“Dear Abby. Please help save my marriage. My wife of five years discovered an Internet browser history of 13 Web pages I had clicked on the previous day. The pages were of women’s sexy lips. My wife is calling it ‘porn’ and a ‘gateway to porn’. I feel guilty about it, but I told her it isn’t pornography. I think it’s a fetish. She says I’m using that word to get off the hook. Will you please tell her that this probably is a fetish?” (Letter sent to the ‘Dear Abby’ column in Buffalo News, December 26, 2012).
Lips play an important role in human sexual behaviour. Given how important lips are in traditional courtship rituals and sexual intimacy it is perhaps surprising that lip fetishes appear to be relatively rare (at least based on the complete lack of published papers on the topic). Maybe because lips are so integral to sexual courtship is the reason that they are rarely seen as the object of fetish desires.
“Lips are soft, movable, and…are a tactile sensory organ, and can be erogenous when used in kissing and other acts of intimacy…The lip has many nerve endings and reacts as part of the tactile (touch) senses. Lips are very sensitive to touch, warmth, and cold…Because of their high number of nerve endings, the lips are an erogenous zone” (Wikipedia entry for ‘Lip’).
The behaviour in which individuals have a sexual interest concerning a specific (and often exclusive) body part is known as ‘partialism’. In the latest (fifth) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), partialism is categorised as a ‘fetishistic disorder’ if (i) it is not focussed on the genitals, and (ii) causes significant psychosocial distress for the person or has detrimental effects on important areas of their life. Partialists will often describe the body part of interest to them as having as much (if not greater) sexual arousal for them than the genitals. The Wikipedia entry on lip augmentation makes a number of claims about lip sexuality but few of the assertions are referenced:
“Surveys performed by sexual psychologists have also found that universally, men find a woman’s full lips to be more sexually attractive than lips that are less so. A woman’s lips are therefore sexually attractive to males because they serve as a biological indicator of a woman’s health and fertility. A woman’s lipstick (or collagen lip enhancement) attempts to take advantage of this fact by creating the illusion that a woman has more oestrogen than she actually has, and thus that she is more fertile and attractive. Lip size is linked to sexual attraction in both men and women. Women are attracted to men with masculine lips, that are more middle size and not too big or too small; they are to be rugged and sensual. In general, the researchers found that a small nose, big eyes and voluptuous lips are sexually attractive both in men and women. The lips may temporarily swell during sexual arousal due to engorgement with blood”.
As with other sexual fetishes that I have examined in previous blogs (and where there is little written academically), I went online and tried to locate online forums and dedicated websites where lip fetishism was the sole focus. However, there appears to be very little online. The types of people who claimed to have lip (or lip-related) fetishes were both male and female but provided almost no details. For instance, here are three representative of those I found online (and obviously I have no way of knowing to what extent these are truly representative and/or telling the truth):
- Extract 1: “Is a lip fetish bad? I love big lips on girls and always have the feeling of wanting to kiss and make out a lot with tongues. Is this normal?”
- Extract 2: “I think I may have a lip fetish. Whenever I see a man with full lips, or a lip that have a slight fullness or pucker…I immediately want to touch them and later kiss him. And even with my [boyfriends], I’ve wanted to kiss and suck on their lips”.
- Extract 3: “Has anyone come across a friend, partner, etc. with a serious lipstick fetish before? Now, I love me my lipstick as much (if not more so) than the next girl, but I’ve been hanging out with someone lately who seems really smitten with lipstick on me. I’m thinking of going to buy some nice over-the-top smeary lipstick to tease them with”.
