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Car-struck: Another look at mechanophilia and objectum sexuality

“There is no one in the world Darius Monty loves more than Goldie. With her perfect curves and flawless body, she’s a beauty. And the pub boss’s sex life with the hot model less than half his age is better than with any previous girlfriends. But shockingly the object of his full-on passion is a CAR. While many men claim to love their motors, Darius is IN love with his gold-coloured X-Type Jaguar – and makes love to ‘her’” (Sunday Mirror, July 30, 2017).

The opening quote comes from a story that appeared in last weekend’s Sunday Mirror and for which I also supplied some accompanying text in the published article. I described Darius as more of an objectophile than a mechanophile (although he does fit both definitions). According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, mechanophilia refers to those being sexually turned on by machines although Cynthia Ceilán in her 2008 book Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad describes the same sexual paraphilia as ‘mechaphilia’.

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Objectum sexuality 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 (and this is why I view Darius as more of an objectophile than a mechanophile). It has also been claimed (by academics such as Amy Marsh – see ‘Further reading’ below) that 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. According to the Sunday Mirror article:

“Darius fell in love with his Jaguar after buying the executive saloon two years ago [in 2015]. His second-hand limo, which was built…in 2004, has startled Darius with the feelings it has aroused. Yet Darius could not fight the urge to live out his sexual fantasies with the car. His passion for Goldie soon became a daily ritual after he returned from his night shift at the pub. And eventually he realised he could no longer hide it from his loved ones. Darius resisted professional help because he thought his liaisons with his motor would become less exciting with time. Despite the negative reaction from his mates, Darius refused to give up on Goldie. Bizarrely, Darius says his relationship with Goldie has gone from strength to strength. He has even retired her from life on the road to keep her in pristine condition. Astonishingly, Darius would still like to find a human girlfriend”.

Unlike most objectophiles I have read about, Darius had sexual relationships with women prior to falling in love with Goldie, and still wants sex with women in the future. In his interview with the Sunday Mirror, he was reported as saying:

 “I don’t expect people to understand because it’s not something I fully understand myself. I didn’t choose this but I have fallen for a car, just like other people fall for women. I find her arousing, I love spending time with her and she is very important to me. I don’t see her as an object, I look at her and I see my lover. Before I bought Goldie I was in a normal loving relationship with a woman. I didn’t see anything strange about myself or my sexuality at all. I’ve always been a car lover, but if someone told me it was possible to have sexual feelings towards something that’s not human I’d have laughed them off just like people laugh at me now. I can’t really explain what triggered it, but I went to view Goldie and had always wanted an X-Type Jaguar. Her colour is so unique and after I’d handed over the cash, all I wanted to do was go and polish her. I pulled into the jet wash and was making circular motions on her bonnet with a cleaning cloth when I suddenly felt unexpectedly aroused. It was something about the smooth, shiny paintwork and the perfect curves of the car that got me turned on. I tried to ignore the feeling and just put it down to excitement about having a new car. But when I got home and sat down to watch TV I had a real urge to venture into the garage and visit her in private”.

The unexpected sexual arousal that Darius felt when first polishing Goldie appears to be the initial spark of his relationship with the car. Psychologists like myself would claim that this unexpected associative pairing of polishing the car with sexual arousal is something that repeatedly played on Darius’ mind and that this formed the basis for a classically conditioned response where the car itself ended up causing the sexual arousal. As he also explained in his newspaper interview:

“I had a girlfriend at the time and I didn’t dare tell her what was going through my mind so I used the excuse that I’d left my wallet in the car and headed out. I wasn’t exactly sure what would happen as the feelings were all new to me. I just knew I felt really turned on by the notion of having sexual intercourse with my new car. Immediately afterwards I felt ashamed and guilty, but I knew right then it wouldn’t be the last time. I walked away feeling so confused about what I’d just done. As disturbing as it was, I told myself I couldn’t be the only person in the world who had experienced these kinds of feelings”.

And Darius was right. There are dozens of objectophiles around the world, and while the behaviour is rare, he is certainly not alone. For instance, in a previous blog I recounted the stories of Edward Smith (an American man who has who has had sex with over a 1000 cars), and Robert Stewart (a British man who ended up in court after being caught having sex with a bicycle). It was when Darius started doing his own research on his behaviour that he began to feel better, knowing there were other objectophiles:

“Knowing others had [sexual and romantic] feelings towards cars, bikes or planes definitely put me at ease but it was a really difficult thing for me to accept. I was enjoying having sex with my car more than with my girlfriend. I even missed the car when I went up to bed at night and felt bad for leaving her alone in the garage. When I broke the news to my girlfriend she left me right away. I could understand her thinking my behaviour was odd, but deep down there was a sense of relief there for me in knowing that I had got things out in the open and I was free to pursue my relationship with Goldie”.

Having accepted that the feelings towards his car were not unique, Darius began to share the details of his new love with his closest friends:

“They laughed at first thinking I was joking, but once they realised I was being serious they told me I was weird and that I need to get psychological help. It really upset me knowing I didn’t have any kind of support or understanding from other people. My feelings for [the car] just grew stronger and stronger. I have never had loving or sexual feelings for any other vehicle, and I firmly believe I have something special with Goldie. I realise most people will think what I do is wrong in some way, but I’m not hurting anyone so what’s the harm?”

In my commentary on the case for the newspaper, I claimed that there was nothing wrong with Darius in a psychological sense. Yes, his behaviour is strange, yes his behaviour seems bizarre to most people, and yes it’s unusual, but he Darius doesn’t appear to need psychological treatment. I noted that if Darius wanted to spend the rest of his life living in a non-normative relationship with Goldie that does no harm to him or anybody else, that was OK by me. I have no problems with anybody’s sexual behaviour as long as it’s consensual (and in this case, the car can’t say it’s not OK). If others see his behaviour as bizarre, it is totally irrelevant. Darius can seek treatment if it’s psychologically harming him, but it sounds like he knows it’s unusual and he seems fine with it. As he went on to say:

“[Goldie] doesn’t cheat on me or moan about me not doing the washing up. She doesn’t have the ability to be in a bad mood. I haven’t lost sight of the fact Goldie is a machine and probably doesn’t love me back – I am not delusional in the sense I’d think she has her own mind. I’ve met a few women since falling in love with Goldie and I am always completely open about her from the start. A couple of them have been open to giving things a go, but when I take my trips out to the garage to see her they say they just find it all too weird. I’d love to get married and have a family if I’m honest. But the next woman I date will have to be OK about sharing me with Goldie”.

In a previous blog, I provided details of the only academic paper that has been published concerning a car-loving objectophile but that case was very different to that of Darius. The paper was a case study by Dr Padmal De Silva and Dr Amanda Pernet published in a 1992 issue of the journal Sex and Marital Therapy. The case involved an unusual sexual deviation in a young 20-year old British man (‘George’) who had little social interaction and was incredibly shy. They reported that his main sexual interest and excitement was from cars – particularly Austin Metro cars. George’s family belonged to a strict religious sect who strongly disapproved of any sexual involvement by their son with women. Things changed for George when his parents bought an Austin Metro car. George began masturbating inside the car, and then outside masturbating outside the car while crouching down next to the car’s exhaust pipe. So that he couldn’t be caught masturbating, he would go to great lengths to find deserted places to engage in his sexual activity with the car.

George used to become very sexually excited when the car’s exhaust pipe was running and pumping out car fumes. This aspect of “elimination” – according to De Silva and Pernet – was an important central element in George’s other sexual preferences – particularly his fascination of urination. As a very young child he had an unusual interest in dogs urinating. After the age of 10 years, he was more interested in children and adult women urinating. The authors also speculated there may have been an increase in George’s arousal due to a “reduction of oxygen intake and related asphyxiation”. This was possibly seen as a mild form of hypoxyphilia.

As you can see, the case of ‘George’ and Darius share few similarities apart from the fact they both have sexual relationships with cars. The fact that two case studies can be so different is terms of aetiology and development of the behaviour suggests that car-loving objectophiles should be an avenue of further research because there are likely to be very different explanations and motivations for the behaviour.

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

Further reading

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

Browne, R.B. (1982). Objects of Special Devotion: Fetishism in Popular Culture. Popular Press.

Ceilán, C. (2008). Weirdly Beloved: Tales of Strange Bedfellows, Odd Couplings, and Love Gone Bad. The Lyons Press.

De Silva, P. & Pernet, A. (1992). Pollution in ‘Metroland’: An unusual paraphilia in a shy young man. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 7, 301-306.

Hickey, E.W. (2006), Sex crimes and paraphilia. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Levy, D. (2017). Man’s bizarre medical condition means he’s in love with his CAR and even has sex with motor he calls Goldie. Sunday Mirror, July 29. Located at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mans-bizarre-medical-condition-means-10896296

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

Nelson, S. (2012). Fetish spotlight: Mechanophilia. Located at: http://www.thehoneybunnys.com/fetish-spotlight-mechanophilia/

Schlessinger (2003). Mechaphilia: Sexual Attraction to Machines. Please Press.

Thompson, S.L. (2000). The arts of the motorcycle: Biology, culture, and aesthetics in technological choice. Technology and Culture, 41, 99-115.

Wikipedia (2017). Mechanophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanophilia

Saying power: The greatest (and funniest) sex quotes of all time

For a number of years now, I have been collecting famous and not-so-famous quotes about various aspects of sexual behaviour. Some of these are funny, some satirical, some literary, some poignant, and some just make you think about sex in a slightly different way. Obviously I can’t take any credit for this collection apart from the way I have edited and categorized the quotes. I hope you find something here that tickles your fancy.

