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The cycle of love: Another look at objectum sexuality

In previous blogs I have examined (a) whether in some individuals excessive cycling can be addictive, and (b) some individuals who have sexual relationships with inanimate objects – so-called objectum sexuality, that also appears to have various sub-types such as mechanophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure from computers, cars, robots or androids, domestic appliances, etc.) and robot fetishism (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal arising from humanoid or non-humanoid robots). Today’s blog is arguably an intersection of these previous blogs takes a look at one individual that I was made aware of when I was interviewed about him for the television series Forbidden (broadcast on the Discovery Channel). The case involves Dutchmen Kees van Voorst (KVV) has “a special love for bikes”. He claims to be in love and have sexual relationships with thirty bicycles.

Compared with other objectum sexuals, KVV is not unique. For instance, in previous blogs I recounted the cases of American man Edward Smith who has who has had sex with over a 1000 cars, and the British man Robert Stewart who ended up in court after being caught having sex with a bicycle. I also made reference to a paper published in 2000 by Dr. Steven Thompson in the journal Technology and Culture. Thompson argued that some types of cycles (i.e., motorcycles) are often portrayed as sexualized fetish objects by their owners.

The television documentary about KVV films him in his hometown of Lunteren. The story shows not only how much KVV loves riding bicycles but also shows how much he is romantically and sexually in love with bicycles. He appears ecstatic as he rides his favourite bicycles. He introduces the documentary makers to each bicycle by name. The production notes for the television programme highlighted that:

“His favourite [bicycle] is Aunt Ann who he sleeps with at night. He shows us how he dotes on them daily, oiling their chains, pumping up their tyres and polishing their shafts. He reads bike magazines as if they were adult magazines, Kees really does love bikes. In the film we follow Kees as he introduces a new member to his bike family. But his house is so packed full already, he’ll have to sell one of his bikes to make room for the new member, an emotional moment. He still doesn’t know which bike will go. Once he’s decided, he’ll say goodbye and then sell his bike to a local person who has answered an ad in the local paper…We’ll see him walk through gigantic bike parking lots with literally thousands of bikes – he’ll say hello to them as he walks past. He’ll then enter a massive bike store and be weak at the knees with the sexy selection of bike babes hanging from the ceiling. He’ll then choose his new love and take her home to meet her new family. After introducing the new bike to her new bike brothers and cycling sisters – the moment of truth, the first ride on the new bike – how will they get on? Will she be as good a ride as she looks? Will he take her off road straight away or build up to it? The film will end with Kees and his feelings about his new bike”.

There is little doubt that KVV is one of the world’s few genuine objectum sexuals. KVV wasn’t aware that his sexual love of bicycles had a name but confirmed that the scientific description of the condition matched his own feelings and experiences (i.e., strong feelings of love, commitment and attraction to inanimate items). He was quoted in the documentary as saying “I see my love as the same as men and women but with bikes…I tried to love women but they just don’t love me back like a bike can”. Of the 30 bicycles KVV owns, eight of them have names and his true love is a bicycle he named ‘Aunt Ann’. He currently cycles around 10,000 kilometres a year on his various bicycles. His “special desire” for bicycles began when he was 12 years old.

“His neighbour was visiting with her bike and [KVV] was fixated on it, he pleaded with her to be able to borrow the bike but she wouldn’t let him. He was heart broken. But it wasn’t till he was 16 [years old] that he had his first real love. it was then that he really could grasp that his love for bikes went far beyond what could be considered normal – but for [KVV] this is exactly what it was, absolutely normal. He did try to have relationships with women, he has had two so far in his life but both failed miserably”.

To KVV, ‘Aunt Ann’ is “his everything”. This particular bicycle sleeps in his bedroom, gets kissed good night, and is the bicycle that KVV wants to take with him to his grave. KVV claims that he cannot imagine a life without his beloved bicycles. The sensation of riding them is unlike anything else he has experienced. He says:

“When I am on one of my bikes and I’m thinking only about that bike, that is when I feel real love”.

KVV’s appearance in the Forbidden documentary isn’t the first television programme that he has appeared in. A local Dutch programme profiled KVV and his bicycle love after which he gained a level of notoriety that did not endear him to the Dutch public. Local residents claim he has brought shame to his hometown of Lunteren. Outside of his bicycles, KVV has only one human friend who didn’t want to be filmed in the documentary. The only other human that KVV has any kind of regular contact with is a local photographer who takes photos of KVV with his bicycle lovers.

