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Making scents of it all: A brief look at sex, smell and olfactophilia

Olfactophilia (also known as osmolagnia, osphresiolagnia, and ozolagnia) is a paraphilia where an individual derives sexual pleasure from smells and odours. Given the large body of research on olfaction, it is unsurprising that in some cases there should be an association with sexual behavior. The erotic focus is most likely to relate to body odors of a sexual partner, including genital odors. One of my favourite papers examining sex and smell was a 1999 paper by Dr. Alan Hirsch and Dr. Jason Gruss published in the Journal of Neurological and Orthopaedic Medicine and Surgery. As they note in the introduction to their study, sex and smell have a long association:

“Historically, certain smells have been considered aphrodisiacs, a subject of much folklore and pseudoscience. In the volcanic remnants of Pompeii, perfume jars were preserved in the chambers designed for sexual relations. Ancient Egyptians bathed with essential oils in preparation for assignations; Sumarians seduced their women with perfumes. A relationship between smell and sexual attraction is emphasized in traditional Chinese rituals, and virtually all cultures have used perfume in their marriage rites. In mythology, rose petals symbolized scent, and the word ‘deflowering’ describes the initial act of sex…Dramatic literature abounds with sly references to nasal size as symbolic of phallic size, as in the famous play Cyrano De Bergerac…Psychoanalysis has made much of these associations. Fliess, in his concept of the phallic nose, formally described an underlying link between the nose and the phallus. Jungian psychology also connects odors and sex”.

In contemporary society, perfumes for women and colognes for men are marketed aggressively because it is a multi-billion pound business and are advertised in a way that suggests sexual success for those who use such fragrances. Hirsch and Gruss argue that:

“The prominent connection between odors and sex among diverse historical periods and cultures implies a high level of evolutionary importance. Freud suggested that odors are such strong inducers of sexual feelings that repression of smell sensations is necessary to civilization. Anatomy bears out the link between smells and sex: the area of the brain through which we experience smells, the olfactory lobe, is part of the limbic system, the emotional brain, the area through which sexual thoughts and desires are derived. Brill [1932] suggests that people kiss to get their noses close together, so that they can smell each other (the Eskimo kiss). Or possibly they kiss to get their mouths together so they can taste each other since most of what we call taste is dependent upon olfaction”.

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One of the research areas that I have published a couple of papers with Dr. Mark Sergeant (see ‘Further reading’ below) in is on the area of pheromones (i.e., chemical substances “produced and released into the environment by an animal, especially a mammal or an insect, affecting the behaviour or physiology of others of its species”). Pheromones are known to exist across the animal kingdom from insects to primates (possibly including humans but most robust scientific studies have shown the evidence is relatively weak, and if pheromones do exist in humans the effects are likely to be very subtle). As Hirsch and Gruss note:

“Inside the human brain, near the top of the nose is an anatomical feature that gives us reason to believe that human pheromones exist: the vomeronasal organ. Its function is unknown, but in subhuman primates, this is the area where pheromones act to increase the chance of procreation…When we exercise, we sweat through endocrine glands. But when we are embarrassed or sexually excited, we sweat through apocrine glands that release high-density steroids under the arms and around the genitalia; their role is unknown. In subhuman primates, the same apocrine glands release pheromones”.

Other evidence for the existence of pheromones are the studies showing that women’s menstrual cycles tend to synchronize over time when living or working closely together (the so-called ‘McClintock Effect’ named after Martha McClintock, the person who first reported it in a 1971 issue of the journal Nature). Other research by Dr. Hirsch has shown evidence that links smell with sexual response. For instance, in one of his studies, 17% of patients that had “olfactory deficits” had developed some kind of sexual dysfunction.

In Hirsch and Gruss’ 1999 study, they examined the effects of 30 different smells on male sexual arousal of 31 American male participants (aged 18 years to over 60 years). They underwent various (question-based) smell tests and their sexual arousal was assessed experimentally by measuring penile blood flow with a penile plethysmograph. The smells comprised 24 different odourants in addition to six combination odourants. All 30 odours produced an increase in penile blood flow (Table III). They reported that:

“The combined odor of lavender and pumpkin pie had the greatest effect, increasing median penile-blood flow by 40%. Second in effectiveness was the combination of black licorice and doughnut, which increased the median penile-blood flow 31.5%. The combined odors of pumpkin pie and doughnut was third, with a 20% increase. Least stimulating was cranberry, which increased penile blood flow by 2%…Men with below normal olfaction did not differ significantly from those with normal olfaction, nor did smokers differ significantly from nonsmokers”.

