Sexual Deviance


Sexual deviance includes a range of abnormal sexual expression from fetishism, cross dressing, sexual sadomasochism to pedophilia, incest and rape at the extreme end of the continuum.

“One begins to need more and more intense stimuli in order to produce the same type of arousal ... It creates a greater appetite for more bizarre, more deviant types of sexual images.” Colleen Taylor

Sexual deviance is a complex issue because conformity and deviance are relative terms. To complicate matters further the definition of the term sexual deviance has shifted over time. In the last two to three decades there has been a shift in our attitude towards accepting some of these behaviors as normal and acceptable.

Sexual deviance refers to atypical sexual behaviors generally defined in moral, legal or medical terms. The term has always been a contested category as regards its meaning. Ancient texts, pictures and sculptures all over the world—like the comprehensive textbook for sex Kamasutra, and explicit sexual postures carved in stone in Khajuraho temple in India prove that fresh insights emerging from modern research on sex were already common knowledge in very ancient and medieval cultures in many parts of the world. By a process of socialization whereby society dictates behavioral expectations to people and mainly due to moral and religious mores, normal sex, came to be understood as penile-vaginal intercourse probably because of the procreation clause attached to it.

What is Normal: Misconception of our sexuality can lead to doubts, guilt and shame and perpetuate mistaken views of normal and abnormal sexual behavior in oneself and others. Today, with extensive researches and more information available on the subject of sexuality, it is possible to define our sexuality on the basis of personal choices –perhaps to a greater degree in certain segments of the Western society than in some Oriental societies. Modern lifestyles and upscale urban living have led to a shedding of inhibitions and increased sexual freedom to explore various sexual behaviors. Though a penile-vaginal intercourse for procreation and recreation was generally believed to be the only “civilized” expression of sexuality for a very long time, masturbating alone, or in company, oral sex and anal sex among mutually consenting adults as expressions of love and for purposes of pleasure are now gaining acceptance as typical sexual behaviors in many societies all over the world.

Homosexuality: Sexual mores keep changing according to time and place and what was previously seen as a sexual deviance can become a norm as it gains social acceptance. A recent drastic change occurred in the US when psychiatrists removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders (DSM IV) and certain states even legally sanctioned gay marriages. On the contrary, in countries like India, homosexuality is clubbed along with bestiality (sex with animals) and pedophilia (sex with children) as an “unnatural act” and can attract a jail term of up to ten years under Article 377 of the Indian Criminal Code.

In a survey called “Now for the Truth about Americans and Sex," that was published in Time magazine in 1994, Philip Elmer-Dewitt reported that homosexuality was experienced by 9% of the men, and lesbianism by 4% of the women and they had experimented with it at least at some stage since their puberty.

Perversion: Universally, certain sexual behaviors are described as deviant, aberrant, abnormal or perverted. There is no denying that severe sexual maladjustment leads to conflict and misery, sometimes for the sexually deviant person, but most importantly for others. Psychologists use the term Paraphilia for deviant types of sexual expression such as Fetishism, Transvestic Fetishism (Cross Dressing) Sexual sadism, Sexual masochism, Autoerotic asphyxia, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, Frotteurism, Zoophilia /bestiality, Necrophilia, and at the extreme end of the continuum—pedophilia, incest and rape.

The incidence of sexual deviance varies in countries depending on the culture and is thankfully not common. A survey called “Now for the Truth About Americans and Sex," by Philip Elmer-Dewitt that was published in Time magazine in 1994, reported the following findings-

  • Traditional penile-vaginal sex was the most enjoyable form of sexual practice and was universally appealing with 83% of men and 78% of women saying that is was "very appealing to them." & 80% of the sample surveyed said that every time they had sex during the past year, they had vaginal sex.
  • Half of the men and a third of the women said that watching their partner undress was very appealing.
  • Oral sex was practiced by 37% men and 19% women.
  • The activates the respondents said they found appealing were quite traditional and conventional. Unusual, far-out "deviant" activities attracted very few positive evaluations.

Latest Publications and Research on Sexual Deviance