Autonecrophilia: The Psychology Behind Fetishizing Your Own Desecration

You’re dead. Let’s say it was something that left you intact, like cyanide poisoning.

Because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding your death, you’re sent for an autopsy, and one of the technicians takes a special interest in you. After hours, they come back and have their way with your body.

If your ethereal spirit is floating around the room, observing this act, does it feel:

  1. Disgusted

  2. Confused

  3. Desperately aroused

If you answered C, congratulations! You’re probably an autonecrophiliac.

What is Autonecrophilia?

 Sort of like this, but you’re the dead person.

Sort of like this, but you’re the dead person.

Almost nothing has been written about this rare and unusual kink, academic or otherwise. A quick google search will net you plenty of definitions and no explanation.

It’s so rare, in fact, that my friend’s niche erotic fanfiction shows up in the results long before a snappy Vice article on the topic (as far as I can tell, even Vice hasn’t touched this one.)

Put simply, autonecrophilia is sexual arousal at the prospect of someone having sex with your dead body.

This is not the same as autoassassinophilia, which is arousal at the prospect of being murdered, or regular necrophilia, which is arousal at the prospect of having sex with someone else’s body—though the they can certainly all be linked, and the motivations might be similar.

Dennis Nilsen: a Famous Autonecrophiliac

 This painting, “The Raft of the Medusa,” frequently appeared in Nilsen’s fantasies.

This painting, “The Raft of the Medusa,” frequently appeared in Nilsen’s fantasies.

British serial killer and necrophiliac Dennis Nilsen could be considered an autonecrophiliac, at least in the time before his sexual crimes. Many of his actions and proclivities are detailed in the two biographies on him, Killing for Company (1985) by Brian Masters and Dennis Nilsen (2013) by Russ Coffey.

When Nilsen was an army officer in his youth, he had a room of his own. He detailed lying still in front of a mirror, angled so that he could pretend the body belonged to another. He would masturbate himself with the illusion of being both the corpse molested and the man molesting it, drawing from sexual encounters he had or imagined. It's important to note that Nilsen is not a fully reliable source on his past.

Nilsen incorporated makeup into his activities as well, paling himself to more resemble a corpse, sometimes spotting his chest with red to play the part of a dead French soldier.

Though his activities could be viewed as simulating necrophilia as the aggressor, many of his self-reported fantasies concerned being victimized by others while dead or unconscious.

Please note, it is incredibly rare that a necrophiliac of any sort will act on their fantasies at all, and even rarer that they’ll commit murder. Nilsen is undoubtedly a special case, but his development gives some insight into a possible origin of this fetish.

Nilsen aside, where does the interest come from? Interviewees for this article have been sparse, but I found a handful. If you have this kink too, I’d love to hear from you by email.

How Did This Kink Get Started?

 “It all started when I died…”

“It all started when I died…”

Researcher Samuel Hughes (whose work is behind a paywall but is explained in layman’s terms in this article) surveyed 292 FetLife users about their earliest memories of being interested in kink.

He came up with a five-stage model of kink development:

  1. Early encounters—usually occurs before the age of 10; individuals were drawn to a certain kink, but often lacked the words or conceptual framework to express why. For example, a child who grows up to be interested in submission might always end up bound in games like cops and robbers.

  2. Exploration with self—occurs between ages 5 and 14, and includes masturbation, fantasy, and seeking erotic media.

  3. Evaluation—between ages 11 and 14, individuals realize that their peers don’t share their interests, and sometimes believe something is wrong with them. They often seek to label themselves as they try to understand what their kinks mean in the context of their identities.

  4. Finding others—through the internet or other media, individuals discover that there are others who are into what they’re into. In this stage, resilience against kink-related stigma usually develops.

  5. Exploration with others—individuals explore their kink with others through scenes, sexual activity, or writing and role playing. Most surveyed users indicated that they didn’t feel that they were “kinky people” until they reached this stage.

I interviewed my sources with this model in mind, and was unsurprised to learn that, while the model generally applies, there was plenty of variation.

Early Encounters

 For some of our interviewees, we’re talking like… way  early.

For some of our interviewees, we’re talking like…way early.

