It was Adam and the Ants song ‘Friends’ where I first heard the name of the British pop artist Allen Jones. The song was first officially released in 1981 as the B-side of ‘Ant Rap’ but earlier versions had been recorded for a 1978 John Peel session and during the sessions for the 1979 Dirk Wears White Sox album. The Dirk version was eventually released on the 1982 ‘Antmusic EP’ (and ended up being Adam and the Ants last single before Adam Ant went solo).
In two previous blogs, I have looked at both the psychology of Adam Ant and an in-depth look at all his songs about sexual fetishism and paraphilias (based on an academic article that I originally wrote for Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion). In one of those articles, I noted that Adam’s predisposition towards sex came not from musical influences but from figures in the 20th century art world. Adam Ant’s final year thesis was on sexual perversion and he was inspired by the iconographic images of Andy Warhol, the autoerotic paintings of Allen Jones, the neo-sadomasochistic fantasies of Hans Bellmer, and ‘sexpop’ travellers like Eduardo Paolozzi, Francis Bacon and Stanley Spencer. In 1977, Adam said:
“The S&M thing stems from (when) I was at College Art School, with John Ellis (of The Vibrators), and all the time I was at Art College I was very influenced by Allen Jones the artist. All my college work is pretty much like this, this is just a musical equivalent of what I was visually doing at college”
As a teenager I collected badges and the ones designed by Adam Ant were clearly indebted to Allen Jones’ interest in fetishism (you can check out the designs in more detail here). Others in the pop world noted this including Justine Frischmann of Elastica. In a Melody Maker article by Simon Reynolds, Frischmann noted that Adam Ant “epitomised the brilliantly elegant side of punk, using all that Allen Jones type imagery like that table which was a woman on all fours with a glass top on her back. All his paintings were developed from Fifties porn – lots of airbrushed women in black leather. The Antz used a lot of that imagery. On one level, it’s very titillating, but it’s also very pop. So we’re gonna make the next album S & M, with us all in black leather. Actually, I think Madonna‘s ruined that for everyone, ruined the concept of pervy sex forever”.
Jones (born in 1937 in Southampton, UK) is arguably Adam’s greatest single influence and has been cited by Adam in many early interviews. He is best known for his use of slick fetishistic and obsessive objects, often of a sexual character (legs, stockings, shoes, etc.) taken from pornographic and women’s fashion magazines (with rubber fetishism and BDSM themes being very prominent). He was an early and leading figure in the pop-art movement as part of the so-called “dynamic generation” at the Royal College of Art (along with David Hockney, Patrick Caulfield, Peter Phillips, and Frank Bowing), and from where he was expelled in 1960 because of his controversial paintings. He was Britain’s ‘shock art’ bad boy decades before Damien Hirst. His early work was influenced by the Futurism school or art, and by reading the psychology of Freud and Jung, as well as the philosophy of Nietzsche. One of Adam’s songs ‘Ligotage’ (French for bondage) was directly inspired by his paintings. In the Wikipedia entry on Jones, he is quoted as saying:
“I wanted to kick over the traces of what was considered acceptable in art. I wanted to find a new language for representation… to get away from the idea that figurative art was romantic, that it wasn’t tough”.
It was in the late 1960s that Jones first started sculpting what art historian Marco Livingstone describes in his 1979 book Sheer Magic by Allen Jones as “life-size images of women as furniture with fetishist and sado-masochist overtones.” The three most (in)famous works (sharing as art curator Edith Devaney argued “a visual language”) were the erotic sculptures Hat Stand, Table and Chair made of fiberglass that featured busty mannequins dressed (or rather barely dressed) in patent leather. These works were met with both acclaim and disdain both in and outside of the art world with critics perceiving the sculptures as being misogynistic. Livingstone later went on to say “these works still carry a powerful emotive charge, ensnaring every viewer’s psychology and sexual outlook regardless of age, gender or experience”. One of the better descriptions of the three pieces was by Zoe Williams of The Guardian in an article provocatively entitled ‘Is Allen Jones’s sculpture the most sexist art ever?’:
“’Hat Stand’ is a mannequin in radial leather knickers and thigh-high boots. ‘Chair’ is the most famous of the three: a woman lies on her back, with her knees against her chest and a cushion on top of her. That’s the seat, her calves make the chair’s back. While all the clothes – black leather gloves, boots and a strap – reference bondage, she also looks dead, trussed up ready for some inept suburban disposal. ‘Table’, being topless, is more classically provocative. It would be pushing it to say the figure was adopting a more active shape, though: she’s on all fours, holding up a pane of glass with her back, her head looking down into a hand mirror. Yet the physics of the position make her look more like a doll than a corpse…Does Allen Jones’s art expose how female stereotypes are performed and maintained, by presenting us with overtly sexualised hyperboles, or is it just another part of the age-old tradition to objectify and sexualise women? The debate goes on… One thing is sure though, Jones’s work still provokes reactions”.
More infamy followed when the sculptures were referenced in one of cinema’s most controversial films of all time – A Clockwork Orange directed by Stanley Kubrick (in 1971). In a later interview, Jones recalled a telephone call from Kubrick. “[Kubrick said], ‘I’m a very famous film director, this will be seen all over the world and your name will be known.’ I held the phone away from my ear, I was just staggered anyone would say that. It showed an ego that dwarfed that of any artist I’ve known”. Because of this, Jones declined Kubrick’s offer but the director’s prop team made copies of his work. His BDSM designs were also a key feature of the 1975 film Maîtresse about a female dominatrix directed by Barbet Schroeder (and which also caused controversy because of its very graphic depictions of sado-masochism). Zoe Williams in her article for The Guardian goes as far to say: “Jones’s images have been so influential that almost no image of woman-as-object or woman-as-other-object can be created, even 40 years later, that doesn’t nod to them”.
In 2014, the Royal Academy of Arts hosted a retrospective of Jones’ work and Richard Dorment in the Daily Telegraph asserted: “you could argue that Jones’s work isn’t really about women; it’s about men and how they look at and think about women. Men use various strategies to neutralise or control desire. One is to fetishise the female body…[while] another is for the man to appropriate it”. The brief biography of Jones on the Artsation website also noted that: “Allen Jones was accused of being sexist and depicting women as undignified, mere willing objects of lust. Jones obviously never intended to show women in such a way, he wanted to question prohibitions and moral boundaries. ‘Nothing is as it seems’, the artist once said and also in this case one should not confuse the appearance of the object with its message. With his objects the artist carries trivialities like sexual connotations from advertising and show business into fine art to stylize and satirize them”.
Bizarrely, perhaps one of Jones’ unforeseen legacies is that his work appears to have unwittingly spawned a new sexual paraphilia – namely forniphilia. As I noted in my previous article on forniphilia, it is a form of sexual objectification and is viewed by many as a form of sexual bondage as the human body is typically incorporated into the shape of a piece of furniture where the person has to stay still for extended periods of time. The difference between Jones’ art and forniphilia is that forniphilia involves real humans whereas Jones’ works of art uses ‘humans’ made of fibreglass. The term ‘forniphilia’ was allegedly coined by Jeff Gord, the man behind The House of Gord (“The Home of Ultra Bondage”). In The House of Gord, there are many types of furniture that women had been temporarily turned into. This included many different types of table, lamps, pedestals, various types of chair (office chair, rocking chair, etc.), footstools, ceiling decorations (including chandeliers), lawn sprinklers, and bird tables. If Jones’ art was the direct inspiration for Gord and his followers, I wouldn’t be surprised. But even if it wasn’t, Jones’ work will continue to live on and will continue to garner controversy and feminist critique.
Ant, A. (2007). Stand and Deliver: The Autobiography. London: Pan.
Artsation (2015). Allen Jones – Biography. Located at: https://artsation.com/en/artists/allen-jones
Deurell, J. (2014). 10 key facts about Allen Jones. AnOther, November 10. Located at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/4103/10-key-facts-about-allen-jones
Dorment, R. (2014). Allen Jones, Royal Academy, review: ‘dangerous, perverse and brilliant’. Daily Telegraph, November 14. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/11220351/Allen-Jones-Royal-Academy-review-dangerous-perverse-and-brilliant.html
Gregory, H. (2014). Fetish, fantasy & “women as furniture”: The complicated legacy of Allen Jones. Artsy.net, December 3. Located at: https://www.artsy.net/article/editorial-fetish-fantasy-and-women-as-furniture-the
Griffiths, M.D (1999). Adam Ant: Sex and perversion for teenyboppers. Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 19, 116-119.
Guadagnini, W. (2004). Pop Art UK: British Pop Art 1956-1972. Milan: Silvana.
Levy, P. (2014). A Fetish for Art. Touring Pop artist Allen Jones’s London workspace. Wall Street Journal, November 14. Located at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303309504579185690844235078
Livingstone. M. (1979). Sheer Magic by Allen Jones. London: Thomas & Hudson.
