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Necrophilia according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is a paraphilia characterized by a sexual attraction to corpses. The word derives from Ancient Greek: νεκρός (nekros; "corpse," or "dead") + φιλία (philia; "love").
Figuratively, the term "necrophilia" describes an inordinate desire to control another person, usually in the context of a romantic or interpersonal relationship; the accusation is that the person is so interpersonally controlling as to be better-suited to relationships with nonresponsive people.
Carl Tanzler was a radiologist in Key West, Florida who developed a morbid obsession for Elena Milagro Hoyos (1910-1931). She was one of his patients, and she died from tuberculosis in 1931 at the hospital. With her parents' permission he had an above ground mausoleum built for her, so she wouldn't decompose underground. He visited the tomb every night and by 1933 he had taken the body home with him and kept it in his bed. He restored her body as best he could and kept a full wardrobe to dress her.
Necrophilia has also been a motive for some serial killers, including murderers Ed Gein, Richard Chase, Winston Moseley, Bruno Ludke, and Jeffrey Dahmer, who ate his victims after killing them. Several other murderers have described drawing sexual excitement from killing, as well, such as Karla Faye Tucker, who claimed to have an orgasm with each swing of the axe she used to kill Jerry Lynn Dean. The guilty-plea testimony provided by the recently captured (2005) serial killer Dennis Rader provided a rare public glimpse into the workings of such a controlling mind.
A sexual act with a corpse is generally considered socially unacceptable; the presumption being that the person would not have consented to the act while alive, it amounts to the rape of a dead person. Virtually all human societies condemn abuse of the dead as a form of symbolic disrespect. In rare cases, however, necrophiliac acts can be consensual: for example, in the Armin Meiwes case, the victim gave his consent to the mutilation and death inflicted upon him.
Necrophilia in neo-psychoanalysis
In the analytic social psychology of Erich Fromm necrophilia is a character orientation which shows an increasing tendency toward destructiveness. Used in a non-sexual sense Erich Fromm understood necrophilia as an everyday behavior which is not an expression of a biologically fixated death instinct, but the consequence of a life without being really alive. For Erich Fromm necrophilia is the opposite of biophilia. The lack of love in the western society leads to necrophilia. Symbols of the necrophile are facades made of concrete and steel, modern weapon systems, the idolatry of the technology of the megamachine (technophilia), the wasting of resources in consumerism and the treatment of people as things in bureaucratism.
Necrophilia in the arts
- In the Greek legend of the Trojan War, the Greek hero Achilles slays the Amazon queen Penthesilea in a duel. Upon removing her helmet and seeing her face, Achilles falls in love with her and mourns her death. The soldier Thersites openly ridicules Achilles and accuses him of necrophilia. Achilles responds by promptly killing Thersites with a single blow. (In some traditions, Thersites' accusation is not unfounded--Achilles was so stricken by Panthesilea's beauty that he could not control his lust for her, even after her death.)
- Edgar Allen Poe once described the death of a beautiful young woman to be one of the most beautiful images. (By this, he was not saying that it is a good thing for young women to die; to him melancholy and pain were sources of beauty.) Also, his poem Annabel Lee includes, towards the end, a necrophilic theme.
- Algernon Swinburne wrote a frankly necrophilic poem, The Leper, in which a man keeps the body of his former lover in his house:
- Love bites and stings me through, to see
- Her keen face made of sunken bones.
- Her worn-off eyelids madden me,
- That were shot through with purple once.
- William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily revolves around a debutante's necrophilia.
- The 1996 Canadian film Kissed, starring Molly Parker, deals heavily with necrophilia.
- The controversial German film Nekromantik offers a graphic portrayal of sexual necrophilia.
Several rock artists also focus on the connection between romantic love and death, despair, and the occult:
- In the 1970s, shock rocker Alice Cooper recorded a couple of songs about necrophilia, "I Love the Dead", and "Cold Ethyl".
- In Europe, a notable example is HIM.
- American industrial rock band Stabbing Westward has many songs dealing with despair, drug abuse, sexual abuse, death, and romantic love, often in conjunction.
- Horror punk band The Misfits wrote a song called "Last Caress" which includes the lines "Sweet lovely death/ I am waiting for your breath/ Come Sweet Death, One Last Caress"
- Horror punk band Murderdolls, led by Wednesday 13, has created a life style out of singing about necrophilia and sexual acts with the dead.
- Punk rock band TSOL had a minor hit with "Code Blue", a song that justifies necrophilia by claiming (among other things) that the singer can, "Do what I want and [she] won't complain."
