Could the cause of balloon fetishism be Genetic ?
A widely accepted notion
It is widely accepted that we are who we are as a combined result of our
genetics and our environment - in other words - the DNA that laid the plan
for our physical form and our in-built instincts - combined with all our
experiences of life.
Criticism of 'widely accepted'
But there is a problem here with the term 'widely accepted' - it is an
indication that we do not have all the evidence - that it is the best
approximation to reality that we have at the present time. Several centuries
ago a writer would have been justified in saying 'it is widely accepted that
all matter consists of the four elements - fire, air, earth, and water in
various combinations'. We have a much better grasp of chemistry here in the
21st century so this idea seems ridiculous to us, but in the past this was a
first step towards constructive thinking about the world and its
constitution - it's easy to look back in time and consider how little
was known about such things, and I propose that in the future we will
look back to what we now call the present and see that this is particularly
true of our knowledge of balloon fetishism.
Purpose of this page
I have no argument with the construct that genetics and environment both
play significant roles in the minutiae of our lives, but I certainly take
issue concerning the importance, and therefore usefulness, of each to our
current understanding - so this page seeks to address the relevance of
genetic influence with respect to the influence of our environment within
the confines of our understanding of each at the present time.
What is our current knowledge
At present, there is no direct evidence to support specific genetic
predisposition towards fetishism, however is seen as a valid area
for study, and no doubt there will be attempts to determine this in the
future. I expect that such research is way down the list of priorities -
discovering genetic factors involved in various medical conditions is bound
to take the majority of effort in the decades to come.
Current status is a guess
But what can we say about our current knowledge ? Anything we say today can
only be an estimate - a guess ( however intelligent ) which will only be
proved or disproved with the passage of time and the results of future research.
Which part of the code ?
Fetishism appears to be unique to the human environment - but not unique to
the human species in that family pets occasionally develop sexual procedures
with manufactured objects, which raises a question about the location within
DNA of any genes which may determine fetishism. ( It also raises questions
relating to the ability of animals to learn alternative behaviors in unnatural
environments, but for the following paragraphs we can assume the possibility
that instinct is the prime motivator. )
In the 90% shared ?
Within all mammals - from human being to pygmy shrew - about 90% of our DNA
is common to all, so with more than one species exhibiting fetishism we could
expect any precursive genes to be contained in this common element. If such
genes exist then we should expect them to be acted upon differently by
different species - we shouldn't expect a small rodent to develop a fetish
for balloons because it would have some trouble blowing them up - and a
hedgehog would have it's own specific problems too.
Or the 10% unique ?
Conversely we could argue that if such genetic predisposition exists then
it is possible that it is caused by different genes in different species -
fetishism is often closely related to the circumstances of the first orgasm -
which is itself related to pair bonding in humans and by inference may be
related to pair bonding in other species where this occurs, or by further
inference it may be related to pack bonding in other species where sexual
activity is retained within a group - so we could expect to see fetishism
only in species that show the capability to co-exist in a family environment
or to have instinctive tendencies towards monogamy or sexual loyalty within
a group. This process would exclude many of the lower mammals and would point
to the genes in question being in the 10% of DNA which is specie specific
though it could be common to several genotypes - for example, we share some
99% of our genetic code with chimpanzees.
Genetic tendencies would be inherited
If genetics are involved then we could expect to see fetish behavior running
in families though there is little evidence to suggest or refute this - in any
event there are sound reasons for such evidence being hidden even where it
exists. Most parents are keen to see their children mature without any unusual
influences and so are most likely to keep knowledge of any fetish from their
children. Even where offspring of fetishists have fetishes of their own, the
argument that this is a result of learned traits within a close group is a
factor which cannot be ignored.
Recessive genes - hit and miss
A recessive gene is a type of gene that can be within the genetic code and
inherited by offspring in the normal way but will not be shown as a
characteristic in a particular individual because a dominant gene has taken
control of that characteristic. But when offspring are born without the
dominant gene then the characteristic of the recessive gene will be displayed.
