Somnophilia Awakens as a Stealthy Secret

Somnophilia Awakens as a Stealthy Secret

© By Peter Goerth, 12-10-2014

Somnophilia, or the enjoyment of molesting someone who is sleeping or otherwise unconscious or grossly impaired, is a little-discussed behavior that has recently gained attention in the wake of the on-going Bill Cosby date-rape scandal.

Not to be confused with “sleep sex” when people act out sexual behavior while they themselves are asleep, somnophilia is a deliberate act of victimization. A “somnophile” is generally considered one who engages in this practice whether through stealth with a sleeping victim, molestation of a consciousness-impaired person, or deliberately rendering the victim unconscious or incapacitated. A secondary concern is conducting the activity without the victim waking or somehow discovering the activity.

The Behavior

It is believed that the majority of somnophilia incidents occur infrequently, non-violently, with no intent to harm the victim. The primary objective is to receive the gratification of touch with someone who may not consent during waking times or is otherwise off-limits. Most examples of somnophilia feature stroking, petting, or even fondling their victims, whether in a sexual or non-sexual manner. In many cases the victim is unaware, uninjured, and experiences no negative consequence, but serious harm can result.

There are a few general types of somnophiles:

Porn Viewers – There is a small number of pornography “scenes” involving sleepers or impaired individuals. The target may or may not awaken but is always portrayed as receptive to the activity, signified by their lack of resistance or outright participation.

Opportunists – These individuals may randomly find themselves in situations where covert contact can occur. Contact is usually of the lowest order, non-intrusive, and escalation beyond this stage is rare. This mode is most often reported in adolescence.

Seekers – A few somnophiles report heightened interest in locating victims but will not actively engage unless the target is expected to enter an impaired state, such as anesthesia or sleep-promoting medications. Activities may include direct touching and stimulation of the genitals that may result in penetration but does not involve intercourse. Seekers may believe that their victims enjoy the activity but rely on fuzzy memories to cover their misdeeds.

Jerks – Some men enjoy sneaking sedatives into the food and drink of their wife or girlfriend then performing various sex acts on them. This mode is mostly encountered in long-term couples and characterized by repeating the behavior multiple times, usually with the same partner. Like the Opportunist and the Seeker, the Jerk does not want to harm his victim but seeks an experience not ordinarily available.

Rapists – The Rapist is much like any other forced-sex offender, selecting victims, plotting their acquisition, inducing the victim’s impaired state, then carrying out the intended sex acts. The difference is that this individual requires consciousness-impairment as a precondition of their fantasy as opposed to simply raping a conscious victim, with the impairment offering a degree of obfuscation and plausible deniability. Where other somnophiles may be viewed as “simple” perverts, the Rapist is justifiably vile and repulsive to society.

All of the Above – Sometimes all of these behaviors are acted out as part of a larger event. Video of real instances including all of these behaviors have surfaced in recent times, notably the case in Steubenville, Ohio in which several teenagers filmed themselves molesting an unconscious teenage girl.


The Perpetrator

Somnophilia is generally considered to be a perversion or kink and is thought to be regularly practiced by only a very small fraction of the population. It seldom follows other specific perversions. Somnophilia is sometimes confused with necrophilia, or sexual attraction to the dead, but is unrelated in psychological terms as the somnophile’s victims are implicitly required to be alive.

While there are few laws directed squarely at somnophiles, any such behavior carried to extremes could be considered criminal. There is no general psychological or criminal profile for somnophiles other than having the behavior in common. Since the victim may or may not clearly remember the incident and hesitate to report it, the best accounts we have are from the perpetrators themselves.

There are motivational subdivisions within the realm of somnophilia. Many incidents are the result of opportunity and poor judgment. Sometimes the perpetrator may seek to recreate an activity centered on specific visualizations or circumstances. Others still are deliberate acts of aggression against a specific target. Some somnophiles may also be justifiably called rapists.

Since impairment is one of the hallmarks of somnophilia, the vast majority of offenses go unreported. Without direct, physical evidence, prosecutors are loath to pursue charges in these instances despite the implied lack of consent by the victim.

Somnophilia is not an exclusively male condition. A surprising number of females report having fondled or “played” with someone who was asleep or unconscious. There are many victim reports that identify a female as their molester. Like many male offenders, females often assert that their behavior was “loving” or “caring.”


The Victim

The victim of a somnophile may fit one or more profiles. These profiles may include one or more qualities or circumstances that the offender finds compelling.

Sleepers – The largest group, these individuals are touched in their sleep by someone possessing access to their sleeping area, often a family member or friend who senses an opportunity and acts on it. Stealth is key to successfully molesting someone who is merely asleep, so to avoid discovery the perpetrator usually refrains from invasive or aggressive contact.

Vulnerables – Accounts from medical, dental, hospital, and nursing facility patients have emerged as a distinct class of somnophilia complaints. The individuals may have some level of consciousness impairment or cognitive disability, or may have been placed under general anesthesia by a practitioner. Reported abuses range from simple touching to outright penetrative rape.

Lushes – Many of us know someone who does not handle alcohol or recreational drugs very well. Sometimes these people lose themselves in a chemical-induced stupor that makes them easily exploitable by a somnophile. The young girl in the Steubenville, OH case might be included in this group.

Targets – These people are specifically chosen by the offender and aggressively compromised. In some cases the target is vulnerable because of proximity to the perpetrator, like a disco scene where a date-rape drug is employed. Other instances may include party-goers simply out to have a good time, like so many campus rape reports lately.

