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Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Apr 27th, 2017

THE SEX FILES: Dr. Victoria R. Hartmann, author of I Love Dead People: Inside the Minds of Death Fetishists

We first met Dr. Victoria R. Hartmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., DACS here when I interviewed her about Harry Mohney’s Erotica Heritage Museum Las Vegas (Dr. Victoria is the Executive Director of the EHM). Academician, lecturer, author, a workshop facilitator, researcher, speaker, consultant on women’s sexuality, and an advocate for transgender and sex worker rights-and yes working day-to-day to make the EHM the most unique place of its kind in the world-Dr. Victoria found the time to write I Love Dead People: Inside the Minds of Death Fetishists. I had the chance to talk to her about her new book and more.

Why a book on this particular, if you will allow me, ‘niche’ fetish?

Many years ago I became fascinated with abnormal psychology, especially as it pertained to sexuality. Why do people commit acts of sexual violence? What drives them? Is there a way to predict this behavior so victims can be spared the life shattering and even life-ending threat of sexual assault and sexually-driven murder?

As I dug further into this world, I found a subset of individuals who identify as having a fetish for sexual death in all its currently known forms. It seemed to me that if any group of people would lead me down a path of discovery in terms of motivations to perpetrate violent sexual crimes, it was this group.

Do you think acceptance, or at least the fight against being judged, is what a kink, life-styler, fetishist or even someone with a passing fancy into non-vanilla sexual pursuits fights hardest against?

Judgement is an obstacle most sexual minorities face, but especially insidious is the internalizing of self judgement and shame. Many sexual minorities feel guilt and self-loathing at the core of their sexual proclivities while wrestling with their attraction to unusual sexual expressions. This causes a high level of cognitive dissonance and leads to maladaptive behavior.

Have you found that the ‘death fetish’ has been with us throughout history? Death certainly has been with us…um…forever.

Archeologists have found the expression of death rituals dates back to our Neanderthal cousins. Some form of ceremony or celebration of the dead has existed for thousands of years. There are some accounts of sex with corpses dating back to 16th century BC.

Herodotus writes in The Histories that, to discourage intercourse with a corpse, ancient Egyptians left deceased beautiful women to decay for “three or four days” before giving them to the embalmers, they did this because once an embalmer was caught having sexual intercourse with a corpse. Herodotus writes that Greek tyrant Periander had defiled the corpse of his wife, employing a metaphor: “Periander baked his bread in a cold oven.” Acts of necrophilia are depicted on ceramics from the Moche culture, which reigned in northern Peru from the first to eighth century AD. A common theme in these artifacts is the masturbation of a male skeleton by a living woman. Hittite law from the 16th century BC through to the 13th century BC explicitly permitted sex with the dead.

Does it follow then, that most of the fetishes, kinks, sexual diversions we seek currently, anything left-of-center of ‘regular’ intercourse, has really been something we’ve been interested in for as long as we have been trying to rub pink parts against one another?

It makes sense that as long as hominids have been sexual creatures they have pursued alternate forms of pleasure seeking. Sexual aggression and sex with corpses is seen in many animal species.

We know you as the director of the Erotic Heritage Museum. Was it hard putting together exhibits, traveling the world to acquire artifacts and art pieces to find time to write this book?

I began writing the book prior to my appointment as Museum Director, and spent two more years finalizing, editing and reviewing the final manuscript. It was a lot to juggle but the Museum functions and writing a science book on a sexual phenomenon went hand in hand, so there was time to successfully tackle all of it.

Do you have any new writings you are planning?

I have three books in the works at the moment – one that explores Queer erotica, a book on Eco Sexuality and a book on Ethical Non-Monogamy. I am also working in unison with the Museum owner on a table top book about the Museum, the History of the exhibits and the nearly 10 years the Museum has been in Las Vegas and how it’s changed.

In the end, does it really come down to the axiom, if nobody is getting hurt or doing something beyond their will, then most anything should be permitted in our sexual experimentation.

What I found in my research is “Death Fetishists” are exactly that – they have a fetish. They abhor real violence of any kind and in fact, most see their sexual practices more in the light of consensual BDSM play…..full consent of their partner is vital to reaching the height of pleasure they seek. Anything remotely non-consensual is a turn-off and repugnant to a death fetishist. Also, they like campy depictions reminiscent of the 50’s detective magazines, not hyper realism.

Grab Dr. Hartmann’s I Love Dead People: Inside the Minds of Death Fetishists at Amazon.com.

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THE SEX FILES: Dr. Victoria R. Hartmann, author of I Love Dead People: Inside the Minds of Death Fetishists