This latter extract is obviously not lip fetishism but lipstick fetishism and my own research online suggests that this is much more prominent (and discussed) online than lip fetishism per se. For instance, there are dedicated lipstick fetish forums (e.g., The Lipstick Fetish Forum), dedicated lipstick domination and ‘point of view’ humiliation pages (e.g., ClipVia.com, HumiliationPOV.com) [please be warned that if you click on the hyperlinks that these are sexually explicit sites]. I also came across lip fetishism being associated with other types of sexual fetishism (most notably smoking fetishism which I examined in a previous blog). Obviously, lip fetishism (and probably lipstick fetishism more so) is hard to separate it from the visual metaphor it represents (i.e., the female vulva). As an online article at the Venus O’Hara website notes (more literary than academically):
“A pair of expressive lips, shiny and smooth, are an easy indicator of health and vigour and they draw the fetishistic gaze at least as much as a pair of attractive eyes but to a completely different effect. They recall the last pair of lips that a man has kissed, reminding him of shared breath, intimate heat and his sensual longing to return to that moment. This is particularly true if the allure of the lips is enhanced by smooth movements, casual licks and oblivious bites that signify interest, shyness and arousal in the woman. Lips can project much more than just personality. They they can show attitude, emotion and forcefulness and can be altered, subtly, to achieve specific fetish effects as well, the cupid’s bow suggests innocence, rich colour hints at debauchery and natural lips speak of confidence and individuality”.
Perhaps the strangest type of lip-related fetishism is one that I wrote about an academic paper that I published with Richard Greenhill in the International Journal of Sexual Health. Our paper was actually about dacryphilia (sexual arousal from crying) and comprised data collected from online interviews with eight dacryphiles (six females and two males aged 20 to 50 years). One of the males expressed his dacryphilia primarily through an interest in curled-lips. More specifically, he was aroused by the sight of someone’s bottom lip curling while crying. Two sub-themes were identified as characteristic of this individual’s interest in curled-lips: (i) attraction to lips during crying; and (ii) rarity of this dacryphilic interest. In the first instance, he suggested that his interest was rare, or perhaps unique:
“My own dacryphilia focus (lip curling) is pretty much unique, as far as I can tell. I haven’t found any dacryphiliacs who focus on this aspect of crying. I have come across a minority of people who like it, but it is still not their main kink…[I personally like the] protruding, curling, contorting or bulging of the bottom lip when women cry”.
Here, the fetish focused primarily on the physical (i.e., the lips, a physical part of the body), and differed from other dacryphiles (who focus on either on compassionate or dominant/submissive interests, and which both involve emotional components). We claimed in our paper that this ‘curled lip’ dacryphile was different from lip fetishism and was more linked to one of the secondary products of crying (i.e., the movement of the lips):
“I’m definitely a big fan of women’s lips in general, but I feel there’s a definite difference between being attracted to lips and being attracted to lips curled as a result of crying”.
In this extract, our participant’s interest in curled lips appeared to be a dacryphilic interest, rather than a form of partialism. He expressed his interest as focussed on the movement of the bottom lip during crying. Although the sexual arousal being caused by the movement of the bottom lip would initially appear to be linked with partialism, our participant clearly distanced his dacryphilic interest from this sexual interest by specifically differentiating the two. This suggests that dacryphilia may not only be concerned with the primary product of crying (i.e., tears), but also with the secondary products (i.e., how the rest of the face moves during crying).
Given that the love of lips (or lip-related behaviours) is unlikely to cause problems, it is therefore unsurprising that there is so little academic or clinical literature on the topic as most sexual fetishes are written about only when the behaviour is problematic (e.g., an individual seeks help for their problem, partner discovers the fetish and doesn’t like it) – something that appears to be incredibly rare where lip fetishism is concerned.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unususal Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). The use of online asynchronous interviews in the study of paraphilias. SAGE Research Methods Cases. Located at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305013508526
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Compassion, dominance/submission, and curled lips: A thematic analysis of dacryphilic experience. International Journal of Sexual Health, doi: 10.1080/19317611.2015.1013596.
Griffiths, M. D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilias – A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.
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.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.
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.
Wikipedia (2015). Dacryphilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dacryphilia
Wikipedia (2015). Lip. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lip
The one thing about sexual fetishes that always amazes me is how specific some people’s sexual likes and interests are. One such fetish is fingernail fetish. According to Dr. Ellen McCallum’s book Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism, this fetish is a specific sub-type of hand fetishism (as other sub-types include finger fetishism and palm fetishism or include non-sexual specific actions done by the hands such as washing up or drying the dishes). According to the Wikipedia entry on hand fetishism, “this fetish may manifest itself as a desire to experience physical interaction, or as a source of sexual fantasy”. A quick look online suggests that the fetish exists as there are various dedicated websites catering for all sexual fingernail needs such as the Fingernail Fetish website (“a collection of soft-core image galleries and video catering to those with a long-nail fetish”) and the one run by the Pinterest website.
