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
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
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.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
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.
Kunjukrishnan, R., Pawlak, A. & Varan, L.R. (1988). The clinical and forensic psychiatric issues of retifism. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 33, 819-825.
Kunzie, D. (2013). Fashion and Fetishism: Corsets, Tight Lacing and Other Forms of Body-Sculpture. The History Press
O’Keeffe, L. (1999). Scarpe Una Celebrazione di Scarpe da Sera, Sandali, Pantofole e Altro. Hong Kong: Sing Cheong Printing Company.
Rossi WA (1990). Foot and shoe fetishism: Part one. Journal of Current Podiatric Medicine, 39(9), 9-23.
Rossi WA (1990). Foot and shoe fetishism: Part two. Journal of Current Podiatric Medicine, 39(10), 16-20.
Sancaktar, A. (2006). An analysis of shoe within the context of social history of fashion (Doctoral dissertation, İzmir Institute of Technology)
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.
Steele, V., 1998. Shoes, A Lexicon of Style, (Co & Bear Productions, London).
Steele, V. (2001). Fashion, fetish, fantasy. Masquerade and Identities: Essays on Gender, Sexuality and Marginality, 73-82
Wikipedia (2014). Boot fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boot_fetishism
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).
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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
According to Dr. Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, zelophilia is a sexual paraphilia and refers to individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from jealousy. This is the only academic definition I have come across and as academic definitions go, it is not the most helpful as it doesn’t say what kind of jealousy sexual arousal is linked to. Anecdotally, I am assuming that at the heart of zelophilia is a person being turned on by their sexual partner having a sexual and/or romantic relationship with another person. For instance, here are a few online posts to the Is It Normal? website:
- Extract 1: “Is it normal to get horny over being jealous? When my boyfriend gets hit on by other girls it really turns me on and I’ve even fantasized about walking in on him having sex with another girl even though I know it’d make me angry and upset and I’d probably dump him”.
- Extract 2: “I have the same turn on. I always picture me being tied down and having to watch someone else f**k my girlfriend. I don’t want them too, but she does. I think it’s part of the whole humiliation/submissive fetish I have”.
- Extract 3: “I can relate to the idea of being turned on by jealousy. My [boyfriend] has been on at me to have a [threesome] for about 18 months now finally I’m thinking about it. When I asked him why he wants me to do this he said he’d like to see another man giving me a good time an that he’d be jealous as hell, but as long as I was safe and having a good time then he’d be okay with that. He wants me to try a [foursome] but I can’t cope with girl on girl action, but the thought of another girl sucking him is a turn on even though I’m secretly jealous that he might prefer her to me”.
If zelophilia genuinely exists, then these online posts suggest that some people have indicative signs of what I would expect zelophiles to experience. They would also seem to psychologically and behaviourally overlap with cuckold fetishes (which I covered in a previous blog). A short article on zelophilia at the Kinkly website (like Dr. Aggrawal) says that the primary source of the sexual arousal is jealousy but also makes other (unsubstantiated) claims. More specifically it noted that:
“Zelophilia is a condition in which a person becomes sexually aroused by feelings of jealousy. This is a diagnosed medical condition that can be managed if the sufferer is able to learn to deal with and accommodate the fetish in some way. However, if zelophilia becomes an issue, it can be treated with psychoanalysis, hypnosis and therapy…While jealousy most often leads to harsh words, angry feelings, tears and sometimes break-ups, those with the zelophilia fetish get sexually aroused by jealous feelings. Managing this fetish within a healthy sexual relationship can be a real challenge”.
The information that was in the Kinkly article may have been based on the zelophilia entry at the Right Diagnosis online medical website as the wording and claims are very similar. The Right Diagnosis website claims that:
“Treatment [for zelophilia] is generally not sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the person in some way, or they come under scrutiny of the legal system, and become compelled to address their condition. Many people simply learn to accept their fetish and manage to achieve gratification in an appropriate manner”.
