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Guilty pleasures: A brief look at pecattiphilia‬

Arguably one of the rarest sexual paraphilias is pecattiphilia. According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, pecattiphilia refers to individuals that derive sexual pleasure from sinning or having committed an imaginary crime (although later on the same page, Dr Aggrawal simply defines it as “sexual arousal from sinning or guilt”). Dr. Brenda Love in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices also provides a similar definition and says that pecattiphilia is “the sexual arousal one gets from sinning…this may also display itself as a form of guilt”. The Wikipedia entry on pecattiphilia is also similar and defines the behaviour as “sexual arousal from performing an act one believes is a sin”. The short entry then speculates that it “would presumably include, for example, such acts of lust as fornication or sodomy, or also the acting out any of the other seven deadly sins beside lust”.

Finally, the online medical website Right Diagnosis describes the symptoms of pecattiphilia as (i) sexual interest in stealing or sinning, (ii) recurring intense sexual urges involving stealing or sinning, and/or sexual arousal from stealing or sinning. As far as I am aware, there is absolutely no academic or clinical research on pecattiphilia, and much of what I have read on the topic is purely speculative. In her encyclopedia entry, Dr. Love wrote that:

“Religious teenagers sometimes suffer from a dilemma when they masturbate because they are taught that God will punish or perhaps kill them for this ‘perversion’. A few have grown up with a fascination for sex play that involves life and death risks in order to recapture the same emotional intensity that this fear created. Anther type of ‘sinner’ may intensify their feelings of guilt by seducing a virgin, a member of the clergy, wearing religious costumes, listening to hymns during sex, or breaking into a church and using the altar to engage in a form of ritual sex. They may also have their partner say things to make them feel shame or guilt”.

I have no idea where Dr. Love got her information but it certainly wasn’t from any scholarly texts. I would also argue that some of the types of behaviour listed above overlap with other sexual paraphilias and sexual fetishes including melognia (sexual arousal from music), parthenophilia (sexual attraction to, and arousal by virgins), harmatophilia (sexual arousal from sexual incompetence or mistakes), hierophilia (sexual arousal from religious and sacred objects) and uniform fetishism. Dr. Love then goes on to say (again in the absence of any empirical evidence) that:

“Those suffering from extreme pecattiphilia may feel an overabundance of guilt and try to reduce these feelings by having their partner chastise or punish them before they orgasm. This seems to relieve their guilt feelings. Some develop a fear of sexually transmitted diseases afterward or salve their conscience by judging their sex partner. In extreme cases, a psychotic person will murder their victim (usually a prostitute) to expiate both their sins”.

I’m not entirely sure how “extreme pecattiphilia” manifests itself any differently from less extreme pecattiphilia but the whole paragraph is highly speculative. Nothing that I have read on the origins relating to a fear of sexually transmitted diseases (such as my previous blog on syphilophobia) is linked to pecattiphilia. To conclude, Dr. Love writes about both the positive and negative role that guilt may play in the development of pecattiphilia:

“Guilt can have a positive force in our lives if it calls attention to conduct that requires more responsible action. Additional understanding of our behavior, values, and needs help to prioritize our goals and make relevant changes. Guilt can help us to become more empathetic toward the weaknesses of others making it easier to develop and maintain relationships. Conversely, guilt can have negative effects when people use it to judge and inflict emotional and physical pain on themselves and others. Some psychologists believe that guilt is higher among people who have a more limited awareness of life and who have a more limited awareness of life and who are stuck in a restrictive and repressive lifestyle. A person who imposes guilt on others is practicing a form of sadism because they expect the person to self-inflict emotional pain”.

Dr. Love’s assertion that imposing guilt upon others is a form of sexual sadism is not one that I personally adhere to as I personally think guilt is not a form of pain (although I acknowledge that for some people extreme guilt can be psychologically painful). The only other article I have found on pecattiphilia was an admittedly non-academic one by Susan Edwards writing on Lady Jaided’s Sex Talk for Wicked Women website. Her article noted:

“Sin is sexy. Probably has something to do with the belief that sex is sinful. The more taboo you make it, the more compelling it is. If I had known about [pecattiphilia] in junior high, I would have thought of it as the Catholic School Girl and Preacher’s Kid Fetish. Those were the two groups in my neighborhood who seemed to get off the most on sinning, who were the most creative in coming up with ways to sin and the most energetic in pursuing its pleasures. When Wynona Ryder got busted for shoplifting, people wondered why such a rich, famous person would so such a thing. Maybe she’s a pecattiphiliac”.

