Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

As it happens, claustrophilia is a recognized paraphilia. From the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary: “an abnormal desire for confinement in an enclosed space” (link).

From the blog of Mark Griffiths on 8/20/12, “Space invaders: A brief overview of claustrophilia”:

A couple of months ago, the print and broadcast media were full of reports about the inquest of Gareth Williams, the British spy who was found dead in his rented London flat, naked, and padlocked inside a North Face duffel bag in August 2010. However, some of the reports concentrated on whether the fact he was found dead in a small bag, was an indication that he was a claustrophile. The inquest heard that he had an interest in bondage websites, but this was only a very small part of his internet browsing history. The coroner, Dr Fiona Wilcox, declared his death as “unnatural”.

According to Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, claustrophilia is a paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure and arousal from being confined in small places…There are other sources that use the word ‘claustrophilia’ simply to mean “a love of small spaces” without any sexual element attached to it. For instance, the science fiction author Isaac Asimov was a self-confessed claustrophile. Citing from Asimov’s autobiography (I, Asimov: A Memoir), Asimov’s Wikipedia entry noted that:

He enjoyed small, enclosed spaces. In the first volume of his autobiography, he recalls a childhood desire to own a magazine stand in a New York City Subway station, within which he could enclose himself and listen to the rumble of passing trains while reading.

In the wake of the Gareth Williams story, Anneli Rufus was asked to write an article on claustrophilia for both Psychology Today and The Daily Beast. Rufus’ article in Psychology Today (‘Turned on by tight spaces’) described claustrophilia as “an extreme form of bondage whose adherents are aroused by total encasement in tight spaces such as boxes, bags, cages, caskets, and car trunks”.

Rufus quotes sex educator Carol Queen on BDSM and Cornell Prof. Cary Howie, author of Claustrophilia: The Erotics of Enclosure in Medieval Literature.

Presumably the fellow in the cartoon is just an Asimov-style claustrophile, not a hard-core case.

One Response to “claustrophilia”

  1. enkerli Says:

    The character acts out on his desire during a therapy session, which might qualify it as pathological. But is there anything abnormal about Asimov’s enjoyment? Small spaces can be really comforting. Even if it’s interpreted as a desire to go back to the womb, it’s only out of the norms if it sets some people apart from others.

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