When asked if he remembers his ‘first time’, 45-year-old BenPanced from Minnesota chuckles: “Oh yeah, it was a complete disaster!” His usually calm tones crackle with excitement as he confesses, “I was overzealous and set my pump pressure too high. I hadn’t paid attention to the expert information online, and I got a bad case of the dry heaves. I was really sick!”
BenPanced, (his online pseudonym) isn’t talking about losing his virginity, he’s recalling the first time he wormed a lubricated tube 6in up his bum – far enough “to avoid air leaking out” – and bulged his stomach out to a “sexy, round ball shape” using an aquarium pump, then gradually blasted out the gas, ahem, naturally.
BenPanced is part of a growing community, whose kink involves pumping air into the abdomen via the anus to make it bigger. He usually inflates at the weekends, and the results last for around two hours, although it’s possible to “flex the rectal muscles if you want to keep the air in longer”.
Even though he has uploaded 21 videos to YouTube – many of which show his face – his friends and work colleagues don’t yet know what he gets up to in the privacy of his home.
BenPanced is gay, but his fetish appeals to both genders and all orientations, although many male inflators say that women are more secretive about their activities, and are more likely to lurk in forums than post videos of themselves online.
BenPanced’s compulsion to inflate his stomach comes from a childhood fascination with the Hanna-Barbera hero Peter Potamus, a purple hippo who puffed out his chest to defeat baddies. But he didn’t start doing it until five years ago, when he discovered forums on websites such as Bodyinflation.org for people who share his kink, and realised it was physically possible.
The internet has introduced many ‘inflators’ to the pleasures of pumping gas. Another of YouTube’s prolific belly-stretchers, 43-year-old BallBellyBearOR, stumbled upon the fetish 12 years ago through an online friend.
Although BallBellyBearOR can’t remember his ‘first time’, he keenly recalls his first orgasm: “I put a plastic bag inside a pair of stretchy pants and filled it with hot water in the bathtub. It was such a turn-on, I think that was the beginning of my swelling fetish!”
Belly, or stomach inflation is part of the ‘expansion’ fetish, which includes fantasising about being pregnant, and getting off on inflatable clothing and enlarged body parts.
“The fetish is broad,” explains InflateAndStuff, a straight, 25-year-old American who has experimented with pumping himself anally and orally with air, helium, carbon dioxide and water, as well permanently making himself bigger by eating vast amounts. “Most people who are into belly inflation enjoy other aspects of bodily growth, such as breast inflation, full body inflation and butt inflation,” he says.
It’s not known when people started to pump themselves with gases and liquids, but Luther Kane, who runs Bodyinflation.org, says, “People were inflating long before the internet was around. We can trace the roots of it back to a form of yoga known as plavini pranayama, in which people swallow air, and masters of it float on water.”
Luther’s website only used to run made-up stories about inflation, but in 2000, the true tales started to roll in. InflateAndStuff, who pumps himself up most days, depending on his libido, was inspired to experiment with inflation before he met others who do it.
“I read a fictional story on Bodyinflation.org about a high school girl whose sister stuck an air hose up her arse and grew to the size of a doorway,” he explains. “I thought, ‘People pass wind all the time, what harm is there in pushing air up there?’ So I rifled through my sports equipment and found a basketball pump and aquarium tubing...”
But the name of the fetish is misleading – it’s the colon, not the tummy that swells up. “The connection from the small intestine to the colon is a one-way valve,” explains GP, Dr Rebecca Ward. “The colon is the final part of the digestive process, and it only lets waste out, so it’s impossible to anally pump air into your stomach. If this valve wasn’t there, then gas from the colon could bubble up to the stomach, and burps would smell like poo. The stomach as an organ doesn’t expand, but the abdomen, of which the colon is a large part, does.”
The thrill for inflators is the sensation of air rushing in and the reward of an enlarged, bongo-like tummy. “The enjoyment for me comes from seeing or feeling the growth, tightness and roundness,” admits InflateAndStuff. “I love hearing the hollow thumping noise of my fingers tapping my hugely inflated beach ball-belly.”
BallBellyBearOR likes the feeling of being out of control, and NK, a 23-year-old man from Russia, stresses the voyeuristic pleasure: “When I hear a guy moan and see his belly expand, it drives me crazy!” he says. “I once convinced my ex-boyfriend to pump,” he recalls. “At first it was a joke, and I didn’t think he would really try it, but we ended up inflating each other. It was unbelievable! He got stomach cramps, though.”
It’s hard, however, for inflators to meet each other in the flesh. With the community spread far and wide, InflateAndStuff has been lucky to hook up with three women he met online. “One inflated me with a bulb pump and compressor, then rubbed my ballooned stomach,” he says. “Another was a mutual inflation where we both pumped each other and played with each other’s bellies. It’s rare to meet others on the internet who are into this in real life; I was lucky they lived in the same state as me and were around my age.”
BenPanced chips in. “I’d like to film a scene where I grow to a 55in circumference, and float around in a swimming pool like a bath toy,” he fantasises. “I’m just waiting for the right guy. Hulk Hogan would be nice. Or Robbie Williams.”
As for equipment, there are many things in their garages to choose from. Although BenPanced hasn’t ventured past an aquarium pump and a blood pressure cuff, he’d like to try a bicycle pump. “I’m also inspired by a guy who uses helium tanks or portable tyre inflators that are usually used for roadside emergencies,” he says.
Body inflation can be dangerous, yet, amazingly, there aren’t many horror stories. Only BenPanced claims to have heard “tales about people rupturing their colon because they took in too much gas or liquid and didn’t pay attention to their body’s reaction.”
He explains that experienced inflationists know the warning signs. “Your body sends out signals, such as feeling nauseous if too much air goes in,” he says. “But most of us do it successfully every time.”
Dr Ward says that people feel sick because an expanded colon compresses the stomach, creating the same symptoms as an upset tummy or an urgent call to the porcelain throne. She warns against the practice: “Inflating the colon could perforate it, which would lead to peritonitis, and the loss of your intestine. If your fetish is to inflate your stomach, drink a can of fizzy pop and let the soda bubbles do their thing.”
Inflating every day could also bung you up in the long run. “Too many inflations could make the colon saggy and less pliable, impairing peristalsis (the squeezing motion in digestion) and causing chronic constipation,” says Dr Ward.
But the risks might not be enough to dissuade people. Bizarre can’t stress enough that inflation is a bad idea, however NK knows an Estonian who’s been inflating, problem-free, for 30 years.
InflateAndStuff says, “People hardly ever rupture anything. Then there’s that old urban legend about a kid who tried to ‘get high’ by filling up with a gas station tyre pump and exploded…” Ah yes, ‘popping’. But that’s another fantasy altogether…