Strange Sex: Tales Of Sexual Arousal From Stinging Insects

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The buzz on the Internet last week was the story of a Swedish man who supposedly died after having sex with a hornets’ nest. According to various media reports, the man’s pubic hair and semen were found inside the nest and he had been stung 146 times, leaving his body so swollen that he looked like “a beached whale.” After making the rounds in the international media, it was discovered that the story was a hoax perpetrated by News Sweden, the Swedish equivalent of The Onion. What may surprise you, however, is that this story isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds because there are indeed some people in this world who derive sexual arousal from stinging insects.

This sexual practice is a fetish known as formicophilia, defined in the psychological literature as “a specialized variety of zoophilia in which sexuoerotic arousal and orgasm are dependent on the sensation produced by small creatures like snails, frogs, ants, or other insects creeping, crawling, and nibbling on the body, especially the genitalia, perianal area, or nipples.”1 As far as we know, this is an incredibly rare practice, with only a few case reports about it in the literature. In one, a male patient described how he was in the habit of masturbating while ants, cockroaches, and snails crawled all over him [1].

One variant of formicophilia I have seen described is melissophilia, which refers to someone who experiences sexual arousal from contact with bees or bee stings [2]. However, even less is known about this practice and it is likely even rarer.

The question you’re probably asking yourself right now is: “How could anyone get sexual pleasure from insect stings?” As I have discussed in other posts, many fetishes have their roots in early childhood learning and conditioning processes. So, it’s not that people are born with a sexual desire for bugs or bees—instead, when a certain object is repeatedly paired with sexual arousal or when we have a very intense orgasm in the presence of a novel object, we can develop a psychological association between those two things. And through this learning process, we can develop fetishes for virtually anything. For example, in one study, researchers successfully conditioned participants to experience sexual arousal in response to an image of a jar of pennies [3]. That’ll teach you to read the consent form the next time you sign up for a psychology experiment!

There are two final points worth mentioning with regard to incorporating bees and wasps into one’s sex life. First, some people may enjoy stinging sensations because they are masochists (i.e., they experience sexual arousal from receiving pain). Second, there may be some men who desire bee or wasp stings on their penis because they think it will increase penile “girth” (i.e., circumference). In fact, according to the Kama Sutra, the use of stinging insects to enhance penis size is an ancient practice that produces results that supposedly “last for life” [4]. I’m not sure I believe that, but I am quite certain that the psychological scarring that accompanies penile wasp stings will indeed last a lifetime.

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

[2] Aggrawal, A. (2009). Forensic and medico-legal aspects of sexual crimes and unusual sexual practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

[3] Plaud J. J., & Martini, J. R. (1999). The respondent conditioning of male sexual arousal. Behavior Modification, 23, 254-268

[4] Heumann, S. (2004). The everything Kama Sutra book: Unlock the ancient secrets of erotic expression. Avon, MA: Adams Media.

Image Source: 123rf.com

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