Space oddity: A beginner’s guide to exophilia
Exophilia refers those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from extraterrestrial, robotic, supernatural, or otherwise non-human life forms (although I ought to point out that the only academic reference to exophilia is in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices which defines exophilia as “a fetish for the bizarre and unusual”). In many ways, these types of sexual preferences could be described as totally impractical as the chances of making love to a ghost/spirit (i.e., spectrophilia), aliens, demi-gods, and/or a robot are arguably negligible. Although the sexual focus is non-human, the shape of the desired from is typically humanoid but would not include those people who are sexually attracted to statues, dolls and/or mannequins (i.e., agalmatophilia).
Online sources claim that the overwhelming majority of exophiles never claim to have had sex with an alien but are sexually excited and aroused by the thought of doing so. I was surprised about own many alien fetish sex sites are out there which partly shows how popular this type of paraphilic and/or fetishistic interest is. An online essay on alien sex by “Necromagickal” notes that:
“The only ‘official’ reports of sex between humans and aliens derive from the lore of alien abductions. The first credited abduction sex story came from 1957 in Brazil. Antonio Boas was plowing the fields of his family farm when a UFO showed up. He was taken inside and prepped to meet a fair-haired alien”.
Most recently, in January 2011, news reports surfaced that a male Chinese farmer called Meng Zhaoguo claimed to have had mid-air sex with for 40 minutes with a levitating alien. Meng said “she was three metres tall, had 12 fingers and braided leg hair”. According to Meng, the inter-galactic coupling actually took place in 1994 in Heilongjiang’s Wuchang when a female humanoid visited him. He told the China Daily newspaper that “I didn’t believe in aliens before I actually met them. Seeing is believing”. He then passed a lie detector test conducted by the police. He also claimed that the aliens told him that the offspring of the sexual union would appear 60 years after they had sex.
Obviously I don’t believe these incidents (or any other alien abduction stories) but I do know that others believe in aliens (and that they regularly visit earth) and that there are some people who genuinely believe that they have been abducted by alien life forms, and that they have had sex with them (either with their consent or against their will). In a 2001 book Extra-terrestrial Sex Fetish by “Supervert”, he argues that:
“Exophilia should be understood as an abnormal desire for that which is outside earth…It is characterized by arousal in the presence of aliens or, less directly, representations of aliens…The exophile is rarely apprehended in the very act of satisfying his fetish. Evidently the reason for this is not the scarcity of exophiles but the lack of extraterrestrials themselves”
Supervert also makes the logical (and arguably obvious) points that because exophiles are never caught having alien sex, it suggests that either: (i) aliens don’t exist, (ii) aliens don’t make contact with anyone on earth, and (iii) if aliens do come into contact with humans they avoid those with exophilic tendencies (based on the fact that stories that are reported online or in the tabloid press always feature people having sex with aliens against their will).
Exophiles can only express their sexual interest in aliens directly. Therefore, one of the major ‘soft signs’ of exophilia would naturally include “an undue interest in science fiction”. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of sci-fi lovers (myself included) do not display any exophilic tendencies. However, Supervert makes a number of unsubstantiated claims about exophiles. These include the claims that exophiles:
“Frequently fixate on certain characters or situations from novels or films. [Exophiles] may oblige [their] sexual partners to recreate, in the spirit of a psychodrama, key scenes from an episode of Star Trek. [They] may also, by way of compensation, develop fixations on actors or actresses associated with aliens in films: on Drew Barrymore, for her role in ET the Extraterrestrial, or Sigourney Weaver, for her admittedly erotic scenes in the Alien trilogy…Fixations can extend beyond the world of science fiction to include real-world personalities closely associated with outer space. For example, an exophile might develop a homosexual attraction for a prominent scientist such as Carl Sagan or a famous astronaut such as Neil Armstrong”.
Some of the claims made by Supervert appear to have little evidence – empirical or anecdotal. For instance, it is claimed that some exophiles use their telescopes for anal stimulation and that some exophiles incite astronomy club members to perform group masturbation. Supervert does mention one case to support his claims. One (unnamed) exophile was said to have:
“Confessed to a sexual obsession with astronaut Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher killed in the explosion of the space shuttle ‘Challenger’ in 1986. [The exophile] would arouse himself with fantasies of the woman doing a striptease with her spacesuit and then watch a videotape of the seventy-three second shuttle flight, naturally timing his climactic release to the sudden bursting of the vehicle in the sky”.
