist. (I would also argue that the existence of dedicated websites such as The Knee Pit Gallery also suggest there is an audience and niche market for sexualized knee enthusiasts). Secondly, it appears that both men and women may have this fetish/paraphilia. Thirdly, it appears that genuphilia may occur within different sexual orientations (i.e., heterosexual and homosexual). Fourthly, it appears that genuphilia may overlap with other more established sexual paraphilias (such as hand, leg and foot fetishes [podophilia]). Finally, it would appear that childhood experiences may be critical in explaining the etiology of gunuphilia. The most detailed extract appears to suggest that the sexual liking for knees may be explained by conditioning processes (i.e., classical conditioning). I seriously doubt we’ll see academic research on genuphilia any time soon but that doesn’t mean it’s not a genuine sexual fetish/paraphilia.

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.

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

Molay, J. (2011). Crossdreamers, April 1. Located at: http://www.crossdreamers.com/2011/04/paraphiliphilia-makes-it-into-dsm-5.html

Slow train coming: A brief look at siderodromophilia

“[On] February 27th [2012], a man surnamed Cai was taken to court after being arrested by railway police for renting a train lounge car to hold a sex party, with the police preliminarily charging him with violating public decency. [On] February 23rd, Taiwanese [Director of Public Prosecutions] Ye Yijin revealed that someone had booked a [railway] lounge car to hold a “1 woman 18 men” group sex orgy” (China Smack news item, March 1st,2012).

On reading this news item a a year ago, it got me wondering what academic and/or clinical research has been done relating to sexual arousal from and/or in trains. In previous blogs I have examined the relationship between sex and cars (in articles on objectum sexuality, mechanophilia, and symphorophilia), and sex and aeroplanes (in an article on acrophilia), but train sex has not been on my fetishistic radar until I read the Taiwan train orgy story above. Regular readers of my blog probably won’t be surprised to hear that there is a sexual paraphilia relating solely to trains. Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal (in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) and Dr. Brenda Love (in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices) note that the sexual paraphilia where individuals derive sexual arousal and pleasure from trains is called siderodromophilia. Brenda Love claims in her encyclopedia entry on the topic that:

“Couples sometimes reserve a cabin and will have sex standing in front of the window as the train passes through a town or a station. Others squeeze into bathrooms and sneak quickies in corner. Trains provide more privacy and opportunity to socialize than airplanes and buses”.

Neither Dr. Aggrawal nor Dr. Love appear to distinguish between those people that are sexually aroused by (i) the train itself (i.e., individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to [and have sexual relationships with] specific inanimate objects such as a train), (ii) the potentially sexually stimulating vibrations caused by a travelling on a train (akin to those individuals – usually women – who sit on washing machines in their spin cycles as a source of sexual stimulation), or (iii) having sexual encounters and/or engaging in sexual activity on the train. This latter type of sexual activity may not only include masturbatory acts and consensual sexual activity (like the examples described by Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices) but may also include non-consensual sexual acts by those individuals who are into frotteurism and often frequent very busy trains to facilitate their paraphilic behaviour (i.e., individuals, typically male, that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from non-consensually rubbing up against other people (typically but not always female strangers) particularly with their erect penis and/or pelvis).

There are certainly objectophiles that claim to have emotional and sexual relationships with trains. The most infamous case is that of the German man (‘Joachim A.’) who claims to have had a longstanding “steady relationship” with a steam locomotive train. In a 2007 article in the German magazine Der Spiegel, Jochaim (who was aged 41 years old at the time of his interview) said:

“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”

The article claimed Joachim had “been pretty faithful to his steam locomotive recently” and that he had recognized and accepted his objectum sexuality inclination just prior to his teenage years. He fell “head over heels” in love with a Hammond organ and had “an emotionally and physically very complex and deep relationship, which lasted for years”. The article went on to say that:

“Since he is particularly aroused by the inner workings of technical objects, repair jobs have often led to infidelity in the past. “A love affair could very well begin with a broken radiator,” the now monogamous lover says, remembering how his earlier affairs began. Joachim gradually realized that ‘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’. That includes the desire to ‘experience sexuality together’”.

