Thigh fetishism might appear a somewhat obvious topic to write a blog on given all the previous body part fetishes I have looked at (including foot fetishism, shoulder fetishism). However, there is no academic research on the topic and most non-academic articles that I have read tend to concentrate on thigh-boot fetishism rather than thigh fetishism in, and of, itself. According to the Kinkly website:
“Thigh fetish refers to a sexual arousal by or sexual interest in thighs. Typically, it is a male interest in female thighs. However, it can apply to a woman’s interest in female thighs, a woman’s interest in male thighs, or a male’s interest in male thighs. Usually the fetishist is attracted to the naked thighs. The thighs don’t even need to be extremely sexualized for the fetishist. Often it is the gap between a high boot and edge of skirt, or knee high socks and edge of skirt that arouse the fetishist more than sexualized images of thighs”.
The Self-Help Sexuality website adds that “some men have a thigh fetish where they are turned on by the glimpse of woman’s inner thigh or when a woman opens her thigh. Some men enjoy kissing and licking woman’s inner thigh”. Both of these descriptions are fairly commonsense and arguably don’t need empirical research to back up the claims made.
Thee one piece of empirical research I found with some reference to thigh sexuality was a paper published in a 2014 issue of the journal Cortex by Dr. Oliver Turnbull and colleagues who examined which erogenous zones are the most sensitive in males and females. They surveyed 800 participants (mainly British and Sub-Saharan Africans) and were asked to rate 41 body parts for erogenous intensity on a 10-point scale. Unsurprisingly, the highest rated body parts for sensitivity were the clitoris among women (mean rating 9.17 out of 10) and the penis among men (mean rating 9.0 out of 10). Inner thighs were rated as the fourth most erogenous zone by men (mean rating 5.84 out of 10; back of thigh 2.48 out 10; outer thigh 1.91 out of 10), and the seventh most erogenous zone by women (mean rating 6.7 out of 10; back of thigh 2.6 out 10; outer thigh 1.96 out of 10).
I also found details of a non-academic online survey among Japanese businessmen (mainly those in their thirties and forties) carried out by the marketing research company Goo via an article on the Japanator website. The focus of the survey was favourite “secret fetishes”. Top of the 20 listed fetishes was zettai ryouiki (which translates as “absolute territory”) and refers to the “leg exposure located between the hem of a skirt and the top of thigh-high socks”. The second-placed ‘secret fetish’ was also thigh-related and was being held in the vice-like grip of “athletic thighs”.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m fascinated by the sexual culture in Japan and have written many blogs on various aspects of Japanese sexuality. An article about thigh fetishes on the Venus O’Hara website specifically examined zettai ryouiki:
“In other words, they fantasize most frequently about that piece of exposed flesh between the top of a girl’s thigh-high socks and the bottom of a short skirt. This description fulfils the fetish principle in that no nudity is involved. Zettai ryouiki describes an otherwise mundane detail which, when used as a primer for arousal, assumes a sexual significance that is almost impossible to explain for non thigh-fetishists. The same principle applies to Western men and the expression of their own thigh fetishism when it comes to lingerie and hosiery. Stockings and suspenders make these men’s enjoyment of thighs and their understanding of thigh fetishism that much easier. The combination of panties, a suspender belt and stockings isolates the area of exposed thigh and almost draws a border around it. This focuses the attention on the naked skin as oppose to the erogenous zones that are covered, albeit by material that is often sheer. A garter belt is another magnet for thigh fetishists, as are knee-high socks, thigh-high boots and self-support stockings”.
My own view is that thigh fetishism and other thigh-related fetishes (for thigh boots, thigh socks, etc.) while overlapping, are not the same. The article on the Venus O’Hara website then goes onto talk about another variant of thigh fetishism:
“Thigh fetishism has produced a new variation of itself recently and social media has had a lot to do with it. The trend for promoting and desiring a permanent clearance between the tops of the legs has become a social phenomenon and a modern yardstick for feminine health and beauty. This ‘thigh gap’ is more common, anatomically, in women who are naturally much taller and whose body mass index is lower than the average. The physiques displayed by contemporary fashion models are an obvious ideal where the ‘thigh gap’ is concerned. A much more democratic trend in relation to thigh fetishism has also arisen on social media almost in response to the ‘thigh gap’. ‘Thighbrow’ describes the naturally-occurring crease between the thigh and the hip that appears when you sit or kneel down. Two of these, when observed together, have been said to resemble eyebrows. Whereas the ultimate ‘thigh gap’ seems to be exclusive to young women who wear size 6 jeans, the ‘thighbrow’ is a fetish highlight that everyone can flaunt”.
There was also a recent exhibition in Japan devoted purely to thigh fetishism. A short online article about the exhibition noted that:
“In Japanese Culture there are so many different fetishes that are popular: Swimsuit Fetish, Doorknob Licking Fetish (it’s not a joke), Teeth Fetish…Amongst these Fetishes, there is also Thigh Fetish, and Todays Gallery Studio decided to dedicate an entire photo exhibition about it…More than 500 works and 1000 pair of thighs shot by artist Yuria will be exposed”.
In my own research for this blog I was unable to find any dedicated online discussion forum for thigh fetishism. This could either be because it’s so rare or be because it’s so common that it’s not worth creating a dedicated website to discuss such matters. I found very few first-hand accounts of self-admitted thigh fetishism, in fact I only located two individuals:
- Extract 1: “This is going to sound weird, but I sort of have a thing for women who have strong looking thighs. Size isn’t just what it’s about, but with a muscular tone along with it. It’s not like I get off on it, but I do find it very sexy and is a big turn on for me. It started when I seen a women at this gym who was wearing these spandex looking short pants and I couldn’t help but notice her thighs in them, and they were rather muscular. I don’t have a fetish for female bodybuilders, though I do find spandex sexy…but it wasn’t that, it was her thighs, and I just started noticing things like this more and more afterward”.
- Extract 2: Even before I hit puberty, I always had these strange, excited feeling in me…[When] I was 11, I would imagine these pretty girls getting out of their pants and revealing their legs…One night, I had an extremely arousing dream. It was odd, yet intense. I was hanging out in the park in my neighborhood. A bunch of ladies were hanging out…With no warning, all the ladies in the park started screaming. Their pants were undoing themselves. Afterward, all the ladies’ pants were being pulled off by something invisible and sex crazed. Something that wanted a bunch of ladies have no pants on. Now these scared ladies were in their underwear. The idea of these beautiful ladies going from having their pants on to being taken off them excited me to no end…My women’s thigh fetish was getting more intense…By the time I was 14, I imagined the sex crazed invisible creature taking off random women’s pants and making them cross their naked thighs together, like they were making out…When I was 14, I finally had found a girl…I told her all about my sexy dreams. About my women’s thigh fetish…I kept asking her really warped questions, like how she would feel if something took her pants off in school. How would she feel if her and another girl lost their pants together…[I] finally ejaculated and [was] happy that her legs were the reason…Even now…my women’s thigh fetish dreams were always my favorites to think about”.
I have no idea if these accounts are in any way representative of those who have a thigh fetish but both appear to be heterosexual males, and both can pinpoint where their interests in women’s thighs originated. As with many fetishes I have examined, I can’t see thigh fetishism being the topic of any in-depth empirical research simply because it has the ‘so what?’ factor. Who would be interested in such research and why?
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
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.
Taktak, S., Yılmaz, E., Karamustafalıoglu, O., & Unsal, A. (2016). Characteristics of paraphilics in Turkey: A retrospective study – 20years. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2016.05.004.