Wikipedia (2013). Allen Jones (artist). Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_Jones_(artist)
Williams, Z. (2014). Is Allen Jones’s sculpture the most sexist art ever? The Guardian, November 10. Located at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/10/allen-jones-sexist-art-royal-academy-review
In one of my previous blogs on the ‘A to Z of non-researched sexual paraphilias’ I briefly mentioned doraphila. Most definitions of doraphilia are fairly consistent. For instance, Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices simply defines doraphilia as the “love of animal fur, leather or skins”. Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices says doraphilia is “the attraction…usually for animal skin or leather, which has been used as clothing throughout human existence. It is considered a fetish when it has to be present during sex”. Other online definitions claim doraphilia is “abnormal affection towards fur or skins of animals”. I’ve also come across online definitions that subsume doraphilia as a type of dermophilia (in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from the skin). However, I think it’s more logical to view dermaphilia as a sub-type of doraphilia (or not a sub-type at all if it doesn’t include the love of animal skin).
Somewhat confusingly, Dr. Brenda Love in her account of doraphilia in her sex encyclopedia spends a lot of the entry talking about the sexual aspects of human skin (rather than animal skin). She noted that:
“Human skin holds a fascination for some people. The 1950s sex criminal Edward Gein, who derived pleasure skinning female corpses he exhumed from local graves and then wearing them like a garment, is reported to have become fascinated with the idea of changing himself from a male to female. There have been cases where people have used human skin to make purses, lamp shades, belts, and upholstery. This was apart from similar things doe to men with tattoos during the Holocaust. Captain John Bourke wrote of human flesh being used as girdles or mummies that were worn by pregnant women to assist them in labor”.
Anyone that has read (or watched) The Silence of The Lambs (the third of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter quadrilogy) or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre can see where the inspiration for the Jame Gumb character (‘Buffalo Bill’) and the Leatherface character came from. As the Wikipedia entry on Buffalo Bill notes:
“Both the novel and film [of Silence Of The Lambs] tell of Gumb wanting to become a woman but being too disturbed to qualify for gender reassignment surgery. He kills women so he can skin them and create a ‘woman suit’ for himself. He is described as not really transgender but merely believing himself to be because he ‘hates his own identity’.
Personally, I don’t see Ed Gein or the many film characters he has ‘inspired’ as doraphiles. The motive for wearing the human skin of other people was not to get sexually aroused. The wearing of leather is of course commonplace in many sexual practices such as sexual sadism and sexual masochism (in fact, it’s arguably become a uniform or even a stereotype such as ‘The Gimp’ character in the film Pulp Fiction). As Dr. Love notes in her encyclopedia entry:
“Erotic leather apparel can be purchased at some lingerie and leather shops or ordered from Europe. Leather jock straps (some with chrome studs), bikini panties with zippered crotches, body suits, bras, corsets, dresses, skirts, pants exposing the rear, costumes, and accessories are all available”.
She also speculates about the psychology of wearing of leather and fur and mentions Dr. Harry Harlow’s classic studies on maternal attachment on rhesus monkeys as evidence (at least in part) for her claims:
“The feel and smell of leather gives many people a feeling of power. Some explain this as subconsciously as taking on the character of the animal with whose skin they cloak themselves. This was a common belief of holy men during their ancient religious ceremonies. The Roman emperor Nero dressed in an animal skin and then emulated the beast’s ferocious behavior as he sexually assaulted the people he had tied to stakes. An explanation for the continued appeal of leather or fur is that some people feel secure and nurtured by being wrapped in skin, a sort of surrogate mother effect. Clinical studies showed that rhesus monkeys who had their mothers replaced by inanimate objects responded better or clung to the ones that were wrapped in some type of fur”
For sexual leather enthusiasts, the colour black appears to be especially important. Although I have carried out research on the importance of colour in gambling (see me previous blog on the topic), I have never thought about it from a sexual clothing perspective. Again, Dr. Love provides some narrative on this (citing Jane Polley’s 1980 book Stories Behind Everyday Things).
“Many people who use leather for erotic feelings or as a symbol for their sexual power prefer the color black. The motives behind this preference are not clear. Historical facts regarding the color reveal that the ancient Egyptians revered the color as a sign of fertility because black was the color of the rich soil along the Nile. This may also be the origin of the black gowns used in witchcraft or other ancient religions. The Japanese, some Egyptians, American Indians, Christians, and Hindus saw it as a sign of destruction or death. Europeans dressed in black garments to attend funerals so that they would not be recognized as human and harmed by ghosts. Conversely, black Africans dressed in white clothing at funeral for the same reason. Today black is perceived as a symbol of evil, elegance, authority, and religion”.
I know of no empirical research into doraphilia although I did come across an interesting paper by Jared Christman published in the journal Society and Animals on zoocidal practices and made these really interesting observations:
“Fur and leather in particular are common tokens of material abun- dance for the doraphilic shopper, the lover of animal skins who yearns for womb-like protection from the frailty of the human frame. Were it not for such a wellspring of doraphilic sentiment in modern consumer culture, marketing strategists would hardly be able to churn out trade publications with titles like ‘The Smell of Success – Exploiting the Leather Aroma’ (Lente & Herman, 2001)…Where sexuality and power converge most implacably, the integuments of animals figure most prominently. Hence, the skins of animals are often indispensable tools in the rites of sadomasochism, adding an all-pervading element of dominion over life and death. Most tellingly of all, the term ‘masochism’ comes eponymously from von Sacher-Masoch (2000). The doraphilic liturgies of sadomasochism, in the bedroom or in the fascist amphitheater, purport to dissolve the participants in a microcosm of divinity, fashioning the milieu of predatory mastery they need to stamp out their fear of futility. Wreathed in animal remains, the sadist has already vanquished the vitality of natural life, the first step in the subjugation of people. The masochist, on the other hand, finds method in the malice of autocratic authority, delegating responsibility for victory over death to the powers that be. Either way, sadomasochists wallow in the skins of animals in order to neutralize their “sense of vital impotence” (Fromm, 1973, p. 326), of an endless ebbing of purpose in a world of boundless putrescence. People who resort so eagerly to the lifeblood of animals to stave off the vicissitudes of their own lives can easily become inured to truculence—if they are not already predisposed to it”.
Finally, examining the paraphilia literature, it could perhaps be argued that doraphilia has overlaps with some types of zoophilia. In 2011, Dr. Anil Aggrawal published a new classification of zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine comprising ten different types of zoophile based on their primary erotic focus. One of the ten types was what Aggrawal called fetishistic zoophiles. These are individuals who keep various animal parts (especially fur) that they then use as an erotic stimulus as a crucial part of their sexual activity. Such individuals have been reported in the clinical literature including the case of a woman (reported in a 1990 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology) who used the tongue of a deer as her primary masturbatory aid (and which I examined in detail in a previous blog and was described by the authors as a case of ‘xenolingual autoeroticism’).
Given that most doraphilic practices are non-problematic and (presumably) occur between consensual adults, I don’t foresee much research being done in the area. If data are collected, it’s more likely to come from sexual practices associated with doraphilia (e.g., uniform fetishism, sado-masochism, etc.) than on doraphilia itself.
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Christman, J. (2008). The Gilgamesh Complex: The Quest for Death Transcendence and the Killing of Animals. Society & Animals, 16(4), 297-315.
Fromm, E. (1973). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications.
Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Colour atmospherics and its impact on player behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 6(3), 91-96.
Harlow, H. F. & Zimmermann, R. R. (1958). The development of affective responsiveness in infant monkeys. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 102, 501-509.
Lente, R. V., & Herman, S. J. (2001). The smell of success—Exploiting the leather aroma. In Human factors in automotive design (pp. 21-28). Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Polley, J. (1980). Stories Behind Everyday Things. London: Readers Digest.
Randall, M.B., Vance, R.P., & McCalmont, T.H. (1990). Xenolingual autoeroticism. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 11, 89-92.
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.
von Sacher-Masoch, L. .(2000). Venus in Furs (J. Neugroschel, Trans.). New York: Penguin.
Wikipedia (2015). Buffalo Bill (character). Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Bill_(character)
Wikipedia (2015). Clothing fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clothing_fetish
As regular readers of my blog will know, I have had a longstanding professional interest in the psychology of sexually paraphilic behaviour. My interest in the topic first began when I was a 14-year old teenager listening to Adam and the Ants B-sides (all of which were about different types of extreme and/or unusual sexual behaviours. In one of my previous blogs, I argued that Adam Ant’s music has covered more atypical sexual behaviours than any other recording artist that I can think of (e.g. sadism, masochism, bondage, fetishism, transvestism, voyeurism, etc.). There is little doubt that Adam’s music had a great influence on my career, but what were Adam’s influences that made him the person he became?