There are quite a few online articles on zelophilia but most of these are just personal opinion pieces with almost zero academic content (such as the one written by ‘Kinky Kelly’). However, another interesting online article I came across was one by Drew Albright who examined the (sometimes) paradoxical relationship between jealousy, envy and the BDSM scene. She made the following observation:
“In many ways envy and jealousy in relation to sex is a paradox. On the one hand, envy and jealousy is at the core of eroticism – I want that, ‘I want to do that’, ‘That body is mine!’ are all examples of lust, a.k.a envy. Fetish and BDSM play and behaviors are ways that many find fun to explore and safely let their inner piggy out! On the other hand, when we are unaware of our own propensity for envy on the grand scale and in our everyday lives, we can act them out in sexualized power struggles, which ultimately have nothing to do with sex or sex interest itself”.
While researching this blog I also came across the following post at the Answers Yahoo website.
“I thought I’d ask this in the dating section but I figured I would get better answers here. It is not out of insecurity because truthfully (call me whatever you want) I am considered extremely attractive and I can say myself that I get plenty of attention whenever I am out. For some reason I have this sick and disgusting addiction to making guys jealous. Especially the confident type. If I can tell a guy is sweet and genuine I do it still but less. However, when the guy seems shady to me and is approaching and pursuing me, I for some reason LOVE for him to see me hit on my other guys, etc. I see their reactions and it turns me on like none other. It is an addiction and a sick one. Not sure what to do what is wrong with me? Maybe I am insecure and don’t know it?”
This online self-admission appeared to fit Dr. Aggrawal’s definition of zelophilia but is different from the self-confessions at the beginning of this article because the person gets aroused from making her sexual partners jealous rather than the sexual arousal being caused by the sexual partner being with another person. My own observation that zelophilia shares similarities with cuckold fetish, has also been made by others. For instance, the article on zelophilia by the (admittedly non-academic) ‘Fetish University’ run by female dominatrix ‘Empress Ivy’ on her Masturbation Fascination website noted:
“I see this particular fetish most frequently with cuckold and coerced [fellatio] or bisexual fantasies. Most start out with the admission of their wife’s infidelity and they go into great detail about how jealous they felt that their wife was with another man. A man that is stronger, more masculine, has a bigger [penis], and can sexually satisfy her in ways the husband could not. Obviously the initial admission of this would spark jealousy, or perhaps resentment, but at the same time – when these events are recalled the callers clearly become aroused by it”.
Zelophilia appears to be yet another sexual paraphilia of which we know next to nothing about, and although there appears to be some anecdotal evidence that it exists, the “evidence” (such that it is) is far from conclusive.
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Albright, D. (2005). Fetish & BDSM: Fantasy Fun or Envy & Jealousy Taken to the Extreme, World of Jimmy Star. Located at: http://worldofjimmystar.com/Issue10/fetish_bdsm_fantasy_fun_or_jealousy_to_extreme_drew_albright.htm
Harris, C. R. (2002) Sexual and romantic jealousy in heterosexual and homosexual adults. Psychological Science, 13, 7–12.
Kinky Kelley (2011). Fetish: Zelophilia, January 26. Located at: http://kinkykelleykicksthekurse.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/fetish-zelophilia/
Simons, I. (2009). On fetishes and clean pencil tips. Psychology Today, March 8. Located at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-literary-mind/200903/fetishes-and-clean-pencil-tips
Wikipedia (2013). Cuckold. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuckold
Over the last couple of years, I have watched a lot of Korean films in the Tartan Asian Extreme range. One of the things I noticed was that a number of scenes in the films I watched seemed to feature adults giving piggy-back rides to other adults. I actually Googled this observation and was surprised to find quite a few online essays examining this phenomenon. One of the more interesting ones I read was on the Drama Beans website that examined the cultural meaning of piggy-back rides in Korean films. One thing that became abundantly clear is that in Korea, piggy-back rides appear to have romantic and arguably sexual undertones. The article I read noted that in Korea, there are many references to ‘skinship” which is a made-up Korean-English word meaning “levels of physical intimacy, or more simply, touching”. The article then goes on to say that:
“Skinship can range from handholding to kissing, to sex…The most common piggyback scenario is the classic ‘I’m-too-drunk-so-will-you-be-my-knight-in-shining-armor-and-carry-me-home’. Every drama has it, and every romantic comedy hero earns his stripes this way…The piggyback is, in essence, an excuse for skinship, seemingly of the most harmless kind. Because it’s wrapped in a pretty bow of manly honor and a display of alpha male strength, it earns extra points for making women round the world swoon, thinking why can’t my boyfriend do that?…piggybacks are a direct callback to a little girl’s relationship with her father. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Freudian on you. I don’t mean it in an icky way. But don’t think that fiction in a patriarchal society doesn’t reflect the values that are deemed to be right in that culture. Piggyback rides in essence infantilize women to equate them with little girls, and paternalize men, to equate them with fathers”.
