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Candle with care: A beginner’s guide to wax play‬

“I love hot wax. My wife loves to drip it and pour it all over my body. I have dipped my [penis] in the wax and the feeling during the dipping and the sex after was great. We did remove the wax from any part that was going to penetrate. I have a very high threshold for pain. I normally don’t use any painkillers for such things as root canal’s, extractions, stitches or road rash from motorcycle accidents. I don’t get turned on in the slightest from any of this I just don’t feel pain like everyone else. I think it is very normal to have this fetish. It is a major turn on to me. You might want to experiment with different types of wax. Some have a higher melting point than others. Oh we have and have realized she likes to use the waxes with the higher melting points. She loves to see me squirm but in a good way” (Wiki Answers)

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices ‘wax play’ is a form of sexually sensual play that involves warm or hot wax typically dripped from candles or ladled onto the individual’s naked skin (the individual typically being sexually masochistic). He also claimed that wax play was often combined with other BDSM and/or sexual activities. Dr. Aggrawal also makes reference to ‘wax play’ in a short section on ‘navel torture’. More specifically her reports that navel torture involves “infliction of intense sensory stimulation and pain to a person’s navel. Examples are sucking or pulling the navel out (often with a syringe), dripping hot oil or wax into the navel, and poking pins into the navel”. The Wikipedia entry on wax play provides a list for those that want to attempt such practices. The article informed readers that:

“Pure paraffin wax melts at around 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit (54 to 57 Celsius). Adding stearine makes the wax harder and melt at a higher temperature. Adding mineral oil makes the wax softer and melt at a lower temperature. Soft candles in glass jars usually have mineral oil in their blend and burn cooler at around 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49C), Pillar candles are mostly paraffin and burn warmer at around 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60C). Taper candles have lots of stearine and burn hotter still at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71C). Beeswax candles burn about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (6 C) hotter than equivalent paraffin candles. Although there are many web sites that repeat the same advice that color additives make candles burn hotter, actual experiments performed by two different researchers show that this is usually not the case. Increasing the distance the wax falls by 1 meter will drop the temperature about 5 degrees Fahrenheit (3C) at the risk of splatter. If ordinary candles are too hot, a special wax blend with a high concentration of mineral oil can be heated to lower temperatures in a crock pot or double boiler”.

In the ‘safety notes’ section, the article reminds readers that wax temperature can range from simply ‘warm’ to ‘dangerously hot’ and can cause serious burns (and that wax play practitioners should be careful that wax doesn’t “splatter into the eyes”. Obviously, different masochists can withstand different temperatures depending upon their individual tolerance levels. It then goes on to say that:

“Wax may be difficult to remove, particularly from areas with hair. A flea comb or a sharp knife may be necessary for wax removal; use of a knife for this purpose requires special skills, though a plastic card can work as well. Applying mineral oil or lotion before play can make wax removal easier…Wax heated in any sort of pot must be stirred vigorously or there can be dangerous temperature variations. Some people may be allergic to perfumes and dyes. Whatever is above a burning candle can get very hot, even at distances that may be surprising. Candles may break and set fire to objects underneath or nearby. Wax is difficult to wash out of clothes and bed linens. People with certain diseases, skin conditions, or taking certain medications may require additional precautions”.

A few academic studies into sadomasochism have examined various niche practices including wax play. For instance, in a previous blog on psychrocism (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from either by being cold) I quoted from Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices that said:

“Exposure to intense cold creates a sharp sensation that is similar to other physical stimuli that produce tension. The mind changes its focus from intellectual pursuits to physical awareness. Many [sadomasochistic] players use cold contact to heighten awareness of skin sensations. They often alternate cold with heat, such as ice cubes and candle wax”.

More empirically, a 1987 study published in the Journal of Sex Research by Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. E.E. Levitt surveyed 225 sadomasochists (178 men and 47 women). The most commonly reported SM behaviours (in 50% to 80% of participants) were flagellation (whipping, spanking) and bondage (chains, rope, gags, chains, handcuffs). Painful activities (for instance, the use of hot wax, ice, face slapping, biting) were reported by 37–41% of participants, though more dangerous painful activities (burning, branding, tattooing, piercing, insertion of pins) were much less frequently reported (7% to 18% of participants).

