Necrophilia, also known as necrophilism, necrolagnia, necrocoitus, necrochlesis, and thanatophilia, is a sexual attraction or sexual act involving corpses. It is classified as a paraphilia by ICD10 published by WHO and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association.
Rosman and Resnick (1989) reviewed information from 34 cases of necrophilia describing the individuals' motivations for their behaviors: these individuals reported the desire to possess a non-resisting and non-rejecting partner (68%), reunions with a romantic partner (21%), sexual attraction to corpses (15%), comfort or overcoming feelings of isolation (15%), or seeking self-esteem by expressing power over a homicide victim (12%).
|The Hatred, painted by Pietro Pajetta, 1896.|
|Classification and external resources|
The term 'necrophilia' is thought to have been coined by Belgian physician Joseph Guislain in his Leçons Orales sur les Phrénopathies, in a lecture given around 1850, in reference to contemporary necrophile François Bertrand:
It is within the category of the destructive madmen [aliénés destructeurs] that one needs to situate certain patients to whom I would like to give the name of necrophiliacs [nécrophiles]. The alienists have adopted, as a new form, the case of Sergeant Bertrand, the disinterrer of cadavers on whom all the newspapers have recently reported. However, don't think that we are dealing here with a form of phrenopathy which appears for the first time. The ancients, in speaking about lycanthropy, have cited examples to which one can more or less relate the case which has just attracted the public attention so strongly.
In the ancient world, sailors returning corpses to their home country were often accused of necrophilia. Singular accounts of necrophilia in history are sporadic, though written records suggest the practice was present within Ancient Egypt. Herodotus writes in The Histories that, to discourage intercourse with a corpse, ancient Egyptians left deceased beautiful women to decay for "three or four days" before giving them to the embalmers. Herodotus also alluded to suggestions that Greek tyrant Periander had defiled the corpse of his wife, employing a metaphor: "Periander baked his bread in a cold oven." Acts of necrophilia are depicted on ceramics from the Moche culture, which reigned in northern Peru from the first to eighth century CE. A common theme in these artifacts is the masturbation of a male skeleton by a living woman. Hittite law from the 16th century BC through to the 13th century BC explicitly permitted sex with the dead. In what is now Northeast China, the ethnic Xianbei emperor Murong Xi (385–407) of the Later Yan state had intercourse with the corpse of his beloved empress Fu Xunying, after the latter was already cold and put into the coffin.
In Renaissance Italy, following the reputed moral collapse brought about by the Black Death and before the Roman Inquisition of the Counter-Reformation, the literature was replete with sexual references; these include necrophilia, in the case of the epic poem Orlando Innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, first published in 1483. In a notorious modern example, American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was a necrophiliac. Dahmer wanted to create a sex slave that would mindlessly consent to whatever he wanted. When his attempts failed, and his male victim died, he would keep the corpse until it decomposed beyond recognition, continuously masturbating and performing sexual intercourse on the body. In order to be aroused, he had to murder his male victims before performing sexual intercourse with them. Dahmer stated that he only killed his victims because they wanted to leave after having sex, and would be angry with him for drugging them. British serial killer Dennis Nilsen is also considered to have been a necrophiliac.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), recurrent, intense sexual interest in corpses can be diagnosed under Other Specified Paraphilic Disorder (necrophilia) when it causes marked distress or impairment in important areas of functioning. A ten-tier classification of necrophilia exists:
Additionally, criminologist Lee Mellor's typology of homicidal necrophiles consists of eight categories (A–H), and is based on the combination of two behavioral axes: destructive (offender mutilates the corpse for sexual reasons) – preservative (offender does not), and cold (offender used the corpse sexually two hours after death) – warm (offender used the corpse sexually earlier than two hours after death). This renders four categories (A-D) to which Mellor adds an additional four (E-H):
Dabblers have transitory opportunistic sexual relations with corpses, but this is not their preference. Category F homicidal necrophiles commit postmortem sex acts only while in a catathymic state. Exclusive mutilophiles derive pleasure purely from mutilating the corpse, while sexual cannibals and vampires are sexually aroused by eating human body parts. Category A, C, and F offenders may also cannibalize or drink the blood of their victims.
