Updated: NOVEMBER 1, 2023
Reviewed by Kinkly Staff

Vicarphilia is a fetish for hearing about another person’s exciting experiences. These retold experiences are usually sexual in nature, but may also be nonsexual. Vicarphilia is sometimes called vicarious arousal.

The term vicarphilia is linked to the word vicarious, which means to act in someone’s place. People who experience vicarphilia use their imaginations to take the place of the people in the stories they hear. Vicarphilia and vicarious both come from the Latin noun vicis, which means “alternation” or “change.” Vicis is also where we get the English prefix vice, which means “taking the place of,” as in the word vice-president. Vicarphilia also has the common suffix philia, a Greek term for love.

People who experience vicarphilia feel aroused by living vicariously through the person sharing their experiences. They are called vicarphiles. Typically, vicarphiles get turned on by the stories of individuals whose lives are different from their own. For example, if they are in a monogamous and exclusive sexual relationship, they may enjoy learning about the experiences of swingers or people who have group sex. People aroused by nonsexual experiences may like to hear people talk about their experiences participating in extreme sports or attending red carpet events.

In a 2013 article, British psychologist Dr. Mark Griffiths wrote that he feels vicarphilia is a form of narratophilia, a fetish focused on sexual or obscene words and storytelling. However, while vicarphiles may become aroused by some of the same stories as narratophiles, some activities narratophiles may enjoy, such as dirty talk during sex, may be less appealing. Vicarphiles typically prefer hearing about experiences that have already happened to someone else, rather than creating a narrative in real-time as some narratophiles may enjoy. They may not feel aroused by sexual words in isolation, as narratophiles might. Some vicarphiles may also get turned on by nonsexual stories, which are unlikely to appeal to narratophiles.

Vicarphilia is sometimes considered a type of voyeurism, as vicarphiles derive pleasure from observing the experiences of others, even though they are not observing them in person. Instead, they are observing them in their mind’s eye as they read or hear the experience unfold.

More About Vicarphilia

According to Dr. Griffiths' article, there has been no empirical or clinical research conducted on vicarphilia. There also aren’t any major websites or online communities focused on this fetish. That makes it difficult to determine how many people identify as vicarphiles, or who these people typically are. Freakypedia suggests vicarphiles may be more likely to be introverted, as they may prefer learning about the interactions others have to interacting with other people but the relative lack of information on vicarphilia calls into question whether this is more of a pop culture fetish than one that real people actually identify with.

How common is vicarphilia?

"I don’t think that vicarphilia is rare, but it’s certainly not something that comes up often, even on my own blog," said Laura Rose Halliday, a sex educator and co-founder of School of Squirt and "not-so-closetted vicarphile". "I think it’s one of those fetishes that most anyone can easily see the appeal of, but it’s only really effective for people who can flesh out that story in their mind.

"It might not surprise you to learn that I’m a sensual person. Double entendre aside, I mean that I rely heavily on my senses - mostly sound and touch - in my sexual encounters. Vicarphilia is just a natural extension of that for me!" she explained.

"For auditory individuals like myself, it’s not just being able to hear things that's a turn-on. It’s being able to turn what I hear into a full-blown video in my mind. When I hear other people share their sexual experiences, I can see what’s happening and perhaps even put myself (mentally) in that same scenario. My turn-ons, in particular, involve sexual encounters in nature - a stream, in a field under the stars, on the side of a deserted road against the car. The beauty of nature makes it easy for me to listen and then visualize, while the fear of being caught is just an added bonus."

Being aroused by the exciting experiences other people share isn’t too dissimilar from getting aroused watching porn. These stories allow people to imagine how they may feel having different experiences. They may spark fantasies and help people learn about sexual experiences outside their own, with different partners and different activities. Vicarphiles also feel empathetic towards the people who share their stories. When a storyteller shares their arousal, it can trigger the same response in a vicarphile.

How to Experience or Play With Vicarphilia

Vicarphiles may satisfy their fetish in several different ways. Halliday says a lack of online communities like those that exist for many other fetishes "makes it a bit difficult to scratch that itch, but not impossible. There are websites like that make it possible to listen to erotic stories. Audiobooks can also fill that need, though it’s not quite the same as a more personal (and realistic) sexual encounter. I also make my partners aware of my fetish, and I’ve even asked them to tell me their naughtiest encounters with other partners. That usually gets us both hot and bothered, which is fun for all involved."

Some vicarphiles also follow camgirls and people who share their sexual experiences on OnlyFans. Partners aren't the only people who can share stories that may turn vicarphiles on. They may also have conversations with people willing to share exciting stories about their lives in person, over the phone, or online through mediums like instant messaging and video conferencing calls.

Vicarphilia is a harmless fetish that most people accept as part of their sexual identity. Connecting with others who share an interest in vicarphilia, or the wider fetish community, can help people embrace their sexual interest. While telling a partner about this interest may be confronting, it can boost intimacy and lead to a more satisfying sex life.


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