Sexual Perversion

perversion, sexual

sexual perversion, in psychology, sexual behavior deemed pathological by its deviation from "normal" sexual desire. The definition of sexual perversion has shifted considerably over time: indeed, it has never been an uncontested category of meaning. For example, homosexual desire has long been stigmatized as sexual perversion among many segments of Western society (and remains so among some), but within the field of psychology, it is no longer considered pathological. Use of the term perversion itself has come under wide criticism in recent years. Today, psychologists generally refer to nontraditional sexual behavior as sexual deviation or, in cases where the specific object of arousal is unusual, as paraphilia. There are a number of recognized disorders of this type. In fetishism, the object of sexual desire is either an inanimate object or a nongenital part of the human anatomy. Voyeurism involves the covert viewing of other individuals who are naked, undressing, or engaged in sexual activity, as the primary means of sexual arousal. Sexual arousal as a result of physical contact with prepubescent children is described as pedophilia. Other forms of sexual deviation include exhibitionism, incest, transvestism, necrophilia, sadism, and masochism. Many of these behaviors, when they involve the participation of nonconsenting adults (or children, consenting or not), are punishable by law. Although rape is not classified as a paraphilia, it is a serious sexual deviance, and perhaps the most highly reviled form of sexual gratification. Most forms of sexual deviance are accompanied by any number of other psychological disorders.

See V. Bullough, Sexual Variance in Society and History (1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Pain and Passion: A Psychoanalyst Explores the World of S & M
Robert J. Stoller.
Plenum Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "The Term Perversion"
A Tear Is An Intellectual Thing: The Meanings of Emotion
Jerome Neu.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Freud and Perversion"
Basic Psychoanalytic Concepts on the Libido Theory
Humberto Nagera.
Karnac Books, 1990
Librarian’s tip: "Perversion" begins on p. 158
Philosophy of Sexuality
Don E. Marietta Jr.
M.E. Sharpe, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Perversion?" begins on p. 83
Sexuality: Psychoanalytic Perspectives
Celia Harding.
BrunnerRoutledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Internal Couple and the Oedipus Complex in the Development of Sexual Identity and Sexual Perversion"
Sexualities and Homosexualities
Jaime P. Stubrin.
Karnac Books, 1994
Loose Women, Lecherous Men: A Feminist Philosophy of Sex
Linda LeMoncheck.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Challenging the Normal and the Perverse: Feminist Speculations on Sexual Preference"
The Trials of Masculinity: Policing Sexual Boundaries, 1870-1930
Angus McLaren.
University of Chicago Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Part Three "Medical Discourses: Weak Men and Perverts"
Sexual Deviations as Seen in Handwriting
Marie Bernard.
Whitston, 1990
Gay Histories and Cultures
George E. Haggerty; John Beynon; Douglas Eisner.
Garland, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Perversion" begins on p. 680
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