This anecdote – even if true – doesn’t even sound like an exophile to me. Bizarre? Yes. Depraved? Possibly. Exophilic? No. Supervert argues that the case described is an exophile and that the behaviour described is a “compensatory mechanism” for the fact that they are unable to have sex with an alien! According to Supervert:
“The exophile does not truly desire congress with rockets or astronauts but with extraterrestrials. However, precisely the seeming impossibility of this desire makes the exophile unique even among fetishists…If, as psychological theory proclaims, the fetish is a substitute for normal sexual relations, such that the fetishist prefers a shoe to a vagina, the exophile must make a substitution for a substitute…The exophile thus finds himself two generations away from gratification”.
While I can see the logic in such an argument, surely the substitute for the substitute for an exophile would be getting a human to dress up and/or pretend to be an alien (rather than becoming sexually aroused by something that an alien might come into contact with such as an astronaut)?
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.
Disclose TV (2011). Farmer claims he had sex with alien, then passes lie detector. January 24. Located at: http://www.disclose.tv/forum/farmer-caims-he-had-sex-with-alien-then-passes-lie-detector-t41710.html
Necromagickal (undated). Alien sex. Girls and Corpses. Located at: http://www.girlsandcorpses.com/print11/print11_aliensex.html
Supervert (2001). Extra-terrestrial Sex Fetish (self-published book). Available at: http://supervert.com/
Techno notice: A beginner’s guide to robot fetishism
In a previous blog I examined agalmatophilia (in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects). Some scholars claim that robot fetishism is another type (or at least an extension) of agalmatophilia. Robot fetishism is often referred to as ASFR (i.e., alt.sex.fetish.robots, based on the name of a now defunct newsgroup) or technosexuality. it refers more specifically to those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal arising from humanoid or non-humanoid robots. The original ASFR manifesto stated:
“The alt.sex.fetish.robots (ASFR) newsgroup is dedicated to the discussion of the concept of sex with or sexual attraction to robots and robot-like beings. This can range from metallic, non-humanoid machines to humanoid androids. Discussions can deal with specific fantasies, fiction relating to the topic and connected ideas like people behaving like/turned into human mannequins, dolls, toys, and other hypnosis and mesmerism fantasies that involve the mechanical/monotone response that appeals to the members”
Techno-sexuality can be fantasy-based arousal where the robot fetishist merely thinks about sexual scenarios involving robots and/or can involve sexual activity with people dressed in robot costumes. (Just as an aside, if you are a music fan, check out Frank Zappa’s concept LP, Joe’s Garage that examined robot fetishism).
The sexual arousal may be heightened the more that the person imagined or dressed as a robot sounds and acts in a robotic-like manner. Those into this fetish call themselves ‘ASFRians’ and/or ‘technosexuals’ and some of these individuals like to imagine removing skin or bits of the body to reveal electronic circuitry (so you can imagine that they get turned on by everything from the Six Million Dollar Man through to The Terminator).
Robot fetishism can sometimes include other fetish variants, most notably transformation fetishes where the individuals get sexually excited by imagining themselves turning into a robot. These are conceptually similar to those in the furry fandom who get sexually excited by imagining themselves transform into an animal or animal hybrid. Similar to furries, robot fetishism could be viewed as another form of erotic anthropomorphism. It is also claimed that when transformation and/or role-playing are involved, the activity may be viewed as a form of erotic objectification. There are also similarities to mechanophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from cars or other machines and sometimes referred to as ‘mechasexuality’ that I examined in a previous blog).
According to the ASFR websites that I have visited, techno-fetishists comprise two distinct but not necessarily mutually exclusive types of techno-sexual fantasy. As one online essay on agalmatophilia claims:
“The first of group is simply based off of a desire to have a ready-made android or gynoid [female robot] partner that is desired for sex, companionship, or any combination of the two. The main distinguishing feature of this type is that the android is a completely artificial “built” and manufactured solely to fulfill the desires of its owner. The second type of fantasy is referred to as transformation. This involves a human who is either willingly or unwillingly turned into an android. That person can be either oneself or one’s partner, or sometimes both. It is usually the process of transformation that is the focus of this fantasy. Many people in the ASFR community prefer either one or the other. In some cases, this preference is very strong and divisive within the community. People may even be repulsed by the behaviors of the opposite group. In other cases, there is equal appreciation for built and transformation”.
