OBJECTS OF DESIRE: NECROEROTICISM IN MAINSTREAM PORNOGRAPHY
by Erica L. Wright, M.F.S.
This page provides supplemental and explanatory material to my chapter, “Objects of Desire: Necroeroticism in Mainstream Pornography,” as published by Cognella in Understanding Necrophilia: A Global Multidisciplinary Approach (2016); edited by L. Mellor, A. Aggrawal, & E.W. Hickey.
My research regarding this topic is strictly non-profit, and the images provided on this website are provided for educational purposes only in compliance with Fair Use Act guidelines. All images displayed here belong to their respective owners. When noted, some images will be modified to remove unnecessarily explicit content. Be advised, the subject matter and images discussed are intended for readers 18 and over.
In “Objects of Desire,” I examine the prevalence of necrophilia and related paraphilias (pygmalionism, somnophilia, partialism, erotophonophilia, picquerism, anthrophagy, and vampirism) in the mainstream pornographic magazines Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler. Please consult the full chapter for a detailed discussion of these paraphilias and an explanation of research methodology. While my chapter within Understanding Necrophilia provides descriptive statistic and longitudinal data, years of experience giving lectures in classrooms and at academic symposia taught me that statistical information alone does not feel “real” to a majority of attendees. Many who reviewed this data (and the data from the larger project from which “Objects of Desire” was derived) simply did not believe that these “innoccuous” adult magazines historically featured such taboo content. Therefore, presenting select examples is helpful in dispelling any confusion and misunderstanding. Unfortunately, as it was not possible to reprint these images in Understanding Necrophilia, hence I am providing a few select examples here.
Necroerotic Images in Playboy
Playboy‘s images were the least explicit of the three magazines coded. Below, a surrealist photograph by Shig Ikeda depicting a woman merged with a broken mannequin alludes to Pygmalionist fantasy.
The nude pictorial “The Merry Mortician,” eroticized the occupation of model Alexandra Mosca, while the accompanying article made more overt references to necrophilia.
When Playboy depicted nonconsent and other forms of criminal sexuality, it was most often in the form of cartoons. Below, a man has intercourse with a sleeping woman (somnophilia), a passive partner unable to give consent.
Necroerotic Images in Penthouse
Penthouse was more varied in the paraphilias depicted and in the degree of violence implied. For example, a nude pictorial (below, left) featured mild picquerism in the context of a consensual sexual encounter, whereas a cartoon in the same issue (below, right) implies lethal picquerism and sexual homicide. Like Playboy, Penthouse typically reserved the most violent and taboo themes for cartoons.
Necroerotic Images in Hustler
Of the three magazines, Hustler had the highest percentage of necroerotic and outright necrophilic depictions. It is not unusual to see multiple paraphilias referenced in the same image, often with racist stereotypes thrown in for good measure. The cartoon below is captioned, “I figured, what the hell–get a few extra bucks out of the ‘ho!'”
In contrast to the stereotype of black men as pimps and criminals, Hustler often depicted white men as so sexually and socially inadequate as to require intercourse with sex dolls, unconscious women, corpses, and other substitutes for a consenting partner. In this cartoon below combines necrophilia and partialism to depict the male character’s “ideal” partner. In the caption he exclaims, “Gosh, Lorraine…I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to finally meet a woman I can really get along with!”
This partialist and necrofetishist cartoon below calls to mind correlations between serial killing and big game hunting. Both activities are associated with trophy-taking, which can include keeping body parts. In the caption, one character comments, “Thanks Jerry. They”ll go great with my Attica trophies.” One must note that the male victims retain some semblance of individuality, whereas the female victims are reduced to faceless, sexualized body parts.
Hustler differed significantly from Playboy and Penthouse in that the magazine did not relegate its most violent subject matter to cartoons. It was not unusual for such depictions to appear on the covers and pictorials of the magazine. Perhaps the most infamous example is this gorenographic cover image (June 1978) of a woman’s nude corpse ground up as meat.
Hustler didn’t limit such depictions of violence to stylized, simulated imagery such as that above. On at least one occasion, Hustler published nude photos of female corpses. I added the black bars on the images in an attempt to be respectful to the victims and their loved ones. Hustler provided no censorship of these photographs of victims Lauren Wagner and Yolanda Washington, nor of the postmortem photos of Jane King and Kimberly Martin (not included here).
The accompanying article by Jamie Schram is standard true crime journalism, and seems to focus more on the sexual perversions of the murderers than inviting empathy toward the victims. The inclusion of such postmortem photographs in a pornographic magazine perpetuates the victimization of these women beyond their deaths.