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Don’t worry, bee happy: Another very brief look at melissophilia

In the last two weeks I have been interviewed twice by the British Metro newspaper about different sexual paraphilias. The first interview with Miranda Larbi was on dacryphilia (sexual arousal from crying), a paraphilia on which I’ve already published three papers on and have a fourth in progress, and which the Metro published as ‘There are women who get wet from crying’. The second interview with Yvette Caster was on formicophilia (usually defined as sexual arousal from insects but not strictly accurate as I’ll explain below) and more specifically on melissophilia (sexual arousal from bees, the opposite of melissophobia – a fear of bees and bee stings). I’ve not published academic papers on either formicophilia or melissophilia but have written blogs on both of them, and is the reason I was asked for comment. Much of the information in the Metro’s article came from my blog and was supplemented with quotes from my interview with them. The Metro piece (somewhat ambitiously entitled ‘Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the sexual fetish for bees’) started by saying:

“We all know about the birds and the bees. But some people take this phrase more literally than others when it comes to what they enjoy in the bedroom. Melissophilia is sexual attraction to bees. Yes, while you’ve been getting red-faced trying to chase those critters away from your picnic, others have been going red-faced in their presence for entirely different reasons…Melissophilia is a specific kind of zoophilia (sexual attraction to animals)…The word comes from the Ancient Greek for ‘honey bee’ and ‘love’. It’s not necessarily a case of falling in love with Barry B Benson from Bee Movie. Apparently some people catch bees with the intention of getting them to sting their genitals. This is because they believe this will increase swelling and hypersensitivity, increasing the intensity and duration of their orgasms”.

Following this introduction, the remainder of the article was entitled ‘What do the experts have to say about it?’ and simply featured the (edited) answers to some of the questions that I was asked by the Metro journalist. As I had been interviewed via asynchronous email (a topic that I have co-incidentally written methodological papers about in relation to studying paraphilia behaviour), I have a complete transcript of the whole interview and thought I’d publish it in full as the Metro only used a small selection of what I’d written (and I don’t like to waste any work that I’ve done).

Why might someone develop melissaphilia? I’ve never come across a true case of melissophilia (i.e., sexual arousal specifically from bees), only men that use bees to increase the size of their penis (so they are unlikely to be true melissophiliacs). There may be some masochists who get sexual pleasure from things that sting (including nettles and insects) but the focus of the arousal is pain (not the bees) so these would not be melissophilia. (And by the way, although formicophilia is often used to describe insect fetishes, technically it only relates to ants and the term entomophilia is more accurate).

At what point might having this fetish become a problem? When it comes to non-normative sex, problems are typically defined by context and culture. If sex is consensual with informed consent, no fetish is problematic. If the person themselves thinks it is a problem then it should be treated as such. With insect fetishes, you could argue that the insects are not giving their informed consent and therefore the fetishes are morally wrong (without necessarily being problematic to the person or the insects).

Have you any idea how common melissaphilia is? If it even exists (and I’m not convinced it is) it would be incredibly rare.

When do people develop fetishes like formicophilia and why? There are only two academic papers examining formicophilia in the psychological literature and I think it was actually the same person being written about in each paper. Many fetishes appear to be as a result of associative pairing (classical conditioning) but formicophilia may be more common in cultures where insects are everywhere and where such individuals use insects as a substitute for sex by using insects to arouse erogenous zones (penis, nipples, etc.). The one case study in the literature involved a Buddhist monk that had never had sex or been exposed to pornography. Here the formicophilia may have been culturally learned by accident.

In your opinion, is it a harmless sexual preference or something fans should try to wean themselves off? It’s harmless if there is no problem and people should only seek help if they themselves feel it is a problem. There’s nothing wrong with non-normative sex if it’s consensual. However, as I said above, there may be a moral issue. There are other insect-based and similar fetishes that I have covered in my blog that you can check out (such as spiders [arachnephilia] and worms [vermiphilia]).

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unususal Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18(2), 73-78.

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Dewaraja, R. (1987). Formicophilia, an unusual paraphilia, treated with counseling and behavior therapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 41, 593-597.

Dewaraja, R. & Money, J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 139-145.

Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). The use of online asynchronous interviews in the study of paraphilias. SAGE Research Methods Cases. Located at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305013508526

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, in press.

Griffiths, M. D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilias – A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

Animal passions: Why would anyone want to have sex with an animal?

Note: A shortened version of this article was first published in The Independent.

