Eyeball-Licking Craze Is Giving Japanese Teens Pink Eye

Friday, 14 Jun 2013 11:13 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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A strange eyeball-licking fetish in Japan has health experts worried about the spread of conjunctivitis, or pink eye.

Eyeball-licking, or oculolinctus, is the newest expression of intimacy between middle schoolers in Japan — sort of a step above kissing. Detailed this week by Japanese site Naver Matome (and translated into English by Japan Crush), oculolinctus is contributing to an epidemic of pink eye, causing students to wear eye patches.

"After class one day, I went into the equipment store in the gymnasium… and a male pupil and a female pupil had their faces close together and were kind of fumbling around," a Japanese middle school teacher told Naver Matome. "When I had a good look, the boy was licking the girl's eye. Surprised, I shouted 'What are you doing? Stop it at once!' and the two of them were so shocked they jumped apart. The girl burst into tears, and the boy just went bright red and was shaken up."

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It's unclear what sparked the eyeball-licking trend. Some say it became popular from a scene in a Japanese punk band's music video. Others claim it's been a YouTube staple since the mid-2000s. Either way, health experts are concerned.

"The cornea is the most innervated part of the body," Dr. Robert Noecker, an ophthalmologist in Connecticut, told Medical Daily. "That's why it might feel good to have it licked. It's the same thing with sucking toes — they're so sensitive because the body needs to be able to detect minor particles and other disturbances. If you're so inclined, that's the plus.

"[But] you're potentially traumatizing the eye. You can knock cells off and easily scratch the cornea, which can lead to a corneal ulcer that can be blinding. Especially from a stranger with very bad germs, you don't want those foreign bacteria on the surface of your eyes."

Japan is well known for its strange social trends. Last year, Japanese teens made headlines for "bagelheading," a body modification where saline is deposited into the forehead in the shape of a bagel. 


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