A more recent Finnish study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by Dr. Laurence Alison and his colleagues reported fairly similar findings to that of Moser and Levitt. Again, the most popular activities were flagellation and bondage. Less reported SM activities were the most harmful harm (piercing, asphyxiation, electric shocks, use of blades/knives, fisting, etc.). These researchers also explored the variations in sadomasochistic activities, and wax play fell into the ‘typical’ pain administration group. These were:

  • Typical pain administration: This involved practices such as spanking, caning, whipping, skin branding, use of hot wax, electric shocks, etc.
  • Humiliation: This involved verbal humiliation, gagging, face slapping, flagellation, etc. Heterosexuals were more likely than gay men to engage in these types of activity.
  • Physical restriction: This included bondage, use of handcuffs, use of chains, wrestling, use of ice, wearing straight jackets, hypoxyphilia, and mummifying.
  • Hyper-masculine pain administration: This involved rimming, dildo use, cock binding, being urinated upon, being given an enema, fisting, being defecated upon, and catheter insertion. Gay men were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in these types of activity.

A 2002 follow-up study by the same team on the same sample of sadomasochists (also in the Archives of Sexual Behavior led by Dr. Pekka Santtila) reported that 35% of their participants had engaged in hot wax play. From these few studies it would appear that wax play among SM practitioners is relatively prevalent although there appear to be few data about how regularly wax play is engaged in.

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.

Alison, L., Santtila, P., Sandnabba, N.K., & Nordling, N. (2001). Sadomasochistically oriented behavior: Diversity in practice and meaning. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 1-12.

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.

Norische (2008). Candlelight moments: Basics of wax play. Idaho BDSM. Located at: http://www.idahobdsm.com/articles/howto/waxplay.html

Safer+Saner (2006). Wax play. Located at: http://www.safersaner.org/Safer_WaxPlay.html

Sandnabba, N.K., Santtila, P., Alison, L., & Nordling, N. (2002). Demographics, sexual behaviour, family background and abuse experiences of practitioners of sadomasochistic sex: A review of recent research. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17, 39-55.

Spectrum (2004). The Toybag Guide to Hot Wax and Temperature Play. Emeryville, California: Greenery Press.

Wikipedia (2014). Wax play. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wax_play

Having a stab at it: A beginner’s guide to piquerism

Back in June 2007, a 25-year-old American (Frank Ranieri) was arrested in New York on charges of assault. He was accused of paying large amounts of money to at least five young females in exchange for poking their buttocks with sharp objects (e.g., pens, pins, nails, etc.) while masturbating. An online article reported that:

“In one instance, Ranieri offered to help get a 15-year-old girl a newspaper delivery route if she would let him take a jab at her. In others, he posed as a cop to dupe his victims into trusting him, she added…Ranieri was charged with two counts of second-degree assault as a sexual felony for paying a 17-year-old Richmond Valley teen about $6,000 to be his erotic pincushion for about a year and a half…Ranieri ‘liked to see pins go through muscle and flesh…He didn’t see much wrong with it. Prosecutors are saying that Ranieri suffers from an affliction known as piquerism…Here in New York, there was a notorious example of piquerism in 1990: a guy managed to shoot darts at the asses of 53 midtown babes before the police finally collared him. The local tabloids dubbed him Dart Man”.

There are numerous examples of such practices. For instance, more recently in the summer of 2011, people in a Fairfax shopping mall (Virginia, USA) were terrorized by someone the press dubbed the ‘Serial Butt Stabber’ and the ‘Butt Slasher’ (a man who repeatedly stabbed females on their bottoms through their clothes). One online article noted that:

“The so-called butt-slasher has been pricking women in the rear end with sharp objects, in malls in Fairfax Virginia.  Six women have reported being victimized so far, shopping at T.J. Maxx, and another 18-year old at a Forever XXI store, who felt a ‘sharp pain” and believed a hanger had stuck her, though she noticed a man binding down to pick up clothes supposedly fallen off a rack”

Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, defines piquerism as sexual arousal from penetrating another person’s body with sharp objects (such as pins, razors, knives, etc.). Other definitions on various online websites define it as sexual excitement from stabbing/blood letting” (which in my opinion, and based on more academic writings, is too wide ranging to be clinically useful). The Wikipedia definition (which appears to have been based on that found in M.S. Davis’ 2002 book The Concise Dictionary of Crime and Justice) notes that:

“Piquerism or picquerism (from the French piquer – “to prick”) is sexual interest penetrating the skin of another person, sometimes serious enough to cause death. Piquerism is a paraphilia and form of sadism. The most frequently targeted areas of the body are the breasts, buttocks, or groin”.