The findings supported their hypothesis that positive smelling odours would increase sexual arousal, and then speculated a number of reasons why this might be the case:

“The odors could induce a Pavlovian conditioned response reminding subjects of their sexual partners or their favorite foods. Among persons raised in the United States, odors of baked goods are most apt to induce a state called olfactory-evoked recall. Possibly, odors in the current study evoked a nostalgic recall with an associated positive mood state that affected penile blood flow. Or the odors may simply be relaxing. In others studies, lavender, which increased alpha waves posteriorly, an effect associated with a relaxed state. In a condition of reduced anxiety, inhibitions may be removed and thus penile blood flow increased…Another possibility, odors may act neurophysiologically…Nor can we rule out a generalized parasympathetic effect, increasing penile blood flow rather than specific sexual excitation…The specific odors that affected penile blood flow in our experiment were primarily food odors…Does this support the axiom that the way to a man’s heart (and sexual affection) is through his stomach?…We certainly cannot consider the odors in our experiment to be human pheromones, therefore we believe they acted through other pathways than do pheromones”.

Shortly after this study, Hirsch and his colleagues repeated the study on females (assessing their vaginal blood flow) and found similar effects that they reported in the International Journal of Aromatherapy. In this second study they found that the largest increases in vaginal blood flow were from candy and cucumber (13%), baby powder (13%), pumpkin pie and lavender (11%), and baby powder and chocolate (4%). Obviously there are major limitations with both of these studies (such as small sample sizes, all the odours being selected by the researchers, and blood flow being the sole measure of arousal).

Odours that are sexually arousing are likely to be very specific and (in some cases) strange and/or bizarre. For instance, I published the world’s first case study of eproctophilia (sexual arousal from flatulence and a sub-type of olfactophilia) in a 2013 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior (a topic that I examined in a number of previous blogs such as those here and here). I’ve also come across anecdotal evidence of other strange smells that sexually arouse people. For instance, in an article on ’15 Surprising & Weird Fetishes’, number 11 in the list was ‘air freshener’ fetish:

One Reddit user reports becoming aroused as a teenager whenever he walked into a room that uses a specific brand and scent of air freshener! After some questioning from other conclusions, he suspects that the scent has become associated withe the first time he watched porn. Other users report being turned on by scents such as perfume samples that were included in ‘Playboy’ magazine”.

Some paraphilias may have an element of olfaction. For instance, antholagnia refers to individuals who are sexually aroused by flowers (and the arousal may depend on the sight and/or smell of the flowers). The Kinkly website notes (without empirical evidence to back up any of the claims made):

People with antholagnia typically have a preference for certain flowers, just as most people are sexually aroused by certain body types. They are likely to become aroused while visiting a florist shop, a floral nursery, or a botanical garden. They may also seek out images of flowers online for sexual gratification. Most people with antholagnia learn to manage their condition and enjoy healthy sex lives. They may even use the scent of flowers during foreplay or intercourse. However, if antholagnia starts to interfere with a person’s professional or personal life, he or she may wish to seek treatment. Treatment for antholagnia may consist of cognitive or behavioral therapies, psychoanalysis, or hypnosis”

I also came across an online 2013 article (‘Scents that trigger sexual arousal’) by Susan Bratton that summarized recent research (although she based most of it from material in Dr. Daniel Amen’s 2007 book Sex On The Brain). More specifically, the article note that:

“Current research also suggests the scent of musk closely resembles that of testosterone, the hormone that enhances healthy libido in both sexes. In scent studies at Toho University in Japan, floral and herbal essential oils were found to impact sexual arousal in the nervous system. But depending on whether you need to stimulate or relax your partner to get them in an amorous mood, you would use different scents. To stimulate the Sympathetic Nervous System use jasmine, yang-ylang, rose, patchouli, peppermint, clove and bois de rose. To relax the Parasympathetic Nervous System use sandalwood, marjoram, lemon, chamomile and bergamot…Many of these scents are also commonly found in tea such as peppermint and chamomile. Many candles are scented with rose, jasmine, patchouli, sandalwood and bergamot”.

There are plenty of websites that list various scents that turn people on and a lot of these appear to be based upon on the research carried out by Dr. Hirsch and his colleagues. Research into sex, smell and olfactophilia appears to be a growing area and hopefully my own research has played a small part in stimulating research into the area.

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

Further reading

Amen, D. (2007). Sex on the Brain: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life. London: Harmony.

