Microphilia appears to be an increasingly popular sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with small (miniaturized) people and/or a sexual fantasy involving small (miniaturized) people. It is the opposite to macrophilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure and arousal from giants or giantesses) that I examined in a previous blog. Such fantasies appear to include the microphiles thinking of others shrinking in front of them (male or female, but shrinking women appears to be more popular based on the content I have looked at on dedicated websites). Alternatively, microphiles may fantasize about their sexual partner shrinking to an abnormal height while the microphiles themselves remain unchanged.
A small article on Wikifur claims that microphilia “may be associated with masochism as opposed to sadism and also closely allied with other paraphilias such as vore [vorarephilia]”. The Urban Dictionary’s definition of microphilia claims that it is “a fetish for unrealistically tiny people or the shrinking of” and that it is “popular in the furry fandom but not exclusive to [it]”. All of these alleged associations are anecdotally based as there has been no empirical research on microphilia whatsoever. As with macrophilia, the reason that this particular paraphilia appears to have increased massively over the last decade is because the internet has played a crucial role in helping create and facilitate the paraphilia. Because the paraphilia is almost totally fantasy-based, much of the material from which microphiles gain their sexual gratification is placed and distributed online. There is a wide range of microphile artwork, photographs, and video on the internet. Applications such as Photoshop are widely used to create collages of fake miniaturized people.
The term ‘microphilia’ is rarely used amongst the microphilic community. They prefer to use the acronym ‘SW’ (shrinking women). I presume there is also an ‘SM’ (shrinking men) community out thee too but they probably don’t use the SM acronym as in sexual circles that is far more likely to be see as meaning ‘sadomasochism’. Arguably one of the best online forums that cater for those into all things sexually miniature is The Minimizer website. The person that runs the site says of microphilia that:
“It is one of those secret fantasies that’s rarely discussed publicly, sort of like bondage or domination but far less known, probably because it is not something that can be realized in reality. Mostly it’s enjoyed through the imagination, on film or photos/drawings, via writing, or through roleplaying (typically with oversized clothes). Basically, the fantasy centers around women being reduced in size. Everyone seems to have their own favorite height. Personally, I like around three inches, where they fit neatly in the palm but aren’t so small you can’t appreciate them. Others like them smaller, but the majority seem to enjoy seeing women at Barbie doll height. This allows them to be used in a variety of sexual ways”.
He also claims that there’s no specific size that seems to be favoured by the SW community, and that in general SW fans “can appreciate a tiny lady at any height, simply for the fact that she’s really small”. The sexual fantasies of microphiles appear to be well thought out and elaborate including the specific ways of how the person is shrunk in the first place. Many of these methods appear to have been influenced by film and television portrayals of shrinking humans and (according to The Minimizer’s website include “shrink rays, strange radiation, magic spells or potions, collapsed space, teleportation gone awry, science experiments, [and] alien abduction”.
The Minimizer also claims that not all SW fans are men and that there is a significant minority of women who are microphiles (although he claims that this is more the case of women wanting to be miniaturized themselves for sexual pleasure rather than deriving sexual pleasure from seeing other miniaturized people. There are many facets and dimensions to microphilic sexual fantasies. For instance, there are ethnic preferences for the type of women that microphiles like to see shrunk (such as those who are sexually aroused by a miniature Japanese woman (known as a ‘koonago’). There are differences in the shrinking process as to whether the woman’s clothes shrink along with the body or whether the woman shrinks and the clothes remain the same size (causing her to be suddenly naked).
There are those that like to help the women (so the SW fan becomes a ‘gentle giant’) but there are those who do the opposite and want to hurt the shrunken woman. Here, there are crossovers with other sexually paraphilic behaviours such as sadism and masochism (including verbal and sexual humiliation). For instance, some male microphilic fantasies involve sexual violence against shrunken women who they hold as a captive and/or prisoner. Here, the microphiles may also be sexually aroused by the fact that the shrunken women may be in a distressed psychological state (e.g., scared, frightened, horrified, in shock, etc.) as a result of being miniaturized. There also appear to be crossovers with those people who are into transformation fetishes (which I covered in a previous blog).
