Back in 2007, the UK’s best selling tabloid The Sun published an article called “Top five freaky fetishes”. The journalist who wrote the article – Josh Burt – wrote that:
“We’ve all gasped with disbelief at the mega-bronzed muscle-bound ladies in those weird bodybuilding competitions, but sthenolagnia is a condition where men find that hugely sexually attractive. These men like to be wrestled, lifted up and even carried around by their big iron-pumping dreamgirls”.
So what is known about this type of fetishistic behaviour? Sthenolagnia is – according to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices – a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and sexual arousal from displaying strength or muscles. However, there are other slightly different definitions (all of which involve the derivation of sexual pleasure from muscles and/or strength). For instance, in the 2007 book on The Miscellany of Sex, Francesca Twinn defined sthenolagnia as “the love of giant, overpowering women”. Here, the definition locates the sexual focus of the paraphilia as being in women only, and is also loose enough to include aspects of macrophilia (i.e., sexual arousal and pleasure from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants). There are also related paraphilias such as cratolagnia where – again according to Aggrawal’s book – individuals derive sexual arousal and pleasure more generally from displays of strength.
Reports of sthenolgnia – in both males and females and of all sexual orientations – date back to the 1800s. The term ‘sthenolagnia’ is thought to have been first coined by the German psychologist Magnus Hirschfeld. The term is not in popular usage, and most contemporary sthenolagniacs define themselves as ‘muscle worshippers’ (itself a sub-branch of more general ‘body worship’). In Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices she refers to sthenolagnia (and cratolagnia) but only in an entry on ‘wrestling’ for erotic purposes.
There appears to be different sub-categories of sthenolagnia, such as men who derive sexual arousal from female muscle growth (FMG) – particularly bicep growth – and frequent places where female body builders are found (e.g., gyms, health clubs, bodybuilding tournaments, etc.). However, some of this may be based in fantasy rather than actuality, particularly if it is related to aspects of macrophilia and transformation fetishes (both of which I covered in previous blogs). For instance, Marvel Comics character ‘She-Hulk’ is a popular representation of FMG fantasy and can be found on websites such as the Female Muscle Factory. FMG can also be related to other specific fetishes (such as fetishes surrounding breast expansion fetishism). Although there is little in the way of academic research on the topic, many sthenolagnia devotees appear to be sexually aroused by an equalization (or reversal) of the stereotypical power relationship among heterosexual couples. I also came across an anonymous article online which claimed that:
“The psychology of muscle worship is not fully understood. The practice developed from envy, jealousy, or profound appreciation for excellent muscularity. It is a relatively modern social activity that began to gain popularity with the rise of competitive bodybuilding. When the worshiper is of a less-muscular stature, the aspects of envy or jealousy are more pronounced. Typically, profound appreciation for the achievement of exceptional muscularity and stroking of the muscle god’s ego remain the primary motivations, particularly when muscle worship is done between two or more accomplished bodybuilders in a session”
Muscle worshippers can derive sexual arousal from simply touching those with highly visible muscles (often referred to as the ‘dominator’ – and typically a fitness instructor, bodybuilder, wrestler, etc.). The various tactile activities that can facilitate sexual pleasure include rubbing, massaging, kissing, licking, and/or other more diverse activities including lifting, carrying, and engaging in wrestling moves. Muscle worshippers themselves are typically (but not always) much smaller and skinnier than the dominator. According to Steven Davis and Maglina Lubovich in their 2007 book Hunks, Hotties, and Pretty Boys, those individuals conforming to this stereotype are called schmoos (and often refers to men who worship women’s muscles). According to a Wikipedia:
“The amount of forceful domination and pain used in muscle worship varies widely, depending on the desires of the participants. Sometimes, the dominator uses his or her size and strength to pin a smaller worshipper, forcing the worshipper to praise his or her muscles, while in other cases, the worshipper simply feels and compliments the muscles of a flexing dominator. Both male and female bodybuilders offer muscle worship sessions for a price in order to supplement their low or non-existent income from bodybuilding competitions, although the lack of adequate funding is far more dire in female competitions. Paid sessions rarely involve sexual gratification, especially when well-known competitors are involved, they offer fans – both male and female – the rare chance to meet in person and touch a highly muscular man and especially a muscular woman…Muscle worship engenders a specific type of pornography often produced professionally, but also web cam sessions, an underground erotic literature, and specific internet discussion fora like the gaymuscle IRC channel. A (possibly fictional) account of muscle worship by H.A. Carson combines it with infantilism”.
I tracked down H.A. Carson’s book – called A Roaring Girl: An Interview with the Thinking Man’s Hooker. Part of the book focuses on the ‘muscle girl’ phenomenon, and the interviewee is asked by Carson whether many of her clients fantasize about female bodybuilders. She replied also by making reference to schmoos:
“Female bodybuilders call their groupies schmoos, and a lot of schmoos pay…Most of [them] were into wrestling – you know: the Chyna Syndrome, i.e., the fantasy of being bodyslammed by a muscular woman. But a lot of them are into body and muscle worship. They want to be talked through an entire posing/oiling/pump room routine…Kissing. Licking, tonguing, and rubbing posing oil and Pro Tan all over my muscles while I lift and flex and military press them above my head like a barbell…[One client] liked to picture me as a humongously muscular woman performing serous feats of strength…He also liked muscle worship – especially on my ‘muscle’ boobs…There are also musclegirl fetishists with very specific, custom tailored fantasies. [Two women I know] combined infantilism with humiliation and muscle worship”
As the Wikipedia article notes, there was no telling to what extent the interviewee’s narrative was true but my reading of the book was that it seemed to be based on someone who knew what she was talking about. This is another in a long list of paraphilic and fetishistic behaviours that we know little about empirically. Given the lack of references in the clinical literature, it would appear that treatment is not generally sought and that such people live happily with their fetish.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Assael, S. (2007). Steroid Nation. New York: ESPN Books.