As I noted in my previous blog on OS, it is only recently that academics have started to carry out research. In a 2010 issue of the Internet Journal of Human Sexuality, Dr. Amy Marsh described what she claims is the first ever research study conducted on a group of 40 ‘objectophiles’. On US television, Marsh revealed that she supported OS as a legitimate sexual orientation and said that her research doesn’t appear to indicate childhood trauma being a factor in the development of the condition. KVV’s story highlights that while rare, objectum sexuality (OS) exists and that some human beings can (and do) have loving sexual relationships with inanimate objects.

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.

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

Heat strokes: A brief look at radiator sex

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

Further reading

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

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

Seats of yearning: A brief look at ‘furniture sex’ and the naming of a new paraphilia

What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you hear the words ‘furniture sex’? Maybe you think about people having sex on particular items of furniture? Maybe you think of specially designed ‘sexy furniture’ such as the items featured on the Pinterest website? Maybe you think about people displayed and used as pieces of human furniture (see my previous blog on forniphilia if you have no idea what I am talking about). There are also those who design bespoke furniture to enhance sexual pleasure. For instance, a recent article in The Frisky examined the ‘sex furniture’ designed by Josh and Jasmine whose entire house is furnished with sex furniture. According to the article “each piece [of furniture] supposedly accommodates multiple positions and enhances orgasm”.

The origin for this blog came when I read a September 2012 story in both the Smoking Gun and The Inquisitor about an American married man (46-year old Gerard Streator) who was accused of having sex with a yellow sofa that had been abandoned on the pavement in Waukesha (Wisconsin, US). At 11pm on September 3rd (2012), Streator had the misfortune to be spotted by an off-duty policeman (Officer Ryan Edwards), who saw Mr. Streator copulating with the sofa while he was out on a late night run. The police officer was quoted as seeing:

“A subject leaning over the couch facing down and it looked like he was having sexual relations with someone on the couch. [I] could see the male’s hips thrusting up and down on the couch [and] could see that the defendant’s penis was erect. [He] had been thrusting his pelvic area against the cushions and trying to sexually gratify himself by rubbing his penis between the two cushions. [He was] thrusting his hips as if he was having sex with a person”

The officer chased Mr. Streator back to the suspect’s apartment and was arrested the following day for the criminal misdemeanor at the County Springs Hotel where Streator worked. The article in The Inquisitor described Streator as a “couch fetishist who engaged in bizarre sexual conduct with the abandoned couch”.

Another strange case involved a man in Hong Kong who late one night attempted to have sex with a local park bench. He penetrated one of the holes in the park bench but disaster struck when his penis got stuck and the emergency services had to be called out to try and cut him free. Unfortunately, there is now a video that was posted on the YouTube website of the emergency services cutting the man free which has already been seen by almost 750,000 viewers. (You can check it out for yourself here, and if you are really curious, there are also other videos on YouTube of sex with furniture such as this one).

In March 2008, the Daily Telegraph here in the UK reported that an American married man (40-year old Art Price, father of three children) had been observed on four separate occasions in Bellevue (Ohio, US) of having sex with a picnic table (the most recent being March 14, 2008 when a neighbour filmed the incident to show the police). The neighbour had observed Mr. Price in his garden turning over a round metal table before performing a sex act upon it”. A spokesman for the local police, Police Captain Matt Johnson said: “He was completely nude. He would use the hole from the umbrella and have sex with the table. Once you think you’ve seen it all, something else comes around”. Mr. Price was charged with four counts of public indecency because his sexual frolics with the picnic table occurred near an elementary school. For others, sex with furniture doesn’t seem to be a problematic issue. Consider this little snippet I came across online”

“Is there anything wrong with having sex with furniture? I mean really? It doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s a very natural thing too. Just look at animals. They do it all the time! How would you think that it’s wrong? And what if you don’t like falling in love with people? How do you tell me who or what to love?

This quote would probably find a lot of support from objectophiles (that I examined at length in a few previous blogs including those who have had sexual relationships with cars). Object 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. 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.

As far as I am aware, there is no specific paraphilia that is associated with getting sexual pleasure and arousal from furniture items so I decided to name a new paraphilia based on this (and other similar cases) I have read about. There are three ways in which paraphilias appear to derive their names.

(1)   The paraphilic word can be derived from two or more Greek words relating to the focus of the sexual desire with the Greek word for ‘love’ (i.e., ’philia’ added). For instance, Professor John Money coined the word ‘acrotomphilia‘ (sexual desire from amputees) from the Greek ‘akron’ (‘extremity’), ‘tome’ (‘a cutting’) and ‘philia’  (‘love’). In ‘stigmatophilia‘ (from the Greek, stigma, “mark”; philia, “love”—Money, 1986)

(2)   The paraphilic word is derived from the opposite of an existing word for some kind of phobia. For instance, the fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia and the love of clowns is coulrophilia,

(3)   The paraphilic word is simply derived from the English word for the focus of sexual desire followed by the greek suffix ‘philia’. For instance, ‘acnephilia’ (sexual pleasure and arousal from those individuals with acne).

