Coprophilia

Coprophilia is an erotic fascination with feces and general filth and uncleanliness.1 When a person experiences some type of sexual pleasure associated with feces, they are called coprophiliacs. Coprophiliacs enjoy either watching people defecate, defecating on someone themselves, being defecated on, smearing feces (scatolia), and sometimes eating feces (coprophagia).1 

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In some adults, coprophilia may manifest itself in people who find the act of defecation pleasurable and erotic. Other individuals may enjoy the incorporation of feces into partnered or solo sexual activity.1 Because of the involvement of human waste, there are dangers associated with the incorporation of fecal matter into sex; these dangers include the risk of infections, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis.1

Origins of Coprophilia

To explore the origins of coprophilia, we may first look to evolution. Many animals, including our primate ancestors, have a history of interacting with fecal matter for several reasons.2

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In the animal kingdom, fecal matter has been used in communication, as shown through territorial markings, mating rituals, and sexual attitude.2 By depositing feces with secretions from sex accessory glands (the anal glands), or by covering themselves in feces, animals are able to employ scent communication through the chemicals found in their fecal matter.2 In addition to using feces to supplement communication tactics, animals also consume feces to extract the vitamins and minerals necessary for survival.2 Animals have been reported to seek out sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and specific vitamins. These items may be found in natural food sources, mineral licks, or even in the animals’ own feces.2 

Uncommon erotic fetishes, such as coprophilia, have deep historical roots that can be dated back to ancient Greece.1 During orgies dedicated to honoring the Greek god Dionysus, bizarre or uncommon erotic fetishes were in constant use and have even been illustrated through ancient drawings. Many depictions of people defecating in clay pots during an orgy, or group sex, may show the prevalence of erotic deviation in ancient cultures.1 While Coprophilia may seem like a new type of deviant sexual behavior, its roots come from primordial animal instinct and can be seen practiced in historical texts and depictions.

Causes of Coprophilia

The connection of feces with sexual arousal and enjoyment may go back to childhood.  Neurologist Sigmund Freud attributed the human fascination with feces to a psychological regression to childhood. Freud presented childhood as a representation of earlier primitive social-evolutionary stages.2 Freud defined a primitive human as a being who is impulsive and acts on instinct. Freud identified individuals with psychological issues, toddlers, and primitive humans as all sharing a coprophagic (involving the consumption of feces) tendency.2 Freud’s psychology is famously known for its explanation of psychosexual development. Psychosexual development consists of five stages, and Freud believed that these psychosexual stages are necessary for development and that each of these stages is a representation of sexual desire. Freud hypothesized that defecation played a role in the psychosexual development of children, presenting itself in the anal-sadistic phase. In Freud’s second phase of psychosexual development, the anus is the primary zone of sexual desire and pleasure is derived from controlling bowel movements.2 As previously mentioned, some children enjoy holding in a bowel movement and expelling it slowly under careful control, a behavior that may support Freud’s general hypothesis. The fascination with feces may also be connected to genital stimulation during the changing of diapers during infancy that eroticizes feces. Coprophagic behavior in adults may be thought of as a form of regression or infantilization, but the exact causes are unknown.1  

baby's white diaper

Disclaimer: SexInfo Online does not endorse the claims of Sigmund Freud, and only presents these hypotheses in order to present various literature regarding the possible roots of Coprophilia and the various theories that surround the topic. With the knowledge that many of Freud’s claims were thought to be problematic or flawed in his research, his assertions are mentioned in discussion of this topic to present different views regarding the topic.

Types of Coprophilia

Several different types of coprophilia exist and are categorized  by the source of sexual pleasure resulting from different behaviors. 

Coprospheres

Coprospheres are individuals who find pleasure in throwing their feces.1 Coproshperes are mostly found in the context of patients of dementia or Alzheimer’s who may throw their feces to attract attention or communicate.1

Coprophagia 

Coprophagia, known as the most taboo form of coprophilia, describes the consumption of feces.1 Thought to be practiced by an exceptionally small number of people, it is one of the riskiest sexual behaviors.1 As previously mentioned, some species of animals, such as rabbits, routinely practice coprophagia as a part of their digestive process, and others, such as dogs, engage in the practice without any obvious physiological need.1 One case study indicates that the consumption of feces can be a way to dispose of or hide the evidence of the feces used for previous sexual acts. The erotic sensation associated with the consumption of feces may be confined to coprophilia; in contrast, coprophagia may serve to destroy the evidence of coprophilic practices.1

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Scatolia 

Scatolia is the act of smearing feces on a surface or the presence of it on the body. There is not much study of coprophilia, but of coprophilic behaviors, scatolia is the least understood.1 In children, fecal smearing is not an uncommon problem and has been given more informal names: code brown, diaper digging, and painting the town brown.2 When a person smears feces on a wall, it is called “plastering” or “finger painting” and is thought to be an outlet for artistic expression; feces are used in the absence of markers or paint.1

Feces and Sex

Little is known about the prevalence of coprophilia as a form of sexual activity, but it has been associated with BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, sadism, masochism). Typically, within BDSM relationships and encounters, the dominant partner, or “top”, defecates on or requests that the submissive partner, or “bottom,” eat the feces as a way to humiliate them and demonstrate their dominance. Another way to participate in coprophilia is when the dominant partner does not allow the submissive to defecate without their permission as a display of dominance over them.

