One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how specific some of the objects of erotic and sexual focus are when it comes to sexual fetishes and sexual paraphilias. A case in point is mummification (the wrapping the full body in a manner that prevents movement). In a previous blog on sexual masochism, I briefly mentioned the practice of mummification within a sadomasochistic context. According to Dr. Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, mummification is:
“An extreme form of bondage in which the person is wrapped from head to toe, much like a mummy, completely immobilizing him. Materials used may be clingfilm, cloth, bandages, rubber strips, duct tape, plaster bandages, bodybags, or straitjackets. The immobilized person may then be left bound in a state of effective sensory deprivation for a period of time or sensually stimulated in his state of bondage – before being released from his wrappings”.
The Wikipedia entry on mummification within a BDSM and bondage context includes verbatim text from Dr. Aggrawal’s definition (although doesn’t acknowledge the source of the material whatsoever). However, it does add that those who have undergone the process end up “looking like an Egyptian mummy” and that the act of mummification is typically used to enhance the feelings of total bodily helplessness, and is incorporated with sensation play (i.e., a group of erotic activities that facilitate particular physical sensations upon a sexual partner). Some mummification practitioners completely cover themselves with only one or two body orifices exposed (i.e., nose and/or mouth so that the person mummified can breathe without restriction). Sensation play typically differs from more mental forms of erotic play (e.g., sexual role playing). The Wikipedia entry on sensation play notes that:
“Sensation play can be sensual, where the sensations are generally pleasing and light. Many couples that would not consider themselves active in BDSM are familiar with this kind of play: the use of silk scarves, feathers, ice, massage oils, and other similar implements. Sensation play in BDSM can also involve sadomasochistic play, involving the application of carefully controlled stimuli to the human body so that it reacts as if it were actually hurt. While this can involve the infliction of actual pain, it is usually done in order to release pleasurable endorphins, creating a sensation somewhat like runner’s high or the afterglow of orgasm, sometimes called ‘flying’ or ‘body stress’”.
It’s probably stating the obvious to say that mummification can be risky for those who engage in the activity. Complications may arise if those encased (in materials such as clingfilm) are unable to signal to their sexual partner that they are having trouble breathing, sweating too much, and becoming severely dehydrated, or that their blood supply is being severely restricted. Straight after the ‘unwrapping’ process, body temperature may have significantly decreased so being in a warm environment and/or having warm blankets on hand is an absolute must. Sexual partners are also advised to have ‘panic shears’ (sometimes called ‘trauma shears’ by BDSM regulars) readily available at all times so that mummification binding can be cut through quickly and easily should things go awry. Mummification can also include more ‘innovatory’ techniques. For instance, in an article I read on ‘Shibari’ (Japanese bondage) by Hans Meijer in a 2000 issue of the Secret Magazine, he noted that wet sheets can be a particularly good material for sexual mummification of submissive sexual partners:
“A non-rope Japanese mummification is done with wet sheets. Wrap your sub in wet sheets and pull them tight. As the sheets dry they will shrink and the mummification will become even tighter. By using a hair dryer you can not only speed up the process, but also determine what areas you want to shrink first and by doing so will ass accents to your bondage”.
A 2004 article on the Forbidden Sexuality website claims that mummification bondage is “a new practice related with BDSM that is becoming more and more popular in the recent years”. Unsurprisingly, the article also states that mummification bondage is strongly associated with feelings of domination and submission. The article notes that:
“For some reason, people engaged to mummification bondage feel an intense sexual arousal and pleasure by being wrapped in bandages, and even being bound and encapsulated in a coffin after that…There has to be a strong connection of trust between the dominant part and the person who’s going to be mummified. It’s also a practice that also needs to be completely, 100% consensual, otherwise, it may be even faced as a crime of aggression. Mummification bondage also requires precaution and training to not suffocate the person who’s playing the submissive part. Some people who are engaged to mummification bondage also reports a connection with the feeling of being immortal which was associated with mummification in ancient Egypt, preserving the body youth to immemorial times”.
There would appear to be strong psychological and behavioural overlaps between mummification fetishism and ‘total enclosure’ fetishism (in fact I would argue that mummification fetishes are a sub-type of total enclosure fetishes). The Wikipedia entry on total enclosure fetishism highlights that such individuals find the claustrophobic and helplessness aspects sexually arousing (and would appear to be similar to claustrophilia that I covered in a previous blog). The Wikipedia entry notes that total enclosure sexual activities can include:
- Rubber fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from rubber suits, gas masks and similar garments and accessories.