Bratton, S. (2013). Scents that trigger arousal. Personal Life Media, October 10. Located at: http://personallifemedia.com/2013/10/scents-that-trigger-arousal/

Brill, A.A. (1932). Sense of smell in the neuroses and psychoses. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 1, 7-42

Gilbert, A. N. (2008). What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life. Crown.

Graham, C.A., & McGrew, W.C. (1980). Menstrual synchrony in female undergraduates living on a coeducational campus. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 5, 245-252.

Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Eproctophilia in a young adult male: A case study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1383-1386.

Hirsch, A., & Gruss, J. (1999). Human male sexual response to olfactory stimuli. Journal of Neurological and Orthopaedic Medicine and Surgery, 19, 14-19.

Hirsch, A. R., Schroder, M., Gruss, J., Bermele, C., & Zagorski, D. (1999). Scentsational sex Olfactory stimuli and sexual response in the human female. International Journal of Aromatherapy, 9(2), 75-81.

Hirsch, A.R., & Trannel, T.J. (1996). Chemosensory dysfunction and psychiatric diagnoses. Journal of Neurological and Orthopaedic Medicine and Surgery, 17, 25-30.

McClintock, M. (1971). Menstrual synchrony and suppression. Nature, 229, 244-245.

Sergeant, M., Davies, M.N.O., Dickins, T.E. & Griffiths, M.D. (2005). The self-reported importance of olfaction during human mate choice. Sexualities, Evolution and Gender, 7, 199-213.

Sergeant, M.J.T., Dickins, T.E., Davies, M.N.O. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Hedonic ratings by women of body odor in men are related to sexual orientation, Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 395-401.

From the university of perversity: An A to Z of non-researched sexual paraphilias (Part 3)

Today’s blog is the third part in my review of little researched (and in most cases non-researched) sexual paraphilias and strange sexual behaviours. (You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here). I’ve tried to locate information on all of these alleged sexual behaviours listed below and in some cases have found nothing more than a definition (some of which were in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices and/or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices).