Given the relatively regular incidence of piquerism in the popular media, I was quite surprised to find next to nothing academically. There are passing references to piquerism in the clinical and forensic science literature but nothing (as far as I could find) on the prevalence or etiology of the disorder. Dr. Wade Myers has a short section on piquerism in his 2002 book Juvenile Sexual Homicide. In one of the chapters, Myers recounted the case of two teenage murderers (‘Frank’ and ‘Andy’) who killed and mutilated a pregnant teenage girl they had both previously had a sexual relationship with. As Myers wrote:

“Regardless of who first came up with the idea of the murder, [Frank and Andy] took her to a remote area in some nearby woods. Andy first had consensual sex with the girl. When Frank approached her for sex, she rebuffed his advances. The attack on the girl started after this interaction. Each of the boys attributed the cascade of murderous actions to the other. The victim was initially choked manually and strangled with a radio cord. Unconscious, she was carried further into the woods. She regained consciousness and attempted to run. She was bludgeoned with a piece of lumber, a tree branch and a concrete block. The bludgeoning with the concrete block…detached part of the scalp. One of the boys tried to cut her throat with a knife, and her arm revealed defensive wounds from trying to protect herself during the knife attack”.

The medical examiner reported that the girl had been repeatedly stabbed and that the boys had done it for the “heck of it”. Dr. Myers claimed that offender behavior was “an expression of the perversion known as piquerism”. Dr. Myers admitted he knew little about piquerism (and wrote “little is known about piquerism in adults, and even less so in children”), so he contacted Dr. Richard Walters (Omega Crime Assessment Group, and former prison psychologist for the Michegan Department of Corrections). Based on his colleagues’ expertise, Dr. Myers subsequently noted:

“Piquerism is sometimes performed post-mortem. It generally refers to the penetration of human flesh, although it is sometimes practiced against animals. The piquer’s range of activities for sating his or her needs can be a purposeful single prick with a pin or knife, multiple stab wounds to an eroticized area, or elaborate cutting, stabbing, biting and mutilation of a victim. Piquerism becomes part of the repertoire of many sadists, depending on their progress along the ‘sadistic learning curve’. Often the sexual mechanisms inherent in piquerism are ignored during the assessment of sexually sadistic crimes. The prevalence rate of piquerism is unknown”.

Many authors note the link between piquerism and sexual sadism. In an online article on sexual sadism. Dr Stephen Hucker reviewed the characteristics and predominate features of what he described as “major sexual sadism”. 
Dr. Hucker noted that this type of sexual sadism was typically non-consensual and usually culminates in major injury or death. He also noted the types of behaviour that accompanied major sexual sadism as including: (i) severe beatings, (ii) torture, (iii) burning and cutting, (iv) stabbing in the breast or buttocks (piquerism), (v) rape, (vi), murder, (vii) vampirism, and (viii) necrophilia. This is also confirmed by Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2011 book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects, where he examines lust murders:

Lust murders are homicides in which the offender stabs, cuts, pierces, or mutilates the sexual regions or organs of the victim’s body. The sexual mutilation of the victim may include evisceration, piquerism, displacement of the genitalia in both males and females, and the removal of the breasts in a female victim (defeminization). It also includes activities such as ‘posing’ and ‘propping’ of the body, the insertion of objects into the body cavities, anthropophagy (consumption of blood and/or flesh), and necrophilia”.

A particularly gruesome case involving piquerism was described by Vernon Geberth (former Commander, Bronx Homicide, NYPD) in an article ‘The Anatomy of Lust Murder’ in a 1998 issue of Law and Order magazine. He wrote:

The two victims were a mother and her fourteen-year-old daughter…Once his victims were unconscious and dead he engaged in hours of sexual deviance with their bodies. His intention was to knockout the fourteen-year-old and then torture her to death. However, he had hit her with such force that she died. He eviscerated both of his victims. He had sex with their corpses and drank their blood before posing and propping them with their body parts and inserting a baseball bat into the daughter’s vagina. He removed the breasts from the mother and placed them in the bedroom on end tables on either side of the bed where the daughter’s body was found. He incised the skin of the pubis from the mother and placed the tissue into her mouth. He incised the skin of the pubis from the daughter’s body and placed it upon the right side of her face. He then engaged in postmortem piquerism by stabbing into the daughter’s throat a total of sixteen times…His admitted fantasy was to torture and kill young girls as another male anally sodomized him. All of the cutting, mutilation and overkill type wound structures were directed towards those parts of the body that the offender found sexually significant to him and these activities served as his sexual stimulus. 

The piquerism inflicted on the body of the sixteen-year-old was substitutive for his “torture” fantasy”.

