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Displeasures of the flesh: A brief look at anthropophagolagnia and paraphilic behaviour in serial killers

In previous blogs I have examined the psychology of sexual cannibalism and erotophonophilia (aka ‘lust murder’) as well as an article that I wrote on serial killers that collect their victims’ body parts as ‘trophies’. One very rare sub-type of both sexual cannibalism and erotophonophilia is anthropophagolagnia. This particular type of sexual paraphilia has been defined by Dr Anil Aggrawal as the paraphilia of “rape with cannibalism” and by the Right Diagnosis website as sexual urges, preferences or fantasies involving raping and then cannibalizing the victim”.

The Listaholic website goes as far to say that anthropophagolagnia is one of the ten “most bizarre sexual fetishes on earth” claiming that serial killer is the “poster boy” for these “twisted” individuals. Other serial killers that might be classed as anthropophagolagniacs include Albert Fish, Peter Kirsten, Ottis Toole and Ed Gein. However, there also appear to be cases of what I would call ‘systematic anthropophagolagnia’ if the extract I found online is true:

“While it is easy to dismiss one case as stemming from some sort of neurological aberrations in the participants, we also see sexualized cannibalism in modern day Africa. In the early 2000s in Congo, rape and cannibalism were reported to coincide sporadically across the region. The claims are backed by a UN investigation into the phenomena…Rebels would go into villages and rape the women and children, then dismember them alive while eating their flesh. There are many reports of family members being forced to eat the flesh of other murdered family members after being raped…The men committing these atrocities do not have any neurological aberrations, they simply have the power to exercise this behavior. While cannibalism has been practiced in Africa as part of spiritual traditions for centuries, sadistic sexualized torture is not part of that tradition. So why add it in? Presumably the rebels didn’t all happen to be born child rapists either, yet raping children is part of their terror campaign and they must be able to achieve an erection to carry out the task, and so it must be assumed they learned to like it”.

Last year, I also read about 40-year old preacher Stephen Tari, the leader of a 6,000-strong cannibal rape cult in Papua New Guinea. He was in prison following his conviction for a brutal rape but escaped (only to be killed by people from his village in retaliation for the cannibalistic rape murders he had committed). As a report in The Independent noted:

“[Tari] had previously been accused of raping, murdering and eating three girls in front of their traumatised mothers…The charismatic cult leader, who wore white robes and is said to have regularly drunk the blood of his ‘flower girls’, quickly returned to his home village of Gal after [a prison] escape, but could only manage six months before killing yet again…It has not yet been established if the murdered woman was killed as part of a blood sacrifice, but it is considered likely as Tari was said to have been attempting to resurrect his cult following the spell in prison”.

Dr. Eric Hickey (in his book Serial Murderers and Their Victims) notes that paraphilic behaviour is very common among those that commit sexual crimes (and that more than one is often present) but that the two activities (sex offending and paraphilias) may be two independent constructs and that one does not necessarily affect the other. In fact he notes that:

“Rather than paraphilia being caused by sexual pathology, they may be better understood as one of many forms of general social deviance…For the male serial killer, the paraphilia engaged in usually has escalated from softer forms to those that are considered not only criminal but violent as well. They range from unusual to incredibly bizarre and disgusting. As paraphilia develop, men affected by them often engage in several over a period of time. Most men who engage in paraphilia often exhibit three or four different forms, some of them simultaneously. For those with violent tendencies, soft paraphilia can quickly lead to experimentation with hardcore paraphilia that often involves the harming of others in sexual ways. For example, some paraphilic offenders prefer to stalk and sexually assault their victims in stores and other public places without getting caught. The thrill of hunting an unsuspecting victim contributes to sexually arousing the offender”.

Hickey asserts that anthropophagolagnia is one of the so-called ‘attack paraphilias’ (as opposed to the ‘preparatory paraphilias’). Attack paraphilias are described by Hickey as being sexually violent (towards other individuals including children in extreme circumstances). Preparatory paraphilias are defined by Hickey as those “that have been found as part of the lust killer’s sexual fantasies and activities” (including those that display anthropophagolagnia). However, Hickey notes that individuals that engage in preparatory paraphilias do not necessarily go on to become serial killers. He then goes on to say:

“The process of sexual fantasy development may include stealing items from victims. Burglary, although generally considered to be a property crime, also is sometimes a property crime for sexual purposes. Stealing underwear, toiletries, hair clippings, photographs, and other personal items provides the offender with souvenirs for him to fantasize over”.