Fingernail fetishes are certainly referenced by leading academics and clinicians in the sexology field although most of the references to it point out its existence but give little information with respect to incidence, prevalence, or etiological development. For instance, the Austrian psychologist Dr. Wilhelm Stekel in his 1952 book Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex noted:
“The true fetish lover dispenses with a sexual partner and gratifies himself with a symbol. This symbol can be represented by a piece of clothing, a part of the partner’s body (pubic hair, nails braid or pigtail) or any object used by the other person”.
Similarly, Dr. Martin Kafka in one of his many papers in the Archives of Sexual Behavior on sexual fetishism also made reference to the fetishization of fingernails without giving any detail:
“Fetishes tend to be articles of clothing, such as female undergarments, shoes and boots, or, more rarely, parts of the body such as hair or nails. Technically, hair and nails are body products but they are also ‘’non-living objects’ consistent with the DSM-III definition of fetishism. Feet, hands, or other typically non-sexualized parts of the body are not ‘non-living objects,’ however, and there was no diagnostic entity offered in DSM- III to account for persons whose fetishism-like clinical disorder was delimited by an exclusive focus on non-sexual body parts, such as hands or feet…As was noted in DSM-III, body products, such as hair or fingernails, can become obligatory fetish objects”.
Having carried out an extensive literature search on academic databases, the only case of fingernail fetishism that I was able to locate was a 1972 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, by Dr. Austin McSweeny who successfully treated a young male fingernail fetishist using hypnosis. I also came across a 2001 Spanish paper written by Dr. Jaime Tabares that the title translated as “Fetish perversion: From pathological mourning to alienating manic identification” and published in Revista de Psicoanalisis de la Asociacion Psicoanalitica de Madrid. The paper discussed the case of a 24-year Spanish male and the role of depression, paranoid anxiety, and pathological mourning in the development of masculine perversion and fetishism. The only reason I mention this paper is that the author mentioned that one of the fetishes (along with his masochistic fantasies) was for painted nails.
Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) reported a truly bizarre case involving necrophilia and fingernails. Citing from a 1963 book by Dr. R. Masters and Dr. A. Lea (Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving Concepts of Sadism, Lust-Murder, and Necrophilia – From Ancient to Modern Times.), Aggrawal briefly described the case of a man who derived his sexual gratification from eating the nail trimmings of corpses. I have no idea if this would count as a genuine case of fingernail fetishism, but it’s certainly a case of someone who was gained sexual gratification from fingernails (albeit from dead people).
In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish form data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). They devised a scheme whereby a person’s sexual preference could be assigned to one or more of three particular categories (fetishes for particular body parts, fetishes for particular objects, and/or fetishes for different behaviours. Scorrolli and colleagues said: “these were further subdivided to describe, in broad terms preferences for (the examples in parentheses come from our data)” and one of these specifically gave the example of fingernails (in this case, a sexual fetish for the biting of fingernails):
- A part or feature of the body (e.g., feet or overweight individuals), including body modifications (e.g., tattoos).
- An object usually experienced in association with the body (e.g., shoes or headphones).
- An object not usually associated with the body (e.g., dirty dishes, candles).
- An event involving only inanimate objects (they found no examples).
- A person’s own behavior (e.g., biting fingernails).
- A behavior of other persons (e.g., smoking or fighting).
- A behavior or situation requiring an interaction with others (e.g., domination or humiliation role play).
They reported that some of the sites featured references to nail fetishes comprising a total of 669 group members. This accounted for less than 1% of all fetish site members. I would also add that having read the paper and examined some of the sites given, I’m not convinced that all of these were fingernail fetishists as some of the fetish websites found (like ‘Bed of Nails’) may be sadomasochistic sites where the sexual focus is nails that are hammered rather than nails on the hand.