- Vacuum pack fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from vacuum beds that rigidly enclose the entire human body inside a rubber sheet (apart from a small breathing tube).
- Sleepsack/bodybag fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from sleeping bags and bodybags (some of which increase pressure on the fetishist’s body).
- Spandex fetishism: This refers to fetishists who gain sexual pleasure and arousal from such things as zentai suits that are used for total enclosure from head-to-toe in skintight fabric. Zentai suits have the advantage that the fetishist can breathe through the loose-woven fabric in a way that is impossible with PVC or rubber.
A few academic studies have examined mummification within the wider gamut of sadomasochistic activities. For instance, a Finnish study on BDSM activities led by Dr Laurence Alison and reported in the Archives of Sexual Behavior described the wide range of activities in which their 184 sadomasochistic participants engaged in (162 men and 22 women). This included flagellation, bondage, piercings, hypoxyphilia, fisting, knifeplay, electric shocks, and mummification. They reported that there were major differences in these activities depending upon sexual orientation (for instance, gay men were more likely to engage in activities such as “cock binding”). Most interestingly, the research team identified four sadomasochistic sub-groups based on the type of pain given and received. These were:
- Typical pain administration: This involved practices such as spanking, caning, whipping, skin branding, 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.
The same authors published a follow-up using the same dataset, and reported that within those who enjoyed physical restriction, 13.4% engaged in mummification activities. In another study published in a 2002 issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, the same authors combined the results from five previously published studies on sadomasochistic behaviour. They reported that 12.9% of all their sadomasochistic participants had engaged in mummification as a sexual practice.
These studies seemed to confirm and expand on a previous 1984 study published in the journal Social Problems by Dr. Martin Weinberg and colleagues. They interviewed sadomasochists over an eight-year period and reported that their behaviour comprised five distinct features: (i) dominance/submission, (ii) role-playing, (iii) consensuality, (iv) sexual context, and (v) mutual definition. Although not directly concerning mummification, it is clear that these features are critical in the extent to which those mummified experience the activity as sexually stimulating. A less than academic (but interesting) article on the What To See In Berlin website also observes:
“We must not lose sight that these mummies are used as foreplay, and should provoke pleasure in the submissive, allowing them to enjoy the feeling of subjugation and helplessness caused by having their motion restricted, all the while they resist the ‘evil’ that the dominant may want to practice with them. BDSM enthusiasts tend to fall into the temptation of taking a whip, a cane or tweezers to their mummy, because both participants find it stimulating! To maximize the game’s success, couples who seek to take the game to new erotic heights generally leave their favourite erogenous zones exposed following the sexual mummification (i.e. not covered by bandages, plastic or tape)… The most obvious and usual place of erotic stimulation, either by blows or strokes, are the nipples, genitals and buttocks, although the only limit is the imagination”.
It would appear from both anecdotal evidence and empirical research that mummification within a BDSM context comprises a significant minority interest and is probably nowhere near as rare as some other sexual behaviours that I have covered in previous blogs.
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.
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.
Forbidden Sexuality (2004). Mummification bondage. Located at: http://www.forbiddensexuality.com/mummification_bondage.htm
Meijer, H. (2000). Shibari: House of Japanese Bondage. Secret Magazine, 18, 23-46.
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.
Sandnabba, N. K., Santtila, P., & Nordling, N. (1999). Sexual behavior and social adaptation among sadomasochistically oriented males. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 273–282.
Santilla, P., Sandnabba, N.K., Alison, L. & Nordling, G.N. (2002). Investigating the underlying structure in sadomasochistically-oriented behaviour: evidence for partially-ordered scales. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 185-196.
Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J. & Moser, C. (1984). The social constituents of sadomasochism. Social Problems, 31, 379-389.
Wikipedia (2014). Sensation play (BDSM). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensation_play_(BDSM)
Wikipedia (2014). Total enclosure fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_enclosure_fetishism
Wikipedia (2014). Mummification (BDSM). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummification_(BDSM)
“[Question] Is it normal to have a scuba fetish about scuba diving and snorkeling and having scuba diving gear on and walking around in public for every one to see? [Response] I have a fetish of scuba diving and snorkeling and I feel really good about it” (Is It Normal? website).
