The World of Sex
Human sexuality is endless diverse. Nevertheless, psychiatrists categorize unusual sexual interests as "paraphilias." Having a paraphilia isn't necessarily a sign of a mental disorder, unless it causes a person distress or harms others, but plenty of paraphilias are stigmatized anyway.
In the spirit of exploring the varied world of human sex, here are some of the rarer sexual fetishes out there.
Into feet, hands or armpits? You may have a partialism, or a sexual interest in a specific, non-genital part of the body. Foot fetishism (podophilia) seems to be one of the most common of these fixations, but any body part can be subject to partialism. Ready for a vocab lesson? If you like armpits, you may have maschalagnia. Noses? That's nasophilia. Hair? Tricophilia. Even the rear end gets its own special name: pygophilia, or a prediliction for derrieres.
Receiving sexual pleasure from the introduction of liquids into body via the anus is known as klismaphilia. Practitioners use enemas for sexual stimulation and find the feeling of fullness or internal pressure from an enema pleasing.
It's a practice that can get worrisome, depending on what klismphilics use to get their jollies. A 2005 case report in the journal Gastrointestinal Images told the tale of a 27-year-old man who gave himself an epoxy resin enema. The resin hardened as soon as he inserted it into his rectum via glue gun, requiring an operation. Surgeons pulled a perfect cast of the patient's rectum from his body, measuring 6.2 inches long (16 centimeters) and weighing 0.66 pounds (300 grams).
Pain is pleasure for masochists, who get aroused by beatings, bondage and humiliation. Masochism includes asphyxiophilia, or self-asphyxia, a potentially fatal habit also known as autoerotic asphyxiation in which people deprive themselves of oxygen while masturbating. Unsurprisingly, there have been deaths associated with this practice.
Among consensual masochists, however, major maladjustment appears rare. A 1987 study published in the Journal of Sex Research of men recruited through sadism/masochism support groups and a sadism/masochism magazine found that only 6 percent were emotionally disturbed by their own sexual behavior.
Urophilia, also known as urolagnia, is sexual excitement over (you guessed it) urine. This paraphilia can manifest in excitement over peeing or being peed on; it might also be part of sadomasochistic fantasies of humiliation.
Urophilia got its place in the pop-culture sun in December 2005, when pop star Ricky Martin told Blender magazine that he "loved giving the golden shower" in the shower.
People turned on by making indecent phone calls have a paraphilia called telephone scatalogia. Practitioners get aroused by calling unsuspecting people and talking explicitly or trying to trick their victims into revealing something sexual about themselves. A 2008 study found that telephone scatalogists frequently had a history of criminal behavior, suggesting general antisocial attitudes. Exhibitionists were also twice as likely than non-exhibitionists to make these kinds of calls, according to a 1988 study published in the Annals of Sex Research.
"Plushies" really like stuffed animals. No, really like them. Plushophilia is a sexual interest in stuffed animals. Plushies shouldn’t be confused with furries (people who like anthropomorphic animals), as their interest is firmly in the stuffed version, though enthusiasts say there is some overlap between the two groups.
An unscientific survey of 80 plushies, the vast majority male, on the website of "FoxWolfie" Galen, a member of the plushie community, found that people's tastes in stuffed animals varied widely. Some respondents focused in on particular species (like one person only interested in lions), while others cast a wide net. "I like variety," one respondent wrote. Others mentioned stuffed dragons, foxes, raccoons and polar bears.
Tears are no turn-off for people with dacryphilia, also known as dacrylagnia. Some dacryphilics are sexual sadists turned on by the humilitation factor of seeing someone in tears. Others simply find the sight or sound of crying arousing, or find the emotional release and comfort appealing.
Dacryphilia is truly unusual, at least for men. A 2011 study found that the scent of tears decreases both testosterone and sexual desire in males.
Plenty of people appreciate a pair of high heels. In fact, a study published online in December 2012 in the journal Evolution and Human behavior found that the gait of women walking in high heels was judged as more feminine and attractive than the gait of women walking in flats (participants saw only points of light indicating gait, not the women's shape or bodies).
But in some cases, the object doesn’t just enhance attraction — it becomes the target of attraction. In this case, the person is said to have a fetish, or attraction to a nonliving object. The most common objects of fixation are underwear and shoes, according to a 2012 article in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior.
Three's not a crowd for troilists, who like to watch their partner have sex with someone else. (The fetish is also known as cuckoldism, after the medieval terminology describing a man whose wife cheats on him, and troilism is also sometimes used to refer to any sexual activity involving three people, even when cheating is not involved.)
Men appear more into troilist fantasies than women, at least according to a 1987 study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, which found more interest in group sex among males than among females.
Acrotomphilia is a sexual interest in amputees; practitioners consider amputated limp stumps to be erotically exciting. Sexual interest in a particular amputee is not acrotomphilia — the paraphilia is based on fetishizing amputation, not falling in love or lust with a particular person who happens to have lost a limb.
Some people develop a sexual fixation in becoming amputees themselves. This paraphilia is called apotemnophilia. In rare cases, people with this paraphilia actually arrange elective surgery to have limbs removed.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.