Dreamers – While the Dreamer may not constitute a valid class by itself, it is nonetheless a notable group. For centuries, stories have been told of sexually-charged creatures appearing in the night to exert dominance over their target. These demons are generally known as incubus (male) and succubus (female), mounting their helpless victim to conduct their lurid activities. Occasionally, Dreamers have misidentified real persons as their attackers, overwhelmed and unable to process the experience rationally.



It is probably safe to assert that most victims of somnophiles are fortunate enough to have never known what happened, consequently carrying no trauma from the experience. It is possible for an individual to fit one or more or all of the victim profiles during a single event or over time and still not be aware of the abuse. Perhaps these are the “lucky” ones.

Some “unlucky” victims might have attained a high enough level of consciousness to sense what was occurring but were unable to effectively resist. The person being molested does not know the intentions of the abuser and may experience many reactions during and after the event, including terror, panic attacks, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, and other PTSD-like effects.

Unlucky victims might also discover evidence of their misfortune some time after the attack. Venereal diseases, unexplained pregnancies, and acute physical trauma have been reported after encounters with somnophiles. Sometimes the person finds other signs of the attack, such as disturbed items in the room, unbuttoned or missing clothing, discomfort in sensitive areas, and even semen or lubricants where they shouldn’t be.

Effects of drugs given to a victim can linger for hours or days, or even induce physical addiction as with heroin, a common technique used by human traffickers in the conditioning of young girls for sex slavery.

For survivors of any assault, medical attention and psychological counseling should be sought as soon as practical after such an event. A growing number of men are reporting being victimized in this way by other men, some of them in our armed forces. No one should be afraid to speak up about what happened, even if it wasn’t “rape.”


The Willing Participant

Not everyone that enjoys somnophilia is an aggressor. Some like being the “victim.” There is currently no diametric opposite terminology to describe those who enjoy somnophilia in this way. In BDSM terms, this person would be the “sub” or “bottom” in the scene, and one could argue that their explicit participation earns them the label of somnophile.

Exhibitionists – You may know someone, probably a female, who wears little or nothing to bed at night when others might see them, or may don inappropriate sleepwear when houseguests are present. These individuals want to be seen, titillating the viewer and creating sexual tension. Skimpy nightclothes and overt signaling to others that sleep time approaches is often a somewhat transparent invitation to engage in somnophilia surreptitiously, or perhaps something more.

Mindless – Countless people have related how they have to “get out of it” in order to have sex with their partner. There is a smaller group that reports enjoying the physical and emotional feeling of “having been used” while in an intentional alcohol or drug-induced stupor. These accounts have historically been provided by women though recently more men are detailing their experiences as alternative lifestyles have grown in popularity and acceptance.

Secret Sluts – As a teenager, this writer attended several neighborhood “pass out parties”, events designed for participating girls to enjoy semi-anonymous sex under the guise of being involuntarily incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. The parties were pretty well planned considering the ages of these Secret Sluts, mostly 13-15 years old. Male participants were carefully selected and heavily screened for their ability to keep quiet about what would transpire. The girls partied until “passing out”, signalling the boys that it was time to begin the main event. Sometimes specific pairings or activities would be planned and agreed to in advance. Seldom would any of the girls be totally unconscious, enabling them to develop and maintain boundaries and monitor the other girls for signs of distress.

Sex Dolls – A surprising number of women have told of preference for and enhanced enjoyment of sex through somnophilia. After ingesting some form of sleep-inducing medication, she prepares herself for bed, inviting the attending male to visit her once she’s drifted off. He is free to do anything he wants; she isn’t aware of his activities at the time so she doesn’t have to worry about putting him off or offending his manhood by rejecting him in any way. She may find the results of the evening running down her thigh the next morning to be stimulating and fulfilling in and of itself. Some of these women say that they will not have sex under any other conditions.

Sleeping Beauty – Finally, there are those who indulge in fantasies of being molested while in their bed asleep, perhaps by an intruder. Often meticulously planned, these scenarios have occasionally resulted in the injury or death of a participant. A small number of these willing victims solicit an intruder from online sources, like CraigsList, in order to enhance the “stranger” quality. The victim in these scenes is seldom ever really asleep, so technically somnophilia is not the primary behavior in play.


Conclusions and Quandaries

Somnophilia is a little-discussed form of self-gratification that may carry significant risks to both the perpetrator and victim. Those who actively engage in somnophilia may be in the role of aggressor, or less commonly, willing victim. Not everyone who is an aggressor is a rapist, though many rapists engage in somnophilia as part of their attacks.

But what about the rest of us? Ladies, have you never once titillated your partner while in a deep sleep phase, maybe even to the point of orgasm? Men, have you not tried to slowly slip it into your girl so she wouldn’t wake up and stop the fun? Does either of these scenarios make you a somnophile?

How about the recent reports from the US and UK of incidents involving beloved celebrities employing drugs to incapacitate their young victims to facilitate sexual exploitation? Are these people actual somnophiles or just sleazy rapists that are too cowardly to express themselves in a genuine manner?

As with everything, personal responsibility is the deciding factor when considering engaging in any type of behavior. Never do anything that you know would offend or harm the person you desire, and sleep well in the knowledge that you aren’t a pervert.

One thought on “Somnophilia Awakens as a Stealthy Secret

  1. Very interesting article! I’m a psychology major and I have never seen this discussed. It is quite timely in light of recent new stories (Bill Cosby) which have sensationalized the criminal implications yet have made no attempt at more serious discussion and understanding. This is the type of insight our society needs more of. Kudos to you, Peter!

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