In a previous blog I looked at aquaphilia (a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from water and/or watery environments including bathtubs or swimming pools – and sometimes referred to as hydrophilia). However, I recently came across a sub-type of aquaphilia (i.e., scuba fetishism) where according to an article in The Gazette on the ‘world’s freakiest fetishes’ are where individuals are sexually aroused by scuba diving, snorkeling, or the wearing of diving equipment. Scuba fetishism may also have some psychosexual crossover with athyphilia (a sexual paraphilia where individuals get sexually aroused by depth or deep water). The most detailed article that examines scuba fetishes is that on the Nation Master website. The article claims that:
“There are many aspects to the scuba fetish which attract fetishists. First, there is the sensual pleasure of being in a liquid environment. One is weightless and free to move in three dimensions which allows for a wider variety of sexual positions. Often, the sexual arousal comes in the form of wearing wetsuits, swim caps, and other rubber articles which serve as a second skin [i.e., rubber fetishism]. For many, the arousal comes from the wearing of face masks; this is related to fetishes involving gas masks, hazmat suits, and decorative masks [i.e., mask fetishism]. Other fetishists are aroused by other diving gear such as swim fins, snorkels, regulators, and technical diving equipment”.
The article also makes reference to various ‘scubaphile’ websites and in the name of ‘research’ I felt duty bound to check them out. The sites I visited included HapWater (that specialises in scuba diving-related fetish photography featuring “beautiful frogwomen in classic SCUBA gear”), Atlantis Bizarre (a subsection of the fashion fetish site Jazzy Fashion where individuals can buy scuba-related fetish wear), Underwater Fans (a web portal with many links to other underwater fetish websites such as Aqua Maidens), and Rub Aqua Girl who begins her blog by letting readers know:
“Me? I’m just a rubber lover who likes being underwater…holding my breath.I’ve always loved rubber but after finding out my partner was into the water thing, I tried it. This was as much a surprise to me as it was to him coz I’ve been frightened of water since nearly drowning when I was younger. Now you can’t keep me out of it – the feeling of being rubber-clad and underwater is indescribable!”
There are many other scuba fetish websites including some that also feature ‘drowning fetishes’ such as that at the Aqua Entertainment website (please be warned that this and the other sites mentioned are sexually explicit). As far as I can ascertain there is no academic research on scuba fetishism so everything in this blog is (at best) anecdotal. The Nation Master article claims that in relation to scuba fetishism:
“As with other fetishes, actually living out fantasies with a partner is the exception rather than the rule. Not only is it predominantly a male fetish, but the sole fact that not everyone has a large enough indoor pool often enough prohibits living out fantasies with a partner. Some may develop an emphasis on the scuba gear and any clothing involved, so unlike with aquaphilia, water, or actual scuba diving is not a strict requirement. Often enough this merely adds to the thrill. Thrill often is a keyword here as well. People by and large tend to associate fun and adventure with scuba diving so a prospective partner who actually does scuba diving may appear more attractive anyway, but to a scubaphile who actually does scuba diving him or herself this will almost be a requirement. To have a partner who is geared for fun and adventure just seems more promising and the ability to spend vacations on live aboards or in tourist resortsthat offer scuba diving in order to share the passion for scuba diving with each other will certainly be of concern”.
As mentioned above, there appear to be psychological and behavioural overlaps between scuba fetishism and other types of fetishism. The Latex Wiki website claims that:
“[Scuba fetishism is] usually appreciated as one of the forerunners of the latex fetish and gas masks enthusiasts as these were the earliest full body rubber suits designed and obtainable. However, as they were highly expensive, few had the money to purchase such suits. In the later era of early mass production, full rubber suits were purchased more easily…Today, many latex fetishists prefer the more form-flattering sheet pressed latex costuming (usually referred to ‘drywear’ indicating that it is not really meant to be worn in or under water due to the pressure on the suit from the water) as opposed to the thick rubber or neoprone suits that divers actually use in underwater travel (‘wetwear’ which usually refers to a suit that is specifically designed to resist the pressures of water when submerged). However, some still prefer the thick containing format of scuba-like suits or actual scuba suits on such models and performers and themselves. Scuba fetishism has many fans; some are turned on because of the tight clothing, others because of the water environment, others because of the masks and also breathplayers (although those last two are few and rare)”.
It is hard for me to either confirm or disconfirm any of the assertions made in this online article but personally I think the claims made have good face validity. I certainly came across other online references supporting the things claimed here (especially the relationship and overlap between scuba fetish and ‘breathplay’ (i.e., hypoxyphilia: the restriction of breathing, usually during sex, to gain erotic satisfaction). For instance, one person writing at the Answers.Yahoo.com website stated:
“I think that you might find that [scuba fetish is] a fairly specialised fetish and not overly common. However, someone who is into breath-play might find it appealing. It would be interesting to be bound by the feet to the bottom of a body of water so that you cannot rise to the surface and are trapped underwater with your air supply controlled by another person”.