General quotes about sex

  • “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power” (Oscar Wilde)
  • “Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant” 
(George Burns)
  • “Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it” (Richard Feynman)
  • “There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL” (P.J. O’Rourke)
  • “Sex alleviates tension. Love causes it” (Woody Allen)
  • “An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex” (Aldous Huxley)
  • “Sex is emotion in emotion” (Mae West)
  • “Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other” (Marquis de Sade)
  • “Sex is the thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble” (John Barrymore)
  • “Sex is more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets” (Andy Warhol)
  • “My brain: it’s my second favorite organ” (Woody Allen)
  •  “Sex between a man and a woman can be absolutely wonderful – provided you get between the right man and the right woman” (Woody Allen)
  •  “Is sex dirty? Only if it’s done right” (Woody Allen)
  • “Sex on television can’t hurt you unless you fall off” (Anon)
  • “Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. ‘Yes’ is the answer’” (Swami X)
  • “It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover” (Marge Piercy)
  • “Sex:  the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable” (Lord Chesterfield)
  • “The tragedy is when you’ve got sex in the head instead of down where it belongs” (D.H. Lawrence)
  • “I’d like to meet the man who invented sex and see what he’s working on now” (Anon)
  • “Sex is interesting, but it’s not totally important. I mean it’s not even as important (physically) as excretion.  A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement” (Charles Bukowski)
  • “Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night’ (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • “Sex appeal is 50% what you’ve got and 50% what people think you’ve got” (Sophia Loren)

Sex and reproduction

  • “It is not economical to go to bed early to save the candles if the result is twins” (Chinese Proverb)
  • “Familiarity breeds contempt – and children” (Mark Twain)
  • “Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way around” (David Lodge)
  • “The hypothalamus is one of the most important parts of the brain, involved in many kinds of motivation, among other functions.  The hypothalamus controls the ‘Four F’s’: fighting, fleeing, feeding, and mating” (Marvin Dunnette)
  • “Kids in back seats cause accidents, accidents in back seats cause kids” (Anon)
  • “The best contraceptive is a glass of cold water. Not before or after, but instead” (Anon)
  • “My father told me all about the birds and the bees, the liar – I went steady with a woodpecker till I was twenty-one” (Bob Hope)

Sex and love

  • “The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension and love causes it” (Woody Allen)
  • “Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it’s one of the best” (Woody Allen)
  • “Love is the answer, but while you’re waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions” (Woody Allen)
  • “Love is a matter of chemistry, but sex is a matter of physics” (Anon)
  • “Love ain’t nothing but sex misspelled” (Harlan Ellison)
  • “Love is not the dying moan of a distant violin – it’s the triumphant twang of a bedspring” (S.J. Perelman)

Men on female sexuality

  • “My girlfriend always laughs during sex, no matter what she’s reading” 
(Steve Jobs
  • “You know that look that women get when they want to have sex? Me neither” (Steve Martin)
  •  “My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch”
(Jack Nicholson)
  • “Ah, yes, divorce, from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man’s genitals through his wallet”
(Robin Williams)
  • “Women need a reason to have sex Men just need a place”
(Billy Crystal)
  • “When a man goes on a date, he wonders if he is going to get lucky. A woman already knows” (Frederike Ryder)
  • “I think men talk to women so they can sleep with them and women sleep with men so they can talk to them” (Jay McInerney)
  • “Desire is in men a hunger, in women only an appetite” (Mignon McLaughlin)
  • “My wife is a sex object – every time I ask for sex, she objects” (Les Dawson)
  • “Anybody who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography” (Robert Byrne)
  • “Men get laid, but women get screwed” (Quentin Crisp)
  • “Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man” (Mignon McLaughlin)

Women on male sexuality

  • “I admit I have a tremendous sex drive. My boyfriend lives forty miles away” (Phyllis Diller)
  • “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other” (Jane Austen)
  • “Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships”
(Sharon Stone)
  • “Among men, sex sometimes results in intimacy; among women, intimacy sometimes results in sex” (Barbara Cartland)
  • “I know nothing about sex, because I was always married” (Zsa Zsa Gabor)
  • “Men are those creatures with two legs and eight hands” (Jayne Mansfield)

Masturbation

  • “Don’t knock masturbation – it’s sex with someone I love” 
Woody Allen
  • “Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand” (Woody Allen)
  • “I’m such a good lover because I practice a lot on my own” (Woody Allen)
  • Masturbation: The primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth, it’s a cure” (Thomas Szasz)
  • “We have reason to believe that man first walked upright to free his hands for masturbation” (Lily Tomlin)
  • “The good thing about masturbation is that you don’t have to get dressed up for it” (Truman Capote)
  • “A woman occasionally is quite a serviceable substitute for masturbation” (Karl Kraus)

Chastity, impotence, and medical problems

  • “Lord, grant me chastity and continence…but not yet” (St. Augustine)
  • “Sex at age 90 is like trying to shoot pool with a rope” (George Burns)
  • “There’s a new medical crisis. Doctors are reporting that many men are having allergic reactions to latex condoms. They say they cause severe swelling. So what’s the problem?” (Dustin Hoffman)
  • “Chastity: The most unnatural of the sexual perversions” (Aldous Huxley)
  • “To succeed with the opposite sex, tell her you’re impotent. She can’t wait to disprove it” (Cary Grant)
  •  “Remember, if you smoke after sex you’re doing it too fast” (Woody Allen)
  • “The tragedy of sexual intercourse is the perpetual virginity of the soul” (William B. Yeats)
  • “Nature abhors a virgin – a frozen asset” (Clare Boothe Luce)

Sexual perversion

  • “The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform” (Alfred Kinsey)
  • “The only unnatural sexual behaviour is none at all” (Sigmund Freud)
  • “There is nothing wrong with going to bed with someone of your own sex. People should be very free with sex, they should draw the line at goats” (Elton John
)
  • “Don’t worry, it only seems kinky the first time” (Anon)
  • “An erection is like the Theory of Relativity – the more you think about it, the harder it gets” (Anon)
  • “I’m all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults” (Gore Vidal)
  • “Kinky is using a feather. Perverted is using the whole chicken” (Anon)
  • “During sex I fantasize that I’m someone else” (Richard Lewis)
  • “It doesn’t matter what you do in the bedroom as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses” (Mrs. Patrick Campbell)

Pornography

  • “Pornography is whatever gives the Judge an erection” (Anon)
  • Pornography: That which excites, whether from approval or disapproval” (Leonard Rossiter)
  • “My reaction to porn films is as follows: After the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. After the first 20 minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live” (Erica Jong)
  • “The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting” (Gloria Leonard)
  • “What’s the difference between art and pornography? A government grant!” (Peter Griffin)
  • “Pornography is literature designed to be read with one hand” (Angela Lambert)
  • “Pornography is in the loin of the beholder” (Charles Rembar)
  • “Pornography is supposed to arouse sexual desires. If pornography is a crime, when will they arrest makers of perfume?” (Richard Fleischer)
  • “A dirty book is rarely dusty” (Anon)
  • “A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction” (J.G. Ballard)
  • “To know the difference between erotica and pornography you must first know the difference between naked and nude” (Bernard Poulin)
  • “Playboy exploits sex the way Sports Illustrated exploits sports” (Hugh Hefner)
  • “Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it” (D.H. Lawrence)
  • “Pornography tells lies about women. But pornography tells the truth about men” (John Stoltenberg)

Prostitution

  • “I remember the first time I had sex – I kept the receipt” (Groucho Marx). 
  • “When a guy goes to a prostitute, he’s not paying her for sex, he’s paying her to leave” (Anon)
  • “When a man talks dirty to a woman, it’s sexual harassment.  When a woman talks dirty to a man, it’s $3.95 a minute” (Anon)
  • “The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs less” (Brendan Francis Behan)
  • “I once knew a woman who offered her honor. So I honored her offer
and all night long I was on her and off her” (Anon)
  • “I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy” 
(Tom Clancy)

Sex, psychiatry, and surveys

  • “With me, nothing goes right. My psychiatrist said my wife and I should have sex every night. We’ll never see each other!” (Rodney Dangerfield) 
  • “A student undergoing a word-association test was asked why a snowstorm put him in mind of sex. He replied frankly:  ‘Because everything does’” (Honor Tracy)
  • “I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a women in my life who would give up lunch” (Erma Bombeck)
  • “According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental, where, of course, men are just grateful”
 (Robert De Niro)

Sex addiction

  • “I’m a heroine addict. I need to have sex women who have saved someone’s life” (Mitch Hedberg)“
  • “Sex.  In America an obsession.  In other parts of the world a fact” (Marlene Dietrich)

Sex, God and religion

  • “I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty” (John Waters)
  • “Men reach their sexual peak at eighteen. Women reach theirs at thirty-five. Do you get the feeling that God is playing a practical joke?” (Rita Rudner)
  • “The only thing wrong with being an atheist is that there’s nobody to talk to during an orgasm” (Anon)
  • “When authorities warn you of the sinfulness of sex, there is an important lesson to be learned. Do not have sex with the authorities” (Matt Groening)
  • “Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things:  One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell.  The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love” (Butch Hancock)
  • “To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals” (Don Schrader)
  • “Sex is God’s joke on human beings” (Bette Davis)
  • “Why should we take advice on sex from the Pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn’t!” (George Bernard Shaw)
  • “See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time” (Robin Williams)

