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Sexual heeling: A brief look at altocalciphilia

“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 same author (presumably a podophile himself) in a different article on the same website then explained:

“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

Further reading

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

Ginger rogerers: A very brief look at figging‬

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

Further reading

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

Jealous high: A brief look at zelophilia

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.

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

Further reading

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

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

What a carry on: A brief look at piggy-back fetishes

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”.

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

Further reading

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

Give me strength: Another brief look at muscle worship

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 [1991]) 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.

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

Further reading

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

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

Shape and sighs: A beginner’s guide to morphophilia

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.

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

Further reading

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

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.

The worm that turned on: A beginner’s guide to vermiphilia

In previous blogs I have looked at various sexually zoophilic behaviours relating to ‘creepy crawlies’ of one description or another including ants, bees, and wasps (for instance, my blog on formicophilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from insects crawling and/or nibbling on the individual’s genitals). Today’s blog looks at ‘worm sex’ and has been referred to by various different names including vermiphilia, helminthophilia and scoleciphilia (abnormal affection towards worms and/or being infested with worms), along with sub-variants such as taeniophilia /teniophilia (i.e., abnormal affection for tapeworms). None of these sexually paraphilic terms appears 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.

The words for these alleged sexual practices are in many online A-Z lists of sexual paraphilias and appear to have bee derived from the opposite phobic behaviours (i.e., helminthophobia, scoleciphobia or vermiphobia are all defined as the fear of worms and/or the fear of infestation of worms). For the remainder of this article I will use the term ‘vermophilia’ as I have come across a lot of people in the academic biological worm world using the word ‘vermophilic’ to describe an intense liking for worms (although this appears to be used in the context of having an academic research-like interest in them rather than anything sexual).

It will probably come as no surprise that there is no academic literature on vermiphilia and all the material I have collated in today’s blog can be best described as anecdotal. The only article of any length I have come across on the topic of vermiphilia is by Daikichi Amano who penned an article simply entitled ‘Worm Sex’ for Bizarre magazine (a magazine that I too have written for on a number of sexual paraphilias including hypoxyphilia and apotemnophilia). The article is basically a case study about the owner of the Japanese company called Genki (check out the website here, but please be warned it is very sexually explicit; I also mentioned Genki in a previous blog on formicophilia and described it as a style of erotic art and pornography that features women covered with various creatures – typically insects or small sea creatures). The article actually spends more time talking about the Genki owner’s haemorrhoids and his quest for anal orgasm, but he did write that that:

“I direct films that involve women in sexual congress with all kinds of living sea creatures and reptiles, including dojo loaches, earthworms, frogs, sea cucumbers, octopi and even an anaconda. I didn’t really have any kind of grand concept behind making these films, except I want to make people amazed. And also make something I wanted to watch; at the end of the day, I’m just a very selfish person. This month, I shot a new film featuring mealworms and earthworms. I bought 30kg of them and used them all. I felt bad for the actress but they weren’t cheap, and I’d spent more of the budget on the worms than the actress. Did you know mealworms bite? Apparently, they do and, according to the actress, it’s really painful!”

Looking at this written confession along with some of the films at his Genki website, it’s obvious that as a film director he clearly makes these films for his own (presumably sexual) pleasure and that the actresses who participate appear to get nothing from the act apart from being paid (at least I hope they are getting paid). Whether others watching derive any sexual pleasure and arousal is highly debatable. I would also argue that there are sexually sadistic undertones to the whole process and practice of naked females having worms placed and put into their genital orifices. However, this practice is not restricted to women as I have also found guides to ‘worm torture’ being used within gay sadomasochistic practices in online ‘dehumanization’ sex games (such as those at the Berlin Queer website). Outside of the sadomasochistic scene, I came across this online snippet from a man who claimed:

“I have an odd desire to bathe in a tub full of earthworms, having them squirming all over my body, especially on my [private] parts. Is this safe to try? Is this a common desire?”

In response to this, someone responded:

“Be careful what you wish for. If they are sterile then yes, in theory it’s OK, assuming you can obtain enough to even cover the bottom of the tub. But, you might like to consider that worms have a way of tunnelling into any orifice and the last thing you want is any to invade your body and take up residence, because they could tunnel through into your blood stream and then invade your organs, leading to all kinds of medical problems”.

Another [presumably Japanese] man (an online gamer named ‘Yuri-miki’) had stumbled upon the Genko website and admitted to others in

“I’ve started to consider ‘worms’ as a fetish. But I am not sure whether it is safe or not, so I am here to inquire about that, hopefully some of you might be knowledgeable enough to tell me what’s safe and what isn’t? Currently I have a cautious disposition to believing that worms are completely harmless, no matter what you do?…Earlier today I bought a bundle of 24 worms…I took them all out of the dirt-stuff they came in, washed them, and watched as they squiggled around in a puddle of clean water. The water soon after became a little dirty, and I wondered why. After I put a bundle into my mouth, I felt as they were squiggling around there, trying to either escape or enter down my throat. It was such a weird sensation! I wanted to bite onto them but I didn’t, I was scared that their insides could contain bacteria? When I spat them back into the bowl I opened my mouth and my tongue and teeth were completely covered in worm poop!! I have yet to put them into my ahem or anus. I’m too scared, that’s why I need your help!”

