“Playboy” with Joe Nickell et al.: “Having Sex with Spirits”

December 13, 2018

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What is it with people “having sex with spirits”? And what would Joe Nickell and Chris French know about it? For answers we turn to an article by Mark Hay for playboy.com (July 16, 2018).

Of course tales of phantom sex hark back to “ancient Sumerian myths to the Bible to still extant beliefs in incubi and succubi.” In an interview I mentioned to Hay the phenomenon of the “waking dream,” which he was familiar with as “sleep paralysis” (actually  sometimes—but by no means always– a component of the broader waking- dream experience). As he says: “The experiences are extremely vivid and realistic—I can personally attest. Many recent and legendary spirit sex stories do take place in bed”—a domain of altered states of consciousness.

Nevertheless, Hay says:

Not all who experience sleep paralysis or other hallucinations see them as spiritual encounters, much less have sex within them. Joe Nickell, a professional skeptic, suspects that some of this has to do with the fact that our psyches shift these experiences through a prism of our existing beliefs, such that some people might read the same core mental-physical experience as, say, an alien probe. All of the ghost sex believers I’ve spoken to did have pre-experience faith in spirits and energies.

Hay goes on to explore the possibility—brought up by psychologist and fellow skeptic French—that certain people (especially women) are able to reach sexual climax purely by thought; so are others with disorders that can yield spontaneous arousal—even orgasm. One woman pointedly observed that she met her spirit lover after expressing an intention to do so, “a desire Nickell might say her mind drew on and turned into internal wish fulfillment.” (I do say that.)

Without ruling out encounters with “actual ghosts”—as skeptics tend do so—Hay observes that whatever triggers a spirit sex experience amounts to a difference in people.  Those who think most about ghost lovers seem to be those who are able to exert control over their fantasies.