In addition to the sexual content of his lyrics, Adam’s earliest stage personas were also very sexual. Adam bought his clothes from ‘SEX’, the shop run by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood which was also infamous for selling rubber and leather fetish wear. (McLaren later briefly became The Ants manager and even tried to get Adam and his band to star in a pornographic film with female punk band The Slits). The first t-shirt he ever bought there was provocative and controversial (featuring the ‘Cambridge Rapist‘). One of McLaren’s best-selling t-shirts (‘Vive Le Rock‘) later became the title of Adam’s 1985 single and album. Adam’s interest in sex was all-consuming and spilled over into most areas of his and The Ants lives. It was common at early gigs for Adam to be dressed in bondage gear.
One infamous incident happened at their debut gig at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (10th May 1977). To get the gig, Adam said his band were a country and western band. He then got on stage dressed in bondage trousers and a leather head mask, and performed the future S&M classic Beat My Guest (later to be a B-side of their first No. 1 hit Stand and Deliver). Predictably, they were ‘asked to leave’ after that opening number.
Early gigs (1977-1979) were known as places to buy lots of eye-catching merchandise (t-shirts, badges, posters etc.) featuring sadomasochistic and bondage sex-themes designed by Adam. Advertisements for the 1979 tour were the first to use the slogan ‘Antmusic for Sexpeople’. To Adam, ‘sexpeople’ were people who got off on sexual phenomena, who liked sexual imagery and enjoyed being sexual. In a Melody Maker interview he said ‘What weʼre basically dealing with here with is taboos, and a lot of my work as a kind of music therapy‘. Adam’s first major interview as cover star in (the now defunct) Sounds was where he was described as ‘the face that launched a thousand whips’. His breakthrough album Kings of the Wild Frontier (1980) may have surprised his new young fan base as it came with a free booklet full of sexual imagery.
Although Adam clearly has musical influences, most of those he talks about or name checks in his songs appear to have more to do with image than music or his overriding interest in sex. Early influences like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates may have inspired some of his later images. The first record he bought was Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles, but rarely makes reference to them as any kind of musical influence. The early 1970s appear to have thrown up more influences where music and sexuality was talked about in relation to the person if not their songs (Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Roxy Music). For instance, he loved the New York Dolls ‘because they looked like drag queens‘. His inspiration for forming Adam & the Ants was seeing the Sex Pistols very first gig when they supported the first band he was in (a short-lived band called Bazooka Joe). It was after this that a plethora of sexual punky songs were written for the Ants.
In an interview with Derek Hardman (Inside Out magazine, 1979), Adam described the lyrical content of his songs as dealing with ‘subjects of interest, mystery and imagination‘ and that they came from ‘living my life, reading, films, events and history‘. This quote also carries the implicit assumption that musical influences paid little (if any) part in his lyrical obsessions. The only thing that really connects sex with music is the perception that being a ‘popstar’ will bring more sexual opportunities. For instance in the Antbox book, Adam says:
“I remember being in a room with four girls watching [Marc] Bolan on ‘Top of the Pops’ and it was the first time I had actually watched four girls just absolutely dripping, climaxing , looking at a guy… Whatever it is, I want some!”
Very few of his musical heroes wrote explicit songs about sex and it is clear that the (sometimes) extreme sexuality of his lyrics originate elsewhere. By digging a little deeper it becomes abundantly clear that his interest in art lay the foundations of his sexual interests. By looking at the individuals who Adam held in high esteem, it becomes very clear that Adam’s predisposition towards sex comes not from musical influences but from figures in the 20th century art world. Adam originally wanted a career in Art after seeing an exhibition of Pop Art at the Tate Gallery in London (1971). He ended up studying Graphic Design at Hornsey College of Art (now part of Middlesex University) in North London. His favourite class was the ‘Erotic Arts’ course taught by art historian Peter Webb. This concentrated on Indian, Chinese, and Japanese traditions of erotic painting, drawing, and sculpture. Adam was also interested by women’s role in society and he was the only male at his college to take the class in ‘Women In Society’.
Adam was inspired by the iconographic images of Andy Warhol, the autoerotic paintings of Allen Jones, the neo-sadomasochistic fantasies of Hans Bellmer, and ‘sexpop’ travellers like Eduardo Paolozzi, Francis Bacon and Stanley Spencer. All these people clearly influenced his music. In 1977, Adam said:
“The S&M thing stems from [when] I was at College Art School, with John Ellis (of the Vibrators), and all the time I was at Art College I was very influenced by Allen Jones the artist. All my college work is pretty much like this, this is just a musical equivalent of what I was visually doing at college. Iʼm not personally into S&M, I mean I never smacked the arse of anybody. It’s the power and the imagery. There’s a certain imagery involved with that which I find magnetic. It’s not done viciously, if you read S&M mags and spank mags or anything like that, it’s done with an essence of humour…war dress and stuff, that just appeals to my imagination.
While at Art College, Adam did a thesis on sexual perversion:
I read lots of books and discovered much to my surprise that it wasn’t just a kick, it was a deadly serious subject. A very sort of medical thing and I found I got a source of material for my songs. I wrote a song called ‘Rubber People’ which is a serious look at rubber fetishism. And I also wrote one about transvestism. Theyʼre not serious, none of my songs are serious, I mean fucking hell. Theyʼre serious to me. But the thing is that with, say, ‘Transvestism’ people just laugh at people. If somebody’s wearing a pair of rubber underpants under a pin-stripe suits it’s funny, y’know. But I don’t think itʼs funny. I don’t think it’s any more strange than watching fucking ‘Crossroads‘ every night”
It was perhaps Adam’s art heroes that most influenced him. By looking very briefly at each of Adam’s artistic heroes, it is easy to see where the inspiration for many of his early lyrics came from. The most important influences were Allen Jones, Stanley Spencer, Eduardo Paolozzi, Hans Bellmer, Francis Bacon (name checked in the song ‘Piccadilly‘), and Andy Warhol. These brief sketches show that his early music is a direct musical equivalent of his heroes’ artwork (particularly Jones, Bellmer and Paolozzi). The influence of Warhol, Bacon and Spencer is more subtle. These three individuals all produced controversial work (which Adam found inspiring).
It might also be argued that all three had a somewhat troubled or tortured sexuality. This again, may have been of interest to Adam. The only other artists that Adam has singled out are Pablo Picasso and the Italian futurists. Adam was impressed by Picasso’s “genius, energy and sexuality” and was the subject of one of Adam’s best album tracks ‘Picasso Visits The Planet of the Apes‘. A whole song (‘Animals and Men‘) is devoted to the Italian futurists on the debut album (Dirk Wears White Sox). In this song he writes about the influence of Filippo Marinetti (1876-1944), Giacomo Balla (1871-1958), Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) and Carlo Carra (1881-1966). The Futurists were a 20th century avant garde movement in Italian art, sculpture, literature, music, cinema and photography. Their manifesto broke with the past and celebrated modern technology, dynamism and power. The combination of different art media was appealing to Adam although there was nothing overtly sexual in the work of its exponents.
Film – like art – was also important to Adam, and as a teenage usher at the Muswell Hill Odeon he saw lots of films in his formative years. Adam has gone on record many times to say that his film hero is Dirk Bogarde. The Ants first album (the aforementioned Dirk Wears White Sox) was named after him and some of his films provided inspiration for his songs. Many of his most notorious films (The Servant, Death In Venice, The Night Porter) dealt with taboo areas with which Adam identified and/or had a fascination with. All these films feature taboo sexual subjects (or at least taboo at the time the film was made) and probably appealed to Adam because of their taboo nature. These were all a direct influence on Adam’s early songwriting.
Outside of Dirk Bogarde and his films, Adam cites his film heroes as Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Mongomery Clift and Charles Bronson. Adam makes few references to films or film stars in his song writing, although there are name checks for Michael Caine, John Wayne, Terence Stamp, and Charles Hawtrey in ‘Friends‘, Clint Eastwood in ‘Los Rancheros‘, Steve McQueen in ‘Steve McQueen‘, Robert de Niro in ‘Christian Dior‘, and Bruce Lee in ‘Bruce Lee‘. He also dedicated one song that he wrote about the film Psycho (‘Norman‘) to its star Anthony Perkins. Again, these film stars and their films (bar Bogarde) have had little influence on his sexually themed songs.
There are very few references to literary heroes in Adam’s work and even less that is sex-related. The gay playwright Joe Orton (1933-1967) is one influence who has impacted on Adam’s life. Adam wrote one song about Orton’s homosexual relationship with his lover Kenneth Halliwell (‘Prick Up Your Ears’ on the Redux LP). However, the lyrics didn’t fit the pirate theme of the second album (Kings of the Wild Frontier) and were changed. This song eventually became ‘The Magnificent Five‘. In 1985, as part of his acting career, Adam performed in Joe Orton’s play Entertaining Mr. Sloane on stage at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Adam claimed that the ‘idea of playing a psychotic bisexual thug was good’. Ortonʼs comedies (Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot, and What The Butler Saw) are all black, stylish, and violent. Furthermore, they all have an emphasis on corruption and sexual perversion. With such content it is easy to see why Adam enjoyed these. However, it is not known when Adam was first aware of Orton’s work. The likelihood is that his appreciation of Orton was after many of his initial songs were written.
