I've been doing quite a lot of research into necrophilia recently. Why? Well, I'd like to blame it on S.R. Wild, but we all know that's a lie. No matter who else may ultimately end up involved, the root cause of such expeditions into perversion is invariably traced back to me.
Necrophilia (also known as necromania, necrolangia, or thanatophilia) is a recurrent, obsessive attraction to corpses, most often sexual in nature. The necrophiliac (or necrophile) may be so compelled by these thoughts that they are unable to suppress the urge to perform some type of sexual act on a corpse.
There is a useful umbrella term in psychiatry, "paraphilia", under which necrophilia is considered to fall. A paraphilia is "any powerful and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in copulatory or precopulatory behavior with phenotypically normal, consenting adult human partners." Isn't that a lovely sentence? So neat and precise. I wish I'd thought of it. It's from the Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology. Some paraphilias (those involving consenting adults) can be incorporated into a normal, healthy lifestyle, while others are illegal and/or culturally reviled for good reason. Examples of some common paraphilias inculde:
- Frotteurism (an extension of exhibitionism in which the individual is compelled to touch or rub up against an unconsenting stranger in order to achieve sexual fulfillment. It typically happens in crowded settings such as a subway station where the assailant can quickly get away, disappearing in the throng)
To be honest, I'm cool with most paraphilias. My reaction tends not to be "eew, weird!", but rather, "wow! Interesting...". However, anything involving a non-consenting party is NOT cool. Not remotely. You can only get off watching 2 girls 1 cup? Fine, God bless ya. You can only get off while diddling a little kid? I hope that kid's dad tracks you down and cuts your junk off with a rusty hacksaw.
"Fetish" has become one of the most colloquially misused psychology words I can think of. People use it emphasize how very much they like something -
Them: "I have a total Ugg fetish.".
Me: Seriously? You're sexually aroused by Uggs?
Them: "What? No! What's wrong with you?"
Me: So you have a non-sexual but clearly abnormal preoccupation with Uggs that interferes with your life?
Them: "Get away from me."
Me: No, it's cool. I'm not here to judge! Besides, rule 34, you know?
Fetishism is a type of paraphilia. It is the eroticisation of objects or materials not considered inherently or conventionally sexual in nature. Someone with a fetish has recurrent sexual thoughts or urges revolving around a particular object or type of object. Some of the more common ones are shoes, specific types of clothing, rubber, and leather. Many non-genital human body parts are commonly said to be fetishized (such as the foot or breasts) but for clarity's sake I prefer to refer to them by the more accurate subcategoric term of partialism, which serves to differentiate between animate and inanimate objects of stimulation.
All of that confusion is one of the reasons why necrophilia is so interesting to me. A human corpse - is it an incapacitated person or an inanimate object? Is it both? Is it fetish? Paraphilia? Rape? How does the necrophiliac view it?
The answer to that question is that it depends on the necrophiliac. They are first divided by the level of action to which their urges drive them.
1. Necrophilic fantasy. Persistent thoughts and fantasies, but no action is ever taken toward obtaining an actual corpse.
2. Standard necrophilia. The use of already dead corpses to achieve sexual gratification.
3. Necrophilic homicide (necrosadism). The individual commits murder to produce a corpse for subsequent sexual violation.
As you might imagine, necrophilic homicide is the most rare of the three primary types. The pathology of someone who "kills for company" is completely different from that of a standard or "true" necrophile. A homicidal necrophile is a sexual sadist deriving pleasure from absolute power and control, whereas most true necrophiles have other motives which I'll get to presently. #1 is also considered "rare", but honestly, how could researchers accurately guage the prevelance of necrophilic fantasy in the general public? A person who is aroused by the sight of the dead but never actually comes into physical contact with them is called a "platonic necrophilisist".
In 1989 psychiatrists Phillip Resnik and Jonathan Rosman published what is the only substantive modern analytical work regarding necrophilia in The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. In it they broke down recorded cases of necrophilic activity by every concievable point of distiction. The overall conclusions they developed regarding the psychology and motives of necrophiles are as follows:
- The necrophile develops poor self-esteem, perhaps due in part to a significant loss;
- (a) He/she is very fearful of rejection by women/men and he/she desires a sexual partner who is incapable of rejecting him/her; and/or
- (b) He/she is fearful of the dead, and transforms his/her fear — by means of reaction formation — into a desire.
- He/she develops an exciting fantasy of sex with a corpse, sometimes after exposure to a corpse.
The authors also reported that, of their sample of 'necrophiliacs,':
- 68 percent were motivated by a desire for an unresisting and unrejecting partner;
- 21 percent by a want for reunion with a lost partner;
- 15 percent by sexual attraction to dead people;
- 15 percent by a desire for comfort or to overcome feelings of isolation; and
- 11 percent by a desire to remedy low self-esteem by expressing power over a corpse.
An interesting legal side is that there are no federal laws specifically prohibiting sex with a corpse! Some states have laws in place, but most do not. This was brought to national attention last summer when three young men in Wisconsin dug up some poor girl and tried to have a necro gang bang, but all they could be charged with was misdemeanor attempted theft. There is no law in Vermont forbidding sexual contact or intercourse with dead people.
Here are some of the more famous necrophilia cases in modern history:
Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck
Carl Tanzler (AKA Count Carl von Cosel)