Burt, J. (2007). Top five freaky fetishes. The Sun, September 7. Located at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/21158/Top-five-freaky-fetishes.html
Carson, H.A. (2010). A Roaring Girl: An interview with the Thinking Man’s Hooker. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
Davis, S.L. & Lubovich, M. (2008). Hunks, Hotties, and Pretty Boys. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars.
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Sex and the University (2008). Sthenolagnia: Muscle fetishism. Located at: http://sexandtheuniversity.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/sthenolagnia-muscle-fetishism/
Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.
Wikipedia (2012). Muscle worship. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle_worship
In a previous blog I examined agalmatophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects. In today’s blog I take a more detailed look at doll fetishism as most of my previous blog on agalmatophilia concentrated on statues being the erotic focus.
Doll fetishism is a type of sexual fetishism where individuals are sexually aroused and attracted to dolls and/or doll-like objects (e.g., figurines). The attraction can take many different forms and can include one or more of the following: (i) actual sexual contact with a doll, (ii) sexual fantasies involving an animate or inanimate doll, (iii) sexual fantasies about two or more dolls having sex with themselves, and (iv) sexual fantasies from thoughts about being transformed or transforming another into a doll (the latter of which is part of a wider set of transformation fetishes that also includes furries and techno-fetishists). There is also a virtual form of doll fetishism where such fantasies can be acted out online and in virtual worlds via self-created doll avatars. In addition, some doll fetish sites feature films and/or animated pictures of humans getting their sexual gratification by use of dolls. Such animated films have some crossover with those into toonophilia (i.e., individuals that derive sexual pleasure from cartoon characters).
In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) notes that doll fetishism can be a transformation fetish:
“Examples are animal transformation, fantasies, and doll fetish…Doll fetish is a transformation fetish of being transformed into a doll or transforming someone else into a doll. It is often played out as role-play between two or more people. One partner – often the female – is dressed to look like a Barbie doll in shape with bold hair, enhanced breasts small waist, high heels, and a very revealing outfit made from rubber, latex or spandex”.
For doll fetishists, the doll in question can be either male or female (but is more often female). For those into female dolls, there appears to be a preference for those with “Barbie” type figures (long blonde hair, large breasts, ultra-thin waist, shapely bum). For adults who are dressed to look like a doll, there are a number of accessories that might have to be used including blonde wigs, padded bras, tight corsets (to minimize waist size), skimpy dresses (typically latex, leather or spandex), buttock pads, and a strap on vagina if the human is male.
Matteo Bittanti, a media practitioner/theorist who investigates the intersection of art, technology, and popular culture through critical writing noted that:
“In Japanese mythology, the doll is a soul bearer. It is linked to the dream world: it can both reassure and scare us. The doll embodies the perverse exchange between the living and the artificial, the human and the simulation. It subjugates man and traps him into the realm of the fantastic. The doll disguised as fetish, as Marx and Freud realized many years ago, is the manifestation of a pathology”.
Staying on the Japanese theme, an interesting paper by Maryellen Mori (Santa Clara University, US) in the Japan Review examined the writings of the Japanese writer Edogawa Rampo who has written at length on doll-love. She wrote that:
“An essay by Rampo entitled ‘Ningyo’ testifies to the author’s lifelong fascination with dolls and his belief in their supernatural abilities, and it sheds light on some of the underlying reasons for this fascination. It confirms Ranpo’s view of the doll as the ultimate fetish in various senses of this term: an erotic stimulus or partner; an object of veneration imbued with magical powers; and a vehicle for expressing hidden, transgressive desires, particularly cross-gender impulses. The essay begins, ‘Even those who cannot love another human being can love a doll. A person is but a shadow in this transient world, but a doll is immortal…Perhaps [my fondness for dolls] is a kind of escapism. Perhaps I have a slight psychological tendency to necrophilia or fetishism’…He proceeds to elaborate on the uncanny power of dolls, a power that can be traced, it would seem, to their liminal nature: dolls blur the boundary between the animate and the inanimate…The doll functions to lure men away from normative heteroeroticism toward a realm variously portrayed as a primitive, sometimes grisly, domain of infantile eroticism, or on the other hand, a higher spirtual plane characterized by love surpassing the ordinary love of men and women”.
There are also clear sadomasochistic elements for those who wish to transform into a doll (so called “dollification”). In a 2011 paper published in Counselling Australia, Dr. Angela Lewis wrote a paper on ‘age play’ among adults but also included a paragraph on doll fetishes. She wrote that:
“Dollification is about the process of a woman evolving mentally and physically into a ‘living doll‘ and the partners enjoying the process of objectification and transformation. The nature of this interest means it is very much based on a Master/slave/ or Dom/sub relationship. The man is known as the Owner or Dollmaster, as he directs the way the woman transforms into a doll. Accessories include but are not limited to corsets for a tiny waist and accentuated hips, heavy mask-like makeup (if not an actual mask), doll-like wigs, false eyelashes and the use of rubber, vinyl or plastic outfits. The role also requires the woman to have no ability to speak and no free will in how she moves or positions her body, so the Dollmaster acts somewhat like a puppetmaster. The doll also commonly shows no emotion, pain or enjoyment during play and is expected to remain silent”.