Any Freudians reading this will no doubt be aware that according to Sigmund Freud, a train is analogous to the male penis. (I don’t believe any of this myself, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it given the focus of my blog). In a short online article about railways, Christian Hubert also makes reference to Freud and noted that:

“Both Freud and Karl Abraham indicated the connection between mechanical agitation and sexual arousal in the train. This joy found its repressed counterpart in the fear experienced by neurotics in the face of accelerating or uncontrolled motion as the fear of their own sexuality going out of control”.

After reading this I decided to try and track down the original source (and I think that I found it). Freud, in his book ‘Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory’ had a whole section devoted to what he termed ‘mechanical excitation’.  More specifically he noted that:

“[We must] describe here the production of sexual excitation by means of rhythmic mechanical shaking of the body. There are three kinds of exciting influences: those acting on the sensory apparatus of the vestibular nerves, those acting on the skin, and those acting on the deep parts, such as the muscles and joints…As we know, rocking is regularly used in putting to sleep restless children. The shaking sensation experienced in wagons and railroad trains exerts such a fascinating influence on older children, that all boys, at least at one time in their lives, want to become conductors and drivers. They are wont to ascribe to railroad activities an extraordinary and mysterious interest, and during the age of phantastic activity (shortly before puberty) they utilize these as a nucleus for exquisite sexual symbolisms. The desire to connect railroad travelling with sexuality apparently originates from the pleasurable character of the sensation of motion”.

The (unnamed) editor of the Ventura County Reporterhas his own blog (Fir & Main) and wrote an online article entitled ‘Siderodromophilia and other loves”. In it, he appeared to concur with Freud by noting that:

“Yes, I enjoy trains, and there is a certain sensuality in the rhythmic motions (and let’s not mention stock footage and visual double entendres of trains entering tunnels…Fortunately, Googling the word siderodromophilia wasn’t as disturbing as I’d feared”

After searching all the usual academic databases, I didn’t manage to locate a single paper that has examined siderodromophilia. Maybe this is because the definition is so ill-defined and/or it has little academic or clinical relevance. I’ll leave you with another issue that I’ll throw into the mix. Siderodromophilia would appear to be part of a more wide-ranging paraphilia called ‘hodophilia’. Dr. Aggrawal simply describes it as “sexual arousal from travelling” whereas Dr. Love has a slightly expanded definition and says it is the “sexual arousal people feel while traveling to new or strange places”. Dr. Love goes a little further and concludes that:

“Travel often entails anxiety, pleasure, autonomy, and additional hours for entertainment. People feel more tempted to break out of their normal routine and experience their new environment to the fullest, especially if the country has a legal red light district”.

I have to be honest and say that no evidence was presented to support these assertions but given the lack of empirical evidence in the whole area, speculation is the best we have at the current time.

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Fauna (2012). Sex party on Taiwan train involved 17-year-old  girl and 18 men. China Smack, March 31. Located at: http://www.chinasmack.com/2012/stories/sex-orgy-on-taiwan-train-involved-17-year-old-girl-and-18-men.html

Fir & Main (2008). Siderodromophilia and other loves, April 24. Located at: http://vcredit.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/siderodromophilia-and-other-loves/

Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its Discontents. London: Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (1962). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, trans. James Strachey. New York: Basic Books.

Hubert, C. (undated). Railway. Located at: http://christianhubert.com/writings/railway.html

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

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

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

Appliance fiction? A beginner’s guide to mechanophilia

My partner is a Frank Zappa fan and one of her favourite albums is his 1979 rock opera Joe’s Garage. On the LP, Joe is described as an “appliance fetishist” by the ‘Church of Appliantology’ (and ends up having a gay relationship with an industrial vacuum cleaner). Although Joe is a fictional character, appliance and machine fetishes aren’t. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, being sexually turned on by machines is a sexual paraphilia called mechanophilia. Cynthia Ceilán in her 2008 book Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad describes the same sexual paraphilia as ‘mechaphilia’. The online Urban Dictionary has a more encompassing definition, and defines mechanophilia as:

“The love or sexual attraction to computers, cars, robots or androids, washing machines and other domestic appliances, lawn mowers and other mechanised gardening equipment. Sexual relations between living organisms and machines”.