There is very little written – even anecdotally – about the psychology behind microphilia. The Minimizer gave his own personal insight and claimed:
“A psychologist would tell you that a fantasy about shrinking women down to tiny size suggests some kind of subconscious hatred of women or a desire to dominate them. This may be true, I wouldn’t know…It’s unfair to generalize in this way, of course, because not everyone has the same SW fantasy. While some would indeed enjoy humiliating a tiny woman in a variety of nasty ways, just as many would see a miniature girl as something to be protected and taken care of, and would do anything they could to help one if they found one. Does that show a desire for domination? I doubt it. It’s really not fair to psychoanalyze a SW fan anyway. Shrinking is not something that can happen in real life”.
Until there is some empirical research undertaken, we can only speculate as to the psychological motivations underlying microphilia. Given that microphilia and macrophilia appear to be the psychological and behavioural opposites of one another (or at either end of the same continuum), it’s easy to speculate that if macrophiles’ enjoy the behaviour for it’s dominating aspects, then microphiles will enjoy the behaviour for it’s submissive aspects.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
The Minimizer (2012). What’s this SW thing, anyway? Located at: http://www.the-minimizer.com/
Wikifur (2012). Microphilia. Located at: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Microphilia
In a previous blog, I briefly examined the psychological literature on sexual sadism. Today’s blog looks at its counterpart – sexual masochism – often viewed as two sides of the same coin. Sexual masochists comprise those individuals who derive sexual gratification from receiving physical and/or psychological pain. The sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing coined the term ‘masochism’ in his 1886 sexology book Psychopathia Sexualis deriving the name from the 19th-century novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose book Venus in Furs (well known to us that are big Velvet Underground fans) depicts a man’s humiliation and suffering by a female dominatrix. There are other names for the same phenomenon – such as ‘algolagnia’ – that refer to those people who have a craving for pain. Algolagnia was coined by the German physician in the late 1880s but never caught on in the same way as the term ‘masochism’.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) acknowledges the overlap between masochism and sadism but they are classed as two distinct entities. The DSM-IV defines masochism as when the individual experiences “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer” over a six-month period. To distinguish it as a disorder rather than a non-problematic sexual preference, the masochistic sexual urges, fantasies and/or behaviours have to cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”. Interestingly, other paraphilic behaviours such as hypoxyphilia (examined in a previous blog) come under the rubric of sexual masochism.
Early empirical studies such as those published in the Kinsey Reports in the late 1940s and early 1950s reported that a quarter of both males and females had experienced sexual arousal from being bitten by their partner during sex although later studies have reported much lower figures of around 3% to 5%. In a late 1980s, a study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, by Dr Ethel Person (Columbia University, New York, USA) and colleagues surveyed college students about their sexual behaviours and fantasies. Results showed that around 4% had been tied up or sexually degraded during sex, and that 1% had spanked, whipped, or hit a consenting partner during sex (although ‘consenting partner’ does not necessarily mean they enjoyed being smacked, whipped or beaten). Dr Charles Moser (Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, California, USA) claims about 10% of the adult population engages in sadomasochistic activity.
Masochistic fantasies are not uncommon. For instance, in a 1980s study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Dr Claude Crépault and Marcel Couture (University of Quebec, Canada) reported that 46% of men had sexual fantasies of being kidnapped and raped by a woman, 12% had fantasies relating to being humiliated, and 36% fantasized about being bound and sexually stimulated by a woman.
Although there is a lot of evidence showing that sexually masochistic desires, fantasies and behaviours are relatively common among men, there has been some dispute about women’s interest in sexual masochism. Research certainly indicates that consensual sexually masochistic behaviour by females can occur and some authors argue that there is a biologically based tendency towards submissiveness in females. However, some claim that it is very rare in women. Back in 1977, Dr Andreas Spengler (University of Hamburg, Germany) has claimed that almost all women who participate in sadomasochist activities are prostitutes that have no personal preference for such activity. However, a number of more recent studies among sadomasochists (1985-2002) have all indicated that a small but significant minority of women engage in both sexually masochistic and sadistic activities (13% to 30%) – very few of which were prostitutes. However, when compared to male sadomasochists, female counterparts were less likely to need sadomasochist activity to fulfil their sexual satisfaction.
