In a previous blog on vampirism as a sexual paraphilia, I briefly mentioned the related behaviour of odaxelagnia. Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices and Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices define odaxelagnia as a sexual paraphilia concerning individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal through biting or being bitten. Obviously, odaxelagnia is sometimes associated with sexual vampirism but it would appear that most forms of sexual biting do not involve bloodletting.
In her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love included a relatively lengthy entry on sexual biting and reported that “biting is used by some to sexually excite their partner. It is done on the neck, ears, lips, nipples, back, buttocks, genitals, inner thighs, etc. The pressure used depends on their partner’s pain tolerance”. She also notes that sexual biting is one of the “easiest and most accepted methods” in sexual sadism and sexual masochism. She also claims that sexual biting produces an “increased sensation [and] brings some individuals who are emotionally stressed out of their physical numbness, back into touch with their bodies”. In the 2007 book, Miscellany of Sex, Frances Twinn reported that on the islands of Trobriand (off the east coast of New Guinea), the biting off of a woman’s eyelashes is viewed by the people who live there as a passionate activity!
Three separate books (Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, and Arlene Russo’s Vampire Nation) all make reference to the fact that sexual biting has it’s own separate section in the Kama Sutra (written by the Indian philosopher Mallanaga Vatsyayana in the 4th century). As Aggrawal notes:
“The Kama Sutra goes so far as to name all the different kinds of [sexual] bites and scratches, including those focused on the breasts and nipples. Eight kinds of bites are described in the chapter ‘On Biting, and the Means to be Employed with Regard to Women of Different Countries’ These are (i) the hidden bite, (ii) the swollen bite, (iii) the point, (iv) the line of points, (v) the coral and the jewel, (vi) the line of jewels, (vii) the broken cloud, and (viii) the biting of the boar”.
The earliest published empirical research concerning sexual biting was arguably reported by the US sexologist Alfred Kinsey. He and his colleagues reported that about half of all the thousands people they surveyed said they had been sexually aroused from being bitten during sex. However, earlier academic references to sexual biting were made by [British psychologist and sexologist] Havelock Ellis in his 1905 book Studies in the Psychology of Sex. He wrote that:
“The impulse to bite is also a part of the tactile element which lies at the origin of kissing. As Stanley Hall notes, children are fond of biting, though by no means always as a method of affection. There is, however, in biting a distinctly sexual origin to invoke, for among many animals the teeth (and among birds the bill) are used by the male to grasp the female more firmly during intercourse. This point has been discussed in the previous volume of these Studies in reference to ‘Love and Pain’…The heroine of Kleist’s Penthesilea remarks: ‘Kissing (Küsse) rhymes with biting (Bisse), and one who loves with the whole heart may easily confound the two”.
In Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Aggrawal made a number of references to sexual biting in relation to both sadism and necrophilia. In the former, he noted that oral sadists manifest “fantasies of chewing, biting, or otherwise using the mouth, lips, or teeth aggressively or destructively”. In the latter, he noted that one particular type of necrophiliac (so-called ‘role-playing necrophiles’) sometimes have vampire fantasies where “the lover simulates a killing by biting the neck”. Aggrawal reported the case of a woman who imagined she was a vampire. “She would ask her husband to pretend he was dead and then stimulate his organ with her mouth. She would then pretend that the resulting erection was rigor mortis, and this would give her erotic pleasure”.
Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. Eugene Levitt surveyed 225 sadomasochists (178 men and 47 women recruited via an advert in a sadomasochistic magazine) about their sexual behaviour and published their findings in the Journal of Sex Research. Among their sample, the most common sadomasochistic activities were bondage and flagellation and bondage (50% to 80% of the sample). Painful activities (biting, use of ice or hot wax, and face slapping) were less common (37% to 41% of the sample). The most painful activities engaged in (piercing, branding, burning, tattooing, insertion of pins) were the least common (7% to 18% of the sample). These results suggest that biting (among the S&M community at least) is relatively commonplace.
As noted in a previous blog, there has been some clinical research on sexual vampirism (i.e., the rare phenomenon that involves the letting of blood by cutting or biting and accompanied by sexual arousal). In relation to this sort of sexual biting, there has been a lot of psychological theorizing, particularly from a psychodynamic perspective. Dr. P. Jaffe and Dr. F. DiCataldo (1994) published a paper on clinical vampirism and made a number of speculations. Basing some of their thinking on a 1972 paper by Lawrence Kayton in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, they wrote:
“Kayton considers that the vampire myth gives ‘a unique phenomenological view of schizophrenia’ and indeed overt vampiristic delusions have been associated most notably with this disorder. The connection is particularly salient in the more gruesome cases involving cannibalistic and necrosadistic behavior that resemble the content of schizophrenic delusional material acted out. These cases generally present massive disorganized oral sadistic regressions, depersonalization, confused sexuality, multiple concurrent delusions, and thought disorder in content and form. Psychodynamic explanations draw attention to Karl Abraham’s biting oral stage during which the infant uses his teeth with a vengeance to Melanie Klein’s description of children’s aggressive fantasies’ and to W.R.D. Fairbairn’s notion of intense oral sadistic libidinal needs formed in response to actual maternal deprivation”.
I can’t say I’m convinced by any of these explanations but as there is a paucity of good data, no better theories have been put forward on this behaviour specifically (although there are alternative behavioural theories involving classical and operant conditioning that help in explaining paraphilic behaviour more generally).
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Criminal Justice Degrees Guide (2008). 10 unusual fetishes with massive online followings. November 10. Located at: http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-unusual-fetishes-with-massive-online-followings.html
Ellis, H. (1905). Studies in the Psychology of Sex (Volume 4). Located at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13613/13613-h/13613-h.htm
Jaffe, P., & DiCataldo, F. (1994). Clinical vampirism: Blending myth and reality. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 22, 533–544.
Kayton, L. (1972). The relationship of the vampire legend to schizophrenia. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1, 303-314.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Moser, C., & Levitt, E.E. (1987). An exploratory descriptive study of a sadomasochistically oriented sample. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 322–337.
Russo, A. (2008). Vampire Nation. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide.
Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.
Vatsyayana, M. Kama Sutra, Lancer Books, New York, 1964 (originally written 4th Century AD).