The Ventura County Star recently reported the discovery by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office of the pleasure some people had when crushing insects and animals that “led to a federal law that is now the subject of a legal battle that involves questions about animal cruelty, free speech and the specter of censorship.”

Neil Rocklin

Neil Rocklin

We explained this bizarre paraphilia or sexual fetish, in our blog on Aug. 26. G.A. Pearson, writing in the online journal Cultural Entomology, describes people whose fetish consists of watching insects being squashed.

These people get turned on by watching people (mostly women) squashing bugs. The more frightened the women and the larger the feet doing the squashing, the better. According to Pearson, who is an entomologist, there is even an entire publication devoted to promoting this fetish, The American Journal of The Crush Freaks, which has 500 or so subscribers. This ‘journal’ is the brainchild of filmmaker Jeff Vilencia, who makes films (like Smush) in the “crush” genre.

According to Vilencia, the crush fetishist fantasizes that they are the bug getting squashed. Vilencia had to close his production company after a federal anti-animal cruelty law criminalized his filmmaking in 1999. This law was in response to the depiction of live small animals being crushed or stomped on, and was sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley. We have to consider if this is a fetish per se or anti-social (psychopathic) behavior, especially since cruelty to animals is one of the warning signs in children destined to become psychopaths. One of the leading proponents of the crushing of live animals, Bryan Loudermilk, was himself crushed to death in a scenario where he had himself penned under a vehicle that had driven on to his abdomen — “karma neh?”

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments regarding the law’s potential violation of free speech. “We were very careful with the bill to ensure that it doesn’t affect constitutionally protected free speech,” Gallegly told the Star. As a result of this law and other efforts, the Humane Society of the United States honored Gallegly in 2003 with a Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2009 with its Humane Law Enforcement Award.

Limits to bizarre acts of sexual satisfaction now become illegal and rightly so when animal and human lives lie in the balance. But we are left in awe of the power of a biological instinctual drive that compels people to such behavioral extremes. Perhaps a faulty brain circuit occurs during development that rewires the instinctual drive for species’ survival or a catastrophic environmental trauma one suffers results in the same brain disruption? Only with research will we have a better explanation and a way to treat this bizarre and dangerous behavior, but until then a law must suffice.

— Licensed clinical psychologist Neil Rocklin is a psychology lecturer at CSU Channel Islands. For the past 30 years, he has treated children, teens and adults with a host of psychological disorders, and currently teaches college students about personality development, abnormal behavior and criminal behavior. He writes the Bizarre Behaviors & Culture-Bound Syndromes blog with CSUCI colleague Kevin Volkan.