In 1996, RealDolls were sold commercially for the first time. RealDolls are life-size sex dolls and made by Californian company Abyss Creations and now sold globally (now costing around $5000 per doll). RealDolls (as you can guess from the name) are incredibly life-like thanks to a PVC skeleton with steel joints and covered in life-like silicone skin. It is advertised as “the state-of-the-art for life-like human body simulation” (and includes three “realistic” orifices – mouth, vagina and anus). The company also makes male dolls to order based on what the customer wants. In 2007, the BBC made a really good television documentary directed by Nick Holt called Guys and Dolls that followed the lives of four men who live with RealDolls. There are now many other varieties of dolls created including Boy Toy and Wicked Real Dolls. In 2001, The Doll Forum (TDF), an online discussion site for individuals who use Real Dolls was created.
A recent 2011 Masters thesis by Meaghen Boiteau (University of Manitoba, Canada) noted the TDF now had 32,000 registered users. Boiteau’s aim was to explore the ways in which members of TDF engage with discourses of gender, sexuality, and relationships in their discussions of their use of Real Dolls. She wrote:
“While the use of Real Dolls is a form of sexual behaviour that is quite distinct from those constructed as ‘normal’ and acceptable within society, this community represents an effort to expand the definitions of accepted sexual behaviour, reflecting the fluid nature of sexuality. Members are quite aware of the fact that their behaviour is not readily accepted as ‘normal’…Real Dolls represent youthful, flawless, images of femininity that require a great deal of work to maintain. Despite the fact that women are tasked with the maintenance of feminine appearance, within The Doll Forum it is the users who are responsible for this performance of femininity… The fact that members of The Doll Forum can represent Real Dolls as feminine expresses the performativity of gender, as gender is made known based upon the various clothing and appearance signifiers, as well as discourses with the forum, that users apply to their Real Dolls”.
There has been little research into doll fetishists but there is a lot of speculation that those into this fetish have a fascination about being in control. One online essay speculates that:
“For many, the control seems to involve a kind of Startup/Shutdown behaviour as well as the immobile and pose-able aspects. The idea is that someone has exerted control over another person’s body or mind, rendering them into an artificial seeming being or object. For others, the idea of stripping a person of their will and/or personality into a mindlessly obedient and programmable “robot” generates the highest forms of arousal”.
I’ll leave you with some interesting observations by Jennie Olofsson from a 2007 Finnish conference paper entitled “The doll and the monstrous human being”. Citing from Max Weber’s thinking on fetishes, she concluded:
“Judging the doll as merely a bodily phenomenon, an object or an artefact would be a mistake. Scrutinizing for instance Barbie, one understands how she and, I stress, the doll in general can be said to go beyond being defined as toys and objects. Max Weber for instance, argues for the use of fetish. Everything, he claims, can become a fetish, but what is preferred is human shapes. Fetishes can also be understood as objects with charisma and being fetishised, dolls are standing for ‘a provocation to desire and possession’. Moreover, the doll, I would claim, is certainly not limited by these designations. As the ethymological translation suggests, within the doll, there lays a sense of humanity, or to challenge further, within the human, there lies a sense of dollness”
Bittanti, M. Prolegomena: Good luck. Located at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.118.3867&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Boiteau, M. (2011). “I know just what she wants”: Constructing gender, sexuality, and relationships on The Doll Forum. Master of Arts Thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Manitoba, Canada.
Lewis, A. (2011). Ageplay: an adults only game. Counselling Australia, 11(2), 1-9.
Mori, M.T. (2000). Three tales of doll-love by Edogawa Ranpo. Japan Review, 12, 231-246.
Olofsson, J. (2007). The doll and the monstrous human being. Located at: http://www.helsinki.fi/genderstudies/3rdchristinaconference/pdf/Olofsson_doc.pdf.
Rogers, Mary F, 1999. Barbie Culture. London, Thousand Oaks & New Dehli: Sage Publications
Stupid My Cupid (2010). Agalmatophilia: Love in the age of silicon. May 20. Located at: http://stupidmycupid.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/what-is-agalmatophilia-agalmatophilia.html
Many people are sexually attracted to particular parts of the human body but these usually relate to those body parts that are traditionally sexualized (e.g., genitalia, buttocks, breasts, etc.). When individuals have a sexual interest and/or sexually aroused by very specific and exclusive body parts it is known as partialism. It may additionally be described as a fetish if sexual arousal is only possible when the particular body part is present (e.g., viewed, touched) during sexual behaviour.
One of the more unusual forms of partialism is nose fetishism (or known as nasophilia if it is in the form of a sexual paraphilia). Nasophiles can be sexually aroused by the sight, touch, and/or the erotic sucking of human noses. Less common (although I have not seen any empirical evidence to back this up) are those who are sexually aroused by having their nose stroked, felt and sucked. Some nasophiles claim they are sexually excited by placing their nose into the closed eyes of their sexual partner (and may therefore have overlaps with oculophilia). In very extreme cases, it has even been claimed that some nasophiles are sexually aroused by the picking of noses.
Sigmund Freud famously interpreted the nose as a penis substitute. Although I personally have little time for Freud’s theories, the nose – like genitalia – has vascular (erectile) tissue, which has the capacity to become engorged during sexual arousal. There are certainly explicit links between sex and the nose in the scientific literature that I wrote about at length in a previous blog when I examined sex and sneezing (and the relationship between sneezing and orgasm) and sneeze fetishism. Maybe I have an unhealthy professional interest in noses as I also wrote a blog on nose picking and snot eating.
Nasophiles typically experience sexual attraction to very specific physical nose variations based on shape, size, nostril shape, etc. It is claimed that most nasophiles are extremely against rhinoplasty (plastic surgery on the nose) because it removes many of the features that they find sexually desirable Although there is little empirical research, it is believed behaviour can manifest itself in a desire for actual physical and sexualized contact and interaction with the nose of the person, and/or specific fantasies such as wanting to sexually penetrate the nostrils. In an article published on the Nose Network website it was noted that:
“Although most Nasophiliacs are men, there are some women out there who do enjoy the sight of big nostrils, well shaped wings, cute button noses or anything else that tickles their fancy. Most people will not admit to this fetish, however, due to it not being very acceptable to society. This is really due to a lack of understanding about the whole thing. No one knows exactly where this fetish came from or why it even exists. Some people will admit that they have fantasies about penetrating the nostrils (mostly men), while others have admitted to wanting to suck and lick the nose. As it turns out, the nose is a very erogenous zone, if for no other reason having the knowledge that the partner is very turned on by this act”.