Turnbull, O.H., Lovett, V.E., Chaldecott, J., & Lucas, M.D. (2014). Reports of intimate touch: Erogenous zones and somatosensory cortical organization. Cortex, 53, 146-154.
When I originally started researching material for this blog, it was going to be about ‘insertion fantasy fetishes’ which refer to the sexual desires or fantasies of having something inserted into a person via any means in the pelvic region (vaginally, anally), with the insertion object typically being something out of the ordinary such as specifically shaped foods, abnormal objects, or even whole people (and which borders with sexual parahilias such as macrophilia and microphilia that I examined in previous blogs). However, when I typed in the words to Google, one article jumped out at me, an article in the online magazine Vice entitled ‘The emerging fetish of laying alien eggs inside yourself’ by Toby McCasker.
I am no stranger to the literature on alien fetishes and in a previous blog I reviewed the scant literature on exophilia (individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from extraterrestrial, robotic, supernatural, or otherwise non-human life forms). The overwhelming majority of exophiles never claim to have had sex with an alien but claim that they are sexually excited and aroused by the thought of doing so. However, the topic of this blog does not fall under exophilia but does comprise an activity that could said to be part of an ‘insertion fetish’.
After reading the rest of this blog you may come to the conclusion that it is a thinly disguised advert for Primal Hardwere (PH) but I can assure you that it isn’t. It just happens that the focus of this article (sexual arousal from the insertion of ‘alien eggs’ into the vagina or anus) uses a product that is only available (as far as I am aware) from PH. McCasker’s article started like a number of my own:
“Recently, while on the internet looking at weird sex things, I came upon the gushing testimony of a young woman who had just discovered Primal Hardwere’s patented Ovipositor; one of the most unusual and confronting sex toys I’ve ever heard of. The Ovipositor is basically a big dildo that lays goopy eggs molded from gelatin in the body cavity of your choice. Fans of the Ovipositor say that the sensation of mushy extraterrestrial ovum slopping back out of them is a real treat. The owner of Primal Hardwere is a man who insisted I refer to him only as LoneWolf. A Native American of indeterminate age, he apparently worked as a builder, fast food dude, fashion model, church organist, butcher, and pursued veterinary medicine at the University of New Hampshire”.
For those who are unaware, an ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for the laying of eggs and the most infamous ovipositor I can think of is the one belonging to the alien queen xenomorph in the film Alien: Resurrection. (In fact, the original title of this article was going to be ‘Ripley’s believe it or not’ given that the heroine of all the Alien films is Ellen Ripley, but I decided that too few people would appreciate the pun). McCasker asked the developer of the Ovipostor dildo to explain the product and the thinking behind it:
“The idea is to replicate the act of being impregnated with eggs. Usually from an alien or insect. If you’ve seen the Aliens movies, you’ll get the picture. Many people find this sort of thing very arousing. The toys are simply phallic-shaped hollow tubes that can be used to insert gelatin eggs into oneself. There is a funnel-shaped hole in the bottom to receive the eggs, which are inserted one by one, forcing them up the tube and out the top…Let’s face it, there are three things that will always sell: Food, death, and sex. I tried food service and decided after managing three restaurants and owning one that it was the same thing, day in and day out, and it didn’t look like that was going to change much. Death didn’t really interest me. I wanted something more fun. Something that breaks the monotony of people’s days and makes them spit out their coffee when you tell them what you do…I wanted to push the boundaries of people’s comfort levels, make them question their own erections and wet panties, and let them know their fantasies do not have to go unrealized”.
Obviously PH didn’t start making the ovipositor dildos on a whim but it all began after ‘LoneWolf’ had created some one-off customized commissions prior to setting up PH. Unsurprisingly, no other company was (and is) making such products and ‘LoneWolf’ saw a gap in the market (or created a new market depending upon your perspective). As he told McCasker:
“Ovipositors were requested several times, and when I posted YouTube videos demonstrating them, the response was impressive. Tons of people wanted them – and while this is not a fetish of my own, I saw potential for a unique product line…[In terms of who buys the ovipositor dildos] the real answer here is simply ‘people’. I truly can’t say that it’s strictly one group or mindset or any other kind of convenient stereotype that like these sorts of things. People get turned on by many things beyond what our respective societies would deem ‘normal’ We are niche in the sense that we’re catering to some of the lesser catered-to fetishes. We send our products all over the world to many different races, creeds, and cultures…[In terms of appeal] there are different perspectives of everything, and Ovipositors are no exception. Many like to envision an alien creature that wants its eggs inside you. It can be a little intimidating or off-putting to those who do not fantasize about being the willing or unwilling host of alien beings inside them. It blurs the line of our own humanity to find sexual pleasure with something that is so far from human, and for some, just talking about it gets them wet”.
McCasker also wanted to know if there is any danger of inserting gelatin eggs into the vagina and anus and replied:
“Everything in moderation. We are not doctors, and we’re not about to comment on what is safe or unsafe to do to one’s body as it varies from person to person. I can say that I have used them many times without hurting myself, but frankly it is up to the person using it to know their own limits. For instance, if you are allergic to gelatin. If made properly, the eggs are firm, but rubbery, similar to the consistency of gummy bears. They dissolve with body heat rather quickly”.
I’m sure that such an explanation would not encourage many individuals to try out such a sex toy (and you may want to read my previous blog on rectal foreign bodies before making any such decision). Following the publication of McCasker’s article, dozens of other online news outlets picked up on the story (such as that in Uproxx, Nuvo, Philly Mag and Bust) and in some cases made the national UK tabloid news (such as a story in the Daily Star). What is not made clear is that individuals wanting to use the Ovipostor have to make the gelatin eggs themselves (but at least there’s a YouTube video to show you how). There are also a number of different types of Ovipostor including the Splorch and the Krubera. (I ought to just mention that although PH appears to be the only company that makes egg-producing dildos, other alien-inspired dildos are on the market (and overviewed in an article by Ben Hayward on the Unilad website).