Someone else at the Get Dare online discussion forum claimed that:

“I have a huge fetish of snakes, slugs, worms, eels, etc. My limits: no human sex, I cannot die, no other animals besides things that are slimy, very scaly, or serpentine, no burning down my house. My likes: snake insertion, worm insertion, eel insertion, snake pumping, worm pumping, eel pumping, long insertions (like 30 feet of a green anaconda, yes I have a permit), filling my womb with snakes, eels, and worms, the largest width I will go is a foot across at the very most”.

Obviously I have no way of verifying this or other claims made above but I did find dozens of online video clips of things I’d rather not have seen. Online there are videos that cater for both straight lovers of worm sex (such as those on the Heavy-R website and spin-off webpages) and gay lovers of worm sex (such as those at the PornMD and Gaybeast websites – please be warned all of these links are very sexually explicit). There are also video clips that involve maggots rather than worms that are identical in all but the creature used in a sexual manner. (If you think I’m making all this up – I’m not).

Finally. I feel duty bound to add there is one other type of sexual fetishism that I covered in a previous blog that involves worms, and that is crush fetishism (i.e., a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from watching – or fantasizing about – someone of the opposite sex crushing [e.g., toys, cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops], food (e.g., fruit), and [in extreme cases] small animals and insects). In the case of crushing living organisms, I noted in a previous blog that the acts of killing could be viewed as acts of zoosadism (because of the sexual element). However, the person doing the killing of the animals is usually paid for their ‘services’ and does not appear to get any sexual satisfaction from the act itself. It is the person watching the ‘crush’ videos that typically derive the sexual pleasure from it. In this sense, I argued that the act could be described as a type of ‘zoosadism-by-proxy’ (at least that’s my own take on this).

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

Further reading

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

Amano, D. (undated). Worm sex. Bizarre. Located at: http://www.bizarremag.com/fetish/interviews/6055/worm_sex.html?xc=1

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Dewaraja, R. & Money, J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 139-145.

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

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

The Reich Stuff: A brief look at Nazi fetishism

“I love your blonde hair/I kiss your pigtails/And I could not share/The scratch of your nails/And though you mark me/Your eyes so glassy/Oh why did you have/To be so Nazi?/Remember the curls/Of the Deutscher Girls?/A love of mine/From down on the Rhine” (Deutscher Girls, Adam and the Ants).

The first time I ever associated Nazism with sexuality was as a young teenager listening to Adam Ant sing Deutscher Girls in Derek Jarman’s 1978 punk rock film Jubilee. The punk rock movement – and particularly the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees – were arguably the architects of ‘Nazi chic’ (defined by Wikipedia as the approving use of Nazi-era style, imagery, and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture, especially when used for taboo-breaking or shock value rather than out of genuine sympathies with Nazism”) when one of the Pistols’ entourage appeared on the London-region only television show Today (December 1, 1976) wearing a swastika armband. The Wikipedia entry on Nazi chic notes:

“In the 1970s punk subculture, several items of clothing designed to shock and offend The Establishment became popular…[Johnny] Rotten wore the swastika another time with a gesture that looked like a Nazi salute. In 1976, Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees was also known to wear a Swastika armband with fetish S and M clothing, including fishnets and a whip. These musicians are commonly thought to have worn such clothing for shock value…rather than being genuinely associated with any National Socialist or fascist ideologies”.

As an avid Adam and the Ants fan, I devoured every lyric of every song. One of Adam Ant’s heroes was Dirk Bogarde – as evidenced by the first album being named after him – Dirk Wears White Sox. The song Dirk Wear White Sox (a live favourite at their early gigs) wasn’t actually on the album and was never actually released on any official Ant recording. One of the reasons for this may have been because of the controversial lyrical content that also linked sex and Nazism via concentration camps:

“You gotta concentrate on kink/In a concentration camp/All dressed up like little David/In a concentration camp…You can get a uniform for free/Shiny boots of soft black leather/Oh how proud your mum will be”.

The inspiration for the song may well have been the controversial film The Nightporter starring Bogarde as a former Nazi SS officer (Maximilian Theo Aldorfer) and his “ambiguous” relationship with concentration camp survivor Lucia Atherton (played by Charlotte Rampling). As the Wikipedia entry on the film notes:

“Flashbacks show Max tormenting Lucia, but also acting as her protector. In an iconic scene, Lucia sings a Marlene Dietrich song ‘Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte’ to the concentration camp guards while wearing pieces of an SS uniform, and Max ‘rewards’ her with the severed head of a male inmate who had been bullying the other inmates, a reference to Salome. Thirteen years after World War II, Lucia meets Aldorfer again; he is now the night porter at a Vienna hotel. There, they fall back into their sadomasochistic relationsip relationship…The film depicts the political continuity between wartime Nazism and post-war Europe and the psychological continuity of characters locked into compulsive repetition of the past. On another level it deals with the psychological condition known as Stockholm Syndrome”.

There is obviously a big difference between Nazi chic and Nazi fetishism (although there may be overlaps for some adherents). The online Urban Dictionary defines Nazi fetish as:

“Somebody who becomes sexually aroused when seeing someone of the Aryan race in an SS Nazi, Third Reich uniform or Holocaust/Hitler related uniforms. Charlotte Rampling in ‘The Night Porter’ would be a Nazi Fetish for some men or women”.

