Strange, bizarre and unusual human sexual behaviour is a topic that fascinates many people (including myself of course). Last week I got a fair bit of international media coverage being interviewed about the allegations that Donald Trump hired women to perform ‘golden showers’ in front of him (i.e., watching someone urinate for sexual pleasure, typically referred to as urophilia). I was interviewed by the Daily Mirror (and many stories used my quotes in this particular story for other stories elsewhere). I was also commissioned to write an article on the topic for the International Business Times (and on which this blog is primarily based). The IBT wanted me to write an article on whether having a liking for strange and/or bizarre sexual preferences makes that individual more generally deviant.
Although the general public may view many of these behaviours as sexual perversions, those of us that study these behaviours prefer to call them paraphilias (from the Greek “beyond usual or typical love”). Regular readers of my blog will know I’ve written hundreds of articles on this topic. For those of you who have no idea what parahilias really are, they are uncommon types of sexual expression that may appear bizarre and/or socially unacceptable, and represent the extreme end of the sexual continuum. They are typically accompanied by intense sexual arousal to unconventional or non-sexual stimuli. Most adults are aware of paraphilic behaviour where individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from sex with children (paedophilia), the giving and/or receiving of pain (sadomasochism), dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex (transvestism), sex with animals (zoophilia), and sex with dead people (necrophilia).
However, there are literally hundreds of paraphilias that are not so well known or researched including sexual arousal from amputees (acrotomophilia), the desire to be an amputee (apotemnophilia), flatulence (eproctophilia), rubbing one’s genitals against another person without their consent (frotteurism), urine (urophilia), faeces (coprophilia), pretending to be a baby (infantilism), tight spaces (claustrophilia), restricted oxygen supply (hypoxyphilia), trees (dendrophilia), vomit (emetophilia), enemas (klismaphilia), sleep (somnophilia), statues (agalmatophilia), and food (sitophilia). [I’ve covered all of these (and more) in my blog so just click on the hyperlinks of you want to know more about the ones I’ve mentioned in this paragraph].
It is thought that paraphilias are rare and affect only a very small percentage of adults. It has been difficult for researchers to estimate the proportion of the population that experience unusual sexual behaviours because much of the scientific literature is based on case studies. However, there is general agreement among the psychiatric community that almost all paraphilias are male dominated (with at least 90% of all those affected being men).
One of the most asked questions in this field is the extent to which engaging in unusual sex acts is deviant? Psychologists and psychiatrists differentiate between paraphilias and paraphilic disorders. Most individuals with paraphilic interests are normal people with absolutely no mental health issues whatsoever. I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with any paraphilic act involving non-normative sex between two or more consenting adults. Those with paraphilic disorders are individuals where their sexual preferences cause the person distress or whose sexual behaviour results in personal harm, or risk of harm, to others. In short, unusual sexual behaviour by itself does not necessarily justify or require treatment.
The element of coercion is another key distinguishing characteristic of paraphilias. Some paraphilias (e.g., sadism, masochism, fetishism, hypoxyphilia, urophilia, coprophilia, klismaphilia) are engaged in alone, or include consensual adults who participate in, observe, or tolerate the particular paraphilic behaviour. These atypical non-coercive behaviours are considered by many psychiatrists to be relatively benign or harmless because there is no violation of anyone’s rights. Atypical coercive paraphilic behaviours are considered much more serious and almost always require treatment (e.g., paedophilia, exhibitionism [exposing one’s genitals to another person without their consent], frotteurism, necrophilia, zoophilia).
For me, informed consent between two or more adults is also critical and is where I draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable. This is why I would class sexual acts with children, animals, and dead people as morally and legally unacceptable. However, I would also class consensual sexual acts between adults that involve criminal activity as unacceptable. For instance, Armin Meiwes, the so-called ‘Rotenburg Cannibal’ gained worldwide notoriety for killing and eating a fellow German male victim (Bernd Jürgen Brande). Brande’s ultimate sexual desire was to be eaten (known as vorarephilia). Here was a case of a highly unusual sexual behaviour where there were two consenting adults but involved the killing of one human being by another.
Because paraphilias typically offer pleasure, many individuals affected do not seek psychological or psychiatric treatment as they live happily with their sexual preference. In short, there is little scientific evidence that unusual sexual behaviour makes you more deviant generally.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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.
Buhrich, N. (1983). The association of erotic piercing with homosexuality, sadomasochism, bondage, fetishism, and tattoos. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 12, 167-171.
Collacott, R.A. & Cooper, S.A. (1995). Urine fetish in a man with learning disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 39, 145-147.
Couture, L.A. (2000). Forced retention of bodily waste: The most overlooked form of child maltreatment. Located at: http://www.nospank.net/couture2.htm
Denson, R. (1982). Undinism: The fetishizaton of urine. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 27, 336–338.
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Compassion, dominance/submission, and curled lips: A thematic analysis of dacryphilic experience. International Journal of Sexual Health, 27, 337-350.
Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2016). Sexual interest as performance, intellect and pathological dilemma: A critical discursive case study of dacryphilia. Psychology and Sexuality, 7, 265-278.
Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Eproctophilia in a young adult male: A case study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1383-1386.
Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilias: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.
Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Bizarre sex. New Turn Magazine, 3, 49-51.
Massion-verniory, L. & Dumont, E. (1958). Four cases of undinism. Acta Neurol Psychiatr Belg. 58, 446-59.
Money, J. (1980). Love and Love Sickness: The Science of Sex, Gender Difference and Pair-bonding, John Hopkins University Press.