It’s hard to know whether using such niche sex toys is a genuine fetish but PH are making money from selling such products so it would appear that some people out there are at least experimenting with alien imagery and alien-like artefacts as part of their sex lives.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Baumgartner, S. (2015). This fun sex toy lets you lay eggs. Wait what? Located at: http://bust.com/sex/14643-why-does-this-dildo-have-everyone-buzzing.html
Black Panther (2015). Alien impregnation (has any opinions changed?)[sic]. Preggophilia, March 21. Located at: http://preggophilia.com/alien-impregnation-has-any-opinions-changed-t
Butler, B. (2015). Newest sexual fetish: Getting alien eggs laid inside you. Philly Mag, August 17. Located at: http://www.phillymag.com/g-philly/2015/08/17/newest-sexual-fetish-getting-alien-eggs-laid-inside-you/
Daily Star (2015). Weirdest sex toy ever? Fake alien penis designed to lay eggs in people, December 9. Located at: http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/480485/alien-dildo-ovipositor-Primal-Hardwere-Lone-Wolf
Hayward, B. (2015). These alien fetish dildos will blow your mind. Unilad, December 30. Located at: http://www.unilad.co.uk/nsfw/these-alien-fetish-dildos-will-blow-your-mind/
McCasker, T. (2015). The emerging fetish of laying alien eggs inside yourself. Vice, August 13. Located: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/the-emerging-fetish-of-laying-alien-eggs-inside-yourself
Murrell, S. (2015). So, this is a thing: Alien egg impregnation dildos. Nuvo, October 19. Located at: http://www.nuvo.net/AsktheSexDoc/archives/2015/10/19/so-this-is-a-thing-alien-egg-impregnation-dildos
Ritzen, S. (2015). Feast your eyes on this new alien egg-laying dildo fetish. Uproxx, August 13. Located at: http://uproxx.com/webculture/alien-egg-laying-dildo-fetish/
Watson, Z. (2016). Jeff Goldblum, splorching, and the alien intercourse fetish. Inverse, June 30. Located at: https://www.inverse.com/article/17671-jeff-goldblum-sexy-alien-invasion-fetish-splorch
Last month, an article that I wrote on knismolagnia (in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from tickling or being tickled) was featured in an online article in Vox about the documentary Tickled and the world of ‘competitive endurance tickling’ (CET). Given that endurance sports are by definition ‘extreme’ and that I have examined other extreme sports and endurance events in my previous blogs, I thought that CET would make an interesting topic to examine. Tickled was co-directed by the New Zealand journalist David Farrier and the videographer Dylan Reeve but turned out to be a far more interesting film than just about CET. It all started when Farrier came across an online advert placed by Jane O’Brien Media (JOBM):
“This is a shout out to TICKLISH MALE ATHLETIC FITNESS MODELS (aged 18-25) IN THE USA (all 50 states), CANADA, UK, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND AND JAPAN. What I’m shooting lately is unique. It’s been exploring several situations in which attractive, ticklish, and masculine guys are actually tickled in two different restrained formats, then involved in demonstrating some tickling skills themselves. Presently, I’ve been shooting all-male casts. It is important for you to understand from the get-go that this is not a fetish, or adult-oriented content endeavour. Also, no nudity or implied nudity work is a part of anything that I ever shoot. I repeat: recent shoots have featured all-male casts. This is a completely athletic activity with major competitive and endurance elements involved, including strategy and teamwork. I’m focused on Competitive Reality Endurance Tickling”.
It was when Farrier saw the phrase “Competitive Reality Endurance Tickling” that his journalistic instincts started to stir. The website advert said that successful applicants would be put up in a Los Angeles (US) hotel, have to wear Adidas branded clothes, and be paid US$1500 to participate. One of the CET participants Jordan Schillachi said in an online video: “This is a very competitive company…There’s probably 600 guys every 30 minutes sending pictures to want to get in”. By way of further background, the Wikipedia entry on Farrier noted that:
“In early 2014 Farrier began production of the feature-length documentary ‘Tickled’, which he co-directed with videographer Dylan Reeve. The project began when Farrier sought to do a ‘light entertainment’ piece about videos purported to depict ‘Competitive Endurance Tickling’. His inquiry to Jane O’Brien Media, the videos’ producer, was met with a hostile refusal to talk with him, prompting Farrier and Reeves to investigate further, and the film relates their efforts to find out more about the people involved in making the videos, and the person or persons behind them”.
If you type the words ‘competitive endurance tickling’ into Google, all the links that come up in the first two pages all concern the film Tickled and the various news reports and/or film reviews about it. The JOBM videos featuring CET all feature “young athletic men” who restrain and tickle each other and “compete to see who can stand to be tickled the longest”. Farrier simply wanted to find out more about the so-called ‘sport’ and contacted JOBM about the ‘sport’ and the videos it produced. Farrier received a “hostile” and homophobic response from JOBM that focused on Farrier’s bisexuality and asserting that CET is a “passionately and exclusively heterosexual athletic endurance activity”. The hostility Farrier received and the legal threats he received from JOBM spurred Farrier into making the film. Arguably using bullying tactics, JOBM tried their best to stop the documentary being made. Farrier and Reeve subsequently located where JOBM operated from in Los Angeles, and turn up unannounced at their premises but are turned away at the door of the JOBM offices. The Wikipedia entry on the film noted:
“Their research uncovers information about a person known as Terri DiSisto (or ‘Terri Tickle’), a pioneer of recruiting and distributing tickling videos online, in the 1990s. They interview another tickling-video producer, whose operations are a low-key affair. They speak to a few former participants in O’Brien’s videos, who describe coercive and manipulative treatment by the producers, such as defamation campaigns against them, exposing their personal information and contacting school or work associates to discredit them, in retaliation for challenging or speaking out against the company. A local recruiter in Muskegon, Michigan describes ‘audition’ videos he’d helped make, being published without the participants’ consent. Farrier and Reeve chance upon documents which link O’Brien to David D’Amato, the former school administrator behind the ‘Terri Tickle’ alias, who served a six-month prison sentence for disabling computer systems at two different universities on multiple dates. They determine that D’Amato now lives on a substantial inheritance from his father, a successful lawyer. After considerable effort to locate him, they confront him on the street, to which he responds with additional legal threats. Before returning to New Zealand, Farrier contacts D’Amato’s step-mother for comment; she implicitly confirms his “tickling” past, and he informs her of D’Amato’s ongoing involvement in it”.
The film exposes a ‘tickling ring’ that appears to have been operation for a couple of decades. The Vox article reports that the film tells three simultaneous stories:
“The first and most basic [story] is about people who like tickling and being tickled. The second, deeper story is about catfishing – the kind of systematic, continual deception you sometimes encounter when manipulative individuals obscure their identities online. The catfisher at the center of ‘Tickled’ may be shrouded in mystery, at least until the film really gets going, but they aren’t the stereotypical lonely human on the internet. Whoever’s responsible orchestrates an elaborate plot involving lawyers, a battery of legal threats and actual lawsuits, a cadre of real minions who willingly helped carry out the ruse, and a host of nubile young men who get paid to be tickled. And that leads to [the film’s] third and most compelling story, which is a story about power. ‘Tickled’ is what happens when you put power, wealth, and privilege into the hands of an internet troll with a single-minded goal: to crush his enemies and film people being tickled. ‘Tickled’ is a procedural; the process of how Farrier and Reeve uncover their story takes up most of the documentary’s narrative…‘Tickled’ occasionally gets into the nitty-gritty details of confirming the catfisher’s ultimate identity – by investigating website domains, stock photos, and more – in a way that might bore some viewers. But the clues Farrier and Reeve unearth along the way are generally so weird and unique that many people will find it riveting”.
The Vox article went on to question whether CET is just a creative name for a sexual fetish (which is where my previous article on knismolagnia made an appearance). Farrier’s view was that the videos might perhaps be about JOBM producing homoerotic fetish videos that they could make money from. (JOBM strenuously denied they sold the videos for such purposes. “This is not a fetish, or adult-oriented content endeavor”). The Vox article also said:
“Tickled explores the nature of tickling fetishes and the personalities of the people who wind up monetizing them: The documentary features one film producer who quit his day job after realizing he could make thousands of dollars a month by catering to people with this very specific fetish”.
When Farrier began writing about CET in 2014, online readers responded by saying that his writings reminded them of stories about an internet troll that had been operating with a similar modus operandi a couple of decades previously. Farrier cam to the conclusion that the troll and JOBM might in fact be one and the same. As Farrier observed:
“If you Googled ‘tickling videos’ and ‘internet,’ the story came up, so we made that connection very, very quickly. The circumstantial coincidence of how they [both] operated was very obvious, but going deeper than that was harder for us. To actually prove any of it – that’s the journey of this documentary. It’s good to go in cold and just let it unfold in front of you, and then, at the end of it, you should spend a little time thinking it all through again and decide how you feel. That’s what we did experiencing the whole thing, and I think that’s good for you as an audience as well”.