Infidelity

  • “What’s the three words you never want to hear while making love? ‘Honey, I’m home!'” (Ken Hammond)
  • “You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct” (W. Somerset Maugham)
  • “Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?” (Murray Banks)

Sex starved: A beginner’s guide to sexual anorexia

In previous blogs I have looked at anorexia nervosa in the context of addictive eating disorders, ‘tanorexia’ (excessive tanning) and ‘fanorexia’ (excessive following of a celebrity or sports team). Today’s blog takes a brief look at ‘sexual anorexia’ that according to Dr. Douglas Weiss in his 1998 book Sexual Anorexia, Beyond Sexual, Emotional and Spiritual Withholding, typically refers to “the active, almost compulsive withholding of emotional, spiritual and sexual intimacy from the primary partner”. The 12-Step group Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous offers this definition and analogy:

“As an eating disorder, anorexia is defined as the compulsive avoidance of food. In the area of sex and love, anorexia has a similar definition: Anorexia is the compulsive avoidance of giving or receiving social, sexual, or emotional nourishment”

A paper by Dr. Randy Hardman and Dr. David Gardner in a 1986 issue of the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy compared anorexia nervosa and sexual anorexia. They highlighted the four most significant characteristic similarities of these self-perpetuating disorders from both an intrapsychic and interpersonal level. These were (i) control (i.e., overt personal control and covert relationship power), (ii) fear (i.e., fear of losing control and fear of personal sexuality), (iii) anger (i.e., passive and active expressions of anger based on devaluation), and (iv) justification (i.e., an elaborate system of denial, delusion, and misperception).

Along with Dr. Weiss, most of the key writings on the topic have been written by Dr. Patrick Carnes (the author of many articles and books on sex addiction). Dr. Carnes defines sexual anorexia as: “an obsessive state in which the physical, mental and emotional task of avoiding sex dominates one’s life. Like self-starvation with food, deprivation with sex can make one feel powerful and defended against all hurts.” In a 1998 paper in the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, he also notes that: “the term “sexual anorexia” has been used to describe sexual aversion disorder [in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders], a state in which the patient has a profound disgust and horror at anything sexual in themselves and others”.

According to the Wikipedia entry on sexual anorexia, the term ‘sexual anorexia’ has been around for over 35 years, and the first use it the term is generally attributed to psychologist Nathan Hare, a psychologist who coined the term in his 1975 PhD thesis. (However, I have failed to track this down, and none of the academic papers I have read on sexual anorexia ever mention Hare).

Dr. Carnes claims to have identified three causative factors in the formation of sexual anorexia. These are (i) a probable history of sexual exploitation or severely traumatic sexual rejection, (ii) family history of extremes in thought or behavior (often very repressive/religious or it’s polar opposite of “anything-goes” permissiveness), and (iii) cultural, social or religious influences that view sex negatively and supports sexual oppression and repression. Dr. Weiss adds that there are three key criteria in the formation of anorexia: (i) sexual abuse, (ii) attachment disorder with the opposite sex parent and (iii) sex addiction.

In his 1997 book Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred, Dr. Carnes views the symptom cluster of the sexual anorexic as primarily sexual and includes: (i) a dread of sexual pleasure, (ii) a morbid and persistent fear of sexual contact, (iii) obsession and hyper-vigilance around sexual matters, (iv) avoidance of anything connected with sex, (v) preoccupation with others being sexual, (vi) distortions of body appearance, (vii) extreme loathing of body functions, (viii) obsessional self-doubt about sexual adequacy, (ix) rigid, judgmental attitudes about sexual behaviour, (x) excessive fear and preoccupation with sexually transmitted diseases, (xi) obsessive concern or worry about the sexual intentions of others, (xii) shame and self-loathing over sexual experiences, (xiii) depression about sexual adequacy and functioning, (xiv) intimacy avoidance because of sexual fear, and (xv) self-destructive behavior to limit, stop, or avoid sex.

The 1998 paper published in the journal Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity by Dr. Carnes is one of the very few in the literature to collect empirical data. The data were collected from 144 patients at his treatment clinic that were diagnosed with sexual anorexia. Of these, 41% were male and 59% female aged between 19 and 58 years (all of whom were Caucasian). The main findings were that:

  • 67% reported a history of sexual abuse
  • 41% reported a history of physical abuse
  • 86% reported a history of emotional abuse
  • 65% reported members of the immediate family as some type of addict
  • 40% reported having a sex addict in the immediate family
  • 60% described their family as “rigid”
  • 67% described their family as “disengaged”

Carnes also reported that over two-thirds of the sexually anorexic population claimed to have other compulsive and/or addictive problems including alcoholism (33%), substance abuse (25%), compulsive eating (25%), caffeine abuse (26%), nicotine addiction (23%), compulsive spending (22%), and/or bulimia/anorexia with food (19%). Of most interest was the fact that Carnes compared his group of sexual anorexics with a group of sex addicts (also from his treatment centre). Carnes concluded that:

“By contrasting that profile with data from sex addicts who were in the same patient pool, some important contrasts can be made. The data for sex addicts and sexual anorexics were very parallel in terms of family system, abuse history, and related patterns of addiction, compulsion, and deprivation. Even the criteria for sex addiction and sexual anorexia have important parallels in terms of powerlessness, obsession, consequences, and distress…Such comparisons tend to confirm the proposition that extreme sexual disorders stem from many of the same factors and are variations of the same illness. Of equal importance is the possibility that extreme behaviors in various disorders (food, chemical, sexual, financial) whether in excess or in deprivation are for many patients interchangeable parts representing much deeper patterns of distress”

Finally, if you would like to know if you are sexually anorexic, you can take this simple test that I found at the Freedom In Grace website (and appears to be based on the world of Weiss and Carnes). If you endorse five or more of the following nine statements you or your partner are currently struggling with sexual anorexia”.

  • Withholding love from partner
  • Withholding praise or appreciation from partner
  • Controlling by silence or anger
  • Ongoing or ungrounded criticism causing isolation
  • Withholding sex from your partner
  • Unwillingness or inability to discuss feelings with partner
  • Staying so busy that they have no relational time for the partner
  • Making the problems or issues about your partner instead of owning their own issues
  • Controlling or shaming partner with money issues

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

Further reading

Carnes, P. (1997). Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Carnes, P. (1998). The case for sexual anorexia: An interim report on 144 patients with sexual disorders. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 5, 293–309.

Hardman, R.K. & Gardner, D.J. (1986). Sexual anorexia: A look at inhibited sexual desire. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 12, 55-59.

Nelson, Laura (2003). Sexual addiction versus sexual anorexia and the church’s impact. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 10, 179–191.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (undated). Sexual anorexia. Located at: http://www.slaauk.org/files/anorexia.pdf

Weiss, D. (1998). Sexual Anorexia, Beyond Sexual, Emotional and Spiritual Withholding. Fort Worth, TX: Discovery

Weiss, D. (2005). Sexual anorexia: A new paradigm for hyposexual desire disorder. Located at: http://www.sexaddict.com/eBooks/SAeBk.pdf

Wikipedia (2012). Sexual anorexia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_anorexia

Google surf: What does the search for sex online say about someone?

I recently read a transcript of a radio interview where Shankar Vedantam (the Science Correspondent of US National Public Radio) was talking about how analyzing Google searches could tell us things of national importance about what is happening before they reached the relevant public authorities. He gave a lovely example:

“A year or so ago, the folks at Google realized that as the flu was spreading from state to state, people’s search terms were changing. So people would search for things like ‘What do I do if I have a sore throat?’ or ‘What do I do if my child is running a high temperature?’. And by tracking these searches, Google discovered, long before public health authorities discovered, how the flu was spreading from state to state”.

Such observations tend to suggest that what people use online search engines for and what they type into them can be a useful indicant of human behaviour. But is the same true for sexual behaviour? A recent report in the Indian Times revealed that the people of Pakistan had the most searches for ‘sex’ on Google in 2011 (followed by India in second place) using Google Trends software. More interestingly, in an article by Alan Dunn for Business Insider (Top Google Searches – What do People Search for?) reported that:

The keywords sex, porn, free porn and porno pretty much blow any other keywords out of the water. The amount of exact match volume for these 4 terms alone is 22,820,000 searches a month. Individually they are ‘porn’ (11,100,000), free porn’ (7,480,000), sex’ (2,740,000), [and] porno’ (1,500,000). Sex is obviously not bad. It’s more popular than ever”.

Last year, Dr. Ogi Ogas and Dr. Sai Gaddam published their book A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What The Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships. Their book was an academic study of what people worldwide looked for sexually when they went online. As the title of their book suggests, they analysed millions of anonymous Web searches, pornographic websites, erotic videos, etc. The authors used the Dogpile search engine to analyse data from the major search engines (e.g., Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). Ogas and Gaddam’s book provided us with what the New York Post (NYP) claimed was “the most complete survey yet of our collective sexual id”. Maureen Callahan (who wrote the piece for the NYP) noted that there were many surprising findings. For instance:

“Straight men enjoy a wider variety of erotica than imagined, including sites devoted to elderly women and transsexuals. Foot fetishes aren’t a deviance; men are evolutionarily wired to look for small feet, which are a sign of high estrogen production, which itself is a sign of fertility. Gay men and straight men have nearly identical brains, and their favorite body parts, in order of preference, line up exactly: chests, buttocks, feet. Straight men prefer heavy women to thin ones. Straight women enjoy reading about and watching romances between two men – it’s not about the sex, which is downplayed, but the emotion, which is the focus. (The largest audience for ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ says the book, was straight women.) Straight men have a fascination with other men’s penises, which may be conscious or unconscious”.