- The Rockabilly subgenre of Psychobilly is full of bands who sing of necrophilia as a main staple of their music.
- In 1980 artist John Duncan reportedly purchased a body and taped his sex act with it. Blind Date essay
- In the 1980s and 1990s, necrophilia emerged in the heavy metal sub-genres of death metal, black metal and goregrind.
- In 1993, a music video for Tom Petty's hit song "Mary Jane's Last Dance" featured the singer simulating various romantic poses with a dead woman (played by Kim Basinger).
- In the 1994 film Clerks, a girl mistakenly has sex with a dead man in a convenience store bathroom.
- In 2000 Comedian Stephen Lynch released a song called A Month Dead about a necrophiliac who's lover is beginning to smell on his only studio album to date entitled A Little Bit Special.
- In 2003 the Colorado based humor-horror punk band Crackula recorded a song entitled "NecroFeelin'" about a necrophilic love affair.
- British Grindcore band 'Raging Speedhorn' wrote a song called 'Necrophiliac glue-sniffer'.
- Almost every song written by the death metal band, cannibal corpse involves necrophilia.
An extension of the emotional connection between love and death is love for a person, which remains after death. Some ghost stories focus on a deceased person's undying love for a living individual, manifest literally in the form of a palpable ghost or poltergeist. While it is considered a romantic image for a person to die "in the arms" of a lover, sexual activity with the dead is usually considered taboo, but has appeared in recent film and music.
Resurrection erotica is a set of artistic sub-genres wherein a person is brought back from a nonresponsive state (death, or a coma) by an expression, sometimes graphically physical, of romantic or sexual love. An example of this in fairy tale is the Sleeping Beauty parable.
Necrophilia appears to be common in animals, with a number of confirmed observations. Kees Moeliker made one of these observations while he was sitting in his office at the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam, when he heard the distinctive thud of a bird hitting the glass facade of the building. Upon inspection, he discovered a drake mallard lying dead about two meters from the building. Next to the downed bird there was a second drake mallard standing close by. As he observed the odd couple, the living drake picked at the corpse of the dead one for a few minutes and then, without provocation, it mounted the corpse and began copulating with it. The act of necrophilia lasted for about 75 minutes, in which time, according to Moeliker, the living drake took two short breaks before resuming with copulating behavior. Moeliker surmised that at the time of the collision with the window the two mallards were engaged in a common motif in duck behavior which is called rape flight. "When one died the other one just went for it and didn't get any negative feedback -- well, didn't get any feedback," according to Moeliker. This is the first recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the Mallard duck.
Source: Guardian, Research News, 2/8/05, Donald MacLeod. "Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers".
NOTE: There is currently no scientific research to support the assumptions made by Mr. Moeliker
In popular culture
Satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer, whose 1950s recordings mentioned many topics not normally openly discussed in those days, referenced a friend of his who "wrote a heartwarming story about a young necrophiliac who finally achieved his lifelong ambition by becoming Coroner!" Lehrer gave the audience a few seconds to murmur in bewilderment, and then said, "The rest of you can look it up when you get home!"
The 1985 film Brazil by Terry Gilliam has a reference toward the end of the story.
In 1996, a Russian band called Sexual Minorities ("Сексуальные меньшинства" in Russian) released the album titled Necrophilia - The Cold Ten (in Russian, "Некрофилия - Холодная Десятка"), which contained parodies of Russian pop-songs.
In 2002, World Wrestling Entertainment ran the infamous Katie Vick storyline as part of a feud between Triple H and Kane. In the storyline, Triple H accused Kane of killing Katie Vick, who had rejected Kane's romantic advances, and raping her corpse. Triple H also threatened to show footage of Kane's "crimes." Later, he showed the alleged footage, which cleverly showed Triple H dressed as Kane simulating an act of necrophilia on a mannequin dressed as Vick. The reaction from viewers and wrestling fans alike was so negative that WWE was forced to quickly end the storyline.
Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen mention necrophilia in their song Formidable Marinade on the album Journey through the Sea of Shadows
Also, some T-shirts have "Necrophilia: the overwhelming urge to crack open a cold one" written on them.
In Christopher Moore's novel, Bloodsucking Fiends, when the police find the vampire Jody in Tommy's freezer they think it's a dead body he's hiding so they send her to the morgue where the man working there is a necrophiliac and nearly molests her before she wakes up, giving him a heart attack that leads to his death. (She tucks his erection away so when he's found no one will suspect his dirty secret.)
- Necrophilia as a sexual term
- UK law against sexual penetration of a corpse
- Necrophilia and September 11
- Guardian story: Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers
- Guardian story: Randy rock doves join party with the dead
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