So if you want to know whether Farrier’s suspicions were confirmed, you’ll have to go and watch the film – but I’ll just end by noting that JOBM have now produced their own website (‘Tickled, The Truth’) to counter Farrier’s claims.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Blackwell, S. (2016). Tickling. Prodomme. Located at: http://www.prodomme.com/fetishes/tickling
Farrier, D. (2014). Homophobia and competitive tickling. 3 News, May 7. Located at: https://web.archive.org/web/20140603201419/http://www.3news.co.nz/Homophobia-and-competitive-tickling/tabid/418/articleID/343206/Default.aspx
Him and Her Sex Blog (2012). Knismolagnia. February 12. Located at: http://himandhersexblog.tumblr.com/post/17661996177/knismolagnia
Right Diagnosis (2012). Knismolagnia. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/k/knismolagnia/intro.htm
Romano, A. (2016). New documentary ‘Tickled’ takes you into a world of sexual fetishes, catfishing, and internet secrets unearthed. Vox, June 21. Located at: http://www.vox.com/2016/6/21/11963566/tickled-competitive-tickling-documentary-explained
Wikipedia (2012). Catfishing. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catfishing
Wikipedia (2012). Tickled. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tickled
Wikipedia (2012). Tickling game. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tickling_game
Recently, I was approached by Ben Biggs, the editor of the Real Crime magazine, who was running an article on the practicalities and psychology of cannibalism, with expert commentary running through it (and with me as the “expert”). The article has just been published in the May 2016 issue and I was assured that the feature would “highlight how nasty cannibalism is, not glorify it”. I responded to the questions as part of an email interview and today’s blog contains the unedited responses to the questions that I was asked.
What are the main reasons a human might eat another human being?
There are a number of possible reasons including:
Out of necessity – For instance, in 1972, a rugby team from Uruguay was in a plane crash in the Andes. Fifteen people died and the only way they prevented themselves starving to death was to eat the flesh of the deceased (which given the fact it took 72 days for them to be rescued, was one of the few viable options to prevent starvation).
As a way of controlling population size – The Aztecs were said to have eaten no less than 15,000 victims a year as – some have argued – a form of population control).
As part of a religious belief – There are some religious beliefs involving the need to eat human flesh as a way of sustaining the universe or as part of magical and ritualistic ceremonies.
As part of the grieving process – Some acts of cannibalism are where dead people’s body parts are eaten as either part of the grieving process, as a way of guiding the souls of the dead into the bodies of the living, and/or as a way of imbibing the dead person’s ‘life force’ or more specific individual characteristics.
As part of tribal warfare – Cannibalistic acts were most often carried out as part of a celebration victory after battles with rival tribes.
For sexual gratification – Some individuals have claimed to get sexually aroused from eating (or thinking about eating) the flesh of others. When it comes to sexual cannibalism in humans, there are arguably different subtypes (although this is based on my own personal opinion and not on something I’ve read in a book or research paper). Most of these behaviours I have examined in previous blogs:
- Vorarephilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals are sexually aroused by (i) the idea of being eaten, (ii) eating another person, and/or (iii) observing this process for sexual gratification. However, most vorarephiles’ behaviour is fantasy-based, although there have been real cases such as Armin Meiwes, the so-called ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’.
- Erotophonophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals have extreme violent fantasies and typically kill their victims during sex and/or mutilate their victims’ sexual organs (the latter of which is usually post-mortem). In some cases, the erotophonophiles will eat some of their victim’s body parts (usually post-mortem). Many lust murderers – including Jack the Ripper – are suspected of engaging in cannibalistic and/or gynophagic acts, taking away part of the female to eat later. Other examples of murderers who have eaten their victims (or parts of them) for sexual pleasure include Albert Fish, Issei Sagawa, Andrei Chikatilo, Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer.
- Sexual necrophagy refers to the cannibalizing of a corpse for sexual pleasure. This may be associated with lust murder but Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices says that such cases usually involve “one whose death the molester did not cause. Many cases of reported necrophilia include cannibalism or other forms of sadism and it is believed that many others fantasize about doing it”.
- Vampirism as a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual arousal from the ingestion of blood from a living person.
- Menophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual (almost always male) derives sexual arousal from drinking the blood of menstruating females.
- Gynophagia is a sexual fetish that involves fantasies of cooking and consumption of human females (gynophagia literally means “woman eating”). There is also a sub-type of gynophagia called pathenophagia. This is the practice of eating young girls or virgins. Several lust murderers were known to consume the flesh of young virgins, most notably Albert Fish).
- ‘Sexual autophagy’ refers to the eating of one’s own flesh for sexual pleasure (and would be a sub-type of autosarcophagy).
A recent 2014 paper by Dr. Amy Lykins and Dr. James Cantor in the Archives of Sexual Behavior entitled ‘Vorarephilia: A case study in masochism and erotic consumption’ referred to the work of Dr Friedemann Pfafflin (a forensic psychotherapist at Ulm University, Germany):
“Pfafflin (2008) commented on the many phrases that exist in the English language to relate sex/love and consumption, including referring to someone as ‘looking good enough to eat’, ’that ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’, and describing a sexually appealing person as ‘sweet’, ‘juicy’, ‘appetizing’, or ‘tasty’. Christian religions even sanction metaphorical cannibalism through their sacrament rituals, during which participants consume bread or wafers meant to represent the ‘body of Christ’ and wine intended to represent the ‘blood of Christ’ – a show of Jesus’s love of his people and, in turn, their love for him, by sharing in his ‘blood’ and ‘flesh’. This act was intended to ‘merge as one’ the divine and the mortal”.
It’s not unusual for a serial killer to cannibalise parts of their victims. Why is this, and what can cause that behaviour?
I think it’s a rare behaviour, even among serial killers. As noted above, in these instances the eating (or the thought of eating) others is sexually arousing. It has also been claimed that the sexual cannibal may also release sexual frustration or pent up anger when eating human flesh. Some consider sexual cannibalism to be a form of sexual sadism and is often associated with the act of necrophilia (sex with corpses). Others have claimed that cannibals feel a sense of euphoria and/or intense sexual stimulation when consuming human flesh. All of these online accounts cite the same article by Clara Bruce (‘Chew On This: You’re What’s for Dinner’) that I have been unable to track down (so I can’t vouch for the veracity of the claims made). Bruce’s article claimed that cannibals had compared eating human flesh with having an orgasm, and that flesh eating caused an out-of-body-experience experience with effects comparable to taking the drug mescaline.
In the case of Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa, he said that he might have been satisfied with consuming some, non-vital part of his victim Renee Hartevelt, such as her pubic hair, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask her for it. Does the murder and the consumption of flesh stem from the same mental disorder, or is murder just a necessary evil?
I have not seen these claims. I have only read that his desire to eat women was to “absorb their energy”.
Do you think Issei Sagawa would have been satisfied with eating her hair?
Again, I have never read about this. He seems to have claimed that he had cannibalistic desires since his youth and that his murder of women was for this reason and no other.
Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer said he liked to eat mens’ biceps, because he was a ‘bicep guy’. Does the body part consumed necessarily bear a direct relation to the part of the victim’s anatomy the cannibal has a sexual preference for?
Not that I am aware of. Most people that are partialists (i.e., derive sexual arousal from particular body parts such has hands, feet, buttocks, etc.) would be unlikely to get aroused if the body part was not attached to something living.