The German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was also one of Adamʼs literary inspirations and the subject of early live favourite ‘Nietzsche Baby‘. Nietzsche is most well known for his rejection of Christian morality (which no doubt appealed to Adam) and the ‘revision of all values’. Despite the influence, there was little in his writings that would have inspired Adam’s sex- related writings. Passing reference to both the US ‘beat generation’ writer Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) and the French novelist and playwright Albert Camus (1913-1960; a protagonist of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd‘ movement) make an appearance on his 1985 song ‘Anger Inc..‘ Again, these influences appear to be post-musical success and would have had little impact on his early sexual songwriting.
As a psychologist myself, I couldnʼt help make reference to Adam’s ‘psychological’ influences. The only time he has made reference specifically to a psychologist is a name check of Erich Fromm in his song ‘Friends’. It is obvious that Adam has read some of Fromm’s work as there are Frommian influences in his work. The ‘dog eat dog’ personality type (consciously or unconsciously) inspired his first big hit single (‘Dog Eat Dog‘). The ‘masochistic’ personality type permeates many of his early songs. The ‘marketing’ subtypes who concern themselves with image and style (and who feel inadequate if they are not admired) could be argued to be Adam himself. Alternatively he may have seen himself as the ‘productive’ type because of his creativity and ability to change himself.
By just scratching a little deeper at the surface of Adam’s influences, we see the roots of his lyrical sexuality. As time has gone on, less and less of Adamʼs songs have concerned sex. Furthermore, more love songs have made an appearance ( the LP Wonderful being a prime example). Maybe this is just an overt sign of the maturation process. Whatever it is, there is little to take away Adam’s crown as the king of sexual diversity.
Ant, A. (2007). Stand and Deliver: The Autobiography. London: Pan.
Griffiths, M.D (1999). Adam Ant: Sex and perversion for teenyboppers. Headpress: The Journal of Sex, Death and Religion, 19, 116-119.
Wikipedia (2013). Adam and the Ants. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_and_the_Ants
Wikipedia (2013). Adam Ant. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Ant
In my previous blogs I have examined a wide variety of different – but potentially dangerous – sexual fetishes and paraphilias including sexual masochism, autoerotic asphyxiation (breathplay/hypoxyphilia), enema play (klismaphilia), scat play (coprophilia), watersports (urophilia), and electricity play (electrophilia). All of these sexual behaviours could arguably be classed as ‘edgeplay’. The online Urban Dictionary, edgeplay is “sexual play that is very extreme in nature. Said to be on the edge of safety and sometimes even sanity. Can be very dangerous if not practiced correctly. [Examples include] breathplay, bloodplay, humiliation play, Total Power Exchange (TPE), [and] rape roleplay”. According to ‘lunaKM’ who describes herself as a “full-time slave in an M/s relationship” and the editor (and founder) of the online Submissive Guide, edgeplay has three definitions (that I have reproduced verbatim below)
- Definition 1: Edgeplay is SM play that involves a chance of harm, either physically or emotionally. It’s also subjective to the players involved; what is risky for me might not be risky for you and visa versa. A few examples of edge play under this definition are fireplay, gunplay, rough body play including punching and wrestling, breath play and blood play.
- Definition 2: Edgeplay can also literally mean play with an edge. Such examples of play are cutting, knives, swords and other sharp implements. These forms of edge play also fall under the broad term in [the definition above]
- Definition 3: Any practice which challenges the limits or boundaries of one or more of the participants.
In his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr. Anil Aggrawal notes that edgeplay is dangerous in many different ways as the activities may involve (i) increased risk of spreading disease (e.g., through cutting or bloodplay), (ii) psychological danger (e.g., humiliation play, incest fantasies, rape roleplay), (iii) challenging social taboos (ageplay, scat fetishism, and racial slurs), and (iv) even permanent harm or death (e.g., gunplay and breathplay). Such activities can be done alone, with a partner, or with a group of people. From what I have read anecdotally online, edgeplay enthusiasts claim they know the human body better than most medical professionals, and attempt to exercise as much safety as is humanly possible when going to the point of near death and then resuscitation.
The Wikipedia entry on edgeplay also roots edgeplay within BDSM sexual practices but adds that it is a “subjective term for types of sexual play that are considered to be pushing on the edge of the traditional SSC [safe, sane and consensual] creed [and] considered more RACK [Risk-Ware Consensual Kink]”. The article also notes that such sexual acts involve risking serious (and sometimes permanent) harm including possible death. The same article also notes that what constitutes edgeplay may depend upon both an individual’s viewpoint and may change over time. Activities such as ‘ageplay’ (a form of roleplaying in which an individual acts or treats another as if they were a different age, for example a baby or toddler) or ‘rape roleplay’ (involving imagining or pretending being coerced or coercing another into sex) may be considered ‘edgy’ by some but not others. Activities such as ‘scatplay’ (coprophilia) that were considered edgy in the 1990s have arguably shifted into mainstream BDSM practices.
Journalist Rachel Rabbit White is one of the few people to have written an article on edgeplay. As she writes:
“Edgeplay is a sex thing. It is a BDSM thing. And while BDSM among consenting adults is considered cool and OK by most reasonable people, edgeplay is sort of not OK. Edgeplay refers to acts are those deemed not safe, sane, or consensual, which are the watchwords for “normal” kinky sex. This is the BDSM that is never going to end up in a bestselling erotica novel for moms….Like every flavor of kinkster, edgeplay enthusiasts talk to each other online…There’s a group devoted to the topic on FetLife, the sex-based social networking site. One of the group’s threads asks members what the ‘edgiest’ thing they’ve ever done is. Responses ranged from ‘gun play with a cop’ to ‘as a black woman, going to a 1920s themed party chained to my white partner and dressed as a piccaninny’ to ‘smearing Icy Hot on his fresh Prince Albert piercing – while he slept’. I can’t imagine a world in which that last one is sexy but just because it isn’t my thing doesn’t mean it’s wrong”.
She also confirms that what is considered ‘edgy’ has changed over the last three decades. She claims that in the 1980s and 1990s sexual activities such as scatplay, ageplay, puppyplay, and suspension by skin hook piercings were not allowed at BDSM sex conventions. However, all of these can now be found at such events. This is because “attitudes about what should be forbidden seems to have shifted thanks to people getting better [sexually] educated”. Much of this has coupled the rise of the internet where there are now numerous ‘how to’ guides on almost every type of ‘adult’ sexual activity, and articles on sexual ethics. One of the interviewees for her article (Madeline) describes edgeplay (somewhat paradoxically) as a “consensual non-consent” where activities like ‘rapeplay’ do not involve ‘safewords’ (typically used by BDSM practitioners to signal for the activity to cease). Madeline “talks lovingly” about the rapeplay between her and her husband, and claims it keeps “their long-term relationship tender and fresh, and likewise, their trusting relationship allows them to do rape play”. The article also notes that:
“Rather than glorifying [edgeplay], the BDSM community might be headed in the direction of eradicating the idea of ‘edge’ altogether. That way, the focus can be on how to communicate consent – rather than labeling acts ‘good’ or ‘bad’”.
Another article on edgeplay published by The Dominant Guide by an edgeplay practitioner also made some interesting observations. For instance:
“To understand what edge play is you must first understand that there are actually two types of edge play, personal edge play and general edge play. Personal edge play is any activity that pushes one’s personal limits. It can be anything; there honestly is no limit to what someone might consider stretching their personal boundaries. If someone were afraid of single tail [whips], then using a single tail [whip] on them would be edge play to that individual. If someone were afraid of closed in spaces, then putting him or her in a cage would be considered edge play. So you see personal edge play is different for everyone, but one thing is true in all forms, this type of play is dramatic both mentally and physically. The second type of edge play is what most people refer to as edge play. This is any activity that by common consensus is to be considered pushing the limits of safety and or sanity. Normally people consider such activities as blood play, breath play, gunplay, fireplay, needleplay and knifeplay to be edgeplay”.
The article also discusses whether those into edgeplay are insane to do what they do. (I am well aware that ‘insanity’ is a legal terms and not a psychological one, but this was the word used in the article). The author of the article asserts:
“Can something be considered insane if you are aware of the risks and accept all the possible outcomes…ask a skydiver, or perhaps an astronaut, even a policeman or fireman. Every activity has some level of risk, it is only when one ignores the risks or does not logically think out all possible dangers that the action may be considered insane. If one enters into an activity informed, and educated of the risks then the activity should not be considered insane, but is should be considered dangerous, hence edge play”.
The author also claims that edgeplay is “an extremely fascinating type of BDSM” because it challenges participants mentally, physically and emotionally. I will leave you with this encapsulation of why edgeplay enthusiasts do what they do. They feel fear, pain, love, and trust takes them “to a level of experience that [they] can reach by no other manner. This activity will stretch all boundaries and affirm the relationship between two individuals in a way that no other activity can”.