Necrophilia is often assumed to be rare, but no data for its prevalence in the general population exists. Some necrophiles only fantasize about the act, without carrying it out. In 1958, Klaf and Brown commented that, although rarely described, necrophiliac fantasies may occur more often than is generally supposed.
Rosman and Resnick (1989) reviewed 122 cases of necrophilia. The sample was divided into genuine necrophiles, who had a persistent attraction to corpses, and pseudo-necrophiles, who acted out of opportunity, sadism, or transient interest. Of the total, 92% were male and 8% were female. 57% of the genuine necrophiles had occupational access to corpses, with morgue attendant, hospital orderly, and cemetery employee being the most common jobs. The researchers theorized that either of the following situations could be antecedents to necrophilia:
The authors reported that, of their sample of genuine necrophiles:
IQ data was limited, but not abnormally low. About half of the sample had a personality disorder, and 11% of true necrophiles were psychotic. Rosman and Resnick concluded that their data challenged the conventional view of necrophiles as generally psychotic, mentally deficient, or unable to obtain a consenting partner.
Necrophilia has been observed in mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs. In 1960, Robert Dickerman described necrophilia in ground squirrels, which he termed "Davian behavior" in reference to a limerick about a necrophiliac miner named Dave. The label is still used for necrophilia in animals. Certain species of arachnids and insects practice sexual cannibalism, in which the female cannibalizes her male mate prior to, during, or after copulation.
Kees Moeliker made one observation while he was sitting in his office at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, when he heard the distinctive thud of a bird hitting the glass facade of the building. Upon inspection, he discovered a drake (male) mallard lying dead outside the building. Next to the downed bird there was a second drake mallard standing close by. As Moeliker observed the couple, the living drake pecked at the corpse of the dead one for a few minutes then mounted the corpse and began copulating with it. The act of necrophilia lasted for about 75 minutes, in which time, according to Moeliker, the living drake took two short breaks before resuming with copulating behavior. Moeliker surmised that at the time of the collision with the window the two mallards were engaged in a common pattern in duck behavior called "attempted rape flight". "When one died the other one just went for it and didn't get any negative feedback — well, didn't get any feedback," according to Moeliker. Necrophilia had previously only been reported in heterosexual mallard pairs.
In a short paper known as "Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin", deemed too shocking for contemporary publication, George Murray Levick described "little hooligan bands" of penguins mating with dead females in the Cape Adare rookery, the largest group of Adélie penguins, in 1911 and 1912. This is nowadays ascribed to lack of experience of young penguins; a dead female, with eyes half-closed, closely resembles a compliant female. A gentoo penguin was observed attempting to have intercourse with a dead penguin in 1921.
A male New Zealand sea lion was once observed attempting to copulate with a dead female New Zealand fur seal in the wild. The sea lion nudged the seal repeatedly, then mounted her and made several pelvic thrusts. Approximately ten minutes later, the sea lion became disturbed by the researcher's presence, dragged the corpse of the seal into the water and swam away while holding it. A male sea otter was observed holding a female sea otter underwater until she drowned, and then repeatedly copulating with her carcass. Several months later, the same sea otter was again observed copulating with the carcass of a different female. Copulation with a dead female pilot whale by a captive male pilot whale has been observed, and possible sexual behavior between two male humpback whales, one dead, has also been reported.
