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Paraphilia is a mental health term recently used to indicate arousal in response to sexual objects or situations that are not part of societally normative arousal/activity patterns, and that may interfere with the capacity for reciprocal affectionate sexual activity.

Paraphilia is a rarely used label for sexual desires or activities that lie well outside the societal norm. Many of these activities are often considered perversions or psychosexual disorders in various societies, and how to regard these behaviors is a controversial matter in all situations. The term "paraphilia" is seldom used, but it is seen by some as aiding objectivity in regard to kinds of behavior that are generally regarded as taboo, and are shunned, criminalized, or even punished by death.

Because it is intended to indicate sexual acts that meet with societal disapproval, the specific acts included under the rubric of paraphilia vary from time to time and from place to place, and indeed from edition to edition of such works as the DSM.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Behavioral imprinting
3 History of the term
4 Non-consensual and criminal paraphilias
5 Common paraphilias
6 Other paraphilias
7 Controversy
8 Religion and Paraphilia
9 See also
10 External links


What is considered to be "perversion" or "deviation" varies from society to society. Paraphilias are 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 they are considered 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 behaviors that might be classified as paraphilias by some subsets of society may be viewed as harmless eccentricities by other subsets of society.

Some paraphilias are defined as potential mental disorders in the DSM-IV. These are:

Behavioral imprinting

Observation of paraphiliac behavior has provided valuable scientific information on the mechanisms of
sexual attraction and desire, such as behavioral imprinting. Careful investigation has also led to the tentative conclusions that normal biological processes may sometimes be manifested in idiosyncratic ways in at least some of the paraphilias, and that these unusual manifestations are frequently associated with unusual (and especially traumatic) events associated with early sexual experience.

History of the term

The term was coined by Viennese psychotherapist Wilhelm Stekel (in his book Sexual Aberrations) in 1925, from the Greek para- (beside) + philos (loving), and first used in English in Stekel's translated works. It was not in widespread use until the 1950s, and was first used in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM) in 1980. It was used by Sigmund Freud, as well as by the sexologist John Money.

Non-consensual and criminal paraphilias

The paraphilias listed below are either non-consensual or, if acted out, criminal in most jurisdictions.

Common paraphilias

The following paraphilias are sufficiently common in the general population to be frequently observed in clinical literature, as well as being able to support entire sub-genres of mainstream commercial pornography.

Note that non-consensual sadomasochistic acts may consititute assault, and therefore belong in the list above. Some jurisdictions criminalize sadomasochistic acts, regardless of consent.

Non-consensual exhibitionism in public places, where people who have not previously consented to watch are exposed to sexual display, is also an offense in most jurisdictions. (See indecent exposure).

Note: Wikipedia does not give legal advice.

Other paraphilias

The paraphilias listed below are less common.

There are also many other rare paraphilias.

The supposed paraphilia of autogynephilia, or sexual pleasure from perceiving oneself as a woman, has been proposed as a motivation for transgender behavior, but is generally regarded as theoretical in nature. It is not well accepted.


The definition of various sexual practices as paraphilias has been met with opposition. Advocates for changing these definitions stress that, aside from "paraphilias" with a criminal element, there is nothing inherently pathological about these practices; they are undeserving of the stigmatism associated with being "singled out" as such. Those who profess such a view hope that, much as with the removal of homosexuality from the DSM (see homosexuality and psychology), future psychiatric definitions will not include most of these practices.

Religion and Paraphilia

Some religious conservatives views paraphilias as deviations from God's original plan for human sexuality, or from religious laws. Depending in part on the nature of the paraphilia in question, judgements can differ as to whether it should be considered a case of sexual sin, or of mental illness.

See also

External links