Caged Heart (2006). Canes & caning: Introducing Edgeplay into your relationship. Yahoo! Voices, August 2. Located at: http://voices.yahoo.com/canes-caning-introducing-edgeplay-into-bdsm-relationship-59477.html
London Fetish Fair (2014). Edgeplay Top 10 Medical Play Kit. Located at: http://www.londonfetishfair.co.uk/index.php/stands/137-top-10-essential-medical-play-items
Norische (2013). Standing on the edge: Is it edge play or not? Dominant Guide, April 26. Located at: http://dominantguide.com/172/standing-on-the-edge-is-it-edge-play-or-not/
Sir Bamm! (undated). Edge Play. Located at: http://www.sirbamm.com/edgeplay.html
White, R.R. (2012). Edgeplay isn’t your grandmother’s BDSM scene. Vice, September 12. Located at: http://www.vice.com/read/edgeplay-isnt-your-grandmothers-bdsm-scene
Wikipedia (2014). Edgeplay. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgeplay
“There are some people who love wool so much that they make bodysuits out of them, to wear them constantly. There is even a French wool fetishist forum to discuss their love for wool clothing. Some of these advanced knitters take their clothing experience to the next level” (from ‘8 Freakiest Fetishes’, Oddee website, June 18, 2009).
Today’s blog arguably demonstrates that human beings appear to have the capacity to fetishize almost anything. ‘Woolies’ are individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from wearing wool typically in the form of full body ‘wool suits’. (I also ought to mention that ‘woolies’ appears to be the collective name used in Europe whereas in America such people are often referred to as ‘sweaterers’ – in this blog I will use the term ‘woolies’ irrespective of where such people are located). Given the fact that (i) there is absolutely no scientific research on woolies, and (ii) woolies do not make an appearance in either Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices or Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices suggests one of two things – either that the fetish does not really exist, or that it is a relatively newly realized fetish.
There is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence that woolies exist. On a personal level, I was recently interviewed for a television documentary about the practice (Discovery Channel’s Forbidden), and was asked to comment on the case studies that appeared in the programme. For instance, one of the woolies featured was an American male, Scott from Florida, who (perhaps unsurprisingly) runs a small company selling sweaters and has had a “lifelong obsession” with wool. As a boy he claimed he would steal sweaters to hide in his school locker and in the woods near his house. He now has a collection of about 3000 sweaters, and claims to be being sexually attracted to anyone wearing a sweater, including men (even though he is heterosexual). The programme’s research team told me that:
“Scott wears a sweater out as much as possible, he’s also got a special two-piece with knitted pants that he wear around the house. Scott describes it as a secret fetish because no one knows that he’s actually getting turned-on just by walking the streets in his sweater. Scott regularly holds sweater photo-shoots. Here he’ll introduce us to other like-minded ‘sweaterers’ who travel to meet up with him and have some sweater fun and model the gear”.
The programme also featured a German woman (‘Lady Mohair’) who sells full-body knitted outfits to people worldwide. She introduces the audience to a few of her more “eccentric” woolies such as ‘Knuti’ who assumes the persona of a woolly polar bear persona.However, there are also various online discussion forums for those who engage in the behaviour (such as the Woolfreaks website). Perhaps the largest collection of sexualized (as opposed to sexy) costumes worn by woolies can be found on the French online fetish forum Doctissimo (be warned, some of the photographs are very sexually explicit in the form of crotchless costumes).
A recent 2013 article on woolies was published on the Sangbleu website. The article claimed that:
“The wool fetish is possibly one of the most mundane but simultaneously bizarre fetishes in existence. ‘Woolies’ as they have become to be known partake in the enjoyment of feeling the warm and fibrous softness of wool in its many different textures and knitted techniques upon their own or others skin. This could be from the subtleness of a woman wearing a turtleneck sweater or to the other extreme of being partially mummified in countless layers of blankets”.
From my own reading of the phenomenon, it is the latter “mummified” state of dress that appears to be the most fetishized as many of these fully dressed fetishists look like they are wearing woollen gimp suits. The (unnamed) author of the Sangbleu article attempted to join one of the online ‘woolies’ forums. It was noted that admission to the forum was processed by having to highlight whether (say) mohair or angora was the preferred fetish fabric. It was reported that:
“Some people were more particular and get off on the sensation of seeing their partners in particular knitted garments like heavily knitted socks, hats, leg warmers, or scarves. A lot of the images [on the forum site] demonstrate specially created full body suits to fulfill the need of being completely consumed by wool throughout the day. The totally surreal nature of resembling a friendly yeti in soft colours may not be what we all expect of normal sexuality but the amount of depth and variations that this fetish possesses expands on its sensual nature. Whether this constitutes the itchiness of wiry wool against the skin or the way in which clothing can trap the body with its heaviness, this fetish seems to have many more possibilities that how it initially appears”.
There’s also a website (i.e., Sweaterslut) that was set up as a dare and a way of gaining insight to the phenomenon by interviewing one of the leading woolies (i.e., Woolmaster) in the wool fetish community. The (again unnamed) author wrote that:
“For some time now I have been investigating that strange phenomenon called ‘sweater fetish’, a condition where a person is aroused by the sight of, or wearing, a woollen sweater. In the course of my investigations I came across a site maintained by a man named ‘Woolmaster’. In this site, Woolmaster kept a rich repository of stories and pictures depicting women and mostly men in sweaters. It seemed to me that Woolmaster suffered from the schizophrenic character so common among sadomasochists: he could not decide whether to imagine himself as the ‘sweaterer’ or the ‘sweatered’. This was what led me to ask him for details, which in turn led to this strange dare [to set up the Sweaterslut website]”.
I would speculate that on some level, woolies are not really that different from those fetishists into rubber, leather or latex (although I personally see materials like latex and leather as far more inherently ‘sexy’ than wool). The research team on the television show I contributed to told me that:
“This warm, fuzzy, world of wooly lovers is small but diverse. Some fetishize total wooly enclose. They’ll wrap themselves up in layers and layers and sweat it out for hours! It’s often about a feeling of security. Many own specially made full-body knitted suits, and bizarre looking head coverings, designed to keep them covered from head to toe in wool. The demand and desire for these strange outfits is met by a handful of professional knitters around the world who have made it their business to cater to obsessive wool lovers”.
The only other article of any length that I have found on woolies was at the Myshka NYC website. The (presumably female) author Myshka appears to assume that woolies are in some way sexual masochists and claims:
“This branch of huggable submissives have joined warm and fuzzy knit outfits, covering every square inch of the body of course, with the traditional dress codes of shiny, black leather and clear plastic bags as in the S&M community as acceptable, kinky fodder. Are these enthusiasts merely adults that couldn’t bear the postpartum depression that comes with giving up your childhood blanket or are they instinctively stimulated and aroused by the around-the-clock sensation of wool touching skin…Made of wool and mohair, these stifling suits of armor gained popularity among the sexual underground when a French designer and fetishist began knitting full-size costumes for bedroom play. It seems that from their inception, the hand-crafted bodysuits were enough to rouse the more damaged deviants that floated to the surface…You might be thinking ‘Tactile obsession is nothing new to BDSM or fetish culture’ and you’d be right”.
I realize that in the absence of any academic research today’s blog has leaned more towards anecdotal journalism than something more considered and empirical. However, my own view is that wool fetishists exist but that like many other niche fetishes I have covered on my blogs, the incidence and prevalence is likely to be very small.
Morgan, G. (2009). 8 Freakiest Fetishes. Oddee, June 18. Located at: http://www.oddee.com/item_96718.aspx
Myshka NYC (2011). Woolies and the snuggly wobbly fetish you’ve never heard of. August 10. Located at: http://mishkanyc.com/bloglin/2011/07/23/woolies-and-the-snuggly-wubbly-fetish-ive-never-heard-of/
Sangbleu (2012). Wool fetish. June 7. Located at: http://sangbleu.com/2013/06/07/wool-fetish/
“Devotees at Kerala’s Aaryyankavu Bhagwathi Temple have devised a new way of performing the banned ancient Thookkam, or body-piercing ritual. In the original Thookam ritual, the back of the person willing to perform the ritual is pierced with sharp hooks and lifted up to a height of over 30 feet on a scaffold, before the bleeding victim is brought down and hooks taken out. However, the new method doesn’t require the devotee to be hung or lifted. ‘After a court put a ban on the ancient ritual of multiple body-piercing and hanging from rope, now only single piercing is done in the body and the person just stands still and does not hang. The devotees also fast for 41 days’ said Shiv Raman, a temple committee member. In 2004 – following a widespread protest by social activists and even Hindu priests – the practice was banned by a court. The legend behind the ritual goes back to the ancient days. Legend has it that even after slaying the demon Darika, the Goddess Kali remained bloodthirsty. Hindu god Lord Vishnu then sent his mount, the giant bird Garuda, to Kali. Garuda gave the goddess some drops of blood, which pacified her thirst. The ritual is performed based on this belief” (News Track India, March 31, 2010).
