“Erotic” and “vomiting” are not words that appear together often—and fortunately so, for most of us. Orgasms and barfing are strange bedfellows, even natural enemies, you might say. Yet when it comes to human sexuality, subjectivity is the most critical ingredient in the alchemy of arousal, and there are rare individuals, believe it or not, whose most intense desires involve the gratuitous expunging of their own or others’ intestines. And it’s not just a sort of one-off, dubiously kinky act (what’s known in the circus world of extreme porn as—and apologies in advance to Romans—“Roman showers”). To the contrary, emetophilia seems to be a very unusual, but also very real, paraphilia. At least, that’s according to the psychiatrist Robert Stoller, whose 1982 article on the subject remains the only published scientific account on record.
In his stomach-turning paper, Stoller described the cases of three supposed emetophiles, all of whom, interestingly enough, were women. The first vomiter was bisexual and in her forties. “Labeling her a vomiter implies that she feels the symptom to be part of her identity,” explains the author, “not just an occasional experience.” As anyone who has ever hugged a toilet after being stricken by the flu, made the mistake of eating a lukewarm hotdog in a rural gas station, or imbibed too much vodka will know all too well, the act of vomiting—at least, the immediate aftermath—can be immensely relieving. But this woman’s frequent “dumping,” as she called it, seemed to offer her a euphoria comparable to intense psychotropic bliss. “When I begin to vomit, I get a rush,” she told Stoller:
I don’t put needles in my arm because I get those sensations and much more from simple vomiting … I enjoy vomiting. It’s something I’ve done all my life, but it didn’t really become pleasurable until after I had my first baby.
Erotic vomiting came quite naturally to her, with her volatile stomach being easily triggered by any type of intense emotions—including strong sexual stimulation. But while these “volcanic” episodes, as Stoller describes them, might have delivered mind-blowing climaxes for her, it’s hard not to feel sorry for her (presumably) unsuspecting partners. Their pleasure, after all, must surely have wilted upon this bizarre experience, their stomachs returning the favor with a hasty vacating of their own. (It also can’t be very good for your self-esteem to induce vomiting in your partner while undressing or receiving oral sex. “You make me so hot I’m going to throw up,” is not exactly standard pillow talk, after all.)
In the second case reported by Stoller, the woman believed that her emetophilia was related to an unsettling incident that occurred when she was eleven years old. “She was caught [masturbating] by her stepfather,” the report states:
… [he] placed her across his lap and spanked her very hard. She said she could feel his penis against her stomach and began to vomit … The accompanying orgasm, during the vomiting episode, was the most intense sensation she [had] ever experienced.
Given an abusive episode like this with an adult male whose “disciplinary” intentions were questionable, combined with her incipient sexuality as a young girl, perhaps it’s not too surprising that the woman’s primary masturbation fantasy now centered on being an executioner at a men’s prison and vomiting while she watched some imaginary inmate (who’d raped and killed a child) twitching in death.
The final emetophile in Stoller’s article was another bisexual woman who’d been writing to him for several years about her history of erotic vomiting. Again, she traces her unusual sexuality to an early childhood experience, in this case her kind grandmother balancing her on one knee as she vomited from being sick. “Perhaps I received vaginal stimulation from the way she was holding me,” the emetophile conjectures. “At age 6 I went to school,” she continues:
One of the nuns, I saw as particularly mean. She had apprehended me unjustly and yelled at me unfairly. I hated this nun. She became the first character on the sex-track. These fantasies I have before I drift off to sleep, usually. The nun is the first that I can remember. I would see the nun’s face before my eyes while drifting off to sleep. I believe that I imagined the nun vomiting, or otherwise in distress.
This woman’s lifelong emetophilia included not just her own vomiting—gratification was also obtained by watching others hurling their guts out. There seems to be a sadomasochistic element involved in this sense. In addition to the nun, she recalled being attracted to another girl in the first grade (“with a puckered face like a kitten”). “I had occasion for erotic excitement,” reminisces the woman, “when, one Friday afternoon in class, 10 minutes before the final bell, she vomited.”
As Stoller concludes about his fascinating set of female emetophiles: “Erotic impulses are a never-ending source of ingenious, even wondrous constructions.” Well, “wondrous” may not be the best choice of word when it comes to the subject of erotic vomiting, but our species’ vast range of libidinal affairs is certainly staggering.
I discuss paraphilias like this one, and much, much more, in my new book Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, which will release on October 8, 2013. Follow me @jessebering (#DailyDeviant). For more on all things deviant, and to find out if I’ll be visiting a city near you for the Perv book tour, visit www.jessebering.com.
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