The most taboo kink out there
If you were to ask the average person to describe a necrophile, they would probably conjure up some image of a creepy, lonely old man who works the night shifts at a morgue or funeral home. Funeral home workers, morticians, and embalmers are often easy targets for these misconstrued conceptions of necrophiles. But how prevalent really is this claim?
As a thanatology student, without stating that this assumption is impossible, I can assure you that it certainly is not very likely. For one, the idea that an individual would dedicate years of their life to toiling studies just to have easy access to corpses is absolutely absurd. Not to mention the heavy focus on the myriad pathogens, viruses, infections, and diseases one can trap if the proper safety precautions are not upheld ( i.e.: having sex with them ).
Yet, since Necrophilia is so utterly taboo and not often discussed, common stereotypes and misconceptions are inevitably created and upheld. For one, did you know that not all necrophiles are men? In fact, one of the most well-known cases of necrophilia was committed by a woman named Karen Greenlee.
Since it is possibly the most taboo sexual kink out there, the topic of necrophilia is clearly not for everyone. However, if necrophilia doesn’t spark your interest, don’t shy away just yet. There always are benefits from educational exposure to taboo subject matters and crushing common misconceptions. Perhaps you can even impress some of your friends and family with some necro-trivia at your next social gathering or family dinner!
Thankfully, with the wealth of knowledge I have access to as a student along with my curiosity for all things grim, I'm happy to say that I'm the woman for the job!
What we know
Necrophilia is defined as sexual intercourse or sexual attraction towards corpses. In the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), necrophilia is categorized as a paraphilia disorder not otherwise specified. Meaning that, rather than having its own category in the manual, it is a disorder that is grouped together with other abnormal sexual inclinations. This is due to the scarcity of data and research done on the topic.
Other sexual deviations such as pedophilia, sadism, and voyeurism fall into their own pre-existing categories due to the frequency of occurrences. This regularity, in turn, allows for extensive research and analysis of several case studies. Necrophilia, on the other hand, is extremely rare in terms of case studies. There is a general consensus that true necrophiles are not a very common breed. However, this conclusion is merely presumed on the basis that such little evidence exists, and, in fact, cases of undetected necrophilia may be much more frequent than expected.
The term necrophilia, from the Ancient Greek necro- (dead) and -philia (love), was first coined by Belgian physician Joseph Guislain in 1850. Yet historical evidence suggests that the act of having sex with the dead goes as far back as Ancient Egyptian times.
In 1989, two psychiatrists, Rosman and Resnick attempted to categorize the perversion of necrophilia into two distinct subgroups. These subgroups were categorized as either genuine necrophilia or pseudo-necrophilia, with the latter focusing primarily on fantasy and role-playing. More recently, Dr. Anil Aggrawal, a professor of forensic medicine, has put forth a ten-class-tier system that is generally accepted throughout the academic scope when analyzing necrophilia in a psycho-clinical setting.
This tier system ranges from fantasy to action, with some deviations in between. The titles of each classification are quite self-explanatory and are as follows:
Where does the stigma stem from?
Today, most outlandish sexual kinks are generally tolerated on the condition that both parties are consenting. The aspect of consent (or in this case, the lack thereof) is the primary factor in determining whether sexual relations are considered socially acceptable or not.
Regarding "corpse love", some may diminish the severity of the act by arguing that necrophilia is a victimless crime with their argument being that technically there is no consent to be obtained. The corpse in question, being no longer an animated being, cannot give its consent, and therefore technically evades the definition of being considered a “victim.” However, the emotional distress and trauma of the act would undoubtedly be experienced by the loved ones of the defiled deceased. The relatives affected by the heinous crime would thus ultimately be rendered the victims.
When examining the issue of dignity and respect towards the dead, the topic opens the door to a plethora of questions regarding morality. Since these are abstract concepts created by societal standards, the practices of ethical behavior can vary from person to person. However, for most of us, being mindful in the presence of death is a rather natural and instinctual behavior. But what does treating the dead with dignity actually mean?
As a thanatology student, I can confirm that proper ethical behavior is the most crucial value to uphold in any funeral industry. Since day one we have been drilled with the notion that we must AT ALL TIMES be respectful when in the presence of a dead body. Every student is required to sign a contract agreeing to follow certain standards. Covering the face and genitals of the deceased, positioning the body in a respectful manner and no swearing in the laboratory are just a few examples of the conscious efforts we make in order to maintain this sense of death dignity.
Respecting a body is essentially demonstrating a sense of respect towards the bereaved relatives as well as respecting the person that no longer is. In terms of taboo, one reason why necrophilia is so frowned upon is because of the sour taste we are left with when thinking of someone stripping the dignity off of what was once a person worthy of respect and love.
