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Death tally: How can necrophilia be classified?

In 2009, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) published an interesting paper on necrophilia (i.e., a person obtaining sexual gratification by viewing or having sexual contact and/or intercourse with a corpse) in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. As I mentioned in a previous blog on a new typology of zoophilia, Aggrawal has been writing about various paraphilic behaviours for over a decade and has carved out a productive niche in creating new paraphilic taxonomies. His 2009 paper outlined a new classification of necrophilia that I thought I would take a more detailed look at as I only mentioned it in passing in my previous blog on ncrophiles. Further expansion of the new necrophiliac typology can also be found in Dr. Aggrawal’s latest book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects (published in 2011). As with Aggrawal’s classification of zoophilia, his new classification of necrophilia also contains ten different types (Classes I to X) and is closely related to his zoophilia typology.

  • Class I necrophiliacs: This type comprises role players who according to Aggrawal are only mildly pathological and could be described as engaging in simulated and/or symbolic necrophilia. These individuals never have sex with dead people, but get very sexual aroused when having sex with someone pretending to be dead (i.e., sexual role play). Some paraphilia experts such as Shaffer and Penn (2006) described such acts as pseudonecrophilia. I also argued in a previous blog on somnophilia (i.e., a person obtaining sexual satisfaction with someone who is asleep) that such a practice could be a form of pseudonecrophilia.
  • Class II necrophiliacs: This type comprises romantic necrophiles who according to Aggrawal display only “very mild necrophilic tendencies”. This type of necrophile typically comprises people whose loved ones have just died and who do not seem to fully believe or psychologically appreciate that the person they love is dead. Therefore, the sexual contact may not (in the person’s view) be seen as necrophilic as they still believe the person is alive to them. Aggrawal claims that in some cases, romantic necrophiles may mummify the body (or body parts) of their partner. The necrophilic activity is typically short-lived and is something that stops once the person fully accepts that their loved one is dead.
  • Class III necrophiliacs: This type comprises necrophilic fantasizer who according to Aggrawal simply fantasize about having sexual contact with dead people but never actually engage in the activity for real. Aggrawal claims that such people may become sexually aroused when seeing dead people and may engage in activities that increase their likelihood of seeing the dead (e.g., visiting funeral parlours, cemeteries, etc.).
  • Class IV necrophiliacs: This type comprises tactile necrophiles who according to Aggrawal erotically touch dead bodies to achieve orgasm. They seek out jobs in which they come into regular contact with the dead (e.g., mortuary assistants) and according to Aggrawal “enjoy touching, stroking parts of the dead body, such as genitalia or breasts or perhaps licking them”.
  • Class V necrophiliacs: This type comprises fetishistic necrophiles (also known as “necrofetishists”) who according to Aggrawal do not have sexual intercourse with dead people but who will (if the chance arises) “cut up some portion of the body – perhaps a breast – for later fetishistic activities” or may “keep some portion of the dead body – pubic hair or a finger perhaps – in the pocket for continuous erotic stimulation, or sometimes may wear it as an amulet for similar pleasure”. Aggrawal says that although necrofetishists may preserve body parts of the dead like romantic necrophiles, the motivations are very different (as the latter type of necrophile only keeps body parts of someone they love “in order to fill up a psychosexual vacuum that their death has caused”.
  • Class VI necrophiliacs: This type comprises necromutilomaniacs who according to Aggrawal do not engage in sexual intercourse with dead people but gain sexual pleasure from masturbation while simultaneously mutilating dead bodies. Included within this type of necrophile are those who get sexual pleasure from eating part of the corpse (i.e., necrophagy).
  • Class VII necrophiliacs: This type comprises opportunistic necrophiles who according to Aggrawal are people that typically engage in ‘normal’ sexual behaviour but would have sexual intercourse with a dead person “if an opportunity arose” 
  • Class VIII necrophiliacs: This type comprises regular necrophiles who according to Aggrawal are the ‘‘classical” necrophiliacs as most people would understand. Aggrawal claims that this type of necrophile doesn’t enjoy sexual intercourse with people that are alive and has a distinct preference for sexual activity with the dead. Regular necrophiles will go to extreme lengths to engage in their sexual preference including stealing dead bodies from graveyards or mortuaries.
  • Class IX necrophiliacs: This type comprises homicidal necrophiles (the behaviour of which is sometimes referred to as homicidophilia or ‘lust murder’) who according to Aggrawal are the most dangerous type of necrophile (and are sometimes referred to as ‘necrosadists). These people will go as far as killing people just so as they can have sex with the dead. Aggrawal also says that the behaviour may be described as ‘‘warm necrophilia” because sex typically takes place immediately after the killing while the bodies are still warm.
  • Class X necrophiliacs: This type comprises exclusive necrophiles who according to Aggrawal are arguably the rarest necrophile sub-type. These people are psychologically and physiologically incapable of having sex with the living and therefore are only capable of having sex with the dead. Aggrawal claims that because dead bodies are the prerequisite for sexual behaviour to occur, the person may go to any lengths to acquire a dead body (and therefore, like homicidal necrophiles, can be extremely dangerous).

Aggrawal’s typology ranges from minimal to maximal severity, appears to be instinctive, relatively intuitive, and based on clinical case studies, forensic crime data, and anecdotal evidence. Typing in the term ‘necrophilia’ into one of the main academic literature databases produced a total of only 37 publications ever. Ideally, Aggrawal would like his new classification to facilitate “uniform statistical compilation of data from around the world, epidemiological surveys, calculation of incidence and prevalence of this phenomena, and treatment”.

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.

Aggrawal, A. (2009). A new classification of necrophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16, 316-320.

Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Rosman, J.P. & Resnick, P.J. (1989). Sexual attraction to corpses: A psychiatric review of necrophilia. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 17, 153-163.

Shaffer, L. & Penn, J. (2006). A comprehensive paraphilia classification system. In E.W. Hickey (Ed.), Sex crimes and paraphilia. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Stein, M.L., Schlesinger, L.B. & Pinizzotto, A.J. (2010). Necrophilia and sexual homicide. Journal of Forensic Science, 55, 443-446.