  • Agrexophilia: This behaviour refers to the gaining of sexual arousal from other people knowing that you are having sex. According to the online Probert Encyclopedia, agrexophilia is “sexual arousal from the knowledge that other people may become aware of the lovemaking, for example by being overheard or seen”.
  • Brachioproctic eroticism: According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, brachioproctic eroticism (also known as brachioproctism) refers to the “insertion of the arm into the rectum of another person for sexual pleasure”.
  • Catagelophilia: This refers to being sexually aroused from being ridiculed. This appears to be the opposite of categelophobia (ridicule phobia).
  • Dystychiphilia: According to Dt. Anil Aggrawal, dystychiphilia refers to those that derive sexual pleasure from accidents (although what “accidents” refers to in these cases is left undefined). The Squackle.com website provides the example of “dropping a plate on the floor”. The online Medical Dictionary defines it as paraphilic sexuoeroticism linked to watching or participating in accidents” and adds that “it is not used to working medical parlance”.
  • Endytolagnia: Most definitions of endytolagnia say it refers to sexual arousal from partners who are fully clothed. The Word Information website defines it as a sexual perversion in which sexual intercourse is had with a fully dressed female”.
  • Frictation: This is a form of frotteurism, and according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, frictation is “a sexual practice in which two male partners achieve sexual satisfaction by rubbing against each other while in a face-to-face position. (The female counterpart is known as tribadism)”. (Tribadism as far as I am aware is the mutual rubbing of clitorises – sometimes called ‘tribbing’ – and gave rise to the term ‘Scissor Sisters’).
  • Graophilia: This behaviour 9according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal) refers to sexual arousal from an older female partner. I’m assuming this refers to the woman being significantly older but no definition I have come across explicitly mentions what the age difference needs to be.
  • Hygrophilia: This behaviour refers to arousal from body fluids or moisture (although it’s also the name of a plant. The Right Diagnosis website adds that hygrophilia is (i) sexual interest in body secretions, (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving body secretions, and/or (iii) recurring intense sexual urges involving body secretions.
  • Iantronudia: This behaviour refers to getting sexually aroused from exposing oneself to a physician, usually by faking an ailment. Some websites refer to it as “flashing a physician”.
  • Jactitation: According to Wikipedia, in English Law, jactitation “is the maliciously boasting or giving out by one party that he or she is married to the other”. However, some online sites claim that it is a false boast that causes harm to others, and is sometimes sexual. The Right Diagnosis website claims jactitation refers to sexual arousal or excitement derived from discussing their own sexual exploits”.
  • Knissophilia: This behaviour may well be a sub-type of olfactophilia as (according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal) refers to the sexual attraction of incense-burning.
  • Loutrophilia: This behaviour refers to the love of washing or bathing. Such a definition does not necessarily make this a sexual paraphilia although someone on the Kinkopedia website claimed they had loutrophilia. This may be a sub-type of aquaphilia that I examined in a previous blog.
  • Mammagymnophilia: This refers to sexual arousal from female breasts and on various websites it has also been called breast fetishism, mazophilia, and breast partialism.
  • Nemophilia: This behavioud has been defined as the love and/or sexual arousal from forests (and as such might be similar to dendrophilia that I discussed in a previous blog). The online Urban Dictionary defines nemophilia as the love of spending time in forests or woodland; woodland survival training, as practised by the armed forces could, therefore, be considered the equivalent of sex”.
  • Oikophilia: This behaviour has been defined by Dr. Anil Aggrawal as the sexual attraction to one’s home. The word has also been used (by such people as the philosopher Roger Scruton) to denote the love of houses but in this sense it has no sexual connotations whatsoever.
  • Phallophilia: This behaviour refers to those individuals that have a large penis fetish or preference. The Right Diagnosis website defines it as “urges, preferences or fantasies involving [an] unusually large erect penis”
  • http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/p/phallophilia/intro.htm
  • Queeb fetish: Queeb fetish is actually another term for ‘queef fetish’ and refers to those individuals that are sexually aroused by vaginal farts (and which I examined in a previous blog on queefing).
  • Raptophilia: According to the Right Diagnosis website, raptophilia refers to a sexual interest in rape, an abnormal amount of time spent thinking about raping a victim, recurring intense sexual fantasies involving rape, and recurring intense sexual urges involving rape”. Other websites claim that this paraphilia only concerns the fantasy of raping someone rather than the act of actually doing it. According to Wikipedia, raptophilia is another name for biastophilia (a sexual paraphilia in which sexual arousal is dependent on, or is responsive to, the act of assaulting an unconsenting person, especially a stranger”).
  • Sarmassophilia: According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, sarmassophilia refers to sexual arousal from kneading flesh (and appears to derive from its opposite, sarmassophobia). The Encyclo website defines it more generally as a fondness for amorous caressing, necking, or stroking”.
  • Toxophilia: I’m not sure if this related to the sexy image of Robin Hood, but according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal, toxophilia refers to sexual arousal from archery.
  • Vincilagnia: There is actually loads of empirical research on vincilagnia as it is just an old scientific name for those that are sexually aroused from bondage (see the overview at the Nation Master website)
  • Wind Fetish: This has nothing to do with eproctophilia (sexual arousal for flatulence), but is (according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal) is a “sexual attraction to being blown by the wind”.
  • Xanthophilia: This behaviour refers to individuals that have an “abnormal affection” for the color yellow or the word yellow. Appears to be derived from its opposite (xanthophobia) so is likely to be more theoretical than actual.
  • Yeast infection fetish: There appear to be some individuals that have a fetish for ‘thrush’ (yeast infections) as discussed at various online forums (such as one on the Reddit website). For instance one man confessed: I have never told anyone in my life this before, but since I was young (about 12 years old) I used to love the smell when I put my face in my mom’s lap. It was a little fishy odd kind of odor but always super attractive to me. A while after this the smell went away and I was very disappointed. Later I found out that she had a yeast infection. To this day however i cannot resist the smell of the yeast infection vagina. It is like field of roses to me, ethereal, heavenly”.
  • Zemmiphilia: According to a long list of obscure paraphilias at the Write World website, zemmiphilia refers to an “abnormal affection for the great mole rat”. I would guess this is theoretical rather than actual but I would never rule anything out.

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.

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

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

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Write World (2013). Philias. Located at: http://writeworld.tumblr.com/philiaquirks

Shaving accounts: A brief overview of depilation fetishes

In a previous blog I looked at hair fetishism. While researching that blog, I came across what might be considered the opposite (i.e., depilation fetishes – those who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from lack of body hair). The fetish appears to take many different forms and might include being sexually aroused by (i) the sight of a shaved area of the human body such as a bald pubic area, (ii) the sight of someone actually shaving an area of their body (e.g., their pubic region), and/or (iii) the actual act of shaving someone’s body parts. The fetish may overlap with other sexual paraphilias such as olfactophilia (i.e., deriving sexual arousal and pleasure from certain smells) as those individuals with a depilation fetish may find the odour of shaving cream or aftershave products additionally attractive.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices devoted a reasonably large section on sexual depilation and claimed that in some countries, the origins of sexual depilation preferences are conditioned by early pre-adolescent experiences. She claimed that:

“Shaving or removal of the pubic hair was practiced in Rome, the Middle East, Japan, China, India, and North Africa. Sex in many of these countries began during pre-pubescence before either partner had developed pubic hair. The male and female became conditioned to respond sexually to bald genitals. Some later in life became impotent at the sight of pubic hair on a partner”.