Last month, Denmark passed a law making bestiality a criminal offence from July 1st in a move to tackle animal-sex tourism. Bestiality (also known as zoophilia) is typically defined as relating to recurrent intense sexual fantasies, urges, and sexual activities with non-human animals. At present, there are still a number of countries where zoophilia is legal including Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Finland, Hungary, and Romania. In the US there is no federal law against zoophilia although most states class it as a felony and/or misdemeanour although in some states it is technically legal (for example, Texas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Mexico).

Over the last few years I have written articles on the psychology of many different types of zoophilia including those who have engaged in sexual activities with dogs (cynophilia), cats (aelurophilia), horses (equinophilia), pigs (porcinophilia), birds (ornithophilia), dolphins (delphinophilia), lizards (herpetophilia), worms (vermiphilia), and insects (formicophilia). Dr. Alfred Kinsey shocked the US back in the 1950s when his infamous ‘Kinsey Reports’ claimed that 8% of males and 4% females had at least one sexual experience with an animal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a much higher prevalence for zoophilic acts among people that who worked on farms (for instance, 17% males had experienced an orgasmic episode involving animals). According to Kinsey, the most frequent sexual acts that humans engaged in with animals comprised calves, sheep, donkeys, large fowl (ducks, geese), dogs and cats.

In the 1970s, world renowned sexologist Professor John Money claimed that zoophilic behaviours were usually transitory occurring when there is no other sexual outlet available. However, research carried out in the 2000s shows this not be the case. Up until the advent of the internet, almost every scientific or clinical study reported on zoophilia were case reports of individuals that has sought treatment for their unusual sexual preference. However, the internet brought many like-minded people together and there are dozens of websites where zoophiles chat to each other online and share their videos including the Beast Forum, the largest online zoophile community in the world with tens of thousands of members.

Almost all of the recently published studies have collected their data online from non-clinical samples. All of these studies report that the overwhelming majority of self-identified male and female zoophiles do not have sex with animals because there is no other sexual outlet but do so because it is their sexual preference. The most common reasons for engaging in zoophilic relationships were attraction to animals out of either a desire for affection, and a sexual attraction toward and/or a love for animals.

For instance, a study by Dr. Hani Miletski surveyed 93 zoophiles (82 males and 11 females). Only 12% of her sample said they engaged in sex with animals because there were no human partners available, and only 7% said it was because they were too shy to have sex with humans. For the females, the main reasons for having sex with animals was because they were sexually attracted to the animal (100%), had love and affection for the animal (67%) and/or because they said the animal wanted sex with them (67%). Most of Miletski’s sample preferred sex with dogs (87% males; 100% females) and/or horses (81% males; 73% females). Only 8% of males wanted to stop having sex with animals and none of the females. Unlike case study reports of zoophilia published prior to 2000, the studies published over the last 15 years using non-clinical samples report the vast majority of zoophiles do not appear to be suffering any significant clinical significant distress or impairment as a consequence of their behaviour.

In 2011, Dr Anil Aggrawal published a comprehensive typology of zoophilia in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Dr. Aggrawal’s claimed there were ten different types of zoophile based on both the scientific and clinical literature, as well as some theoretical speculation. For instance:

  • Humananimal role-players – those who never have sex with animals but become sexually aroused through wanting to have sex with humans who pretend to be animals.
  • Romantic zoophiles – those who keeps animals as pets as a way to get psychosexually stimulated without actually having any kind of sexual contact with them.
  • Zoophilic fantasizers – those who fantasize about having sexual intercourse with animals but never actually do.
  • Tactile zoophiles – those who get sexual excitement from touching, stroking or fondling animals or their genitals but do not actually have sexual intercourse with animals.
  • Fetishistic zoophiles – those who keep various animal parts (especially fur) that are used as erotic stimuli as a crucial part of their sexual activity (typically masturbation). (See my previous blog on the use of an animal part as a masturbatory aid)
  • Sadistic bestials – those who derive sexual arousal from the torturing of animals (known as zoosadismhttps://drmarkgriffiths.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/stuff-love-a-beginners-guide-to-plushophilia/) but does not involve sexual intercourse with the animal.
  • Opportunistic zoosexuals – those who have normal sexual encounters but would have sexual intercourse with animals if the opportunity arose.
  • Regular zoosexuals – those who prefer sex with animals than sex with humans (but are capable of having sex with both). Such zoophiles will engage in a wide range of sexual activities with animals and love animals on an emotional level.
  • Homicidal bestials – those who need to kill animals in order to have sex with them. Although capable of having sex with living animals, there is an insatiable desire to have sex with dead animals.
  • Exclusive zoosexuals – those who only have sex with animals to the exclusion of human sexual partners.