Mundinger-Klow, G. (2009). The Golden Fetish: Case Histories in the Wild World of Watersports. Paris: Olympia Press.
Skinner, L. J., & Becker, J. V. (1985). Sexual dysfunctions and deviations. In M. Hersen & S. M. Turner (Eds.), Diagnostic interviewing (pp. 211–239). New York: Plenum Press.
Spengler, A. (1977). Manifest sadomasochism of males: Results of an empirical study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6, 441–456.
“As far as I can remember I have been easily aroused by women wearing pantyhose. At the age of about 14 or 15 [years] I started wearing pantyhose and masturbating with them. At the time I was ashamed to tell my girlfriend at the time about it. I continued this up until about 19 or 20, when I finally had a girlfriend who I told about my fetish. I thought that by sharing this with my significant other at the time that it would help but it did not. I would just want it more and more. Now I am in a long-term relationship with a woman that I love. I have told her about my fetish and how I masturbate with her pantyhose and she said that she did not have a problem with it. She wears pantyhose for me rather frequently because she knows that I really like them…My obsession has really intensified to the point that I am doing more to achieve a stronger orgasm…I really feel like my fetish is out of control. In general my fetish for pantyhose has lead me to do immoral things that I would not do unless pantyhose are involved” (Letter sent to Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker)
For the benefit of my non-UK readers, here in the UK, ‘pantyhose fetishism’ is more commonly known as ‘tights fetishism’ (and is very similar to ‘stocking fetishism’, the commonality being the fact they are both clothing items worn on the legs that are often made of nylon and that have a silky veneer). The few online articles concerning pantyhose fetishism make similar claims although empirical evidence for such claims are generally lacking. For instance, the articles claim that pantyhose fetishism is (i) commonplace and (ii) usually first begins in childhood and/or early adolescence (after seeing pantyhose being worn by a significant person in the fetishist’s life such as their mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, family friend, neighbour and/or teacher).
One of the best studies published in a 2007 issue of the International Journal of Impotence Research by Dr G. Scorolli and his colleagues on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data did not report the specific existence of pantyhose fetishism at all, although around 12% had fetishes concerning something associated with the body such as legs (which could have included pantyhouse). However, if you type ‘pantyhose fetishism’ into Google lots of dedicated pornographic photography and video sites can be found on the first few pages.
According to Wikipedia men may have a preference for pantyhose because unlike stocking, pantyhose has direct contact with female genitalia. An article on the Kinkly website claims individuals with a pantyhose fetish most commonly become sexually aroused by wearing pantyhose, watching other people wear (or undress wearing) pantyhose, or both. The Wikipedia article is a little more detailed and claims that the fetish manifests in one or more of the following ways (and which I have repeated verbatim):
- “Tearing or cutting holes in pantyhose to modify the garment or gain access to the wearer’s body.
- Wearing of pantyhose by either or both partners during sexual activity.
- A male wearing pantyhose alone or in front of others who may praise or humiliate him.
- Using pantyhose as bondage restraints.
- Interacting with pantyhose in any other way or form during sexual activity.
- Simply observing/admiring and experiencing heightened arousal/interest of females or males who are wearing pantyhose.
- Viewing material from store catalogues to pornography of models and actors wearing pantyhose.
- A man or woman in pantyhose encasement”.
As far as I am aware, only one paper solely devoted to pantyhose fetishism has ever been published in the psychological literature. This was a 1997 paper written from a psychodynamic perspective by Dr. L.M. Lothstein in the journal Gender and Psychoanalysis. In her paper, Lothstein describes this “unique fetish” using clinical vignettes of gender dysphoric men (i.e., transgendered males). The paper claims the pantyhose served a number of different functions (such as the repairing of psychic structure, and an expression and defence against underlying aggression). More specifically, Lothstein refers to pantyhose as a functional ‘magic skin’ or ‘second skin’ in repairing a defective ego and acting as a transitional object to allay annihilation and separation anxiety.
The Wikipedia and Kinkly articles claim that there are many sub-types of pantyhose fetish and that such fetishes often co-occur with other fetishes and sexual paraphilias such as shoe fetishes, transvestism, sadomasochism, and schoolgirl fetishes. For instance, the Wikipedia article notes that pantyhose fetishism can include:
- A focus on certain areas of the body while wearing pantyhose, [such as] feet, a variation of the very common foot fetishism.
- Wearing pantyhose with other specific garments, e.g. shoes, boots, or skirts, uniforms that usually include pantyhose (girl at work, secretary, flight stewardess, policewoman, Hooters waitress, girl next door etc.)
- Certain styles e.g. sheer-to-waist, opaque, patterned or specific deniers, certain brands or shades.
- Simply admiring women who wear pantyhose (a mild form of voyeurism).
- Finding the wearing of them to be a primarily sensual comforting experience, rather than sexual.
- The act of purchasing pantyhose, especially when aided by a female assistant, can also generate a degree of arousal”.
One of the problems with the Wikipedia article as that it is included in the entry on underwear fetishism and the section concerning pantyhose fetishes specifically notes that the section “does not cite any references or sources”. It then goes on to claim:
“The pantyhose covered foot can be extremely arousing to men who often find satisfaction in just looking at or more in that of rubbing, sucking/licking, and massage of the penis with the nylon clad feet. Others find arousal in sniffing the sour and pungent smell of soles made by excessive sweat when in pantyhose. Foot-jobs can be very intense and stimulating and covering a woman in pantyhose in semen is a common fantasy with some men. Pantyhose fetish can also be linked to that of the women dressing as the schoolgirl where stockings, knee high socks and pantyhose can be worn with a short skirt”.
