Why are Japanese teenagers licking each other's eyeballs?

Keith Wagstaff
The Week
"I enjoy long walks on the beach, hanging out with friends, and having my eyeballs licked."

Welcome to the new second base

Back in the day, teenagers on the way to the sock-hop would pull over their cars at a scenic overlook to neck while listening to the smooth sounds of Perry Como. Now, they lick each other's eyeballs.

Like all probably-exaggerated teenage trends, this new practice has a catchy name: Worming. It's also called "oculolinctus" or "a great way to catch pink-eye."

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A teacher in Japan noticed multiple students were coming into class wearing eyepatches. No, they weren't inspired by Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie; instead they were getting eye infections from having their eyeballs licked, according to Medical Daily.

Apparently the practice isn't limited to Japan.

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"My boyfriend started licking my eyeballs years ago and I just loved it," Elektrika Energias, a 29-year-old environmental science student in the U.S. Virgin Islands, told The Huffington Post. "I'm not with him anymore, but I still like to ask guys to lick my eyeballs."

So what is wrong with laying some tongue on your partner's cornea? It's covered in bacteria, which could lead to conjunctivitis, a.k.a. pink eye, as well as eye-chlamydia — which, as Robyn Pennacchia notes in Death and Taxes, you should never, ever do a Google image search for.

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It's not all bad news for eyeball fetishists. Yes, you could get a painful infection, but also you could just feel really good, Dr. Robert Noecker told Medical Daily:

The cornea is the most innervated part of the body. 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.

Not to be a crotchety old guy, but... I frown upon it. [Medical Daily]

Where kids got the idea to start worming is anybody's guess, although Shanghaiist theorizes that it could stem from this Japanese music video, which combines eye-licking with terrible emo music. Worming also has a precedent in Japanese manga, or comic books, several disturbing examples of which can be found on Tumblr. You've been warned.

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