"Crush Videos" and Insect Eroticism
Hugh Raffles grew up in London, England. He has been an ambulance driver, a nightclub DJ, a theater technician, a busboy, a cleaner, and a scrap metal yard worker. Currently, he lives in New York City where he teaches anthropology at The New School.
Hugh's writing has appeared in academic journals and more popular venues such as Granta, Natural History, and The Best American Essays. His first book, "In Amazonia: A Natural History" (Princeton University Press, 2002) was awarded the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing and selected by the American Library Association as an Outstanding Academic Title. In 2009, he received a Whiting Writers' Award. His new book "Insectopedia" was published by Pantheon in 2010.
Hugh Raffles: Well, I have no idea because honestly, they’re not one of the things that’s erotic for me, so I don’t have any idea why they are. But, I mean, for some people and it’s connected to their size, probably to the sound and to texture. I mean, all the things that are - I mean, there are other things that are erotic for me for those kinds of reasons, but insects don’t happen to be them. And so, I think it’s to do - I mean, in the example you are talking about which is a chapter in the book which is about crush freaks who are guys who - basically guys who get off watching women walk on small things of different kinds. So, one of the things that’s pretty common is insects, but it can be other small things. Sometimes it’s other small animals, other things. It can be soft fruit or depending - these things are really - things that get people excited are really, really specific, right.
But, in that case, from people I’ve talked and I have no idea if this is really reason or if it’s just what it is for the people I talked to, it’s to do with a sort of - with these guys it’s just sort of a projection I suppose again where they identify with the position of the insects, something like that.
Question: Is it associated with Sadomasochism?
Hugh Raffles: Though, in a very intense way because it’s also about - I think it’s about death, about being in a position of being crushed to death and the excitement of that. So yeah, it’s dominance, but it’s sort of an extreme form of dominance. But, I’ll tell you, I’m actually not that interested in why because I think as soon as you go down that road you're starting to pathologize people and make out that’s it’s something weird about people and I’m really not interested in doing that. It’s some - to me, I guess what was really interesting about it was how this is - how it really - the story exposed a lot of hypocrisy in our society because there was this period, I think, from 1999 to 2001 when crush freaks were really in the news and appeared in - I think particularly in year 2000, crush freaks were really in the news because there was a series of court cases where crush videos were being - where people who’d possessed or had distributed crush videos were put on trial for - in this country for cruelty to animals and in Britain for obscenity and they was a build up, this fast track through Congress to outlaw crush videos and to specifically to outlaw the depiction to cruelty to animals.
And this is the same law which - it was actually never used to prosecute crush videos after it was passed, after it was signed. I should say it was signed just by a claim in the Senate. There was no opposition to it at all. There was some in the House, but none in the Senate. But, it’s the same bill which is now under review by the Supreme Court because it was used to prosecute people who had been - who’d had dog fighting videos up online and it raised huge freedom of speech issues because it was about - it wasn’t about the - it was equating the depiction of violence with the violence itself. So, it was basically saying that if you had some representation of violence, that was equivalent to the violence itself.
This is, as you can imagine, right? This is really a big problem because all the kinds of things were if you might want to depict violence for anti-violent purposes or for any kind of reason, any kind of educational. Not even educational; there's all kinds of reasons why you might want to show it. And so, now this is before the Supreme Court at the moment and it seems very likely it’ll be overturned because it’s such a poorly written law and such a broadly written law.
But, at the time, it was used to absolutely just destroy these guys who were into crush videos. A very small - really a pretty small number of people. This is a very specific and pretty much a minority things, but it was really used in a very aggressive way. There was a large, very high profile campaign against it and some people that - some people’s lives were really made miserable and in particular the person who I write about in the chapter who’s really a great guy in many ways I think. His life was just made misery for it.
So, one of the things that he pointed out that I think is worth underlining is the hypocrisy of this in a society that has absolutely no difficulty in daily slaughter of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of animals for food and for carrying on animal experiments, all these kinds of things. For sanctioning all kinds of violence and cruelty against animals and his issue was that the - and I think it’s an important one, is that the problem with crush freaks and crush videos was that the violence that they were committing against animals was in the name of pleasure and it was that link between violence and pleasure that was so problematic and so troubling for people in Congress and the people who were involved in that campaign. It wasn’t the violence itself because all of and all of use participate in that on a daily basis.
Recorded on March 22, 2010
Some men find videos of women crushing insects a turn-on, which the professor thinks is probably connected to their size, sound and texture.
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