Last year I was the resident psychologist on a 12-episode series for the Discovery Channel called Forbidden (which is now airing in the UK). Each episode examined four cases of extreme human behaviour from around the world (in fact, when I started filming, the series was called Extreme Worlds and only changed names at the eleventh hour). One of the stories we covered featured people that hung and suspended themselves from hooks that were pierced into their flesh. Although some people appear to carry out the practice as part of sexually sadomasochistic practices, the opening story highlights that some people carry out such ritualistic behaviour for religious and/or spiritual reasons.
In Forbidden, the story concentrated on what were called the ‘Corn Tryb Rituals’ (CTRs). These originated in St. Louis (Missouri, USA) when a small group of friends formed a group that would meet to engage in bloodletting rituals and ‘flesh pulls’. These practices then evolved into regular ritualised ‘suspensions’ that strove to connect to ancient ways. As one CTR participant interviewed said: “We give back to the earth and universe parts of us. Usually blood, sometimes flesh…We burn sage and sing songs to the gods. We send out positive energies”.
In researching CTRs, the documentary makers found out that there were strong Mayan threads running through the group in St. Louis, the foremost theme being the myth of creation, i.e., the Mayans first created man out of mud, then wood, and then finally corn (and where the CTR name derives). All the St. Louis CTR members had a scarification or tattoo of day glyph, a symbol of the Mayan calendar. (A glyph is an element of writing – an individual mark on a written medium – that contributes to the meaning of what is written).
The CTR’s founder is Ricardo H. (a professional piercer by trade) who formed the group with 12 ‘core’ members comprising seven men and five women (although there are more individuals on the periphery). The members claimed that the female members had a higher pain threshold (although there was little evidence to back up this claim). The documentary’s production notes reported that:
“[The St. Louis CTR group] is one of few crews is the US that does suspension the tribal and ceremonial way. Other groups are more hardcore and punk, kind of like ‘F the World’, Ricardo says. CTR members say for them it’s about loving the world and forging a connection to Mother Earth. There are a few people in the Tryb that practice Druidism and several Wiccans, even a Catholic guy who believes that doing suspensions (especially things like the crucifixion suspensions) help him become closer to God. Then there are the atheists who just like to suspend because it gives them a high that tops any drug they’ve ever touched. Even for those who have never done drugs, it’s still a high for them. Being safe is their No. 1 priority. It took nearly three years before they had all the necessary equipment, especially considering mountain equipment is very expensive. In general, most suspension groups work with the same materials that are used by climbers and professional riggers. If people think they sloppily insert hooks and try dangerous procedures on a whim, they would be wrong. The procedures behind the suspensions are specific and everything is well planned out. The hooks are specialized for suspension and can cost from $15 to $75 each. And they are sanitized in a similar way as for piercing tools: cold sanitation scrub, soak, scrub, autoclave”.
During CTRs, the hooks are usually placed into parts of the body where the skin is soft and stretches easily (so called ‘sweet spots’). This includes hook placements in the upper to middle back, chest, hips, calves, forearms, and knees. Even for those that have participated in many suspensions, the initial piercing hurts (“the hooks sting”) like any other piercing but the pain lasts longer because the needles and hooks are longer and bigger than those involved in typical ‘everyday’ body piercings. As one of the female group members said:
“Getting pierced sucks…But once you’re off the ground it’s just a big endorphin rush like how marathoners get runner’s high. Once the pulling starts though it’s not so bad, just pressure. I can deal with pressure pain better than stingy pain. When it gets too intense, I just zone out, but I try not to because I like to be able to selectively ‘zone,’ which is something I’m working on with scarification”.
Each time the group carries out a ritual suspension there are between five and eight people present all with a specific job they have to do to make the process as safe as possible for the person undergoing the actual suspension. According to the show’s production notes, the different roles include:
- The ‘rigger’ that installs and monitors all the suspension equipment such as cable and ropes.
- The piercer (in charge of ‘hook placement’) who also monitors the person for flesh ripping.
- The ‘bio’ (short for ‘biohazard’) who keeps an eye on the hooks throughout the suspension, and removes bubbles and/or patches up any holes that form. They also make sure that not a single drop of blood hits the ground.
- The ‘rope director’ that hoists the suspended person up and controls the slackness of the rope. There are also one or two others that control the rope line going up and down (a ‘puller’ and/or ‘holder’).
- The ‘anchor points’ that oversee where the cables and chains are stationed and anchored and oversee the pulley system.
The ceremonial aspect is fundamental to the whole process with spiritual and fasting components. One interviewee reported:
“When you are suspended you are in a state of meditation. You feel connected to everything, all the energy of nature, my Tryb, the love that’s there. We often fast, offer offerings, play drums and other things. It’s pretty amazing”.
At the time of filming, the CTR members were about to have their ‘End of the World’ party (December 21). The date is significant as this is when the ancient Mayans marked the end of an era that would reset the date to zero and signal the end of humanity. The CTR members don’t see this as the literal ‘end of time’ but as the end of the cycle, with the re-alignment of planets and the beginning of a new, exciting cycle. I’m sure most of you reading this can’t imagine being subjected to such a extreme bodily experience (I certainly can’t) but the CTR members stress that the experience for them is not abnormal. Ultimately, they claim the ritual is a way of coping and understanding pain. They also stress that no-one in the groups is a masochist. They do it because it’s a challenge and a way to test the boundaries of their bodies.
News Track India (2010). Body-piercing ritual at Kochi Temple. March 31. Located at: http://newstrackindia.com/newsdetails/156577
Hook Life (2011). Corn Tryb Ritual. Suspension.org, September 28. Located at: http://www.suspension.org/hooklife/corn-tryb-ritual/
The words ‘sex’ and ‘radiator’ probably don’t appear in the same sentence too often but today’s blog is the result of a bet I made with a good friend of mine who – knowing some of the weird topics and behaviours that I have covered in my blog – wagered that I couldn’t write a blog on ‘radiator sex’ (whatever that is). Obviously there is no academic literature on such a topic and the sources that I have used in this article are far from being scientific and empirical. But being a Professor of Gambling Studies, a bet is a bet.
In a previous blog I examined objectophilia (or ‘objectum sexuality’ [OS] as it is known within the scientific and sexology community). OS refers to those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to (and have relationships with) specific inanimate objects or structures. Such objectophiles express a loving and/or sexual preference and commitment to particular items or structures. Such individuals rarely (if ever) have sex with humans and they develop strong emotional fixations to the object or structure. Unlike sexual fetishism, the object or structure is viewed as an equal partner in the relationship and is not used to enhance or facilitate sexual behaviour. Some objectophiles even believe that their feelings are reciprocated by the object of their desire.
In my previous OS blog, I briefly recounted the story of 41-year-old Joachim A. from Germany, a man who self-admittedly fell head over heels “into an emotionally and physically very complex and deep relationship, which lasted for years.” His partner as a teenager was a Hammond organ. He now claims to have been in a steady relationship for years with a steam locomotive The reason I mention this case was that Joachim A. was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel and was reported as saying:
“We’re by no means just straightforward fetishists…For some people, their car becomes a fetish which they use to put themselves in the limelight. For the objectum-sexual, on the other hand, the car itself – and nothing else – is the desired sexual partner, and all sexual fantasies and emotions are focused on it…A love affair could very well begin with a broken radiator…You can reveal yourself to an object partner in an intimate way, in a way that you would never reveal yourself to any other person [including the desire to] experience sexuality together”.
Obviously the reference to a love affair for an objectophile beginning with the “broken radiator” was probably hypothetical on Joachim’s part (although there’s always the possibility he was speaking from personal experience). Whether actual or hypothetical, the fact that an objectophile gave the example of possible love and sex with a radiator suggests there might be a few individuals out there who are sexually attracted to radiators. My next (predictable) course of action was to type ‘radiator fetish’ into Google. On one website I came across the following post written by a woman entitled ‘Hot sex fetish (very weird)’ that if true (and I can’t prove it is but it appears genuine) appears to suggest that ‘radiator fetishism’ exists:
“I’m about to buy a house and be locked into it for the next 15-20 years because I have a radiator fetish. What can I do? It started way back in school. i had got my first period and was whisked off to the gym’s changing rooms with my friend. Blood in my panties and it had started to show on my trousers as well. So [I] had a shower, washed out my panties and give my trousers a bit of a scrub. Now half naked with just spare towel around me I cuddled against the radiator next to my clothes in an attempt to dry them and keep warm so I didn’t have to wear the lost property. [I then talked to one of my friends]. We just chatted for about 20 minutes about random stuff until the topic got on to the subject of boys and sex…At this point, I have to say I’ve never even kissed a boy, never mind sex…but my friend was telling me how hot a penis feels and started to rub herself up the corner of the radiator saying this feels like him on top of you and it just kinda started from there.