In my research for this article, I also came across lots of self-confessed fingernail fetishists. Here are a few examples:
- Extract 1: “I am trying to get out more and understand why my fetish for long nails is big for me. Well it all started when I was 5 years old as a little kid. I was getting babysit by my cousin’s girlfriend and well you know she had nice long natural nails about 1 inch, inch and half, and she always was filing them, round and a little pointy too, and painting them. I used to watch and get hypnotized by that. So one day she was watching her soap operas…I decided to get up and change the channel…She warned me if I changed the channel again, I would know what her long nails are for. So she came to me I ran and hid, after I came back in the living room she surprised me from behind with one of the hardest pinches I ever experienced in my entire life… I almost felt paralysed by that pain, and after that she scratched me, hard enough to cry and it hurt. But a few days after that she tried to scratch me again when she came, and all of a sudden I was getting aroused, so she said ‘I wont hurt you this time, but I would love to be able to scratch you if you let me’. So I let her, and she started very slowly and increased the pressure as time went by, it was getting to be a new experience for me, We had set little rules and boundaries to stick by too. So she would only scratch till I got red, and if I bled…I agreed to that [be]cause she loved to scratch hard and be rough, so she had to see a little blood to be satisfied I guess. [Now] you now know how my long nails fetish got started and was born” (JayG).
- Extract 2: “I definitely became aware of my fetish around 5 or 6 [years old] when I started to become aroused and curious to what the nails must feel like on my skin…A few years later it became more weird when I started to have scratching fantasies before going to sleep giving me my first wave of self-induced erections. Nobody who doesn’t have a fetish like this gets turned on like that at such a young age. It must be highly abnormal. But we ARE freaks of nature I guess” (Saba).
- Extract 3: “My nail fascination also began when I was quite young, but I most certainly was not physically sexually arousable at the age of 5 [years] by the sight or feel of nails. …Those early encounters I sometimes catch myself re-writing my own history with respect to the arousal part, because it’s hard to imagine myself not being physically aroused by nails, but in reality, I wasn’t, not physically. Nails didn’t do ‘that’ to me until I properly began puberty. What I felt at 5 was the excitement of the danger that nails posed (girls of 5 used their nails as weapons, I had no inkling they could also be instruments of pleasure), and certainly a heightened awareness of the differences between the genders. Even before I knew girls had different genitalia, I recognised they were meant to have long nails and we were not” (Scott).
- Extract 4: “I was around 5 or 6 (years old] is when I got fascinated by girls and women’s nails. This was way back about 55 years ago. I don’t remember seeing [long] nails…until I was 12 or 13. But if a girl had nails, she usually had them as a means of protecting herself. And hard pinching was the preferred technique. And some of the girls were very effective. I remember one girl whose nails weren’t that long, but were filed to a point. Another girl stopped cutting her nails when she was 12. I only saw her once after that time, but most of her nails must have been around 1/2 inch long, and she knew how to use them and she had a real mean streak. I guess there has always been something fascinating about a girl who might be smaller and weaker than any of the boys, but could put real fear into them. Also the thought always occurred that if the young girls could cause so much pain with their relatively short nails, what could an adult woman with much longer nails do to someone?” (MJ2)
- Extract 5: “I’ve got something with me that started out fun, but has turned into a problem. I’ve got a fetish for long nails. They turn me on so much. First when I was younger it was fun, I’d look at pics every now and then and get off to them. Now it’s turned into a 3 o 4 times a day thing. It’s really annoying. I feel like I’m in bondage to this. My goal is to quit masturbating all together cause I feel as though it’s holding me back spiritually. But everywhere I look I see long nails on women and I get so turned on. I’m having a hard time battling this” (SececaRD)
These are just a few of the many I have come across. There are a number of similarities in the first four extracts (which may be because they all come from the same online forum. The fetish appears to have begun in early childhood, and appears to have developed through associative pairing (i.e., classical conditioning). What’s more, there appears to be a sexually masochistic tendency among those who have the fetish. The final extract comes from a different person who unlike the other fetishists wants to eradicate his fetish. Most fingernail fetishist accounts that I read were happy living with their preferred fetish. This is certainly an area where the amount of clinical and academic research is limited and I can’t see further papers being published except from a treatment perspective should such a fetishist want to eliminate their sexual desire for fingernails.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Kafka, M. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 357-362.
Masters, R.E.L & Lea A.E.E. (1963). Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving Concepts of Sadism, Lust-Murder, and Necrophilia – From Ancient to Modern Times. New York: The Julian Press.
McCallum. E.L. (1998.) Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism. New York: State University of New York Press.
