By Jaye Blumenthal
In many ways, "The V-Board"* is your typical Internet message board, with visitors swapping stories, cheering one another on, offering moral support, jokes, and encouragement. But if youre not one of them, the stories here may turn your stomach -- quite literally. What visitors here share is a fetish often considered the "last closet" -- emetophilia, or vomit fantasy.
Of course, as kids, we were all fascinated by barf, puke, urp -- insert whatever regional name you enjoy most here. The big surprise is that many adults are still fascinated and that theyve taken that fascination to the next level -- into the realm of sexuality.
But is it a true sexual fetish? Some insist their interest is strictly juvenile as expressed by the millions of "puking frat boy" sites around the Internet and condemn others who take it to a sexual level. Griot.nets "Coughed up/Spit out Forum," for instance, insists that it is not a fetish forum, and posters here sound, for the most part, like a flock of giggly girls. One woman says, "I wouldn't call my interest a fetish... I just like calling it a interest... a very WEIRD interest."
Yet, in most cases, posters come back again and again, sharing vomit stories until it becomes clear that (though it may occupy only a few minutes a year!) driving the porcelain schoolbus is a big part of their lives. And for those whose interest is more -- ahem -- explicit, there are many websites offering amateur pictures and even professional ones.
The last couple of years have seen wave after wave of companies swarming to this niche like sharks to a slick of shipside chum. Originally, only a few videos were available, with women gagging during blow jobs. However, recent years have brought the unimaginatively-named "GirlyPuke" series, which offers a more realistic approach -- showing models eating or drinking, then throwing up in a range of natural settings, a few of which are also explicitly sexual.
Sitting down to watch vomit videos may sound a little extreme, but dont get that "who me?" innocent look. You may, in fact, be one of them -- at least, if Hollywood is any indication. Though more graphic in general, movies are disproportionately more likely these days to show characters mid-spew. And more often than not, these characters are attractive women, scantily-clad, who use chunder to symbolize severe emotional turmoil or vulnerability.
Television offers more of the same -- from Sex and the City to reality TV, stars, if theyre in the bathroom at all, are likely to have their head hanging over the pot. In one recent Survivor episode, points out an anonymous online denizen, "the camera guy followed [a character who was about to be sick] out into the bush to catch her in the act." For this emetophile, this is just more proof that his fetish is "more widely perceived as erotic than we think."
Vulnerability is probably key here, as with so many fetishes. In fact, what may be surprising is that many emetophiles are afraid to vomit. According to the online Emetophobia (thats "fear of vomiting," if your Latin isnt up-to-date) / Vomiting FAQ, there is some overlap between emetophilia and emetophobia, probably because fear -- a predominant obsession in a persons life -- can easily become a source of sexual fascination.
As one woman mentioned on The V-Board, "Vomiting is an embarrassment of the worst kind for me, even when it happens in private--it's like I've lost control and I feel ashamed or something." Another visitor believes his "fetish [probably] grew out of [his] childhood terror of carsickness."
The Emetophobia/Vomiting FAQ theorizes that "vomiting was probably something either arousing or frightening to [emetophiles] at some point prior to puberty. In any case, it aroused powerful emotions, and the emetophilic later called upon these emotions for purpose of sexual gratification."
Beyond vulnerability, there are also elements of giving and receiving comfort that emetophiles bring up again and again. Whether in the form of the "poodle dressing gown" one mans wife wears to ralph in, or the touch of a hand on a back or sweaty forehead, or even a familiar basin that evokes feelings of being taken care of in childhood, symbols of comfort are an ever-present theme for emetophiles.
After overhearing a woman describing how shed just been sick and now felt better, one man admits he "felt a tenderness and a protectiveness toward her that [he finds] difficult to describe." Sure, he was incredibly aroused. "But it wasn't just sexual arousal," he says. "Her situation brought out every one of my higher masculine instincts."