Some of the examples Hickey cites are both revealing and psychologically interesting:

“One offender noted how he would climax each time he entered a victim’s home through a window. The thought of being alone with people sleeping in the house had become deeply eroticized. Another offender likes to break into homes and watch victims sleep. He eventually will touch the victim and will only leave when she begins to scream. He ‘began’ his sexual acting out as a voyeur. This paraphilic process was also examined by Purcell and Arrigo (2001), who note that the process consists of mutually interactive elements: paraphilic stimuli and fantasy; orgasmic conditioning process; and facilitators (drugs, alcohol, and pornography). The probability of the offender harming a victim is extremely high given the progressive nature of his sexual fantasies”.

Along with anthropophagolagnia, other ‘attack paraphilias’ that have been associated with serial killers include amokoscisia (sexual arousal or sexual frenzy from a desire to slash or mutilate other individuals [typically women]), anophelorastia (sexual arousal from defiling or ravaging another individual), biastophilia (sexual arousal from violently raping other individuals; also called raptophilia), dippoldism (sexual arousal from abusing children, typically in the form of spanking and corporal punishment), necrophilia (sexual arousal from having sex with acts with dead individuals), paedophilia (sexual arousal from having sex with minors typically via manipulation and grooming), and sexual sadism (empowerment and sexual arousal derived from inflicting pain and/or injuring other individuals).

The ‘preparatory paraphilias’ that typically precede serial killing and attack paraphilias such as anthropophagolagnia include agonophilia (sexual arousal caused by a sexual partner pretending to struggle), altocalciphilia (sexual arousal from high-heeled shoes), autonecrophilia (sexual arousal by imagining oneself as a dead person), exhibitionism (exposing genitals to inappropriate and/or non-consenting people for sexual arousal), frottage (sexual arousal from rubbing up against the body against a sexual partner or object), gerontophilia (sexual arousal from someone whose age is older and that of a different generation), hebephilia (men that are sexually aroused by aroused by teenagers), kleptolagnia (sexual arousal from stealing), retifism (sexual arousal from shoes), scatophilia (sexual arousal via making telephone calls, using vulgar language, and/or trying to elicit a reaction from the other party), scoptophilia (sexual arousal by watching others [typically engaged in sexual behaviour] without their consent, and more usually referred to as voyeurism), and somnophilia (sexual arousal from fondling strangers in their sleep). The multiplicity of co-existent paraphilias (including anthropophagolagnia) is highlighted by the Wikipedia entry on Jeffrey Dahmer:

“Dahmer readily admitted to having engaged in a number of paraphilic behaviors, including necrophilia, exhibitionism, hebephilia, fetishism, pygmalionism, and erotophonophilia. He is also known to have several partialisms, including anthropophagy (also known as cannibalism). One particular focus of Dahmer’s partialism was the victim’s chest area. By his own admission, what caught his attention to Steven Hicks hitchhiking in 1978 was the fact the youth was bare-chested; he also conceded it was possible that his viewing the exposed chest of Steven Tuomi in 1987 while in a drunken stupor may have led him to unsuccessfully attempt to tear Tuomi’s heart from his chest. Moreover, almost all the murders Dahmer committed from 1990 onwards involved a ritual of posing the victims’ bodies in suggestive positions – many pictures taken prior to dismemberment depict the victims’ bodies with the chest thrust outwards. Dahmer also derived sexual pleasure from the viscera of his victims; he would often masturbate and ejaculate into the body cavity and at other times, literally used the internal organs as a masturbatory aid”.

Almost nothing is known empirically about anthropophagolagnia except that it is very rare and that almost all information about it comes from serial killers that have been caught. Explanations for the development of anthropophagolagnia can only be speculated but are likely to be no different from the development of other paraphilic behaviour. Hickey (citing Irwin Sarason and Barbara Sarason’s Abnormal Psychology textbook) notes five key explanations for the development of paraphilias (reproduced below verbatim):

  • Psychodynamic – paraphilic behavior as a manifestation of unresolved conflicts during psychosexual development;
  • Behavioral – paraphilia is developed through conditioning, modeling, reinforcement, punishment, and rewards, the same process that normal sexual activity is learned;
  • Cognitive – paraphilia become substitutes for appropriate social and sexual functioning or the inability to develop satisfying marital relationships;
  • Biological – heredity, prenatal hormone environment, and factors contributing to gender identity can facilitate paraphilic interests. Other explanations are linked to brain malfunctioning and chromosomal abnormalities;
  • Interactional – that development of paraphilia is a process that results from psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and biological factors.