McSweeny, A.J. (1972). Fetishism: Report of a case treated with hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 15, 139-143.
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.
Stekel, W. (1952). Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1) (Trans., S. Parker). New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.
Tabares, J. (2001). La perversion fetichista: Del duelo patologico a la identification maniaca alienante. Revista de Psicoanalisis de la Asociacion Psicoanalitica de Madrid, 36, 55-78.
Wikipedia (2102). Hand fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_fetishism
While I was doing some research for a blog on sex and sneezing, I came across quite a few online confessions from people on sneeze fetish sites who also claimed they had a coughing fetish. As far as I am aware, there is no scientific name for coughing fetishes or paraphilias and it does not appear in either Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices or Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. However, it does make an appearance in the Social Kink’s online sex dictionary (aka the ‘kinktionary’). It says that:
“Coughing fetish involves the arousal of a male or female when they hear or see someone cough. The sometimes-quick sound of a slight hack is also thoroughly enjoyed. Some people like to see phlegm coughed up in the process. This may be intertwined with a slight bodily fluid fetish as well. Coughing is sometimes done when the deepthroating of a penis is involved, as the body tries to gag, but it comes out as a cough”
Coughing fetishes also make a brief appearance in the online Chemistry Daily encyclopedia:
“Coughing fetishism is a sexual fetish in which people like to watch other people coughing. It is often related to the smoking fetish. Some people fascinated with coughing require a certain sound or effect, such as a smoker’s cough, a dry cough, a wet, productive cough, etc. For some, it’s more important to hear a cough than to watch it”.
Finally, I came across a posting on the ‘Is It Normal?’ website. In one of the answers to a question on bizarre fetishes and paraphilias, one of the respondents posted the verbatim text of an unattributed lecture that he had attended. I have tried (and failed) to track down the original source but the information given in the rest of the verbatim report is authoritative and scientific so I have no reason to doubt that the unnamed author believes what they are saying about coughing fetishes (although I have to add that it’s almost all speculation). The brief overview also includes hiccupping fetishes – presumably because ‘hiccups’ are a derivation of ‘hiccoughs’ and therefore – technically – a type of coughing:
“A coughing fetish involves finding women who cough as something fascinating, appealing and sexy. Enthusiasts often don’t know why they find this appealing and report it’s an interest since early childhood. Perhaps it’s the sound, the facial expression, the way of moving the body, the way the chest expands, or the way the hand covers the mouth. A hiccupping fetish among males usually involves a preference for seeing big breasted or pregnant women hiccupping. For females, it’s usually seeing male celebrities or authority figures with the hiccups. For both, the turn-on is that it’s uncontrollable and publicly embarrassing. It’s rare to see sex while hiccupping, so the practice is usually confined to fantasy or a precursor to sex with both parties regressing to a childlike state of kidding, ridiculing, and tickling each other”.
In an article on sexual fetishes in The Wave magazine, Sandy Brundage included a brief section on coughing fetishes (“Coughing Your Way to Love”). He interviewed Nabucco Zach, a self-confessed cough and smoking fetishist. Zach was asked about why he found coughing such a sexual turn on and he replied:
“My own theory is that it has something to do with my aunt who died of lung cancer when I was four. There was a lot of talking about her lungs around me, and I probably understood that something serious was happening to her because of her lungs, so to speak. So, I think it’s a sort of fear that the coughing or smoking woman would pass away, that the brain handles by turning the fear into a sexual activity. Just a theory, and maybe a psychologist would laugh”.
Well, as a psychologist I’m not laughing, and Zach has obviously tried to attribute the motivation to something rooted deep in his childhood, but ultimately, this is yet more speculation as to the cause of coughing fetishes. This quote also provides more anecdotal evidence that – for some people – there is an overlap with smoking fetishism. Zach also added that:
“The cough fascination is something that turns me on, sexually – it’s a part of my sexual life and sex is not the first thing I start talking about when meeting a person. I’m not sure if I would ever reveal it”.
It wasn’t until Zach came across on online fetish discussion forum that he realized he wasn’t the only person who was sexually aroused by coughing, and where participants in the discussion group traded “secrets, stories and recordings of coughs”. Zach was also surprised that there were women on the online forum who had coughing fetishes because he viewed sexual fetishes as mainly male dominated.