Nasophiles may also be sexually aroused by fantasies involving transformation the nose (i.e., a transformation fetish). These can also be varied such as the nose changing into the nose of another species as a form of sexual humiliation (e.g., the snout of a pig), or the nose growing in size very quickly. Such sexual fantasies can be facilitated via role-playing, the use of props, transformational fiction (e.g., Pinocchio-type stories), and/or animated or photo-shop transformation (e.g., modifying and morphing photographs). For instance, check out the ‘Big Nose Appreciation’ website that is “devoted to women who do not conform to the stereotypical ideal offeminine beauty and whose beauty is enhanced by their larger or uniquely shaped noses”. Alternatively, type ‘nasophilia’ into YouTube and see for yourself the kinds of things that nasophiles love (nostril faring seems to be a much liked activity).
In a previous blog on fetishism, I mentioned a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. Their results showed that body part fetishes were most common (33%), followed by objects associated with the body (30%). Feet (and objects associated with feet) were by far the most common fetishes. They also reported that some of the sites featured references to nose fetishes but that this particular fetish accounted for less than 1% of all fetishes
As with many other fetishes and paraphilias, treatment for nasophilia is generally not sought by the individual unless it becomes problematic for the individual in some way and/or they feel compelled to address their condition. It is thought that the vast majority of nasophiles happily accept their fetish.
Bhutta, M. F. & Maxwell, H. (2008). Sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm: An under-reported phenomenon. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101, 587-591.
King, M.B. (1990). Sneezing as a fetishistic stimulus. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 5, 69-72.
Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books
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.
In a previous blog I examined the Furry Fandom (FF) and the people who like to dress up as animals and have sex dressed as animals. One particular subset of the FF is a group of people who engage in ‘pony-play’ (PP). PP is overtly more sexualized than FF and is a form of bondage that involves a person dressed as a ‘pony’ and a ‘rider’. The human pony (the submissive partner) can comprise ‘ponyboys’ or ‘ponygirls’ typically wears stylized horse adornments including riding straps, a leather saddle, reins, and a bit in the mouth. The human rider (the dominant) also wears stylized riding accessories such as a riding crop or a horse-whip. The riders may sit on the human pony and/or get the pony to cart them around. In his 2010 book, Pony training: Five case studies on pony play, ownership and kinky submission, Dr. Garth Mundinger-Klow notes that “Ponygirl, Ponyboy” was:
“A classic [sadomasochistic] fantasy immortalized in the drawings of of John Willie and used in the Sleeping Beauty Triology by Anne Rice. Typical pony garb includes a horsehair tail attached to a butt plug, a bit gag and/or bridle head harness, and reins. Often very high heels, a corset, and feather plumes in the hair are added. The arms are typically bound behind the back”.
However, many people’s views of PP (if they even have them) may have come from the documentary film Born In A Barn. This film was:
“An intimate and occasionally humorous look into the extraordinary erotic lives of four seemingly ordinary people. Born In A Barn takes us deep into the world of pony play, a fetish in which enthusiasts role-play as human ponies and handlers. Revealing the complex motives that drive each character to pursue this unusual passion and following them as they each confront the questions that being an erotic equine present, Born In A Barn is a film about finding an identity in the pursuit of an unconventional desire”.
Role-play is nothing new and the Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle is alleged to have loved being ridden like a horse. In fact, PP is (in some circles) referred to as ‘The Aristotelian Perversion’. In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates makes reference to the fact that ponyplay was depicted in Assyrian art dating back to 2000 B.C. More recently Gates notes that in the 19th century human ponyplay existed as an erotic amusement for the upper classes in British colonies.
As mentioned in my previous blog on the FF, the primary theme of such animal role-play is often the voluntary (and sometimes) involuntary reduction (or transformation) of human beings to animals, and a subsequent focus on the altered mind-space created by the transformation. The ponies in PP comprise three different groups although the activities are not mutually exclusive for the participants.
- Cart ponies: These are human ponies that pull a sulky with their rider (A sulky is a lightweight two-wheeled cart with a seat for the rider). These ponies wear bit-bridles and harnesses, blinkers, walk standing up, and have their hands secured behind their backs.
- Riding ponies: These are human ponies that are ridden on while they are on all fours or partly standing up on two legs by their rider (custom made saddle or bareback). Some (usually male) ponies prefer their riders to be on their shoulders. Riding ponies are harnessed, bridled and may wear blinkers.
- Show ponies: These are human ponies that show off their skills in dressage (e.g., choreographed pony-dance, cantering, etc.), can walk standing up or on their hands and knees, and typically wearing ornate and elaborate harnesses, plumes, etc.).
For the human pony, the sexual thrill rarely involves normal sexual contact. The sexual thrill is the fantasy of actually being a horse under the control of their dominant rider. The only time that actual sex takes place in PP is when the human ponies are engaged in a ‘stud service’ and one pony is bred to another. This requires explicit permission from the human pony’s “owner”. The practice of stud farming may also be role-played and fantasy-based (i.e., no real sexual intercourse taking place). It is believed that many submissive human ponies and their dominant riders are in a romantic, emotional and/or sexual relationship outside of PP although some only know each other in the context of PP.
In an online essay on PP, Malfouka makes the point that this particular fetish is “not for the lazy” as the preparation involved for all PP participants (i.e., trainers, owners, groomers and riders) is time intensive. Malfouka gives a detailed description of the main PP protagonists.
