COPROPHILIA: a sensitive concept; caution advised before reading

I’m serious about the comment in the title.  This is a “dirty” definition.

I stumbled across the term coprophilia in an article in Sunday’s New York Times in the Book Review section, of all places.  It was imbedded in an article by Dorothy Gallagher, an author, who was reviewing a new book, Eva Braun by Heike B. Gortemaker.   The author was referring to unsubstantiated rumors about the sexuality of Adolph Hitler, ranging from heterosexual to impotent.  She then adds:

“A coprophilia fetish has been mentioned.”  (bold font is mine)

My first inclination upon reading the word was something like “an aversion to police.”  But when I put the word in context I became more convinced that it had something to do with copulation, the act of sexual intercourse.  That, it turned out, was closer.   But when I went to my resources I was disgusted to learn that coprophilia has to do with a fetish related to feces, human excrement.    If I read it carefully, it means that the person is fascinated with the process of expelling feces from the body.  Further, however, it is about smearing feces as part of the act of copulation.    How’s that for getting “down and dirty?”

I have to admit to never having read a biography of Adolph Hitler, nor even lengthy, scholarly articles about him or his life.  So my knowledge of the German dictator is pretty plebeian, garnered more from short articles and commentary than anything else.  I’ve never read anything before which dealt with his sexual life.  For some reason, having been born at the beginning of World War II, Adolph Hitler was “bigger than life” and, I suppose, somewhat a-sexual to me until Sunday.   I knew stories about him having a lover (Eva Braun) whom he married just hours before they both committed suicide.   Even that, however, is open to speculation, as Hitler required all personal papers to be destroyed before he died.

I suspect this may be the only piece of writing under my name in which you will ever again find the word coprophilia.  I can’t imagine how it would enter into anything that I would write.    But its appearance in a seemingly non-controversial review of a book about Eva Braun  caught my attention, and my hour spent tracing its meaning and use seemed to make the word worth knowing.  Maybe “knowing” more than “using.”

I do have to admit that the ancient dictionary I keep on my desk, The College Edition of Webster’s New Word Dictionary of the American Language, 1957, gives two alternative meanings, “preoccupation with obscenity; fondness for pornography.”  The fact that those two thoughts are not repeated in any of the other resources I consulted tends to lead me to believe that those are more obscure, maybe even archaic meanings.  Maybe they are used by people with more sensitive taste who can’t bear to go with the standard definition.  But the medical prefix to the word, copro, clearly identifies it as a word related to feces, so I’m convinced it’s the meaning Ms. Gallagher had in mind.   I intend to email her, and I’ll let you know if she responds with a clarification.

Of all the things I know about Adoph Hitler, this one is among the more bizarre.  But, then again, a man who could order the murder of millions of men, women and children because of their faith, their orientation, or their national or political beliefs should not surprisingly be a man who has bizarre personal practices.

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