After reading Brundage’s article, I went online and specifically started looking for coughing fetish forums. I have to admit that I didn’t find any dedicated coughing fetish discussion sites although I came across lots of fetish sites where the issue was raised as well as anecdotes from people about the sexual side of coughing on sneeze fetish forums. (I also came across sites that feature nothing but coughing videos aimed at people with coughing fetishes such as the one at Zomobo.net:
Here are five of the confessions I came across:
- Extract 1: “I know this is a little weird, but does anyone have a thing for coughing? I know lots of people find it gross or irritating, but I love it. I think it’s so hot. And it’s almost always an indication the person’s sick which can lead to sneezing *melts* I probably should have made myself more clear I don’t like just any old coughing. I would only enjoy it if it were by a person (mainly male) that I’m attracted to, from a cold only (not smokers cough, or asthma or anything like that), and dry coughs. No phlegm whatsover”.
- Extract 2: “You’re definitely not alone! For me, coughing is just as good as – if not better – than sneezing…I’m not entirely sure why this is, but, like you said, maybe it’s the way it’s kind of a blaring indication that the person is sick?”
- Extract 3: “I actually found my way to this forum by searching for coughing-related things. I’ve got a general fetish for colds, illness and allergies, but I really do love a good coughing fit”.
- Extract 4: “I have a coughing fetish too! It’s always been secondary to the sneezing fetish, but it’s definitely right up there…I’ve been looking for some coughing discussion forums like this one for a while, but none seem to exist…In my clip store I’ve got quite a few coughing clips too, as well as sneezing ones”.
- Extract 5: “While I wouldn’t have fantasies about being coughed on, as I have with being sneezed on, I really, really like coughing as well. As long as it’s not from smoking or the extreme lung cancer, pretty much any cough is okay with me too. I naturally prefer when it’s from a cold or flu, but I can also appreciate other coughing. Like from tuberculosis, injury or even from choking on something. To me, it’s always a sign that the person coughing is somehow weakened for the moment. And that is sexy. Also, I should add, this applies mostly to men…I don’t mind a little mess in coughing either. I like the sound a little phlegm can do very much, but dry is more than fine too”.
All of these quotes are interesting and suggest coughing fetishes can and do exist. They also show that there appears to be some overlap between coughing and sneezing fetishes, and that there are slight differences in what kind of coughs are sexually arousing. They also demonstrate that there are idiosyncratic differences even among a fetish type that I think is very rare. The theme of being sexually aroused because someone is all also seems to be important for some cough fetishists. Maybe illness is associated with vulnerability that to some people may equate with some psychological equivalent of submissiveness (which brings to mind both sexually sadistic and masochistic undertones – but this, admittedly, is pure speculation on my part). Until any research is carried out on this tiny minority, we may never know what the roots, causes and motivations of cough fetishism.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Brundage, S. (2002). Fetish Confessions: Telling loved ones about your fetish is as easy as solving fractured quadratic equations. The Wave Magazine, July 31. Located at: http://web.archive.org/web/20071110095616/http://thewavemagazine.com/pagegen.php?pagename=article&articleid=22026
Smoking Sweeties (2010). Women with coughing fetish. Located at: http://smokingsweeties.2forum.biz/t298-women-with-coughing-fetish
Social Kink (undated). Coughing fetish. Located at: (http://www.socialkink.com/kinktionary/index.php/Coughing_Fetish
Wikipedia (2012). Smoking fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coughing_fetish
Watch any film or television programme made before 2000 that features a post-coital couple in bed, and odds on, one (if not both) of them will be smoking a cigarette. I started with that anecdotal observation just by way of establishing that sex and cigarette smoking are (quite literally) not so strange bedfellows. However, for a small minority of people, smoking in and of itself can be sexually arousing and for some may even be a sexual paraphilia (called capnolagnia). Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices defines capnolagnia as a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from watching others smoke. The Collar ‘n’ Cuffs website adds in an article on smoking fetishism that the smoking can either be normal cigarettes or the smoking of marijuana spliffs.