Therefore, I could perhaps call this type of sexual behaviour ‘furniturephilia’ (which certainly has an alliterative ring to it) but is not very original. As far as I am aware, there is no named phobia for fear of furniture, so this avenue is closed. Finally, I tried to track down the Greek word for furniture. The word ‘furniture’ is derived from the French word ‘fourniture’ (which means ‘the act of furnishing’) so does not really exist historically in Greek. However, one of my research colleagues (from Greece) informed me that ‘epiplo’ is the singular for furniture and that ‘epipla’ is the plural. I am therefore going to name those with a ‘furniture sex’ paraphilia as engaging in epiplophilia. Additionally, given that some individuals seem to only like seated furniture, I found out that the word ‘throne’ is of Greek origin (from the word ‘thronos’). Therefore, in the absence of any other names for paraphilias involving seated furniture, I hereby name this as ‘thronosphilia’ that I will operationally define not just as the gaining of sexual pleasure and arousal from furniture chairs and seating.

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

Further reading

Angelowicz, A. (2012). TLC’s “Strange sex”: Sex furniture and sleep orgasms. The Frisky, Augsut 28. Located at: http://www.thefrisky.com/2012-08-28/tlcs-strange-sex-sex-furniture-sleep-orgasms/

Barton, D. (2009). The 6 strangest objects people were caught having sex with. Cracked.com, February 28. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_17098_the-6-strangest-objects-people-were-caught-having-sex-with.html

El Dorado Furniture (2010). Wordplay: Etymology of Furniture Terms, October 4. Located at: http://eldoradofurniture.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/wordplay-etymology-of-furniture-terms.html

Hazell, B. (2008). American caught having sex with picnic table. Daily Telegraph, March 28. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1583118/American-caught-having-sex-with-picnic-table.html

Jowaheer, R. (2012). Hotel worker could face jail after being caught ‘having sex with sofa’. AOL Travel, September 26. Located at: http://travel.aol.co.uk/2012/09/26/hotel-worker-faces-jail-caught-having-sex-sofa-street/

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

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Money, J. & Simcoe, K.W. (1986). Acrotomophilia, sex and disability: New concepts and case report. Sexuality and Disability, 7, 43-50.

Rigney, T. (2012). Abandoned couch sex: Man arrested for getting busy with furniture. The Inquisitor, September 27. Located at: http://www.inquisitr.com/345157/abandoned-couch-sex-man-arrested-for-getting-busy-with-furniture/

The Smoking Gun (2012). Man busted for curbside sex with old couch. The Smoking Gun, September 24. Located at: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/man-busted-for-couch-sex-684512

Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships

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

Crash and turn on: A brief look at chremastistophilia and symphorophilia

“Okay so I was chatting on a website and this guy approached me saying he wanted to be blackmailed for money. He told me he would give me $100 on Thursday if I logged into his Facebook account and humiliated him. I’m a little freaked out, but what should I tell him??” (query from ‘answers.yahoo.com‘)

In a previous blog I examined hybristophilia (a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from having a sexual partner who is known to have committed serious crimes, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery). Another criminally-related paraphilia is chremastistophilia. In this paraphilia, the individual derives sexual arousal and pleasure from being robbed, conned, cheated, blackmailed and/or being held up by the individual’s sexual partner (or in a few cases, a complete stranger). Some websites (such as kinkify.com) colloquially refer to it as the “hold-up kink”.

Some have speculated that the strong emotions of frustration, fear, annoyance, rage, and/or submission are subconsciously drawn upon by chremastistophiles and then focused into sexual arousal/gratification. This could be viewed as ‘edge play’ (i.e., rough and deviant sexual play enjoyed by sexual masochists and sexual sadists) as the behaviour can be life threatening for chremasistophiles to actively seek out someone to steal from them purely for sexual kicks.

The reciprocal condition where the sexual focus is on charging or robbing one’s sexual partner has not been given a name. Those people who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from breaking and entering a property (and then stealing) is known as kleptophilia (which I overviewed in a previous blog). In my research into chremastistophilia, I have yet to come across a single piece of empirical research on the topic. Most of the evidence appears to be anecdotal. For instance, the cult novelist and multi-media artist Kris Saknussemm has noted:

“I’ve met several chremastistophiles, all of whom had been arrested on petty charges at some point in their lives – drug possession, minor theft, etc. All expressed a strong libido, but also a climax dysfunction. They got aroused, they just didn’t get off easily. What magical thing finally provided that long-awaited release? The experience of being taken advantage of – which is different from out-and-out assault. It’s a variation on biastophilia, the perverse attraction to being raped, but the key distinction seems to lie in the impending threat itself. “Give me your wallet and nobody gets hurt” – that kind of thing. One British gentleman proudly displayed the scar he received from a knife wound in the course of a mugging – an event which he said led to a spontaneous ejaculation, the most powerful and substantial he’d ever experienced”