The same article also lists a number of reasons why females wear pantyhose and then claims that these reasons as to why women wear pantyhose provides possible reasons for the allure of pantyhose fetishism:
- “They remove the appearance of blemishes, making the legs ‘perfect’.
- The reflectiveness of the material, coupled with the way they appear less transparent at the edges, often gives legs more contrast and definition, as though lit by dramatic lighting. This accentuates the curves of the legs, making them less ‘flat’, and can also make legs appear slimmer (with dark pantyhose).
- They often have a silky texture which is pleasing to both the wearer and her partner.
- They enhance the pleasure (and anticipation) associated with the removal of a woman’s clothes. Not only serving as an additional item to be removed; they allow the exciting moment of exposure to be drawn out much longer than other clothing items, as the pantyhose are slowly pulled down the legs. In addition to this, they do not actually hide what they cover.
- The slipperiness and smoothness of sheer pantyhose and stockings also makes women’s low cut court shoes slip off more easily. This vulnerability is often sexually attractive, and can often result in the women engaging in shoe dangling or shoe play which is also appealing to shoe and foot fetishists”.
Although I mentioned above I only knew of one academic paper on pantyhose fetishism, there are a few academic writings that have mentioned it in passing. For instance, in a 1979 issue of the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, Dr. W.L. Marshall reported the treatment of two male paedophiles with satiation therapy, one of who was also a pantyhose fetishist (but no detail was given on this aspect of their sexual behaviour except he was also a shoe fetishist). A paper by Dr. L.F. Lowenstein in a 2002 issue of Sexuality and Disability claimed that pantyhose fetishism was “very common” but the only evidence given for this was a reference to Lothstein’s paper (which contained no information on the prevalence of the fetish). Finally, in a 2008 book chapter on themes of sadomasochism self-expression by Dr. Charles Moser and Dr. Peggy Kleinplatz, they used the example of pantyhose to define and explain what fetishes are:
“A fetish is characterized by sexual arousal to an inanimate object…Individuals who enjoy SM accessories often describe their interests as fetishes. They find wearing or touching the preferred articles highly arousing. The articles themselves are rarely arousing, but if they are worn by a partner, it heightens the partner’s attractiveness and heightens the eroticism of the sex. For example, pantyhose can be a fetish object, but brand new pairs, never worn, rarely become a focus of erotic interest. The same pantyhose worn by the participant or a partner can elicit a strong erotic response. Similarly an article of clothing that reminds the person of a partner or a specific erotic interlude can become a fetish object”.
Again, this simply confirms that pantyhose fetishes exist (or theoretically exist) but there is no information on incidence, prevalence, or their psychosocial impact. I did come across one online account written by someone who confesses to being a pantyhose fetishist on the Act Sensuous blog site, and which I found a lot more enlightening that anything academic that I have read on the topic:
“I had tried several times before, but during my research to find scientific facts…I wanted to learn where pantyhose rank on a list of the most prevalent fetishes, but I couldn’t find credible material that could be documented. I did find one thing I expected – that the foot fetish is still No. 1, apparently, the most common. Suffice it to say that pantyhose are high up there somewhere. And, thankfully, pantyhose and foot fetishes seem to go hand-in-hand, or make that foot-in-hand…Obviously, there’s more to a pantyhose fetish than [what is on Wikipedia]…To me, pantyhose always have been about three things: the way they look, the way they feel to the touch, and the very concept of them in the first place. Maybe it’s just that they are designed to enhance the beauty of everything they cover. To me, there’s a profound dichotomy about pantyhose, which I find very exciting. Pantyhose possess enormous power, yet, by design, they are extremely delicate and feminine, causing an irresistible vulnerability for the wearer. This is never more evident than in the way the nylon fabric moves to the touch on a woman’s legs and feet. It’s almost as if she has a second, delicate, delicious skin. It’s as if the pantyhose are a living, breathing intimate part of the wearer. You can physically manipulate that lifeforce, and you have to be careful not to hurt it. Once on, any item of clothing a person wears, sort of disappears. You stop feeling it on your body. And even though you can touch the pantyhose on yourself, it isn’t the same as feeling them on someone else. Want your lover to feel what you feel when you caress her legs in pantyhose? All it takes is to move that delicate nylon fabric over her skin. The sensation is incredible for both parties”.
Maybe we will never know how common pantyhose fetish is but there appears to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that it exists, is male-dominated, and that there is some crossover with other more (empirically) established fetishes (such as foot fetishes).
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
The Act Sensuous Blog (2010). What drives our pantyhose fetish? April 11. Located at: https://actsensuous.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/what-drives-our-fetish-for-pantyhose/
Kinkly (2015). Pantyhose fetish. Located at: http://www.kinkly.com/definition/6774/pantyhose-fetish
Lothstein, L.M. (1997). Pantyhose fetishism and self cohesion: A Paraphilic Solution? Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(1), 103-121.
Lowenstein, L.F. (2002). Fetishes and their associated behaviour. Sexuality and Disability, 20, 135-147.
Moser, C., & Kleinplatz, P.J. (2007). Themes of SM expression. In D. Langbridge, & Meg Barker (Eds.), Safe, sane and consensual: Contemporary perspectives on SM (pp.35-54). Hampshire, UK: MacMillan.
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.