- Trainers: These are the people who actually train the human pony (and may train many such people). The trainer is responsible for turning those who wish to be pony into an actual pony. Malfouka says “this distinction is important in that in the world of ponyplay, there is protocol to follow”. The most important thing to take on board is that no-one is a pony simply because they pretend to be one. It takes a long time of training for the human pony be taught the appropriate stance, demeanour, behaviour, showmanship and submission. Trainers can also be owners, riders, and/or groomers.
- Owners: These are the people who “own” the human pony and are typically the riders too (i.e., the masters or mistresses). Owners plan the pony’s schedule, dress, and all associated activities (including which other riders can access the pony). Owners can also be trainers, riders, and/or groomers.
- Groomers: These are the people (often trainers and/or owners) who take charge of pony care (washing, bathing, petting, massaging, brushing hair), bathing.
- Riders: These are the people who ride the pony. Riders can comprise anyone that the owner and/or trainer have given permission to ride.
To date, there has been little empirical research on the topic of pony-play. An anthropological paper by Margot Weiss (Wesleyan University, US) in a 2006 issue of Anthropologica, examined the BDSM community in the San Francisco Bay Area (US). Her interviewees included people who identified themselves primarily as a pony (within a BDSM context). She argued that BDSM sexuality (including those who self-identified as a pony) should be conceptualized as a form of ‘working at play’ (WAP). WAP recognizes the ways that BDSM practitioners move between registers of work (productive labour) and play (creative recombination). Weiss’ analysis situates BDSM (and other sexualities) within “the shifting cultural geography of U.S. late-modernity, drawing attention to the ways sexuality blurs boundaries between individual-social, real-pretend and leisure-labour)”.
At the end of 2011, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) published an interesting paper on zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine (which I examined in a previous blog) and categorized those into pony-play as Class I zoosexuals (i.e., human–animal role-players). According to Aggrawal, Class 1 zoosexuals never have sex with actual animals but become sexually aroused through wanting to have sex with humans who pretend to be animals and who engage in pseudo-zoophilic acts (e.g., pet play, pony play, ponyism or pup-play). Personally, I don’t class this as a type of zoophilia at all but I can see Aggrawal’s logic in including the Furry Fandom and PP communities.
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.
Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.
Malfouka (undated). My Little Pony: The Aristotelian Perversion. Maximum Awesome. Located at: http://www.maximumawesome.com/pervfriday/ponypeople.htm
Mundinger-Klow, G. (2010). Pony training: Five case studies on pony play, ownership and kinky submission. Olympia Press.
Weiss, M.D. (2006). Working at Play: BDSM Sexuality in the San Francisco Bay Area. Anthropologica, 48, 229-245.
While researching some other articles on my blog – most notably those on the furries (sexual pleasure from dressing up as an animal and having sex with others dressed up as an animal), technofetishism (sexual pleasure and arousal arising from humanoid or non-humanoid robots), macrophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants), and agalmatophilia (sexual arousal from an attraction to statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects) – I constantly came across various references to ‘transformation fetish’ (TF). Basically, a transformation fetish is a form of sexual fetishism in which an individual derives sexual arousal from descriptions about (and depictions of) transformations (usually of people being transformed into other beings or objects).
The internet has a very active TF community, although some “TF fans” (as they seem to like being called) have no sexual interest as such but take an active interest in ‘transformation art’ and ‘transformation fiction’. After looking at the posts on such sites, there doesn’t seem to be any distinction between fetish and non-fetish fiction but some members of the online TF community are far more sexually orientated in their postings. For instance, one website I checked out was set up to house fetish inspired work comprising “stories, drawings, renderings, and photo-manipulations depicting many transformation fetishes. These fetishes include, but are not limited to: Transformation into toys, latex/rubber, spandex, balloon, zentai, clowns, toons, mannequins, robots, and statues”.
In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) notes that TF can include:
“Examples are animal transformation, fantasies, and doll fetish. The former include fantasies in which human beings change to animals, or behave as animals (e.g., lycanthropy, vampires). Animal transformation fantasies are popular among those who participate in pony play. Doll fetish is a transformation fetish of being transformed into a doll or transforming someone else into a doll. It is often played out as role-play between two or more people. One partner – often the female – is dressed to look like a Barbie doll in shape with bold hair, enhanced breasts small waist, high heels, and a very revealing outfit made from rubber, latex or spandex”.
The posts I have read on various TF websites indicate that the transformations typically involve a human (that can be either gender, but seem to more often involve females) being transformed into some other form. For instance, check out the stories at the Experience Project or the Fetish Transformation website.
I was interested in how the transformation takes place and there appears to be a lot of thought into how it happens. This might involve having fantasy sex in ritualistic ways with specific people, and/or certain creatures (in fact it is common for TF fans to report transforming into the creature they have had sex with). Other non-sexual ways that people can transform include magic spells, curses, viruses, and strange chemicals. In fact, one TF site provided an innovative list of how the transformation can manifest itself. This included:
- TFs caused by entering a cursed location
- TFs by injection
- TFs by bite or attack
- TFs from touch (whenever someone is touched by something the person start to turn into them – known as the “TF virus”)
- Inanimate TFs (e.g., transformations into statues)
- Second Skin TFs (e.g., where a person picks up a semi-sentient blob that soon covers their body, changing them into something else)
- Costume TFs (where the person gets trapped in a suit that soon begins to tighten and become their new body)
- Body alteration TFs (such as only growing fur, having only a face change)
I also read that the transformations are typically non-consensual, with “the transformer often becoming confused, scared, or angry as the changes take place, although some transformations are gladly accepted and even chosen by their victims”.