I then (through sheer curiosity) Googled ‘piggy-back fetishes’ and was surprised to find a number of news articles on the topic. Back in 2009, Kieron Bobbette, a 43-year-old man from Brighton (UK) admitted sexually assaulting five teenage girls (aged 13 to 17 years) while he was being given a piggy-back by them after by pretending that he had a bad leg and an ache in his groin (sand in some cases paying the girls to do so). The story was reported at length in the local newspaper (The Argus). On one occasion he simply jumped onto a young girl’s back without any warning as she walked along the street. The offences took place over a four-year period (2004-2008). One of Bobette’s victims said she had been forced to give him a piggy-back and that when he was being carried he asked her to do squat bends with him on her back. Bobbette pleaded guilty but told the judge: “Can somebody commit sexual assault without knowing they are doing this because I don’t feel I have?” According to a later report in Regency magazine, Bobbette, was given a Sexual Offences Prevention Order that banned him from jumping onto the backs of young ladies and demanding a piggyback ride. Bobbette was also added to the Sex Offenders Register for five years.
This doesn’t appear to be an isolated case as in 2010, Leigh Yeo, an 18-year old teenager from Exeter (UK) sexually assaulted two teenage girls (aged 16 and 18 years) after jumping on their backs for a piggy back ride. It was reported in a BBC news story that one of Yeo’s victims was physically sick following the attack, and later suffered chronic panic attacks. The second victim was left feeling scared and upset. Yeo was jailed for 15 months and was put on the Sex Offenders Register for ten years.
It would also appear that sexual piggy-back offences occur in other countries too. In 2009 in the US, a then 25-year old man, Sherwin Shayegan from Bonney Lake (Washington), was arrested for fourth-degree sexual assault following piggy-back assaults on male student high school athletes. According to one newspaper report:
“The student noticed that Shayegan was behaving strangely, and attempted to leave. At that point, Shayegan is accused of jumping on the student’s back and demanding a piggy-back ride.It’s not the first time that Shayegan has done this, apparently. According to police, he’s done this to students in Ellensburg, Bellingham and Centralia. His usual MO is to approach a high-school student athlete, saying he wants to interview them for a school paper. When they agree, Sahyegan asks them bizarre questions such as ‘Have you crapped your pants?’ or ‘Looked at other boys in the shower?’ When the students, understandably freaked out, try to leave, he will then offer cash, before shouting that it is ‘time for a piggy back ride!’ and attempting to jump on the student’s back”
For Shayegan, the sexual piggy-backs did not stop and he was banned from attending sporting events in two US states (Washington and Oregon). In 2012 he was re-arrested for the same offence.
In a 2009 article by Alex Cipriano entitled ‘Five ridiculous [safe-for-work] fetishes’ at the Cracked website briefly examined the “fetishists who just plain get off on riding the shoulders of other people”. He interviewed some piggy-back fetishists for his article and one of them was quoted as saying:
“A month ago, when intoxicated, I asked another male friend from Canada to piggyback me. Although the entire session only lasted a minute or two, my sexual drive (not specifically for him) suddenly sparked, more than alcohol can ever do. Halfway through the piggyback, I maneuvered myself to hold on his front, dangling there like a koala”.
Cipriano first speculated that that piggy-back fetishes are based in trust and security. However, after researching the article, he came to the conclusion that piggy-back fetishists find themselves trapped in a sexually arousing power struggle. Although “the piggybackee can offer suggestions on speed and direction…it’s ultimately up to the piggybacker to control the situation”. One of his interviewees for the article said that he liked it “very much to ride on older men. I can sit on the old man of about four minutes and bouncing on his shoulders”. Cipriano also quoted from people posting their piggy-back videos on YouTube. One of the viewers of a specific piggy-back video said:
“Love your videos! I like to ride on, sit on and trample folk. I’m 6′ and 231 lbs (105kg) and live in south UK. If any of you guys want to be ridden hard, sat on or trampled under my feet and/or enjoy a good beasting, contact me!”