Wikipedia (2015). Underwear fetishism. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwear_fetishism#Panties
One of the most bizarre sex-related stories I have come across in the last few years concerns an Englishman called David Truscott from Pengegon Parc, Camborne (in Cornwall). Truscott, was 41-years-old when he was put in prison for two years after he had harassed and terrorized one particular family for a six-year period near Redruth (Cornwall). He repeatedly covered his naked (or scantily-clad) body in cow manure and would roll around on the floor masturbating on the family’s farm (if he wasn’t completely naked he either wore just underpants although on one occasion he was apprehended by police wearing shiny red sorts and latex gloves). He had already received a court order preventing him from going anywhere near the family but breached his restraining order on February 26  when he was caught by the farmer Clive Roth’s 16-year old son pleasuring himself while covered in cow manure.
Jill Wilson, the crown prosecutor in the case at Truro Court told the court that there was “a history of [Truscott] visiting this particular farm seeking sexual gratification while immersed in cow dung and mud”. Mark Charnley, the lawyer defending Truscott told the court that his client was a “sad, vulnerable, socially inadequate man…He does show remorse for what he did and a realization of the harm he was doing to the family” and pleased for leniency because his client had no close family and had learning difficulties. Charnley also suggested that Truscott was suffering from a form of autism that led him to engage in his sexual behaviour while under stress. However, Judge Christopher Elwen said Truscott had to be jailed for his “perverted activities [and because he’d] made the home life of the Roth family absolute hell through your bizarre fetish and disgusting behaviour”. The Judge concluded: “The family members live in fear of what you might get up to from time to time. They have constantly to look over their shoulders. Any untoward activity on the farm brings your disgusting behaviour to mind”.
It was back in 2004 that Truscott was first spotted by the family when he was found masturbating in the faeces of the farm’s muck spreader. As the behaviour was not an isolated incident, the family tried to keep their manure spreading equipment clean but Truscott still found ways to make himself a nuisance to the family. When the manure became harder to come by, Truscott took his revenge on the family by setting fire to an animal pen containing the family’s cows and calves in which one of the cows died. The family’s three-year old son was traumatized by the incident and lived in fear that the house where he lived was going to be burned to the ground. Mr Roth’s mother also lived in fear that the farmhouse was going to be the subject of an arson attack. As a consequence, Truscott pleaded guilty and received a three-year prison sentence.
When he was released from prison in 2009, Truscott returned to the family’s farmhouse and was found naked in a pile of manure. He received yet another prison sentence (of 20 weeks) and a restraining order preventing him from stepping foot on the family’s farm. However, this proved ineffective and was broken on a number of subsequent occasions (including one where he immersed himself almost naked inside a large vat of manure inside the farm’s milking parlour. It was also revealed in court that Trsucott owned 360 pairs of women’s knickers and usually slept in ladies’ pyjamas.
Although I only have the various news reports to go on (all the ones I read are listed in the ‘Further reading’ section at the end of this blog), I would make a number of observations. Firstly, the primary sexual attraction appears to be towards animal faeces, therefore he could possibly be classed as a coprophile. Although I have never come across a case of anyone in the academic and clinical literature deriving sexual pleasure from anything other than human faeces, definitions of coprophilia never specify that the faecal matter has to be human. Maybe Truscott’s behaviour could therefore be classed as “zoocoprophilia” (my own word to describe those individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from animal faeces).
Secondly, (and I admit this is highly speculative), it could perhaps be argued that Truscott would classify as a ‘Class V zoosexual’ in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s recently published new classification of zoophiles. The Class V zoosexual type comprises what Aggrawal calls fetishistic zoophiles. These individuals keep various animal parts (especially fur) that they then use as an erotic stimulus as a crucial part of their sexual activity. Such individuals have been reported in the clinical literature including the case of a woman (reported in a 1990 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology) who used the tongue of a deer as her primary masturbatory aid. Given that the animal manure appeared to be a critical component in Truscott’s masturbatory activity, maybe he could arguably be classed as a Class V zoosexual.
Thirdly, there is some empirical evidence of an overlap in coprophilia and zoophilia. An earlier study on a sample of paraphiliacs reported that zoophiles appear to engage in many paraphilic behaviours including coprophilia. In a survey of 561 non-incarcerated paraphiliacs seeking treatment, Dr Gene Abel and colleagues reported in an issue of the Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, that all of the 14 zoophiles in their sample reported more than one paraphilia and seven of them reported at least five other paraphilas including coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, frotteurism, telephone scatophilia, transvestic fetishism, fetishism, sexual sadism, and/or sexual masochism. This also supports the observation that if a person has one paraphilia, they often have others. In the case of Truscott, there was some evidence that he engaged in transvestite sexual behaviour in the fact that he often wore women’s knickers and slept in female nightwear.
Finally, fact that Truscott’s lawyer suggested his client had a form of autism may be an important factor in the behaviour displayed. In a previous blog I wrote on coprophagia (i.e., people that eat faeces, and a behaviour that sometimes overlaps with coprophilia), I noted that various medical and psychological disorders have been identified that are associated with coprophagia including mental retardation and autism.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Abel, G. G., Becker, J. V., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M. S., & Rouleau, J. L. (1988). Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 16, 153–168.
Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.
Beck D.A. & Frohberg, N.R. (2005). Coprophagia in an elderly man: a case report and review of the literature. International Journal of Psychiatry Medicine, 35, 417-427.