In 1983, a male rock dove was observed copulating with the corpse of a dove that had shortly before had its head crushed by a car. In 2001, a researcher laid out sand martin corpses to attract flocks of other sand martins. In each of six trials, 1-5 individuals from flocks of 50-500 were observed attempting to copulate with the dead sand martins. This occurred one to two months after the breeding season; since copulation outside the breeding season is uncommon among birds, the researcher speculated that the lack of resistance by the corpses stimulated the behavior. Charles Brown observed at least ten cliff swallows attempt to copulate with a road-killed cliff swallow in the space of 15 minutes. He commented, "This isn't the first time I've seen cliff swallows do this; the bright orange rump sticking up seems to be all the stimulus these birds need." Necrophilia has also been reported in the European swallow, grey-backed sparrow-lark, Stark's lark, and the snow goose. A Norwegian television report showed a male hybrid between a black grouse and western capercaillie kill a male black grouse before attempting to copulate with it. In 2015, due to work done by the University of Washington, it was found that crows would commit necrophilia on dead crow corpses in about 4% of encounters with corpses.
Necrophilia has been documented in various lizard species, including the giant ameiva, the leopard lizard, and Holbrookia maculata. There are two reports of necrophilic behavior in the sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa). In one, the partner of a male lizard got caught in fencing wire and died. The male continued to display courtship behavior towards his partner two days after her death. This lizard's necrophilia was believed to stem from its strong monogamous bond. In one study of black and white tegu lizards, two different males were observed attempting to court and copulate with a single female corpse on two consecutive days. On the first day, the corpse was freshly dead, but by the second day it was bloating and emitting a strong putrefying odor. The researcher attributed the behavior to sex pheromones still acting on the carcass.
Male garter snakes often copulate with dead females. One case has been reported in the Bothrops jararaca snake with a dead South American rattlesnake. The prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and Helicops carinicaudus snake have both been seen attempting to mate with decapitated females, presumably attracted by still-active sex pheromones. Male crayfish sometimes copulate with dead crayfish of either sex, and in one observation even with a dead crayfish of a different species.
In frogs, it has been observed in the foothill yellow-legged frog, the yellow fire-bellied toad, the common frog, the Oregon spotted frog, Dendropsophus columbianus, and Rhinella jimi. The film Cane Toads: An Unnatural History shows a male toad copulating with a female toad that had been run over by a car. It goes on to do this for eight hours. Necrophilic amplexus in frogs may occur because males will mount any pliable object the size of an adult female. If the mounted object is a live frog not appropriate for mating, it will vibrate its body or vocalize a call to be released. Dead frogs cannot do this, so they may be held for hours. The Amazonian frog Rhinella proboscidea sometimes practices what has been termed "functional necrophilia": a male grasps the corpse of a dead female and squeezes it until oocytes are ejected, and then fertilizes them.
Necrophilia is not explicitly mentioned in Australian law, however, under the Crimes Act 1900 - Sect 81C it states misconduct with regard to corpses is any person who:
(a) indecently interferes with any dead human body, or
(b) improperly interferes with, or offers any indignity to, any dead human body or human remains (whether buried or not),
shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.
Art. 212 - To abuse a cadaver or its ashes:
Penalty: detention, from 1 to 3 years, plus fine.
Although sex with a corpse is not explicitly mentioned, a person who has sex with a corpse may be convicted of a crime under the above Article. The legal asset protected by such Article is not the corpse's objective honor, but the feeling of good memories, respect and veneration that living people keep about the deceased person: these persons are considered passive subjects of the corpse's violation.
Section 297 of the Indian Penal Code entitled "Trespassing on burial places, etc.", states as follows:
Whoever, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person, or of insulting the religion of any person, or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship or on any place of sculpture, or any place set apart from the performance of funeral rites or as a depository for the remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any persons assembled for the performance of funeral ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
Although sex with a corpse is not explicitly mentioned, a person who has sex with a corpse may be convicted under the above section. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code could also be invoked.
Under Section 150 of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961, it is an offence for there to be "misconduct in respect to human remains". Subsection (b) elaborates that this applies if someone "improperly or indecently interferes with or offers indignity to any dead human body or human remains, whether buried or not". This statute is therefore applicable to sex with corpses and carries a potential two-year prison sentence, although there is no case law as yet that would apply the aforementioned statute.
