Some Notes on Necrophilia

Necrophilia really is the last taboo: a paraphilia that is very rarely dealt with in public. Understandably many people find the topic offensive but when researching the links between sex and death as I do, necrophilia (in one of it’s many forms) will inevitably arise. I’ve chosen to address a couple of points now so that I can refer to this post later when expanding on some of these issues.

Iwill

I have a professional interest in necrophilia because I am an ex- Mortuary Technician and according to experts in the field such as Dr Anil Aggrawal, there is a high proportion of Mortuary Technicians who are practising necrophiles:

[1] Table 4.6 Occupations of Necrophiles as Reported in Rosman and Resnick Series:

Hospital orderlies 8
Cemetery employees 8
Morgue attendant 8
Funeral parlor assistant 5
Soldier 3
Cleric 2
Pathologist 1
Anatomy student 1
Ambulance driver 1
Volunteer fireman 1
Total 38

This is obviously something I have never witnessed or even heard of (except as urban legend) and of course I am curious: is that really the case or is that just a lazy generalisation? Are they just more likely to be caught because they have more frequent access and carry it out more frequently, thereby upping the probability? Without more study into the topic (which is difficult to carry out because it’s so offensive, thereby creating a catch 22 situation) we might never really know.

It’s an unusual paraphilia in that it has been re-classified over the years from one or two types, to three types, to more recently ten types: the definition continues to evolve and now encompasses necrophiliac fantasy, for example, as well as role play.[2] Is that because these activities are on the increase? Or is it because, in the wake of cinematic representations of the undead, people are admitting these fantasies more as they seem less abnormal?

necrophilia

The reasoning behind our offence and disgust is also called into question – our abhorrence has a religious basis because in many religions it’s forbidden for people to merely touch the dead (as early as Leviticus 21: “None shall defile himself for the dead among his people”) therefore to copulate with a corpse defies belief. In fact it is the antithesis of what we are ‘supposed to do’ as humans: procreate. But even as we become a more secular society, that sacrosanct nature of the cadaver still remains. Will that concept ever evolve also? And why do we find this more disgusting than other sex crimes? David Mitchell approaches the subject in this hilarious video during which he asks  “Necrophilia – what’s the harm?”

I’m also interested in the necrophilia displayed in literature and what it symbolises – usually it’s a response to a collective fear or cultural shift and it can be an important indicator of the zeitgeist.

In decadence literature it’s supposed to be seen as quite beautiful. Robert Ziegler calls it “a theme testifying to the strength of  a passion which defies corruption and endures everlastingly” [2] and Elizabeth Bronfen argues it’s “simply a figure of fear and desire for death projected onto the body..” [3] So nothing to get too worked up about then.

As previously mentioned I will be expanding on these issues over the course of the blog but I felt it was important to lay the foundations and explain that this isn’t merely some sensationalist topic – there are many things in our culture which shape our perception of death and for me, this just happens to be an interesting one.

REFS:

[1] “A New Classification of Necrophilia”, Journal of Forensic Medicine Dr. Anil Aggrawal

[2] Dr Mark Griffith’s review of the above 

[3]”Necrophilia and Authorship in Rachilde’s ‘La tour Diamour’.” Robert Zeigler

[4]”Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic” Elizabeth Bronfen

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10 thoughts on “Some Notes on Necrophilia

  1. I find myself staring at the screen with my hand over my mouth. I’m sure if I used the camera attached to the screen it would capture my eyeballs popping out of my head. You do post the MOST fascinating information about death and sex.

  2. Fascinating. And disturbing, but you’re right: when something disturbs, it’s worth thinking about why.
    I can only think of one example from my field (Classics): Achilles falling in love with Penthesileia as he kills her and proceeding to have sex with her. I know it’s out of your normal range, but had to pass that along. Happy to share sources and ref’s if it’s news / interesting to you.
    Also, now you’ve got me curious, and I’m going to have to do some research – I’m sure the ancient Greeks and Romans will provide ample evidence on closer inspection, they always do, for every twisted and/or sexy-times thing imaginable 😉

    1. Hi, yep – this is actually one of the stories mentioned when people discuss how long necrophilia has been ‘going on’ and why it wasn’t necessary always thought of as ‘disgusting’. This story, and the one about the Egyptian embalmers having to wait three days until they received the corpses of pretty princesses (otherwise they’d violate the body) are often cited. If you find any more though, do pass them on!

  3. I honestly do not see the big deal. I’ve always thought, as David Mitchell rightly does, that whilst rape and abuse of non-consenting living creatures is evil and wrong, masturbation with a corpse (well, it can’t really be technically more than that, can it) is certainly not evil (no one is harmed either physically or emotionally) and it is only “wrong” according to some antiquated superstitious rationale (religious). If looked at from a purely logical viewpoint, it is obvious that there is nothing morally wrong with necrophilia. That it’s considered on the same level with (as much as or, to some people, more of a taboo than) rape/abuse of living beings is utterly nauseating.

  4. Interesting article!
    On a side note though. No such thing as an Ambulance Driver. In fact 99.999% of Ambulance Officers find the term derogatory at best, since we generally train hard – often completing years of university study depending on our level of practice, to learn the art of pre-hospital medical care and emergency medicine. Just ask any of our emergency service colleagues, your friendly Police Car Driver, or Fire Truck Driver.

    So while finding an “ambulance driver” humping a dead body must be a terrible thing “Well this one didn’t make it. I guess it’s be a shame to let them go to waste….” it’s much worse if the Paramedic with a three year degree, who sometimes has to drive the ambulance as a part of his job, finds the Emergency Medical Technician fiddling with the body in the back.

    Ambulance Officer will do. Thanks!

      1. The occupation “Ambulance Driver” was in the table listing which was not composed by the author, but published in a journal per footnote [1]. And in the U.S., for paid medical transport services, sometimes it is just “driver”.

  5. I thought of you recently when doing some work – I was reading E.S. Hartland, ‘The Legend of Perseus’ (1894) and in v.3 139-40 he reports two legends, one preserved by the Marshal of Arles (aka Gervase of Tilbury), one by Map (aka Mapes), of a forlorn soldier “violating the sepulcher” of his beloved and the corpse then giving birth to a Gorgon-like head that causes various shenanigans. You may know the stories, but here are the references just in case: Gervase’s ‘Otia Imperialia’ ii.12, in the section on the island of Satalia, and Walter Map’s ‘de Nugis Curialium’ iv.12. I thought the corpse giving birth was a neat twist, and I look forward to reading your continuing explorations of the matters.

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