Almost all emetophiles admit to sexual feelings in the wake of a significant others illness. In many cases, once he or she is feeling better, this leads to highly-charged sex, though the significant other may not understand his or her partners interest though after many years, they may come to suspect the truth. One man says he has "had some great pleasure sessions in the aftermath of one or both of us being sick
she feels fine, even exceptionally fine, afterward."
The average emetophile is quick to point out that vomiting is only a turn-on if the person doing it isnt extremely uncomfortable or dangerously ill. One man says, "My reaction to seeing a woman about to be sick is complicated, and depends a lot on her own reaction." Ideally, "she should be just slightly nervous about what's coming, but in a giggly no big deal kind of way." Another says, "I get no pleasure out of someones discomfort, but [only] the relief they will feel after throwing up."
This sentiment is typical; most seem to fantasize almost exclusively about situations with their regular sexual partner. And, in case youre wondering what the limits are, few are interested in vomit stories about children. According to one woman, "Puke to me is interesting, but from my kids, it's not. It's just a normal day of life."
As with any fetish, fantasies differ from one emetophile to another. At one extreme is Jeff Levy, perhaps the most famous emetophile, whos appeared on Howard Sterns radio show begging attractive women to throw up on him. At one point, Stern enticed porn star Kendra Jade to vomit on Levy (in return for introducing her to wrestler The Rock), but the sight apparently sickened several members of the show and its staff.
Most emetophiles are more mild-mannered. One man says, "I'm
aroused by having a woman see me puke, as long as it doesn't gross her out. Of course, such women are few and far between. Luckily, I'm happily married to a woman who isn't easily grossed out."
He, like others, is happy to let his fetish remain (mostly) in the realm of fantasy. As with S&M, he says, the symbolism is whats important, and he says hes "just about as happy hearing about it and talking about it with a woman as actually viewing it." Another agrees that just "hearing a woman describe a vomiting event is a big turn on."
Yet even they show strong preferences in fantasy, ranging from holding a partners head to being supported while they upchuck themselves, and even "mutual" sessions where both partners are sick. These fantasies are played out online in the exchange of fiction and true stories, and through discussing the many nuances of the cookie-tossing experience.
Most emetophiles also make a clear distinction between normal, "healthy" vomiting and that associated with serious illness. You probably wont find any emetophiles hanging around cancer and eating disorder support groups hoping for "vomit news." Yet emetophiles do collect odd tidbits from all over the place tales of seasickness from nautically-oriented websites, for instance.
Emetophiles are also exceptionally considerate; when they gather on the "The V-Board," they go out of their way to discuss other aspects of their lives as well as this one strange thing they have in common. And as in any chat room or discussion group, they look out for one another, offering advice and warnings about occupational hazards, such as dehydration and undesirable and dangerous side-effects of various emetics (chemicals taken to make one pitch one's porridge).
As with any fetish, there are safety limits to emetophilia, but unlike with S&M, few ever have the opportunity to fully test these limits, since most emetophiles are still closeted, unknown even to spouses and longtime partners. Instead, they come together online, "letting it all out" anonymously with strangers.
Other fetishes, such as coprophilia (literally, "shit love"), though far from mainstream, are at least well-known, offering their own magazines, videos and even dating services. Emetophiles have yet to attain even that level of respectability; the dignity of being publicly acknowledged rather than misunderstood as some demented sub-classification of "scat play."
Yet perhaps emetophilia is now entering its golden age, taking its rightful place alongside golden showers and bondage as respectable sexual expression? For all the bad rap it gets from all the drunken frat boys out there, few can argue anymore that it doesnt rank as a true fetish. Done right, barf can add an exciting, grown-up dimension to an individual or couple's sex life.
Clearly, this thing is bigger than any of us can imagine. Look around; that man with the newspaper, that woman with the toddlers, any of them could be into puke and youd never know it. Theres no closet big enough for all the vomit-lovers out there, and someday soon, with a colossal heave, the door will swing wide, hurling emetophilia at long last into the light of day.
* not the real name of the message board in question
Jaye Blumenthal is a widely-published author of both fiction and non-fiction; contact her at Jaye3Blue@hotmail.com.