She also referred to the act of pulling out clusters of pubic hair produce an orgasm in some men. Her research had indicated that this particular type of sexual service was offered in Moorish baths in North Africa, by women who were skilled at this art. A short article on the Alternative Lifestyle website claims that depilation fetishes are usually genitally based and may overlap with those into sexual sadism and sexual masochsim. More specifically:

“Men especially are often attracted to a shaved public area and enjoy watching or performing depilation on a partner. The entire act is often very sensory and erotic. In cases of both female and male depilation, shaving creams usually are applied and lathered which can cause arousal from touch. There is a huge aspect of trust involved in depilation as a fetish too because razors or scissors are in such close proximity to the sensitive genitals. Depilation can also be a fetish is a much different way, especially in BDSM. Because hairstyle is very important in many cultures, dominants often shave the heads of their slaves. This is particularly true in cases when a female is in the submissive role”. 

Such practices were also noted in Dr. Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices as she noted that depilation or shaving is used in sex play as part of body worship and bondage. She reported that dominant partners “shave their slaves to put them into a psychological role of submission, exposure, humiliation and shame”. It was also noted that depilation may be a necessary for aesthetics in transvestism, infantilism, and/or body painting.

As far as academic research goes, I have only managed to find one study that has specifically examined depilation practices. A paper published in a 2008 issue of the journal Body Image led by Dr. Yolanda Martins (“Hair today, gone tomorrow”) and compared body hair removal practices among gay and heterosexual men. The team based at Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia) A sample of gay (n=106) and heterosexual men (n=228) participated in a survey assessing “whether they had ever removed their back, buttock or pubic hair, the frequency with which they did so, the methods used and their self-reported reasons for removing this hair”. The results showed that most men had engaged in hair removal practices but that heterosexual men (33%) were much less likely than gay men (63%) to have removed their back and/or buttock hair at least once in their lives. In relation to removal of pubic hair, heterosexual men (66%) were again much less likely than gay men (82%) to have removed their pubic hair at least once.

The authors also reported that the frequency of hair removal “was also associated with the motivational salience component of appearance investment”. In laymen’s terms, men basically removed their back, buttock and pubic hair to improve their appearance (either for themselves or others). The men surveyed also reported that they preferred the feeling and sensitivity of smooth skin. Results also showed that the removal of back and buttock hair was never done for sexual and/or fetishistic reasons. However, in relation to pubic hair removal, 9% of gay men and 20% of heterosexual men had removed their pubic hair for sexual and/or fetishistic reasons. It was also reported that 14% of gay men and 10% of heterosexual men had removed their pubic hair to make their genitals look bigger and/or more appealing. Dr. Martins and her colleagues concluded that their findings offered further support to the premise that gay and heterosexual men exhibit similar body image concerns.

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). Their results showed that there were 864 fetishists (less than 1% of all fetishists) comprising non-head body hair fetishes including depilation sites, beards, and pubic hair.

As far as I can ascertain, there have been no case studies published examining depilation fetishes. The Sexy Tofu website interviewed ‘Adam’, a 45-year old male depilation fetishist from Illinois (US) about his sexual interest in depilation. Adam was asked about when his interest first occurred:

“It started when I first got pubic hair. I’m not sure why, but my first thought was ‘Shave it’. I did, but I had to be careful as a teenager — having shaved pubes in the boys’ locker room back then would have made me pretty ‘out there’, and I wasn’t ready for that. So I’d shave only during the summers. I didn’t have much chest hair back then but once I got to college and it started growing, I would shave it fairly often. I finally took the plunge and shaved my entire body about 15 years ago. I have remained mostly hairless since…It’s both the act of shaving, changing my body look, and being smooth skinned. I have done some shaving as part of sex. Once I let a woman tie me up and she shaved my pubic hair and my head. That was really a hot scene…Sadly, I have not been able to find too many partners willing to shave me or be shaved”.