Crazy News (2011). The pervert who got sexual thrills in cow manure. March 24. Located at: http://weirdcrazynews.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/pervert-who-got-sexual-thrills-in-cow.html
Daily Mirror (2011). Pervert who got sexual thrills in cow manure sent to prison. Daily Mirror, March 24. Located at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/pervert-who-got-sexual-thrills-in-cow-117998
Evening Standard (2011). Pervert with fetish for cow manure is locked up, March 23. Located at: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/pervert-with-fetish-for-cow-manure-is-locked-up-6384125.html
Ghaziuddin, N. & McDonald, C. (1989). A clinical study of adult coprophagics. British Journal of Psychiatry, 4, 53-54.
Omasiali (2011). Sick white devil repeatedly has sex with cow manure back in jail, May 15. http://omasiali.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/sick-white-devil-repeatedly-has-sex-with-cow-manure-back-in-jail/
Randall, M.B., Vance, R.P., McCalmont, T.H. (1990). Xenolingual autoeroticism. American Journal of Forensic and Medical Pathology, 11, 89-92.
Skruff, J. (2012). Britain’s filthiest sex fiend strikes again, July 18. Located at: http://skrufff.com/2012/07/britains-filthiest-sex-fiend-strikes-again/
White Watch (2011). White man who repeatedly has sex with cow manure back in jail. March 27. Located at: http://whitewatch.info/2011/03/27/white-man-who-repeatedly-has-sex-with-cow-manure-back-in-jail.aspx
If you were a regular viewer of the American drama Dirty Sexy Money you may remember that one of the stories played out across the series was the on-off relationship between Patrick Darling IV (played by William Baldwin) and his transgender mistress girlfriend Carmelita Rainer (played by Candis Cayne who in real life became the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character on prime time television). Although Patrick Darling’s relationship with Carmelita was fictional, there is a minority of men who have a sexual preference for women who were born men.
In a review of paraphilias not otherwise specified (P-NOS), Dr Joel Milner and colleagues briefly overviewed this condition that was termed gynemimetophilia by the sexologist Professor John Money (from the Greek, gyne [woman], mimos [mime], and philia [love]). Dr. Milner and his colleagues define gynemimetophilia as a sexual paraphilia where an individual (usually male) derives sexual arousal and pleasure from sexual partners who are gynemimetic (typically a sex-reassigned, male-to-female transsexual). Such people are colloquially known as ‘transfans’ (although other names include ‘tranny chasers’ and ‘tranny hawk’). Milner and colleagues also note a related condition termed gynemimesis that normally refers to a homosexual male who engages in female impersonation without sex reassignment (such as a drag queen). Among females, the paraphilic equivalent (also coined by Professor Money) is andromimetophilia (from the Greek, andros [man], mimos [mime] and philia [love]). The T-Vox website provides advice, information and support website on the internet for transgendered individuals. It claims that:
“Gynemimetophilia may be a word assigned to both chasers and admirers. People who are attracted to female identified transgender people may be of any gender or sexual orientation. They may or may not think of their attraction as a fetish. Some people may have a more sex positive view of fetish and not be bothered by the idea of objectification while other people may view fetish and objectification as oppressive and dangerous”.
Attraction to transgendered individuals doesn’t necessarily have to be paraphilic although the (sexual and/or romantic) attraction is said to be enduring. Some academics distinguish between those who are attracted to those individuals who have undergone gender reassignment surgery, and those who are attracted to those who simply dress as the opposite sex. To be classed as a paraphilia, the attraction would normally have to be an exclusive or primary sexual preference for trans men and/or trans women. Some clinically oriented academics characterize transgender attraction as a medical diagnosis to be managed, but it would appear that most individuals who are attracted to transgendered individuals do not seek treatment (therefore it may not be clinical condition in most cases). According to a the Wikipedia entry on transgender attraction:
“Many members of the transgender community (particularly in the MTF [male-to-female] population use ‘tranny chaser’ in a pejorative sense, because they consider it a fetish-like attraction to the penis of a pre-operative or non-operative trans woman MTF or to the vagina of a pre- or non-operative trans man. In [the 1996 book] ‘True Selves’ [Mildred] Brown and [Chloe] Rounsley suggested that tranny chasing men may be homosexual men in denial. The term tranny (or trannie) is itself considered a slur in some circles”.In [the book] ‘Diary of a Drag Queen’, Danny Harris describes four types of men interested in him while he was cross-dressed: heterosexual men who wanted the presumed superior oral services of another male, homosexuals who were only interested in his genitals, other cross dressers, and men who were intrigued by the mixture of masculinity and femininity he represented”.
The reasons for attraction differ from one person to another but a recent 2011 paper by Dr. Jeffrey Escoffier in the journal Studies in Gender and Sexuality highlightsthat the exoticism of the transgendered individual can be a primary attraction and that such people are “often both hyperfeminine in appearance and sexual aggressive”. He claimed that the phenomenon is fairly new and claims that the first known cases occurred in 1953 following the first case of male-to-female sex change (i.e., Christine Jorgensen). Others may be attracted to what transgendered individuals represent and the way they challenge male/female sexual orthodoxy.
However, a 2008 qualitative study in the journal AIDS and Behavior led by Dr. Don Operario examined men who have sex with transgender women (or MSTGWs as they termed them). Operario and his colleagues conducted in-depth semi-structured individual interviews with 46 MSTGWs living in San Francisco. Approximately three-quarters of those they interviewed described themselves as heterosexual or bisexual. They reported great diversity in the ways MSTGWs explained their sexual orientation, and reported there was “no consistent patterns between how men described their sexual orientation identity versus their sexual behavior and attraction to transgender women”. As one of their interviewees said: “I like women with dicks. I like tits and I like dicks…Something erotic about getting fucked by someone who is a woman”.
