Necrophilia refers to the sexual attraction towards corpses. The term comes from two Greek words; Nekros, meaning a corpse or cadaver, and Phileein, meaning love. It’s a kind of sexual perversion that has been present in almost every culture and across different historical periods.
Necrophilia is one of the eight “other specified paraphilic disorders” of the DSM-5. These disorders produce symptoms that lead to significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of life but don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for a paraphilic disorder.
The practice has been present throughout history. For instance, ancient Egyptians didn’t send the corpses of beautiful ladies immediately to embalmers and left them to decay for a few days. They feared the humiliation of the corpses at the hands of embalmers. A legend goes that Herod, the emperor of Judea, had sex with her wife for seven years after her demise. Even these days, it’s not uncommon to come across reports of such incidents from several parts of the world.
The Two Main Types
In 1989, Jonathan P. Rosman and Phillip J. Resnick came up with two types of necrophilia. The first one is referred to as “genuine necrophilia” involving a persistent sexual attraction towards corpses. The second is called “pseudo-necrophilia” which involves only a transient sexual attraction towards corpses instead of a perpetual or fixed erotic preference for them.
Genuine necrophilia is subdivided into three more types; homicidal necrophilia (murdering a living person to turn them into a corpse), regular necrophilia (use of existing corpses for sexual gratification), and necrophilic fantasies.
A New Classification of Necrophilia
In 2008, Anil Aggrawal published a paper titled “A new classification of necrophilia”. In the article, he described that at least ten types of necrophiliacs exist. A brief description of the ten types of necrophiles has been given in the following:
- Role Players
Necrophilic role players are probably the least pathological than the remaining other types. Role players don’t engage in sexual activity with a dead person. Instead, they make love with a person pretending to be dead. Some authors have also referred to the practice as simulated or symbolic necrophilia.
- Romantic Necrophiliacs
These necrophiles have mild necrophilic tendencies and can’t seem to reconcile with the idea that a loved one has died. Usually, they mummify the bodies of their loved ones and continue to relate to them sexually. This tendency is generally transient but can also involve a much longer time, even decades. Such necrophiles, in most cases, suffer from some other mental disorders and need psychiatric aid.
- Necrophilic Fantasizers
These individuals have necrophilic fantasies but they don’t act on them. They don’t engage in sexual activity with the dead ones but derive pleasure from thinking about having sex with corpses. The mere sight of a corpse is enough for them to give them erotic pleasure.
Sometimes, necrophilic fantasizers would have intercourse or masturbate in front of a coffin. The presence of a coffin during sexual intercourse enhances the quality of pleasure they derive from making love. These people can carry out all sorts of bizarre sexual acts in a cemetery or during funeral sermons.
- Tactile Necrophiles
These necrophiles need to touch the body parts of a corpse to get the desired erotic arousal. They usually stroke the body parts of the dead ones to reach an orgasm. Sometimes, they can even lick the genitals or breasts of the corpses. Medical students who get an erection while dissecting a cadaver also fall in this category.
These necrophiles can be sued in most jurisdictions since they disturb the corpse.
- Fetishistic Necrophiles or Necrofetishists
Fetishistic necrophiles usually cut up and then store a particular part of the dead for erotic stimulation. For example, they can cut up the penis or breasts of the dead body, and then preserve it as an amulet. In some instances, these people can remove the pubic hair of the dead body for sexual gratification.
- Necro Mutilators or Necromutilomaniacs
These people mutilate corpses to obtain erotic gratification, but they also don’t engage in copulatory activity with the dead bodies. They mutilate corpses and masturbate simultaneously. In severe cases of mutilation, they can eat parts of the dead body and derive erotic pleasure from the act.
- Opportunistic Necrophiles
These people are usually content with having sex with the living. However, they can indulge in intercourse with the dead if the opportunity arose.
There are instances of alcoholics, under the influence of alcohol, having killed their partners and indulging in sexual intercourse with their corpses.
Sometimes, jealousy can play a significant role in such cases of necrophilia. Aggrawal quotes the case of a man who killed his wife and had sex with her. The man revealed in his testimony that his wife had not consented to intercourse with him for many years. In addition, according to him, she had extramarital affairs with a man, and sometimes the two would become physical in front of him. The man had no record of any psychiatric illness. Aggraval concluded that both frustration and jealousy had played a role in the incident.
- Regular Necrophiles
This type of necrophile prefers sex with the dead even if they have the option to have sex with the living. They don’t pleasure from having sex with the living, even if choices are available to them.
People who steal dead bodies from mortuaries and graveyards fall under this category. A graveyard attendant who had sex with the dead because a dead body was easily available to him doesn’t fall under this category. However, if he preferred to have sex with the dead even when he had a chance to have intercourse with the living, he would also fall under this category.
Regular necrophiles can have intercourse with the living but it doesn’t change their preference.
- Homicidal Necrophiles
These necrophiles are perhaps the most dangerous of all. Homicidal necrophiles go to the extent that they kill living people to have intercourse with them. Such kinds of incidences are sometimes referred to as “warm necrophilia” because the sexual activity is performed on the fresh bodies of the dead.
Acts of homicidal necrophilia involve sadism and lust. A famous example is the case of the American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. He preserved the pieces of the bodies of his victims and was aroused by them. He was also believed to have been aroused by dead animals.
- Exclusive Necrophiles
Exclusive necrophiles are just unable to perform intercourse with the living and are only aroused by dead bodies. Since these people are unable to be aroused by the living, acquiring dead bodies to perform copulation seems to be an absolute necessity for them. Such a state of helplessness can sometimes make them the most dangerous of all because they can go to any length to seek a dead body.