Although scuba divers sometimes wear nappies (i.e. diapers) because they are in the water so long, there is little to suggest that this particular type of fetishism is related to ‘diaper fetishism’. An article on adult babies at the Odd Sex website reports that:
“Those who wear diapers because of incontinence are probably not [Adult Babies/Diaper Lovers]. While they may wear and use diapers, they aren’t necessarily doing it to express an alternate self-image or indulge a fetish. This also applies to those who use diapers for practical reasons, such as astronauts and scuba divers. Finally, there are some who start wearing diapers as a ‘new kink’”.
As with other rare sexual behaviours that I have examined in my blog, I can’t see scuba fetishism ever becoming an area of scientific research although the occasional case may make its way into the forensic literature if things go tragically wrong (i.e., accidental death from asphyxiation). However, as I noted in my previous blog on aquaphilia, there have only been two autoerotic water-related deaths published in the medical forensic literature (see ‘Further reading’ below) but neither of these involved the use of scuba gear.
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.
Gamotin, D. (2009). World’s freakiest fetishes. The Gazette, February 14. Located at: http://www.gazette.uwo.ca/article.cfm?section=Campus&articleID=288&month=2&day=14&year=2007
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Nation Master (2013). Scuba fetishism. Located at: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Scuba-fetishism
Sauvageau, A. & Racette, S. (2006). Aqua-eroticum: An unusual autoerotic fatality in a lake involving a home-made diving apparatus. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51(1), 137–39.
Sivaloganathan, S. (1984). Aqua-eroticum – A case of auto-erotic drowning. Medicine, Science and the Law, 24, 300–302.
In previous blogs I have looked at doll fetishism (i.e., individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from dolls and doll-like objects) and the ‘reborn baby doll’ phenomenon (i.e., individuals who collect and look after liefelike baby dolls). Today’s blog examines the world of ‘rubberdolling’ – the practice of individuals dressing up head-to-toe as a rubber doll. As far as I am aware, there is no academic research on rubberdolling although there are clearly psychological and behavioural overlaps with other more academically researched areas including transvestic fetishism, rubber/latex fetishism, and sadomasochism. In fact, many people might view such activity as ‘extreme cross-dressing’ where men (but occasionally females) transform themselves into walking talking dolls, completely concealing their real identities. According to the Latex Wiki entry on rubberdolling:
“A doll (a.k.a. Rubber doll, rubberdoll, rubberdolly, v. dolling, v. rubberdolling) is a latex fetishist whose desire is to acquire the appearance of a doll, usually a female doll, through a mostly latex costume that completely covers the face and skin… A doll’s suit is often a catsuit, which might have been specifically designed to mimic a store mannequin or a blow-up doll. Common colours thus include approximations of skin tones, white and black (for a Heavy Rubber look)…For nude (a nude doll, that is) applications the suit may feature blow-up-doll-like openings with insertable pouches. Some manufacturers offer catsuits designed to look like a blow-up doll. These might include inflatable bosom, hips or other regions to enhance the visual effect of an artificial doll – or to give a male wearer the shape of a female”.
Rubberdolling is relatively new phenomenon that has come to the fetishistic fore over the last two decades. Most rubberdollers attribute the rise of rubberdolling to the work of German fetish photographer Peter Czernich who started the fetish magazines Marquis and Heavy Rubber. Rubberdollers are typically encased in latex rubber with exaggerated and accentuated Barbie-type female features (i.e., huge breasts, incredibly small waists, exaggerated thighs and hips, elongated fingernails, extra long eyelashes, bright and excessive make-up, etc.). Typically, the only areas of human flesh that remain uncovered are holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. According to an article on rubberdolling at the Rubber World Rendezvous website, there are four basic categories to which rubberdolling can apply:
- Submissive dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll as part of a submissive role within a sadomasochistic relationship. Here the doll acts as a service submissive/slave and is utilized by others (usually the dominant partner) for their own sexual entertainment purposes. The dominant partner controls everything that the doll does and the costume often restricts the doll’s movements. The doll essentially becomes totally objectified and is at the total mercy of their dommes or mistresses. Here, rubberdolls may also be engaging in the behaviour as part of an encasement and/or rubber bondage fetish.