In an interview with the NYP, Dr. Ogas said that “sex therapists haven’t known which interests are common and which are rare. We probably now know more than ever before.” He and Gaddam ranked the most popular terms types into the world’s leading search engines and compiled a ‘Top 10 sex terms list. The leading search terms related to sex were: youth (13.5%), gay (4.7%), MILFs (4.3%), breasts (4%), cheating wives (3.4%), vaginas (2.8%), penises (2.4%), amateurs (approx. 1%), mature (approx. 1%), and animation (1%). The data was analysed in great detail. The NYP article by Callahan reported that based on Ogas and Gaddam’s study:

Men fantasize about group sex far more than women and picture more men than women in the action. Straight men prefer to watch amateur porn online, and the authors theorize it’s because of perceived authenticity – a fake orgasm, it turns out, may be as disappointing as one in real life. One of the most popular and diverse areas of interest in sexuality is domination and submission, with straight women and gay men most interested in the latter role. Gay men enjoy straight porn in large numbers….Straight males enjoy a wide variety of erotica, including sites featuring transsexuals and elderly women. The study also found that both gay and straight men favor chests, buttocks and feet (in that order)”.

US academic Professor Donald Symons, one of the world’s leading evolutionary psychologists, was quick to point out some of the book’s flaws and did not seem to be persuaded that what people searched for online necessarily was directly related to what people found sexually desirable. For example, does the fact that someone watches ‘granny porn’ or transsexual sex indicate that they find it sexually alluring? Symons argues they may just be viewing such material out of curiosity. Symons was quoted as saying:

“One of the first things I asked Ogi about was curiosity versus arousal. Ogi is convinced that when people are searching for things, it’s primarily for sexual arousal. I’m not so sure about that. If there was a porn star with three breasts — I bet there would be a zillion hits. Would that be a sign men were suddenly aroused by that? I think not…If it had been the case that women were just like men, but society had been repressing women and once they’re online, they seek the exact mirror-image of porn – that could’ve happened. But it didn’t…The research shows that men, as evolutionary science has long held, are stimulated visually, while women require a host of stimuli – context, emotion, verbal expression…What would be really shocking would be fetish sites devoted to acne suffers, or people with no teeth – signifiers of poor health and high reproductive risk. I don’t necessarily think that all men are searching for women with clear skin, one head and two breasts. But when you’re doing a search, you’re usually looking for things that are uncommon”.

This is why Symons thinks there is lots of online searching for transsexual pornography. I also agree with Symons that the data that Ogas and Gaddam collected wasn’t based on a representative sample of online users (only those who typed in sexual words to search engines), and no-one knows what motivated the search. If anyone checked out my online surfing habits, there is no way anyone could infer what I liked sexually because almost all of what I type into search engines is for research purposes. Given the amount of coverage I devote to paraphilic behaviour in my blog, it’s not surprising that the sites I look at say little about my own sexual desires and sexuality.One of the arguments that Ogas and Gaddam have put forward is their assertion that sexual deviance is to all intents and purposes a myth. In his NYP interview, Ogas claimed:

“People who are attracted to mirrors, or to beards, or get turned on by ants in their pants – these are cases that, until now, have been diagnosed by clinicians who’ve seen patients. The Internet gives us a far better sense – rough, but still – of what is a likely anomaly and what is a far more common predilection. We discovered things even Kinsey didn’t know. Foot fetishes, for example, are common across all cultures. The discovery may lead to a re-classification; perhaps someday, the male interest in feet will be considered as normal an interest as breast size or facial attractiveness”.

Ogas is adamant that people who look at unusual sexual behaviour online are attracted to it. In response to Professor Symons’ view that most of the unusual viewing online may be curiosity-based, Ogas (again in his NYP interview) believes that his research:

“Proves that men who look at elderly women are actually turned on by elderly women. There are forums where men talk about picking up grannies, the kinds that they like. We studied AOL search histories over a period of months – if someone’s just curious, they’re not going to spend money for a subscription to a site, or search for something over and over again”.

I thought I’d end today’s blog with a little local analysis of my own. As my regular readers will aware, my own blog has its fair share of articles on sexual behaviour, and I always take an interest in what people are searching for to click onto my blog. Well here is a little insight for you. On October 15 (2012), I looked at all the search terms that people had used to locate my blog (which on that day I had a total number of page hits of around 115,000). I excluded all searches where people had typed in my name or ‘Mark Griffiths’ Blog’. Here are the top search terms that managed at least 50 hits:

My initial observations are that most people that stumble upon my blog are people interested in paraphilias (as the highest non-paraphilic term was ‘nose picking’ at 14, and 34 of the top 40 search terms are paraphilia-based). It certainly looks as though ‘sex sells’ even at a local level like my blog.

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

Further reading

Callahan, M. (2012). You’re not as kinky as you think: Massive Internet study finds that we’re all sexual deviants, New York Post, January 22: Located at: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/books/you_re_not_as_kinky_as_you_think_PLXiPzN4aUnTjKK1asmWMK/0

Dunn, A. (2011). Top Google Searches – What do People Search for? Business Insider, December 21. Located at: http://www.businessinsider.com/top-google-searches-what-do-people-search-for-2011-12

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet sex addiction: A review of empirical research. Addiction Research and Theory, 20, 111-124.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilia: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, in press.

Indian Times (2011). Pak tops Google search for sex, December 30. Located at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-12-30/internet/30572457_1_google-trends-fox-news-report-searches

Ogas, O. & Gaddam, S. (2011). A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What The Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships. Syracuse, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co Inc.

Smith, C. (2011). Top 10 Internet Search Terms About Sex: Study (Update). Huffington Post, April 26. Located at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/26/sex-study-internet-search-terms_n_854034.html

Werheimer, L. & Vedantam, S. (2012). Google searches are a window into our culture. Located at: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/02/144572891/google-searches-are-a-window-into-our-culture

Sacred hearts: What is the relationship between sex and religion?

“I have a sexual attraction and fetish for religious objects and people who get off on having sex or masturbating while in a religious setting. People might think that this type of fetish is an act of deliberate blasphemy, complete with visions of Linda Blair ramming a crucifix into herself while mocking a priest” (quote supplied by ‘The Goddess’)

Sex and religion have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship. When the two intersect there is often controversy, heated debate, and/or scandal. A book chapter by David Steinberg on sexologist Alfred Kinsey (in Russ Kick’s 2005 edited collection Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong) noted that:

“The publication of Kinsey’s study in 1948 [on male sexual behaviour] was the opening salvo of a monumental battle that has been raging ever since between science (factual information) and religion (moral judgment) on the subject of sex. [There is an] ongoing conflict between secular and theological forces for control of sexual desire and behavior in America”

In the same book, Joseph Slade also made the interesting observation that talking about pornography is a lot like talking about religion: Nearly everyone brings to the subject assumptions that color the debate”. When I started researching material for this article I came across a really interesting historical aside in relation to religion and fetishes. Dr. AnilAggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices wrote that the word ‘fetishism’:

“…arose from ‘fetish’, a term used in anthropology for an object believed to have supernatural powers. Early Christians frequently attributed magical and metaphysical powers to such objects as skulls, bones of saints, severed and mummified fingers and arms, etc. These objects were referred to as ‘fetiches’ (sic). When 15th century Portuguese explorers arrived in West Africa and discovered that local people had their own fetiches in the form of religious carvings and other inanimate objects, they began to refer to those inanimate objects as fetiches too. The French writer Charles de Brosses (1709-1777) coined the term fetishism in 1756 (in an anthropological sense) and developed the concept of religious fetishism in his 1760 [book] Duculte des Dieux Fétiches, where he discussed the worship of material objects such as amulets and talismans among ancient and contemporary African populations. De Brosses called this cult ‘fétichisme’ after ‘fétiche’ derived from the Portuguese trading term ‘feitiço’, which designated the small objects and charms on which European merchants would take oaths in sealing commercial agreements with Africans”.

Dr. Aggrawal then noted that when early sexologists were looking for a term to describe sexual fixation on inanimate objects, they borrowed from the Portuguese term because – like a religious fetish – an erotic fetish “also possessed magical powers” (i.e., it had the capability to sexually arouse emotions in those who otherwise seemed asexual).

“If a person who could not be aroused by normal erotic stimuli (say, a nude woman) could be aroused by an inanimate object, say, a sandal or a shoe, the object did have a kind of magical power on that person, and was thus a fetish”.

However, there are small numbers of people who are allegedly sexually aroused by religious artefacts, rituals, and/or behaviour. For instance, hierophilia was defined by Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices as a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from religious and sacred objects. He also made reference to teleophilia (i.e., those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from religious ceremonies). Aggrawal reported that elements of sexual sadism were present in several Western European medieval religious ceremonies involving flagellation. For instance, in an early 15th-century Catalan painting (The Flagellation of Christ), those inflicting pain on Jesus appeared to be deriving sexual pleasure from their activities.

Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices described hierophilic acts as including masturbating with crosses or masturbating on church pews. She also notes that someone from Austin, Texas (US) wrote to her to say they had broken into churches at night to have sex on the altar. She also reported that:

‘Many of the early goddess religions revered sex and included it as part of their worship. Statues, animals, priests, and priestesses were all provided for congressants’ sexual gratification at one time or another”.