Personally, I don’t view human-animal role players as zoophiles as this would include those in the Furry Fandom (individuals that dress up and interact socially as animals). There is no official definition of what a ‘furry’ actually is although most furries would agree that they share an interest in fictional anthromorphic animal characters that have human characteristics and personalities and/or mythological or imaginary creatures that possess human and/or superhuman capabilities. The furry fandom has also developed its own vocabulary including words such as ‘fursona’ (furry persona), ‘plushie’ (person who has sex with cuddly toys), and ‘yiff’ (furry pornography). A study by David J. Rust of 360 members of the furry community suggested less than 1% were plushophiles and that 2% were zoophiles.

Many zoophiles believe that in years to come, their sexual preference will be seen as no different to being gay or straight. This is not a view I adhere to especially because animals cannot give consent (although many zoophiles claim the animals they have sexual relationships with do give ‘consent’). The one thing we do know is that the internet has revolutionised the way we carry out our research and get access to ‘hard to reach’ groups. Thanks to online research, zoophilia is just one of many sexually atypical behaviours that we now know more about both behaviourally and psychologically.

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

Further reading

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Beetz, Andrea (2002). Love, Violence, and Sexuality in Relationships between Humans and Animals. Germany: Shaker Verlag.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C.E., Gebhard, P.H. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C.E., (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.

R.J. Maratea (2011). Screwing the pooch: Legitimizing accounts in a zoophilia on-line community. Deviant Behavior, 32, 918-943.

Miletski, H. (2000). Bestiality and zoophilia: An exploratory study. Scandinavian Journal of Sexology, 3, 149–150.

Miletski, H. (2001). Zoophilia – implications for therapy. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 26, 85–89.

Miletski, H. (2002). Understanding bestiality and zoophilia. Germantown, MD: Ima Tek Inc.

Williams, C. J., & Weinberg, M. S. (2003). Zoophilia in men: A study of sexual interest in animals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 523–535.

The worm that turned on: A beginner’s guide to vermiphilia

In previous blogs I have looked at various sexually zoophilic behaviours relating to ‘creepy crawlies’ of one description or another including ants, bees, and wasps (for instance, my blog on formicophilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from insects crawling and/or nibbling on the individual’s genitals). Today’s blog looks at ‘worm sex’ and has been referred to by various different names including vermiphilia, helminthophilia and scoleciphilia (abnormal affection towards worms and/or being infested with worms), along with sub-variants such as taeniophilia /teniophilia (i.e., abnormal affection for tapeworms). None of these sexually paraphilic terms appears in either Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices or Dr. Brenda Love’s Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices.

The words for these alleged sexual practices are in many online A-Z lists of sexual paraphilias and appear to have bee derived from the opposite phobic behaviours (i.e., helminthophobia, scoleciphobia or vermiphobia are all defined as the fear of worms and/or the fear of infestation of worms). For the remainder of this article I will use the term ‘vermophilia’ as I have come across a lot of people in the academic biological worm world using the word ‘vermophilic’ to describe an intense liking for worms (although this appears to be used in the context of having an academic research-like interest in them rather than anything sexual).

It will probably come as no surprise that there is no academic literature on vermiphilia and all the material I have collated in today’s blog can be best described as anecdotal. The only article of any length I have come across on the topic of vermiphilia is by Daikichi Amano who penned an article simply entitled ‘Worm Sex’ for Bizarre magazine (a magazine that I too have written for on a number of sexual paraphilias including hypoxyphilia and apotemnophilia). The article is basically a case study about the owner of the Japanese company called Genki (check out the website here, but please be warned it is very sexually explicit; I also mentioned Genki in a previous blog on formicophilia and described it as a style of erotic art and pornography that features women covered with various creatures – typically insects or small sea creatures). The article actually spends more time talking about the Genki owner’s haemorrhoids and his quest for anal orgasm, but he did write that that:

“I direct films that involve women in sexual congress with all kinds of living sea creatures and reptiles, including dojo loaches, earthworms, frogs, sea cucumbers, octopi and even an anaconda. I didn’t really have any kind of grand concept behind making these films, except I want to make people amazed. And also make something I wanted to watch; at the end of the day, I’m just a very selfish person. This month, I shot a new film featuring mealworms and earthworms. I bought 30kg of them and used them all. I felt bad for the actress but they weren’t cheap, and I’d spent more of the budget on the worms than the actress. Did you know mealworms bite? Apparently, they do and, according to the actress, it’s really painful!”

