It’s the pits

A middle-aged man says he "can be sexually aroused" by women's shaved underarms. Our experts sniff at his kink

Topics: Am I Normal?,

It's the pits (Credit: iStockphoto/DomenicoGelermo)

I am a man in my mid-50s, largely very mainstream in my sexual preferences, except for one thing. I have become aware quite by accident over the past 20 years that I can be sexually aroused by the sight of a woman’s uncovered, clean-shaven underarms.

I know I’m not alone, since there are a number of fetish websites that cater to this attraction. Besides, why else would so many photographers, shooting everything from pinups to swimsuits to nudes, pose their models with their arms over their heads and their underarms exposed?

I’d be interested in knowing two things: First, how common do you think this is? Equally important, do most women know about this attraction, or do they simply think “yuck” when they think about their underarms?

Underarm Fetishist

My first question about armpit attraction — and I’m wearing a sleeveless shirt, how serendipitous!

As you already know, you’re not alone. There are collections of hundreds of shots on Flickr and Tumblr of women in bras or tank tops with one arm (or, in the raunchiest cases, both!) raised above their heads. (Many of these are re-appropriated fashion shots, but I’m dubious of your theory that the models were posed this way just to display your favored body part.) Forums like Girlpits allow connoisseurs to debate the qualities of a good underarm (there appears to be a great partisan divide between smooth-ocrats and hair-publicans). Porn hubs across the Web feature countless lingering closeups of pits — hairy, smooth, sweaty, take your pick — and clips of underarm “licking,” “sniffing” and more.

It’s unclear whether you, sir, like your armpits PG or X-rated. You simply say, “I can be sexually aroused by the sight of a woman’s uncovered, clean-shaven underarms.” Well, now, the capacity to be turned on by the sight of a particular body part isn’t unusual in the least. “That he has an area of the body of a woman that he focuses on is not surprising,” says Chris Kraft, a psychologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Behaviors Consultations Unit. “It’s actually called partialism when you’re fixated or specifically aroused by a very specific part of the body — typically, we see things like the feet, buttocks, breasts.”

Richard B. Krueger, a psychiatrist and medical director of the Sexual Behavior Clinic at New York State Psychiatric Institute, tells me, “I don’t even think it’s a fetish in his case. I would say it’s in the range of typical sexual behavior,” he says. “It isn’t deviant, it’s just a variant of normal — or within normal.”

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You don’t indicate that you’re only turned on by armpits, after all — and even if you were, Kraft would be hesitant to pathologize it. “There are plenty of men who only like to ejaculate with their penis in a vagina,” he says. “Should we call that a problem?”

Basically, these guys are super-unimpressed by your armpit attraction. There’s nothing like talking to someone who routinely deals with patients who have all-consuming fetishes that ruin their professional and personal lives to feel normal, eh? It puts things in extreme perspective.

As for the “why” of such an attraction, I can really only offer you speculation. Kraft suggests, “The thing about the underarm area, similar to the genital area of women, it’s usually a covered, private area. To have it groomed and presented, historically, it would have been considered a taboo.” He adds that it’s possible hairlessness gives you a sense of cleanliness; maybe there’s a spark there for you.

Finally, getting to your two main questions: How common is this attraction and what do women think about it? It’s impossible to put a number on it. “We don’t have a lot of people presenting in the clinical areas of sexuality just to talk about it because most people are functioning fine with these types of things,” says Kraft. “That’s why we don’t get a real accurate number of the commonness of different types of fetishes.” In other words, people don’t talk to an expert about their armpit fixation unless it’s problematic for them. “It’s hard to study the happy,” he says.

As for women’s awareness of this kink, “I don’t think for many women it crosses their mind that this is an area of attraction,” says Kraft. “It’s not something that people acknowledge, since it’s taboo.” There are always exceptions, though: Any woman who spends enough time browsing online porn, or reading this column, will be aware of the extreme variation in human sexual interests and practices. And of course there are women who share similar desires, either for other people’s armpits or for others to worship their own.

I’m going to borrow the typical therapist move here and say: The real question is, “How do you feel about your kink?”

—————–

Send your question to tracy@salon.com.

Tracy Clark-Flory
Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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