Dr Billi Gordon and Dr James Elias claim that chremastistophilia is accepted as potentially lethal alongside other criminally related paraphilias such as hybristophilia and autassassinophilia (where the individual derives sexual arousal by the by the risk of being killed). Unfortunately, I cannot find a single academic or clinical study that has ever been published in a peer reviewed journal so this is clearly an area that is crying out for some empirical research. There was a theoretical paper published in 2004 on autassassinophila by Lisa Downing (Queen Mary, University of London). She used used the case of Sharon Lopatka, a Maryland woman who instigated her own sexual murder in 1996. She said:

“It demonstrates that the phenomenon of being murdered for pleasure problematizes commonplace assumptions about the legitimacy to consent. The discussion recalls and refreshes existing debates in feminism and the politics of sadomasochism and reads them alongside the rhetoric surrounding the ethics of medically assisted suicide. Consenting to murder for pleasure is revealed as a formulation that exceeds the terms of informed consent as it is currently understood and thereby constitutes an ethical and logical aporia”.

Another strange paraphilia with a potentially criminally-based sexual focus is symphorophilia. This is a paraphilia that Professor John Money said related to individuals who derive sexual arousal and pleasure from witnessing and/or stage-managing a “disaster, such as a conflagration or traffic accident, and watching for it to happen”. Again, I have yet to come across any empirical research on the topic although I did briefly examine this paraphilia in relation to sex and cars in one of my previous blogs (and another blog I wrote on objectum sexuality). It has been alleged that in very rare cases, an accident that may injure or even kill someone may bring the symphorophile to the point of orgasm quicker. The condition is probably better known in popular culture than in academic terms. For instance, the main characters in the 1973 novel Crash by British author J.G. Ballard (and the subsequent 1996 film adaptation of the same name) were symphorophiles. Part of the Crash Wikipedia entry on Ballard’s Crash novel motes:

“The story is told through the eyes of narrator James Ballard, named after the author himself, but it centers on the sinister figure of Dr. Robert Vaughan, a ‘former TV-scientist, turned nightmare angel of the expressways’. Ballard meets Vaughan after being involved in a car accident himself near London Airport. Gathering around Vaughan is a group of alienated people, all of them former crash-victims, who follow him in his pursuit to re-enact the crashes of celebrities, and experience what the narrator calls ‘a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology’. Vaughan’s ultimate fantasy is to die in a head-on collision with movie star Elizabeth Taylor”.

In the film, the Wikipedia entry notes:

“Ballard becomes one of Vaughan’s followers who fetishise car accidents, obsessively watching car safety test videos and photographing traffic accident sites. Ballard drives Vaughan’s Lincoln convertible around the city while Vaughan picks up and uses street prostitutes, and later Ballard’s wife. In turn, Ballard has a dalliance with one of the other group members, Gabrielle a beautiful woman whose legs are clad in restrictive steel braces, and who has a vulva-like scar on the back of one of her thighs, which is used as a substitute for a vagina by Ballard. The film’s sexual couplings in (or involving) cars are not restricted to heterosexual experiences. While watching videos of car crashes, Dr. Remington becomes extremely aroused and gropes the crotches of both Ballard and Gabrielle, suggesting an imminent ménage a trios”.

As with chremastistophilia, I have been unable to find a single clinical or academic study published in a peer-reviewed journal so it wouldn’t be too much an educated guess that such a paraphilia is incredibly rare.

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

Further reading

Downing, L. (2004). On the limits of sexual ethics: The phenomenology of autassassinophilia. Sexuality and Culture, 8, 3-17.

Gordon, W.A. & Elias, J.E. (2005). Potentially lethal modes of sexual expression. Paper presented at the 2005 Western Region Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Wikipedia (undated). Crash (1996 film). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crash_(1996_film)

Wikipedia (undated). Crash (J.G. Ballard novel). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crash_(J._G._Ballard_novel)

Something to get animated about: A brief overview of toonophilia

While researching previous blogs on the Furry Fandom (i.e., those individuals who derive sexual pleasure from dressing up as an animal and/or derive sexual pleasure from having sex with someone dressed as an animal) and objectum sexuality (i.e., those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to specific inanimate objects or structures), I kept coming across various online references to toonophilia.

Toonophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals are sexually and/or emotionally attracted to cartoon characters (including Japanese anime characters). There are a number of slightly different definitions found online some of which claim that toonophilia only applies to those individuals whose primary or exclusive sexual interest is in cartoon characters. There also appears to be other similar paraphilias such as fictophilia (in which individuals are romantically and/or sexually attracted to fictional characters in books) and gameophilia (in which individuals are romantically and/or sexually attracted to fictional video game characters such as Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft). One website claimed that toonophilia is seen as a life-style and that “due to the absence of physical contacts between humans and cartoon characters” most toonophiles’ sexual activity (unsurprisingly) comprises masturbation.

I’ve only come across one academic reference to toonophilia and that was in a comprehensive list of paraphilias in the 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices by Dr.Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India). However, there is nothing more than a one-line definition. The same book also notes that tooniphilia is also known by another name – schediaphilia. I also checked out Brenda Love’s (normally very reliable and all encompassing) Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices but there was nothing on toonophilia at all.

One of the most infamous toonophiles is cartoonist and comic book artist Robert Crumb who has gone on record saying that as a youngster he was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny when he was dressed in drag. More specifically he said:

When I – what was it – about five or six? – I was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny. And I – I cut out this Bugs Bunny off the cover of a comic book and carried it around with me. Carried it around in my pocket and took it out and looked at it periodically, and – and it got all wrinkled up from handling it so much that I asked my mother to iron it on the ironing board to flatten it out, and – and she did, and I was deeply disappointed ’cause it got all brown when she ironed it, and brittle, and crumbled apart”

In one of the regular polls carried out on the Deviant Art website, 58 “deviants” responded to the poll “Do you have toonophilia?” with 60% responding that they did (n=35), 14% responding “not really” (n=14), and 16% responding “sort of”. Yes, I know it’s not scientific and it’s a very small number of respondents, but that was the only numerical data of any description I could find. An article in a 2008 issue of the Huffington Post reported that some toonophiles wanted to make their relationships with cartoon characters official. They reported that the Toonophile Planet website were offering marriage certificates (assuming the character was not already married to another toonophile). At the Go Petition website, there is a genuine petition asking for relationships and marriages between humans and cartoon characters to be made legal. The petition said:

“Toonophilia is a growing belief. Not only do our kind love cartoon/videogame characters, we feel their presence and our love for them are as real as you and I. Toonophiles are registering marriages to their virtual lovers on the Internet and the number of virtual marriage certificates are growing. An example of toonophile oriented websites are: www.sonic-passion.com, www.toonophilia.net. These marriage certificates sadly are only virtual. We desire to have “legal” marriage certificates with our name and loved one’s name written on it. I have never been interested in relationships with real people and am only interested in virtuality. This petition will be sent to the BBC as soon as enough signatures have been signed. We the undersigned request that you allow the marriage between Humans and virtual cartoon/videogame characters be permitted in the UK”

The Huffington Post article also noted that other websites (like the ToonsPortal) featured obscene and/or pornographic images and videos of many different cartoon characters (like The Flintstones) having sex. In March 2012, Willow Monroe wrote an online essay about toonophilia. There was nothing to back up what was written but she claimed that:

“Sexy for the Toonophile need not be a blatantly erotic character like Jessica Rabbit, or Betty Boop, rather, the subject of affection and desire can be any animated or sketched figure from Bugs Bunny, to Ms Pacman. Toonophiles are known to carry pictures of their adored character and even collect the plush toy and figurine versions of them. Some Toonophile friendly sites even allow members to wed their preferred character, provided that character is unspoken for.There is an abundance of sites on the web that cater to this fetishist’s fantasies. A range of characters can be watched performing pretty well every – and any – kind of sexual act imaginable. By far the most popular form of cartoon pornography on the internet is served up courtesy of the Japanese anime market. The pornographic cartoons in the anime style are casually called Hentai. The word’s etymology gives insight into what the original artists of this style thought of their work, as the word can be translated as ‘perversion’”

I spent an idle hour scouring toonophile forums and I came across dozens of people claiming to be in love and/or having longstanding sexual relationships with cartoon characters.For instance, here are a few (genuine) confessions and just the tip of the iceberg:

  • “I think I have schediaphilia because whenever I watch a show with the particular anime character I like, my heart beats like crazy. I can almost hear it beat and my stomach does a flipping thing, and I even have sexual dreams about that character. I have a full on crush on this anime character”
  • I’m the neighborhood toonophile. I’ve known I’m one for a good 4 years now, but even long back into my childhood days when I didn’t even realize it. I’ve always had a fascination with cartoon characters, and it just grew in my adulthood. Can’t really explain it to most people because they’ll be like ‘whaaa?’ and some don’t even think it’s a real thing, but it really is honestly. I can’t really find attraction in real people. I honestly get sick to the stomach at the thought of having sex with a real person, it’s just not my thing, but with a certain character like Beast from Beauty and the Beast, it’s a real turn on for me”
  • “Ever since I was 15 I fell in love with a cartoon character by the name of Amy Rose [a character in the Sonic The Hedgehog video game]. To this day I am still in love with her and share my life with her. Most of you will think ‘what a loser, loving a fictional character. Get a real girlfriend’. But Amy makes me happy, so let’s leave it at that”
  • “I am a Toonophiliac or should I say fictosexual since I’m attracted to fictional characters and not just toons. I just noticed that I wasn’t attracted to real people but that I had sexual and relationship fantasies about fictional characters. I imagine myself with a fictional character, having a relationship then having sex. Depending upon the character, it might be more sexual or more relationship based. One day it’s one, the other day it’s another. It’s like polygamy, but none of them are jealous and there’s no risk of getting a disease or ending up pregnant”
  • “I have no idea how it finally clicked, other than a strong fascination with cartoon characters since childhood that sort of matured with me. It’s physical for me too, of course – things like ponies or Beast or cartoon dragons or Pokemon or Digimon. They’re literally physically attractive to me in their base state. I think part of the appeal to me is that, by being attracted to characters that by definition don’t necessarily confine to reality like that, it lends itself to more ‘creative’ or ‘unrealistic’ fetishes too”

From my research into video game playing, I can certainly see echoes of toonophilia among younger players when looking at video game characters such as Lara Croft. In previous articles, I have asked myself what explains Lara’s immense popularity. At one level this may seem fairly obvious – she’s a big-breasted digital icon. However, most Tomb Raider players aren’t lusting adolescents. I questioned a group of players and asked them about why Tomb Raider was such a good game. The single most important factor appeared to be the problem-solving component as part of the treasure hunt genre. Her physical attributes didn’t seem to be important for most players apart from the youngest teenagers. Maybe it’s among this group of teenage video game players where some toonophile tendencies begin to develop?

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.

Griffiths, M.D. (1998). Shrink Rap: The Croft Report. Arcade, 1 (November), p. 49.

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

McCombs, E. (2008). Toonophilia: Is it porn? Huffington Post, October 1st. Located at: http://www.asylum.com/2008/10/01/toonophilia-is-it-porn/

Monroe, W. (2012). Fetish of the Week: Schediaphilia (Toonophilia). ZZ Insider, March 12. Located at: http://www.zzinsider.com/blogs/view/fetish_of_the_week_schediaphilia_toonophilia

Statue of limitations: A brief overview of agalmatophilia

In March 2012, the Daily Mail reported the story of Reighner Deleighnie, a 40-year old woman from London who claimed that she had fallen in love with a three-foot statue of the Greek God Adonis that she bought for £395. It was reported that:

“She enjoys reading and talking to her companion, and keeps him close by when she watches television and eats dinner. She also kisses and caresses him, imagining the pair of them walking through meadows of wildflowers or at the seaside. She shares the condition with Amanda Whittaker, a 27-year-old shop assistant from Leeds who has fallen head over heels for the Statue of Liberty”.

Agalmatophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects. It is also part of a wider condition known as ‘object sexuality’ (i.e., those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to specific inanimate objects or structures) that I wrote about in a previous blog. The behaviour can manifest itself in many forms including actual sexual contact with the body-shaped objects, fantasies of having sexual encounters with the body-shaped objects, the act or sexual fantasy of watching encounters between the body-shaped objects themselves, and/or sexual arousal from thoughts of being transformed or transforming into a body-shaped object. (Because of this latter variation, some commentators have noted there are elements of transformation fetishism that I examined in my previous blog on Furry Fandom). It has also been claimed that for some agalmatophiles, the idea of immobility or loss of control can be arousing. For other agalmatophiles, there may also be fantasies about paralysis that may cross over into hypno-fetishism and/or robot fetishism.

Agalmatophilia can also include “Pygmalionism” that is usually defined as a state of love for an object of one’s own creation. Pygmalion was a Greek sculptor and misogynist who fell in love with a statue he had carved. In Greek mythology (and according to Ovid), after seeing the Propoetides prostituting themselves, Pygmalion lost all sexual interest in women. The legend has it that his carved statue was so realistic that he fell in love with it. He prayed to Aphrodite (the Greek godess of love) to bring the statue to life. Aphrodite eventually granted his wish and Pygmalion married the once statue. (I feel duty bound to point out that this view is not universal. A 1978 paper in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences by two New Zealand historians, Dr. A. Scobie and Dr. J. Taylor, state that Pygmalionism is not – and shouldn’t be confused as – a form of agalmatophilia).