A 2010 sociological study by Dr. Martin Weinberg and Dr. Colin Williams examined men who were sexually interested in trans women (MSTW) in the Journal of Sex Research. In their study, trans women were defined as genetic males who used estrogen to feminize their body but retained their penis. They examined the nature of MSTW’s sexual attraction towards trans women, and then examined how this related to their sexual orientation identity. Their main finding was that those MSTWs who identified as heterosexual tended to gloss over the fact that the trans woman had a penis, while the bisexually identified MSTWs were more likely to incorporate the trans woman’s penis into the sexual experience. Finally, it is worth noting that the T-Vox website is not in favour of using the word ‘gynemimetophilia’ because:
“The word gynemimetophilia has a negative connotation and is a somewhat loaded or controversial term in the transgender community, particularly since associated with paraphilia or fetish. In order to promote positive gender identity, many transgender people would rather not use terms which refer to fetish because of the connotation of sexual objectification in relationship to transgender people… Gynemimetophilia is a primarily psychological term and psychological practitioners should take care in using this label as it can be psychologically damaging”.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Blanchard, R., & Collins, P.I. (1993). Men with sexual interest in transvestites, transsexuals, and she-males. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 181, 570–575.
Brown, M.L. & Rounsley, C.A. (1996). True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism: For Families, Friends, Co-workers, and Helping Professionals. Jossey-Bass.
Escoffier, J. (2011). Imagining the she/male: Pornography and the transsexualization of the heterosexual male. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 12, 268–281.
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.
Money, J. (1984). Paraphilias: Phenomenology and classification. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 38, 164-78.
Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical Concepts of Sexual/Erotic Health and Pathology, Paraphilia, and Gender Transposition of Childhood, Adolescence, and Maturity. New York: Irvington Publishers.
Operario, D., Burton, J., Underhill, K., & Sevelius, J. (2008). Men who have sex with transgender women: Challenges to category-based HIV prevention. AIDS and Behavior, 12, 18-26.
T-Vox (2012). Gynemimetophilia. Located at: http://www.t-vox.org/index.php?title=Gynemimetophilia
Weinberg, M.S. & Williams, C.J. (2010). Men sexually interested in transwomen (MSTW): Gendered embodiment and the construction of sexual desire. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 374-383.
Wikipedia (2012). Attraction to transgender people. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attraction_to_transgender_people
Earlier this year, the Huffington Post reported a story that got me thinking about the relationship between clothing and sexual arousal. The news item reported that an ‘intimacy dress’ had been designed by Daan Roosegaarde that detects when the person wearing it is feeling aroused. It was reported that:
“The futuristic ‘Intimacy 2.0’ design is made of hi-tech fabric, leather and opaque e-foils and becomes transparent when it ‘detects’ a quickening heartbeat. The technical dress, dubbed ‘techno-poetry’ by the designer himself, operates with the help of wireless technology, LEDs and various electronics. Talking about his saucy design, Roosegaarde told the Daily Mail that ‘Intimacy 2.0 is a fashion project exploring the relation between intimacy and technology. Technology is used here not merely functional but also as a tool to create intimacy as well as privacy on a direct, personal level which in our contemporary tech society is becoming increasingly important’”.
Whether the dress serves any real practical purpose is debatable but clothes have long been a source (in and of themselves) as a source of sexual arousal and fetishization. In fact, the term ‘fetish fashion’ has now permeated into popular usage and related to any style or appearance in the form of a type of clothing and/or accessory that has been created to be deliberately extreme and/or provocative.
Clothing fetishes are sexual fetishes where individuals derive sexual arousal and pleasure from either (i) viewing or imagining very specific items of clothing, (ii) viewing or imagining a set of clothes (e.g., a particular uniform or fashion look), and/or (iii) individuals (themselves or others) wearing the clothing item or uniform. As with other fetishes, the item that the individual has fixated upon normally has to be present for sexual arousal to occur. The source of the arousal may also depend on the material from which the clothing items are made and/or the function of the clothing on the person wearing them (e.g., clothes that may restrict a person’s movement, or may accentuate a particular attribute of the body). Some clothing fetishists also collect particular clothing items.
In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists because fetishists may be subscribed to many fetish forums (but was likely to be a lot more). Their analysis included a breakdown of sexual preferences for objects associated with the body including clothing. Excluding footwear – which is associated more specifically with podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism) – the results of the study showed that the most fetishized items of clothing were underwear (12%; 10,046 fetishists), whole body wear such as coats, uniforms (9%, 9434 fetishists), upper body wear such as jackets, waistcoats (9%, 9226 fetishists), and head and neckwear such as hats, ties (3%, 2357 fetishists). From this particular study, the authors concluded that the most common clothing fetishes are footwear, underwear (including swimwear), and uniforms.
Clothing fetishes are known to overlap with other sexual paraphilias including transvestite fetishism, sexual sadism and sexual masochism. Obviously it is the restrictive types of clothing that are most associated with sadomasochistic activity (and which are often made from PVC or latex). This includes very narrow skirts that impede movement (often referred to as hobble skirts that are often ankle length to make walking almost impossible), and very high heel shoes (which make it difficult to walk). Another popular item of restrictive clothing is a tight corset. Those individuals in sexually submissive roles are often forced to wear a bondage corsets (also known as a ‘discipline corset’) as a form of punishment. This is also associated the masochistic sexual practice of ‘tightlacing’ (also known as corset training and waist training) where submissive partners (typically female) are forced to wear a tightly-laced corset that result in extreme body modifications to the submissive partner’s figure and posture (e.g., ‘hourglass’ figures in which the woman looks as though they have an incredibly small waist).