Unfortunately, there is too little information provided by Adam in his interview to make any informed speculation as to the causes and/or motivations for his depilation fetish. They obviously started in early adolescence and has developed over the subsequent thirty years. Clearly the visual element is crucial for sexual arousal (but that is the case with most paraphilias and fetishes). Adam’s account also suggests it is a minority interest based on the fact that the number of willing and/or reciprocal partners has been minimal. Like many other fetishes and paraphilias that I have examined in my blogs, this is yet another one where there is a great need for further research.

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.

The Bedpost (1999). Depilation for the terrified. Located at: http://www.cleansheets.com/archive/archarticles/bdsm_3.10.99.html

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

Martins, Y., Tiggemann, M. & Churchett, L. (2008). Hair today, gone tomorrow: A comparison of body hair removal practices in gay and heterosexual men. Body Image, 5, 312-316.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Sexy Tofu (2011), Fetish Friday: Trichophilia. December 2. Located at: http://sexytofu.com/2011/12/02/fetish-friday-trichophilia-hair-fetish/

Hair gripped: A beginner’s guide to trichophilia

Back in November 2011, I recalled seeing a Daily Mail headline Ritualistic hair-fetish killer serving life in British prison is convicted in Italy of 1993 teen murder”. The story concerned Danilo Restivo – a man with a fetish for cutting off women’s hair – who was sentenced to 30 years in prison following his killing of 16-year old Elisa Claps in 1993 (in Potenza, Italy). He was also convicted of killing 48-year old Heather Barnett in 2002 (in Bournemouth, UK). The murders were described as ritualistic and both killings involved the victims’ breasts being cut off and strands of their hair being placed in her hands. Another link between the two cases, were that 15 women had reported their hair being involuntarily cut on buses in both Bournemouth and Potenza around the time of the murders. Clearly, Restivo is not a typical trichophile (i.e., hair fetishist), and is not representative of those who enjoy this paraphilia. However, it is one of the few times that hair fetishism has been highlighted by the mass media.

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, trichophilia is a sexual paraphilia (sometimes called trichopathophilia, hirsutophilia, and/or hair fetishism) in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from human hair (most commonly head hair). The source of sexual arousal may be derived from viewing, touching, or (in extreme cases) eating hair. Although head hair is the most common source for arousal, other types of hair may be equally if not more arousing for some people including pubic hair (i.e., pubephilia), armpit hair, chest hair, or facial hair such as beards (i.e., pogonophilia). Some authors – such as Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices – use the word ‘hirsutophilia’ to refer to fetish for armpit hair only. Dr. Love also claims that some hair fetishes are more favoured by particular genders (e.g., she claims chest hair is more likely to be preferred by females).

The fetish has been observed in both males and females (although as with most fetishes and paraphilia, it appears to be predominantly male). Those with hair fetishes may also have very specific attributes as to what is most sexually arousing (such as the hair being from a stranger rather than someone they know, hair length, hair colour, hair style, and whether the hair is wet or dry). They may also prefer hair to have been washed with a particular shampoo or hairspray suggesting an overlap with olfactophilia (i.e., the deriving of sexual pleasure and arousal from particular smells).

Other variants may include the deriving of sexual pleasure from having hair cut, shaved, and/or washed (in fact, a fetish for manipulating and/or shampooing hair is known as tripsoplagnia). Freud believed that men cutting long female hair may represent a man’s fear of castration (i.e., the woman’s hair represents a symbolic penis and that a male feels dominance by cutting it off). There is absolutely no empirical evidence for such claims but Freud is one of the few people to put forward a psychological explanation. The Fetish Connections website makes a number of assertions about hair fetishes, who engages in it, and different subtypes:

Enthusiasts claim an interest since childhood and are especially interested in shampoo commercials on TV. A few hetero voyeurs like the look of women with hairy underarms, or men with hairy chests, but there’s also a gay sub-community involving “musclebears” with hairy chests. Then, there’s transvestite hair salons or spas where the full treatment involves a haircut, hair massage, shampoo, and rollers. The shampoo and rollers ritual is also shared by straight enthusiasts. Long, upright hair (beehive, flip, etc.) is perhaps the most common fetish, followed by long, straight hair, followed by curly hair, followed by short, stubbly hair. Enthusiasts like to put the hair in their mouth during sex, but many achieve orgasm just by touching the hair or by masturbating (sometimes on the hair itself, but not always)”.