Most of the academic writings on agalmatophilia are either case studies and/or historical writings (which are hard to confirm). For instance, Dr. Brenda Love in a 2005 book chapter entitled “Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing” said that Clisyphus allegedly “violated the statue of a goddess in the Temple of Samos, after having placed a piece of meat on a certain part”. Dr. Love also reported that having sex with statues was commonplace among worshippers of Priapus where virgins were first penetrated by him. (For those who don’t know, Priapus was a fertility god, and protector of fruit, gardens, livestock, and male genitalia. All illustrations of Priapus accentuate his oversized, permanent erection that has given rise to the painful medical condition ‘priapism’ in which the penis remains erect for long periods). Even in the twentieth century, Dr. Love reports that young Indian female virgins have been documented as making love to statues as a way to break their hymens.

Arguably the first academically documented case was by Richard Von Krafft-Ebbing in his 1877 text Psychopathia Sexualis. Here, Krafft-Ebbing recounted that case of a male gardener who fell in love with a statue of the Venus de Milo and was discovered attempting to have sexual intercourse with it. In a 1978 issue of the Journal of Sex Research, Murray White, a psychologist based in New Zealand, examined the clinical and literary citations relating to agalmatophilia. Although making reference to case studies outlined by Krafft-Ebbing and Havelock Ellis, he found found only one “single documented instance where this condition existed as part of a complex manifestation of symptoms but a number of instances where it occurred as a pornographic fantasy”. Despite the rarity of the condition, White did at least conform that the condition was a bona fide clinical entity.

More recently, Dr. Brenda Love in her 2005 book chapter outlined two more case studies (one of which I think was originally in Robert Tralin’s 1969 book The Sexual Fetish). The first case was the case a 34-year old man who at the age of 12 years became obsessed with a life size museum statue. He subsequently bought two small statues he spotted in a shop window and began regularly masturbating with them. At the time of the report being written, he had been masturbating with the aid of the statues for 22 years and was still doing it even though he was now happily married.

The second case involved a window dresser who developed overwhelming urges to masturbate every time he saw a naked mannequin. This appeared to be related to his first sexual experience when he was forced to perform fellatio on a man while sitting on mannequins. As time went on, he also developed desires to rub up against mannequins and also liked other men to watch him do it.

There are also cases of what could perhaps be described as ‘pseudo-agalmatophilia’. For instance, Dr. Brenda Love noted that in the sado-masochistic community, some masochists are ordered by their sexually sadistic partners to become a statue and not move while being fondled. There is nothing in the empirical academic literature outside of case studies although one website essay on agalmatophilia claims men who participate in these fetishes outnumber women 10 to 1, but that there are many women who participate as well. It also states that:

“The sexual stimulation results more from a need of control and sexual gratification without emotion from either counterpart. It can be easily misunderstood as a shallow, cruel, and heartless depiction of sexual stimulation, and although this may be true for some, it is not true for all. Some use this as a way of performing derogatory acts without actually harming anyone…Agalmatophilia is a difficult concept to comprehend, especially when considering the mental states behind these fantasies. However, one should always consider whether the actions harm real individuals or not. In some cases, this is just a derogatory fantasy. For others, this is just sexual gratification that stems from loneliness or the lack of confidence in an ability to find a partner”

In the absence of any empirical sources to back this up, it is hard to assess the validity of these claims, but the claims seem plausible. As with most rare paraphilic behaviours, we have no way of knowing whether the published case studies are in any way representative of all people who have such sexual interests.

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

Further reading

Baker, D. (2012). ‘I’m head over heels in love with the Statue of Liberty’: Shop assistant has got a new flame! Daily Mail, March 6. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2110198/Amanda-Whittaker-love-Statue-Liberty-Shop-assistant-got-new-flame.html#ixzz1viApQQ1M

Krafft-Ebing, R. (1877). Psychopathia Sexualis. New York: Paperback Library (1965 reprint).

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

Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Scobie, A. & Taylor, J. (1975). Perversions ancient and modern. Agalmatophilia, the statue syndrome. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 11, 49-54.

Strauss, R.S. (2012). I’m in love with a three-foot statue of Adonis: Carer, 40, spends every day with £400 moulding of the Greek god of desire she has dubbed ‘Hans’. Daily Mail, March 23. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2119164/Carer-40-spends-day-400-Adonis-moulding-dubbed-Hans.html#ixzz1vi0JlPvb

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

Tralins, R. (1969). The Sexual Fetish: Case Histories of Bizarre Sexual Hangups. New York: Paperback Library Books.

White, M.J. (1978). The Statue Syndrome: Perversion? Fantasy? Anecdote? Journal of Sex Research, 14, 246-249.