Kevin Almond (University of Huddersfield) published a conference paper investigating how the body has been distorted through the cut and construction of fashionable clothing. He noted that fetishists cover their bodies in rubber cat suits or are restricted by corsetry, and that the clothing promotes levels of sexual desire and satisfaction. Valerie Steele also makes an interesting observation in her 1996 book Fetish, Fashion, Sex and Power that”
“The corset, like the shoe, was one of the first items of clothing to be treated as a fetish, and it remains one of the most important fetish fashions. But it is crucial to distinguish between ordinary fashionable corsetry, as practiced by most nineteenth century women and the very different minority practice of fetishist tight lacing”.
Excluding footwear fetishes (which are very prevalent), there are many other particular types of clothing fetish. The most well known are arguable stocking and suspender fetishes, and uniform fetishes (for instance, a woman dressing up as a nurse or a man dressing up as fireman) which I will look at in future blogs. However, there are other less reported clothing fetishes including sock fetishes, denim jean fetishes, and coat/jacket fetishes. For instance, the Wikipedia entry on jacket fetishism makes the following observations (although none of them are referenced so there are issues around to what extent the information is reliable):
“Jacket fetishism in its pure form is most usually associated with padded nylon jackets though can be associated with leather jackets, particularly in association with bondage (BDSM). Jacket fetishists are generally (but not necessarily) male and gay in the 20 to 45 age range. The fetish often revolves around the feel and look of the nylon though can also relate to elements such as: padding thickness, nylon shiny through wear, orange lining (a well known element), dirty nylon (through normal wear or sexual use), and ripping the nylon. Part of the muddy/dirty fetish can also include getting jackets dirty and then ripping them up… Whilst jacket fetishism does not have the widespread popularity of other fetishes like bondage, it is a popular niche fetish and has numerous successful websites and discussion/picture groups dedicated to it”.
A 1999 paper by Kathleen O’Donnell in Advances in Consumer Research examined the consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women in a qualitative interview study involving five women self-identifies as followers of fetish fashion. O’Donnell’s conclusions were interesting and perhaps surprising: “Each of them spoke of the changes in posture that occurred as they slipped into their stilettos, their corsets or their latex dresses. By forcing them to stand tall, chest held high, the fetish gear instilled in them a sense of self-confidence that many indicated they had previously lacked. As they appeared more confident, self assured, and sexy, they also experienced increased attention from others, which further increased those feelings of self-confidence. Ultimately, fetish fashions gave these women the mechanism to tap into the power of their own sexuality and for that they seemed grateful”.
This is certainly area that would benefit from more empirical research
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Almond, K. (2009) ‘You Have to Suffer for Fashion’: An investigation into how the body has been distorted through the cut and construction of fashionable clothing. IFFTI Journal of Conference Proceedings (pp. 197-210).
Hazell, K. (2012). Dress ‘Becomes Transparent When Wearer Is Sexually Aroused’. Huffington Post, April 5. Located at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/05/intimacy-dress-transparent-aroused_n_1405917.html
Kunzle, D. (2006). Fashion & Fetishism: Corsets, Tight-Lacing and Other Forms of Body-Sculpture. London: The History Press.
Kathleen A. O’Donnell (1999). Good girls gone bad: The consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women. In Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 184-189.
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.
Steele, V, (1996), Fetish, Fashion, Sex and Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wikipedia (2012). Fetish fashion. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetish_fashion
Wikipedia (2012). Jacket fetishism. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jacket_fetishism&oldid=115173167
There is arguably more debate about whether transvestism can be classed as a disorder and/or sexually deviant than any other paraphilia. Transvestism has traditionally been defined as the cross-dressing in clothes worn by the opposite sex for sexual pleasure. However, there are a number of groups of people who may dress themselves in the clothes of the opposite sex but may experience absolutely no sexual arousal whatsoever. Therefore, those who study paraphilic behaviour are more likely to use the term ‘transvestic fetishism’ to describe the small group of people (typically male but there are some documented female cases in the literature) who derive their sexual pleasure from cross-dressing. Therefore, transvestite groups (where the word simply refers to cross-dressing) may comprise:
- Transvestic fetishists who cross-dress for sexual pleasure and that in some cases may involve sexual arousal from a very specific piece of clothing
- Female impersonators who cross-dress to entertain
- Effeminate homosexuals (who may occasionally cross-dress for fun)
- Transexuals who cross-dress because they fell they have been biologically assigned to the wrong sex and typically suffer from a gender identity disorder. It has also been speculated that some transsexuals may be psychologically similar to paraphilias such as apotemnophilia (i.e., the desire to be an amputee)
These different groups show that unlike all other paraphilias (e.g., necrophilia, zoophilia, hypoxyphilia), the motivations for cross-dressing may not necessarily be sexually motivated, and therefore are unlikely to be viewed as either deviant or disordered.
In the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), transvestic fetishism is defined as “the wearing of clothes of the opposite sex principally to obtain sexual excitement and to create the appearance of a person of the opposite sex”. Similarly, the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines it as “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving cross-dressing”. Interestingly, Dr Kirk Newring (Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, USA) and his colleagues think is possible that future books on sexual deviance will not include transvestic fetishism as a sexual deviance, but rather as a sexual variance.