In another of the few articles I have come across specifically about piggy-back fetishes, the female author and dominatrix Nic Buxom wrote about piggy-back fetishes in her ‘Featured Fetish’ column. Based on her own personal experiences she claimed:
“Piggy-Backing! Yes, this is a real fetish. And actually, as I’ve encountered it, usually the guys want us, the ladies, to give them the piggy-back ride. I just thought it’d be cuter to have a chick riding a guy. Unfortunately…this came out creepier than I expected…Piggy-Back fetishists are some of the kindest souls I’ve had the pleasure of playing with. They’re always very sweet and playful. Not all girls do piggy-back sessions because they’re quite difficult. Being a bigger, stronger lady I love taking them! Piggy-backers tend to be smallish. If a huge guy wanted this I don’t know that we’d have anyone capable but they tend to be petite or at least slim. Also, they’re always very considerate about letting me have short breaks. Piggy-backers keep at least their boxers on, they don’t get a free chance to rub [themselves] against my back or anything like that. Most of them discovered their fetish sometime in high school or at a young age when a friend of theirs playfully gave them a piggy-ride. You can find piggy-back videos all over the net, or so the excitedly tell me”.
In the name of scientific research I went in search of piggy-back fetishes online but was unable to locate a single dedicated online forum and only came across a handful of people who claimed they had (or knew someone who had) a piggy-back fetish. For instance:
- Extract 1: “First off, I AM NOT A TROLL. I’m being dead serious. I’m 5’2.5″ and weigh about 130 pounds. So I’m not a large person. I love it when people give me piggy-back rides. It totally turns me on when a man can carry me on his back. Male strength is sexy! I only let guys I’m interested in carry me around. Is this normal?”
- Extract 2: “Does “piggyback fetish” exist? I once was aroused when I hopped onto a bigger and taller guy’s back and he ran around, and I once had a sexual fantasy about that, so I was wondering…I mean regular piggyback, like when you’re standing up. And trust me, Google is my best friend, but all I saw on Google was this article about a guy that paid teenagers so they can give him piggyback rides”
- Extract 3: “A few weeks ago someone mentioned a guy that liked to ride piggyback on men as a fetish and this got me wondering – what is the strangest or just most “random” request anyone’s asked you as something that gets them off?”
- Extract 4: “My boyfriend recently told me that he has what is referred to as a lift/carry fetish. Specifically, he fantasizes about me giving him piggy-back rides. I would love to be able to satisfy his desires. He tends to be pretty reserved and undemanding, so I was ECSTATIC that he was able to tell me about this. But our size difference makes the idea a little terrifying (me: 5’5″, 160 lb; him: 6’2″, 200 lb)”
- Extract 5: “When I was still in the army there was this tall boy in my regiment. He was a bully [called Flappy] because he had big sticking out ears…Flappy always singled me out for his own bullying…As a warm-up exercise, the corporal told us to jump on one another’s back. I immediately jumped on Flappy’s back and I put my thumbs behind his ears and pushed, so that his ears folded forward like the ears of a pig…After a while, I didn’t even have to speak, I steered him with his ears, he had become my submissive horse! And then it happened – my first ever orgasm on the back of a man. I was still riding on his back and holding his flapping ears, and I came big time…After that exercise he never teased me again. I had broken him!…And that’s how my fetish for protruding ears and piggyback riding started!”
From a psychological perspective, only the final extract was interesting as this gives a good etiological explanation of how the fetish developed and can be explained by basic learning theory (i.e., classical conditioning and associative pairing). The lack of detail in the other examples I found merely demonstrates that the fetish may exist without providing reasons as to why it might exist.
Arguably the most famous piggy-back fetishist in the world is the American cartoonist Robert Crumb. In the documentary film of his life’s work (simply titled Crumb), it features Crumb getting piggyback rides from several women with powerful legs that were clearly substitutes for sex. In the film, one of Crumb’s ex-girlfriends claimed the cartoonist liked to receive piggy-backs in lieu of sex. As Simon Hattenstone noted in a 2005 article in The Guardian:
“In the 1990s [Robert Crumb] became famous for a second time when the director Terry Zwigoff made a documentary about his life, Crumb. The film put Crumb’s life in context – yes, his foot fetish, his piggyback fixations, and his urge to dominate big, dominant women (in a pretty submissive way)”.