A 2005 book chapter by Dr. Jenny Wade (also in Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong) makes some interesting connections between transcendent sex and religion. More specifically she says:

“The fact is, the ordinary act of lovemaking can be the most widely available path to higher consciousness for most people. People who have experienced a transcendent episode during sex usually believe they have tapped into divine forces, even if they are atheists or agnostics. These experiences are so extreme, they change people’s views of sex and spirituality…This provides an explanation for the sexual-spiritual basis of most ancient religions by showing that mystical experiences happen every day in the bedroom to a significant portion of the population. Sacred sex is still going on…The act of lovemaking can trigger intense episodes that feature the identical characteristics found in the highest spiritual states documented in such diverse religions as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as well as those cited in the annals of yoga and recent research on shamanism”.

In a previous blog examining genital self-mutilation (GSM), I noted that some research had indicated that some males who engage in GSM do so for religious reasons. GSM as part of a religious belief are typically diagnosed as having Klingsor Syndrome. This was derived from the character Klingsor in Parsifol (a Wagner opera) who engaged in an act of self-castration to gain entry into the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Holy Grail. According to Samir Shirodkar and colleagues in the Saudi Medical Journal, group genital mutilation is a custom of a sect of Australian Aborigines where the blood is drunk by the infirm (who believe it restores their health).

A speculative online essay abut hierophilia written by ‘The Goddess’ made a number of claims about the behaviour although there was no empirical support to support her claims. The said that:

“The majority of those who reportedly practice hierophilia are in fact deeply devoted to their religion. Theories as to why a person may develop this unusual fetish go to both biological and psychological levels. Frequent churchgoers are often subjecting themselves to a very highly charged atmosphere (such as a religious revival) that tends to get emotions running high among the congregation. These joyous emotions can often manifest themselves into sexual arousal, especially if the members of the congregation have very close bonds to one another…It is not difficult for one to make the connection between religious settings and sexual arousal. Over a period of time, a hierophiliac becomes conditioned to respond to religious icons or locations with feelings of sexual excitement, or even begin to associate the act of sex itself as a religious experience”.

The article also claims that hierophilia is far less common among atheists. She also speculates that the hierophile derives sexual pleasure from the objects or in the places of their particular religion, but is simultaneously overwhelmed with the guilt that their sexual behaviour is sinful and that they are an evil person for having such thoughts. Because of this, the hierophilic behaviour is claimed to be sexually masochistic.

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

Further reading

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

Gibson, I. (1978). The English Vice: Beating, Sex and Shame in Victorian England and After. London: Duckworth.

The Goddess (undated). My strongest proclivities: Religious sexuality. http://www.angelfire.com/vamp2/kinkygoddess/Religion.html

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

Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Shirodkar, S.S., Hammad, F.T. & Qureshi, N.A. (2007). Male genital self-amputation in the Middle East: A simple repair by anterior urethrostomy. Saudi Medical Journal, 28, 791-793.

Steinberg, D.  (2005). Everybody’s sin is nobody’s sin: Alfred Kinsey and the breaking of sexual silence. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.57-60).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Wade, J. (2005). Transcendent sex. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.13-17).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Sitting pretty: A beginner’s guide to forniphilia

As someone who teaches my students about sexual paraphilias I have to admit I had never heard of forniphilia until very recently. Forniphilia 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 first time I came across the word was in an article on sexual paraphilias in The Times of India that reported forniphilia was:

“A seemingly sexist wish to see the opposite sex being installed as pieces of furniture (the person is tightly bound and made to remain immobile in a particular position for any period of time)”

The term “forniphilia was allegedly coined by Jeff Gord, the man behind The House of Gord (“The Home of Ultra Bondage”). The submissive person that is positioned into a piece of human furniture typically has to wear a gag and may be at risk of being smothered. However, it is up to the dominant person to regularly check on the psychological and physical wellbeing of the submissive. The House of Gord’s website notes that:

The act of turning a woman into nothing more than a piece of functional furniture is the ultimate goal for many bondage enthusiast. Often completely immobile the woman finds that she is at least useful to her owner, perhaps performing the role of a table, chair or even hat stand. Many find this type of sexual objectification highly erotic, especially if the subject is in someway vulnerable…Knowing she cannot move she can only hope she will be of some use. Awaiting use, she is forced to wait and obey until needed”.

Forniphiles bind up their submissive partners very tight and for the submissives can be extremely dangerous. The House of Gord does not recommend people trying this very specific and stylized type of bondage unless they are very experienced and have the requisite “safety measures” in place. Jeff Gord describes the practice of human furniture as the ultimate in artistic expression. Gord claims that:

“Over the centuries, mere mortal man, artists and sculptures of renown, have struggled to capture the essence of femininity in various inanimate and inadequate mediums of paint, stone, plaster-of-paris, bronze, and a host of other organic materials. Whilst they came close, none really managed to portray that indefinable something that is womanhood; a mystical state-of-the-art life form that guards its secrets jealously. In my opinion, they never will. They were using the wrong materials”.

Forniphiles believe they are choosing the most erotic and exciting “ultimate material” – in this case, women. Gord also notes (and I’m quoting this verbatim as I don’t agree with this personally) that:

“A second description of forniphilia would be man’s desire to render a powerful and dangerous adversary to the role of utility item…It is in man’s nature to conquer and control, and in this respect the female of our species probably represents the only adversary he has never managed to subdue…Reduce a woman to a usable object and she becomes so damned sexually alluring that she has you by the balls so to speak…Try sitting on a human female chair, with a human female table, and a human female foot stool, and you really stop caring about the battle of the sexes”.

Other articles I have read on forniphilia suggest that some woman are active willing participants in such activity and actually enjoy it. For instance, an online article in Sensuality News reported that the:

“Reality is that some women – more so than men – enjoy behaving existing as pieces of furniture. Any version of doormat furniture will do. Bottom line, they are women or illusions of women – meant to be seen and not heard. There’s no doubt that forniphilia is an ultimate act of submission…Often the submissive is in danger of being smothered or in the case of Alva Bernadine’s ‘The Philosopher Illumined by Candlelight’, having her vagina set on fire… We’re interested in forniphilia as an extension of 1930s surrealism, exemplified in Hans Bellmer’s photo ‘The Doll’. ‘Scorn for Women’ is a key plank of ‘The Futurist Manifesto’, a document that eventually paved the way for the artistic movements of Surrealism and Dadaism”. 

In response to the article on Sensuality News, a transvestite male (calling himself ‘Bekki’) wrote that he and other males are forniphiles:

“I am a male cross-dresser who partakes in ‘furniture play’ exclusively for the use of Women. I am sure I am not the only one out there, but I do see how it is more of a female activity. Even when I partake, it is usually as a girl, but always for women. For some reason, being a chair or a table, or even a coat rack for a single woman or a group of women is infinitely sexier than if it were for a male”.

A quick look at the House of Gord FAQ page revealed the 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.

It perhaps won’t surprise you that I didn’t manage to locate a single piece of empirical research on the topic of forniphilia. In Gregg Norris’ 2010 book Illustrated Sex Guides: Dominance and Submission, it gains only a passing reference in a section on “Dominant/submissive relationship styles” under the categories of ‘objectification’ and ‘dehumanization’. Other than that, I don’t think the word ‘forniphilia’ has made it into hard copy print. Certainly looks like an area in need of some research and/or feminist critique.

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

Further reading

Norris, G. (2010). Illustrated Sex Guides: Dominance and Submission. Brian Phillipe

Scoch, I.R. (2012). Forniphilia and other words I learned at my first fetish part. Global Post, March 2. Located at: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/wanderlust/sexual-fetish-parties

Sensuality News (2011). Is forniphilia essentially women’s sex slave work? May 23. Located at: http://www.sensualitynews.com/living/is-forniphilia-essentially-womens-sex-slave-work.html

Social Kink (2007). Jeff Gord interview. October 24. Located at: http://www.socialkink.com/articles.php?do=view&id=92

The Times of India (2007). The kinks of virtual men. April 15. Located at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/The-kinks-of-virtual-men/articleshow/1911674.cms?flstry=1

Wikipedia (2012). Human furniture. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_furniture

Blood lust: A brief overview of menophilia

I apologise in advance if this is “too much information” but back in 1985, I had a brief relationship with a woman who had just come out of a long-term relationship with someone in the Hell’s Angels. One of the things she told me was that her ex-boyfriend had earned his ‘red wings’ many times and that he couldn’t wait each month for her to be on her period. For those who are wondering what the hell I am talking about, ‘red wings’ are earned by Hell’s Angel’s members when the perform oral sex on a women while she is menstruating. As I later found out, other groups of males who spend a lot of time together – such as those in the armed services – also engage in such practices to earn their ‘red wings’.

Many reading this might find my first paragraph of today’s blog utterly disgusting. For many, blood is associated with injury, trauma and/or violence. The fact that some may associate blood with sexual arousal sets the stage for an uncomfortable psychological and physical dichotomy.

It wasn’t until I came across a 1966 book by one of my favourite US writers – Hunter S. Thompson – that I first saw this practice written about in print. In the book Hells Angels, A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Thompson wrote that red wings meant that the “the wearer has committed cunnilingus on a menstruating woman.” There were also other types of ‘wings’ that Hell’s Angels could earn including ‘black wings’ (engaging in oral sex on a black woman) and ‘brown wings’ (for anal sex with a woman).