The Risk

Coprophilia and especially coprophagia are considered unsafe sexual practices due to the possible transmission of  bacterial infections, HIV, and Hepatitis A.

Blue folder with Hepatitis C diagnosis.

 Hepatitis is a particular danger to coprophiliacs, although many other infections are also possible, such as HIV, because it is easy to transmit infections through oral or open-wound contact. Even though eating a handful of feces (especially your own feces) is considered to be of mild toxicity and at most causes a physical reaction similar to food poisoning, coprophilic, or scatophilic activity, is considered a risky sexual activity and is not recommended.4 

Slang Terms 

The following are informal terms that describe coprophilic sexual acts and their risk factors:

  • Glass bottom boat: The act of holding glass or clear plastic wrap over a partner’s face and then defecating on the glass or wrap.3 As the partner watches from under the glass or plastic protection, they get the feeling of being defecated on without any physical contact with the feces.3 Because there is no physical contact with the feces, this act is considered to be of minimal risk.
  • Steamer: Direct defecation onto a partner’s body without a barrier is often described by the slang terms “steamer” and “Cleveland steamer.”3 Direct defecation is a riskier behavior because these practices allow for direct contact with the feces and present a higher risk for infections such as hepatitis or HIV. 

Minimizing Risk

Even though coprophilic behaviors are not recommended by health professionals and carry great risk of complications, the following are some ways to decrease risk when practicing fecal sex play.

  1. What’s mine is not yours… (less risky)
    1. Using your own feces is less of a risk than a partner’s, but both carry risk of contracting bacterial infections (and viral infections).3
  2. No touching! (least amount of risk)
    1. If your sexual gratification comes from watching others defecate or watching yourself defecate then you are in a much safer position because there is no direct contact with the feces. 
    2. When a partner is involved, even if you are just smelling their feces or watching them defecate, you are in a riskier position than if it was a solitary act. Still, there is a low probability of infection.4
Don't touch please security vector sign

The best way to reduce the risks associated with coprophilic behavior is to not play with fecal matter at all, but for those who still practice fecal play, they may want to consider the amount of risk they are taking.

Media Influence

Scatology is a small industry focused on making art and movies on coprophilia.1 Exploring this visual arena may be a safer way to participate in this form of sexual play without risking the transmission of serious infection. 

Coprophilia and Dementia

The bulk of coprophiliacs are people suffering from dementia. In one clinic, statistics showed that 8-12% of patients with mild to moderate dementia exhibited coprophilic behaviors.1 When dementia starts to affect the brain, those affected return to a more primitive behavior in addition to losing toilet skills. Along with a decrease in mental capacity, a very common disturbance is malnutrition; this leads affected individuals to search for other nutritional sources.1 Since these patients have regressed to a more primal state, this search for nutrition presents itself in coprophagic behavior (consuming feces). Coprophilia is also common in people who are unable to differentiate food substances and non-food substances.1 People with dementia may deal with many changes to their lives, but perhaps one of the more common personality changes is the lack of constraint when it comes to sexual behaviors. This disinhibition of sexual behavior in conjunction with the reversion to basic instinct leads to coprophilic behaviors like the consumption of their own feces. Of all dementia patients exhibiting coprophilic behaviors, the most common behavior is scatolia.2 

Despite coprophagia being a rather common phenomena among dementia patients, the medical reasons for why it develops is unknown, and until more attention is given to this area, it will remain a mystery.

Treatment

Many paraphilias ⎯ sexual preferences towards atypical objects, activities, and situations that are unusual or outside the norm of sexual interests ⎯ may be normal aspects of one’s sex life. However, for some, paraphilias may become paraphilic disorders when they begin to cause distress to the individual or when the sexual satisfaction entails harm to oneself or others.

For those in which coprophilia becomes a paraphilic disorder or begins to interfere with their everyday life, there are treatment options available to address the problems it may cause. Psychopharmacologic therapy, as well as prescriptions for Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), have been prescribed to treat those negatively affected by coprophilia.1

Additionally, psychotherapy is often used in an effort to correct coprophilic behaviors in patients with moderate to mild dementia.1 

Concluding Remarks

Paraphilias may be defined as whenever an individual experiences intense sexual arousal from atypical situations, objects, individuals, or fantasies. Coprophilia is a paraphilia that involves sexual gratification or sexual arousal derived from the smell, the taste, the sight, or the defecation of feces. Although only practiced by a small portion of the population, those who find sexual gratification from activities involving feces may practice a variety of different behaviors to achieve sexual gratification. The practices involved with coprophilia may be risky, as it exposes individuals to the bacteria found in human waste, but there are safe ways to practice these activities, such as using a barrier or implementing only visual interaction with fecal matter. The most important element of every sexual encounter is the mutual consent of every participant involved. Partners should engage in effective communication before, during, and after any sexual activity.

References 

  1. “Coprophilia .” Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History . . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Feb. 2020 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>
  2. Tsoucalas, Gregory, et al. “Coprophilia-Faeces Lust in the Forms of Coprophagia, Coprospheres, Scatolia and Plastering in Dementia Patients, Our Thoughts and Experience.” International Journal of Psychological and Brain Sciences, vol. 1, no. 3, 29 Nov. 2016.
  3. Wang, Karen. “6 Facts About Fecal Smearing That You Need To Know – Friendship Circle — Special Needs Blog, 19 May 2015.
  4. “My Child Ate Poop.” Poop | Illinois Poison Center.

Last updated: 20 February 2020