In psychology and sexology, paraphilia (in Greek para παρά = besides and '-philia' φιλία = love) is a term that describes sexual arousal in response to sexual objects or situations which may interfere with the capacity for reciprocal affectionate sexual activity. However it is important to notice that the term can and is also used to imply "less mainstream sexual practices" but without necessarily negatively implying any dysfunction or 'wrongness'. more...
The word is used differently by different groups. As used in psychology or sexology it is simply a neutral umbrella term used to cover a wide variety of atypical sexual interests. There are eight types of paraphilias, and according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the activity must be the sole means of sexual gratification for a period of six (6) months, and cause "marked distress or interpersonal difficulty".
- Exhibitionism is the recurrent urge or behavior to expose one's genitals to an unsuspecting person
- Voyeurism is the recurrent urge or behavior to observe an unsuspecting person who is naked, disrobing or engaging in sexual activities.
- Masochism is the recurrent urge or behavior of wanting to be humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.
- Sadism is the recurrent urge or behavior involving acts in which the pain or humiliation of the victim is sexually exciting.
- Fetishism is the use of non-sexual or nonliving objects or part of a person's body to gain sexual excitement.
- Transvestic fetishism is a sexual attraction towards the clothing of the opposite gender.
- Pedophilia is the sexual attraction to prepubescent children.
- Frotteurism is the recurrent urges or behavior of touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person.
A paraphilic interest is not normally considered important by clinicians unless it is also causing suffering of some kind, or strongly inhibiting a "normal" sex life (according to the subjective standards of the culture and times).
Paraphilia is sometimes used by laypeople in a more judgmental or prejudicial sense, to categorize sexual desires or activities lying well outside the societal norm. Many sexual activities now considered harmless or even beneficial by many (such as masturbation) have often been considered perversions or psychosexual disorders in various societies, and how to regard these behaviors has been, and continues at times to be, a controversial matter.
The term "paraphilia" is rarely used in general English, with references to the actual interest concretely being more common. Some see the term as helping to aid objectivity when discussing taboo behaviors or those meeting public disapproval, but which may not in fact be a problem. Some have even interpreted the term pejoratively, seeing paraphilias as "rare conditions or serious disorders" that should either be criminalized or require serious treatment.
It is worth noting typical clinical warnings given against improper assumptions about paraphilias:
- "Paraphilias are ... sexual fantasies urges and behaviors that are considered deviant with respect to cultural norms..."
- "Although several of these disorders can be associated with aggression or harm, others are neither inherently violent nor aggressive"
- "The boundary for social as well as sexual deviance is largely determined by cultural and historical context. As such, sexual orientations once considered paraphilias (e.g., homosexuality) are now regarded as variants of normal sexuality; so too, sexual behaviors currently considered normal (e.g., masturbation) were once culturally proscribed"
- (Source: Psychiatric Times)
What is considered to be "perversion" or "deviation" varies from society to society. Some paraphilias fall into the kinds of activities often called 'sexual perversions' or 'sexual deviancy' with negative connotations or 'kinky sex' with more positive connotations. Some specific paraphilias have been or are currently crimes in some jurisdictions. In some religions certain sexual interests are forbidden, and this has led to some people believing that all paraphilias must be sins. Since the development of psychology attempts have been made to characterize them in terms of their etiology and in terms of the ways they change the functioning of individuals in social situations. Some of these psycho-medical etiologies and descriptions have allowed many societies and religious/ethical traditions to view some of the paraphilias in a less negative light, at least in some circumstances. Some behaviors that might be classified as paraphilias by some subsets of society may be viewed as harmless eccentricities by other subsets of society, or entirely normal behavior within other societies.
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