The most common form of TF appears to be transformation from humans into animals (but I’m only basing that on the number of websites that seem to cater for animal TF compared to other types of TF). As I mentioned in my previous blog on the furry fandom, the most common transformations are from humans to mammals (e.g., dogs, horses, cattle), and less common to other types of animal (e.g., birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles). The primary focus of role-play is often the “voluntary or involuntary reduction” (i.e., transformation) of humans to the status of an animal, and “focus on the altered mind-space created”. For instance, I came across this interesting quote from a TF fan:
“I don’t identify at all with the ‘furry’ thing. I mean, no offense to those of you that do. I think the main difference with my animal-TF interests is that I don’t really identify with any particular animal or animals. For me, it’s merely a curiosity about [a particular] form would physically feel like. And in some cases, there’s even a slight element of humiliation at no longer being ‘entirely human’ which is the only element of the TF that has a possibly erotic element. I’ll say ‘transformation fetish’ but in actuality, transformation alone is mostly just a fascination for me that’s non-sexual in nature. It’s when some element of control (whether being controlled, or just fighting against the changes to one’s body or impulses) and/or some slight humiliation that it becomes erotic. In fact, I’ve noticed one common theme in all the transformation scenes in various shows or movies that have caught my attention growing up. It’s that the scene typically focuses on the character’s reaction which is often a sense of ‘my own body is betraying me!’”
TF websites contain many examples of “conversion” across both animal type and developmental stages. Common conversions include felines (kittens, cats, lions, tigers), canines (puppies, dogs, foxes, wolves), and equines (foals, ponies, horses). However, many are depicted as half-human, half-animal hybrids, with the appealing characteristics of both highlighted. As one TF fansite asserted:
“Furries are usually bipedal and have the ability to speak, walk, talk, and think like a normal human. Many in the TF community, even those with an interest in TFs other than animal, adopt a made-up identity as a furry, known as a fursona. It should be noted that like the TF community not all Furries are involved with the fetish aspects of anthropomorphic media. There are some large differences between the communities”.
Another type of TF is common among ‘technosexuals’ (i.e., robot fetishists). A common fantasy among such people involves transformation into a robot. Some have argued this is most similar to agalmatophilia (i.e., attraction to or transformation into statues or mannequins) and in this sense could be viewed as a form of erotic anthropomorphism.
Looking at TF across the whole sexual fetish spectrum, some would argue that there are many different core types of transformation including transforming into inanimate everyday objects, transforming into other humanoid-looking forms (e.g., statues, dolls, robots), transforming into other living things (e.g., animals, animal hybrids, alien life forms), transforming into different and/or extend versions of the self in either fantasy (e.g., becoming a giant, the body aging years in just a few seconds) or reality (e.g., via body modification and/or gender reassignment sex changes).
Finally, in 1989, Dr. Ray Blanchard introduced the concept of autogynephilia, which refers to ‘‘a male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female’’. This formed the basis of Blanchard’s hypothesis that there are two distinct manifestations of male-to-female transsexualism (i.e., homosexual and autogynephilic). It could also be argued that such thinking may be akin to transformation fetishes.
Blanchard, R. (1989). The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender dysphoria. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177, 616-623.
Holliday, K. (2011). Jimbo explains his transformation fetish. The Beautiful Kind, May 17. Located at: http://thebeautifulkind.com/jimbo-explains-his-transformation-fetish/
Pollack, N. (2004). Wonderlust: My transformation fetish. Nerve, April 21. Located at: http://www.nerve.com/personalessays/pollack/wonderlust
In a previous blog I examined agalmatophilia (in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects). Some scholars claim that robot fetishism is another type (or at least an extension) of agalmatophilia. Robot fetishism is often referred to as ASFR (i.e., alt.sex.fetish.robots, based on the name of a now defunct newsgroup) or technosexuality. it refers more specifically to those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal arising from humanoid or non-humanoid robots. The original ASFR manifesto stated:
“The alt.sex.fetish.robots (ASFR) newsgroup is dedicated to the discussion of the concept of sex with or sexual attraction to robots and robot-like beings. This can range from metallic, non-humanoid machines to humanoid androids. Discussions can deal with specific fantasies, fiction relating to the topic and connected ideas like people behaving like/turned into human mannequins, dolls, toys, and other hypnosis and mesmerism fantasies that involve the mechanical/monotone response that appeals to the members”
Techno-sexuality can be fantasy-based arousal where the robot fetishist merely thinks about sexual scenarios involving robots and/or can involve sexual activity with people dressed in robot costumes. (Just as an aside, if you are a music fan, check out Frank Zappa’s concept LP, Joe’s Garage that examined robot fetishism).
The sexual arousal may be heightened the more that the person imagined or dressed as a robot sounds and acts in a robotic-like manner. Those into this fetish call themselves ‘ASFRians’ and/or ‘technosexuals’ and some of these individuals like to imagine removing skin or bits of the body to reveal electronic circuitry (so you can imagine that they get turned on by everything from the Six Million Dollar Man through to The Terminator).
Robot fetishism can sometimes include other fetish variants, most notably transformation fetishes where the individuals get sexually excited by imagining themselves turning into a robot. These are conceptually similar to those in the furry fandom who get sexually excited by imagining themselves transform into an animal or animal hybrid. Similar to furries, robot fetishism could be viewed as another form of erotic anthropomorphism. It is also claimed that when transformation and/or role-playing are involved, the activity may be viewed as a form of erotic objectification. There are also similarities to mechanophilia (i.e., sexual arousal from cars or other machines and sometimes referred to as ‘mechasexuality’ that I examined in a previous blog).
