The strange story of a man who got turned on by women running him over

Human sexuality can present itself in an almost infinite variety of ways, but outside the occasional David Cronenberg movie, most people don't think of car crashes as particularly sexy. But one fifty-year-old scientific paper just might change your mind forever.

In 1960, psychiatrist Martin Keeler published the story of one of his patients. His young subject was a simple man with a simple dream: to gain sexual gratification by being run over by an attractive woman driving a car. Keeler explained:

"Some perversions, while representing formidable psychopathology, are also tributes to the complexity of the human mind and unconscious ego mechanisms. The patient, a man in his late twenties, reported a periodic desire to be injured by a woman operating an automobile. This wish, present since adolescence, he had by dint of great ingenuity and effort, gratified hundreds of times without serious injury or detection."

If you were wondering when this paper was going to switch from dryly academic to weirdly admiring...yep, that was the moment. Now, before this turns into the most scholarly letter to Penthouse ever, let's continue. Keeler explains just how his patient could satisfy his unusual needs, not to mention how specific his requirements were:

Satisfaction could be obtained by inhaling exhaust fumes, having a limb run over on a yielding surface to avoid appreciable damage or by being pressed against the wall by a vehicle. Gratification was enhanced if the woman were attractive by conventional standards. Injuries inflicted by men operating automobiles or other types of injury inflicted by women had no meaning.

So, that was the young man's condition, but what did this all mean in the medical terminology of the day? (It should be pointed out that "perversion" is no longer an accepted term — nowadays, psychologists prefer the term "paraphilias.") Keeler writes:

"He experienced pleasure from the experience, thus establishing the symptom as a perversion rather than a compulsion. The patient's sexual, social, and occupational adjustment was good and his intelligence superior. He intellectualized to a considerable extent but could experience and manage strong positive and negative feelings. He was ashamed of his symptom but somewhat proud of its unusual nature."

That...actually seems pretty fair, to be honest. Keeler closes his little summary with his own speculations on what this all means, throwing in a bit of vaguely Freudian analysis:

"At least two interlocking themes are necessary for an essentially masochistic gratification. The injury must be inflicted by a woman, probably as a defense against other feelings involving women, and must be inflicted by an automobile, this probably having a specific symbolic meaning."

But what symbolic meanings could these cars possibly have? That was a question that Dr. Keeler left to posterity, and now, fifty years later, it's up to us to figure it out. Personally, I'm guessing it was a manifestation of the patient's fears of encroaching modernity and the loss of humanity that comes with industrialization...but then that's my answer to everything.

[via MindHacks and NCBI ROFL; photograph by Joe Rizzuto from Backalley Photo]