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.

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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