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A paraphilia[1] is a sexual desire or behaviour that involves an nonreproductive source of gratification. A paraphilia becomes pathological when the person's central focus is a particular object without which the person cannot become aroused or be sexually gratified.

Some paraphilias are criminal offenses, such as child molestation and rape, while others are merely frowned upon or may bring shame and ridicule upon an individual if discovered. Some paraphilias cause harm to others, while others are victimless, such as fetishism. This article discusses sexual behaviours that are currently considered abnormal (see abnormal sexuality).

The paraphilias listed here are widely regarded as core examples of "perversion," a term that carries a strong flavor of moral condemnation; large segments of humanity regard them as morally wrong. But those who are liberal, libertarian or socially progressive widely reject the idea that most "abnormal" expressions of sexuality should be subject to moral criticism, so the term "perversion" has fallen into disfavor.

The paraphilias

Paraphilias are sometimes divided into those that are potentially reproductive, such as rape, and those that cannot, by themselves, cause reproduction.


Exhibitionism is sexual gratification by displaying one's genitals to an involuntary observer. Exhibitionists report feeling little control over the urge to expose themselves; exposing oneself while driving is common.[2]


Festishism is sexual gratification gained by relying on an inanimate, apparently non-sexual object or a body part (to the exclusion of the person as a whole) for sexual gratification. Most fetishes are linked to the human body, and common choices include women's shoes, gloves and underpants.

Frotteurism or frottage

Frotteurism or frottage, from the french word to rub, is sexual gratification from touching or rubbing against an unwilling person.


Pedophilia is sexual gratification for an adult from sexual contact with a prepubescent child, and is considered child sexual abuse.


Rape involves performing nonconsensual sexual acts on an unwilling person. The motivation of the rapist may involve feeling powerful and in control, in addition to any sexual gratification received.

Statutory rape involves sexual activity with one, such as a minor or person with impaired judgment, who is considered incapable of giving informed consent although they may participate in the act. The age criterion is complex and depends on local law; different standards may apply to individuals a few years apart in age, as opposed to one clearly an adult and clearly a child.


Masochism is sexual gratification through the receiving of pain. One may inflict pain on oneself, or receive it from another. A distinction is often drawn between erotic pain, which is consensual and seen as an adjunct to other sexual activities, and true paraphiliac behavior, in which the receiving of pain is essential to any other sexual gratification.


Sadism is sexual gratification through the infliction of pain or humiliation on others. This is a pathology only when one of the partners does not consent, or if the active partner is incapable of other sexual activity without the infliction of pain.


Transvestism is sexual gratification through dressing in clothes of the opposite sex. It is distinct from transsexualism, in which one feels trapped inside the body of the wrong gender.


Voyeurism is seuxal gratification through covertly observing another people's sexual activities or anatomy. The risk of being caught heights the excitement for the voyeur. Voyeurism is an example of a spectrum disorder, as advertisements in the media have sexually charged material which may be considered "normal voyeurism", and pornography is sometimes viewed as socially acceptable voyeurism.


Some paraphilias have been hypothesized to part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum, as individuals report an inability to resist their urges.[3] Serotonergic medication such as antidepressants have often been used effectively in treating paraphilias. While serotonin plays an important role in aggression, impulsiveness, and sexuality, its role in the pathophysiology of the parailias is undetermined.[4]

Antiandrogen drugs decrease testosterone levels, a hormone essential to human sexuality, and are highly effective controlling pedophilia, exhibitionism, and voyeurism.[2]


  1. From the Greek words para - beside, and philia - love.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Grant JE (2005). "Clinical characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity in males with exhibitionism". J Clin Psychiatry 66 (11): 1367–71. PMID 16420072[e]
  3. Bradford JM (1999). "The paraphilias, obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder, and the treatment of sexually deviant behaviour". Psychiatr Q 70 (3): 209–19. PMID 10457546[e]
  4. Kafka MP (2003). "The monoamine hypothesis for the pathophysiology of paraphilic disorders: an update". Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 989: 86–94; discussion 144–53. PMID 12839888[e]