I briefly mentioned mechanophilia in a previous blog on the relationship between sex and cars, but the paraphilia not only includes individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from cars (such as the American man Edward Smith who has who has had sex with over a 1000 cars), but also to bicycles (such as the British man Robert Stewart who ended up in court after being caught having sex with a bicycle), and aeroplanes and helicopters (according to Ray Broadus Browne in his 1982 book Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture). A paper published in 2000 by Dr. Steven Thompson in the journal Technology and Culture argued that motorcycles are often portrayed as sexualized fetish objects by their owners. There would also appear to be some structural and psychological overlap with technosexuality/robot fetishism and objectum sexuality (i.e., having sexual and/or romantic relationships with inanimate objects) that I examined in previous blogs.

According to Dr. William Hickey in his 2006 book Sex Crimes and Paraphilias, in some jurisdictions mechanophilic acts are treated as crimes with perpetrators being placed on a sex offenders’ register after prosecution. The Wikipedia entry on mechanophilia mostly concentrates on references to mechanophilia in art, culture, and design. It noted that:

Mechanophilia has been used to describe important works of the early Modernists such as the 1922 FEKS ‘Eccentric Manifesto’ of Leonid Trauberg, Sergei Yutkevich, Grigori Kozintsev and others,a modernist avant garde movement that spanned Russian futurism and constructivism. The term has entered into the realms of science fiction and popular fiction. Scientifically, in ‘Biophilia, The Human Bond with Other Species’, Edward O. Wilson is quoted describing mechanophilia, the love of machines, as ‘a special case of biophilia”,whereas psychologists such as Erich Fromm would see it as a form of necrophilia. Designers such as Francis Picabia and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti have been said to exploited the sexual attraction of automobiles”.

I have yet to come across any empirical research specifically on mechanophilia beyond case studies. Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York sex therapist told CBS News that among mechanophiles there is generally “an exhibitionistic element for the person being stimulated by machine, as well as general submission [and] domination themes”, although I am unsure as to whether this is based on anyone Dr. Kerner has treated or whether this is just pure speculation. (I suspect the latter).

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

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

In 2003, a man simply calling himself ‘Schlessinger’ published a book called Mechaphilia: Sexual Attraction to Machines. The (non-academic) book charts Schlessinger’s “personal journey” of coming to terms with his sexual desire for machines and his quest to seek acceptance from his family and friends about his sexual love of machines. The book is detailed in his description such as his detailing of the curves of a reel-to-reel recorder that he fell in love with. Schlessinger ends the book by saying that he has happily come to accept his ‘quirky sexuality’. In relation to the more cultural aspects of mechanophilia, the Wikipedia entry notes:

“Culturally, critics have described it as an ‘all pervading’ within contemporary Western society and that is seems to overwhelm our society and all too often our better judgement”. Although not all such uses are sexual in intent, the terms are also used for specifically erotogenic fixation on machinery and taken to its extreme in hardcore pornography as Fucking Machines. This mainly involves women being sexually penetrated by machines for male consumption,which are seen as being the limits of current sexual biopolitics. Arse Elektronika (organized by Austrian art-tech group ‘monochrom’) is propagating a DIY/feminist approach to sex machines. Authors have drawn a connection between mechanophilia and masculine militarisation, citing the works of animator Yasuo Otsuka and Studio Ghibli”.