I haven’t come across a single empirical study to support any of these claims but given the absence of any academic research literature, the assertions made (at the very least) provide direction for confirmatory studies to be carried out. In their book Death/Sex, biologist Tyler Volk and author Dorion Sagan claim that the roots (no pun intended) of trichophilia may lie in the physiological feelings that the body experiences when hair is played with in some way. More specifically, they claim that:

“Being groomed, having one’s hair cut, like a massage, caresses, or laughter can produce endogenous endorphins, the body’s own pleasure drugs”

I have yet to track down the study (or studies) demonstrating this, but based on other pleasurable activities that have been shown to produce endorphins, there is no reason not to think this isn’t the case with hair grooming. In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). Their results showed that body part fetishes were most common (33%) with trichophilic fetish sites accounting for 7% of all sites studied (6,707 fetishists in total). A further 864 fetishists comprised other types of body hair including depilation sites, beards, and pubic hair.

To date, there are no detailed accounts of trichophilia in the clinical literature. Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebbing noted the case of a man married to a bearded lady who was distraught after her death and constantly searched for another (although here the trichophilia is implied). However, Dr. Magnus Hirschfield in his book Sexual Anomalies and Perversion recounted a more detailed case of a male (gay) trichophile. He noted:

“When the patient (a highly placed civil servant now aged 50) was seven years old, it happened one night that when he was already in bed the maid-servant, who was leaving, came up to him and embraced him. The patient still remembers quite clearly how he pushed his fingers through her hair. At the age of puberty he begun to experience sexual excitement whenever he saw or touched nicely dressed hair. But from then on, excitement was only induced by the hair of men; the hair of women exercised no effect whatsoever on him, and even in men he was only interested in sleek, dark brown hair, which had to be brushed right back…He derives particular pleasure and sexual excitement from dressing other people’s hair. He executes this operation in the following manner. He stands behind the other man, applies hair oil, which, together with combs, he always carries with him, then he combs the hair back. As the comb reaches the top of the head, ejaculation takes place…the patient, whose behavior has frequently attracted attention, is known by the nickname ‘The Hairdresser’”.

Unfortunately, there is very little information provided by Hirschfield in his case study to make any serious informed speculation as to the causes and/or motivations for his fetish. It obviously started in childhood and developed over the subsequent years. It would also appear that these early experiences appear to have been paired with sexual excitement and that the fetishistic behaviour most likely developed via classically conditioned experiences. Like many other fetishes and paraphilias that I have examined in my blogs, this is yet another one where there is a great need for further research.

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

Further reading

Allen, E. (2011). Ritualistic hair-fetish killer serving life in British prison is convicted in Italy of 1993 teen murder. Daily Mail, November 12. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2060444/Ritualistic-hair-fetish-killer-serving-life-British-prison-convicted-Italy-1993-teen-murder.html

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

Fetish Connections (2005). Fetish V [Hair fetishes]. Located at: http://www.fetishconnections.com/foot_hair_watersport_fetishes_.html

Hirschfeld, M. (1948). Sexual Anomalies and Perversions. New York: Emerson.

Krafft-Ebing, R. (1977). Psychopathia Sexualis. New York: Paperback Library (1965 reprint).

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

Parfitt, A. (2007). Fetishism, transgenderism, the concept of castration. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 21, 61–89.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Tyler Volk, T. & Sagan, D.  (2009). Death/Sex. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Farting company: The strange world of eproctophilia

Olfactophilia (also known as osmolagnia, osphresiolagnia, and ozolagnia) is a paraphilia where an individual derives sexual pleasure from smells and odours. Given the large body of research on olfaction, it shouldn’t be surprising that in some cases there should be an association with sexual behaviour. The erotic focus is most likely to relate to body odours of a sexual partner, including genital odours.

One bizarre sub-type of olfactophilia is eproctophilia. This refers to a condition in which people are sexually attracted to flatulence. Therefore, eproctophiles are said to spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about flatulence, and have recurring intense sexual urges and fantasies involving flatulence. In trying to research this article, I did a complete literature search and couldn’t find a single academic or clinical paper that has ever been published on the topic – not even a case study. Therefore, all of the material here is based on non-academic sources. There are also examples of this practice on sites like YouTube where some people have uploaded their videos of farting on faces. Based on this anecdotal evidence, it would appear to be the domain of heterosexual men being farted upon by females.

Like most paraphilias, eproctophilia appears to be found mainly in men, although the anecdotal evidence suggests it is mainly found in heterosexual males particularly attracted to female flatulence. The accounts that I came across suggest that farts are typically targeted at the face, and sometimes more specifically at the mouth, the ear, or nose. Some claim it is a “softer form” of coprophilia (in which people are sexually aroused by faeces). Treatment for eproctophilia is generally not sought unless in some way it becomes problematic for the person. It appears that the majority of eproctophiles accept their fetish – particularly as there are no published treatment case studies in the sexology literature. However, it may be the case that people have this type of fetish but are simply unable to engage in it, even if they are in a stable relationship.