The defining features of capnolagnia are outlined at the Right Diagnosis website. It is claimed that people who experience one (or more) of the following symptoms are considered to have a smoking fetish: (i) sexual interest in watching other people smoking, (ii) recurring intense sexual fantasies involving watching other people smoking, and (iii) recurring intense sexual urges involving watching other people smoking. As far as I am aware, there is almost no empirical or clinical research on capnolagnia. Given that there are no treatment papers in the clinical and medical literature it suggests that either capnolagnia is rare and/or people who have the fetish live with it happily without feeling the need to seek treatment.
Arguably, it wasn’t really until the advent of the internet in the 2000s that people were even aware that smoking fetishes even existed. As with many other fetishes, like-minded people began to meet on online newsgroups (such as early groups like alt.smokers.glamour and alt.sex.fetish.smokers) and then escalated to trading stories, pictures, videos, and (now) DVDs. The overview on Wikipedia (arguably the most in-depth overview I’ve seen on smoking fetishism) claims that (like most fetishes) it has its roots in early childhood classical conditioning where smoking becomes paired with sexual response and/or psychodynamic theories rooted in Freud’s oedipal complex.
“These could include seeing the smoker as a stereotypically sweet, innocent individual behaving in ways that are considered taboo. For others, it stems from an attraction to more worldly people whose smoking epitomizes their strength and self-confidence. Within gay culture, this fetish often stems from the image of masculinity… Another cultural source for the fetish may be eroticized depictions of women who smoke that come from older motion pictures, especially from the film noir era… it has also been speculated that men who have smoking fetishes are more likely to have mothers who smoked, going back to the old belief that all men are secretly attracted to women who are just like their mothers”.
In a short article on “bizarre” fetishes, the Religious Sex website claims that there is a “darker and more extreme version” of capnolagnia found among the BDSM [bondage, dominance, submission, masochism) and female domination subcultures in which submissive partners may be treated like a human ashtray and forced by their dominant partner to swallow cigarette ash, have cigarette smoke blown continually into their face, and/or have cigarettes stubbed out on their naked flesh. The use of the submissive here as an inanimate item has overlaps with the humiliating and masochistic world of forniphilia (i.e., use of people as human furniture for sexual pleasure) that I examined in a previous blog.
The article in Wikipedia claims most smoking fetishists are heterosexual males but that there are significant minorities of gay men and bisexual men that also enjoy the behaviour (and an even smaller number of heterosexual women). More specifically, the article claims:
“Among heterosexual men, the fetish is often associated with oral fixations and fellatio and it is rather caused by the image of the woman smoking, than by the smell. It seems that the smell and taste of the cigarettes have a greater role to play in women’s smoking behavior than in that of men. Some fetishists have a fascination with the addictive properties of nicotine, and its ability to cause harm, and there is a sub-fetish relating to women being harmed by smoking, sometimes called “the dark side”, “black lung fetish” or “lung damage”. This has been interpreted as an element of misogyny in the community’s psychology”
The article on Wikipedia claims capnolagnia among gay men differs from that among heterosexual men. It is claimed that gay men become aroused at either ‘dominant’ men smoking or young (“innocent”) men initiating smoking for the first time. According to some online female domination sites, there are other sub-types of capnolagnia (described online as “sub-fetishes”), particularly in nicotine’s potential to cause harm and sometimes called “lung damage”.
“For women this is seen in videos showing women smoking and coughing, suggesting self-destructiveness. More common videos are those showing a woman or a man in bondage, being forced to smoke or to inhale smoke. ‘Glamor’ smoking and ‘dark side’ smoking are the major divisions within the fetish. The glamor aspect of the fetish emphasizes the way smoking visually enhances women’s sexual appeal; the dark side links smoking to female domination, bondage and domination, and sadism/masochism. Both elements may be related to the appeal of the “bad girl” and the fantasy that even a “girl next door” type who smokes may be a tigress in the bedroom. A handful of producers specialize in videos appealing to one or both sides of the fetish…Ironically, as mainstream society has recognized the dangers of smoking, the effect has been to heighten interest in smoking fetishism. The more we recognize that smoking is bad for our health, the truer it becomes that only ‘bad’ girls smoke, and the more attractive they become to the smoking fetishist”.