According to the ASFR websites that I have visited, techno-fetishists comprise two distinct but not necessarily mutually exclusive types of techno-sexual fantasy. As one online essay on agalmatophilia claims:
“The first of group is simply based off of a desire to have a ready-made android or gynoid [female robot] partner that is desired for sex, companionship, or any combination of the two. The main distinguishing feature of this type is that the android is a completely artificial “built” and manufactured solely to fulfill the desires of its owner. The second type of fantasy is referred to as transformation. This involves a human who is either willingly or unwillingly turned into an android. That person can be either oneself or one’s partner, or sometimes both. It is usually the process of transformation that is the focus of this fantasy. Many people in the ASFR community prefer either one or the other. In some cases, this preference is very strong and divisive within the community. People may even be repulsed by the behaviors of the opposite group. In other cases, there is equal appreciation for built and transformation”.
A survey carried out on the Fembot Central website among 318 technosexual members and that 66% of ASFRians had a preference for built robots while the others preferred transformation (18%) or some combination of both (16%). In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates also revealed that some techno-fetishists do not like synthetic partners at all, and prefer their fantasies to involve humans dressed as robots as part of fantasy sex play.
The expression of technosexuality is somewhat limited as it can only be acted upon in a few ways (i.e., masturbatory fantasy and/or sexual role-play). As a consequence, a large market for techno-sexual art has developed that caters for (and as an enabler) robot fetishism (i.e., it can help sexually stimulate ASFRians). Visual media is also important for techno-fetishists. As highlighted online:
“The film ‘Metropolis’ also explores this fetish. In this film, the mad inventor Rotwang kidnaps the heroine Maria. He’s created a robot to be a replacement for a woman he loved, but it needed a soul so he imprints the image of Maria onto his Robot. The scene itself is filled with the trappings of the mad scientist film before there ever was a visualized Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. There seems to be a reoccurring theme with mad scientists creating robots or dolls that come to life. There is the Bride of Frankenstein. There are a number of pulp serials full of hypnotized femmes such as Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and My Living Doll…Of course we still see the Frankenstein Complex in such creations such as Blade Runner, Westworld, The Stepford Wives, and Star Trek, but now there is an added tone of eroticism”.
Allison de Fren published an interesting paper in a 2009 issue of the journal Science Fiction Studies. Her essay examined techno-fetishism, particularly in relation to the machine woman, by studying the technosexual community. Her paper argued that A.S.F.R. is less about technology in general, or the artificial woman in particular. To de Fren, techno-fetishism is:
“…a strategy of denaturalization that uses the trope of technological ‘programming’ to underscore subjecthood. Like the trope of “hardwiring” used within cyberpunk as a signal of the constitution of bodies and identities in relation to networked systems of control and power, ‘programming’ serves as a metaphor for the biological and cultural matrices within which desire is articulated and pursued. ASFRians experience pleasure and agency through, in a sense, hacking the system, the visual indicators of which often take the form of a female android who has run amok, an image that is typically read as a threat”.
As far as I am aware, there is no academic research on robot fetishism beyond theoretical essays. While of interest, it would be really useful to know how big the techno-sexual community is and what the motivations are in engaging in such behaviour (submission/dominance is an obvious theme but there’s no literature to confirm or disconfirm such speculation. I’ll leave you with a recent quote by Dr. Glenda Shaw-Garlock (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada) in Human-Robot Personal Relationships, who probably didn’t have robot fetishists in mind when she wrote it, but which has great resonance with this topic:
“Today, human and sociable-technology interaction is a contested site of inquiry. Some regard social robots as an innovative medium of communication that offer new avenues for expression, communication, and interaction. Other others question the moral veracity of human-robot relationships, suggesting that such associations risk psychological impoverishment. What seems clear is that the emergence of social robots in everyday life will alter the nature of social interaction, bringing with it a need for new theories to understand the shifting terrain between humans and machines”
de Fren, A. (2009). Technofetishism and the Uncanny Desires of A.S.F.R. (alt.sex.fetish.robots), Science Fiction Studies, 36, 404-440.
Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.
Gore, E. (Undated). The technosexuality, Pygmalionist and mind control fetish FAQ 3.0. Located at: http://www.p-synd.com/winterrose/technosexuality.html
Shaw-Garlock, G. (2011). Loving machines: Theorising human and sociable-technology interaction. Human-Robot Personal Relationships, Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, 59, 1-10
Strohecker, D.P. (2011). Robot Fetishism, Synthetic Partners, and Phallogocentrism, The Society Pages, July 22. Located at: http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/07/22/robot-fetishism-synthetic-partners-and-phallogocentrism/
Stupid My Cupid (2010). Agalmatophilia: Love in the age of silicon. May 20. Located at: http://stupidmycupid.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/what-is-agalmatophilia-agalmatophilia.html
In March 2012, the Daily Mail reported the story of Reighner Deleighnie, a 40-year old woman from London who claimed that she had fallen in love with a three-foot statue of the Greek God Adonis that she bought for £395. It was reported that:
“She enjoys reading and talking to her companion, and keeps him close by when she watches television and eats dinner. She also kisses and caresses him, imagining the pair of them walking through meadows of wildflowers or at the seaside. She shares the condition with Amanda Whittaker, a 27-year-old shop assistant from Leeds who has fallen head over heels for the Statue of Liberty”.
Agalmatophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects. It is also part of a wider condition known as ‘object sexuality’ (i.e., those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to specific inanimate objects or structures) that I wrote about in a previous blog. The behaviour can manifest itself in many forms including actual sexual contact with the body-shaped objects, fantasies of having sexual encounters with the body-shaped objects, the act or sexual fantasy of watching encounters between the body-shaped objects themselves, and/or sexual arousal from thoughts of being transformed or transforming into a body-shaped object. (Because of this latter variation, some commentators have noted there are elements of transformation fetishism that I examined in my previous blog on Furry Fandom). It has also been claimed that for some agalmatophiles, the idea of immobility or loss of control can be arousing. For other agalmatophiles, there may also be fantasies about paralysis that may cross over into hypno-fetishism and/or robot fetishism.