There have been a couple of relatively large-scale studies of transvestism including that of Dr Richard Docter and Dr Virginia Prince (California State University, USA) who surveyed 1,032 transvestites, and Dr Niklas Långström (Centre for Violence Prevention, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden) and Dr Kenneth Zucker (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) who examined tranvestism in a Swedish community survey of 2,540 adults. This, and other research, has suggested there appear to be at least two distinct sub-groups of transvestic fetishists (‘periodic transvestites’ and ‘marginal transvestites’).
- Periodic transvestites: These transvestites are said to have psychological satisfaction with both their male gender and sexual identity, and with the activity of cross-dressing activity. Furthermore, they have no desire to pursue any other form of feminization.
- Marginal transvestites: These transvestites experience psychological dissatisfaction with their male gender and sexual identity. The sexual arousal experienced from cross-dressing is typically lower than that of periodic transvestites. They may also engage in other feminization activities including hormone treatment, bodily hair removal, and (in extreme cases) surgical reconstruction. Some marginal transvestites may therefore include transsexuals who cross-dress not only for sexual pleasure but also for gender synchrony.
As with many other paraphilic behaviours, there is a relative lack of data and much of it comes from clinical case studies. Based on the published papers, the data suggest that the majority of transvestic fetishists report cross-dressing in secret before the onset of adolescence. As children, cross-dressing may provide excitement and pleasure but the activity is unlikely to be particularly sexualized (e.g., clothes that belong to females in the house may trigger and/or facilitate highly pleasurable sensory experiences [such as perfumed fragrances] accompanied by feelings of familiarity and comfort. During adolescence, case study evidence suggests that the act of cross-dressing becomes increasingly paired with sexual urges and arousal (e.g., erections, ejaculation) and in some cases it may lead to thoughts of being female in public or in private.
However, some sexologists have speculated that the transvestic behaviour develops via classical conditioning after an accidental exposure to female clothing or a female undressing. Similarly, it has also been suggested transvestic behaviour may be negatively reinforced when it is used as a means coping during times of emotional distress (for instance, a number of studies have reported high rates of parental separation during transvestic men’s childhood). The etiology of transvestism appears to be similar to other paraphilic behaviours (i.e. early conditioning experiences) although there are case studies of parental punishment by humiliation of wearing girls’ clothes leading to transvestism. According to Dr Kenneth Zucker and colleagues such separation may explain the need for transitional objects that many children eventually develop.
Smaller scale studies carried out in the 1970s to the 1990s reported that transvestites were more likely to be heterosexual and married. In 2005, Långström and Zucker’s study of 2,450 Swedes appeared to confirm these earlier findings. The archetypal transvestite was reported as being in his mid-30s, in a steady relationship and having at least one child. Perhaps surprisingly, there were no major socio-demographic differences between transvestic males and non-transvestic males. In Långström and Zucker’s study, nearly 3% of males (n=36) and 0.4% of females (n=5) reported sexual arousal from cross-dressing at least once. The transvestic behaviour occurred more in heterosexual males (85.7%, n=35). This finding was similar to findings of Docter and Prince’s large-scale study of 1,032 transvestites where up to 89% transvestic males identified themselves as heterosexual. Findings from small-scale studies indicate that most men do not tell their wives prior to marriage and when the wives do find out, they tend to tolerate it rather than support it.
Långström and Zucker also examined the co-occurrence of other paraphilic behaviours. The transvestic men were more likely than non-transvestic men to report sexual sadism and/or masochism, exhibitionism, and voyeurism. In a 1981 study of 222 transvestic males, Buhrich and Beaumont reported high rates of bondage fantasies while dressed in women’s clothing. However, over time and into middle age, sexual desires may diminish but the cross-dressing may remain (and therefore would no longer be classed as transvestic fetishism). Most transvestites do not seek professional help (as they do not experience any distress associated with their behaviour) and even with therapy it is unlikely the behaviour will be altered if the person wants to carry on cross-dressing.
Buhrich, N. (1978). Motivation for cross-dressing in heterosexual transvestism. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 57, 145–152.
Buhrich, N., & Beaumont, T. (1981). Comparison of transvestism in Australia and America. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 589–605.
Docter, R. F., & Prince, V. (1997). Transvestism: A survey of 1032 cross-dressers. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 589-605.
Långström, N., & Zucker, K. J. (2005). Transvestic fetishism in the general population: Prevalence and correlates. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 31, 87-95.
Moser, V. & Kleinplatz, P.J. (2002). Transvestic fetishism: Psychopathology or iatrogenic effect? New Jersey Psychologist, 52(2), 16-17.
Newring, K.A.B. Wheeler, J. & Draper (2008). Transvestic fetishism. Assessment and theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (Second Edition) (pp.285-305). New York: Guildford Press.
Stoller, R. J. (1971). The term, “transvestism.” Archives of General Psychiatry, 24, 230–237.
Sullivan, C.B.L., Bradley, S.J., & Zucker, K.J. (1995). Gender identity disorder (transsexualism) and transvestic fetishism. In V. B. Van Hasselt & M. Hersen (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychopathology: A guide to diagnosis and treatment (pp. 525–558). New York: Lexington Books.
Wheeler, J. Newring, K.A.B. & Draper, C. (2008). Transvestic fetishism. Psychopathology and Theory. In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (Second Edition) (pp.272-284). New York: Guildford Press.
Zucker, K.J., & Blanchard, R. (1997). Transvestic fetishism: Psychopathology and theory. In D. R. Laws & W. T. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, assessment, and treatment (First Edition) (pp. 253-279). New York: Guilford Press.