Academically there has been little written on Nazi fetishism. I went searching online and found dozens of confessions by people claiming to enjoy and be fans of Nazi fetishism (as well as lots of websites – such as the uniform fetish site at Live Journal – that feature lots of sexually provocative Nazi fetish clothing). Here are some of the online admissions that I found. Obviously I can’t guarantee their veracity but they all seemed genuine to me:

  • Extract 1: “Don’t get me wrong. I DO NOT IN ANY WAY support their murders, torture, or anything of the sort. I would never support such heinous actions. That being said…I like Nazis. I like the uniform, the boots (Yesss, the boots), the fact that they’re German/speak German, as well as the whole ‘Aryan’ look. Neatly combed blonde hair, blue eyes. My friends think I’m insane, because I’m half black and I like blonde Nazis. Anyway, I love the masculinity they seemed to have. It’s very attractive. It’s a fetish I have”.
  • Extract 2: “I am a girl and I am turned on by The Nazi look blonde hair blue eyes and uniform, I can’t help but have thoughts about it is there something wrong with me? I think the holocaust was awful and I hate what the Nazis did but I just can’t help it, am I normal to have a weird fetish?”
  • Extract 3: “Nazi fetishes are actually fairly common in BD/SM. There used to be tons of Nazi-themed pornography and general exploitation movies although as the years following WW2 pass it is becoming more uncommon…The taboo and violence attached to Nazis makes them a popular fetish for people of many races, religions, and sexual orientations. Nazi fetishism is currently most popular in Asian and in gay pornography”.
  • Extract 4: “Lately, I’ve found myself getting a little too excited thinking about what most would call Nazi fetishism. I already had a bit of a German fetish, what with the accents and appearances, but when the SS uniforms started sneaking into my fantasies, when the idea of a little Nazi roleplay started to really appeal, things were different. I even fantasize about my love interest in the uniform (which is ironic because he is quite far from being an Aryan)!…I’ve uncovered other fetishes I have and now see how this fits in. (i) German accents are extremely sexy to me, (ii) I have always liked uniforms and nice clothes. (iii) taboo appeals to me quite a bit, [and] (iv) power and being dominated appeals to me” (z0mbiequeen)
  • Extract 5: “I have a fetish for uniforms and I don’t blame someone for having a Nazi fetish, people who are sharply dressed do look pretty sexy, especially the women’s clothing. I don’t have a fetish for the accents and everything German…It could also be how Nazis are frowned upon, so having a fetish for something so controversial and wrong makes it dirty?” (lovingpegasister)
  • Extract 6: “[Nazi] fetish is so common in many circles, from anime cosplay to gothic culture. They had the most badass uniforms at the time and they still look hot on just about anyone” (derBunker)

The Nazi clothing appears to be a fundamental part of the fetish and would appear to be a sub-type of uniform fetishism (that I outlined in a previous blog). In 2007, Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry appeared to praise the Nazi style (both in fashion and architectural terms) when he was quoted in a German newspaper as saying: ‘The way that the Nazis staged themselves and presented themselves, my Lord!…I’m talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl…And the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags – just fantastic. Really beautiful”. However, Ferry’s comments caused huge controversy and he then clarified his comments by saying: “I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective”. This type of apology is very similar to the caveats made by Nazi fetishists online in justifying their like of Nazi imagery from a sexual perspective.

Arguably the most high profile case of Nazi fetishism was Max Mosley (youngest son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the former leader of the British Union of Fascists and former head of Formula One’s governing body) who was caught in 2008 on video with five prostitutes playing concentration camp fetish games. One article quoted [unnamed] “experts” saying: “While the Nazi concept is not unusual in sadomasochistic circles, playing both sides in such a kinky ritual is unusual”. Another (less high profile) case was that of Gareth Meade, a senior council officer in London (UK), who lost his job for gross misconduct after his involvement in Nazi fetishism was exposed by a Sunday newspaper. Photos of Meade posing in Nazi regalia was found on a gay sex website. Meade claimed in the newspaper interview that he was “not a racist” and that his sexual activity was “a private fetish”.

A recent 2013 paper published by Dr. David Lopez and Dr. Ellis Godard in the journal Popular Culture Review studied Nazi fetishism using online forum data (a method that I have also been using to study rare paraphilic behaviours and which I have recently published a couple of papers on – see ‘Further Reading’ below). They also view the fetish as a type of uniform fetish. Their paper notes that:

“Nazi uniform fetishists and role-players represent the diversity of BDSM subculture as it is a very unique activity with a specific form of expression. The most salient form of this expression is seen in the style and fashion of these fetishists and role-players. Style and fashion express autonomy, proclaims messages, establishes boundaries, and generates definitions of a subculture (Hebdige, 1979). For uniform fetishists, the uniform creates a context for the BDSM scene. A Nazi uniform is just one type of uniform fetish. We suggest for these participants, they are attracted to Nazism as a movement steeped in violence and evil and the uniform is representative of this movement. BDSM practitioners use the term ‘scene’ when referring to erotic power exchange”.