There are rarer cases where, rather than having a fantasy of eating a sexual partner, the ‘victim’ consents to being eaten by the killer. Does this stem from the same psycho-sexual disorder that leads to a cannibal killing?
This is something entirely different and is part of vorarephilia (highlighted earlier). My understanding is that the flesh eating would only occur consensually (as in the case of Armin Meiwes and Bernd Jürgen Brand).
What reason would there be for someone to eat their own body parts?
The practice is very rare and has only been documented a number of times in the psychological and psychiatric literature (and all are individual case studies). It has sometimes been labeled as a type of pica (on the basis that the person is eating something non-nutritive) although personally I think this is misguided as it could be argued that human flesh may be nutritious (even if most people find the whole concept morally repugnant). However, there are documented cases of autosarcophagy where people have eaten their own skin as an extreme form of body modification. Some authors argue that auto-vampirism (i.e., the practice of people drinking their own blood) should also be classed as a form of autosarcophagy (although again, I think this is stretching the point a little).
The practice has certainly come to the fore in some high profile examples in the fictional literature. Arguably the most infamous example, was in Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal (and also in the film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott), where Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter psychologically manipulates the paedophile Mason Verger into eating his own nose, and then gets Verger to slice off pieces of his own face off and feed them to his dog. In what many people see as an even more gruesome autosarcophagic scene, Lecter manages to feed FBI agent Paul Krendler slices of his own brain. In real life (rather than fiction), autosarcophagy is typically a lot less stomach churning but in extreme examples can still be something that makes people wince.
Depending on the definition of autosarcophagy used, the spectrum of self-cannibalism could potentially range from behaviours such as eating a bit of your own skin right through eating your own limbs. There are many reasons including for art, for the taste, for body modification, for protest (associated to mental illness), because they had taken mind-altering drugs, and for sexual pleasure. Here are four autosarcophagic examples that have been widely reported in the media but are very different in scope and the public’s reaction to them.
- Example 1: Following a liposuction operation in 1996, the Chilean-born artist Marco Evaristti held a dinner party for close friends and served up a pasta dish with meatballs made from beef and the fatty liposuction remains. The meal was claimed by Evaristti to be an artistic statement but was highly criticized as being “disgusting, publicity-seeking and immoral”.
- Example 2: On a February 1998 episode of the Channel 4 British cookery programme TV Dinners, a mother was shown engaging in placentophagy when she cooked her own placenta (with fried garlic and shallots), made into a pate and served on foccacia bread. The programme received a lot of complaints that were upheld by the British Broadcasting Standards Commission who concluded that the act of eating placenta pate on a highly watched TV programme had “breached convention”.
- Example 3: In 2009, Andre Thomas, a 25-year old murderer on Texas death row (and with a history of mental problems) pulled out his eye in prison and ate it.
- Example 4: The German man Bernd Jürgen Brande who engaged in self-cannibalism (cutting off and then eating his own cooked penis) before being killed and eaten by Armin Meiwes, the ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’ (who also shared in the eating of Brande’s cooked penis).
Dr Friedemann Pfafflin (a forensic psychotherapist at Ulm University, Germany) and who has written about Armin Meiwes, the ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’ asserts that “apart from acts of cannibalism arising from situations of extreme necessity…the cannibalistic deeds of individuals are always an expression of severe psychopathology”.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Ahuja, N. & Lloyd, A.J. (2007). Self-cannibalism: an unusual case of self-mutilation. Australian and New Journal of Psychiatry, 41, 294-5.
Arens, William (1979). The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Beier, K. (2008). Comment on Pfafflin’s (2008) “Good enough to eat”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 164-165.
Beneke M. (1999). First report of nonpsychotic self-cannibalism (autophagy), tongue splitting, and scar patterns (scarification) as an extreme form of cultural body modification in a western civilization. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 20, 281-285.
Benezech, M., Bourgeois, M., Boukhabza, D. & Yesavage, J. (1981). Cannibalism and vampirism in paranoid schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 42(7), 290.
Beier, K. (2008). Comment on Pfafflin’s (2008) “Good enough to eat”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 164-165.
Betts, W.C. (1964). Autocannibalism: an additional observation. American Journal of Psychiatry 121, 402-403.
Cannon, J. (2002). Fascination with cannibalism has sexual roots. Indiana Statesman, November 22. Located at: http://www.indianastatesman.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/11/22/3dde3b6201bc1
de Moore, G.M. & Clement, M. (2006). Self-cannibalism: an unusual case of self-mutilation. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40, 937.
Gates, K. (2000). Deviant desires: Incredibly strange sex. New York: Juno Books.
Huffington Post (2009). Andre Thomas, Texas Death Row inmate, pulls out eye, eats it. TheHuffington Post, September 9. Located at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/09/andre-thomas-texas-death-_n_156765.html
Krafft-Ebing, R. von (1886). Psychopathia sexualis (C.G. Chaddock, Trans.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Lykins, A.D., & Cantor, J.M. (2014). Vorarephilia: A case study in masochism and erotic consumption. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 181-186.
Mikellides, A.P. (1950). Two cases of self-cannibalism (autosarcophagy). Cyprus Medical Journal, 3, 498-500.
Mintz, I.L. (1964). Autocannibalism: a case study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 120, 1017.
Monasterio, E. & Prince, C. (2011). Self-cannibalism in the absence of psychosis and substance use. Australasian Psychiatry, 19, 170-172.
Pfafflin, F. (2008). Good enough to eat. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 286-293.
Pfafflin, F. (2009). Reply to Beier (2009). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 166-167.
Prins, H. (1985). Vampirism: A clinical condition. British Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 666-668.
Reuters (1997). Meatballs made from fat, anyone? May 18. Located at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2007/05/18/oukoe-uk-chile-artist-idUKN1724159420070518
Sunay, O. & Menderes, A. (2011). Self cannibalism of fingers in an alzheimer patient. Balkan Medical Journal, 28, 214-215.
Unlimited Blog (2007). Sexual cannibalism and Nithari murders. November. Located at: http://sms-unlimited.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/sexual-cannibalism-and-nithari-murders.html
Wikipdia (2012). Cannibalism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannibalism
Wikipedia (2012). Sexual cannibalism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_cannibalism
“I’m a guy and I LOVE being walked on by women wearing high heels. It doesn’t hurt. Is this normal to have women step on my guy parts with high heels?” (Question posted on a Yahoo! website).
In a previous blog I briefly looked at ‘trampling fetishism’. According to a relatively new Wikipedia entry on the behaviour:
“Trampling refers to the sexual activity that involves being trampled underfoot by another person or persons. Trampling is common enough to support a sub-genre of trampling pornography. Because trampling can be used to produce pain, the trampling fetish for some adherents is closely linked to sadomasochistic fetishism. A similar fetish is to imagine themselves as being tiny under another’s feet, or being normal size, but being trampled by a giant person. This is known as ‘giant/giantess fetishism’ or macrophilia. It is not the same as trampling. The most common form of trampling is done by a male or female walking on a male or female submissive and is usually done barefooted, in socks, nylons, or shoes. The trampler will predominantly walk, jump and stomp on the person’s back, chest, stomach, genitalia, face and in some rare instances, the neck”.
If you type ‘trampling fetish’ into Google, lots of YouTube video clips appear instantly. Video clips of trampling have been present on the internet since 1997 courtesy of an number of infamous American tramples such as ‘Daddo’ ‘Kingfish’ and ‘LAF’. If you’re not into the visual side, you can read various forms of trampling fan fiction such as the stories at the Trample and Crushing website.
