At the present point in time, access to various media allows exposure to sexual behavior of all types. Whether sexual behavior is considered “normal” or “abnormal” requires definitions to be set in place for each term. In addition, the components of sexual activity considered abnormal may have some categories that invite legal prosecution and others that are thought to be deviant without being illegal. Finally, the influence of sexual variances on society can be important.
Is normal sexuality the absence of abnormal variances? Who determines whether a sexual behavior is abnormal? What are consequences of practicing abnormal sexual activities? A paraphilia is when an individual is aroused by factors that mainstream society does not consider to be standard (Dictionary.com). These types of sexual activity are also referred to as “sexual deviations” and those who practice them as “sexual deviants”. The definition means that sexual deviants practice sexual activities that deviate from the norm. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V) is the publication by the American Psychiatric Association which uses codes to describe specific mental illnesses (Dsmiv.net). In the case of paraphilia, the preferences work as a personality function or as syndromes seen in symptoms lasting for long periods of time (American Psychiatric Association). The DSM-V distinguishes paraphilia as not requiring treatment versus a paraphilia disorder, which is distressing to the individual and has the potential of harming others. As an Axis II disorder, it falls into the same category as paranoia, personality disorders, and antisocial disorders.
While sexual deviancy cannot be eliminated, it can be suppressed (Seligman and Hardenburg). It may interfere with attractions and the practice of more socially acceptable sexual practices, possibly limiting healthy relationships. On the other hand, if a paraphiliac is able to connect with another person or persons with his preferences and they are not illegal, a relationship is possible. The individual has a disorder because he cannot control his control his desires. There are seven types of paraphilia at this time, including fetishes and sadism. Some of the categories, such as pyromania and pedophilia, are illegal due to the suffering and damage associated with them. When a paraphiliac cannot indulge in his sexual preferences, other mental illnesses may develop.
Society’s views of normal sexuality change. At one time, homosexuality was considered deviant behavior and medicine went to great lengths to “cure” those with same sex preferences. Today, homosexuality is accepted by over 50 percent of the population according to Gallup polls and many states are legalizing marriages between couples in acknowledgement of their commitments (Gallup). It must be stated that there are still large numbers of people who do not consider homosexuality as normal behavior based on personal ideologies.
In conclusion, the notion of normal and abnormal sexuality lies in the mind of the individual. While some people practicing sexual deviations believe they are not accepted by the bulk of the population, they do not think they are wrong. Other paraphiliacs know the activities are wrong, but cannot stop. Some people think there is a line between “kinky” sex and sex that is unacceptable. The law attempts to stay current with dangerous abnormal sexual activity with their own definitions, doctors are always ready to help patients diagnosed with abnormal sexuality, and each person has his or her own definition of “normal” and “abnormal” sexuality.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth
Edition (DSM-5®). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. Print.
Dictionary.com. “The Definition of Paraphilia”. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.
Dsmiv.net. “Dsm Iv”. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.
Gallup, Inc. “Same-Sex Marriage Support Solidifies Above 50% In U.S.”. Gallup.com. N.p.,
2015. Web. 20 June 2015.
Seligman, Linda, and Stephanie A. Hardenburg. “Assessment and Treatment Of Paraphilias”.