Although I started this blog by saying pecattiphilia is very rare, one very small (very unscientific and self-selected sample) 2007 survey of 40 people (32 men and 8 women) responded to the ‘First Ever Viner Fetish Survey’ at the Celestina Newsvine website. The survey listed dozens of sexual paraphilias and asked respondents to tick any of them that they had “enjoyed” or “think they would enjoy”. Four of the respondents (10%) responded affirmatively. Obviously, I have no why of knowing the extent to which the four people had or hadn’t engaged in a pecattiphilic cat (or whether they were even telling the truth). However, it is the only statistic I have ever come across relating to the behaviour. Given the arguable overlaps with other sexually paraphilic behaviours, I’m really undecided about whether pecattiphilia really exists. As far as I can see, there are no published case studies, no online forums for pecattiphiliacs to discuss their sexual preferences, and no niche pornographic sites associated with the behaviour. In short, I have found very little evidence (even anecdotally) that it exists and/or or is a genuine sexual paraphilia.

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.

Celestina (2007). First ever Viner fetish survey, December 3. Located at: http://celestina.newsvine.com/_news/2007/12/03/1138900-first-ever-viner-fetish-survey

Edwards, S. (2008). Tempting transgressions. Sex Talk for Wicked Women, September 10. Located at: http://sextalkforwickedwomen.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/tempting-transgressions.html?zx=b773f275f414b3f9

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

Right Diagnosis (2013). Pecattiphilia. May 7. Located at: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/p/pecattiphilia/intro.htm

Wikipedia (2013). Pecattiphilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pecattiphilia

Transmission impossible? A beginner’s guide to syphilophobia

One of the more obscure things known about Adolf Hitler was that he suffered from a severe case of syphilophobia (i.e., which – according to a 1956 definition in Blakiston’s New Gould Medical Dictionary – is a morbid fear of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis). Dr. Henry A. Murray in a 1943 report entitled ‘Analysis of the personality of Adolf Hitler with predictions of his future behavior and suggestions for dealing with him now and after Germany’s surrender’ diagnosed Hitler’s neurosis, hysteria, paranoia, Oedipal tendencies, schizophrenia, “infinite self-abasement” and syphilophobia (which he describes as a fear of contamination of the blood through contact with a woman). However, the report is vague on its sources, and presented little in the way of empirical evidence for its conclusions. According to a later 1986 paper in Genitourinary Medicine, by Dr. R. Fitzpatrick and his colleagues, the authors said that Hitler believed that syphilis was a Jewish disease that was transmitted from generation to generation.

Some definitions of the condition also note that it can include people who actually believe they have syphilis even though there is no medical evidence to support the belief (and as such is classed as a form of hypochondria). The phobic condition is also known by various other names including luiphobia (‘leus’ was a former name of syphilis), venereophobia, and venereoneurosis (although the latter technically include the fear of any sexually transmitted disease). The condition has been documented in the medical literature dating back the 16th century including references to venereoneurosis (called ‘noddlepox’). A 1938 paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Frank Cormia (who featured seven case studies of syphilophobia) wrote that:

“A morbid fear of syphilis has been present in the human race ever since the great plague of the early sixteenth century. Authentic written observations were first made by Turner, in 1567. Proksch published his ‘RadlinusVitus, Lues Venerea Imaginaria’in 1698”.

In one of the most detailed ‘modern’ accounts of syphilophobia in a 1957 issue of the British Journal of Venereal Diseases, Dr. Ida McAlpine (who outlined seven case studies in her report) argued that syphilophobia and venereophobia are not unitary conditions but rather non-specific symptoms of a range of psychiatric disorders. McAlpine noted that among 24 cases of ‘venereophobia’ only one was female. An earlier (1953) study by French medics Dr. P. Graciansky and Dr. E. Stern (in the journal La Semaine des Hôpitaux Thérapeutique) also had 24 cases of syphilophobia and reported that 14 were male and 10 female. For Dr. Otto Fenichel, the Viennese psychoanalyst (writing in the 1940s), syphilophobia comprised a “rationalization of unreal dangers connected with sexual activity, which on a deep, unconscious level, may represent disguised sado-masochistic wishes, for it is equally possible to be infected by other persons and to infect them”