I’ll leave you with the conclusion reached by Girl Friday in her article on the cultural importance of piggy-backs in Korea:
“Whether you see piggyback rides as your ultimate fantasy or a nefarious plot to take over the world is up to you. While riding piggyback doesn’t really appeal to me personally, I do see why it’s a staple in dramas. It’s a simple gesture, but loaded with romantic ideals and warm paternal associations. It eliminates the need to say to your audience: this is a caring, sweet, warm man, underneath the gruff exterior. The piggyback does it all, with some skinship to boot”.
BBC News (2010). Drunk Exter ‘piggy back’ sex attacker, 18, jailed. BBC Devon News, July 1. Located at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10477831
Buxom, N. (2010). Featured fetish: Piggy-backing. February 7. Located at: http://nicbuxom.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/featured-fetish-piggy-backing.html
Cipriano, A. (2009). 5 ridiculous [safe for work] fetishes. Cracked, March 17. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_17149_5-ridiculous-safe-work-fetishes.html
Cridland, A. (2009). Piggy-back sex pest admits Brighton and Hove offences. The Argus, August 22. Located at: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/4559740.Piggy_back_sex_pest_admits_Brighton_and_Hove_offences/
Girl Friday (2010). Pop culture: Piggyback rides. Drama Beans, July 11. Located at: http://www.dramabeans.com/2010/07/pop-culture-piggyback-rides/
Hattenstone, S. (2005). ‘When I was four, I knew I was weird’. The Guardian, March 7. Located at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/mar/07/robertcrumb.comics
In previous blogs I have examined sthenolagnia (a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from individuals displaying strength or muscles). Another related behaviour is cratolagnia where – according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices – individuals derive sexual arousal and pleasure more generally from displays of strength (rather than muscles in and of themselves). Following that blog, I received a couple of emails from two males who suggested that I should write a blog on ‘muscle worship’ that although having a sexual aspect, is not the only aspect. According to the Wikipedia entry on muscle worship:
“Muscle worship is a social behaviour, usually with a sexual aspect (a form of body worship), in which a participant, the worshipper, touches the muscles of another participant, the dominator, in sexually arousing ways, which can include rubbing, massaging, kissing, licking, “lift and carry”, and various wrestling holds. The dominator is almost always either a bodybuilder, a fitness competitor, or wrestler, an individual with a large body size and a high degree of visible muscle mass. The worshipper is often, but not always, skinnier, smaller, and more out of shape”.
According to a couple of academic authors, muscle worshippers can be of either gender, and of any sexual orientation, although many authors appear to suggest it is more prevalent among gay men who view bodybuilders as little more than ‘sex objects’ and because bodybuilding is common among members of the gay community (see for instance: Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s 2009 book America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life, or John Edward Campbell’s 2004 book Getting it on Online: Cyberspace, Gay Male Sexuality, and Embodied Identity). A quick search online also suggests there is a large gay pornographic market for muscle worship along with numerous webcam muscle worship sites. Muscle worship appears to have crossovers with other sexually paraphilic behaviour such as sexual masochism. As the Wikipedia entry notes:
“The amount of forceful domination and pain used in muscle worship varies widely, depending on the desires of the participants. Sometimes, the dominator uses his or her size and strength to pin a smaller worshiper, forcing the worshipper to praise the dominator’s muscles, while in other cases, the worshiper simply feels and compliments the muscles of a flexing dominator. Male and female bodybuilders offer muscle worship sessions for a price in order to supplement their low or nonexistent income from bodybuilding competitions. Paid sessions sometimes involve sexual gratification, even when well-known competitors are involved, they offer fans the chance to meet in person and touch a highly muscular man or woman”.