Such characteristics may appear infrequently within families so that some
offspring may display the characteristics the gene produces while others may
not - there is a 50% chance that offspring will be carriers of the gene and
not display the characteristics of that gene - if Fetishism is related to a
recessive gene then this behavior will be entirely variable - each generation
may show the characteristic or the characteristic may only be displayed by
family members who are many generations apart.
Each of us has defective or anomalous genes - even identical twins have very
small differences is their genetic structure - so fetishism could be the result
of a relatively common anomaly.
A small number only ?
If genetics predetermined object fetishism then I would expect the number of
genes involved to be small since any specific fetish represents the behavior
of just a small minority - and it is of course possible that such a genetic
segment could appear occasionally in animals other than man sometimes tending
to produce fetishism in both human and domesticated higher mammals while
producing other behavior in simpler organisms but I am inclined to think that
a more general explanation will be found.
Generalities - not specifics
I think it is much more likely that genetic tendencies towards much more
common aspects such as inquisitiveness and the need to learn, or the natural
and universal tendency to find objects attractive ( or not ) is the prime
process involved - and these produce responses to our environment.
The difficulties of research
All of the above items, including the fact that fetishism is usually a very
private behavior, will cause great difficulty to anyone embarking on research
in this area - and any researcher who ignores any of the inconveniences of the
task will produce conclusions that are fragile at best, and meaningless at worst.
Fetishism and phobias
As mentioned elsewhere on this site there is a relationship between balloon
popping phobia and balloon fetishism in that some people who are phobic about
balloons bursting eventually become balloon fetishists (1) - and this raises a
couple of interesting questions. There has been some study recently which
leads to the conclusion that there may be an element of genetic predisposition
towards phobias (2), but even here there are many who regard the family
environment to be the most significant factor - children being 'taught' to
be phobic by parents who are phobic themselves - interestingly siblings tend
not to have the same phobias as their parents - so if there is genetic
involvement in fetishism and if similar processes are operating then we could
expect to see parents with fetishes and offspring with different fetishes.
However, these matters tend to remain secret even within families, so the
discovery of any such processes is likely to be difficult.
So I estimate that the study of a genetic predisposition towards fetishism
would have to be more general and interpretive rather than specific to a
particular fetish, or even to sub-groups within a particular fetish. However
some geneticists have suggested that sub-groups represent identifiably unique
behavior and would have to be studied separately - for example, the largest
sub-groups within balloon fetishism are 'poppers' and 'non-poppers'. those
who gain pleasure from a balloon being burst ( and usually the process of
inflation that precedes it ), and those who simply enjoy the feel of a balloon
and regard bursting one as a waste. There are sub-groups within subgroups -
for example there are those who enjoy vinyl inflatables as well as balloons -
and those who don't. This approach to the definition of behavior is likely to
yield more precise results, but it will be much more difficult to accomplish
since the specific behavior has to be defined much more closely - and I
estimate that when such results are correlated we may simply see genetic
disposition towards something more general than a particular fetish, but if
a gene pair or pattern consistently indicates this as a result of sub-group
investigation then the evidence for general predisposition will be much more
Behavior, intelligence, and personal choice
Smaller mammals are responsive primarily to their genetic code and are restricted
in their response to their environment whereas the higher mammals - man in
particular, seek to control their environment and respond to it in a
significantly more complex manner than simple genetic responses would suggest.
In particular the capacity to learn, which is also related to the capacity to
remember, greatly influences the higher mammals' behavior, whereas those
creatures with significantly smaller brains depend much more on instinct and
the genetic code that produces it.
Learning and behavior
For example, (3) a few years ago a young zoologist joined a team studying
coastal primates in Africa - the team would feed the chimpanzees with bananas
to encourage close contact with the tribe in order to enable close
observation - but on this occasion the process went slightly wrong - the
new member of the team was asked to do this but without specific
instruction - before any of the team could stop her she did exactly what
you or I would do with a banana - she PEELED it before handing it to a
nearby chimp ! This tribe had bananas as part of its normal diet - but
they would of course just stuff them in their mouths skin and all. However
this caught on within the tribe - in the short space of 6 weeks the whole
tribe had changed their habits - now they ALL peeled their bananas before
eating them !