For instance, I came across was in the columns of Dan Savage who has a regular type of ‘agony aunt’ feature called “Savage Love” in ‘The Stranger’ newspaper based in Seattle (USA) but which focuses on more quirky and extreme aspects of human behaviour. This letter was sent into his column:

“My wife doesn’t understand or approve of my sexual needs. I would like her to pass gas in my face. It’s a common enough sexual interest that it has a name (eproctophilia). My wife does break wind from time to time, but she refuses to let me enjoy this natural functioning of her bowels no matter how often I discuss my needs with her”

The reply by Savage wasn’t very complimentary but the letter highlights the condition appears to exist. Another interesting snippet I found was this brief confession of someone asking for help on a fetish bulletin board:

I’ve been a sufferer [of eproctophilia] for as long as I can remember. I can’t stop myself from getting turned on whenever someone leaves a long, loud fart in my presence. It’s starting to become a real problem for me as I am required to give a lot of enemas in my line of work, and as we all know, enemas provide gas before the ride”

One of the most detailed accounts of eproctophilia I came across was this online confession from an American eproctophile (most notable because Americans refer to flatulence as “gas”). The only demographic information given was that he was a male student at university, in his early twenties, and studying a biological subject:

“I first realised that I had eproctophilia when I was 15 years old. I was at my [female] friend’s house, to do a school project and she had terrible gas. We had known each other for about seven years so she felt more than comfortable to let her gas out in front of me. At that point I was really turned on by the fact that she was a hot girl farting around me but I didn’t know why. As we where sitting on her bedroom floor sticking pictures to a poster she got up and went to the other side of the room to get a piece of paper. When she came back she said ‘Hey John’, and forced my face onto her bum. She then sat on me and she let out a loud, warm, smelly fart on my face. Then she laughed and said ‘Doesn’t that smell delicious hehehehe!!’

I don’t know why but I found that very sexy. I was too embarrassed to tell her how I really felt about what she did, so I just pretended I found it disgusting and that I didn’t care. However, after a while I told her how much I loved when she did that to me and she found it hilarious and was totally OK with it. When we are alone, she always tells me when she is about to fart and if I want her to do it in my face again. I say ‘no’ because that would be too awkward, but I get closer and sniff them anyway. I feel really embarrassed that she knows how I felt about her farting and I feel like she thinks I am some kind of creepy fart freak. But she says its cute, and if she had a boyfriend who had this fetish she would find it fun farting on his face.

Out of all the girls I’ve dated in my whole life, I have never told any of them about this fetish, even when they felt comfortable farting around me. My [female] friend is probably the only hot girl in the world that would do that to their guy friend. I imagine it would be very hard to find a nice, and attractive, girlfriend I actually love that would be OK with my fart fetish. So tell me girls, what would you do if your boyfriend told you he found it hot when you fart? Would you break up with him? Let him smell your gas? Or break up with him and tell the whole world? I know this may be an odd subject but try to be open-minded. Some people might say I am sick and crazy but I’m a pretty normal person, I am mentally and physically fit, [and educated].

Why do I think I like this? I think I find this really sexy because girls don’t usually fart around guys and feel good about it, so when they do I feel like the girl is so comfortable around me that she would let out her nasty flatulence in my presence and not just in front of anyone, and that gets me really turned on. To me, this is the one of the sexiest things a woman can do. My perfect fantasy would probably be for my [female] friend and her other hot friend to be farting on my face in her room. You probably find this really disgusting but it’s not my fault. I have this fetish. I have heard about other fetishes I find to be even worse than mine, so I don’t feel so bad about it. Flatulence is made out of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide, which is completely harmless to the human body. So there is nothing dangerous about this fetish.”

This account seems to echo most of the scientific research on the development of fetishes and paraphilias that such behaviours originate from behavioural conditioning – in this case classical conditioning where being sexually aroused by an attractive women is paired with something that is not inherently sexual (in this case, flatulence) and then starts to become an erotic focus in and of itself. As this male eproctophile notes himself, there is nothing ‘dangerous’ about his activity and it certainly appears to be less stomach churning than compared to paraphilias that appear to be similar (such as copraphilia).

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

Further reading

Gilbert, Avery N. (2008). What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life. Crown.

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.

Van Toller, S. & Dodd, G.H. (1992). Fragrance: The Psychology and Biology of Perfume. London: Elesevier.