A 2008 paper by Dr. Niall Richardson (2008) in the Journal of Gender Studies also made some interesting (and important) distinctions between muscle worship and two other erotic practices often associated with bodybuilding: ‘hustling’ and ‘sponsorship fantasies’. More specifically, Richardson wrote:
“Alan Klein describes ‘hustling’ as ‘the selling of implicit or explicit sex by a bodybuilder’ (1987, p. 132) and this can range from doing stripogram type work to engaging in full penetrative sex. Likewise muscle-worship is not to be confused with ‘sponsorship’ or ‘growth fantasies’. Katie Arnoldi’s superb first novel, Chemical Pink (a book which will probably become as revered a text for cultural critics of bodybuilding as Sam Fussell’s Muscle ) describes, often in lurid detail, the horrors of female bodybuilding sponsorship. In Chemical Pink, Arnoldi depicts the ‘sponsorship’ agreement between female bodybuilder Aurora and her sponsor Charles. It soon becomes evident that Charles has a Pygmalion fantasy and gains supreme pleasure from his manipulation of Aurora’s body, feeding her endless protein-rich meals and hefty cycles of anabolic steroids and growth hormones (Arnoldi 2001, pp. 100–102, 111). While Henry Higgins delighted in shaping Eliza’s social graces, the muscle sponsor wants to build and shape his idealized female body and, as such, muscle-sponsorship can be compared to other sexual fantasies, such as ‘feederism’, in which the manipulation of the sexual partner’s weight is the sexual pleasure”.
What I found most interesting here is how various aspects of Muscle Worship are compared to both mainstream (i.e., prostitution) and not-so-mainstream (e.g., feederism) sexual behaviours. Another short article I read on muscle fetishism (outside of the gay community as it concerned female muscle growth) on the Sex and the University website suggested that there were also links with macrophilia (sexual arousal from giants) and breast expansion fetishes:
“Female muscle growth (FMG) is a fantasy genre involving muscular growth of a woman. Many who enjoy these fantasies are attracted to Female bodybuilding or other muscular women. This interest frequently centers on the biceps. FMG is related to the growth fantasies giantess and breast expansion fetishism. This fantasy is sometimes about an equalization or reversal of the stereotypical power relationship (that some people imagine/take for granted) in a heterosexual couple”.
As I noted in my previous blog on sthenolagnia, FMG devotees frequent places where female body builders are found (e.g., gyms, health clubs, bodybuilding tournaments, etc.). However, I also noted that some FMG devotion may be based in fantasy rather than actuality, particularly if it is related to aspects of macrophilia and transformation fetishes (both of which I covered in previous blogs). For instance, Marvel Comics character ‘She-Hulk’ is a popular representation of FMG fantasy and can be found on websites such as the Female Muscle Factory. Although there is little in the way of academic research on the topic, many devotees of Muscle Worship appear to be sexually aroused by an equalization (or reversal) of the stereotypical power relationship among heterosexual couples.
Assael, S. (2007). Steroid Nation. New York: ESPN Books.
Burt, J. (2007). Top five freaky fetishes. The Sun, September 7. Located at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/21158/Top-five-freaky-fetishes.html
Campbell, E. (2004). Getting it on Online: Cyberspace, Gay male Sexuality, and Embodied Identity. London: Routledge.
Carson, H.A. (2010). A Roaring Girl: An interview with the Thinking Man’s Hooker. Bloomington, Indiana: Author House.
Denizet-Lewis, B. (2009). America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Klein, A.M. (1993). Little Big Men: Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Richardson, N. (2008): Flex-rated! Female bodybuilding: feminist resistance or erotic spectacle? Journal of Gender Studies, 17, 289-301
Sex and the University (2008). Sthenolagnia: Muscle fetishism. Located at: http://sexandtheuniversity.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/sthenolagnia-muscle-fetishism/
Steele, V. (1996). Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wikipedia (2012). Muscle worship. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_worship
Are you the type of person who finds people who are very physically different from you physically and sexually attractive? If you do, you may have be engaged in a sexually paraphilic behaviour known as morphophilia. According to a very simple definition provide by Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, morphophilia refers to the gaining of sexual pleasure and “arousal from a person with a different physique” whereas a definition provided by the less academic Quipper website says it is simply the “love of odd body shapes”. Dr. Raymond Corsini in his Dictionary of Psychology says that morphophiles are attracted to a partner with bodily characteristics that are different and/or prominent from one’s own.