Lopez and Godard collected data from a BDSM site that had over 900,000 members. They then focused on specific discussion groups within the main site. One of these groups comprised individuals that were interested in ‘Nazi Uniform Fetish and Roleplaying’ [NUFR] and had 617 members. They also noted that there were at least 12 other similar groups with an interest in Nazi fetishism including ‘Females of the Third Reich’ (114 members) and ‘SS [Shutzstaffel] Protection Squad] Uniforms and Those Who Love Them’ (162 members). The NUFR group was chosen as the site to study as it had the biggest number of members and the most detailed postings from its members about Nazi fetishism. The data were content analysed and comprised over 300 threads (approximately 10,000 comments). The authors reported that members discussed the uniforms themselves, including where to acquire them and pointedly disavowed white supremacy and anti-Semitism, emphasizing only the erotlcism associated with the uniforms. They also reported that many posts commented on the sex appeal of the uniforms. In response to a post asking “What makes a sexy Nazi?” one respondent noted that:

“A well cared for athletic, mature female body, subtly made up fair skin and hard steely blue eyes, long dark hair gathered up carefully in a high ponytail. She is very stylish and well groomed, a pristine women’s tailored Black SS uniform laid out for her on the bed beside her as she sits gracefully at her dressing table in her delicate, demure lingerie and Fully fashioned seamed and Cuban heel Nylons leaning elegantly forward and to the side to pull up the zips on her gleaming almost mirror polished Black Leather 5″ heel knee boots. Her visor cap, Black Leather Gloves, 4ft bull whip and SS officer’s belt on her pillow along with the heavy Leather holster that shrouds her 9mm P38. The interest in Nazi role-playing and the Nazi fetish is for most people (I can’t vouch for everyone), is a stimulating response to strong imagery, well tailored uniforms, and notions of power and fear”.

As with the online posts I found online, Lopez and Godard noted that their participants were “very careful and go to great lengths to establish that they are not anti-Semitic or supremacists”, and were fully aware that confusion is possible. For instance, some respondents noted:

  • Example 1: “People tend to automatically assume that someone who finds the uniform or the role-play sexy, is actually a Nazis themselves. Which I’m sure can be the case from time to time but couldn’t be further from the truth for me. I’m actually the exact opposite”
  • Example 2: “There are a lot of Jews in this group, like me. Except we’re clever enough to know the difference between a fetish and actually committing racist acts”
  • Example 3: “The biggest fan of my ex’s SS-uniform was a friend of ours who is Jewish”
  • Example 4: “Jews like to play Nazis and Nazis like to play Jews”
  • Example 5: “I’m a Jew who likes to keep being a Jew in my Nazi torture role-playing”

The authors also noted that not one post they examined expressed explicit anti-Semitism. It was the violent nature of Nazism, not anti-Semitism that motivated the self-presentation of individuals as ‘Nazis’ among Nazi uniform fetishists. They also added that it was the image of violence that was being portrayed, more than the actual violence. This is because BDSM play is highly controlled (as evidenced by, consensual scene negotiation and the use of safe-words). Based on the (mainly) qualitative data collected, Lopez and Godard concluded that:

“Nazi uniform fetish and role-play is just that, the playing of a role. The fetish serves to enhance the BDSM experience and has little to do with white supremacy or anti-Semitism. The world of BDSM is an erotically charged arena that incorporates a variety of interests, desires, and tastes. It is the association with evil that participants in Nazi uniform fetish and role-play find appealing. The self-presentation of erotic evil serves to contribute to the quality of the BDSM experience and allow participants in this subculture a safe and accepting environment in which to explore and express their fetish. This suggests, as oxymoronic as it sounds, that evil isn’t all that bad. The incorporation of evil symbols in a safe, non-harmful, consensual manner to enhance one’s pleasure suggests some performances (i.e., role-playing) serve a purpose in popular culture; it allows us to be bad”.

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

Further reading

Betts, P. (2002). The new fascination with fascism: The case of Nazi modernism. Journal of Contemporary History, 37, 541-558.

Fuchs, M. (2012). Of Blitzkriege and Hardcore BDSM: Revisiting Nazi Sexploitation Camps. In Elizabeth Bridges, Kristin T. Vander Lugt, & Daniel H. Magilow (Eds.), Nazisploitation: The Nazi Image in Low-Brow Film and Culture (pp. 279-294. New York: Continuum.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilia: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.

Griffiths, M.D., Lewis, A., Ortiz de Gortari, A.B. & Kuss, D.J. (2013). Online forums and blogs: A new and innovative methodology for data collection. Studia Psychologica, in press.

Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The Meaning of sSyle. New York: Methuen & Co.

Lopez, D. A., Godard, E. Nazi (2013). Uniform fetish and role-playing: A subculture of erotic evil.  Popular Culture Review, 24(1), 69-78.

Rocker, S. (2010). Council officer sacked for Nazi ‘fetish’. Jewish Chronicle, March 22. Located at: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/29730/council-officer-sacked-nazi-fetish

Wikipedia (2013). Nazi chic. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_chic

Swinging lessons: A beginner’s guide to candaulism and cuckold fetishes

In a previous blog on exhibitionism (i.e., individuals who expose their genitals to other people), I briefly mentioned a sub-type called candaulism that I defined as referring to people who expose themselves to their sexual partners (e.g., a wife or husband) in a sexually explicit way. Since writing that blog I had an email from one of my regular blog readers saying that the definition I provided wasn’t as detailed as it could have been. In response to my (friendly) critic, I decided to take a more detailed look.