- Sissy dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a fetishistic ‘sissy’ rubber doll within the transgender and transvestite community. The activity may also be part of ‘cosplay’ (i.e., costume play). As the article at the Rubber World Rendezvous website claims, these people use “the rubber doll theme as a vehicle for play, disguise, sissification, cross dressing…This generally follows a common theme of Forced Femme or being turned into a female doll animate or inanimate. Again shape altering garments and female masks figure in this identity change. Many equate this to being turned into a Barbie Doll. Many [transvestites] who like shiny materials are now dressing in Latex and rubber as part of their look and while not wearing masks they are considered a rubber doll”.
- Show dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll for exhibition purposes and may be part of either the BDSM and/or transvestite and transgender communities. In sadomasochistic relationships, show dolls are made to look as pretty as possible by their dommes or mistresses to show off to others in the rubberdolling scene (e.g., at fetish balls). Here, the dominant partner may actually play with the submissive as if it was a real doll. Show dolls are typically female in appearance, and the female form is accentuated and exaggerated.
- Art dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll as an art form or art statement (i.e., a piece of ‘living art’ or ‘street theatre’) and may have nothing to do with sex or fetishistic sex (i.e., it is purely about seeing the doll from an aesthetic perspective). Such dolls may also be used to feature in fetish photography magazines (of which there seem to be a growing array based on what I came across while researching this article).
So how does someone actually transform another person into a doll? The Rubber World Rendezvous claims:
“This is done through dressing the subject in latex rubber garments and specialty items to change their form and look. Generally the basis for all of the forms of rubber doll is the female type cat suit which has a tight waist, bust cups for breast forms or attached inflatable breasts. The cut of the suit is usually female. Add to this the bra, breasts and padded hips along with a female mask and wig (if required) you have a basic naked doll. From here one dresses the doll however you desire to achieve the look you want”.
The Latex Wiki entry on rubberdolling claims that some people attempt to use (“and have variably succeeded”) the outer shells of blow-up sex dolls as full body suits. However, it then goes on to say that most inflatable dolls are too small to totally engulf someone, but that some varieties are reasonably life size. Blow-up dolls are usually made from materials such as PVC and latex, and therefore are not always sufficiently flexible for comfortable wear. The same article also claims that looners (i.e., balloon fetishists) may use heated air to stretch various plastic inflatables whilst retaining the proportions of the object close to original.
There is little in the way of an established literature on rubberdolling although there are quite a few rubberdollers that have their own webpage. One of the more interesting (and in-depth) ones is the Swedish Rubber Puppett site. The site’s owner is very open and reflective about his rubberdolling and I reproduce here what he has to say in his own words:
“I am a rubberdoll from the very south part of Sweden with a deep love for latex. I created this site to be able to reach out to other latex lovers and to make new friends all over the world. The rubber scene in Sweden is quite limited, especially if you are into dolling. I have been into latex and anything tight and shiny for as long as I can remember and some time ago I dressed up as a doll and I instantly felt this was my ‘thing’…Many people think of a rubberdoll as something passive and submissive, which is often the case. However, I am neither passive nor submissive and do this for entirely different reasons. For me it is all about dressing up and [transforming] myself into a different character. Perhaps this is similar to people who are into cosplay…Like an exhibitionist I love the way people turn their heads and look at me, some with fascination and some with fear in their eyes”.
Arguably the most interesting part of Rubber Puppett’s account is where he talks about where his love of dressing in rubber came from. He reported that:
I have been into rubber, latex and all shiny and tight things for as long as I can remember. As a young child I loved to dress up in rain clothes. I can remember the nice feeling I got the first time I tried a couple of waders. Now I am more focused towards latex, but I am still quite fond of those things, especially rubber boots. It wasn’t until I left home to study that I came into contact with latex…I did like the look of it and I decided to buy some simple garments for me and my girlfriend. I instantly fell in love with the tight feeling of the rubber clothes, the smell and the look of them. I soon ordered some more latex clothes such as hoods, stockings and dresses. When I first saw myself in the mirror wearing a hood I was instantly hooked. Since that day I have worked on my rubberdoll persona to create my fantasy woman”.
Based on what I have read elsewhere, I wouldn’t describe this account of rubberdolling as typical (and neither does he). Whether any academic research ever gets carried out on the topic remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an area that is of psychological interest.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Latex Wiki (2011). Doll. Located at: http://www.latexwiki.com/index.php?title=Doll
Rubber Puppett (2012). About Rubber Puppett. Located at: http://rubberpupett.com/about.html
Rubber World Rendezvous (2013). Frequently asked questions. Located at: http://www.rubberdollworldrendezvous.com/faq.php