As an eclectic, I favour the interactional explanation for the existence of anthropophagolagnia but also believe that the most important influences are the behavioural aspects via classical and operant conditioning processes.

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.

Hall, J. (2013). ‘Black Jesus’ murder: Leader of 6,000-strong cannibal rape cult hacked to death by villagers in Papua New Guinea jungle after killing yet again. The Independent, August 30. Located at:

Hickey, E. W. (Ed.). (2003). Encyclopedia of Murder and Violent Crime. London: Sage Publications

Hickey, E. W. (2010). Serial Murderers and Their Victims (Fifth Edition). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Purcell, C., and B. Arrigo. (2001). Explaining paraphilias and lust murder: Toward an integrated model. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(1), 6–31.

Sarason, I. G. and B. R. Sarason. (2004). Abnormal Psychology, 11th Edition. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Wikipedia (2014). Jeffrey Dahmer. Located at:

Let’s talk about sex: A brief overview of narratophilia

Narratophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual pleasure from the use of dirty, pornographic and obscene words or sexual story telling with a sexual partner (and is akin to the watching of filmed obscene and/or pornographic material). This can occur face-to-face with a person or via other synchronous media (such as on the telephone [including telephonic sex chat line services] or via Skype on the internet). This is different from telephone scatophilia as all parties are consenting adults (whereas in telephone scatophilia, the person on the receiving end of the obscene and dirty language is a victim who did not give consent for their involvement). In an internet essay on narratophilia, Michael Furlong says that the different ways in which an individual may achieve narratophilia are:

“Story telling by one partner to another during or before sex, erotic literature, cyber sex, audio tape, or phone sex (Blasingame 2005). Texting has also become a very popular way to cause arousal for the both the person sending and receiving. These stories can occur in a casual or common place, but the stories must also be genito-erotically essential (meaning that the narrative must specifically focus on imagery of the genitalia)”

According to (the late) Professor John Money, narratophilia can also be used to describe the reciprocal condition where an individual’s sexual focus is on the hearing of someone speak erotic, obscene, or pornographic words or stories. Some people have argued that narratophilia also includes the reading and writing of obscene and pornographic material particularly if it is used in synchronous electronic media such as online bulletin boards, online chat rooms and mobile phone texting services (so called ‘sexting’). Obviously, definitions of narratophilia were formulated before the advent of the internet age.

However, as Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified:

“When the criteria for narratophilia are met, the mode of communication can take any form, including telephone sex services, computer-based erotic bulletin boards, and Internet emails. Thus, although a new paraphilia, “chat-scatophilia,” has been proposed to describe an erotic focus on sending obscene words over the Internet (Abal, Marin, & Sanchez, 2003), we do not believe that a new category for Internet transmission of obscene messages is warranted. Furthermore, the degree of overlap between the existing paraphilic categories of narratophilia and telephone scatophilia remains to be determined”

At present, narratophilia is listed as a “paraphilia not otherwise specified” in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV). Paraphilia listed in the ‘not otherwise specified’ category are said to occur much less frequently than the paraphilias that are individually listed (e.g., necrophilia, zoophilia, klismaphilia) in this category. However, it is thought that many couples use narratophilic elements during their sexual behaviour. Here the use of spoken obscene words or pornographic language heightens the sexual arousal but is not a necessary prerequisite for sexual arousal to occur. As a consequence, narratophilia can be classified into one of three types

  • Exclusive narratophiia: In this type, the individual is unable to get sexually aroused without the telling of a sexual story or obscene language being used. It is thought that this is extremely rare.
  • Preferred narratophilia: In this type, the individual has a preference for narratophilic activities to ‘normal’ and conventional sex. They can still become sexually aroused and have sex without the use of obscene words and/or pornographic stories but would simply prefer to be engaged in narratophilic activity when possible. Again, this is thought to be relatively rare although more common than exclusive narratophilia.
  • Optional narratophilia: In this type, the individual may just engage in narratophilic behaviour as a form of sexual experimentation in an attempt to enhance and facilitate conventional sexual behaviour. This is thought to be fairly common and widespread among consenting sexual couples.