Such practices were virtually unknown by anyone outside of Hell’s Angels circles until journalists like Thompson started chronicling their activities and interviewing Angels’ members. Although many of the badges, patches and tattoos were worn with pride, they were often earned as part of male initiation rituals (the key components of which are typically pain, sacrifice, disgust and/or a sense of accomplishment). Clearly my own personal anecdote highlights that for a minority (at least), performing oral sex on menstruating women was something to be treasured, celebrated, and enjoyed sexually. What may have started as a ‘rites of passage’ became a regular and – well at least monthly – highly arousing occurrence. The fact that for many women their sexual drives often increase during menstruation may be another reason why some men find this so sexually arousing.

In trying to research this blog, I didn’t come across too much information. In Tantric sex, the practice is mentioned but not encouraged. However, in Karezza (a Westernized form of Tantra), it is viewed as an opportunity for increased intimacy between consenting sexual partners. In voodoo folklore, it is claimed by some that having oral sex with a woman during their period ties the man with that woman for life.

In previous blogs I have examined sexual paraphilias in relation to other activities that have involved blood including sexual vampirism and vorarephilia (i.e., being sexually aroused by the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification). Another blood-related paraphilia of direct interest here is menophilia. Menophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual (almost always male) derives sexual arousal from menstruating females. Such individuals (which may have included the ex-boyfriend of the women I mentioned at the start of this article) are also aroused by the smell, image, taste and/or feel of the blood expelled during menstruation. As one female menophile reported online:

“Blood to me is exciting. Thrilling. A visual delight. It has been that way since I was a young girl. Nose bleeds and the sight of blood was exciting to me. I would sit in the mirror and watch the red rivulets run down my face. I began to menstruate and after a period of self loathing and fear of my cycle”

It has also been claimed that some menophiles also enjoy licking used sanitary towels and/or sucking on used tampons. For these individuals, there are some clear overlaps between mysophilia (sexual pleasure from filth and unclean items such as soiled knickers) and sexual vampirism. There was also a case of a man who was both a menophile and a coprophile (i.e., sexually aroused by faeces). He was allegedly caught tampering with public toilets as a way of collecting excreted waste products from female users to fuel his sexual desires. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most menophiles are male, some lesbians are also claimed to enjoy such practices.

I have yet to come across any psychological theorizing about the roots and causes of menophilia in any academic paper or book. I did come across the following online speculation although there was seemingly no empirical evidence backing up such claims:

Some theorize that men lust after menstruating women because they are envious of the woman’s body which is in constant preparation for fertilization.  Contrary to this however is the fact that it is almost impossible for a woman to become pregnant during her menstruation. Either way, a fascination of period blood is a fairly common fetish at [this website]. Luckily for menophiliacs, it is easy to find a female who is willing to have sex during menstruation.  Often, women are charmed by men who aren’t disgusted by what is a perfectly normal and healthy body process”

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). They reported that some of the sites featured references to menophiles. However, this particular fetish was included in a ‘body fluids’ fetish category along with coprophilia, urophilia, lactophilia and mucophilia. Although this category made up a sizeable minority of all online fetishes (9%), it is unlikely that menophiles made up more than a handful of websites found compared to the fetishes of other bodily fluids.

As with many of the paraphilias I have examined in my blogs, there is almost a complete absence of any academic study on menophilia. Maybe this is one of those paraphilias that – amongst others – is seen as more trivial and/or devoid of academic merit.

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

Further reading

Flow Forum (A website about menstruation). Located at: http://www.dotcomjunkies.com/members/kayo/forum/

Red Wings (undated). The history and culture of red wings. Located at: http://www.red-wings.com/wings-culture.html

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.

Thompson, H.S. (1966). Hells Angels, A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. London: Random House

Cruel proof: A brief overview of zoosadism

Zoosadism refers to the pleasure – often sexual – that individuals attain by causing sadistic cruelty to animals. In many people’s minds, violence towards the animal is often automatically implied when they think of bestial acts. However, as I pointed out in a previous blog, recent academic research indicates that sex with animals by zoophiles is often considered by them as “sensual and loving” and does not necessarily include force, violence and/or sadism. In fact, in her book Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals, Dr. Andrea Beetz said that: “zoophilia itself does not represent a clinically significant problem and is not necessarily combined with other clinically significant problems and disorders, even if it may be difficult for some professionals to accept this”.

Despite such research, links between sadistic sexual acts with animals and subsequent behaviour such as human sexual sadism and sexual murder has been much researched. Those who inflict pain and suffering on animals are more likely than those who don’t to be violent towards humans. It has been well documented that some rapists and murderers have sadistically hurt and/or killed animals in their childhood, and that some have engaged in bestial acts. Furthermore, some studies have shown that around a third to a half of all sexual murderers have abused animals during childhood and/or adolescence (although sample sizes of such studies are usually relatively small). However, most research has reported that one of the most important ‘warning signs’ and risk factors (specifically relating to the propensity for sex offending), is animal cruelty if accompanied by a sexual interest in animals. In a study of psychiatric patients who tortured cats and dogs published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development by Alan Felthous, he reported that all of them had high levels of aggression toward people including one patient who had murdered a boy.

In Dr. Louis Schlesinger’s 2004 book Sexual Murder, he provided in great detail some particularly gruesome stories of compulsive homicide killers. One such case was Peter Kürten, who terrified Düsseldorf, Germany.

“At age nine, Kürten committed his first murder by throwing a boy off a raft and preventing another youngster from rescuing the child. Kürten was also a thief and a burglar, and he spent a number of years in prison for assorted offenses. While there, he poisoned several inmates in the prison hospital. After his release, the offender attacked 29 people and killed several others including a 5-year-old girl. He also broke into the home of a 13-year- old girl, strangled her, and killed her by cutting her throat with a knife… Until he was apprehended, the compulsion to kill became overwhelming. Kürten attacked men, women, and children, killing them by knifing, choking, and cutting their throats”.

Kürten’s background was also disturbing. As Schlesinger wrote:

“Kürten had sex with his sisters; however, his preferred form of sexual activity in his developing years was bestiality. He became friendly with a dog catcher who taught him how to torture and masturbate animals. From ages 13 through 15 he engaged in numerous sexual acts with pigs, sheep, and goats, sometimes stabbing the animals to death while having intercourse with them”.

In Germany, there have been an increasing number of violent crimes against horses. This offence of “horse ripping” (i.e., violently cutting, slashing and/or stabbing of horses) has been accepted as a criminal phenomenon in Germany and has led to a number of studies on the topic. Horse ripping has been defined as a destructive act “with the aim to harm a horse or the acceptance of a possible injury of a horse, especially killing, maltreatment, mutilation and sexual abuse in sadomasochistic context”. In 2002, German researchers Dr, Claus Bartmann and Dr. Peter Wohlsein (Institut für Pathologie der Tierärztlichen Hochschule, Hannover) reported a study examining 193 traumatic horse injuries over a four-year period. They reported that at least ten of the injuries (including wounds from knives, spears, and guns) were acts of zoosadism. Also in 2002, Dr. Alexandra Schedel-Stupperich (Georg Elias Müller Institute for Psychology, Göttingen) examined all the incidents of horse injuries from 1993 to 2000 (of which there were 1,035). One-quarter of all the injuries (mostly cuts and stabs using knives or spears) involved the horses’ genitals and another quarter involved injuries to the horses’ necks and/or heads. Most of the horses injured were female and which Schedel-Stupperich described as rape.

Another German study by Wochner and Klosinski (University of Tübingen, Germany), examined 1502 aggressive children and adolescents requiring treatment at their Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit. They reported that 25 (all boys) of them had engaged in zoosadistic activities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the incidence of zoosadistic acts increased with age. The authors speculated that the zoosadistic acts may have been connected to problems of puberty and proving virility.

A recent 2011 paper by Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine proposed a new classification of zoophilia including ‘sadistic bestials’ and ‘homocidal bestials’. Unsurprisingly, ‘sadistic bestials’ derive sexual pleasure from the torturing of animal. According to Dr. Aggrawal, sadistic bestials use animals for sexual excitement but do not engage in sexual intercourse with them. Dr Aggrawal defined homocidal bestials as zoophiles that need to kill animals in order to have sexual intercourse with it (i.e., what he also described as necrozoophilia). According to Aggrawal, homicidal bestials are capable of having sexual intercourse with live animals, but their need for sexual intercourse with dead animals is greater.

In a 2006 book chapter on paraphilic crime signatures, Hickey reported that the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer (1960-1994) collected animal roadkill, dissected the remains, and masturbated over the animals he had cut up, because he “found the glistening viscera of animals sexually arousing”. In Schlesinger’s book on sexual murder, it was reported that: “Dahmer dissected roadkill, butchered small animals, nailed cats and frogs to trees behind his house, and once put a dog’s head on a stick”. Aggrawal also reported the case of 20-year old Bryan Hathaway from Minnesota (USA) who was arrested for having sex with a deer carcass. He had been cycling and by chance came across the dead deer. He was later charged with violating a law against “sexual gratification with an animal” and fits Aggrawal’s classification as a necrozoophile (although Hathaway didn’t actually kill the animal himself).

Finally – and as I noted in my previous blog on zoophilia – there have also been papers and editorials published in the Veterinary Journal (VJ) about the violent sexual abuse of female calves. Vets – who often have to deal with the animals that have been sexually abused by humans – do not like the term ‘zoophilia’ as it tends to focus on the human perpetrator, with no attention being paid to the harm that might result for the animal. A 2006 editorial in the VJ claimed that the sexual abuse of animals is almost a last taboo – even to the veterinary profession. As Piers Beirne (University of Southern Maine, USA) argues, the sexual abuse of an animal should be understood as sexual assault because: (i) human–animal sexual relations almost always involve coercion; (ii) such practices often cause pain and even death to the animal; and (iii) animals are unable either to communicate consent to us in a form that we can readily understand, or to speak out about their cause.