In a 1963 study (again published in the British Journal of Venereal Diseases) of the incidence, pattern, and causes of psychiatric illness related to fear of venereal disease among 887 consecutive cases at an STD clinic, Dr. E. Kite and Dr. A. Grimble reported that psychiatric illness occurred in 5% of all patients, and was slightly more frequent in females (6%). Since the early flurry of studies published from the 1940s to the 1960s there was little (if anything published academically until the mid-2000s. A case report of syphilophobia was published in 2006 by Dr Arfan ul Bari and Dr. Ali Zulqernain in the Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists. The authors reported the case of a 28-year old soldier:

“[He complained] of generalized weakness and some lesion over his glans penis and intermittent burning micturation [lasting] about 2 years. He has been visiting various doctors but was never satisfied with the treatment given…He had no history of any extramarital sexual relationship or any significant physical or psychiatric ailment in the past. General physical and systemic examination was unremarkable and on genital examination neither any active lesion, nor any mark of previous healed lesion was found. The patient insisted that he was suffering from the venereal disease (syphilis) and he had a sore over glans penis near urethral meatus…On the basis of absence of any suggested physical signs and symptoms, normal laboratory investigations and repeatedly negative serological tests for syphilis, he was considered to be a case of syphilophobia (hypochondriasis) and was referred to psychiatrist”.

Bari and Zulqernain claim that disorders like syphilophobia are probably more common than is recognized” (although I’m unsure on what they have based this opinion on). They also provided some psychological insight into the condition:

“Perhaps because of the emotional issues surrounding sexual behavior, anxiety about a sexual encounter may manifest itself as a fear or conviction that one has been infected with a sexually transmitted infection. The problem often significantly impairs the quality of life. It can cause personal distress and keep people apart from loved ones and business associates…At some point in past, there was likely an event linking lues or syphilis and emotional trauma. Whilst the original catalyst may have been a real-life scare of some kind, the condition can also be triggered by myriad, benign events like movies, TV, or perhaps seeing someone else experience trauma”.

The most recent paper I have come across on syphilophobia was published in 2010 by the Russians Dr. A.N. Provizion and colleagues (published in Russian, so I only managed to read the English summary). They believe the condition to be of “importance” and that is a condition that psychiatrists should be more aware of. It may be that the condition has moved with the times and that other sexually transmitted diseases (like AIDS) are now more of a fear than syphilis.

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

Further reading

Bari, A.U. & Zulqernain, A. (2006). Syphilophobia: a frustrating psychiatric illness presenting to dermatologists. Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists, 16, 236-238.

Cormia, F.E. (1938). Syphilophobia and allied anxiety states. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 39, 361-366

Fenichel, O. (1945). Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis. London: NortonCo.

Fitzpatrick, R., Frost, D., & Ikkos, G. (1986). Survey of psychological disturbance in patients attending a sexually transmitted diseases clinic. Genitourinary Medicine, 62, 111-115.

Graciansky, P. & Stern, E. (1953). [Syphilophobia]. La Semaine des Hôpitaux Thérapeutique, 29, 2911-2915.

Hoerr, N.L. & Osol, A. (1956) Blakiston’s New Gould Medical Dictionary. McGraw-Hill.

Kite, E.d.C. & Grimble, A. (1963). Psychiatric aspects of venereal disease. British Journal of Venereal Disease, 39, 173-180.

McAlpine, I.  (1957).  Syphilophobia; A psychiatric study. British Journal of Venereal Diseases, 33, 92-99.

Murray, H. A. (1943/2005). Analysis of the personality of Adolf Hitler with predictions of his future behavior and suggestions for dealing with him now and after Germany’s surrender. A report prepared for the Office of Strategic Services, October 1943. Located at: http://archive.org/stream/AnalysisOfThePersonalityOfAdolphHitler/MurrayHenry-AnalysisOfThePersonalityOfAdolphHitler1943240p.Scan_djvu.txt

Provizion A.N., Provizion L.N., Shveduk S.V., Shedania I.E. [To the problem of syphilophobia], Том, 13, 147-149.