Section 14 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 prohibits the commission of a sexual act with a corpse. Until codified by the act it was a common law offence.
Section 16, § 10 of the Swedish Penal Code criminalizes necrophilia, but it is not explicitly mentioned. Necrophilia falls under the regulations against abusing a corpse or grave (brott mot griftefrid), which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. One person has been convicted of necrophilia. He was sentenced to psychiatric care for that and other crimes, including arson.
Sexual penetration of a corpse was made illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, carrying a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment. Prior to 2003, necrophilia was not illegal; however, exposing a naked corpse in public was classed as a public nuisance (R v. Clark  15 Cox 171).
|Alabama||Felony (Class C)||§ 13A-11-13|
|Alaska||Misdemeanor (Class A)||§ 11-61-130|
|Arizona||Felony (Class 4)||§ 32-1364|
|Arkansas||Felony (Class D)||§ 5-60-101|
|California||Felony||Health and Safety Code § 7052|
|Colorado||Misdemeanor (Class 2)||§ 18-13-101|
|Connecticut||Misdemeanor (Class A)||§ 53a-73a|
|Delaware||Misdemeanor (Class A)||§ 11-5-1332|
|Florida||Felony (second degree)||§ 872.06|
|Illinois||Felony (Class 2)||§ 720 ILCS 5/12-20.6|
|Indiana||Felony (Level 6)||§ 35-45-11-2|
|Iowa||Felony (Class D)||§ 709.18|
|Kentucky||Felony (Class D)||§ 525.120|
|Nevada||Felony (Class A)||NRS § 201.450|
|New York||Misdemeanor (Class A)||§ 130.20|
|North Dakota||Misdemeanor (Class A)||§ 12.1-20-12 and § 12.1-20-02|
|Ohio||Felony (fifth degree)||§ 2927.01|
|Oregon||Felony||ORS § 166.085|
|Pennsylvania||Misdemeanor (second degree)||18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5510|
|Rhode Island||Felony||§ 11-20-1.2|
|Tennessee||Felony (Class E)||§ 39-17-312|
|Texas||Misdemeanor (Class A)||§ 9.42.08|
|Utah||Felony (third degree)||§ 76-9-704|
|Washington||Felony (Class C)||RCW § 9A.44.105|
|Wisconsin||Felony (Class G)||§ 940.225 (7)|
The wives of men of rank when they die are not given at once to be embalmed, nor such women as are very beautiful or of greater regard than others, but on the third or fourth day after their death (and not before) they are delivered to the embalmers. They do so about this matter in order that the embalmers may not abuse their women, for they say that one of them was taken once doing so to the corpse of a woman lately dead, and his fellow-craftsman gave information.
Inhibited forms of necrophilia and necrophiliac fantasies may occur more commonly then is generally realized.
The primary source is Histories, Book V, 92
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Cry Uncle!, released in the UK as Superdick (theatrical title) and American Oddballs (video title), is a 1971 film in the Troma library. It is directed by John G. Avildsen and stars Allen Garfield. The story, based on the Michael Brett novel Lie a Little, Die a Little, follows the misadventures of a slobbish private detective who is hired by a millionaire to investigate a murder. The movie features one of Paul Sorvino's first screen performances, and an early appearance from TV star Debbi Morgan.
The film features a great deal of nudity, sex, drug use, and explicit acts of necrophilia and fellatio. The film was banned in Finland for the year following its release, and in Norway until 2003. In addition to becoming a cult classic, the film launched a string of Troma films that appeared in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, many of them becoming cult films that would run on cable TV.Fascination with death
Fascination with death has occurred throughout human history, characterized by obsessions with death and all things related to death and the afterlife.