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

Further reading

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Bartmann, C.P. & Wohlsein, P. (2002). Injuries caused by outside violence with forensic importance in horses. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, 109, 112-115.

Beetz, Andrea (2002). Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals. Germany: Shaker Verlag.

Beirne, P., 1997. Rethinking bestiality: towards a concept of interspecies sexual assault. Theoretical Criminology, 1, 317–340.

Felthous, A.R. (1980). Aggression against cats, dogs, and people. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 10, 169-177.

Hickey, E.W (2006). Paraphilia and signatures in crime scene investigation. In Hickey, E.W. (Ed.), Sex crimes and Paraphilia (pp.95-107). New Jersey: Pearson

Ressler, R., Burgess, A., & Douglas, J. (1988). Sexual homicide: Patterns and motives. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Schedel-Stupperich, A. (2002). [Criminal acts against horses–phenomenology and psychosocial construct]. Dtsch Tierarztl Wochenschr, 109, 116-119.

Schlesinger, L. (2004). Sexual Murder. New York: CRC Press.

Wochner, M. & Klosinski, G. (1988). Child and adolescent psychiatry aspects of animal abuse (a comparison with aggressive patients in child and adolescent psychiatry). Schweiz Arch Neurol Psychiatry, 139(3), 59-67.

Sleeping thrills: A brief overview of sexsomnia

Over the last decade there have been an increasing number of papers published on sexsomnia (more commonly known as ‘sleep sex’). There have also been a lot of high profile media cases where women have claimed that their sexsomnia has ruined their lives or men who have been arrested for committing sexual assaults while asleep. Sexsomnia is a condition that is highly prevalent among sleepwalkers and is where people engage in sexual acts while still asleep and can include masturbating and fondling of either themselves or others, or oral sex and sexual intercourse with another person.

Sexsomniacs do not recall or remember anything that they did while asleep which raises interesting questions if criminal sexual acts are performed without the person being aware that they have even done anything wrong. Some in the field have claimed the disorder is relatively common but often goes unreported because of shame and embarrassment related to the condition. In addition to sleepwalking, other sleep-related disorders that sexsomniacs may suffer from include nightmares, bedwetting, and sleep apnea (abnormal breathing while asleep). Many of these behaviours are known as parasomnias (i.e., sleep disorders that involve abnormal and unnatural movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, and dreams and are events that occur intermittently or episodically during the night).

The first academic paper on sex during sleep was published in the mid-1990s in the journal Sleep Research by Canadian researchers Colin Shapiro, Nik Trajanovic and Paul Federoff (at the Universities of Toronto and Ottawa). They claimed that having sex during sleep could be conceptualized as a new type of parasomnia. Then, in 1998, the term ‘sleepsex’ was first used in a paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by American neurologists Dr. David Rosenfeld and Dr A.J. Elhajjar. They described two case studies of people having sex while asleep. The more interesting second case concerned a sleepwalker who committed a sexual assault and used somnambulism as his legal defence. In 2003, the term ‘sexsomnia’ was first used by Shapiro, Trajanovic and Federoff in a case report published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Unsurprisingly, sexsomniacs are often told by others that they are engaging in sex while asleep, and for many the disorder may not be problematic – particularly within the confines of a stable romantic relationship. According to a 2007 paper by Dr Michael Mangan (University of New Hampshire, USA) and Dr. Ulf Reips (Zurich University, Switzerland), some couples embrace sexsomnia, describing it as an exciting addition to their normal waking sex lives. The behaviour may have been going on a long time – sometimes years – before they seek medical help. Despite many people not believing that sexsomnia is a genuine medical condition, the condition has been confirmed by various sleep disorder specialists by video recording sufferers while they are asleep.

In 2007, Dr Carlos Schenck and co-workers (University of Minnesota Medical School, USA) reported in the journal Sleep, that bouts of sexsomnia can be triggered by such factors as physical contact with another person in bed (64%), stress (52%), fatigue (41%), alcohol use (14.6%), and drug abuse (4.3%). Sleep deprivation was also identified as a risk factor.

In 2003, Shapiro and his Canadian colleagues asserted that sexsomnia should be considered a distinct entity in the family of parasomnias, since there was were specific motor, and autonomic activation systems. However, they did make the point that it can be difficult to distinguish between typical sleepwalking and sexsomnia. They claimed that the uniqueness of the condition is the involvement of a partner (usually more than a witness). A recent 2011 review published in the Delhi Psychiatry Review pointed out the main differences between sleepwalking and sexsomnia:

  • Sexsomnia originates in most cases from non-rapid eye movement sleep (whereas sleepwalking usually originates from slow wave sleep)
  • Sexsomina can occur any time during sleep (whereas sleepwalking usually occurs in the first one-third of the night)
  • Sexsomnia involves widespread autonomic activation (whereas in sleepwalking autonomic activation is largely limited to cardio-respiratory functions
  • Sexsomnia involves frequent sexual arousal frequently (whereas in sleepwalking sexual arousal is not present)
  • Sexsomnia bouts possibly exceed 30 minutes (whereas sleepwalking bouts are usually under 30 minutes)
  • Sexsomnia can involve exceptional violence or injurious behaviour (whereas sleepwalking involves occasional violence, injury, and self-injury)
  • Sexsomnia occurs predominantly in adults (whereas sleepwalking predominantly occurs in children)

These bullet point differences do at lest suggest that sexsomnia and sleepwalking may be distinct clinical entities. Shapiro and colleagues state that the main features of sexsomnia often include sexual arousal with autonomic activation (including nocturnal erection, vaginal lubrication, nocturnal emission, wet dreams, sweating, and cardio-respiratory response). However, there are some case studies reported in the literature that do not appear to have shown signs of sexual arousal. Despite these differences, most sleep experts consider sexsomnia to be a variant of sleepwalking, as most sexsomniacs also sleepwalk.

Based on a review of all the published case studies, Dr Andersen and her colleagues asserted that sleep sex somnambulism was a predominantly male disorder, but that the basis for male predominance in sexsomnia is not known. They further reported that females almost exclusively engaged in masturbation and sexual vocalizations, whereas males commonly engaged in sexual fondling and sexual intercourse with females.

Mangan and Reips carried out an online survey using visitors to the Sleepsex.org website (run by Dr. Mangan). Data were collected over a three-month period and generated 226 responses. Up until their 2007 study, only seven academic papers had been published with the number of sexsomniacs totaling 30 cases (the largest sample size being 11 people and six of these were reported in a previous paper by the same authors). Unfortunately, the focus of the paper was on how the internet can be used to collect data on little studied groups and as such presented very few of the results. They noted that adult sexsomniacs sometimes coming into contact with minors (in this survey 6%), and that the legal implications of reporting this are serious.

Using the same dataset, Nik Trajanovic, Michael Mangan and Colin Shapiro joined forces and published yet another paper from the Sleepsex.org data in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. The results showed that females accounted for almost one-third of the sample (31%) and that the mean age of the total sample was just over 30 years of age. The participants typically reported multiple sexsomnia episodes that were typically ptriggered by body contact, stress and fatigue. A small number of participants reported that their sexsomniac behaviour had led to police and legal intervention (8.6% males and 3% females) some of which had involved minors (6% of the total sample). The authors claimed the study confirmed previous anecdotal evidence about the gender and age distribution, trigger factors, and medico-legal aspects.

An earlier 2004 paper by Dr Mangan published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, examined first-person reports of individuals’ experiences of sexsomnia. Qualitative analysis of 121 sexsomniacs resulted in six distinct themes: (i) fear and a lack of emotional intimacy; (ii) guilt and confusion; (iii) a sense of repulsion and feelings of sexual abandonment; (iv) shame, disappointment, and frustration; (v) annoyance and suspicion; (vi) embarrassment and a sense of self-incrimination. Mangan claimed that his results suggested that sexsomnia can elicit negative emotions and cognitions that may become a source of personal and relational distress.

Research published in 2010 by Lisa Klein and Dr. Daniel Houlihan (both at the Minnesota State University, USA) in the International Journal of Sexual Health examined relationship and sexual satisfaction, sexual functioning, and sexual desire in 32 sexsomniacs who were recruited online. Compared to controls, sexsomniacs reported lower levels of sexual satisfaction, lower levels of relationship satisfaction, and similar levels of sexual desire. They also reported that more frequent incidence of sexsomnia resulted in lower sexual satisfaction. However, frequency was not found to impact on the level of sexual desire or relationship satisfaction Four-fifths of the sexsomniacs (81%) also reported at least one sexual problem.

A review paper led by Dr Monica Andersen (Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil) published in a 2007 issue of Brain Research Reviews, attempted to assemble the characteristics of sexsomniacs based on the small empirical base. They noted the sexsomnia should receive more attention and concluded:

“Reports describing sexual activity of sleeping humans are still rather infrequent and the etiology of this peculiar sleep disorder is still obscure… Moreover, sexsomnia is often a longstanding disorder that carries major adverse physical, psychosocial, and legal consequences. We anticipate that this condition is currently underreported”.

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

Further reading

Andersen, M.L., Poyares, D, Alves, R.S.C., Skomro, R. & Tufik, S. (2007). Sexsomnia: Abnormal sexual behavior during sleep. Brain Research Reviews, 56, 271-282

Anubhav, R. & Bhatia, M.S. (2011). Is Sexsomnia a New Parasomnia? Delhi Psychiatry Journal, 14, 378-380.

