“[On] February 27th , a man surnamed Cai was taken to court after being arrested by railway police for renting a train lounge car to hold a sex party, with the police preliminarily charging him with violating public decency. [On] February 23rd, Taiwanese [Director of Public Prosecutions] Ye Yijin revealed that someone had booked a [railway] lounge car to hold a “1 woman 18 men” group sex orgy” (China Smack news item, March 1st,2012).
On reading this news item a a year ago, it got me wondering what academic and/or clinical research has been done relating to sexual arousal from and/or in trains. In previous blogs I have examined the relationship between sex and cars (in articles on objectum sexuality, mechanophilia, and symphorophilia), and sex and aeroplanes (in an article on acrophilia), but train sex has not been on my fetishistic radar until I read the Taiwan train orgy story above. Regular readers of my blog probably won’t be surprised to hear that there is a sexual paraphilia relating solely to trains. Both Dr. Anil Aggrawal (in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) and Dr. Brenda Love (in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices) note that the sexual paraphilia where individuals derive sexual arousal and pleasure from trains is called siderodromophilia. Brenda Love claims in her encyclopedia entry on the topic that:
“Couples sometimes reserve a cabin and will have sex standing in front of the window as the train passes through a town or a station. Others squeeze into bathrooms and sneak quickies in corner. Trains provide more privacy and opportunity to socialize than airplanes and buses”.
Neither Dr. Aggrawal nor Dr. Love appear to distinguish between those people that are sexually aroused by (i) the train itself (i.e., individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to [and have sexual relationships with] specific inanimate objects such as a train), (ii) the potentially sexually stimulating vibrations caused by a travelling on a train (akin to those individuals – usually women – who sit on washing machines in their spin cycles as a source of sexual stimulation), or (iii) having sexual encounters and/or engaging in sexual activity on the train. This latter type of sexual activity may not only include masturbatory acts and consensual sexual activity (like the examples described by Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices) but may also include non-consensual sexual acts by those individuals who are into frotteurism and often frequent very busy trains to facilitate their paraphilic behaviour (i.e., individuals, typically male, that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from non-consensually rubbing up against other people (typically but not always female strangers) particularly with their erect penis and/or pelvis).
There are certainly objectophiles that claim to have emotional and sexual relationships with trains. The most infamous case is that of the German man (‘Joachim A.’) who claims to have had a longstanding “steady relationship” with a steam locomotive train. In a 2007 article in the German magazine Der Spiegel, Jochaim (who was aged 41 years old at the time of his interview) said:
“We’re by no means just straightforward fetishists. For some people, their car becomes a fetish which they use to put themselves in the limelight. For the objectum-sexual, on the other hand, the car itself – and nothing else – is the desired sexual partner, and all sexual fantasies and emotions are focused on it”
The article claimed Joachim had “been pretty faithful to his steam locomotive recently” and that he had recognized and accepted his objectum sexuality inclination just prior to his teenage years. He fell “head over heels” in love with a Hammond organ and had “an emotionally and physically very complex and deep relationship, which lasted for years”. The article went on to say that:
“Since he is particularly aroused by the inner workings of technical objects, repair jobs have often led to infidelity in the past. “A love affair could very well begin with a broken radiator,” the now monogamous lover says, remembering how his earlier affairs began. Joachim gradually realized that ‘you can reveal yourself to an object partner in an intimate way, in a way that you would never reveal yourself to any other person’. That includes the desire to ‘experience sexuality together’”.
Any Freudians reading this will no doubt be aware that according to Sigmund Freud, a train is analogous to the male penis. (I don’t believe any of this myself, but it would be remiss of me not to mention it given the focus of my blog). In a short online article about railways, Christian Hubert also makes reference to Freud and noted that:
“Both Freud and Karl Abraham indicated the connection between mechanical agitation and sexual arousal in the train. This joy found its repressed counterpart in the fear experienced by neurotics in the face of accelerating or uncontrolled motion as the fear of their own sexuality going out of control”.
After reading this I decided to try and track down the original source (and I think that I found it). Freud, in his book ‘Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory’ had a whole section devoted to what he termed ‘mechanical excitation’. More specifically he noted that:
“[We must] describe here the production of sexual excitation by means of rhythmic mechanical shaking of the body. There are three kinds of exciting influences: those acting on the sensory apparatus of the vestibular nerves, those acting on the skin, and those acting on the deep parts, such as the muscles and joints…As we know, rocking is regularly used in putting to sleep restless children. The shaking sensation experienced in wagons and railroad trains exerts such a fascinating influence on older children, that all boys, at least at one time in their lives, want to become conductors and drivers. They are wont to ascribe to railroad activities an extraordinary and mysterious interest, and during the age of phantastic activity (shortly before puberty) they utilize these as a nucleus for exquisite sexual symbolisms. The desire to connect railroad travelling with sexuality apparently originates from the pleasurable character of the sensation of motion”.
The (unnamed) editor of the Ventura County Reporterhas his own blog (Fir & Main) and wrote an online article entitled ‘Siderodromophilia and other loves”. In it, he appeared to concur with Freud by noting that:
“Yes, I enjoy trains, and there is a certain sensuality in the rhythmic motions (and let’s not mention stock footage and visual double entendres of trains entering tunnels…Fortunately, Googling the word siderodromophilia wasn’t as disturbing as I’d feared”
After searching all the usual academic databases, I didn’t manage to locate a single paper that has examined siderodromophilia. Maybe this is because the definition is so ill-defined and/or it has little academic or clinical relevance. I’ll leave you with another issue that I’ll throw into the mix. Siderodromophilia would appear to be part of a more wide-ranging paraphilia called ‘hodophilia’. Dr. Aggrawal simply describes it as “sexual arousal from travelling” whereas Dr. Love has a slightly expanded definition and says it is the “sexual arousal people feel while traveling to new or strange places”. Dr. Love goes a little further and concludes that:
“Travel often entails anxiety, pleasure, autonomy, and additional hours for entertainment. People feel more tempted to break out of their normal routine and experience their new environment to the fullest, especially if the country has a legal red light district”.
I have to be honest and say that no evidence was presented to support these assertions but given the lack of empirical evidence in the whole area, speculation is the best we have at the current time.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Fauna (2012). Sex party on Taiwan train involved 17-year-old girl and 18 men. China Smack, March 31. Located at: http://www.chinasmack.com/2012/stories/sex-orgy-on-taiwan-train-involved-17-year-old-girl-and-18-men.html
Fir & Main (2008). Siderodromophilia and other loves, April 24. Located at: http://vcredit.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/siderodromophilia-and-other-loves/
Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its Discontents. London: Hogarth Press.
Freud, S. (1962). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, trans. James Strachey. New York: Basic Books.
Hubert, C. (undated). Railway. Located at: http://christianhubert.com/writings/railway.html
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm
Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships
Thadeusz, F. (2007). Objectophilia, Fetishism and Neo-Sexuality: Falling in Love with Things. Der Spiegel, November 5. Located at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,482192,00.html