Necrophilia

What is Necrophilia?

Necrophilia is a paraphilia that describes an individual’s arousal and attraction to fantasies or actual sexual contact with dead people. Contact between the necrophile and the corpse may range from penile-vaginal intercourse to anal intercourse, oral sex, or masturbation in the presence of a corpse. Experts and lawmakers consider necrophilia nonconsensual because the deceased individuals cannot give consent. Necrophilia is a fairly rare paraphilia, but has been practiced all over the world for centuries.2

Manifestation

Officially, one must experience at least six months of intense, recurring urges or fantasies involving sexual contact with corpses to be diagnosed with necrophilia; these feelings must alter one’s behavior or cause one significant distress according to the DSM-V, which is the handbook that health care professionals use to diagnose mental and behavioral disorders.4 Most necrophiles identify as heterosexual males and fall between the ages of twenty and fifty, but there are also cases of homosexual and/or female necrophiles. Some necrophiles seek jobs at mortuaries or coroners' offices where they have easy access to dead bodies and are able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. An alternative method of seeking pleasure as a necrophile includes the process of hiring prostitutes to apply white makeup and pretend to be dead while they participate in sexual acts. Cases of serial killer and/or cannibalistic necrophiles are even more rare and tend to be sensationalized because of their obscene nature; however, such cases are romanticized in the media, which may encourage those with such urges to find an outlet to pursue such actions.3

Prevalence

Experts debate the prevalence of necrophilia, but the current figures remain between 0-5% of the total population.1 The literature surrounding reported cases suggests that necrophilic behaviors are rare, but such data may not prove reliable when one considers that such behaviors are generally carried out in secret and leave behind no victims capable of reporting the perpetrator. Some theories even suggest that necrophilia stems from its association with cannibalism and society’s attention and romanticism of vampires.1 Society has drawn its attention to the celebration of vampires as a sex symbol, thus further glorifying the kind of sexual act that preys on the weak and dead. Self-reporting always causes an issue because people are not generally open to labeling themselves as something they wish to keep secret, especially as someone with a paraphilia, which has a large negative stigma surrounding it.

Causes of Necrophilia

A desire to have sex with dead people may stem from an intense fear of interacting with potential living partners. Necrophiles may view corpses as emotionally or physically non-threatening, thus presenting an easier outlet for sexual attraction, acts, and expression. Some necrophiles may be attracted to the fact that corpses cannot reject, disagree, manipulate, or abuse them. This observation does pose the question of whether the corpse actually has the ability to consent (or not). They may also enjoy the feeling of being completely in control. 2

Necrophiles who act on their desires sometimes suffer from a lack of sexual inhibitions, recognition of social boundaries, or general remorse for the consequences of their actions. Certain psychological conditions, such as psychopathy or sociopathy, include an inability to experience remorse or feelings of empathy. Necrophiles who murder to obtain corpses -- or who mutilate or eat the corpses after sexual intercourse -- are especially likely to suffer from such conditions.2Having sex with a departed loved one may also be symptomatic of a romantic obsession, or an extreme denial that the loved one has passed. In this situation, the surviving individual attempts to use sexual activities to maintain an imagined relationship with the departed. The necrophile may view sexual actions as loving and affectionate, and as a link to what may have been. Such individuals compare their actions to circumstances like the scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet kisses Romeo after he kills himself with poison.2

However, the specific idea of having sex with a deceased partner, especially a while after death, is similar to the romantic delusions exhibited by some stalkers who obsessively pursue their previous partners long after the relationship has ended. As with stalking, there are cases where the obsessed individual has had no previous, romantic connection with their object of desire. Furthermore, sex with a dead, non-consenting spouse or partner can be considered a form of domestic rape. 3

Types of Necrophilia

Necrophilia is such a broad term that experts have broken it down into specific classifications which are used to define and identify a person’s status, as well as to help clarify the spectrum of desires and behaviors. Some necrophiles find sexual pleasure in simply being near corpses while others desire sexual intercourse with the dead.1

Necrophilia Homicide

This describes a condition in which a person actively murders people or animals in order to accommodate their necrophilic urges. They will actively search for methods of attaining corpses of people or animals in order to engage in sexual fantasies and acts with them.1

Regular Necrophilia

People who engage in regular necrophilia are those who do not find enough sexual attraction or gratification with living people, and, therefore, they seek this experience with dead bodies. Many people with regular necrophilia have had a scarring sexual experience previously in life and have low self-esteem, which manifests as misguided sexual confidence. Many even view sexual contact with corpses as a source of comfort and therapeutic experience.1

Necrophilic Fantasy

This describes a situation in which a person is afraid that they will act upon their desire and actually pursue their necrophilic fantasy, which may cause them anxiety or motivate them to hurt another person(s). People who have frequent necrophilic fantasies usually includes those who have always been socially isolated, although the two circumstances do not necessarily coincide. These fantasies can also include getting sexually excited when seeing dead bodies or strewn limbs, either in person or on a screen.1

Psuedonecrophilia

Psuedonecrophilia is defined as a form of necrophilia that has not been manifested for periods of time, but rather becomes triggered by an exciting or dangerous event. This situation may seem as though it happens accidentally, as necrophilic actions are not the main purpose of a sexual experience, but rather occur in the heat of the moment. 1

Necrosadism

A paraphilia in which one derives sexual pleasure from violent actions performed on a corpse, such as mutilation or the drinking of blood. Note that sadism is not an intrinsic part of necrophilia; instead, experts regard instances of necrosadism as the overlap between necrophilia and other distinct paraphilias or personality disorders. 3

Studies About Necrophilia​

Studies that examine the physical and mental predispositions of necrophiles provide a lot of information that many people may not know or have preconceived notions about. There is a stigma surrounding many paraphilias that insist that such people are mentally ill or deficient, psychotic, and/or unable to find a consenting partner to engage in sexual relations with. However, research has proven otherwise, according to the DSM-V definition of psychotic and mentally deficient people.4 Yet, it is important to note that although paraphilics and necrophiles cannot be as broadly categorized as people who abuse drugs and/or alcohol, there has been evidence that supports that necrophiles may be under the influence when performing such acts.1 The prevalence of drugs and/or alcohol in one’s system often provides one with the ability to push away their inhibitions and develop a sense of slight, temporary confidence.1

Therapies for Necrophilia

Individuals who want to stop being attracted to corpses may benefit from sexual therapy for atypical turn-ons and seeing a professional councilor or therapist, especially one who specializes in sexual paraphilias. 2

Overview

Within the realm of paraphilias, necrophilia is rare. As is the case with any other atypical sexual urge or turn-on, it is important that one is aware of the possible legal repercussions and boundaries that may restrict their ability to act upon that attraction. Although it is relatively normal to have thoughts about atypical sexual behavior, acting upon it is an entirely different circumstance. It is important to keep in mind that consent is the key to every sexual encounter, and it is impossible to gain consent with a corpse, as they are mentally and legally incapable of actively saying yes.

References

1. Rosman, Jonathan P., and Resnick, Phillip. “Sexual Attraction to Corpses: A Psychiatric Review of Necrophilia.” Bull Am. Acad. Psychiatry Law, Vol. 17, No.2, 1989.

2. Katherine Ramsland. "All About Necrophilia." 2007. Crime Library. Web.

3. Crooks, Robert and Baur, Karla. “Our Sexuality.” Thomson Learning, Inc. 2005.

4. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. American Psychiatric Association. 2005.

Last updated: 17 October 2017.