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Necrophilia (also called thanatophilia or getting too close to grandma) is a sexual attraction or sexual act involving corpses (dead bodies). The attraction is classified as a paraphilia[note 1] by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM; not to be confused with BDSM). Necrophilia-based tropes have also manifested themselves in literary works, film, comic books, television, et cetera.[1][2]


A ten-tier classification of necrophilia as a mental disorder exists:[3]

  1. Role players: People aroused from pretending their live partner is dead during sexual activity.
  2. Romantic necrophiliacs: Bereaved people who remain attached to their dead lover's body.[note 2]
  3. Necrophilic fantasizers: People who fantasize about necrophilia but never actually have sex with a corpse.
  4. Tactile necrophiliacs: People aroused by touching or stroking a corpse without engaging in intercourse.
  5. Fetishistic necrophiliacs: People who remove objects or body parts from a corpse for sexual purposes without engaging in intercourse.
  6. Necromutilomaniacs: People who derive pleasure from mutilating a corpse while masturbating without engaging in intercourse.
  7. Opportunistic necrophiliacs: People who usually have no interest in necrophilia but take the opportunity when it arises.
  8. Regular necrophiliacs: People who preferentially have intercourse with the dead.
  9. Homicidal necrophiliacs: People who commit murder to have sex with the dead.
  10. Exclusive necrophiliacs: People who have an exclusive interest in sex with the dead and cannot performWikipedia for living partners.

In the DSM-5, intense sexual interest in corpses can be diagnosed under "Other Specified Paraphilic Disorder" if it causes marked distress or impairment in important areas of functioning properly as a human being.[4]


Jeffrey Dahmer in his high school yearbook.
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
—Matthew 22:30, allegedly about necrophilia.

The term was coined by the alienistWikipedia Joseph Guislain,Wikipedia who first used the term nécrophiles in a lecture about mental illnesses in 1850 (in reference to the necrophile François Bertrand,Wikipedia who Krafft-EbingWikipedia claimed was a necrophile due to feeble-mindedness and masturbation).[note 3][5] It derives from the Greek words νεκρός (nekros; "dead") and φιλία (philia; "love"),[6] although there are more respectful and conventional ways to show love for the dead, such as mourning.

Singular accounts of necrophilia in history are sporadic, though written records suggest the practice was present within ancient Egypt, which would explain the obsession with mummification. 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.[7][8][9] Herodotus also alluded to suggestions that Greek tyrant Periander had defiled his wife's corpse, employing a metaphor: "Periander baked his bread in a cold oven."[10] Acts of necrophilia are also depicted on ceramics from the Moche cultureWikipedia[11] – a common theme in these artifacts is the masturbation of a male skeleton by a living woman[12] (wait, how would that work?). HittiteWikipedia law from the 16th century BCE to the 13th century BCE explicitly permitted sex with the dead.[13]


A modern example, Jeffrey DahmerWikipedia was a necrophiliac serial killer. To be aroused, he had to murder his victims before performing sexual intercourse with them.[14] British serial killer Dennis NilsenWikipedia is also considered to have been a necrophiliac.[15]


A male Argentine Black and White Tegu from an urban park in south-eastern Brazil mounts a female that has been dead for two days and attempts to mate.
Time to get my shovel...
Mark Twain[citation NOT needed] on graveyard necrophilia

Necrophilia has been observed in nature among many species of animals, including the brainy crows.[16] This makes necrophilia perfectly fine and recommended a great argument against the appeal to nature fallacy. Biologists refer to it as Davian behavior, a name coined by biologist Robert W. Dickerman based on a limerick:

There was on old miser named Dave
who kept a dead whore in a cave.
He said “I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a shit
but look at the money I save.”[17]

Another prominent animal expert is Kees Moeliker, author of the epochal paper "The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos" and instigator of Dead Duck Day on June 5th at Natural History Museum Rotterdam.[18][19]

No official statistics for necrophilia amongst the general human population exists[20] because, as one commenter on Google Answers said: "Sadly the victims are usually very tight-lipped on reporting these crimes."[21][note 4] Reports are skewed because cases involving murder are more likely to come to the attention of police than those involving spouses or partners who have recently passed away.

There have been notorious necrophiles throughout history,[22] and necrophiliac fantasies are often described as more prevalent than expected.[9] However, some necrophiles only fantasize about the act without carrying it out,[23] as with pedophiles (although the reasons can be quite different).


Rosman and Resnick (1989) reviewed information from 34 cases of necrophilia describing the individuals' motivations for their behaviors: these individuals reported the desire to possess a non-resisting and non-rejecting partner (68%), reunions with a romantic partner (21%), sexual attraction to corpses (15%), comfort or overcoming feelings of isolation (15%), or seeking self-esteem by expressing power over a homicide victim (12%).[23]


Some public figures of the wingnut tendency say that same-sex marriage — or LGBT rights in general — will lead the world down the slippery slope to accepting bestiality and/or pedophilia,[24][25][26] and sometimes promoted by the evil Jews as part of their grand scheme to destroy Aryan sexual norms with Sexual Bolshevism and/or Cultural Marxism, after realizing that state Communism failed.[27] According to Louie Gohmert, legislation to prevent hate crimes will lead to necrophilia.[28]

This is especially ironic in the United States, as same-sex marriage has been formally banned in many states where necrophilia isn't technically illegal[29] but will probably lead to an arrest for "desecrating a corpse" or something like that.