Looking at this written confession along with some of the films at his Genki website, it’s obvious that as a film director he clearly makes these films for his own (presumably sexual) pleasure and that the actresses who participate appear to get nothing from the act apart from being paid (at least I hope they are getting paid). Whether others watching derive any sexual pleasure and arousal is highly debatable. I would also argue that there are sexually sadistic undertones to the whole process and practice of naked females having worms placed and put into their genital orifices. However, this practice is not restricted to women as I have also found guides to ‘worm torture’ being used within gay sadomasochistic practices in online ‘dehumanization’ sex games (such as those at the Berlin Queer website). Outside of the sadomasochistic scene, I came across this online snippet from a man who claimed:

“I have an odd desire to bathe in a tub full of earthworms, having them squirming all over my body, especially on my [private] parts. Is this safe to try? Is this a common desire?”

In response to this, someone responded:

“Be careful what you wish for. If they are sterile then yes, in theory it’s OK, assuming you can obtain enough to even cover the bottom of the tub. But, you might like to consider that worms have a way of tunnelling into any orifice and the last thing you want is any to invade your body and take up residence, because they could tunnel through into your blood stream and then invade your organs, leading to all kinds of medical problems”.

Another [presumably Japanese] man (an online gamer named ‘Yuri-miki’) had stumbled upon the Genko website and admitted to others in

“I’ve started to consider ‘worms’ as a fetish. But I am not sure whether it is safe or not, so I am here to inquire about that, hopefully some of you might be knowledgeable enough to tell me what’s safe and what isn’t? Currently I have a cautious disposition to believing that worms are completely harmless, no matter what you do?…Earlier today I bought a bundle of 24 worms…I took them all out of the dirt-stuff they came in, washed them, and watched as they squiggled around in a puddle of clean water. The water soon after became a little dirty, and I wondered why. After I put a bundle into my mouth, I felt as they were squiggling around there, trying to either escape or enter down my throat. It was such a weird sensation! I wanted to bite onto them but I didn’t, I was scared that their insides could contain bacteria? When I spat them back into the bowl I opened my mouth and my tongue and teeth were completely covered in worm poop!! I have yet to put them into my ahem or anus. I’m too scared, that’s why I need your help!”

Someone else at the Get Dare online discussion forum claimed that:

“I have a huge fetish of snakes, slugs, worms, eels, etc. My limits: no human sex, I cannot die, no other animals besides things that are slimy, very scaly, or serpentine, no burning down my house. My likes: snake insertion, worm insertion, eel insertion, snake pumping, worm pumping, eel pumping, long insertions (like 30 feet of a green anaconda, yes I have a permit), filling my womb with snakes, eels, and worms, the largest width I will go is a foot across at the very most”.

Obviously I have no way of verifying this or other claims made above but I did find dozens of online video clips of things I’d rather not have seen. Online there are videos that cater for both straight lovers of worm sex (such as those on the Heavy-R website and spin-off webpages) and gay lovers of worm sex (such as those at the PornMD and Gaybeast websites – please be warned all of these links are very sexually explicit). There are also video clips that involve maggots rather than worms that are identical in all but the creature used in a sexual manner. (If you think I’m making all this up – I’m not).

Finally. I feel duty bound to add there is one other type of sexual fetishism that I covered in a previous blog that involves worms, and that is crush fetishism (i.e., a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from watching – or fantasizing about – someone of the opposite sex crushing [e.g., toys, cigarettes, mobile phones, laptops], food (e.g., fruit), and [in extreme cases] small animals and insects). In the case of crushing living organisms, I noted in a previous blog that the acts of killing could be viewed as acts of zoosadism (because of the sexual element). However, the person doing the killing of the animals is usually paid for their ‘services’ and does not appear to get any sexual satisfaction from the act itself. It is the person watching the ‘crush’ videos that typically derive the sexual pleasure from it. In this sense, I argued that the act could be described as a type of ‘zoosadism-by-proxy’ (at least that’s my own take on this).

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

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Amano, D. (undated). Worm sex. Bizarre. Located at: http://www.bizarremag.com/fetish/interviews/6055/worm_sex.html?xc=1

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Dewaraja, R. & Money, J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 12, 139-145.

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

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).