In one of the few articles written on mechanophilia, Symone Nelson appears to speculate about the psychological reasons for engaging in such paraphilic behaviour but claim there is no single reason as to why someone becomes a mechanophile. Nelson claims:

“Some mechanophiliacs enjoy the engineering aspect of their object, how it works, moves and is built. While others are fascinated with the effect it produces for example the noise and warmth that comes off of a drying machine. There is a niche of porn called ‘machine porn’ where women and men are involved in erotic acts with machines that are made for the purpose of sex…You can probably find a mechanophiliac using sex toys and machines on their partners or on themselves during sex…On the extreme end mechanophiliacs NEED the presence of their object to reach sexual gratification or ONLY the presence of their object will bring them sexual gratification and another person is not able to do so…A mechanophiliac will have a relationship with their machine object as a person would with another person. All the elements of dating are involved in a mechanophiliac relationship from courting, to the first date and even the first kiss and sexual encounter…When the hospitals get odd cases like a man being treated on his penis after getting it “stuck” in a vacuum cleaner or a woman who has injured herself using a electric mixing spoon for masturbation doctors usually chalk it up to the fetish”.

These latter speculations about people ending up in hospital when things go wrong don’t appear to be about mechanophilia at all. Personally, I believe that people who use the vibrations of a washing machine or vacuum cleaner as part of masturbatory sex are not mechanophiles (otherwise anyone who used a vibrator would be classed as a mechanophile). Mechanophiles have sex and make love to the machine (and may even develop emotional attachments) rather than using the appliance simply to heighten sexual pleasure during masturbation. Although mechanophilia appears to be rare, as far as I am concerned it’s far from fiction. It’s certainly an area that would benefit from more empirical and/or clinical research, although there needs to be consensus from those working in the field as to what mechanophilia actually is.

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

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

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

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

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

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm

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

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

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

Wikipedia (2012). Mechanophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanophilia

Techno notice: A beginner’s guide to robot fetishism

In a previous blog I examined agalmatophilia (in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects). Some scholars claim that robot fetishism is another type (or at least an extension) of agalmatophilia. Robot fetishism is often referred to as ASFR (i.e., alt.sex.fetish.robots, based on the name of a now defunct newsgroup) or technosexuality. it refers more specifically to those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal arising from humanoid or non-humanoid robots. The original ASFR manifesto stated:

“The alt.sex.fetish.robots (ASFR) newsgroup is dedicated to the discussion of the concept of sex with or sexual attraction to robots and robot-like beings. This can range from metallic, non-humanoid machines to humanoid androids. Discussions can deal with specific fantasies, fiction relating to the topic and connected ideas like people behaving like/turned into human mannequins, dolls, toys, and other hypnosis and mesmerism fantasies that involve the mechanical/monotone response that appeals to the members”

Techno-sexuality can be fantasy-based arousal where the robot fetishist merely thinks about sexual scenarios involving robots and/or can involve sexual activity with people dressed in robot costumes. (Just as an aside, if you are a music fan, check out Frank Zappa’s concept LP, Joe’s Garage that examined robot fetishism).

The sexual arousal may be heightened the more that the person imagined or dressed as a robot sounds and acts in a robotic-like manner. Those into this fetish call themselves ‘ASFRians’ and/or ‘technosexuals’ and some of these individuals like to imagine removing skin or bits of the body to reveal electronic circuitry (so you can imagine that they get turned on by everything from the Six Million Dollar Man through to The Terminator).

Robot fetishism can sometimes include other fetish variants, most notably transformation fetishes where the individuals get sexually excited by imagining themselves turning into a robot. These are conceptually similar to those in the furry fandom who get sexually excited by imagining themselves transform into an animal or animal hybrid. Similar to furries, robot fetishism could be viewed as another form of erotic anthropomorphism. It is also claimed that when transformation and/or role-playing are involved, the activity may be viewed as a form of erotic objectification. There are also similarities to mechanophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from cars or other machines and sometimes referred to as ‘mechasexuality’ that I examined in a previous blog).

According to the ASFR websites that I have visited, techno-fetishists comprise two distinct but not necessarily mutually exclusive types of techno-sexual fantasy. As one online essay on agalmatophilia claims:

“The first of group is simply based off of a desire to have a ready-made android or gynoid [female robot] partner that is desired for sex, companionship, or any combination of the two. The main distinguishing feature of this type is that the android is a completely artificial “built” and manufactured solely to fulfill the desires of its owner. The second type of fantasy is referred to as transformation. This involves a human who is either willingly or unwillingly turned into an android. That person can be either oneself or one’s partner, or sometimes both. It is usually the process of transformation that is the focus of this fantasy. Many people in the ASFR community prefer either one or the other. In some cases, this preference is very strong and divisive within the community. People may even be repulsed by the behaviors of the opposite group. In other cases, there is equal appreciation for built and transformation”.