  1. Previously called "sexual perversion".
  2. This could be considered "weird but understandable"; people process grief at different rates and in different ways.
  3. Which would make anyone on Wikipedia – or RationalWiki, for that matter – a rampant necrophile.
  4. Though it could also be because it's something that most people prefer not to think about. See also our article on bestiality.


  1. "Literary Necrophilia", TV Tropes.
  2. "I Love the Dead", TV Tropes.
  3. Aggrawal, Anil (2009). "A new classification of necrophilia". Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine 16 (6): 316–20. PMID 19573840.  (subscription required)
  4. American Psychiatric Association, ed (2013). "Other Specified Paraphilic Disorder, 302.89 (F65.89)". Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Publishing. p. 705. 
  5. Burg, B. R. (1982). "The sick and the dead: The development of psychological theory on necrophilia from Krafft‐Ebing to the present". Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 18 (3): 242–254. 
  6. Robin Goodwin; Duncan Cramer (2002). Inappropriate Relationships: The Unconventional, the Disapproved, and the Forbidden. Psychology Press. pp. 174–176. 
  7. Herodotus (c. 440 BCE). The Histories (Book 2). "The wives of men of rank when they die are not given at once to be embalmed, nor such women as are very beautiful or of greater regard than others, but on the third or fourth day after their death (and not before) they are delivered to the embalmers. They do so about this matter in order that the embalmers may not abuse their women, for they say that one of them was taken once doing so to the corpse of a woman lately dead, and his fellow-craftsman gave information." 
  8. Brill, Abraham A. (1941). "Necrophilia". Journal of Criminal Psychopathology 2 (4): 433–443. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Klaf, Franklin S., and Brown, William (1958). "Necrophilia: Brief Review and Case Report". Psychiatric Quarterly 32 (4): 645–652. "Inhibited forms of necrophilia and necrophiliac fantasies may occur more commonly then is generally realized." 
  10. Aggrawal, Anil (2010). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. CRC Press. pp. 6–7.  The primary source is Histories, Book V, 92.
  11. Finbow, Steve (2014). Grave Desire: A Cultural History of Necrophilia. John Hunt Publishing. p. 39. 
  12. Weismantel, M. (2004). "Moche sex pots: Reproduction and temporality in ancient South America". American Anthropologist 106 (3): 495–496. 
  13. Boer, Roland (2014). "From Horse Kissing to Beastly Emissions: Paraphilias in the Ancient Near East". In Masterson, Mark. Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World. Routledge. p. 69. 
  14. "Psychiatric Testimony of Jeffrey Dahmer". Court Transcripts. Criminal Profiling. 8 June 2001. 
  15. Masters, Brian (1985). Killing For Company. Arrow. ISBN 978-0099552611. 
  16. Gardner, J. (July 19, 2018). Why Are Some Crows Committing Necrophilia? New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  17. Farewell, Robert W. Dickerman, the biologist who coined ‘Davian Behavior’, Annals of Improbable Research, 29 April 2015
  18. Moeliker, C.W., 2001 – The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae) – DEINSEA 8: 243-247 [ISSN 0932-9308]. Published 9 November 2001
  19. The Duck, Kees Moeliker, accessed 12 Feb 2020
  20. Milner, J. S., Dopke, C. A., & Crouch, J. L. (2008). "Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified: Psychopathology and Theory". In Laws, D. Richard. Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment, 2nd edition. The Guilford Press. p. 399. 
  21. "Necrophilia Statistics", asked by hyrum-ga on Google Answers, 07 Mar 2005 18:03 PST.
  22. Top 10 Notorious Necrophiliacs in History , TopYaps.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Rosman, J. P.; Resnick, P. J. (1 June 1989). "Sexual attraction to corpses: A psychiatric review of necrophilia" (PDF/HTML). Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 17 (2): 153–163. PMID 2667656. 
  24. Cull, Bob. Idaho Woman To Lawmakers: Gay Marriage Will Lead To Legalized Necrophilia. Crooks and Liars. January 29, 2015.
  25. Brinker, Luke. WND Columnist: Marriage Equality Rulings Will Lead To Pedophilia, Bestiality, Necrophilia. Media Matters for America. July 2, 2013 1:03 PM EDT.
  26. Colombian senator: Same-sex marriage would lead to bestiality or necrophilia. Pink News. 6th December 2012, 4:04 PM
  27. Duffy, Nick (quoting YouTube commenter). Watch: Little boy twerks at Pride parade and upsets homophobes, Pink News. Accessed 15 June 2015. "It slowly started off by homosexuality becoming acceptable, now it's starting to justify pedophilia, and eventually will lead to accepting bestiality and necrophilia in the future. America, Europe, Australia and the whole world is doomed. Cultural Marxism is the best weapon the Jew has ever used so far, after realizing Communism will not win."
  28. Lee Fang. "Rep. Louie Gohmert: Hate crimes bill will lead to Nazism, legalization of necrophilia, pedophilia, and bestiality." ThinkProgress. 2009 October 7.
  29. Dr. Justin Lehmiller. Same-Sex Marriage Is Formally Banned In More Parts Of The U.S. Than Necrophilia. March 17, 2014.