A survey carried out on the Fembot Central website among 318 technosexual members and that 66% of ASFRians had a preference for built robots while the others preferred transformation (18%) or some combination of both (16%). In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates also revealed that some techno-fetishists do not like synthetic partners at all, and prefer their fantasies to involve humans dressed as robots as part of fantasy sex play.
The expression of technosexuality is somewhat limited as it can only be acted upon in a few ways (i.e., masturbatory fantasy and/or sexual role-play). As a consequence, a large market for techno-sexual art has developed that caters for (and as an enabler) robot fetishism (i.e., it can help sexually stimulate ASFRians). Visual media is also important for techno-fetishists. As highlighted online:
“The film ‘Metropolis’ also explores this fetish. In this film, the mad inventor Rotwang kidnaps the heroine Maria. He’s created a robot to be a replacement for a woman he loved, but it needed a soul so he imprints the image of Maria onto his Robot. The scene itself is filled with the trappings of the mad scientist film before there ever was a visualized Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. There seems to be a reoccurring theme with mad scientists creating robots or dolls that come to life. There is the Bride of Frankenstein. There are a number of pulp serials full of hypnotized femmes such as Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and My Living Doll…Of course we still see the Frankenstein Complex in such creations such as Blade Runner, Westworld, The Stepford Wives, and Star Trek, but now there is an added tone of eroticism”.
Allison de Fren published an interesting paper in a 2009 issue of the journal Science Fiction Studies. Her essay examined techno-fetishism, particularly in relation to the machine woman, by studying the technosexual community. Her paper argued that A.S.F.R. is less about technology in general, or the artificial woman in particular. To de Fren, techno-fetishism is:
“…a strategy of denaturalization that uses the trope of technological ‘programming’ to underscore subjecthood. Like the trope of “hardwiring” used within cyberpunk as a signal of the constitution of bodies and identities in relation to networked systems of control and power, ‘programming’ serves as a metaphor for the biological and cultural matrices within which desire is articulated and pursued. ASFRians experience pleasure and agency through, in a sense, hacking the system, the visual indicators of which often take the form of a female android who has run amok, an image that is typically read as a threat”.
As far as I am aware, there is no academic research on robot fetishism beyond theoretical essays. While of interest, it would be really useful to know how big the techno-sexual community is and what the motivations are in engaging in such behaviour (submission/dominance is an obvious theme but there’s no literature to confirm or disconfirm such speculation. I’ll leave you with a recent quote by Dr. Glenda Shaw-Garlock (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada) in Human-Robot Personal Relationships, who probably didn’t have robot fetishists in mind when she wrote it, but which has great resonance with this topic:
“Today, human and sociable-technology interaction is a contested site of inquiry. Some regard social robots as an innovative medium of communication that offer new avenues for expression, communication, and interaction. Other others question the moral veracity of human-robot relationships, suggesting that such associations risk psychological impoverishment. What seems clear is that the emergence of social robots in everyday life will alter the nature of social interaction, bringing with it a need for new theories to understand the shifting terrain between humans and machines”
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
de Fren, A. (2009). Technofetishism and the Uncanny Desires of A.S.F.R. (alt.sex.fetish.robots), Science Fiction Studies, 36, 404-440.
Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.
Gore, E. (Undated). The technosexuality, Pygmalionist and mind control fetish FAQ 3.0. Located at: http://www.p-synd.com/winterrose/technosexuality.html
Shaw-Garlock, G. (2011). Loving machines: Theorising human and sociable-technology interaction. Human-Robot Personal Relationships, Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, 59, 1-10
Strohecker, D.P. (2011). Robot Fetishism, Synthetic Partners, and Phallogocentrism, The Society Pages, July 22. Located at: http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/07/22/robot-fetishism-synthetic-partners-and-phallogocentrism/
Stupid My Cupid (2010). Agalmatophilia: Love in the age of silicon. May 20. Located at: http://stupidmycupid.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/what-is-agalmatophilia-agalmatophilia.html