Since writing my previous blog on this topic, I filmed an interview about a trampling fetishist as part of the television program Forbidden (on which I was the resident psychologist). The television program that I participated in followed the story of a man called Frank O’Brien. Frank recalls his fetish developing during early to mid- adolescence. As a 15-year old teenager, he would trick the girls he knew into stepping on him by inventing games that resulted in him being trampled upon. As the show’s production notes reported:
“[Frank would] invent games to race girls to the door of his cubby house and have them wrestle or sit on him in the process. In the backyard pool he’d encourage them to step on him underwater. Ever since he can remember Frank has wanted to get under a girl’s foot…You could say Frank gets a ‘kick’ out of it. And among friends Frank is known simply as ‘Step on Me.’ For Frank, there’s nothing finer than having a woman walk all over him”.
By his early thirties Frank’s trampling fetish began to take up more and more of his time. In his social life he started attending as many sadomasochistic shows that he could and he longed and desired dominant mistresses that would help cater for his trampling fetish. The back-story I received about Frank noted that:
“The mistresses he saw early in life largely turned Frank away from the idea of trampling. They were more prostitutes than professional mistresses with an idea of what he really wanted. Back in those days there was no training for mistresses in trampling and this really has only taken off in Australia since the early 2000s. Now there are mistresses who train specifically in trampling”.
According to Frank, Melbourne is the centre of Australia’s BDSM culture and he introduced the Forbidden film crew to the niche trampling community that exists there. Frank’s favourite club is ‘Provocation’ that hosts a monthly fetish social event.
“But his idea of getting down on the dance floor is a little different to most. When Frank gets down, he literally gets down. He has a special mat that he lies on to make the experience slightly more bearable but comfort is not exactly what Frank is looking for. He’ll bring with him a platform that he’ll set up beside his mat; written across it are the words ‘step up here – girls only’. And that’s exactly what Frank wants. He’ll lie there for hours in the club, enjoying the feeling of women trampling him. Some wear stilettos, some are in platform shoes and others go barefooted – he doesn’t discriminate about what kind of footwear is permitted, but generally sharper and more pointy shoes offer greater satisfaction for [him]”.
Frank describes himself naturally submissive and he now has weekly trampling sessions with ‘Mistress Spanklet’ who is Frank’s long-term friend and a Dom-sub ‘play partner’. Frank describes these weekly sessions as his “drug fix” and something he “couldn’t live without”. Despite having some of his bowel removed (and it being dangerous for him for someone to trample on his stomach), he cannot stop it. He now tries to avoid ‘tummy trampling’ but notes that:
“Trampling can be on any part of the body, including the more sensitive regions of the face, throat and genitalia. [He] enjoys cock and ball trampling on a weekly basis with Spanklet. His face, arms and legs are also prime trampling ground in private and in public”.
In fact, Frank claims that he was responsible for the first ever penis trampling photograph on the internet. In 1999, Frank claimed he took the full weight of a woman in sharp red stilettos twisting as hard as she could on his penis. Frank claims the photograph (taken by the woman’s sexual partner) kick-started “the worldwide cock trampling trend”.
There appears to be little academic research on the topic but anecdotal evidence suggests there is (unsurprisingly) an overlap between trampling fetishes and foot fetishes (podophilia) – on which there is quote a lot of academic research given it appears to be the most prevalent type of fetishism. Obviously Frank’s case is extreme and is heavily interwoven into his life. While there appear to be addictive elements to his behaviour, I don’t believe that Frank’s trampling fetish is an addiction. Bizarre and extreme – yes. Addictive – no. But I’m happy to be proved wrong.
Semple, K. (2009). Bartender, make it a stiletto. New York Times, June 10. Located at:
Sexy Tofu (2012). National Fetish Day: Interview with a trampler. January 20. Located at: http://sexytofu.com/tag/trampling/
Wikipedia (2012). Talk: Crush fetish. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ACrush_fetish
Wikipedia (2012). Trampling. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trampling
“My boyfriend keeps asking me to kick him in his balls as hard as I can, and he says he’s ‘into it’. I love my boyfriend and I will do anything that makes him happy. He would do the same for me too, but is this normal?”
I came across this opening quote will doing some research on sexual masochism for a previous blog. I thought nothing of it at the time (except thinking it was a fairly painful way to get your sexual kicks – no pun untended). However, I have since come across a few online articles all noting that this specific type of masochistic practice is known as Tamakeri in Japanese culture. The first time I came across it was in a 2010 online article called ‘Ten Fetishes and Paraphilias’ (all of which – bar one – I have examined in previous blogs). The (unnamed) author of the article wrote that:
“The name [Tamakeri] translates from the Japanese as ‘Ball kicking’, and that tells you all you need to know, really. It’s a paraphilia, and also a genre of pornography involving women abusing men by their testicles, marketed to masochistic men excited by the prospect”.
A number of online sites confirm that Tamakeri is the practice of men receiving kicks in the testicles for sexual pleasure (such as the Kicked In The Groin website), and also appears in Japanese films (such as the horror film Horny House of Horror). The practice os also referred to in two more books I have. Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices described Tamakeri as “arousal when a female kicks a man in the testicles; a variant of masochism, prevalent in Japan”. In the 2007 book on The Miscellany of Sex, Francesca Twinn also describes Tamakeri as “another Japanese contribution to sexual culture: the desire to watch a woman kick a man in the testicles, which has a healthy porn industry to cater to it”.
However, some of the information surrounding the practice is of dubious provenance. A number of different sites (such as the Uncyclopedia entry on Tamakeri) claim that the practice is best defined by “Prof. Erika Nagai” in her book “Pleasures of Castration (ISBN-666-13-1337-455-0)”. However, I have failed to locate the book on any database and the only academic writing I have found with that title was a book chapter (‘The Pleasures of Castration: the Postoperative Status of Hijras, Jankhas, and Academics’) by Professor Lawrence Cohen published in the 1995 book Sexual Nature, Sexual Culture (edited by Paul Abramson and Steven Pinkerton). There is indeed a woman called Erika Nagai who does appear to have engaged in the practice of Tamakeri but as a performer (such as her videos at the Female Dom website) rather than author (unless she has written in her capacity as an ‘adult film actress’). One online encyclopedia reported that:
“[Erika Nagai] is very known for her works under the japanese AV company SOD (Soft on Demand); where most of them feature her as an aggressive karate martial artist performer, catfighting versus fellow colleagues Ayukawa and Miyama Chiharu or using her abilities and brute force against male performers”
The following (crude and non-academic) passage on the practice of Tamakeri allegedly comes from Nagai’s book but may well be pure fiction given I have no proof that the book exists:
“Tamakeri comes from [Japan]…and is considered a rare treat by much of Japanese society. The fun pastime usually involves one clothed female and one nude male, with the female trying to inflict painful pleasure on her male counterpart by squashing his testicles. This can be simply done by kicking his bare nutsack (as forcefully as possible) while giggling (loudly, if possible). She must be sure to strike both of his babymakers, so that his balls are mashed equally flat…Some couples try to employ objects like a hammer, baseball bat or an anvil and – after some real experience – even a 16th century style piano. Beginners are advised to stick to their feet, knees and fists until the male target has his nuts thoroughly toughened up. It is preferable that the testicles be clean shaven, so that the impact against them can be seen more clearly, as well as the degree of swelling after they have been mashed a few times in succession”.
