Overview of Necrophilia
Necrophilia is a paraphilia which involves an individual sexually aroused by fantasies of or actual sexual contact with a deceased person. 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.
Officially, one must experience at least six months of intense, recurring urges or fantasies involving sexual contact with corpses to be diagnosed with necrophilia, and these feelings must alter one’s behavior or cause one significant distress. Most necrophiliacs, also called necrophiles, identify as heterosexual males and fall between the ages of 20 and 50. There are also cases of homosexual and/or female necrophiles. Some necrophiliacs seek jobs at mortuaries or coroners' offices where they have easy access to dead bodies. A few necrophiliacs may hire prostitutes to apply white makeup and pretend to be dead. Cases of serial-killer and/or cannibalistic necrophiliacs are even more rare and tend to be sensationalized because of their obscene nature.
“Necrophilia” encompasses a broad spectrum of behaviors and fantasies. Some necrophiles find sexual pleasure in simply being near corpses while others desire sexual intercourse with the dead. Experts have created subcategories to help clarify the spectrum of desires and behaviors:
Necrophilic Fantasies: regardless of whether or not they are acted upon, fantasies of sexual contact with the deceased constitute necrophilia. Some experts categorize non-enacted fantasies as a “neurotic equivalent” to necrophilia.
Pseudonecrophilia: isolated incidents of sexual contact with a corpse without previous necrophilic fantasies or desire.
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.
Necrophilic Homicide: similar to necrosadism, except that the act of killing a victim to obtain their corpse is part of the sexual urge/fantasy.
Experts debate the prevalence of necrophilia. 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.
Causes of Necrophilia
A desire to have sex with dead people may stem from an intense fear of interacting with potential living partners. Necrophiliacs may view corpses as emotionally or physically non-threatening. Some necrophiliacs may be attracted to the fact that corpses cannot reject, disagree, manipulate or abuse them. They may also enjoy the feeling of being completely in control.
Necrophiliacs who act out 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 feel remorse or feelings of conscience. Necrophiliacs who murder to obtain corpses - or who mutilate or eat the corpses after sexual intercourse - are especially likely to suffer from such conditions.
Having sex with a departed loved one may also be symptomatic of a romantic obsession, or an extreme denial that the loved one has passed. The surviving individual attempts to use sexual activities to maintain a fantasy relationship with the departed. The necrophile may view sexual actions as loving and affectionate. 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.
However, the fixative quality 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.
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.
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2. Katherine Ramsland. "All About Necrophilia" (Updated 2007) http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/notorious/necrophiles/necro_4.html (Accessed: 5/22/07)
3. "Campylobacter Infections". Centers for Disease Control. Rob. "Just What is Necrophilia?" Rob's Necrophilia Fantasy. (Updated May 22, 2007) http://www.burknet.com/robsfantasy/index2.html (Accessed: 5/22/07)
4. Crooks, Robert and Baur, Karla. (2005) Our Sexuality. Thomson Learning, Inc.
Last updated 16 October 2013.