What is your earliest memory of being interested in general kink?

BB: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in kink. I was masturbating before I knew what that meant, and one of my earliest memories is of drawing elaborate torture devices, which scared the shit out of my mom when she found them (poor woman; I’ve put her through a lot.) I think I was born kinky—not only that; I think I was born with a perverse fascination for the extreme edges of kink.

I was a very serious child, and remember contemplating my own embodiment early on, which I think is a common experience among trans people. What is my body? Is it mine, or do I just live in it? Do I keep it forever? Can I change it? What happens when it’s hurt? That could be part of the fascination with pain, death, and anatomy.

That said, I was also one of those kids who always ended up getting captured in imaginary play. I’m a switch now, but I definitely lean toward the submissive side.”

When did you first understand your own mortality?

AA: “I understood mortality very young. I grew up where death was kind of frequently discussed, so I've always been very aware of mortality in general. As for my own mortality, I fluctuate between suicidal and almost certain I can never die, so that's still a process.”

BB: “I’m sure this wasn’t the first time I learned about death, but it drove the point home. When I was 11, my best friend (and first kiss) died in an ATV accident. He was utterly mutilated. I remember hearing my parents crying and talking about how his dad had to lift the vehicle off his ruined corpse. That was definitive evidence that it could happen to me.

I’d never admit this off anon, but I’m not sure I grieved. I certainly made a show of grieving, but it was mostly because I enjoyed the sympathy adults gave me. I got to stay home from school and play video games. Others’ grief fascinated me, along with the funeral ritual, and I wondered if people would enact the same ritual when I died. I don’t remember being very distressed by this thought, more curious.”

Exploration With Self

 This kind of exploration.

This kind of exploration.

Do you remember when you first became interested in autonecrophilia?

AA: “Vampire porn, plain and simple. There's a lot of crossover; it's just a matter of empathizing more with the victim than the perpetrator. Within the last year I've read more about necrophilia, which has given me a lot of understanding and language to talk about it (even though autonecrophilia isn't a popular term in the least.)”

BB: “Sometime in my first year of college, I was on a lot of speed. This contributed to intense escalation of my already weird fantasy life, and I wanted to find new, exciting taboos to break—necrophilia was naturally included, and as a sub, I gravitated toward imagining myself as the corpse.”

How did you find content for this niche fantasy?

AA: “Many things that have sparks of it. Vampire porn. Torture porn. Somnophilia. And I'm a very vivid and active daydreamer, so I supply a lot of my own content. Literature can sometimes provide. Dennis Cooper's George Miles cycle, Poppy Z Brite's Exquisite Corpse, Gabrielle Wittkop's The Necrophiliac, and of course, Claustrophilia fill the void.

BB: “It’s tough. I usually rely on fantasy, or create my own (fictional) content.”

Evaluation

 “According to my calculations, I’m a pervert and everyone will hate me forever.”

“According to my calculations, I’m a pervert and everyone will hate me forever.”

What doubts or reservations, if any, did/do you have about your interest in this kink?

AA: “Several. It's not exactly getting off to spanking. I beat around the bush for a while, telling myself that it was purely a psychological interest in it. I still have guilt about it, and it's definitely not something many people, even close friends, know about me.”

BB: “Mostly, I regret that I’ve seemingly found the end of taboo sexuality. I’m a thrill-seeker, but it’s nearly impossible to shock me now. I has a small crisis at one point, worrying that I’d ruined myself for vanilla sex, but then I got clean from drugs, and it turns out I can enjoy it just fine—I’ll never be one of those people who can jack off to lingerie catalogues, though. Those guys baffle me.”

Do you know what this fantasy does for you psychologically?

AA: “As mentioned, I have issues with depression and frequent suicidal thoughts. They don't stem from this, but are impacted by it. In fact, I think it helps to fetishise my own tragedy, because it makes my death seem so fictional that killing myself just seems like a fantasy.”

BB: “It’s thrilling, for one. I’m not too interested in someone making gentle love to my corpse, but I fantasize about the degradation of being mutilated postmortem (that probably has something to do with my weird narcissism/self-loathing complex.)