The first place I looked was Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Interestingly she defined candaulism as “a group of three people where only two of them engage in sex and the other watches, sometimes from a closet”. She then spent the rest of her text basically discussing troilism where three people typically comprise a sexual couple and a third person where one of the three (typically the husband or male partner of the couple) watching the other two have sex. Nothing of what was written was based on anything I would call empirical and research-based (although it was an interesting read).

Next it was on to my favourite text on sexual deviation – Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Dr. Aggrawal described candaulism as a variation of exhibitionism [where] persons do not exhibit themselves but their spouses – usually a male exhibiting his wife”. He also cited the work of Polish psychiatrist Dr. Z. Marten who published a case study in 1986 on candaulism in a Polish psychiatric journal. On the basis of this, Aggrawal said that candaulism also involves “getting sadomasochistic pleasure when the husband exposes his wife, or pictures of her, to other voyeurist people.” I have no idea how representative this case study is of candaulism as this paper appears to be the only academic case study that has ever been published and was published in the author’s native language (so all I have to go on is Aggrawal’s second-hand account). Dr. Aggrawal had also researched where the word ‘candaulism’ was derived. He reported that:

“The term derives its name from Candaules, king of the ancient kingdom of Lydia from 735 to 718 BC, who was so proud of the beauty of his wife, and so much did he want to impress others, that he made a plot to show his unaware naked wife to his bodyguard, Gyges of Lydia. Discovering Gyges while he was watching her naked, Candaules’ wife obviously became enraged and ordered him to choose between killing himself or her husband in order to repair the vicious mischief. Gyges chose to kill the king. The queen married Gyges subsequently and fathered the Mermnad Dynasty”.

It was the German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing that then coined the term in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. Aggrawal claimed that husbands (which I am assuming covers all male sexual partners within a heterosexual couple) take the “paraphilia to the extreme and enjoys other people having sex with his wife” (which I am assuming would include a female partner within a heterosexual couple). Aggrawal then adds that: “This practice can take the form of swinging, in which husbands exchange wives for sexual intercourse and watch each other. In certain cases the relation evolves into a stable union of these persons, known as troilism”.

In the third edition of Dr. Ronald Homes and Dr. Stephen Holmes’ Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behaviors, the authors discussed candaulism in their chapter on ‘nuisance sex behaviours’. Holmes and Holmes link candaulism to ‘swinging’ (i.e., the swapping of sexual partners). More specifically, they noted:

“Swingers, or mate swappers, are often termed triolists, and at other times it is termed candaulism. In candaulism, a man exposes his partner, or pictures of her, to others. Sometimes women are coerced into the swinging scene to fulfill the desires of their husbands (Bowman, 1985; Jenks, 1998; McCary, 1978)…There are other triolists who seek pleasure by sharing a sexual partner with another person while the triolist looks on. An estimated 8 million couples have experienced this type of sexual behavior (Avery & Johannis, 1985). Triolism may also take the form of two couples having sexual relations at the same time in sight of each other. While there are single swingers, usually when one speaks of swingers in this con- text we are speaking of married or committed couples (Cargan, 1986)”.

In the description of candaulism by Holmes and Holmes, it is turned into a nuisance sexual behaviour by the addition of coercion (something that isn’t explicitly mentioned in other definitions that I have come across). Having said that, the Wikipedia entry on candaulism has a more negative take on what the behaviour involves and is also the most detailed I have come across:

“Candaulism is a sexual practice or fantasy in which a man exposes his female partner, or images of her, to other people for their voyeuristic pleasure. Such a practice is widely regarded as a breach of implicitly placed by the female in her sex partner. The term may also be applied to the practice of undressing or otherwise exposing a female partner to others, or urging or forcing a female partner to engage in sexual relations with a third person, such as during a swinging activity. There have also been reports of a woman’s partner urging or forcing her into prostitution or pornography such as in the case of Karen Lancaume and others. Similarly, the term may also be applied to the posting of personal images of a female partner on the Internet or to urging or forcing a female partner to wear clothing which reveals her physical attractiveness to others, such as by wearing very brief clothing, such as a microskirt, tight-fitting or see-through clothing or a low-cut top”

Dr. R. Jenks in a review of the ‘swinging’ literature in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that swingers are “generally nondescript members of the community” but had a number of common characteristics including the fact that they: (i) had moved often in the past five years, (ii) were relatively new to the community, (iii) were members of the middle class, (iv) were conservative in their political views, (v) identified little with religion, and (vi) belonged to more community groups than non-swingers.

One online list of the ‘most disturbing fetishes lists an alleged fetish they called ‘cuckold fetish’. The snippet of text notes that although the adultery is commonplace “fetishized infidelity is a lot less common”. Cuckold fetish appears to be a form of candaulism as cuckold fetish is “when a man becomes sexually aroused by the knowledge that his wife is having sex with another man. In some cases, this may involve him setting up the affair, but not being around while it occurs, but in other cases, he may watch or even join in”. There is also a fair amount of sexual slang associated with cuckold fetishes. For instance, a ‘Jack Gagger’ is a husband that procures other men to have sex with his wife. Such fetishes may overlap with another sexual paraphilia known as zelophilia (i.e., individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from jealousy or being jealous).