Why would someone want to have sex with a corpse?
Since most people share a common aversion to death, it is not farfetched to assume that necrophilia is not the most popular kink out there. But why is this aversion so prevalent?
General outlooks on death vary depending on which part of the world you live in. Religious and cultural customs within a specific society tend to dictate consensual sentiments towards death. Yet, for the most part, most individuals tend to greatly fear death and its associations with the macabre. These feelings are often explained in relation to the awareness of one’s own mortality. A focus on mortality often induces death anxiety, or thanatophobia, a common psychological conditional that is characterized by one’s own preoccupation and dread of death and dying.
In terms of psychology, thanatophobia can be interpreted as one explanation to our rejection of death. Another more innate reason to explain this revulsion can be analyzed in terms of our natural and biological aversion to decomposition.
When an organism dies, the proteins in the body decompose into several different molecules, namely cadaverine and putrescine. These two molecules, as their names imply, create an extremely unpleasant odor. This horrid stench has naturally evolved as such in order to repulse us from dead bodies. Why? Simply to avert us from pathogens. A decomposing body is the perfect bed-and-breakfast for microorganisms to flourish. If we were to ingest these pathogens, the outcome could be fatal. Therefore, biology has made it so that we are physically repulsed by the putrid aroma of death.
Interestingly enough, necrophilia has also been observed in certain mammals, birds, reptiles, and frogs. And while non-reproductive sexual behaviors amongst animals are quite common, the reasons behind these necrophilic tendencies aren't entirely clear as of now. Though there have been some hypotheses ranging from it being an act of mourning to unfortunate accidents where animals died in copulatory positions, tricking other animals into mating with them.
So why are some people still attracted to it?
If we are biologically wired to be repulsed by death, where does the sexual attraction stem from? Well, there is no simple answer to this question. The human psyche, especially when it comes to sexual paraphilia, is extremely complex. Early childhood experiences, past traumas and other factors related to upbringing may have an influence on what one, as an adult, is sexually aroused by.
An infamous example of necrophilia is the case of Jeffrey Dahmer. Dahmer was a serial killer found guilty of several lustful murders, many of which included the ultimate result of necrophilic relations. From an early age, Dahmer had acquired an interest in animals. His curiosity soon developed into a fascination as to what was on the inside of these animals. Unlike most serial killers, Dahmer had no desire to inflict harm on the creatures. Rather, he would collect road kill from around the neighborhood and proceed to dissect them in the woodsy area behind his family home.
In an interview with Lionel Dahmer, Jeffery’s father, Lionel theorizes that it was most likely the unfortunate combination of time and action that was responsible for his son’s perversion. In other words, the fact that Jeffery was dissecting animals during the commencement of puberty, the most influential time in one’s sexual development, was what would cause him to associate sex with death. The penetration of the blade, the warmth of the viscera and the complete submissivity of the carcass could have very likely triggered his future necrophilic desires.
Most necrophiles aren’t even attracted to corpses
As previously mentioned, our psychological and biological instincts dictate our natural aversion to death. When it comes to necrophilia, it isn’t surprising that the sexual attraction to corpses or decaying bodies is actually extremely rare. Rather, the majority of necrophiles are attracted to peripheral factors surrounding the fact that their partner is dead.
In fact, only a measly 15% of necrophiles are actually sexually attracted to dead bodies. The most common motive behind this morbid attraction is the desire to obtain an unresisting and unrejecting partner (a whopping 68% of necrophiles). Other slightly less common motives include an assortment of sentiments such as asserting dominance, a desire to reunite with a romantic partner or simply due to loneliness and isolation.  The appeal of these secondary psychological factors is critical in understanding the reasoning and idealizations behind this peculiar fetish.
The more you know
Necrophilia, albeit a morbid and uncomfortable topic of discussion, is, unfortunately, the reality of certain people’s sexual desires. Despite not having its own category in the DSM-5, necrophilia is a very legitimate paraphilia worthy of being assessed. It is not a kink to be dismissed.
Attempting to understand the psychology behind this fetish may be a difficult path to embark on. However, it is a much better approach than denying its existence altogether. The world we live in is composed of an array of individuals who experience and perceive life differently. Our individuality is what makes us unique. Without promoting necrophilia, acquiring general knowledge on the topic may aid in better understanding of why people indulge in this grim practice. Instead of cowering away from the topic, one should always question, interpret and learn.
In the end, knowledge is worth more than censorship. And like they say in French: "Il faut de tout pour faire un monde." ( It takes a bit of everything to make a world ).