In their 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified, Dr Joel Milner and colleagues said that there was only one other paraphilia that narratophilia potentially overlapped with (i.e., telephone scatophilia). They also differentiated paraphilias into one of four categories: (i) nonhuman objects, (ii) suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, (iii) children or other non-consenting persons, and (iv) atypical focus involving human subjects (self and others). Milner and colleagues classified narratophilia as being in the second category (i.e., suffering or humiliating of oneself or one’s partner). This was presumably because of the humiliation that the individual or their consenting partner might go through by engaging in the story telling or listening of unreal sexual fantasies. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that most individuals (and their partners) experience no feelings of humiliation so being classed in this category seems to be misguided. Personally, I would class it under the ‘atypical focus’ category.

As there are no empirical data on narratophilia, it is thought to be rare. In the 1986 book Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, Ashley Montagu claims that narratophilia is more common in men (which based on other paraphilic behaviour would seem reasonable to assume). However, there is no research evidence to empirically confirm the observation. Michael Furlong says that because paraphilias are stimulated by the brain and not by touch, narratophilia is more likely to occur in men. He argues that:

“Because narratophilia can be achieved without even another person being present, this is why it is most common among men. Feel and contact are essential to a woman’s arousal. Because narratophilia is done through verbal communication, women are not as easily aroused by this”

Given that so many couples appear to use narratophilic elements within the context of their conventional sex lives, there has been controversy as to whether narratophilia should even be considered as a paraphilia. The American Psychiatric Association would only consider narratophilia a disorder if the individual was experiencing personal distress or impairment, or harm to others. An example of where narratophilia might be considered a disorder is when the behaviour leads to marital discord. Furlong briefly recounted one of Professor John Money’s case vignettes:

“A man in Minnesota lost his family and job after he was arrested for engaging in homosexual activity in a men’s bathroom. He acted as a bisexual by having sex with his wife once every Saturday and he would later admit that he aroused himself with his wife by narrating military stories to himself from his days of military service about the masturbatory exploits of soldiers”.

Personally, I feel the negative impact (i.e., loss of job and family) was due to repeated homosexual infidelity rather than the narratophilia. However, this does not mean that narratophilia cannot be considered a bona fide paraphilia in some circumstances.

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

Further reading

Abal, Y.N., Marin, J.A.L., & Sanchez, S.R. (2003). Nueva parafilia del siglo XXI: Chat-escatofilia. Archivos Hispanoamericanos de Sexologia, 9, 81-104.

Blasingame, G. (2005). Developmentally disabled persons with sexual behavior problems: Treatment, management, and supervision (2nd ed.). Oklahoma City, OK: Wood & Barnes Publishing.

Dalby, J.T. (1988). Is telephone scatalogia a variant of exhibitionism? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 32, 45-50.

Furlong, M. (2011). Narratophilia. Located at:

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.

Montagu, A. (1986). Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. New York: Harper & Row.

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Obscene and heard: A brief overview of telephone scatophilia

Telephone scatophilia (sometimes referred to as telephone scatologia and telephonicophilia) is a paraphilia that comprises overt or covert repetitive telephone calls with sexual and/or obscene content to an unsuspecting victim. The behaviour is also known to have a high association with other paraphilic disorders such as voyeurism and exhibitionism. The sexologist Professor John Money defined it as deception and ruse in luring or threatening a telephone respondent, known or unknown, into listening to, and making personally explicit conversation of a sexual nature”. It is also worth noting as with some other paraphilias (e.g., such as exhibitionism, voyeurism), it is not the act itself that is deviant, but that it involves an interpersonal transgression involving a non-consenting victim.

At present, telephone scatophilia is listed as a “paraphilia not otherwise specified” in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV). Paraphilia listed in the ‘not otherwise specified’ category are said to occur much less frequently than the paraphilias that are individually listed, but it has been noted that telephone scatalophilia occurs on a much wider scale and magnitude than other paraphilias (e.g., necrophilia, zoophilia, klismaphilia) in this category. There are certainly surveys suggesting that relatively large numbers of women have received obscene telephone calls although it is theoretically possible for just one telephone scatophiliac to make hundreds (if not thousands) of telephone calls to different women. Almost all telephone scatophiliacs are male.

