Balloon fetishism is a fetish in which a person has an unusual fascination of, or pertaining to, balloons, which provides sexual arousal or stimulation. Many persons with this fetish casually refer to themselves as looners. The fetish itself varies greatly from person to person, some people enjoy only the act of inflation itself or viewing members of the opposite sex inflating balloons, while others enjoy the act of popping by various means, while yet others simply find stimulation in the color, clarity, smell, tactile sense, sound, and movement of the balloon itself. There are several known female balloon fetishists, however the vast majority is made up of men.
The life cycle of a balloon has four phases: inflation (blowing it up by some means), admiration (looking at it), interaction (touching, moving, watching), and destruction (deflation, popping, releasing). Any or all of these phases can constitute the primary interest of the balloon fetishist, while the remainder are simply complimentary. The practices of the fetishist falls into two distinct camps, poppers and non-poppers, and their foci are seen as drastically different.
The popper is primarily excited by the bursting of a balloon, both by the anticipation and the sensory experience of the explosion itself. The method by which the balloon is popped, however, can vary dramatically. Some persons enjoy blow-to-pop, in which the balloon is continually inflated until it ultimately bursts, and is commonly most fully enjoyed when executed by a partner or member of the sex to which the popper is attracted. Some persons enjoy viewing various forms of erotic popping by means of objects such as cigarettes and pins, in addition to more physically involved and sexually stimulating methods such as sitting, hugging, squeezing, stomping, clawing, etc. In all these cases the popper's primary interest is in building anticipation and the sexual tension of bursting at any time.
The non-popper, on the other hand, dislikes (often vehemently) destroying the balloon but instead chooses to admire and interact with it. This type of looner is far more varied and individualistic in their preferred interaction. Practices can range from simply blowing up and holding balloons for pleasure, to watching other persons interact with balloons, to placing the balloon under you genitals and bouncing on it, known as boinking or riding. A popular sub-group of non-poppers includes persons who enjoy stuffing, an act in which baggy clothing is worn and balloons are blown up inside the clothing as a way to maximize the tactile sensation of contact with the object in addition to the sense of being overcome by the object.
The only clear area of similarity in the practices of both these groups is the general preference to involve a sexual partner into their preferred activity, either as an observer or as an active participant. Often, with a partner, a sexual event that involves balloons becomes secondary to the act of sex itself and simply foreplay.
Balloon fetishism is related to a great variety of other fetishes, including Breast fetishism (due to the shape and feel that balloons and breasts share), Shoe fetishism (generally by persons who enjoy seeing balloons stomped on), Breast expansion fetish and Inflation fetishism (due to inflation, growth etc.), Macrophilia (for people who prefer huge balloons), Smoking fetishism (generally by people who enjoy seeing balloons popped by cigarettes), and many more. Each looner is unique and therefore may have many other related fetishes or none at all. The only commonality among the vocal community of balloon fetishes in this reguard is that balloon fetishism is the focal point and all other fetishes simply enhance their primary interest.
Fetishes involving inflated objects are closely related to balloon fetishism, particularly that of inflatable animals (animal shaped PVC inflatables) and pool toys, such as beach balls and swim rings. However, it is far more common for a balloon fetishists to enjoy PVC inflatables than the reverse. To a lesser degree, some balloon fetishists are excited by watching women blowing bubbles with bubble gum.
Balloon fetishism seemingly exploded in popularity with the proliferation of the internet, not because fetishists discovered the interest, but because they found that they weren't alone. In particular the group Balloon Buddies, a pen-pal club for balloon fetishists started in 1976, came online in 1994, bringing hundreds of people together in an open forum. Many balloon fetishists feel very uncomfortable and un-masculine because of their preoccupation with balloons, making online forums such as Balloon Buddies a place for people to come to terms with and eventually accept their interest.
In the late 90's several US based websites appeared catering specifically to balloon fetishists, most of which exist to this day. Because the sites cater to sexual fetishism these sites are considered pornographic in nature, however several sites offer no nude content at all, while others offer only minimal amounts of nudity, typically clearly deliniated on the given site. Sites typically are populated with images, videos and stories of women; however male sites, typically directed at gay looners exist.
In addition to websites and communities, several stores dedicated to serving the needs of balloon fetishists appeared in the late 90's. Balloon fetishists tend to be very specific about exactly which shapes, colors, and brands of ballons they enjoy. Many are so specific in their preferences that only specific qualities of a balloon are capable of exciting them. Brands such as Qualatex are the most commonly prefered because of their strength and quality. Not only are looners specific about what they buy, but larger sized balloons (16", 24", 36", and beyond) are popular but very hard to find in a conventional party shop. Additionally, these onlines stores typically guarantee anonymity; for many looners, going into a party shop is like going into an adult store and can be nerve racking.
Despite balloons generally being used for children's play or decoration, balloon fetishism is not related to pedophilia. Instead it is typically these two innocent and common uses that sparks the fetish that only becomes apparent after sexual maturity. These instances are common and consistent with the findings of Sigmund Freud who believed that fetishes were commonly the result of childhood trauma. Further evidence of this is commonly seen on popular balloon fetishism forums and mailing lists as new members retell their stories and unlock parts of their past to understand and explore their own interest.
- Balloon Buddies: The oldest and most widely known group of Balloon Fetishists
- Balloon Lovers Corner: Specialty Store Catering to Balloon Fetishists
- #Balloons: A community resource site
- Nerve.com Balloon Fetish
- Deviant Desires: Balloon Fetish
- Balloon Fetishism FAQ - A Psychoanalysis Version
- Technical Study with Comunity and Psychoanalysis
- A comprehensive list of commercial balloon fetish sitesde:Looner