From this brief overview it is clear that although there has been some academic research on ‘swinging’, and a little academic writing on candaulism. However, empirical research into candaulism is close to non-existent. As with other sexual behaviours that I have covered in my blog, one of the first issues to untangle is a more precise and agreed upon definition – particularly around the issue of whether candaulism is a coercive or non-coercive sexual beahviour.

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

Further reading

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

Avery, C., & Johannis, T. (1985). Love and marriage. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Bowman, H. (1985). Marriage For Moderns (7th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Cargan, L. (1986). Stereotypes of singles: A cross-cultural comparison. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 200–208.

Harness, J. (2010). The 12 most disturbing fetishes to keep you up at night. Oddee, September 12. Located at: http://www.oddee.com/item_97279.aspx
Holmes, S.T. & Holmes, R.M. (2009). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behaviors (3rd Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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.

Jenks, R. (1998). Swinging: A review of the literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 507–521.

Marten, Z. (1986). Candaulesism – Case report Psychiatrica Polska, 20, 235-237.

McCary, J. (1978). McCary’s Human Sexuality. New York: Van Nostrand.

Wikipedia (2012). Candaulism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candaulism

Clowns’ syndrome: A brief look at coulrophilia

There are various websites that list hundreds of different types of sexual paraphilias. Many of these paraphilias are simply the names of specific phobias with the suffix ‘-phobia’ replaced by the suffix ‘-philia’. Examples of this include: agoraphobia and agoraphilia (fear of the outdoors; sexual arousal from the outdoors), cremnophobia and cremnophilia (fear of steep cliffs and precipices; sexual arousal from steep cliffs and precipices), and kynophobia and kynophilia (fear of getting rabies; sexual arousal from getting rabies). Another sexual paraphilia that often appears in these lists is coulrophilia (sexual arousal from clowns) that I assumed was just based on the opposite phobia (coulrophobia – fear of clowns) and didn’t really exist (especially 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 coulrophilia in any academic article or book that I am aware of. The most in-depth piece of text that I came across was this snippet from the online Urban Dictionary that notes:

“Coulrophilia is the paraphilia involving sexual attraction to clowns, mimes and jesters. The most likely reason behind this is because of lack of childhood, but some say the attraction is because the person behind the face paint could be anybody that you may or may not know”

I had all but given writing up a blog on coulrophilia until I (by chance) stumbled upon an online forum where a group of people were discussing their respective clown fetishes. I’ve picked out some of the more interesting admissions and have attempted to provide a little commentary on each extract and then a more general summary at the end of the blog. Obviously I have no way of knowing how truthful any of these accounts are, but they appeared genuine to me (particularly given the detail that some of them go into).

Case 1 (Gay male): “I think my fetish started out as more of a fetish for face painting, which has turned me on [for] as long as I can remember…Until I found this [paraphilia] site I always thought I was pretty much alone. Most of the comments I’ve seen elsewhere revolve around scary clowns. Not for me. My face paint interest has always been about silly, the sillier the better! That goes for clowns too, the clown face always seemed like the goofiest, silliest face paint you could possibly put on. One thing led to another and I went from painting my face to buying a clown nose, to the whole deal, costume, paint, wig, gloves, bow tie, shoes, you name it. I think for me the turn on comes from the willingness to look silly. I’ve always been very stoic and uptight to a fault, I find it very hard to let my hair down and relax. So, I think it’s the fear of being silly in front of other people that gives me a rush. To see someone not only look goofy in front of other people, but to actually want to do it, and enjoy it, is overwhelming to me…Although most people don’t find this stuff sexual and would never know the difference, in my mind I’d be doing something private out in the open. My partner has been wonderful with this. I got up some incredible courage one day and put on a clown nose in front of him and to my surprise he wasn’t the least bit put off. I eventually felt him out a bit more here and there and then just told him everything, since then he’s been very supportive and helped me embrace my fetish and the happiness it brings me”.

Commentary: This person notes that their initial sexual arousal dates back (presumably) to childhood, and was for face painting rather than clowns. It appears there was a gradual generalization process that changed the sexual focus from face painting to clowns. In addiction terminology, this individual seems to have developed a kind of ‘tolerance’ over time as the sexual focus went from just buying a clown nose to gradually buying the whole costume to satisfy their sexual needs. The ‘high’ or ‘buzz’ came from the silliness associated with wearing clown’s clothing although I am unsure as to whether it is genuinely just the ‘silliness’ or whether it might be some sort of feeling humiliated (but that’s pure speculation on my part). Given the partner supports the fetish, there is no problem with the behaviour. The fetish only appears to be manifested when the individual wears the clown outfit himself.

Case 2 (Heterosexual male): “I am a very lucky man. Roughly ten years ago, I completely opened up to my then girlfriend of a few months, admitting everything to her…That I loved seeing girls get pied in the face and have buckets of slime dumped on their heads. And that what I promoted as an irrational fear of clowns was to hide the fact that I actually was heavily aroused whenever I saw a female clown. That I really just wanted to dress in baggy pants, wear greasepaint and a big red nose, hurl pies, spank with rubber chickens and have a good silly ****. She said ‘okay’. It was no big deal. Years of repression and guilt and I had nothing to fear. She loved me and was willing to indulge in my fetish sparingly. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world”.

