Balloon fetishists, who also call themselves looners, balloonophiles, or loonatics, get off on blowing up and/or popping latex balloons. Some looners actually have sex with the balloons by sticking their equipment in the nozzle (obviously, you have to be male to pull this off). Others enjoy putting balloons inside their clothing.

Though balloonophilia seems almost laughably childish for a fetish, looners are quite serious. They are finicky about the types of balloons they enjoy (Mylar is materia non grata for a looner), their preferred filling (air over helium), and their favorite method of popping (pin, flame, shoe heel, etc.). They frequent balloon porn sites (for advice as well as MPEGs), draw erotic balloon art, and customize hippety hops (those big toy balloons you bounced on as a child) with buttplugs. They argue over whether poppers (people who enjoy popping balloons) are violent, or whether non-poppers are wusses. They gather in groups -- the Balloon Buddies, the Buddymen.

Freud might say that the fetish stemmed from castration anxiety (the balloon stands in for the penis) or denial of breastfeeding (the balloon stands in for the breast). Many looners might in fact see balloons as penis substitutes -- one video theme, for instance, involves women deepthroating balloons. (The implications of this for people who enjoy popping balloons are somewhat disturbing.) For others, balloonophilia is related to a body inflation fetish, where the person is fascinated with the sudden expansion of body parts. A number report a childhood phobia of loud noises, and feel that their sex play with balloons helps them reconcile that fear -- they associate the popping of balloons with arousal rather than terror.

Some looner fantasies:

"The strongest, most pervasive fantasy I have is to be in the company of a woman who is completely nonchalant and unperturbed while blowing up, playing with, and popping balloons. A woman who has the ability to handle balloons without fear is awesome and devastatingly sexy." -Dan

"I like the image of a rough and tough man, idly and gently playing with a large, tightly inflated balloon, bouncing it gently around and roughly scraping his hands across it to make it squeal. I like to imagine him wrapping his rough hairy hands around it, distorting it out of shape and bursting it with sheer muscular force as if to prove his masculinity." -Buster Steve

"The images I enjoy are non-pornographic (and typically involve fully-clothed people), have both male and female subjects, and show people having fun blowing up or otherwise playing with balloons." -Tina

Balloon safety tips:

Gates, Katherine. Deviant Desires. New York: Juno Books, 2000.

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