The internet went into an uproar last week over reports of a man who’d been stung to death after attempting to “have sex with a hornets nest.” The story, which claimed that a man from the town of Ystad, Sweden, had died after receiving 146 hornet stings, including 54 to his genitals, turned out to be a hoax.
But the use of stings for sexual purposes is no hoax. The Kama Sutra, an sacred Indian text on the erotic arts believed to have been written sometime between AD 101 and 200 by VÃ„ÂtsyÃ„Âyana, describes the use of stings as a means to enlarge the penis. The text, translated by Alain Danielou, reads:
Take shuka hairs — the shuka is an insect that lives in trees — mix them with oil and rub the penis with it for ten nights, take it off then put it on again. When a swelling appears, sleep face downward on a wooden bed, letting one’s sex hang through a hole.
The 12th century Jayamangala commentary on the Kama Sutra, written by Yashodhara adds: “Other creatures that live in trees are not suitable. Kill the shuka before using its hairs. Take hold of the insect with small pincers and rub it on the sides of the penis. The hairs become detached, torn out by the rubbing. They must then be spread by massaging with oil. This causes swelling. When the swelling is sufficient, let the penis hang through a hole in the bedboard so that it gets longer.”
According to Mark D. Griffiths, a professor at Nottingham Trent University who has done extensive research into the psychology of sexual behavior, the shuka is a type of wasp and its “hair” is, in fact, its stinger.
But penis enlargment isn’t the only reason people seek out stings. “Another paraphilia that has been conceptualized as a sub-type of zoophilia is that of formicophilia (i.e., being sexually aroused by insects crawling and/or nibbling on the individualÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s genitals),” he writes, adding:
To date, only two academic papers have been published directly concerning formicophilia. Both of these papers were published in the 1980s by Ratnin Dewaraja (who at the time was at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka). The first paper (co-written with renowned paraphilic expert Professor John Money) [Transcultural sexology: Formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male (1986)] was published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. It was in this paper that formicophilia was defined as paraphilia where the focus of sexual arousal is on small creatures, such as “snails, frogs, ants, or other insects creeping, crawling or nibbling on the body, especially the genitalia, perianal area or nipples.”
Bee stings were once used as a folk remedy for arthritis sufferers. The insects were captured and held on the affected joint until they stung. The poison and the swelling it caused alleviated much of the pain in their joints. One male, having observed his grandparents use bees for this purpose, and later having a female friend throw a bee on his genitals as a joke, discovered that the sting on his penis extended the duration and intensity of his orgasm.
Realizing that the bee sting was almost painless, he developed his own procedure, which consisted of catching two bees in a jar, and shaking it to make the bees dizzy to prevent their flying away. They were then grabbed by both wings so that they were unable to twist around and sting. Each bee was placed each side of the glans [the head of the penis] and pushed to encourage it to sting. (Stings to the glans do not produce the desired swelling and the venom sac tends to penetrate the skin too deeply, causing difficulty in removing them) … Stings on the penis, unlike other areas, resemble the bite of a mosquito … The circumference of the manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s penis increased from 6.5 inches to 9.5 inches. Swelling is greatest on the second day.
Formicophilia, which is more commonly known as entophilia, is a thing. You can take my word for it or do a Google image search. It’s up to you. Actually, scratch that. Tumblr definitely has the upper hand when it comes to imagery (need I mention that either one of these options is totally, utterly unsafe for work?).
If you want to get really specific with your searches, spheksophilia is the arousal derived from interactions with wasps (which include hornets) and melissophilia is arousal derived from bees. You’re welcome.
Header image by Becky Maldonado. We found it searching “hornet” on Flickr, which is a lot like copying from whoever is nearest to you during a test. Luckily, Alex Wild, an entomologist and Scientific American blogger, has us covered: the picture we used is actually that of a hover fly. See, we teach you something and you teach us something right back. Isn’t the internet great?