This therefore suggests that there are various sub-types of morphophilia as it is the marked discrepancy that is the sexually arousing focus. For instance, anasteemaphilia refers to individuals that derive sexual arousal from individuals who are much taller or shorter than themselves (i.e., it is the large difference in height that is the primary source of sexual arousal). I would also argue that sthenolagnia (in which individuals are sexually aroused by very muscular people) may also be a sub-type of morphophilia). This is lightly expanded upon in the online encyclopedia Encyclo that states:
“[Morphophilia]…in psychiatry, a type of sexual perversion in which sexual arousal and orgasm depend upon some discrepancy between the partner’s bodily characteristics and the subject’s; that is, the partner must be markedly thinner or taller than the subject”
The online Gay Slang Dictionary is a little more blunt and describes the condition as a fetish in which the source of sexual arousal is “peculiar body shapes and sizes, such as obese persons, short persons, dwarfism, etc.” As Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified noted in the 2008 book Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment:
“Morphophilia” (from the Greek, morphe, “form”; philia, “love” –Money, 1986) involves an erotic focus on one or more of the body characteristics of one’s sexual partner. Morphophilia appears to include partialism, which is defined as a focus on a single body part…It is unclear from the literature whether these two categories are unique paraphilias or different names for the same paraphilia. Both morphophilia and partialism are differentiated from fetishism, which involves a focus on ‘the use of nonliving objects’ (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).”
Finally, Dr. George Pranzarone’s Dictionary of Sexology has an arguably more scientific definition and also takes the line that morphophilia is an umbrella term in that it is:
“One of a group of paraphilias of the stigmatic/eligibilic type in which sexuoerotic arousal and facilitation or attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent on a partner whose body characteristics are selectively particularized, prominent, or different from one’s own. [Alternative: the bodily characteristics of the partner are selectively particularized, prominent, or essential as a prerequisite to sexuoerotic arousal and the facilitation or attainment of orgasm]”.
As far as I am aware, the only time that morphophilia has been mentioned in the academic literature (outside of general definition) is in relation to feederism where individuals gain sexual arousal, gratification and stimulation through a person’s sexual partner being over-fed (and which I covered in a previous blog). In my previous blog I mentioned a paper by Dr Lesley Terry and Dr Paul Vasey (both at the University of Lethbridge, Canada) who published an interesting case study of feederism in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The paper claimed that feeders and feedees are individuals who become sexually aroused by eating, being fed, and the by the idea or act of gaining weight. Terry and Vasey noted in their case study of ‘Lisa’ that:
“Like many paraphilic sexual activities, Lisa’s pattern of sexual arousal was characterized by recurrent and intense sexual urges, fantasies, and behaviors that involved unusual activities. Given that much of Lisa‘s sexuality was focused on eroticizing body fat, the question arose as to whether it represented a form of morphophilia…Morphophilia is the peak erotic focus on a particular body characteristic. As such, it is similar to, but distinct from, partialism, which is the peak erotic focus on a particular body part(s) (i.e., legs, feet, breast or buttocks). Morphophilia is an appropriate descriptor of Feederism given that Feederism focuses on the physical characteristic of fat, which does not necessarily have to be associated with a particular body part. This is clearly demonstrated by Lisa’s description of her life-long sexual arousal to fat bodies, in general, as opposed to fat body parts. At the same time, however, Feederism appears to involve the integration of an erotic focus on usual activities (i.e., eating and/or being fed and/or gaining weight), in addition to, an erotic focus on particular body characteristics (i.e., fat). This raises the possibility that it might be a paraphilic form of sexuality that is taxonomically distinct from morphophilia…More research could also be done to ascertain if, and how, Feederism is taxonomically distinct from various forms of morphophilia”.
Personally, (and this is based on my watching of various television documentaries on fat fetishes and feederism), I have observed that most (male) feeders are substantially thinner than (female) feedees, and on this basis it could be argued that the males may also be morphophiles as they appear to be sexually attracted as much to the fat as they are to the feeding. Obviously research is needed to support such claims, as my own views are speculative to say the least.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., Text Revision). Washington, DC: Author.
Corsini, R.J. (1999). The Dictionary of Psychology. London: Psychology Press.
Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.
Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.
Pranzarone, G.F. (2000). The Dictionary of Sexology. Located at: http://ebookee.org/Dictionary-of-Sexology-EN_997360.html
Terry, L.L. & Vasey, P.L. (2011). Feederism in a woman. Archives of Sexial Behavior, 40, 639-645.