Don’t look now, but someone is watching you sneeze, and, perhaps, waiting for you to sneeze again. And enjoying it.
Like, really enjoying it.
Mucophilia, the experience of sexual arousal at the occurrence of a human sneeze, whether one’s own or somebody else’s, is an actual erotic fetish enjoyed by a large number of people, if the hundreds of thousands of hits on any Sneeze Fetish website is any indication. While I was on the Sneeze Fetish Forum, where one can find original sneezy artwork, short mucophiliac fiction (“I had barely finished paying for my Double Decaf Osama Bin Latte, when, while handing me my change, she stared into my eyes and softly sniffled…”), and tales of true sternutation love, there were 35 other people online with me.
I don’t want to alarm you, but Mucophilia is only one of dozens of sexual fetishes that people worldwide can participate in within the privacy of their own confined spaces -- and if they like confined spaces, they may be enjoying Claustrophilia.
Fetishes are nothing new, of course, with mentions of Zoophilia… uh, um…animal love, readily apparent in the Bible, evidenced in Leviticus 18:23 (“Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion”), and Exodus 22:19 (“Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death”). Definitions for particular urges are added to and subtracted from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) continuously, where one day an erotic impulse may have its own subheading while the next day one’s sexual urge is no longer mischaracterized as a “Mental Disorder,” but, instead, as just some thing one might like with pie, otherwise known as Sitophilia. A sexual fetish is categorized in the DSM as a “paraphilia,” meaning “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors generally involving nonhuman objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, or children or other non-consenting persons that occur over a period of at least 6 months (Criterion A).”
Naturally, one can disagree with much of the language in the DSM’s definition, for example, the use of the word “suffering,” which seems like an entirely subjective term. And since the DSM is utilized as a legal sourcebook for federally legislated mandates, it can be troubling to know that if Telephonicophilia (the love of talking dirty on the phone) or Macrophilia (arousal by being dominated by giant men or women) is illegal in one’s particular state or municipal code, you could be a candidate for incarceration. The World Health Organization also publishes an International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which includes Fetishism as a “Disorder of Sexual Preference.” However, the ICD informs us that fetishes are only categorized as disorders if they “interfere with sexual intercourse and cause the individual distress.” The ICD also notes, rather inaccurately, if the extraordinary number of fetish websites are to be believed, that “Fetishism is limited almost exclusively to males.” Perhaps the ICD should explain that to all of the women on the Capnolagnia, or arousal through watching somebody smoking, or Hybristophilia, attraction to dangerous criminal types, blogs and forums.
You probably think that I’m making this up, but I am not making this up.
It would be easy to accuse science fiction futurist JG Ballard of random depictions of unprecedented perversion as he was assembling his texts for Crash in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, but he was actually exploring the outer reaches of an actual fetish, Symphorophilia, which is the…well, you’ll just have to read the story, or maybe see the film.
Balloon fetishism is so unremarked upon it doesn’t even have a medical name, (unlike Fornophilia, which appreciates turning human beings into pieces of furniture). It consists of sexual arousal through the manipulation of balloons. Nothing especially complicated there. Ahh, but what beautiful balloons they are! Some “looners,” as they refer to themselves, enjoy the subtle charms of a balloon being inflated, increasing in sexual tension as the balloon expands to its voluminous, protuberant peak. These looners are “non-poppers,” people who admire the form and feel and mystique of a fully rounded balloon. Other looners, the “poppers,” purposely bring the balloons to its ultimate state, expanded to the point of exhaustion, where there is nowhere else to go but exploding into deep space, spent and torn in tatters. For some, just the sight of balloons can trigger that “special” feeling, like when a “woolie” stumbles upon a big batch of bleating sheep, or a huge wool sweater.
There is a lot of talk among the experts about why people become aroused by balloons, or girls with balloons, or girls smoking a cigarette in a room full of balloons, but nobody seems to have reached any consensus on this. Therapists and psychologists always seem to trace the origins of fetishes back to some traumatic childhood experience, but none of them ever consider that a fetish might simply be something that makes someone happy. So what if you enjoy looking at women just standing there not moving with their hands on their hips, otherwise known as Partialism, or that you truly derive pleasure from, literally, hugging a tree, or Dendrophilia. Live and let live says the guy at the world’s leading "Pedal Pumping Foto and Leg Fetish Site." Enjoy your balloons, balloon people. Love your balloons. And meanwhile I'll go scrub the search history off my computer to avoid a pesky warrantless wiretap.
Anthony Galli currently lives in Athens, Georgia. He shares a birthday with his black cat, Magic, and they both claim Wings of Desire as their favorite film. Anthony has published two books of poetry, Amnesia for Insomniacs and Invisible Idiot.