The Eyeful Tower: An objective look at love and sex

One of the most interesting documentaries I have watched in recent years was the Channel 5 programme Married To The Eiffel Tower which first aired on June 4, 2008. The programme featured (via three in-depth case studies) an examination of ‘object sexuality’.

Object 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. 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. (Check out my previous blog on sex and cars that included the case of a car objectophile).

Arguably the most infamous objectophile is Erika LaBrie who “married” the Eiffel Tower (ET) in 2007 (and now calls herself Erika Eiffel). She first met the ET in 2004 and fell in love with it immediately. She visits her “soul mate” as often as she can afford to, and she claims her relationship is as real as that between any two consenting adults. Prior to her relationship with the ET, her object love empowered her to become a two-time world champion in archery (her first object love was her bow called ‘Lance’). While falling in love with an inanimate object is rare, Erika is not alone.

Erika Eiffel’s feelings for the La Tour Eiffel are not common, but not entirely unheard of either. Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer infamously married the Berlin Wall over 30 years ago and invented the term ‘Objectum Sexuality’ (OS) to describe her love. Together they founded “OS Internationale” – a support network and educational website for other objectophiles. Unsurprisingly, the formation of the website generated worldwide media attention.

Here are a few other well known objectophiles who have turned up in the national and international media:

  • Edward Smith, a 57-year old man from Washington State in the US, admitted to having had sex with over 1,000 cars. He said: “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”.
  • Amanda Whittaker from Leeds (UK) gave an interview (to the Daily Mail) regarding her romantic feelings for the Statue of Liberty Whittaker said:“She is my long-distance lover and I am blown away by how stunning she is. Other people might be shocked to think I can have romantic feelings for an object, but I am not the same as them”. 
  • Reighner Deleighnie, a 40-year old woman from London (UK) claimed that she had fallen in love with a three-foot statue of the Greek God Adonis that she bought for £395. It was reported that: “She enjoys reading and talking to her companion, and keeps him close by when she watches television and eats dinner. She also kisses and caresses him, imagining the pair of them walking through meadows of wildflowers or at the seaside”.
  • Amy Wolfe a 33-year old woman from Pennsylvania (US) declared her romantic feelings for a fairground ride ‘1001 Nachts’ in Knoebels Amusement Park that she fell in love with aged 13 years. She said: “I love him as much as women love their husbands and know we’ll be together forever. I was instantly attracted to him sexually and mentally”. She’s now marrying the ride.
  • 41-year-old Joachim A. from Germany, a 41-year old man recognized and accepted his inclination when he was just 12 years old. He 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’s now in a steady relationship with a steam locomotive and has been for several years.

It is only recently that academics have started to carry out research into OS. In a 2010 issue of the Internet Journal of Human Sexuality, clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Marsh described what she claims is the first ever research study conducted on a group of 40 “objectophiles” of which 21 English-speaking participants shared their experiences. On US television, Marsh revealed that she supported OS as a legitimate sexual orientation. Her research doesn’t appear to indicate childhood trauma being a factor in the development of OS. She stated there would be far more objectophiles if this was the case. As one car-lover in Marsh’s paper said:

 “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.”

German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch (former director of Frankfurt University’s Institute for Sexual Science) believes he has unraveled the mysteries of OS – a form of modern ‘neo-sexuality’. He views OS as proof of his hypothesis that society is increasingly drifting into asexuality. He speculated:

“More and more people either openly declare or can be seen to live without any intimate or trusting relationship with another person. Cities are populated by an entire army of socially isolated individuals. Singles, isolated people, cultural sodomites, many perverts and sex addicts”.

However, Sigusch doesn’t want to classify such odd behaviour as pathological. He concluded: “The objectophiles aren’t hurting anyone. They’re not abusing or traumatizing other people. Who else can you say that about?”

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

Further reading

Baker, D. (2012). ‘I’m head over heels in love with the Statue of Liberty’: Shop assistant has got a new flame! Daily Mail, March 6. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2110198/Amanda-Whittaker-love-Statue-Liberty-Shop-assistant-got-new-flame.html#ixzz1viApQQ1M

Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships

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

Otto, S. (2009). Woman getting married to fairground ride. Daily Telegraph, August 5. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5972632/Woman-getting-married-to-fairground-ride.html

Simpson, A. (2008). Woman with objects fetish marries Eiffel Tower. Daily Telegraph, June 4. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2074301/Woman-with-objects-fetish-marries-Eiffel-Tower.html

Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships

Strauss, R.S. (2012). I’m in love with a three-foot statue of Adonis: Carer, 40, spends every day with £400 moulding of the Greek god of desire she has dubbed ‘Hans’. Daily Mail, March 23. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2119164/Carer-40-spends-day-400-Adonis-moulding-dubbed-Hans.html#ixzz1vi0JlPvb

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