Research has also indicated that men are more likely than women to experience masochistic desires during adolescence although a significant minority of male masochists do not express an interest in such behaviour until they have reached adulthood. Studies of sadomasochists show little difference in sexual orientation. For instance, Spengler’s study of 245 male sadomasochists reported that 30% were heterosexual, 31% were bisexual and 38% homosexual. Other studies have found much higher levels of heterosexuality although amongst female sadomasochists there tends to be higher levels of bisexuality than in the study by Spengler.
In a 1985 study carried out by academics at California State University and led by Dr Norman Breslow, 182 sadomasochists (of which 52 were women) were surveyed. One-third of the men (33%) were dominant, 41% were submissive, and 26% were both. Similar results were found among the females. Spanking and ‘master-slave relationships’ were the most preferred sexual activities for both male and female sadomasochists although there were some minor differences. More females preferred bondage and restraint whereas more men preferred pain and whipping. Klismaphilia may also have been a co-morbid paraphilia as 33% men and 22% of females made sexual use of enemas.
A more recent Finnish study led by Dr Laurence Alison reported in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that flagellation and bondage were among the most popular activities among sadomasochists. However, there was a wide range of lesser activities that carried greater risk of physical harm including piercings, hypoxyphilia, fisting, knifeplay, and electric shocks. There were also major differences depending upon sexual orientation (for instance, gay men were more likely to engage in activities such as “cock binding”). Most interestingly, the research team identified four sadomasochistic sub-groups based on the type of pain given and received. These were:
- Typical pain administration: This involved practices such as spanking, caning, whipping, skin branding, electric shocks, etc.
- Humiliation: This involved verbal humiliation, gagging, face slapping, flagellation, etc. Heterosexuals were more likely than gay men to engage in these types of activity.
- Physical restriction: This included bondage, use of handcuffs, use of chains, wrestling, use of ice, wearing straight jackets, hypoxyphilia, and mummifying.
- Hyper-masculine pain administration: This involved rimming, dildo use, cock binding, being urinated upon, being given an enema, fisting, being defecated upon, and catheter insertion. Gay men were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in these types of activity.
There are many theories on why people engage in such behaviours from traditional learning theories (based on both operant and classical conditioning) through to psychoanalytic interpretations. Most of these theories place the origins of the behaviour within a developmental framework and argue that the root of the paraphilic behaviour begins in childhood. Somewhere in childhood and adolescence, the individual starts to associate pleasure with pain, and then become sexualized in adulthood.
In a 1995 paper published by the sexologist Kurt Freund and colleagues, they noted there was a distinct difference between commonplace consensual and play-oriented sadomasochistic activities and more dangerous and potentially fatal practices of a small minority of hardcore sadomasochists. As with many paraphilias, sexual masochism would only classified as a mental disorder if it causes significant psychological and physical impairment (that in very extreme circumstances may be life threatening). This has been echoed by Dr Richard Krueger (New York State Psychiatric Clinic, USA) who noted in a 2010 review on the diagnostic criteria for sexual masochism that the main criticisms and concerns surrounding this behaviour (and paraphilias more generally) is that they “should not be included in the DSM because they are not mental disorders, they are unscientific, they are unnecessary, and to do so pathologizes groups who engage in alternative sexual practices” (p.348).
However, in 2006, Dr Charles Moser and Peggy Kleinplatz (Carleton University, Canada) argued in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality that there is no evidence that sadomasochists more often need emergency services “than practitioners of other sexual behaviours” (p. 106), although this has been disputed by others in the field. The review by Dr Krueger concludes that:
“While masochistic and/or sadomasochistic behavior occur with some frequency in the population and is associated with generally good psychological or social functioning, there are a very small number of cases where masochistic fantasy and behavior result in severe harm or even death. These cases clearly indicate a sexual interest pattern that has become pathological. Since so little is know about this behavior, further research is indicated, and inclusion in the DSM would facilitate this” (p.353).
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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