Necrophilia: paraphilias that go to the limit

Necrophilia describes a paraphilia where an individual feels arousal or attraction towards fantasies or the potential direct sexual contact with the deceased. Experts and lawmakers consider the explicit practice of necrophilia as non-consensual due to the deceased’s inability to provide consent. While relatively rare, necrophilia has occurred worldwide for centuries.

Also known as “Thanatophilia” or “Necrolagnia,” necrophilia is a disorder characterized by sexual attraction to corpses. It involves a pathological fascination with human bodies, often manifesting as a desire to engage in sexual activities with them. It is a punishable offense in many countries, with penalties including imprisonment or fines.

To be diagnosed as a necrophile, one must experience intense and recurrent impulses or fantasies involving sexual contact with a corpse for at least six months. According to the DSM-V, the manual used by health professionals to diagnose mental and behavioral disorders, these feelings must significantly disturb the person’s behavior or cause substantial distress. Necrophiles are primarily heterosexual males aged between 20 and 50, though cases involving homosexual individuals and women have also been documented.

In 1989, Jonathan Rosman and Philip Resnick categorized necrophilia into three types based on the necrophiles’ actions:

  1. Homicidal Necrophilia: The individual kills to obtain a corpse for sexual gratification.
  2. Regular Necrophilia: The necrophile uses already deceased bodies for sexual pleasure.
  3. Necrophilic Fantasizers: These individuals fantasize about sexual activity with corpses without committing any necrophilic acts.

Current Classification of Necrophilic Behaviors

Role Players: These individuals enjoy a type of role-playing where they do not have sex with a corpse but obtain intense arousal from sexual activity with a living person pretending to be dead.

Romantic Necrophiles: These individuals show very mild necrophilic tendencies. They are typically grieving people who cannot accept the death of a loved one. They may mummify the deceased body or parts of it and continue to engage sexually as if the person were still alive. Their psychopathology is usually transient, and they generally recover over time.

Necrophilic Fantasizers: These necrophiles do not engage in sexual relations with the dead. They are content with merely fantasizing about such activities, often visiting cemeteries and funeral homes for arousal from mere sight of corpses.

Tactile Necrophiles: They enjoy touching and caressing parts of a dead body, such as the genitals or breasts, and may seek employment in morgues or other death-related fields to be near corpses.

Fetishistic Necrophiles: These individuals do not engage in copulatory activities with the dead but may cut off parts of the body for later fetishistic activities if they find a corpse and have the opportunity. They might keep a piece of the body (like pubic hair or a finger) for ongoing erotic stimulation or wear it as a talisman.

Necromutilomaniacs: These necrophiles derive erotic pleasure from mutilating the corpse and masturbating simultaneously. In some cases, the offender might consume parts of the corpse as part of sexual gratification.

Opportunistic Necrophiles: They usually have sex with the living and would not typically consider necrophilia, but would engage in it if the opportunity arose.

Regular Necrophiles: They do not enjoy sexual relations with the living and would seek out a corpse for sexual engagement, as they derive more pleasure from dead bodies. Regular necrophiles might occasionally have sex with the living but prefer the dead.

Homicidal Necrophiles: This is the most dangerous category. They need to engage in sex with a corpse to the extent that they resort to murder. Also known as violent necrophiles or “lagnonectors” (people who kill to have sex with the corpse), this practice is sometimes referred to as “necrohomicide.” The term “warm necrophilia” may apply here, as intercourse is attempted with freshly deceased bodies.

Exclusive Necrophiles: Perhaps the rarest group, these offenders exclusively need corpses for sexual activity and are unable to maintain relations with the living. They might do anything to acquire a corpse for this purpose.

What May Causes Necrophilia?

The desire to engage in sexual relations with deceased individuals may arise from an intense fear of interacting with potential living partners. Necrophiles may see corpses as emotionally or physically non-threatening, thus providing an easier outlet for attraction, acts, and sexual expression. Some necrophiles might be drawn to the fact that corpses cannot reject, disagree, manipulate, or abuse them. This observation raises the question of whether a corpse can truly give consent. They might also enjoy the sensation of having complete control. Often, the aspect of non-consensual sex is what most attracts the individual; a person has essentially become an object existing solely for the other’s pleasure, making it an extreme form of objectification.

Necrophiles who act on their desires sometimes suffer from a lack of sexual inhibitions, an inability to recognize social boundaries, or a general lack of remorse for the consequences of their actions. Certain psychological conditions, such as psychopathy or sociopathy, include an inability to experience feelings of empathy. Necrophiles who kill to obtain corpses (or who mutilate or consume the corpses after engaging in sexual activities) are more likely to suffer from these conditions.

Aggrawal, A. (2016). A new classification of necrophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16(6), 316–320.