Recently I stumbled on an article about about a Maltese immigrant in New York that likes to be stepped on. A recent New York Times article describes the lifestyle of ‘Georgio T.” who frequents barroom floors, where wrapped up in a carpet, he experiences the delight of being trod upon. The ‘Human Carpet’ as he calls himself, spends a few hours during each bar session being walked on and is especially happy when women step on him. Many bar patrons are unaware they are even walking on Georgio (this is New York after all). After a night of being stepped on, Giorgio packs up his carpet and drives back to Connecticut and his normal life as a massage therapist.
Interesting, but not too strange. To me this seems like a simple variant of masochism. It is likely that as a very young child Giorgio somehow paired pleasurable feelings with the pressure of someone on top of him. Later on this became elaborated into his fetish of being stepped on. Pretty harmless, perhaps even relatively common, and the subject of a Frank Zappa song on the Bongo Fury album; Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy. Nevertheless, there are more extreme versions of being stepped on and crushed and this behavior can result in severe damage or even death.
While researching this behavior, I came across a somewhat stranger, though similar paraphilia, the so-called ‘crush fetish‘. While it is common for people to fear insects, even to the point of phobias, it is less common for people to be sexually aroused in their presence. G.A. Pearson, writing in the online journal Cultural Entomology, describes people whose fetish consists of watching insects being squashed. That’s right, these people get turned on by watching people (mostly women) squashing bugs. The more frightened the woman, and the larger the feet doing the squashing, the better. According to Pearson, who is an entomologist, there is even an entire publication devoted to promoting this fetish, The American Journal of The Crush Freaks, which has 500 or so subscribers. This ‘journal’ is the brainchild of filmmaker Jeff Vilencia, who makes films (like Smush) in the ‘crush’ genre. According to Vilencia the crush fetishist fantasizes that they are the bug getting squashed and so in this way this fetish is similar to being a human carpet.
Vilencia had to close his production company after a federal anti-animal cruelty law criminalized his film making in 1999. This law was in response to the depiction of live small animals being crushed or stomped on (and was sponsored by our local Southern California congressman Elton Gallegly). At this point I think we have to start wondering if this is a fetish per se or anti-social (psychopathic) behavior, especially since one of the warning signs in children destined to become psychopaths is cruelty to animals. One of the leading proponents of the crushing of live animals, Bryan Loudermilk, was himself crushed to death in a scenario where he had himself penned under a vehicle that had driven on to his abdomen – “karma neh?”
While the crush fetish is strange, it is perhaps more acceptable to the general population than the fetish formicophilia, which Nancy Butler describes in her book The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies,and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. This fetish involves the direct use of insects for sexual pleasure and may involve letting insects walk all over you, or smearing yourself with honey and having insects feed on you. It might even include the placement of insects in various bodily orifices – the sensation of their attempts to escape giving sexual pleasure. Ratnin Dewaraja has shown that counseling and behavior therapy can reduce this fetishistic behavior, at least in one instance.
Butler N. (2004). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre But True Healing Folklore. New York: Avery
Dewaraja, R (1987). Formicophilia, an unusual paraphilia, treated with counseling and behavior therapy. American Journal of Psychotherapy 41: 593-597.
Dewaraja R, Money J. (1986). Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 12: 139-145.
G.A. Pearson. (1997). Digest Cultural Entomology, 4. Insects as sexual fetish objects. North Carolina State University.
Weinstein, P. (1994). Insects in psychiatry. Digest Cultural Entomology, 2.