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
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