Commentary: As with Case 1, the partner was supportive of the fetish (following an ‘opening up’ conversation) and therefore there is no problem. Interestingly, the person pretended to be afraid of clowns as a way of masking his true feelings (and is something that is not unusual in the more general fetish literature). The most interesting observation is the fact that there is also a crossover with ‘pie fetish’ (the throwing of pies at people) that is a form of salirophilia (sexual arousal for messiness) that I outlined in a previous blog. The reference to spanking with ‘rubber chickens’ may also suggest (at least in part) a spanking fetish. The fetish appears to be located in the visual attraction to women in clown’s clothing rather than wearing it himself.

Case 3 (Bisexual male): “I have always had a clown fetish as long as I can remember. Even before I knew what arousal was, or fetishes for that matter, any of it, I have been strangely interested in clowns. I used to think of clowns before I went to sleep at night…I honestly thought it was because I hated clowns and wanted to fight them, but I realize it was the other way around. I would imagine myself at an entire circus surrounded by clowns and going on adventures to fight them…So I don’t remember thinking about clowns that much after I was really young until puberty hit…Throughout my teens and beyond, I’ve fantasized about clowns. I’ve also have always liked both sexes of clowns, male and female. My fetish can work with both, honestly…I’ve always been into a classical clown look, circus type, hilarious and silly…In my late teens and early adulthood, when the internet was becoming more common, I would talk to others that had clown feelings like me. It was a shock, at the time, to log online to look up pictures of clowns and suddenly realize that others had your fetish. As tame as my fetish is, it honestly takes up the primary desire of my sexuality and to meet others that felt the same way, it was cool. Clowning also introduced me to the pie fetish, which I like as well but honestly, it’s the clowning that does it for me”.

Commentary: This person’s clown fetish again began at an early age and appears to have built through thinking about clowns before going to sleep every night (and thus sexualizing the content even if the individual was unaware that the content was sexual. There appears to be what Sigmund Freud would call a latent period (the years before puberty) when the sexualization of clowns all but disappeared only to re-appear in his teenage years (i.e., am adolescent ‘awakening’). Like Case 2, it appears the individual is sexually aroused by watching clowns (irrespective of gender) rather than dressing up as a clown himself. Also like Case 2, he mentions an associated ‘pie fetish’ (i.e., a possible salirophilia crossover fetish). He describes is love of clowns as his “primary desire” indicating that it may well be a true fetish rather than just a strong liking for clowns. It appears he has met other like-minded coulrophiles on the internet, and as I argued in one of my recent papers on paraphilias, it is the rise of the internet that has facilitated the growth of this little known paraphilia.

Case 4 (Heterosexual female): “I’m an 18 year old chick and well I’m not sure how it all started. But I’ve always thought of clowns as being so sexual and crazy. I get turned on by the way they act and make perverted jokes. The make-up and clothes are really fun and exciting. Recently I went to Halloween horror nights and had a blast. At the center of the amusement park there were these clowns just messing with people and scaring them…The main clown was on a podium…I went to go get a picture with him and…he said ‘hey how about me and you go behind that ice-cream truck and I give u a little popcicle treat eh?’…He pulled me closer to him with the cane and I almost went crazy. I wanted to **** that guy in the costume so bad. I don’t see clowns as innocent childhood ideas. I see them more as erotic fantasy sex trips”

Commentary: This person is unsure of how her clown fetish began but appears to suggest it started back in her childhood given she “always thought of clowns as sexual”. It is unclear whether this person’s experiences of coulrophilia have gone beyond masturbatory fantasies but does seem to have a clown fetish rooted in make-up and dressing-up (two activities that she may have enjoyed as a child and more likely to be encouraged by parents as she was female rather than male).

Case 5 (Bisexual male): “Well, at first I never really liked clowns. In fact, I hated them but I was never afraid of them…One day, I went to my granny’s house after school. I had this one massage ball/stress ball or whatever and occasionally put it close to my nose and looked in the mirror and thought it looked like a clown nose. But this particular day, I had this odd thought that my math teacher wanted me to dress up as a clown and entertain some younger kids to bring out my happiness or some crap like that. The thought seemed stupid to me at first, but at my granny’s house I was known for being mischievous, curious, overly imaginative, and above all weird. So I had to try it and pretend. I made a hole in the ball so it could fit on my nose, got some of my granny’s old baggy scrubs, some fluff, and markers. I sort of looked like a clown so I danced around a bit and made silly faces in the mirror then I put the costume away. A couple days later I was at my granny’s house again and I had the ball on my nose again and I had the urge to masturbate…After I would go to my granny’s house every now and again and I had the urge to masturbate but with the ball on my nose. It never occurred to me that I needed the ball to masturbate with but without it, it wouldn’t feel as good. Eventually, I started picturing myself in a full clown suit with make-up on when I masturbated…I realised that I had a sexual attraction to clowns and I would fantasise about them…I fought this fetish for years…[At school] in the drama room…I found a real clown nose in there…and I had so much fun with it but I would always feel guilty afterwards…Now I can be attracted to someone without being a clown but if they are dressed as clowns, it turns me on waaaay more. So now I’m bisexual and I have a clown fetish”.

