TABLE 16.1 Paraphilia Typology




Limited number of exploratory paraphiliac behaviors; uses no force or threat

Sexually isolated, unskilled; seeks self-aggrandizement and intimacy; behaviors are long-standing

Has good social skills; often suffered abuse; has rationalized behaviors; feels little guilt or remorse; seeks sexual pleasure

Angry and aggressive; wants to dominate and humiliate others; often has coexisting problems with substances and impulse control; long-lasting disorder

Repressed family background; engages in repetitive and compulsive behaviors for anxiety reduction; no direct physi­cal contact with victims

Severely troubled family; emotional and cognitive difficulties; often misuses substances; is impulsive Motivated by peer pressure and a desire for approval and admiration


Research on paraphilias has been drawn mostly from clinical and incarcerated sam­ples, which are almost certainly not representative of the population as a whole. The number of people who live comfortably with uncommon sexual habits is hard to deter­mine because people tend to be reluctant to admit to their sexual inclinations, even in confidential questionnaires, especially if they seem unusual. What is known is that peo­ple who do have paraphilias usually have more than one (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Подпись:Paraphiliacs are often portrayed as sick, perverted, or potential sex offenders. There is thus an attempt to draw a clear line between paraphiliacs and “normal” people; yet the line is rarely that clear. Certainly, there are paraphiliac behaviors that can be dangerous or can threaten others. Men who expose themselves to young girls, people who violate corpses, strangers who rub against women on buses, or adults who seduce underage chil­dren must not be allowed to continue their behavior. There can even be legal problems with the paraphilias that are not in themselves dangerous; some fetishists resort to steal­ing the object of interest to them, and occasionally a voyeur will break into people’s homes. Also, paraphiliacs are often compulsive masturbators, even up to 10 times a day or more, which can make it difficult to hold certain jobs, for example. A number of ther­apies have been developed to help these people; but, as you will see, it is very difficult to change a person’s arousal patterns.

Other people live comfortably with their paraphilias. It’s important for us to differ­entiate between paraphilias that are consensual (those that involve a partner’s consent) and nonconsensual (those that do not involve a partner’s consent). A man who has a fetish for lingerie, for example, may find a partner who very much enjoys wearing it for him. As you will see from Thomas Sargent’s description of his rubber fetish in Personal Voices, “The Story of a Rubber Fetishist,” on page 543, the behavior brings him com­fort, excitement, and a sense of well-being, and he has no desire to see his fetish go away.

C PARAPHILIAS: MOVING FROM. EXOTIC TO DISORDEREDQuestion: Don’t women also engage in these behaviors? Why are paraphilias more common in men?

No one really knows, although theories abound. Perhaps, some re­searchers suggest, paraphilias are developed visually, and the male tends, for some biological reason, to be more sexually aroused by vi­sual stimuli than the female. Maybe cultural variables give men more sexual latitude in expressing what excites them. It could also have something to do with the way we look at it; women may express their paraphilias in different, less obvious ways than men. There could also be power differentials that contribute to higher rates in men.

Human Sexuality in a Diverse World


The word paraphilia (pear-uh-FILL-ee-uh) is derived from the Greek “para” (besides) and “philia” (love or attraction). In other words, paraphilias are sexual behaviors that involve a craving for an erotic object that is unusual or different. According to the DSM IV-TR, the essential features involved in a paraphilia are recurrency and intensity of the sexual behavior that involves a nonhuman object or the suffering or humiliation of one­self or one’s partner, a child, or a nonconsenting person (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). This behavior causes significant distress and interferes with a per­son’s ability to work, interact with friends, and other important areas. To be diagnosed with a paraphilia, a person must be experiencing symptoms for 6 months or more. For some paraphiliacs, the fantasy or presence of the object of their desire is necessary for arousal and orgasm, whereas in others, the desire occurs periodically or exists separately from their other sexual relationships.

Research has shown that there are no “classic” profiles of a paraphiliac (Scheela, 1995). Individuals who engage in paraphiliac behavior are a heterogeneous group with no true factors that set them apart from nonparaphiliacs, with the exception of gender— the majority of paraphiliacs are men. Other than this, paraphiliacs come from every so­cioeconomic bracket, every ethnic and racial group, and from every sexual orientation (Seligman & Hardenburg, 2000). Although there are similar ranges of intelligence be­tween paraphiliacs and nonparaphiliacs, there is some evidence that paraphiliacs have lower scores of overall general intelligence (Cantor et al., 2005). It is estimated that half of those who engage in paraphiliac behavior are married, and the majority report sexual problems and dysfunctions in their marital sexual relationships (S. B. Levine et al., 1990).

Although there are no classic profiles that fit all paraphilias, there are some factors that have been found to be related to the development of a paraphilia. Research has found that many paraphiliacs have grown up in a dysfunctional family and have experi­enced significant family problems during childhood that contribute to the poor social skills and distorted views of sexual intimacy often seen in paraphiliacs (Seligman & Hardenburg, 2000). This is not to say that everyone who grows up in such a household will develop a paraphilia; rather, it may be a related factor. The severity of paraphilias varies; someone with a mild case might use disturbing sexual fantasies during masturba­tion, whereas someone with a severe case may engage in unwanted sexual behavior with a child or may even murder.

Paraphilias are similar to many impulse-control disorders, such as substance abuse, gambling, and eating disorders (A. Goodman, 1993). Many paraphiliacs feel conflicted over their behavior, and they develop tension and a preoccupation with certain behav­iors. They repeatedly try to suppress their sexual behaviors but are unable to do so (Seligman & Hardenburg, 2000). At some point, erotic arousal and sexual pleasure over­ride their negative feelings (Golden, 2001).

Many people find lingerie exciting, or enjoy watching sexual scenes, or enjoy being lightly bitten or scratched during sex. For many paraphiliacs, however, the lingerie itself becomes the object of sexual attention, not a means of enhancing the sexuality of the partner. For this reason, some have suggested that the defining characteristic of para­philia is that it replaces a whole with a part, that it allows the person to distance him­self or herself from complex human sexual contact and replace it with the undemanding sexuality of an inanimate object, a scene, or a single action (L. J. Kaplan, 1991).

Motivations for paraphiliac behaviors vary (see Table 16.1). Some paraphiliacs claim that their behaviors provide meaning to their lives and give them a sense of self (A. Goodman, 1993), whereas others say the behaviors relieve their depression and loneliness and/or help them express rage (S. B. Levine et al., 1990). Many violent or criminal paraphiliacs have little ability to feel empathy for their victims and may con­vince themselves that their victims enjoy the experiences, even though the victims do not consent to them (Seligman & Hardenburg, 2000).



Clinical term used to describe types of sexual expressions that are seen as unusual and po­tentially problematic. A person who engages in paraphilias is often referred to as a paraphiliac or a sexual offender.




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