Agalmatophilia can also include “Pygmalionism” that is usually defined as a state of love for an object of one’s own creation. Pygmalion was a Greek sculptor and misogynist who fell in love with a statue he had carved. In Greek mythology (and according to Ovid), after seeing the Propoetides prostituting themselves, Pygmalion lost all sexual interest in women. The legend has it that his carved statue was so realistic that he fell in love with it. He prayed to Aphrodite (the Greek godess of love) to bring the statue to life. Aphrodite eventually granted his wish and Pygmalion married the once statue. (I feel duty bound to point out that this view is not universal. A 1978 paper in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences by two New Zealand historians, Dr. A. Scobie and Dr. J. Taylor, state that Pygmalionism is not – and shouldn’t be confused as – a form of agalmatophilia).
Most of the academic writings on agalmatophilia are either case studies and/or historical writings (which are hard to confirm). For instance, Dr. Brenda Love in a 2005 book chapter entitled “Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing” said that Clisyphus allegedly “violated the statue of a goddess in the Temple of Samos, after having placed a piece of meat on a certain part”. Dr. Love also reported that having sex with statues was commonplace among worshippers of Priapus where virgins were first penetrated by him. (For those who don’t know, Priapus was a fertility god, and protector of fruit, gardens, livestock, and male genitalia. All illustrations of Priapus accentuate his oversized, permanent erection that has given rise to the painful medical condition ‘priapism’ in which the penis remains erect for long periods). Even in the twentieth century, Dr. Love reports that young Indian female virgins have been documented as making love to statues as a way to break their hymens.
Arguably the first academically documented case was by Richard Von Krafft-Ebbing in his 1877 text Psychopathia Sexualis. Here, Krafft-Ebbing recounted that case of a male gardener who fell in love with a statue of the Venus de Milo and was discovered attempting to have sexual intercourse with it. In a 1978 issue of the Journal of Sex Research, Murray White, a psychologist based in New Zealand, examined the clinical and literary citations relating to agalmatophilia. Although making reference to case studies outlined by Krafft-Ebbing and Havelock Ellis, he found found only one “single documented instance where this condition existed as part of a complex manifestation of symptoms but a number of instances where it occurred as a pornographic fantasy”. Despite the rarity of the condition, White did at least conform that the condition was a bona fide clinical entity.
More recently, Dr. Brenda Love in her 2005 book chapter outlined two more case studies (one of which I think was originally in Robert Tralin’s 1969 book The Sexual Fetish). The first case was the case a 34-year old man who at the age of 12 years became obsessed with a life size museum statue. He subsequently bought two small statues he spotted in a shop window and began regularly masturbating with them. At the time of the report being written, he had been masturbating with the aid of the statues for 22 years and was still doing it even though he was now happily married.
The second case involved a window dresser who developed overwhelming urges to masturbate every time he saw a naked mannequin. This appeared to be related to his first sexual experience when he was forced to perform fellatio on a man while sitting on mannequins. As time went on, he also developed desires to rub up against mannequins and also liked other men to watch him do it.
There are also cases of what could perhaps be described as ‘pseudo-agalmatophilia’. For instance, Dr. Brenda Love noted that in the sado-masochistic community, some masochists are ordered by their sexually sadistic partners to become a statue and not move while being fondled. There is nothing in the empirical academic literature outside of case studies although one website essay on agalmatophilia claims men who participate in these fetishes outnumber women 10 to 1, but that there are many women who participate as well. It also states that:
“The sexual stimulation results more from a need of control and sexual gratification without emotion from either counterpart. It can be easily misunderstood as a shallow, cruel, and heartless depiction of sexual stimulation, and although this may be true for some, it is not true for all. Some use this as a way of performing derogatory acts without actually harming anyone…Agalmatophilia is a difficult concept to comprehend, especially when considering the mental states behind these fantasies. However, one should always consider whether the actions harm real individuals or not. In some cases, this is just a derogatory fantasy. For others, this is just sexual gratification that stems from loneliness or the lack of confidence in an ability to find a partner”
In the absence of any empirical sources to back this up, it is hard to assess the validity of these claims, but the claims seem plausible. As with most rare paraphilic behaviours, we have no way of knowing whether the published case studies are in any way representative of all people who have such sexual interests.
Baker, D. (2012). ‘I’m head over heels in love with the Statue of Liberty’: Shop assistant has got a new flame! Daily Mail, March 6. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2110198/Amanda-Whittaker-love-Statue-Liberty-Shop-assistant-got-new-flame.html#ixzz1viApQQ1M
Krafft-Ebing, R. (1877). Psychopathia Sexualis. New York: Paperback Library (1965 reprint).
Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.
Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129). New York: The Disinformation Company.
Scobie, A. & Taylor, J. (1975). Perversions ancient and modern. Agalmatophilia, the statue syndrome. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 11, 49-54.
Strauss, R.S. (2012). I’m in love with a three-foot statue of Adonis: Carer, 40, spends every day with £400 moulding of the Greek god of desire she has dubbed ‘Hans’. Daily Mail, March 23. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2119164/Carer-40-spends-day-400-Adonis-moulding-dubbed-Hans.html#ixzz1vi0JlPvb
Stupid My Cupid (2010). Agalmatophilia: Love in the age of silicon. May 20. Located at: http://stupidmycupid.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/what-is-agalmatophilia-agalmatophilia.html
Tralins, R. (1969). The Sexual Fetish: Case Histories of Bizarre Sexual Hangups. New York: Paperback Library Books.
White, M.J. (1978). The Statue Syndrome: Perversion? Fantasy? Anecdote? Journal of Sex Research, 14, 246-249.