‘If all relationships were this open and honest, there would be a lot more happy folks in the world.’
You probably think farting drives couples apart. In fact, it’s what keeps some romantic partners coming back for more.
My foray into the world of eproctophilia?—?a sexual fetish characterized by fart-lust?—?began when I stumbled upon a trove of James Joyce’s love letters. In 1909, the Irish author left his home in Italy for a business trip to Dublin. During his two-month absence, Joyce exchanged erotic letters with his paramour Nora (which were recovered and published in 1975’s “Selected Letters of James Joyce”).
Among the wardrobe of sexual kinks these letters revealed about the writer, most interesting to me was a special fondness for his lady friend’s flatulence:
Fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling…big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women.
(Note: I’ve edited out of some of the choicer language above. Uncut version here.)
Having no sexual inclination toward gas-passing myself, I was intrigued. Was Joyce a one-off? Or was there?—?as I suspected?—?a secret legion of people who get off on wind-breaking?
Finding another Joyce
In August 2013, Discover Magazine published a profile on “Brad,” a young guy from Illinois who was sexually aroused by farts. The article pointed out that “olfactophilia”?—?sexual arousal via smell?—?was nothing new.
“As Bieber (1959) noted, smell is a powerful sexual stimulus. Furthermore, the erotic focus is most likely to relate to body odors of a sexual partner, including genital odors.”
The article confirmed that eproctophilia was, like any other fetish, unique to its owner. Take Brad, for instance: When asked his sexual orientation, he had trouble squaring his romantic preferences with his eproctophilia:
“I could be any of three, depending on the perspective. In terms of relationships, I am straight [heterosexual]. I could only date or have romantic feelings towards a female. In terms of fetishism, I am bisexual. I get aroused thinking of both males and females in these fetish situations. However, I have no real desire for sexual intercourse, be it penetration or being penetrated, which would make me asexual.”
This article, though helpful, didn’t paint as complete a portrait of the fetish as I would’ve liked. Brad was a good example, but his particular brand of kink might not be representative of eproctophiles as a whole. To find out, I decided to conduct some interviews.
I asked sex therapist Joseph Winn some questions?—?first about fetishes writ large (where do they come from? how do they develop?) and then about the smellier subset of erotic leanings. I also interviewed several fetishists I found on an eproctophilia forum.
Love a farter? You’re probably smarter.
Winn has had experience working with two clients who reported eproctophilic tendencies. He explained that there’s really no medical consensus on why people like what they like. “The jury’s out,” he said. Some evidence suggests that “brain insults” like neurodegenerative disease or physical trauma are responsible for influencing sexual interests (and even, in some cases, changing sexual orientation). He clarifies: “This is not to say that eproctophilia is indicative of pathology. There is substantial data demonstrating a correlation between novel sexual practices and interests and higher rates of achievement and intelligence.”
In other words: Love a farter? You’re probably smarter.
Many of the eproctophiles I interviewed said that intimacy was the fetish’s primary attraction.
John, a heterosexual male, said, “At its core and in the most realistic sense, eproctophilia is about intimacy.” Something as “dirty” and uncommon as a fart fetish was, in John’s mind, far more emotionally and psychologically intimate than traditional sex acts. Not only is it a non-standard sexual desire, but farting is also taboo in non-sexual situations, too.
“Females especially are told by society not to do it in front of others,” John said. “So, for a girl to do it is for her to share this very intimate thing. It’s also a sort of ‘trust play’ in which she’s counting on you to not make her feel embarrassed or ashamed and you’re repeatedly validating that.”
Another heterosexual respondent, Richard, said that his girlfriend?—?whom he suspects doesn’t fully understand the fetish?—?allows a level of unprecedented intimacy by letting him “feed” what he considers an “insatiable desire.”
Dominance and humiliation
It’s no secret that dominance and humiliation are well-worn pages in the sexual playbook. In order for domination/humiliation to be healthy forms of sexual expression, there must be trust between the partners.
John puts it this way:
“In the fantasy and porn sense there is a correlation to dominance-dynamic porn (like humiliation). For a person who is into a safe way to do humiliation, [eproctophilic acts are] a viable way to do that. And again, ‘humiliation’ in many ways relates to intimacy-building.”
Another respondent, a bisexual male named Colby, points out that while he loves “dishing it out,” he’s not interested in being on the receiving end. The humiliation and domination come from farting’s physical pleasure?—?the satisfying release of pent-up energy?—?being unleashed at another’s expense. Colby enjoys degrading his partners (consensually, of course) with his own pleasure.
Richard, on the other hand, is the opposite. His ultimate fantasy is to be a “fart slave”?—?someone who receives Colby’s brand of humiliation.
A search of several porn sites (Porn Hub, YouPorn) yielded surprising finds. Searches for “fart” or “farting” often produced solo videos of women farting or videos of men enacting some of the “fart slave” behaviors described above (often with hundreds of thousands of views and ratings of 70%+).
Wrapping it up
Joseph Winn was unsurprised that my respondents ID’d humiliation and domination as raisons d’etre for eproctophilia:
“All of these themes are correlated with intimacy. Vulnerability is a cornerstone of intimacy. The themes you were hearing in your interviews speak to a shared desire to exchange power and experience. If all relationships were this open and honest, there would be a lot more happy folks in the world.”
My research also suggested that for the respondents I interviewed?—?all of whom were male?—?the fetish was inextricably tied to their sexual orientation. In other words, straight men liked when women farted and gay men liked when men farted. This suggests the fetish is about more than the scent of the stink itself?—?it’s the psychological implications of witnessing and engaging with another human’s backdoor vapors.
Are we likely to devote much scientific funding to delving into this fetish? Winn thinks it’s unlikely: “Generally, anything associated with taboo subjects, such as shit and farts, is not going to get much in the way of funding, serious academic consideration or real professional prestige.”
Ah, well. A boy can dream.