When proof is marginalised
There is currently some research being undertaken in the UK into
instinctive ( and therefore primarily genetic ) reasons for personal
choice - unfortunately there seem to be fundamental flaws in the approach
even though there may be some fascinating discoveries along the way -
firstly they appear to be setting out to prove it rather than purely
investigate it - and secondly they are describing 'brain activity' of a
certain type ( activity which significantly precedes a decision ) as if
they know the reason for it, and they do not - this is a recent discovery
and they are making assumptions about its function and importance. Brain
activity that occurs significantly ahead of a decision could simply be
related to a decision to 'chose soon'. though this is as much a guess as
the assumptions made by the researchers. What needs to be recognized here
is that a theory remains unproven while anything that underpins the idea
So many factors
In the human animal there is not only genetic influence , but also the
ability to chose where the parameters of choice are recognized, and also
our response to any instructions of our peers where these are relevant and
timely. Also it is in our nature to experiment - and this may partly
explain the notion that fetishism is a male dominated trait - the male
sex organ, being external, is a more obvious item for self investigation
particularly when it responds to stimulus. Balloon fetishism often begins
at an early age and in isolation from parental influence (4) and the
(genetic) instinct to self pleasure takes over - this instinct is universal
though the involvement of balloons is often learnt at a time of life when
the nature of the act is unrecognized and therefore the choice to continue
with the habit, or desist from it, is not available - the individual is
normally too young to be aware of the choices and the consequences of those
In terms of what we know at present - we have some knowledge of the
environmental factors that definitely influence people towards fetishism,
and we are aware that there are some gaps in our knowledge.
Misleading at the present time
While I would agree wholeheartedly that we should continue to look at all
possible reasons why we have become what we are, I think that it is
misleading to point to DNA as a reason for balloon fetishism when it is
( so far ) without any direct indication that this is so - particularly
when we have a wealth of data which points to environmental influences
and still have indeterminates in this area which need research. Genetics
are certainly involved in our general sexuality and in our ability to
form and maintain pairs but there is nothing more closely defined to
implicate a specific sexual practice. We are already aware that a number
of different circumstances are implicated in the initiation and continuation
of a fetish so if genetics are involved also, we should not be surprised if
it is found that a similar number of genetic structures are implicated - and
similarly we are aware that certain environmental occurrences only have a
tendency to produce fetishism and do not always do so, we should expect
genetic study to discover genes or sequences that are more likely to indicate
an increased possibility of fetishism rather than a clearly defined structure
of cause and effect.
We are our own best advisers
We have all experienced our own environment - each of us is the only expert
in our own particular world - and most fetishists are intimately aware of
the circumstances within that environment which encouraged and supported
their fetish. Compared to this, DNA research seems quite remote and therefore
of far less personal importance. Even if genetic precursors are proven to
exist, our personal experiences will remain much more significant as a means
to understanding ourselves, and ultimately, our increasing ability to choose
our environment with the passage of time will remain the most significant
factor in the developmental progress of a fetish within any particular
individual. Knowing the parameters of choice is of great importance to
the success of the individual within the individual's personal ambitions
and so information which gives some indication of the range of choices
available is a prime purpose of this website.
- Suggested next page -
- Fetish FAQs index
- Other pages -
- How did I get this way
- The fear factor
- Early beginnings
- Main Index
Note 1 Very occasionally the converse is also true - fetishists can become
Note 2 This also supports a general tendency rather than a specific
Note 3 The event described also questions the 'widely accepted' and much
quoted assumption that mammalian behavioral changes occur only slowly.
I prefer the hypothesis that beneficial changes occur in 'steps' where
each step is completed in a short time ( as in the case of peeling bananas )
but that these steps occur infrequently which gives the impression that
overall behavior changes slowly.
Note 4 And where parental knowledge of fetishism is often lacking anyway.
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