There is also a more interesting article on Tamakeri at the Japan For The Uninvited website. This confirms that the practice exists and that it is “a peculiarly Japanese form of BDSM” involving women kicking naked men in the testicles. The article claims that Tamakeri has come to the fore in Japanese pornography in recent years. It also notes that:
“Apparently, a clean, hearty ‘Slap!’ of impact is very important. Astonishingly, most of the ball kicking sessions are followed by sex, which means Tamakeri actors need the superhuman ability to stay hard while their member takes a bruising. It would be refreshing to think that Japanese women were driving demand for Tamakeri videos, revelling in the idea of dominating and humiliating their men. Sadly, the main customers for this kind of thing seem to be masochistic young men. Indeed, it has been much easier for pornographers to find willing kickees than kickers. The films are certainly masochistic from the man’s point-of-view, but not really submissive. The focus is still control over women, in this case ordering a girl to hurt them precisely where they choose. In this way, Tamakeri videos give men an unusual sense of power”.
The Wikipedia entry on Tamakeri claims that it is the sexual fetish of testicular abuse but also claims that it can involve more than just kicking men in their testicles for sexual pleasure. Other ways that give rise to male sexual pleasure include testicles being punched, twisted, grabbed and kneed. The article also makes a number of claims that do not seem to have any empirical support (just a single reference to a September 2002 newspaper article in the Mainichi Daily News entitled ‘New adult videos deal a blow to manhood’). For instance:
“Though the genre appeals primarily to men, it does have some female following in Japan and elsewhere. Female performers generally are young, out-of-work models or actresses who appear in these videos only occasionally. Male performers are often masochists who apply to work in the videos. A manga series in Shonen Jump depicted a story about a Japanese karate girl who has gift in fighting. One tamakeri scene shows her challenge a male Muay Thai champion to fight in a street fight. The girl beats the Thai fighter easily and humiliates him by removing his boxing shorts to squeeze his private parts until he passes out”.
As you guess from this (very) brief overview, I didn’t manage to locate a single academic paper on the topic of Tamakeri (not even a passing reference) so I can only conclude that although the practice exists, it would appear to be relatively rare.
A-Proper-Blog (2010). Ten fetishes and paraphilias. November 19. Located at: http://a-proper-blog.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/ten-fetishes-and-paraphilias.html
Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.
Uncyclopedia (2012). Tamakeri. Located at: http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Tamakeri
Urban Dictionary (2012). Tamakeri. Located at: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tamakeri
Wikipedia (2012). Tamakeri. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamakeri
“Nothing has been invented yet that will do a better job than high heels at making a good pair of legs look great, or great ones look fabulous” (Stuart Weitzman, shoe designer).
“It is hard not to be sexy in a pair of high heels” (Tom Ford, Gucci designer and film director)
According to Dr. Russell Belk in a 2003 article (‘Shoes and Self’) in Advances In Consumer Research, individuals in the USA “buy approximately a billion pairs of footwear a year and 80 percent of these are estimated to be purchased for purposes of sexual attraction”. Belk’s figures come from Dr. William Rossi who has been writing scientific papers on shoes for decades. I have no idea whether these figures are (or were) accurate, but there is little doubt that when it comes to sexual fetishism, shoes – and particularly high heel shoes – are one of the most common types of object that people develop fetishes for.
Individuals with a shoe fetish derive sexual arousal from shoes and footwear as (according to the Wikipedia entry) “a matter of sexual preference, psychosexual disorder, and an alternative or complement to a relationship with a partner”. As I noted in my previous blog on foot fetishism (i.e., podophilia), shoe fetishism is also referred to as retifism (named after French novelist Nicolas-Edme Rétif). The Wikipedia entry on shoe fetishism also notes that:
Individuals with shoe fetishism can be erotically interested in either men’s or women’s shoes. Although shoes may appear to carry sexual connotations in mainstream culture (for example, women’s shoes are commonly sold as being ‘sexy’) this opinion refers to an ethnographic or cultural context, and is likely not intended to be taken literally. Another fetishism, which sometimes is seen as related to shoe fetishism, is boot fetishism”.
In a previous blog on sexual fetishism more generally, I wrote about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli 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). Their results showed that there were 44,722 members of online fetish forums, among those people preferring objects related to body parts, footwear (shoes, boots, etc.) was the second most preferred (26,739 online fetish forum members; 32% of all ‘objects related to body parts) just behind objects wore on the legs and/or buttocks (33%).
As the opening quotes highlight, high heeled footwear is often associated with sexiness. Those that find allure of high heels sexually arousing are said to have altocalciphilia (a sub-type of shoe fetishism). The online medical website Right Diagnosis says that the defining features of altocalciphilia are (i) a sexual interest in high heels, (ii) an abnormal amount of time spent thinking about high heels, (iii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving high heels, (iv) recurring intense sexual urges involving high heels, and/or (v) a sexual preference for high heels. I am not aware of any empirical research specifically into altocalciphilia but in researching this article, I did come across an interesting 2006 Master’s thesis by Ash Sancaktar who provided an analysis of shoes within the context of social history of fashion (including a chapter on shoe fetishism). In relation to high heel shoes, Sancaktar wrote that:
“There is no solid evidence that definite heels existed anywhere before 1500. According to legend, early 1500s the high heel may have been invented by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). There are earlier records of high heel shoes that served a practical function such as heeled boots horse riders wore to grip their stirrups better. However, 1533 was the year that gave birth to the high heel that served no purpose other than beauty and vanity. Catherine de Medici, when she got married to the Duke of Orleans, wore shoes with two-inch heels because she was sensitive about her lack of height…The development of a proper heel with an arched sole was the dominant feature of shoes in the seventeenth century. Elevated shoes had been known from early Hellenic times however this phase of fashion was the first time shoes were associated with the female sex. It completely altered the posture of the wearer, encouraging both men and women to carry themselves in a way which set off the flowing lines and affected manner of the Baroque period…Practicality has little to do with female high heels. They have always been essentially about allure – as they are today”.
Sancaktar also notes the association between high heeled shoes and sadomasochism by making reference to the (semi-autobiographical) book Venus in Furs by Baron Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch (from whom the term ‘masochism’ originated). Sancaktar reported that Sacher-Masoch] wrote about his experiences with his mistress in which he allowed her to whip and walk on him before kissing the shoes that had caused him pain. Sacher-Masoch’s ideal woman was cruel and wore furs and high heels. Citing the work of Linda O’Keeffe and Valerie Steele, Sancaktar wrote:
“According to [Linda] O’Keeffe ‘Women may wear slippers, put on sneakers and slip into loafers, but they dress in high heels’ (O’Keeffe 1996, p. 72). Psychologically, high heels give permission to lead than to follow. A woman might become a towering seductress or she can choose to become the subject of the object of a male…According to [Valerie] Steele, one reason high heels are considered sexy is because they produce an erect ankle and extended leg. The arch of the foot is radically curved like a ballet dancer on point. The entire lower body is thrown into a state of tension resembling that of female sexual arousal (Steele 1998, p. 18). By tilting the pelvis, her lower back arches, her spine and legs lengthen and her chest thrust out. The breasts thrust forward, and the derriére protrudes. A woman in high heels looks taller and thinner. Her legs are emphasized and the leg muscles tighten, the calves appear shapelier. And because they are at an angle, her feet look smaller and more pointed”.