A survey carried out on the Fembot Central website among 318 technosexual members and that 66% of ASFRians had a preference for built robots while the others preferred transformation (18%) or some combination of both (16%). In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates also revealed that some techno-fetishists do not like synthetic partners at all, and prefer their fantasies to involve humans dressed as robots as part of fantasy sex play.

The expression of technosexuality is somewhat limited as it can only be acted upon in a few ways (i.e., masturbatory fantasy and/or sexual role-play). As a consequence, a large market for techno-sexual art has developed that caters for (and as an enabler) robot fetishism (i.e., it can help sexually stimulate ASFRians). Visual media is also important for techno-fetishists. As highlighted online:

“The film ‘Metropolis’ also explores this fetish. In this film, the mad inventor Rotwang kidnaps the heroine Maria. He’s created a robot to be a replacement for a woman he loved, but it needed a soul so he imprints the image of Maria onto his Robot. The scene itself is filled with the trappings of the mad scientist film before there ever was a visualized Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. There seems to be a reoccurring theme with mad scientists creating robots or dolls that come to life. There is the Bride of Frankenstein. There are a number of pulp serials full of hypnotized femmes such as Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and My Living Doll…Of course we still see the Frankenstein Complex in such creations such as Blade Runner, Westworld, The Stepford Wives, and Star Trek, but now there is an added tone of eroticism”.

Allison de Fren published an interesting paper in a 2009 issue of the journal Science Fiction Studies. Her essay examined techno-fetishism, particularly in relation to the machine woman, by studying the technosexual community. Her paper argued that A.S.F.R. is less about technology in general, or the artificial woman in particular. To de Fren, techno-fetishism is:

“…a strategy of denaturalization that uses the trope of technological ‘programming’ to underscore subjecthood. Like the trope of “hardwiring” used within cyberpunk as a signal of the constitution of bodies and identities in relation to networked systems of control and power, ‘programming’ serves as a metaphor for the biological and cultural matrices within which desire is articulated and pursued. ASFRians experience pleasure and agency through, in a sense, hacking the system, the visual indicators of which often take the form of a female android who has run amok, an image that is typically read as a threat”.

As far as I am aware, there is no academic research on robot fetishism beyond theoretical essays. While of interest, it would be really useful to know how big the techno-sexual community is and what the motivations are in engaging in such behaviour (submission/dominance is an obvious theme but there’s no literature to confirm or disconfirm such speculation. I’ll leave you with a recent quote by Dr. Glenda Shaw-Garlock (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada) in Human-Robot Personal Relationships, who probably didn’t have robot fetishists in mind when she wrote it, but which has great resonance with this topic:

“Today, human and sociable-technology interaction is a contested site of inquiry. Some regard social robots as an innovative medium of communication that offer new avenues for expression, communication, and interaction. Other others question the moral veracity of human-robot relationships, suggesting that such associations risk psychological impoverishment. What seems clear is that the emergence of social robots in everyday life will alter the nature of social interaction, bringing with it a need for new theories to understand the shifting terrain between humans and machines”

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

Further reading

de Fren, A. (2009). Technofetishism and the Uncanny Desires of A.S.F.R. (alt.sex.fetish.robots), Science Fiction Studies, 36, 404-440.

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.

Gore, E. (Undated). The technosexuality, Pygmalionist and mind control fetish FAQ 3.0. Located at: http://www.p-synd.com/winterrose/technosexuality.html

Shaw-Garlock, G. (2011). Loving machines: Theorising human and sociable-technology interaction. Human-Robot Personal Relationships, Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, 59, 1-10

Strohecker, D.P. (2011). Robot Fetishism, Synthetic Partners, and Phallogocentrism, The Society Pages, July 22. Located at: http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/07/22/robot-fetishism-synthetic-partners-and-phallogocentrism/

Stupid My Cupid (2010). Agalmatophilia: Love in the age of silicon. May 20. Located at: http://stupidmycupid.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/what-is-agalmatophilia-agalmatophilia.html

Autoerotic sex drives! What is the relationship between sex and cars?