Throughout my teenage years I’d leave my homework until last moment and copy other girls, just so I could do it [in] the break before class. I’d stay in the hall way out of sight of the teachers and other students and lean over a radiator onto the shelf while I [copied the] work, rubbing myself (making it look like I was tapping my feet as I was rushing, in case anyone caught me) until I mostly [reached orgasm] and then off to class I’d trot, happy and red face glowing. Later on, I needed that ‘warm’ feeling all the time to orgasm. It’s now 15 years later and I still masturbate while sitting on a hot radiator, the smell of the heat or just catching an unexpected glimpse of a radiator gets me wet. Not any radiator will do though, they have to be the old cast iron, column ones like I had at school. I’ve had sex in more pubs then I’d like to remember, but mostly because they commonly have the cast iron type that I can get pushed up against or layback on.
My fetish has escalated to the point its out control now. I have a really nice boyfriend who doesn’t know about my fetish. I just tell him I like Victorian features, hot water bottles are for period cramps, etc. We’re just about to get a mortgage on a house because [it has] a bay window with a large cast iron radiator in the middle. We’ve already had sex over one like it several times before (yes I told you it was out of control) from a house I rented a few years back… and can’t wait for winter when the heating will be set to max. What do I do to stop this weird fetish? Do I embrace it or stop it? Very confused”
To me, this story sounds very believable and fits the adolescent development pattern of other accounts of how other fetishes often develop (i.e., through early associative pairing and classical conditioning). I also came across another online snippet that bore similarities with the story above:
“There used to be a picture (maybe there still is) on a DJ Black hard drive of three girls bending over a radiator to look out a window with their bare bottoms showing…You have to wonder if there is a fetish about radiators. At school the girls used to sit on the radiators that teachers had to start handing out detentions like sweeties to keep them off them. Okay so this is tenuous, but a while back there was a brief discussion on one of the boards about who got the cane and why. One of the women said she had got the cane for ‘persistently sitting on school radiators’. Being 16, at the time she thought the worst thing was being teased about sitting and punishments fitting the crime. That is until she was 18 and ended up at the school leaving do with some friends and beers in the head’s office. One of the kids went through his files and pulled out her school record. There in black and white were the words ‘caned, six strokes, deterrent against sitting on school radiators.’ You have got to wonder if she ever looked at a radiator the same way again”
Again, this observation suggests that a few females may have developed a strong liking for sitting on warm radiators because they produce a warm sexual feeling that leads to repetitive behaviour. Another person claimed to be turned on by a radiator on the Intimate Medicine website (but provided no details)
The only other type of sexual behaviour that I have come across (where radiators are part of the sexual act) are within sadomasochistic acts where individuals handcuff their sexual partners (consensually or non-consensually) to old style radiators (like the examples described above). Fictionally, there are a number of examples of people being handcuffed to radiators that have sexual connotations. Perhaps the most infamous recent example is in the film Black Snake Moan where Samuel L. Jackson’s character chains a skeletal Christina Ricci to his radiator in an attempt to “cure her of promiscuity”. The New York Times noted it their review of the film that:
“No doubt ‘Black Snake Moan’ is a provocative title, but a more accurate one might be ‘Chaining Miss Daisy to the Radiator in Her Underwear’”
A more real-life example was reported in a 2011 Daily Mail story. A judge, Patricia DiMango declared that sadomasochism can be criminal even if it’s consensual. The ruling occurred during the trial of 45-year old New York man John Hopkins, a self-confessed sex-slave master accused of raping a 27-year-old female sex slave from Wisconsin “who would be flogged and chained to a radiator if she disobeyed his rules”. Hopkins pleaded not guilty to all charges claimed that they were a couple into sadomasochistic role-playing. DiMango was quoted as saying:
“In these types of situations, with the facts presented by both sides, both the consensual and criminal can co-exist. At some point, it can change to a situation where no means no. There comes a time when they’re not playful fun any more and they become dangerous – criminally dangerous”.
I’ll end today’s blog (and win my bet) by briefly recounting another radiator sex story that appeared in many news outlets (and arguably has some similarities with the infamous Gimp scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction). Viktor Jasinski, a Russian man broke into Olga Zajac’s hair salon looking for cash but instead of calling the police (and using her black belt martial arts expertise), the salon owner beat up the Russian, tied him to a radiator with a hair dryer cord in the salon’s back room, and kept him as a sex slave for three days (using Viagra against the man’s will) before letting him go.
My brief examination of sexual radiator use hopefully shows that radiator fetishism may exist (and that it appears to be more female-based than male-based), that it’s theoretically possible for a human being to fall in love with a radiator (and have sexual relationship should they so wish), and that sadomasochistic practitioners may use radiators as part of their sexual role-playing games (either consensually or by coercion).
Daily Mail (2011). S&M can be ‘criminal even if it’s consensual’ says judge in Craigslist sex-slave case. March 12. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365531/S-M-criminal-consensual-says-judge-Craigslist-sex-slave-case.html
Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm
Moylan, B. Robber beat up by hair salon owner and kept as sex slave. The Gawker, July 12. Located at: http://gawker.com/5820419/robber-beat-up-by-hair-salon-owner-and-kept-as-sex-slave
Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships
Thadeusz, F. (2007). Objectophilia, Fetishism and Neo-Sexuality: Falling in Love with Things. Der Spiegel, November 5. Located at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,482192,00.html
One of the least researched sexual fetishes is that of uniform fetishism. This is one of many different clothing fetishes (that I examined in a previous blog) where individuals are obsessed and fixated by another person’s or themselves wearing a uniform. In the section on uniforms and sexual fantasy, the Visual Dictionary of Sex (edited by Dr. Eric J Trimmer) reported that the fetish world of dressing-up involves the following in rough rank order of popularity: cheerleader, waitress, nurse, maid, secretary, office worker, schoolgirl, fitness trainer, prison guard, postal worker, military, Cleopatra, ballerina, cab driver, and nun. However, I know of no empirical research that confirms the claims made by Dr. Trimmer. A Wikipedia article on uniform fetishism also made a number of similar claims about the most common uniforms used for sexual purposes (again with no empirical evidence): police officer, soldier, schoolgirl, nurse, French maid, waitress, cheerleader and Playboy bunny. The article also made reference to some people regarding nun’s habits and aprons as uniforms.
Although there are a wide range of populist writings on sexuality and uniforms (for instance, the 1990 book Leatherfolk by Thompson discussed the dress code of leather in sexuality), there are very few academic or clinical studies. Arguably the best academic paper on uniform fetishes was published back in 1996 in the journal Sexual and Marital Therapy by Dr. Dinesh Bhugra and Dr. Padmal De Silva.
Their paper looked at the function of uniforms, and their relationship with sexual fantasy and sexual fetishism. They noted that uniforms can be seen as ‘outer skins’ that can be material and attractive in sexual terms, and that can enable individuals to display and wield power (which may be important in sexual activities involving sadism and masochism). They also note that each uniform “denotes not only an image but also a certain authority that goes with it”. Bhugra and Da Silva described the functions of uniforms as comprising the ‘five F’s’ (formal, fashion, fun, fantasy and fetish):
- Formal – The wearing of a uniform to show belonging of a person to a particular formal group (e.g., army, navy, police, nurse, etc.)
- Fashion – The wearing of a uniform to show belonging of a person to a more informal group (e.g., a musical allegiance such as goth, punk, heavy metal, etc.)
- Fun and frolic – The wearing of a uniform for fun and frolics (e.g., wearing fancy dress at a party)
- Fantasy – The wearing of a uniform to aid fantasy (often sexual) such as the evocation of masculine control (e.g., fireman) or the evocation of female nurturing and caring (e.g., nurse). Here, sexual uniform does not fulfil all the criteria for sexual fetishism.
- Fetish – The wearing of a uniform as part of a sexual fetish where the uniform has to be worn as an aid to sexual climax. This may include (for instance) rubber, plastic and leather clothing.
The authors also note that uniforms may denote expertise (e.g., the white coat of a doctor), nurturance (e.g., the uniform of a nurse or nanny), punishment (e.g., the uniform of a police or prison officer), and identity (e.g., school uniform). Therefore, the uniform may directly relate to the sexual act being performed and add to the ‘authenticity’. For instance, a klismaphiliac may want someone dressed in a doctor’s or nurse’s uniform to administer an enema, an infantilist may want someone dressed as a nanny change his nappy, or a masochist may require someone dressed in a policeman’s or policewoman’s uniform to put on and retrain them with a pair of handcuffs. They claimed that:
“Uniform as a fetish is not uncommonly reported in clinical settings. Fetishism is a paraphilia which involves being recurrently responsive to, and obsessively dependent on, an unusual or unacceptable stimulus. In order to have a state of erotic arousal initiated or maintained, and in order achieve or facilitate an orgasm, the affected individual needs exposure to the fetish object, in reality or in fantasy”.
Based on this definition, Bhugra and De Silva are adamant that uniform fetishes can and do exist. However, the academic literature on uniforms as a fetish is sparse. In A.J. Chalkley and G.E. Powell’s (1983) in-depth study of 48 clinical cases of sexual fetishism (with a total of 122 fetishes), only one case involved uniforms (although a further 28 had some kind of clothing fetish). A previous unpublished Master’s thesis study by A.J. Chalkley (1979) reviewing 170 fetishists reported only two with a uniform fetish.
