You’ve probably heard about people who have a sexual fetish for shoes, leather, or red hair. But what if a person is aroused by the crushing of a living being? Might there be an argument that the pleasure derived in this way is has fewer moral problems than the sensual satisfaction of eating meat?
For many people, insects evoke a sense of fear or disgust—not lust. So how and why do some people use these creatures with sexual excitement? The answer lies in the ways in which our bodies respond to lions, cockroaches and foreplay, along with the capacity of the human mind to interpret physiological states in rather remarkable and creative ways.
What if a doctor fainted at the sight of blood, an actor trembled when facing an audience, or an entomologist panicked amidst a swarm of insects? Professionals might have access to certain knowledge and skills, but experts are humans. So what does a scientist do when he loses his nerve and can no longer sustain a safe, psychological distance from the object of his study?
The same people who are afraid of stinging insects and disgusted by rotting meat, are tempted to approach a swarm of bees and poke at maggot-riddled road kill. What’s going on with this paradoxical repulsion and attraction? The psychological phenomenon of the sublime has been explored for centuries, and it’s still something of a mystery.
You might think that scientists, being the epitome of rationality, would be resistant to devastatingly false beliefs. However, two infamous cases involving delusionary parasitosis belie our expectations. It turns out that scientists are just like the rest of us, able to develop infested bodies—and minds.
What if you believed, really believed, that you were infested with insects? After days of incessantly feeling them crawling under your skin, would it be so irrational to use a razor blade to get to them—just a shallow cut at first? Imagine how far you might go to rid yourself of these invaders…
Imagine… your carpet is infested with fleas, your scalp is crawling with lice, or bed bugs are creeping across your body. Do you feel itchy, even a little bit? If so, you’re experiencing a tactile hallucination or maybe an illusion. Now imagine the misery if you couldn’t stop these sensations and perceptions…
We are terrified of bed bugs, for good—or at least explicable—reasons. These insects tap into deep, dark fears that are expressed in stories of vampires told across the world. Just what is it about these imaginary and real blood suckers that evokes such horror?
We manage to keep our fears under control by keeping the world under control. But what happens when our safe and sane slice of the world is invaded by blood-sucking creatures? Our presumed rationality can disappear like the bed bugs at sunrise.