The prevalence rate of telephone scatophilia is unknown. One Canadian study reported that 6% of male students and 14% of paid male volunteers admitted to having made obscene phone calls. However, most research relies on case studies or surveys of paraphiliacs. For instance, in a study of 561 non-incarcerated paraphiliacs, Dr Gene Abel and colleagues’ reported that 19 men in the sample (3.3%) said they engaged in telephone scatologia. In a different study of 443 non-incarcerated paraphiliacs, In a study led by Dr John Bradford (Royal Ottawa Hospital, Canada), the authors reported that 37 men in the sample (8.3%) engaged in telephone scatalogia. Dr Marilyn Price and colleagues at the Harvard Medical School (USA) examined an outpatient sample of 206 men with paraphilias and paraphilia-related disorders and reported that 20 men in their sample (9.7%) had a lifetime diagnosis of telephone scatolophilia. This study reported that there was a significant comorbidity between telephone scatologia and compulsive masturbation, voyeurism, telephone sex dependence, and exhibitionism. Compared to other paraphiliacs, telephone scatolophiliacs had a greater number of lifetime paraphilias. Similar findings have also been reported in other studies. Professor Ord Matek (formerly of the University of Illinois, Chicago) suggests that the methods associated with both telephone scatophilia and paraphilias such as exhibitionism demonstrate the person’s attempts to express aggression, to exhibit power and control, and to gain recognition. However, unlike exhibitionists, telephone scatophiliacs usually want complete anonymity.

In 1975, Dr B.T. Mead developed an initial typology of obscene callers comprising three types:

  • Type 1: These comprise telephone callers who immediately swear and/or make obscene propositions, and are typically adolescents.
  • Type 2: These comprise telephone callers described as “ingratiating seducers” that use a more approach (saying they have mutual friends) before becoming more offensive.
  • Type 3: These comprise telephone callers described as “tricksters” that use a ruse (e.g., pretending they are conducting a survey) in order to discuss personal matters. This eventually leads to obscene and sexual suggestions.

Professor Ord Matek claims there is a fourth type of obscene telephone caller. These are men who ring telephone crisis lines in order to request help from female volunteers, talks about sexual material, and masturbates while talking to the female on the other end of the telephone. Professor Matek also reported the most common features of obscene telephone callers were low self-esteem and anger toward women. Other associations reported were brain damage, mental retardation, intoxication and psychosis.

There are a number of theories as to how telephone scatophilia develops. Kurt Freund, the late Czech-Canadian sexologist wrote numerous papers claiming that behaviours such as telephone scatophilia are caused by “courtship disorders”. According to Freund, normal courtship comprises four phases: (i) location of a partner, (ii) pre-tactile interactions, (iii) tactile interactions, and (iv) genital union. Freund also proposed that obscene telephone calling is a disturbance of the second phase of the courtship disorder. Similarly, Professor John Money proposed the ‘‘lovemap’’ theory suggesting that paraphiliac behaviour occurs when an abnormal lovemap develops which interferes with the ability to participate in loving sexual intercourse. In this model, telephone scatologia, is classified as an allurement paraphilia involving the preparatory or courtship phase prior to genital intercourse. Although these models describe many cases of telephone scatophilia, there is some empirical evidence that some obscene telephone callers have normal courtship behaviour.

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

Further reading

Abel, G.G., Becker, J.V., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M. & Rouleau, J.L. (1988). Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 16, 153-168.

Bradford, J.M.W., Boulet, J. & Pawlak, A. (1992). The paraphilias: A multiplicity of deviant behaviors. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 37, 104-108.

Dalby, J.T. (1988). Is telephone scatalogia a variant of exhibitionism? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 32, 45-50.

Kafka, M.P. (2010). The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 373-376.

Kafka, M. P., & Hennen, J. (1999). The paraphilia-related disorders: An empirical investigation of nonparaphilic hypersexuality disorders in 206 outpatient males. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 25, 305-319.

Krueger, R.B., & Kaplan, M.S. (2000). The nonviolent serial offender: Exhibitionism, frotteurism, and telephone scatalogia. In L.B. Schlesinger (Ed.), Serial offenders: Current thought, recent findings (pp. 103–118). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Kaur, A.A. & Pankaj, G. (2009). Telephone scatologia: An aural assault. Journal of Punjab Academy of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, 9(2), 87-91.

Matek, O. (1988). Obscene phone callers. Journal of Social Work and Human Sexuality, 7, 113–130.

Mead, B.T. (1975). Coping with obscene phone calls. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 9, 127-128.

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Price, M., Kafka, M., Commons, M. L., Gutheil, T. G., & Simpson, W. (2002). Telephone scatologia: Comorbidity with other paraphilias and paraphilia-related disorders. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 25, 37-49.