Commentary: This person’s sexual interest in clowns doesn’t appear to have begun until the onset of puberty, and even then it was only through associative arousal where the masturbatory spherical stress ball eventually represented a clown’s nose. The clown’s nose is then becomes central to all masturbatory fantasies so much so that it has to be present for sexual arousal to manifest itself (and thus a true fetish). As with Case 1, there is a kind of ‘tolerance’ behaviour where more and more aspects and items of a clown’s clothing have to be present to feed the sexual fantasies. There also appears to have been some associative pairing (i.e., a classically conditioned response) between an attractive teacher and the thought of him as a clown entertaining the children in his class.

Case 6 (Gay male): “I honestly do not recall when I started liking clowns, I was not a big fan of the circus and I do not remember seeing lots of clowns on TV or in real life… Somewhere in high school, I remember seeing some guys with their faces painted (I recall being at some sort of carnival or fair). One of these guys had his face painted like a clown…I remember being mesmerized by his painted clown face. I started fantasizing about myself painted up like a clown. Then I started having fantasies about a guy dressed up like a clown coming up to me and painting my face like a clown. These fantasies stuck with me for years. I knew they excited me, but was not ready to admit to myself that I found clowns sexy…A couple years later I was in some store, around Halloween…Suddenly my eyes focused on a clown makeup set…I painted my face up like a clown – it was amazing! There is just something about becoming a clown, your face underneath all that makeup, it’s silly, exciting, humiliating, liberating, and sexy all at the same time, at least for me…Several times during college I grew a beard, but I would always end up shaving it off, so I could paint my face up like a clown…I find it is such a turn on to think of a guy protesting, adamantly refusing to wear clown makeup and a clown costume, swearing up and down he is not a clown, will NOT dress up like a clown, yet somehow he ends up dressed and painted up like a clown anyway…Somewhere in my childhood I also discovered I love seeing guys hit in the face with a nice, thick cream pie (and of course getting hit in the face with a pie or twenty myself)…Becoming a clown and being pied is a big turn on for me…I would love to find a guy someday who understood this, who loved to take or throw a pie, loved clowns or loved being a clown”.

Commentary: This person does not recall how his clown fetish developed but given he did not like circuses or clowns in childhood it is something that developed during adolescence. There was clearly a key incident of seeing someone with a painted face and feeling sexually attracted towards that person which initiated the fetish (again through associative pairing). As with Cases 2 and 3, there is also a salirophilic pie fetish and he loves to dress up as a clown himself as well as finding other people dressed as clowns sexually arousing. He also describes the act of dressing in clown’s clothes as simultaneously “silly, exciting, humiliating, liberating and sexy”. Again, this suggests there are some sexually masochistic desires underlying the behaviour. He also says that “being pied” is a sexual turn-on (which again has sexually masochistic undertones).

Case 7 (Male, unknown sexual orientation): I loved clowns ever since I was about 5 [years old]. I don’t know exactly how it started (probably me seeing them on TV)…but one night I decided that I really wanted to be a clown. This gradually grew into a full-blown fetish as I got older, and I would create fantasies about them and masturbated whenever I had time alone…Above all things, I had always wanted a clown nose. For some reason, that part of the costume just turned me on the most (especially the honking ones)…Oddly enough, when I’m not thinking about clowns, I am a VERY serious, nerdy, and down-to-earth student…After a trip to the grocery store in my mom’s car, I decided to take a detour to a party/costume place nearby and pick up everything clown-related that I wanted. Ironically, most of my fantasies involve other people laughing at my stupidity, despite the fact that my friends are convinced in real life that I can’t take a joke…The few friends who actually know about my fetish are generally supportive”.

Commentary: This person’s clown fetish appears to have started in early childhood as they “loved” clowns from an early age. As with other cases discussed here, masturbatory fantasies appear critical to the development and maintenance of the fetish through repeated associative pairing of fantasies about clowns and sexual arousal. Interestingly, this person appears to use the dressing up in clown’s clothing as an escape from his day-to-day life. As with Case 1, the clown’s nose appears pivotal in the development of their sexual fetish. This person appears to only derive sexual arousal from dressing in clown’s clothing himself (as a form of escape) rather than watching other people dressed as clowns. There is also a masochistic element to the behaviour as he admits that he enjoys others laughing at his “stupidity” at wearing a clown’s outfit.

Looking at all the cases as a whole, there are some commonalities – even among such a small number of cases. On the whole, coulrophilia appears to originate from a young age, mostly male-based, and arguably there appear to have been associative pairings from this young age (between sexual arousal and clowns) resulting in classically conditioned behavioural responses (i.e., sexual attraction to clowns). There also appear to be overlaps with other sexually paraphilic behaviours (i.e., salirophilia in the form of ‘pie fetishes’ and transvestic dressing-up). Also, Halloween appears to be a time that some enjoyed as an annual opportunity to engage in their preferred sexual behaviour. There didn’t seem to be any association between coulrophilia and sexual orientation as even among such a small number of cases, there were homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual orientations. Whether any empirical or clinical research into coulrophilia will ever be carried out remains debatable, but these few cases at least suggest the paraphilia may exist.

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

Further reading

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

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

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