Klein, L.A. & Houlihan, D. (2010). Relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and sexual problems in sexsomnia. International Journal of Sexual Health, 22, 84-90.

Mangan, M. A. (2004). A phenomenology of problematic sexual behavior occurring in sleep. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33, 287-293.

Mangan, M. A. & Reips, U. (2007). Sleep, sex, and the Web: Surveying the difficult-to-reach clinical population suffering from sexsomnia. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 233-236.

Rosenfeld, D.S. & Elhajjar, A.J. (1998). Sleepsex: A variant of sleepwalking. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 269-278.

Schenck, C.H., Mahowald, M.W. (2005). Rapid eye movement and non-REM sleep parasomnias. Primary Psychiatry, 12(8), 67-74.

Schenck, C.H., Arnulf, I., Mahowald, M.W., 2007. Sleep and sex: what can go wrong? A review of the literature on sleep related disorders and abnormal sexual behaviors and experiences. Sleep, 30, 683–702.

Shapiro, C.M., Fedoroff, J.P., & Trajanovic, N.N. (1996). Sexual behavior in sleep: A newly described parasomnia. Sleep Research, 25, 367.

Shapiro, C.M., Trajanovic, N.N., & Fedoroff, J.P. (2003) Sexsomnia: A new parasomnia? Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48, 311-317.

Trajanovic, N.N., Mangan, M. & Shapiro, C.M. (2007). Sexual behaviour in sleep: An internet survey. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 42, 1024-1031.

Sneezy does it: Sex, sneezing, and sneezing fetishes

Woman: (sneezes and moans several times)

Man: “Excuse me, but is everything OK?”

Woman: “Yes, it’s just that I have this condition where every time I sneeze I have an orgasm.”

Man: “Are you taking anything for it?”

Woman: (smiling) “Yes. Pepper.”

Apologies for starting this blog with an old joke but I thought it was a good way to bring up the relationship between sex and sneezing. There are reports in the medical and psychological literature dating back to the 1890s of sexually induced sneezing in both men and women. The phenomenon is characterized by sneezing during sexual arousal and/or orgasm. In such cases, these individuals sneeze as a direct result of sexual thoughts, arousal, intercourse, and/or orgasm. Furthermore, the sneezing may occur at any point during a sexual experience, and most importantly occurs independently of any external nasal stimuli or allergens.

The first verified report of the phenomenon was thought to be in 1898 when John Noland Mackenzie wrote about the phenomenon (“The physiological and pathological relations between the nose and sexual apparatus of man”) in the Journal of Laryngology, Rhinology and Otology. A few years later (1901) reference was also made to the condition in George Gould and Walter Pyle’s Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. I managed to track down the original quote about a man:

“who, when prompted to indulge in sexual intercourse, was immediately prior to the act seized with a fit of sneezing. Even the thought of sexual pleasure with a female was sufficient to provoke this peculiar idiosyncrasy”.

More recently, and based an a paper submitted to the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeffrey Wald, a specialist is asthma and allergies, was quoted in the US newspaper Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (September 6, 1988) about the of case of an American middle aged man who continuously sneezed following sex. He attributed the sneezing to “vasomotor rhinitis”, a condition in which the nasal passages are chronically inflamed (and characterized by hyperactive or imbalanced control of the central nervous system responses).

Even more recently, I read an iteresting paper by Dr. Mahmood Bhutta (Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, UK) and Dr. Harold Maxwell (West Middlesex University Hospital, Middlesex, UK) entitled Sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm” published in a 2008 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Bhutta and Maxwell’s paper cited a case from 1972, a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association involving a 69-year-old man who suffered severe bouts of sneezing after orgasm or whenever he thought of sex.

In their paper, it was noted that both men and women were using online forums to seek out help or explanations for their experienced phenomenon. These people often felt embarrassed about bringing up the matter with the medical profession, and preferred to seek help and advice anonymously. They also reported on these online data and noted (i) three people who claimed they always sneezed after orgasm, and (ii) 17 people who reported that they sneezed immediately when they thought about sex. They speculated that the link between sex, orgasm and sneezing was most likely caused by a fault in the autonomic nervous system (i.e., the part of the nervous system that is involved with heart rate, blood flow and digestion). They argued that the nerves that control breathing, blood pressure, pupil construction, sneezing and digestion run close to each other in the brain stem. They speculated that light-sensitive sneezing and sex-related sneezing occurred when these signals became “muddled”. Dr. Bhutta told the BBC in an interview:

“[The relationship between orgasm and sneezing] certainly seems odd, but I think this reflex demonstrates evolutionary relics in the wiring of a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system. This is the part beyond our control, and which controls things like our heart rate and the amount of light let in by our pupils. Sometimes the signals in this system get crossed, and I think this may be why some people sneeze when they think about sex”.

Dr. Bhutta also told the BBC that embarrassment or social inhibition may have prevented others from admitting the problem to the medical or psychological community. Another potential explanation may relate the fact that – like genitalia – the nose also has vascular (erectile) tissue, which has the capacity to become engorged during sexual arousal, and triggering a sneeze. Others have noted the ejaculatory-like qualities of the sneeze, and 1980s television ‘sexpert’ Dr. Ruth (Westheimer) observed that “an orgasm is just a reflex, like a sneeze”.

On a related issue, there is also a condition that has been coined “honeymoon rhinitis” in which men and women experience nasal irritation and inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose during sex. Spanish medics led by Dr J. Monteseirin published a small article in a 2001 issue of the journal Allergy. They reported a study of 23 allergy sufferers (9 women and 14 men), all of whom had experienced sneezing, rhinorrhea, and nasal obstruction immediately after (but never before or during) sexual intercourse (lasting for approximately 5-15 minutes). The research team also got all 23 participants to climb two flights of stairs on three separate occasions to equate to the energy expenditure during sex but none of them suffered any rhinitis following the task. The exact mechanism by which sex initiates and/or facilitates honeymoon rhinitis is not known. However, the authors speculated that emotional excitement and anxiety may be the trigger factors for post-sex rhinitis rather than exercise.

For most people, sneezing is just a common every day biological act. However, for some, a sneeze appears to be much more and something sexual. If you think sneezing fetishism is rare, just type “sneeze fetish” into Google and see what you get. There are loads of dedicated websites on sexual and sensual aspects of sneezing.

Here is one snippet I came across from a male (Greg, from Arlington, Virginia, USA):

“A gentleman with whom I have a mutual interest in companionship told me that he becomes sexually aroused when an attractive man sneezes. He said it makes no difference whether the sneeze is authentic or simulated. (He has never asked me to “fake” one for him; I told you, he’s a gentleman. And no, as fate would have it, my allergies have remained in check during the times we’ve been together, so I’ve not had occasion to observe his reaction firsthand.) My friend tells me that other folks, gay and straight, have this fetish”

Despite the many sites, I know of only one academic paper on sneezing fetishes. This was published over 20 years ago by Dr. Michael King in a 1990 issue of the journal Sexual and Marital Therapy. Dr. King reported the case of a 26-year-old homosexual male who was sexually aroused by observing other people sneeze and who also had an obsessive fear of vomiting in public. He was treated for his fear of vomiting with desensitization techniques, resulting in a rapid improvement in the man’s vomit phobia. Treatment was also attempted for the sneeze fetish through the use of covert sensitization. However, it had little effect on the man’s fetishistic impulses. Following this, he was taught to use thought-stopping techniques to reduce his preoccupation with fetishistic sneezing. I also came across a first person female account in a 2001 issue of The Straight Dope:

“I do know that my first love of sneezing came from the Smurfs. I doubt anyone else ever looked twice at a little blue sneezing midget (aptly named Allergic Smurf). Then, there was that scene in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, the one where Alice is trapped inside White Rabbit’s house and has her nose tickled by smoke. I remember sitting entranced in front of the television set, watching that scene over and over and over again. As I grew older, I kept on watching out for sneezes on television shows. If I happened to see one, I would rush over to where the blank cassettes in our house lay and whip one out for the express purpose of taping the sneezes. [I married a man with] the most adorable stifled sneeze I’ve ever heard [and then divorced because] there was a hell of a lot more to making a relationship work than enjoying a great guy’s sneezing over the weekends”

After the break up of her marriage, this particular woman discovered a sneezing fetish site on the Internet, and fortuitously met a man with “photic sneeze reflex” (also known technically as ‘photoptarmosis’ but more colloquially called “sun sneezing” – comprising uncontrollable sneezing in response to numerous stimuli such as bright light). While sexual aspects associated with sneezing appear to be rare, there is more than anecdotal evidence suggesting that for a minority of people, this is not a subject to be sneezed at.

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

Further reading

Bhutta, M. F. & Maxwell, H. (2008). Sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm: An under-reported phenomenon. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101, 587-591.

Foxhall, K. (2010). The Myth of “Seven Sneezes Equals an Orgasm”. February 7. Located at: http://kelly-foxhall.suite101.com/the-myth-of-7-sneezes-equals-an-orgasm-a198861

Gould, G.M. & Pyle, W.L. (1901). Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. London: W.B. Saunders.

King, M.B. (1990). Sneezing as a fetishistic stimulus. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 5, 69-72

Mackenzie, J. N. (1898). The physiological and pathological relations between the nose and sexual apparatus of man. Journal of Laryngology, Rhinology and Otology, 13, 109-123.

Monteseirin, J., Camacho, M.J., Bonilla, I., Sánchez-Hernández, C, Hernández, M. & Conde, J. (2001). Honeymoon rhinitis. Allergy, 56, 353-354.