“I have a friend that get’s sexually excited by cars and rims, I’ve seen her melt down at the sight of a nice car and big rims. Funny – her mom is like that too, and I always thought she was just a gold digger!”

This opening quote hopefully highlights that for some there is a relationship between sex and cars. This relationship has been written about in both academic and non-academic books for many years (and no, this blog will not be looking at the car as a phallic symbol). However, in the world of paraphilias there are much fewer writings. There are a number of different paraphilias that have some association with cars. These include:

  • Mechanophilia: Sexual arousal from cars or other machines (and sometimes referred to as ‘mechasexuality’).
  • Symphorophilia: Sexual arousal from witnessing or staging disasters such as car accidents. (The main characters in the 1973 novel Crash by British author J.G. Ballard, and the subsequent 1996 film adaptation of the same name, are therefore symphorophiles).
  • Amomaxia: Sexual arousal from having sex in parked cars.

(There’s also case study evidence in a 2003 American Journal of Psychiatry review paper by Dr Jennifer Pate and Dr Glenn Gabbard on infantilism [where people get sexual arousal from being ‘adult babies’] that some ‘adult babies’ enjoy playing with toy cars – but even I think that’s stretching it a bit!). Cars have also been central to other paraphilic behaviours – such as hypoxyphilia – but I’ll return to that later.

In 1992, Dr Padmal De Silva and Dr Amanda Pernet (at the time both at the Institute of Psychiatry, London) published a case study in the journal Sex and Marital Therapy. The case involved an unusual sexual deviation in a young 20-year old British man (‘George’) who had little social interaction and was incredibly shy. They reported that his main sexual interest and excitement was from cars – particularly Austin Metro cars. George’s family belonged to a strict religious sect who strongly disapproved of any sexual involvement by their son with women. Things changed for George when his parents bough an Austin Metro car (the front of which reminded George of a smiling child-like face). George began masturbating inside the car, and then outside masturbating outside the car while crouching down next to the car’s exhaust pipe. Although he occasionally engaged in masturbating over scantily dressed pictures of women, he was far more sexually aroused by the Metro photographs in his bedroom.

So that he couldn’t be caught masturbating, he would go to great lengths to find deserted places to engage in his sexual activity with the car. He also became sexually excited by cars that resembled the look of the Metro (including the Fiat Uno, Ford Fiesta, and various makes of Vauxhall cars including the Astra and the Nova). George used to become very sexually excited when the car’s exhaust pipe was running and pumping out car fumes. This aspect of “elimination” – according to De Silva and Pernet – was an important central element in George’s other sexual preferences – particularly his fascination of urination. As a very young child he had an unusual interest in dogs urinating. After the age of 10 years, he was more interested in children and adult women urinating. The authors also speculated there may have been an increase in George’s arousal due to a “reduction of oxygen intake and related asphyxiation”. This was possibly seen as a mild form of hypoxyphilia.

George was eventually treated by a classical conditioning technique known as orgasmic reconditioning. This technique provided the opportunity for George to change the focus of his sexual arousal from cars to women. However, despite the therapy, he still retained a strong sexual interest in Metro cars. This type of therapy has been used in the treatment of other sexually fetishistic behaviours, but as reported in a number of published papers, overcoming the main fetish is very difficult for affected individuals.