I did a literature search on psychological databases for empirical research into capnolgania and identified only one paper that had even mentioned it. This was in a 2012 issue of the journal Tobacco Journal where the authors Dr Mary Carroll, Dr Ariel Shensa and Dr Brian Primack (all at the University of Pittsburgh, US) systematically analyzed YouTube videos with cigarette-related content. Their systematic search online yielded 66 cigarette-related videos for qualitative analysis. The researchers coded the overall portrayal of smoking as positive if the smoking was largely portrayed as attractive, fun, powerful, pleasurable, relaxing or sexy. Their findings showed that 9% of the videos analyzed contained fetishistic smoking content. Given the small sample size and the selective search methods used by the research team, we have no way of knowing if the results can be generalized.
However, I realized that after reading this paper that this was the latest in a number of studies that have looked at smoking and smoking fetish videos on YouTube (except in the previous studies no-one called it capnolagnia). For instance, an earlier study published in a 2010 issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research, by Dr. Susan Forsyth and Dr. Ruth Malone (both at the University of California, US) examined 124 of the most popular YouTube videos about cigarette use. They reported that the videos they analyzed frequently associated cigarettes with sexual themes and commonly portrayed cigarette smoking in a positive light (however, smoking fetishism wasn’t studied in isolation).
In a 2002 issue of the Journal of Health Commerce, Dr. T. Hong and Dr. M.J. Cody conducted a content analysis study of 318 pro-tobacco websites and examined the models in the photographs displayed on these websites. They reported that female models were most often portrayed in sex/fetish sites and were slim and attractive. Similarly, in 2003 in the journal Health Education and Behavior, Dr. Kurt Ribisl and his colleagues in North Carolina (US) also conducted a content analysis of over 1600 photographs displayed on 30 smoking websites and examined the amount of smoking and nudity displayed. Five of the websites mentioned smoking fetishes and 7% of the photographs contained nudity and smoking.
Another study, in a 2007 issue of Tobacco Control by Dr. Becky Freeman and Dr. Simon Chapman (University of Sydney, Australia), examined YouTube videos with smoking content and identified those videos were most commonly watched. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most watched pro-smoking videos were the smoking fetish and female smoking videos. Similarly, in a 2010 issue of the journal Health Communication, Dr Kyongseok Kim and colleagues conducted a content analysis of the smoking fetish videos on YouTube. Among the 139,000 videos that were located, a total of 2,220 (1.6% of all smoking videos) were smoking fetish videos. Although none of these studies tell us much about the etiology and psychology of smoking fetishes, they do tell us that there are a significant minority of smoking fetish sites out there, and that maybe capnolagnia is not as rare as first believed.
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.
Amos, A., & Haglund, M. (2000). From social taboo to “torch of freedom”: the marketing of cigarettes to women. Tobacco Control, 9, 3-8.
Carroll, M.V., Shensa, A. & Brian A Primack, B.A. (2012). A comparison of cigarette- and hookah-related videos on YouTube. Tobacco Control, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050253.
Collar ‘n’ Cuffs (2010). Smoking fetishism (capnolagnia). February 19. Located at: http://collarncuffs.com/resources/doku.php?id=capnolagnia
Forsyth, S.R. & Malone, R.E. (2010). I’ll be your cigarette-Light me up and get on with it”: Examining smoking imagery on YouTube. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 12, 810e16.
Freeman, B., & Chapman, S. (2007). Is ‘YouTube’ telling or selling you something? Tobacco content on the YouTube video-sharing website. Tobacco Control, 16, 207-210.
Hong, T., & Cody, M. (2002). Presence of pro-tobacco messages on the Web. Journal of Health Commerce, 7, 273-307.
Kim, K., Paek, H.J. & Lynn, J. (2010). A content analysis of smoking fetish videos on YouTube: regulatory implications for tobacco control. Health Communication, 25, 97-106.
Religious Sex (2012). “Bizarre” fetishes (Part 1). Gothic Fetish, May 8. Located at: http://www.religioussex.com/bizarre-fetishes/
Ribisl, K.M., Lee, R.E., Henriksen, L., & Haladjian, H.H. (2003). A content analysis of Web sites promoting smoking culture and lifestyle. Health Education and Behavior, 30, 64-78.
Right Diagnosis (2012). Capnolagnia. February 1. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/c/capnolagnia/intro.htm
Wikipedia (2012). Smoking fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_fetishism