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Yesterday’s hot temperatures wilted weary marathon runners, but the early blast of heat could energize the allergy season.

Boston Herald, April 20

"In class yesterday morning, the guy who sat next to me sneezed twice. They were both short, powerful sneezes, and he blew his nose afterwards." For most of us, this information would elicit an "Oh," or possibly an "Ew." For devotees of the Web site The Tarot of Sneezing (tos.beastlet.com), however, the story of this sniffly student would arouse a chorus of Oohs. Indeed, as allergy season gets under way, a whole army of sneeze fetishists are eagerly anticipating the moment when the stranger beside them throws back his head, screws up his eyes, and emits a fine mist of spit and snot into the air.

According to a sneeze fetishist who goes by the name Bondi, there are plenty of people out there who feel a frisson of excitement at the sight and sound of a good ah-choo. "There are sneeze fetishists all over the world," Bondi writes on his Web site, bondi.beastlet.com. "We’re teachers, accountants, doctors, nurses, students, parents, sons, daughters, husbands, wives. In short, we are otherwise normal people ... who have a fetish for sneezing." While Bondi will allow that this may strike many as rather odd, he insists that there are weirder turn-ons: "There are people out there who like to have sex with trees."

Exactly how many sneeze fetishists exist, even Bondi doesn’t know for sure. There are, though, scores of Web sites dedicated to the pursuit. There are sites that post pictures of sneezing people, sites that list TV shows and films in which characters sneeze, and sites that share sneeze facts ("one sneeze propels up to 100,000 bacteria into the air at about 200 mph"). Then there are the forums, which allow sneeze fetishists to explore their interests together: "Tennis stars Serena Williams and Steffi Graf have hay fever."

According to Bondi, it can be hard for people like him to talk about their fetish, even — or especially — with loved ones. "That’s the nice thing about the Internet," he writes. "You can find a community of people who understand and share the fetish." On one message board, a poster writes, "I think Pluto from [the] Disney cartoons has fantastic sneezes. I love Pluto’s sneezes so freakin’ much." On the same board, another poster writes, "I’ve recently been getting really close with a friend of mine, and I’m finding out that no sneezes besides hers really do anything anymore," which elicits the response: "Describe her sneeze Dave!"

Of course, most of us would rather not have Dave describe his girlfriend’s nasal emissions. But then sneeze fetishists are used to being misunderstood, even by the professionals. "Most psychologists would probably have a field day over this," writes one sneeze enthusiast, "if they were aware that such a thing ... exists." The writer is not so far off the mark. "Sneezing fetishists?" says Aline Zoldbrod, a sex therapist in Lexington. "Really? I had no idea."

All the same, Zoldbrod is unfazed that people might be sexually aroused by something as incongruous as a sneeze. "I have to say, in general," she says, "people with fetishes are fun to work with and otherwise totally normal people.... We’re obviously not talking about people who harm other people. How would a sneezing fetish harm anyone?" Zoldbrod does, however, have some concerns. "I wouldn’t want to be sneezing on the T and having all these people getting off on it."

Issue Date: April 23 - 29, 2004
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