A 1999 qualitative study by Kathleen O’Donnell published in Advances in Consumer Research examined the consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women. Based on her qualitative interviews with five women, she found support for “the theory-based propositions that females consume fetish fashions because doing so allows them to experience more positive self evaluations, and that over time these positive evaluations result in sexual empowerment in the form of increased control over sensual experience and sexual self presentation”. Obviously this was a very small sample and the study didn’t specifically examine the sexual fetishization of uniforms, but the use of sexual clothing as a form of empowerment was a novel founding.
As many clinicians have noted, there is a well known crossover relationship between fetishism, sado-masochism, and other paraphilias where the wearing of ‘uniforms’ play a critical role. However, as Bhugra and De Silva conclude:
“The relationship of uniforms in fantasy and fetish is a complex one. Often in clinical situations it becomes impossible to ascertain when fantasy leads to fetish in reality and how much of a role fantasy plays in arousal related to a fetish. From a preliminary pilot study with a small number of rubber fetishists it appears that the distinction between fetish and fantasy is difficult even for the individual”.
Bhugra, D. & De Silva, P. (1996). Uniforms – fact, fashion, fantasy and fetish. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 11, 393-406.
Chalkley, A.J. (1979). Some cases of sexual fetishism at a London teaching hospital. Unpublished M.Phil., University of London.
Chalkley, A.J. & Powell, G.E. (1983). The clinical description of forty-eight cases of sexual fetishism. British Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 292–295.
O’Donnell, K. (1999). Good girls gone bad: The consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women. Advances in Consumer Research, 26, 184-189.
Trimmer, E.J. (1978). The Visual Dictionary of Sex. London: Macmillan.
Wikipedia (2012). Uniform fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_fetishism
Sadism (the act of obtaining sexual arousal through the giving of physical or psychological pain) and masochism (the act of obtaining sexual arousal through the receiving of physical or psychological pain) are paraphilias that are often viewed as two variations of the same phenomenon. However, this blog briefly examines sexual sadism in isolation.
The psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing is often credited with introducing the term “sadism” in his 1886 sexology book Psychopathia Sexualis deriving the name from the Marquis de Sade, whose French novels often featured such behaviour. Despite the increase in knowledge of (and theorizing about) sexual sadism, the psychopathology of the behaviour is still uncertain, and an all encompassing theory of the etiology of sexual sadism has yet to be developed and empirically tested. Furthermore, the labelling and defining of sexually sadistic behaviour is further complicated by the fact that many people enjoy some form of aggressive behaviour during sex (e.g., spanking, the gentle biting of nipples, love bites) making the label sadomasochism seem somewhat inappropriate.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that sexual sadists require “psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation)” of their victims to induce sexual excitement, whereas the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases defines sadism as the “preference for sexual activity that involves bondage or the infliction of pain or humiliation”. However, those that have carried out research in the field claim that such definitions are difficult to apply in practice, resulting in experienced clinicians interpreting screening criteria inconsistently in the diagnosis of sexual sadism.
The situation was complex even when Krafft-Ebing first wrote on the topic. For instance, he described what he believed were distinct subtypes of sexual sadism including (i) lust murder (where sexual arousal is integral to the act of killing), (ii) necrophilia (discussed in a previous blog), (iii) injury to women through flagellation or stabbing, (iv) defilement of women; (iv) other types of assaults on women, such as cutting off their hair; (v) whipping of boys; (vi) sadism toward animals; and (vii) sadistic fantasies without the occurrence of any actual sadistic acts. Another sadistic act that has been reported in more recent times is ‘piqeurism’ where the assailant stabs a female victim (typically breasts or buttocks) and then runs away.
The true prevalence of sexual sadism among the general population is unknown. Alfred Kinsey’s seminal studies of human sexual behaviour in the late 1940s and early 1950s reported that 22% of the males and 12% of the females responded erotically to stories with sadistic themes. Other research studies estimate that 10-20% of couples have engaged in sadomasichistic activities during sex but that much of this is symbolic. However, most of the little research that has been published on sexual sadism tends to be based on sex offenders and sexual killers.
Among sex offenders, the prevalence of sexual sadism is estimated to occur in between 2% and 5% of offences. However, these estimates have been reported to be much higher (as much as 50%) depending upon the criteria that are used to define and diagnose sexual sadism in the first place. Prevalence estimates are further complicated because some in the area note that sadism and masochism are complementary disorders or separate poles of the same disorder. There is certainly a lot of empirical support that sadism and masochism often co-occur such as psychiatrist Dr Andreas Spengler’s study of 245 German sadomasochists published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Spengler’s study reported that among his sample, 30% were heterosexual, 31% bisexual and 38% homosexual. Just under a half (43%) developed their sadomasochistic desires after adolescence, and – perhaps surprisingly given the link to compulsive behaviour – sado-masochism was low frequency activity (with a median average of only five SM experiences per year among the respondents).
In a study led by Dr Gene Abel (now Director of the Behavioral Medicine Institute of Atlanta, US), it was reported that 18% of sadists were also masochistic, 46% had raped, 21% had exposed themselves, 25% had engaged in voyeurism and frottage, and 33% had molested children. Similarly, other researchers the Institute of Psychiatry, London) have noted an overlap among various paraphilias. Their sample comprised 87 rubberites, 38 leatherites, 133 sadomasochists, 205 transvestites (including transsexuals) and 25 dominant females. They found that 4% of sadomasochists were also transvestites, 29% of sadomasochists were also fetishists, and 35% of sadomasochists were also fetishists and transvestites. Gosselin and Wilson also reported that the most common objects used by sadists to inflict pain on their sexual partners were belts, whips, canes, shoes and paddles.
There is a wide variety of psychological explanations relating to the etiology of sexual sadism although most recent reviews have claimed there has been little new contemporary theorizing. Most branches of psychology (psychophysiological, psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioural) have developed their own theories but little research has confirmed them. Psychobiological explanations of sexual sadism (including serial sex murderers) that have examined chromosomal, endocrine, hormonal, and/or neurological abnormalities have typically been based on single case studies or very small samples. Therefore results remain tentative and inconclusive.
Early behaviourist theories argued that sexual sadism begins during childhood development. Through both operant and classical conditioning, sexual urges, excitation, and/or arousal are consistently paired with aggressive stimuli. Sexual fantasy and masturbation then reinforce and maintain the sadistic behaviour. Other psychologists claim that personality may play a role in the conditioning process, along with social modelling and disinhibition.
More recently, Dr Malcom MacCulloch (probably best know as Moors murderer Ian Brady’s psychiatrist) claimed that behavioral explanations of the development of sadistic sexual fantasy don’t adequately explain the initial development of sadistic sexual fantasy. McCullogh and his colleagues attempted to explain the initial development of sexual sadism using research on early childhood abuse and animal models of conditioning. They claimed that sadistic fantasies resulted from a combination of early childhood abuse, classical conditioning, and operant conditioning.
Back in 1986, Katie Busch and James Cavanagh (who were both at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, US) stated that most of the work in this area consisted of unfounded statements unsupported by data, unevaluated case reports lacking rigorous evaluation of other contributory factors, and scientific case reports of individuals or small groups. A recent literature review by Canadian consultant Dr Pamela Yates and colleagues of the current research concluded that: “Regrettably, the same can be said today, over 20 years later”.
Abel, G. G., Becker, J., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M., & Rouleau, J. (1988). Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 16, 153–168.
Busch, K.A., & Cavanagh, J.R. (1986). The study of multiple murder: Preliminary examination of the interface between epistemology and methodology. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1, 5–23.
Gosselin, C. C. (1987). The sado-masochistic contract. In G.D. Wilson (Ed.), Variant sexuality: Research and theory (pp. 229–257). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Gosselin, C. C., & Wilson, G. D. (1980). Sexual variations. London: Faber & Faber.
Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Langevin, R. (2003). A study of the psychosexual characteristics of sex killers: Can we identify them before it is too late? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 47, 366–382.
MacCulloch, M., Gray, N., & Watt, A. (2000). Brittain’s sadist murderer syndrome reconsidered: An associative account of the aetiology of sadistic sexual fantasy. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 11, 401–418.
MacCulloch, M., Snowden, P., Wood, P., & Mills, H. (1983). Sadistic fantasy, sadistic behavior, and offending. British Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 20–29.
Marshall, W. L., & Kennedy, P. (2003). Sexual sadism in sexual offenders: An elusive diagnosis. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 8, 1–22.
Marshall, W. L., & Yates, P. M. (2004). Diagnostic issues in sexual sadism among sexual offenders. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 10, 21–27.
Spengler, A. (1977). Manifest sadomasochism of males: Results of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 441–456
Yates, P.M., Hucker, S.J. & Kingston, W.A. (2008). Sexual sadism: Psychopathology and theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment. pp.213-23o. New York: Guildford Press.