More recently, there was worldwide media interest following a television programme in which Edward Smith, a 57-year old man from Washington State in the US, admitted to having had sex with over 1,000 cars. He also claimed he no longer had sexual interest in humans. His last normal relationship had been an unconsummated affair with a woman when he was 45-years old but he had not had sex since he was a young man. At the time of the programme, Smith was living with ‘Vanilla’ (a white Volkswagon Beetle) but was also having sexual relationships with ‘Cinnamon’ (an Opal GT) and ‘Ginger’ (a Ford Ranger Splash). His previous relationship to ‘Vanilla’ was another VW Beetle called ‘Victoria’. Smith went on to comment:

“I appreciate beauty and I go a little bit beyond appreciating the beauty of a car only to the point of what I feel is an expression of love. I’m a romantic. I write poetry about cars, I sing to them and talk to them just like a girlfriend. I know what’s in my heart and I have no desire to change. I’m not sick and I don’t want to hurt anyone, cars are just my preference. It’s something that grew as a part of me when I was a kid and I could not shake it. I just loved cute cars right from the beginning, but over the years it got stronger once I got into my teenage years and was my first having sexual urges. “When I turned 13 and the famous Corvette Stingray came about, that car was pure sex and just an incredible machine. I wanted it. I didn’t fully understand it myself except that I know I’m not hurting anyone and I do not intend to. There are moments way out in the middle of nowhere when I see a little car parked and I swear it needs loving. There have been certain cars that attracted me and I would wait until nighttime, creep up to them and just hug and kiss them. As far as women go, they never really interested me much. And I’m not gay”

At the age of 15 years, Smith first had sex with a car but had also had sex with other forms of transportation. In fact Smith claimed that his best sexual experience was having sex with a helicopter from the US television series Airwolf. Smith went on to claim he is part of a global community of more than 500 mechasexual “car lovers” that communicate via online forums. Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York City sex therapist commented that in general “there is an exhibitionistic element for the person being stimulated by machine, as well as general submission/domination themes”.

In a 2010 issue of the Internet Journal of Human Sexuality, Amy Marsh described what she claims is the first ever research study conducted on a group of 40 “objectophiles” (i.e., “people who experience emotional, romantic, affectionate and/or sexual relationships with objects”), of which 21 shared their experiences. One of those who shared their experiences of ‘mechasexuality’.

He had been aware of his mechasexuality for one to five years.

“I’ve been in love with my mom’s car and my own car since I got it bought. My car’s appearance is what attracts me the most. [I enjoy intimacy with the cars] between twice a week and once every three weeks [and] involves cuddling and such affectionate activity, and sometimes masturbation…However, I’d like to mention that although there can be a little amount of mental role play, I am fully aware that objects are inanimate and that this mostly is a one-sided relation. Although I may consider a human relationship eventually, it has not happened yet.”

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the case of the 40-year old US male airline pilot (and also married and father of two children). His case was recounted in the Journal of Forensic Sciences by Dr J.C. Rupp (County Examiner’s Office, Texas, USA). The man left his home at 6am in the morning and told his wife that he was going shooting in the country. He was found naked except for a large-link 10-foot chain harness secured around his body. (The harness was tied around the man’s neck in a moderately tight loop and bolted. The chain then went down his chest and was tied into another loop around his waist. This was tied to the bumper of the car) at 7.30am in the morning in a remote area crushed against the left fender of his car (equivalent of a VW Beetle). The engine was still running, ignition was on and the driver’s door was still open. The steering wheel was tied so that it would go round in anti-clockwise circles. His clothes were in the boot of the car. Reconstruction of the events leading to his death showed that he was either being dragged round by the car or following the car producing feelings of asphyxia. When he had finished his sexual turn-on he had tried to approach the car door but had forgotten to undo the chain from the bumper. The chain had got tangled up in the car’s axle and the man was found strangled to death by the chain. This is clearly a case of a car being used to facilitate another paraphilia (i.e., hypoxyphilia). Clearly, this is a very extreme case, but like the other cases outlined in this article, they do at least show that for some people, cars are an integral part to their sexuality and sex life.

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

Further reading

Daily Telegraph (2008). Man admits having sex with 1,000 cars. May 21. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2000899/Man-admits-having-sex-with-1000-cars.html

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

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

Pate, J. & Gabbard, J.O. (2003). Adult baby syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1932-1936.

Rupp, J.C. (1973). The love bug. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 18, 259-262.