Valerie Steele also notes that fetishes come in various degrees (which I agree with) and uses the example of high heeled shoe fetishes to make her point and claims there are four different levels. She claims most people are among the two lowest levels (and basically equates to people finding high heels sexually appealing). Steele provides an example of someone at level three (a French writer who would follow high heeled women women in Paris). Her example of level four was the ex-publicist of Marla Maples’ who was found guilty of stealing Maples’ shoes. Steele said the publicist “denied being a fetishist, but admitted that he had a sexual relationship with Marla’s shoes”.
This need to steal shoes appears to be backed up by podophilia and retifism articles on the ToeSlayer website:
“Possession of shoes is important to the retifist and in cases of paraphilia, men may steal the shoes they are attracted to. Kiernan (1917, reported in Rossi, 1990) first described the term kleptomania which was used when theft took place when associated with sexual excitement. ‘Hephephilia’ is a term used when there is an uncontrollable urge to steal the objects of specific focus. Many hephephiliacs are ordinary people with no criminal intention other than a compulsion to possess the object of their desire due to a repressed or complicated sex life…Many retifists keep copious records of their activities all of which adds to their excitement…It is important exploring also the symbolism and fetishism of high heels. The erotic literature on shoe fetishism often associates high heels with the image of the ‘phallic woman’. According to [Valerie] Steele, submission to the powerful ‘phallic woman’ is a very popular fantasy”.
“The allure of high heels (altocalciphilia) for some people is very strong. Subconsciously this may relate to a primal instinct to identify lame prey. Throughout recorded history limping in others has been seen both as a physical weakness as well as a sexually attractive impediment. Wearing high heeled shoes can accentuate the limping characteristics in a very tantalising way…High heels are also thought to place the female pelvis in a precoital position. Whether or not this is true, the idea by itself, may cause arousal. Long legs are thought a strong arousal signal (Lloyd-Elliott, 2006). Men may be attracted to women in heels because it appeals to their superior nature seeing a member of the opposite sex vulnerable…Today, heeled shoes are very much part of the bondage ritual (Rossi, 1997) and sado-masochists maybe attracted to the perceived pain associated with wearing high-heeled shoes”.
Most of the academic writing I have read on this topic is anecdotal at best. There is much speculating and theorizing but little data. However, there is no doubt that high heel fetishism exists and that of all fetishes it appears to be one of the most common.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Belk, R.W. (2003). Shoes and self. Advances In Consumer Research, 30, 27-33.
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Wikipedia (2014). Shoe fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe_fetishism
While researching various other blogs (most notably one on urtication and sexual arousal from stinging nettles), I came across the sexual practice of figging. For the uninitiated, figging in the broadest sense refers the act of inserting something (typically ginger) into the body (typically a bodily orifice such as the anus, vagina and/or urethra) that subsequently causes a stinging and/or burning sensation for sexual pleasure and arousal. Figging would appear to be a relatively rare sexual activity, as it doesn’t appear in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Furthermore, there is not a single reference to figging in any academic article or book that I am aware of. According to an online article at the London Fetish Scene website:
“The word [figging] is likely to be a derivative of ‘feague’, the practice during Victorian times of putting a piece of peeled ginger into a horse’s anus to make it appear more sprightly and hold its tail up (for shows and selling). Mostly, figging is still used to mean putting a peeled, shaped piece of ginger root into an anus, but in a BDSM context the anus would be that of a [submissive]. Sometimes ‘figging’ is used to refer to a pervertable other than ginger (for example nettles) and also to cover the insertion into the vagina, athough it may be incorrect to consider these as figging…The ginger root is skinned and may also be carved into the shape of a butt plug. Inserting ginger into a healthy anus for even quite lengthy periods should cause no physical damage…Apart from, or together with, figging, ginger pieces or juice from crushed ginger can be inserted in the vagina or applied to the clitoris or male genitals. Care should be taken here, especially with juice, as the genitals are much more sensitive…Victorian texts on the proper treatment of recalcitrant wives included the instructions for figging as it was considered that a spanking should be received on relaxed buttocks and this was seen as one way to train them to receive the spanking properly. It may be from this practice that the phrase who gives a fig?’ originated”.
(By the way, I had never come across the word ‘pervertible’ but in another article on the London Fetish Scene website, pervertibles are defined as “ordinary non-sexual objects, especially everyday household objects, that can be used sexually, particularly in BDSM play”). The (very short) Wikipedia entry on figging also makes reference to the practice of inserting ginger into the anuses of horses (although they describe this practice as ‘gingering’ rather than figging).
As with other types of pain, sexual masochists can find the painful sensations of figging an erotic experience. In sadomasochistic sexual activity, the dominant partner may use figging as a punishment on their submissive partner. The London Fetish Scene article claims:
“If the sub is made to tighten his/her buttocks with a fig inside the anus, the sensation becomes more intense: thus they will usually try to relax those muscles. This provides a good target for caning or spanking, which will often cause the sub to clench his/her backside, which will immediately increase the feeling of heat and pain, thus causing them to want to un-clench”.
There is also the very similar practice called ‘rhapanidosis’ which refers to the insertion of horseradish into bodily orifices (usually the anus), and was allegedly a punishment given to adulterous wives in ancient Athens. According to Wikipedia:
“There is some doubt as to whether the punishment was ever enforced or whether the references to it in comic plays (such as the debate between Right and Wrong in The Clouds of Aritophanes) should be understood as signifying public humiliation in general. In order to be allowed to apply rhaphanidosis to an adulteror, one must catch the man in the act of adultery with one’s own wife, in one’s own house. Rhaphanidosis was not the only penalty available; sodomy by mulletfish was common as well, or the man could simply be killed on the spot. Following this, the adulterous wife would have to be divorced”.
In my research for this blog I came across more than a few websites that espouse the joys of figging. The Figging (Anal Discipline) website has a surprisingly diverse set of articles (such as one on ‘Why figging enhances sex’) and there are a number of websites that provide a ‘how to’ guide for figging. For instance, one detailed guide on the Live Journal by a BDSM practitioner provides the ‘theory and practice of ginger figging’ and asserts:
“Figging is a fairly rare practice that seems to have declined in popularity recently, which I think is a shame because it’s so easy and the effects are so interesting. It’s a lot of fun, and I encourage people to experiment with it”.
There’s also an interesting first person account by Elizabeth Black on the Sex is Social website who describes in detail the first time she tried it (and liked it). Other first hand accounts didn’t (such as those on A Kinkster’s Guide concluding “Stick to sex toys – don’t try this!”). Although there are many academic articles on sadomasochism and sadomasochistic practices, not one of them mentions figging. Therefore, we know absolutely nothing about the prevalence of the practice (but as I said earlier, it is likely to be very rare).
Black, E. (2010). The fine art of figging Sex is Social, January 2. Located at: http://www.edenfantasys.com/sexis/sex/figging-0102101/
Figging: Anal Discipline (2005). Why figging enhances sex. November 19. Located at: http://www.figging.com/2005/11/19/why-figging-enhances-sex/
Live Journal (2007). BDSM: Theory and practice of figging. Located at: http://tacit.livejournal.com/225189.html
Wikipedia (2013). Figging. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figging
Wikipedia (2013). Rhaphanidosis. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhaphanidosis
Wipi (2013). Figging. Located at: http://www.londonfetishscene.com/wipi/index.php/Figging
Wipi (2013). Pervertible. Located at: http://www.londonfetishscene.com/wipi/index.php/Pervertable