In past times, people would form cults around death and figures. Famously, Anubis, Osiris, Hades, and La Santa Muerte have all had large cult followings. La Santa Muerte (Saint Death), or the personification of death, is currently worshiped by many in Mexico and other countries in Central America. Day of the Dead (2 November), is a celebration for the dead.German underground horror
German underground horror is a subgenre of the horror film, which has achieved cult popularity since first appearing in the mid-1980s.
Horror films produced by the German underground scene are usually trademarked by their intensity, taking on topics that are culturally taboo such as rape, necrophilia, and extreme violence. Films that glorify violence are not technically illegal in Germany, but certain titles are banned by the government and Zollkriminalamt. Distribution, import, or creation of specific films can constitute steep fines.Glenn Quagmire
Glenn Quagmire, often referred to by just his surname, is a character from the American animated television series Family Guy. He is a neighbor and friend of the Griffin family and is best known for his hypersexuality and his catchphrase, "Giggity". The show's creator and voice actor Seth MacFarlane describes him as "an appalling human being who is still caught in the rat-pack era" based on anachronistic 1950s party-animal clichés.Hellawes (sorceress)
Hellawes the Sorceress is a minor character in Thomas Malory's 15th-century compilation of Arthurian legends Le Morte d'Arthur. She is lady of the Castle Nygurmous ("of necromancy").Hellawes is a treacherous enchantress whom Sir Lancelot encounters in his pursuit of a holy sword or cloth heal his wounded liegeman, Meliot of Logres. She manages to lure the questing knight into her fearsome chapel perilous but Lancelot—who has been the object of her obsessive and unrequited love for seven years—successfully escapes.
Lancelot braved the chapel to retrieve a sword and discovered that its terrifying properties were simply illusions. Hellawes appeared before him and asked him for a kiss in exchange for the sword, but Lancelot refused. It turned out that Lancelot would have perished from the kiss had he consented. Hellawes had tendencies toward necrophilia, and she would have rather had Lancelot as a dead lover than to have lived without him. Lancelot hurried away, and Hellawes died a few weeks later from sorrow. [Christopher W. Bruce, "The Arthurian Name Dictionary," 1999]
The motif for her enchanted chapel (complete with the name, Chapelle Perilleuse) originates in Perlesvaus. Her name seems to be an echo of Héloïse.It is possible that Hellawes was an evolution of the character of Lady Helaes of Perilous Forest (Helaes de la Forest Perilleuse), Gawain's one-night lover from the Lancelot-Grail. A similarly named character, also appearing in Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur just like Hellawes does, is Lady Annowre of Perilous Forest, here an evil sorceress who plotted to kill Arthur out of her love of him after being scorned.Incidents of necrophilia
Necrophilia is a pathological fascination with dead bodies, which often takes the form of a desire to engage with them in sexual activities, such as intercourse. Although prohibited by the laws of many countries, there have been many reported cases of necrophilia throughout history.Kissed
Kissed is a 1996 Canadian film, directed and co-written by Lynne Stopkewich, based on Barbara Gowdy's short story "We So Seldom Look On Love". It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 1996.
The film stars Molly Parker as Sandra Larson, a young woman whose fixation on death leads her to study embalming at a mortuary school, where in turn she finds herself drawn toward feelings of necrophilia. Peter Outerbridge also stars as Matt, a fellow student who develops romantic feelings for Sandra, and so must learn to accept her sexual proclivities.