There’s also an aspect of intense submission and loss of control. I struggle with sentience, and I can’t imagine anything more relaxing than inhabiting my dead body, completely powerless while someone cuts it open and fucks it. I’m literally an object. I don’t have to do anything.”

CC: “When I imagine myself as the aggressor, I’m interested in it mostly in association with vivisection: I’m fascinated by the human form and the visceral quality of a body, and I want to take someone apart. It’s not sexual—I don’t experience sexual attraction—but it’s definitely a kink.

When I’m the corpse, it’s basically just somnophilia, y’know? And probably a death wish. Mostly, it satisfies the same desire to give up control which gets people into bondage or somnophilia, and I just…don’t find death intrinsically alarming.”

Finding Others

 Or maybe they found you.

Or maybe they found you.

Have you met others who are interested in this kink?

AA: “Yes I have. Ezra being one of them for sure, and we've corresponded a great deal on the topic. I've had other passing interactions with people online. It was normalizing. It made me feel less like a freak.”

BB: “A few, which has reassured me that I’m not broken. What’s more surprising is the number of vanilla partners who have been perfectly willing to indulge it in fantasy. And one totally vanilla friend who said I could fuck his corpse when he died. He was a hardcore atheist, so I think he might have said it to prove a point.”

How do you deal with the isolation and intense stigma associated with necrophilia specifically?

AA: “I've always felt somewhat insular with my sexual interests. I have general difficulty connecting to others, so this isn't the standout thing that makes me feel separated.”

BB: “I haven’t experienced much isolation or stigma (yet), which makes me very lucky. I was raised in an accepting and sex-positive family, so those values are deeply ingrained in me. I understand why it grosses people out, especially considering how western society is reluctant to even acknowledge that we die.”

CC: “I understand completely if people are uncomfortable with particular sex acts or kinks. Some really vanilla sex acts trigger automatic panic attacks for me, and it's not like I don't understand that (fantasized, 100% fictional) necrophilia or cannibalism or whatever freak people out.

But don't call me a rapist, and don't pretend like I'm excusing rape or any sexual encounters that aren't completely, explicitly 100% consensual. My ethics regarding kink are firm and very important to me. As a CSA and rape survivor, I’d appreciate it if people respect that I do in fact care deeply about consent.”

Exploration with Others

 A.k.a. cracking open a cold one with the boys.

A.k.a. cracking open a cold one with the boys.

Have you explored this kink in real life, through roleplay or other means?

AA: “I've explored it in fictional roleplay as well as sexting with people. I've had someone ask me to play dead in the middle of masturbating, and imagined them taking my corpse for their pleasure. I used to occasionally get extremely drunk and have sex, just letting my body be used. I’ve since developed healthier sexual behaviors.”

BB: “Quite a bit. I’ve written about it, sexted about it (though for every FetLife partner who will indulge me, I’ve met two who ghosted me when I brought it up) and actually roleplayed my own death in person. The experience was absolutely incredible, lying motionless during the act. It brought me into a meditative state where almost all thought ceased, which is just exquisite for me. All I was thinking was ‘I can’t stop this from happening. I’m dead.’”

DD: “The only time I ever admitted it to someone was when I overdosed shooting up speed and I was convinced I'd die within minutes, so I asked the man I was with to fuck my corpse after I die—or better, while I took my last breath, and ever since I've been deeply suicidal and scared I'd unintentionally get myself killed. I hope [talking about it] puts me more at peace.”

How does this kink relate to your identity and concept of self today?

AA: “I have a strong disconnection to my physical self in general. It's not that far for me to imagine the disconnection of death.”

BB: “It’s quelled my fear of death a little bit. More than that, I use it as a kind of screening tool for the people in my life. I’m weird and gross; I mean, I identify as weird and gross even more than I identify as a man, or a trans person, or whatever. I’m also an introvert, and have a very limited capacity for human interaction, so I’m choosy. I tend to drop hints about it until I scare people away, and the people who don’t leave are worth pouring my emotional energy into.”

As with all kinks, people develop autonecrophilia for varied reasons. While it’s tough to find others who share the interest, I hope to provide some material and a sense of community with my debut novel, Claustrophilia.