Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Necrophilia (or thanatophilia and necrolagnia) describes a sexual attraction to corpses and was first used by von Krafft-Ebing (1886). Krafft-Ebing suggested the attraction was to the human form absolutely devoid of will, incapable of giving resistance. He also cited the case of an individual who required a prostitute to be made up to mimic a corpse and laid out on a bier, and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some brothels included this among their specialties. From antiquity necrophilia was practiced as a spiritual means of communicating with the dead.

The practice was thought by some to be prevalent among the embalmers of ancient Egypt to such a degree that the bodies of high-born women were not embalmed immediately after death but allowed to become slightly putrid as a deterrent. Necrophilia was also known to be part of ancient funereal customs.

Currently there is little research regarding the prevalence of necrophilic attraction among humans despite the amount of attention it receives in contemporary culture. It was alleged former TV presenter Jimmy Savile posed with bodies in lewd positions and stole glass eyes from cadavers to make jewellery, over two decades at the mortuary of Leeds general infirmary. It was also believed Savile claimed to have performed sex acts including oral sex on bodies at Broadmoor. Savile was said to have been best friends with the chief mortician of Leeds general infirmary, who is now dead, and had regular unsupervised access to the mortuary from the late 70s until the mid-90s.

Necrophilia is condemned in almost all societies but there are some vocal advocates for the legalization of necrophilic acts. Psychologist/philosopher, Erich Fromm believed the lack of love in modern western society with its icons of weapons and technology; and the attraction to mechanistic control of the individual in society led to a rise in necrophilia in all its forms. According to Love (1995) some necrophiliacs have been reported to eat toenail cuttings of the deceased.

Fromm E. 1964 The Heart of Man Harper and Row.
Fromm E 1970 The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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