Despite being allowed a substantial grant, Stopkewich went almost $30,000 into debt and cost her company $400,000 so she could complete shooting the film.Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery
"Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery" is the tenth episode of the third season of the animated television series South Park. It originally aired on October 27, 1999. The episode features issues of necrophilia and a parody of the animated series Scooby-Doo (with the band Korn filling the role of Mystery, Inc.).Macabre (1980 film)
Macabre (Italian: Macabro) is a 1980 Italian horror film directed by Lamberto Bava.Necrophilia in popular culture
Necrophilia has been a topic in popular culture.Nightwatch (1997 film)
Nightwatch is a 1997 American horror-thriller film directed by Ole Bornedal and starring Ewan McGregor, Patricia Arquette, Josh Brolin and Nick Nolte. It was written by Bornedal and Steven Soderbergh. It is a remake of the Danish film Nattevagten (1994), which was also directed by Bornedal.Non-reproductive sexual behavior in animals
Non-reproductive sexual behavior consists of sexual activities animals participate in that do not lead to the reproduction of the species. Although procreation continues to be the primary explanation for sexual behavior in animals, recent observations on animal behavior has given alternative reasons for the engagement in sexual activities by animals. Animals have been observed to engage in sex for social interaction, demonstration of dominance, aggression relief, exchange for significant materials, and sexual stimulation. Observed non-procreative sexual activities include non-copulatory mounting (without penetration, or by the female), oral sex, genital stimulation, anal stimulation, interspecies mating, and acts of affection. There have also been observations of animals engaging in homosexual behaviors, as well as sex with dead animals and sex involving juveniles.Somnophilia
Somnophilia (from Latin "somnus" = sleep and Greek φιλία, "-philia" = love), also known as sleeping princess syndrome and sleeping beauty syndrome, is a paraphilia in which an individual becomes sexually aroused by someone who is unconscious. Sexology scholar John Money stated that the condition has a high degree of correlation throughout history with incest and may progress to necrophilia. The Dictionary of Psychology categorized somnophilia within the classification of predatory paraphilias.The Party's Over (1965 film)
The Party's Over is a black-and-white British film directed by Guy Hamilton and starring Oliver Reed. Although filmed in 1963 it was censored in the UK over scenes of implied necrophilia, which delayed its release until 1965. It was produced by Anthony Perry, with music by John Barry. Guy Hamilton asked for his name to be removed from the credits in protest at the censorship of the film.Two and a Half Men (season 5)
The fifth season of Two and a Half Men originally aired on CBS from September 24, 2007, to May 19, 2008. A total of only 19 episodes were aired due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike. Unlike the previous seasons, the Season 5 DVD came without a gag reel. The DVD also titled "Tight's Good" as "Shoes, Hats, Pickle Jar Lids", and the "Previously on Two and a Half Men" recap seen in the original broadcast of "Fish in a Drawer" was initially not included on DVD. This was the shortest season in the history of the show until the eighth season ended after 16 episodes due to the firing of Charlie Sheen.Very Bad Things
Very Bad Things is a 1998 American black comedy film directed by Peter Berg and starring Cameron Diaz, Jon Favreau, Daniel Stern, Jeremy Piven, Christian Slater, Leland Orser and Jeanne Tripplehorn.Visitor Q
Visitor Q (ビジターＱ, Bijitā Kyū) is a 2001 black comedy/drama-horror film directed by Japanese director Takashi Miike. It was filmed as the sixth and final part of the Love Cinema series consisting of six straight-to-video releases by independent filmmakers via a brief but exclusive run at the minuscule Shimokitazawa cinema in Tokyo. The six films were conceived as low budget exercises to explore the benefits afforded by the low-cost digital video medium such as the increased mobility of the camera and the low-lighting conditions available to the filmmakers.Visitor Q often replicates the style of documentary footage and home movies, which invokes a sense of realism that contradicts the film’s more bizarre elements and black comedy.Weekend at Bernie's
Weekend at Bernie's is a 1989 American black comedy film, directed by Ted Kotcheff and written by Robert Klane. The film stars Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman as young insurance corporation employees who discover their boss, Bernie, dead. While attempting to convince people that Bernie is still alive, they discover that Bernie had ordered their deaths to cover up his embezzlement. It received mixed critical response but was a financial success, grossing over $30 million on a $15 million budget. The film's success inspired a sequel, Weekend at Bernie's II (1993).