A number of infamous murderers are known to have carried out major acts of piquerism. Arguably the most infamous was Jack the Ripper. A paper by Dr. Robert Keppel and his colleagues in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling concluded that “the injuries sustained by the victims displayed the signature characteristic of piquerism”. The Russian mass murderer Andrei Chikatilo (‘The Butcher of Rostov’) was known to be impotent but derived sexual satisfaction from stabbing and cutting his many victims. American serial killer Albert Fish (also known as ‘The Brooklyn Vampire’ and ‘The Moon Maniac’ amongst many other names) was known to have engaged in piquerism with many of his victims (and also had a penchant for self-piquerism – particularly the sticking of pins into himself).

The reasons as to how and why people engage in piquerism have yet to be researched in any depth. Most of the theorizing is speculative at best. The Freudian psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky in an online essay entitled ‘Piquersim Pervert’ (and in direct reaction to the mall ‘butt slasher’ in Fairfax Virginia) speculated that:

“His proclivity was an attack on the butt.  A boy can be subjected to a mother taunting him, ‘you’re a bad boy’ and going to be punished and then giving him a rear end beating, which is sexually stimulating.  He then associates being attacked on the rear with sexual turn-on.  Add to this, that he gets satisfaction from mother’s attention, albeit negative.  And he comes very angry at her, which explains how he then projects his punishment urges onto women.  Such a paraphiliac perversion also means that the man is incapable of a healthy relationship with a real woman, and can only focus on a body part. The perversion can also come from being beaten by the father with a belt to the point of drawing blood.  There is always a danger that such a paraphiliac already acting on aggressive urges can become a lust murderer”.

In an online article entitled ‘Explaining Mutilation and Piquerism’, the anonymous author notes that the motives behind piquerism mutilation of female victims still remain a mystery. The author claims that piquerism acts are:

“…largely perpetrated by angry heterosexual males on females or homosexual males on males – in other words, an act directed by males onto the object of their sexual desire…The preference to use a knife for mutilating a victim beyond what is necessary to kill is called piquerism. The killer expresses his sexuality by penetration the victim with a knife. The victim’s screams, the bloodletting, and the odors all create for the murderer a harmonic sexual experience. Some killer’s ejaculate uncontrollably without touching their genitals as they stab or hack at their victims. Some experts associate piquerism with cultural construction of femininity, with its association with the body, bleeding, birth, which link women with a mortality that provokes a dual reaction: anxious fear accompanied by erotic desire. If the duality slips out of control, the consequences can be horrific”.

Perhaps the most parsimonious explanation of piquerism is a quote from the fictional character George Huang, an FBI psychiatrist in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In Episode 2.20 (called ‘Pique’), the head of personnel at a software company is found raped and stabbed to death. In court, Huang simply says:

He suffers from piquerism, counselor. The knife represents his penis. It is not disposable

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

Further reading

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

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

Davis, M.S. (2002). The Concise Dictionary of Crime and Justice. London: Sage.

Dean, P. (2011). Serial butt stabber stabbed more butts in Virginia. Mommy’s Dirty Little Secret, August 12. Located at: http://mommysdirtylittlesecret.com/2011/08/12/serial-butt-stabber-stabbed-more-butts-in-virginia/#more-14511

Geberth, V.J. (1998). Anatomy of a lust murder. Law and Order, 45(5). Located at: http://www.practicalhomicide.com/Research/lustmurder.htm

Hucker, S. (2011). Sexual sadism. Located at: http://www.forensicpsychiatry.ca/paraphilia/sadism.htm

Keppel, R.D., Weis, J.G., Brown, K.M. & Welch, K. (2005). The Jack the Ripper murders: A modus operandi and signature analysis of the 1888-1891 Whitechapel Murders. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 2, 1-21.

Kuriansky, J. (2011). Piquerism pervert. August 16. Located at: http://www.drjudy.com/latest-posts/2011/8/16/piquerism-pervert.htm

Meloy, J.R. (2002). The ‘polymorphously perverse’ psychopath: Understanding a strong empirical relationship. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 66, 273-289.

Myers, W.C. (2002). Juvenile Sexual Homicide. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Neumann, S., Alley, D., Paclebar, A.M., Sanchez, C. and Satterthwaite, B., Frotteurism, piquerism, and other related paraphilias. In Sex crimes and paraphilia, 1st ed. Hickey, E.W., (Ed.), Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2006, chapter 26, pages 237-248.

PervScan (2007). Piquerism in New York. June 12. Located at: http://pervscan.com/2007/06/12/piquerism-in-new-york/