Discovering Human Sexuality 4e Chapter 13 Summary

  • Most variations in sexual desire and behavior are not mental disorders but represent minority interests or a means of adding excitement to sexual relationships.
  • Bondage/dominance and sadomasochism (collectively known as BDSM) involve sexual arousal by the infliction or receipt of humiliation, degradation, or physical pain. BDSM practices generally take place in safe, consensual settings.
  • Fetishism is sexual arousal by objects, materials, or body parts. Transvestic fetishists are sexually aroused by cross-dressing, but not all cross-dressers are fetishists—others may cross-dress for practical reasons, for entertainment purposes, or as an expression of a transgender identity.
  • The boundary between normal and abnormal sexuality is imprecise and subjective and is defined socially as well as medically. According to the American Psychiatric Association, paraphilias are uncommon sexual desires or behaviors; those paraphilias that cause significant distress, social dysfunction, or harm to others are called paraphilic disorders. Paraphilic behaviors directed at nonconsenting persons are illegal.
  • In general, paraphilias are extensions or exaggerations of normal sexual feelings or behaviors. Far more men than women have paraphilias. It is common for a person to develop multiple paraphilias over time. Persons with paraphilic disorders who commit sex offenses may have psychological problems and deficient social skills, and some have suffered child abuse, but others have ordinary personalities and histories.
  • Exhibitionists are sexually aroused by exposing their genitals to others (usually women) in public places. Making obscene phone calls is a variation on exhibitionism. Voyeurs spy on women who are undressed or engaged in sex. Frotteurs make body contact with women in crowds.
  • Pedophiles are sexually attracted to prepubescent children more than to adults. Pedophiles and child molesters are overlapping but nonidentical groups. Most pedophiles are attracted to children of one sex more than the other. Hebephiles are aroused by pubescent children. Children are sometimes molested by adults with fiduciary responsibilities toward them, such as Catholic priests, teachers, and scout leaders. There are organizations that aim to help minor-attracted adults avoid sexual contacts with children.
  • Zoophiles are aroused by sexual contact with animals. Necrophiles are aroused by dead bodies. Autoerotic asphyxia is often combined with BDSM elements; it is a highly dangerous practice.
  • Although rape is not in itself a paraphilic disorder, the commission of violent sexual acts is considered paraphilic if the perpetrator experiences the violence itself as sexually arousing. Paraphilic sadism has motivated many notorious serial killers.
  • Recidivism—the tendency for criminals to repeat their offenses—is lower among sex offenders than among many other kinds of offenders. Certain factors, such as antisocial personality disorder or a history of violence, are associated with an increased likelihood of recidivism.
  • A variety of theories attempt to explain paraphilias. Biological theories attribute paraphilias to neurological or genetic disturbances. Behavioral theories see them as the result of distorted learning processes or as the result of a blockage of normal sexual expression. It has also been suggested that paraphilic disorders result from the disintegration of the normal behavioral sequence of courtship (courtship disorder). In some cases—but not all—the experience of abuse during childhood can be the trigger for the abuse of others in later life.
  • The various theories of paraphilia have led to diverse forms of treatment. Behavioral approaches, such as aversion therapy, attempt to help people unlearn their paraphilias and acquire more conventional sexual desires. Psychotherapeutic approaches include cognitive therapy, which attempts to correct paraphilic thinking; social skills training programs, which encourage normal communication with women; and relapse prevention programs, which help sex offenders identify and avoid situations in which they are likely to reoffend. There is little evidence that any of these methods are successful in preventing recidivism.
  • Biological approaches to treatment include the use of drugs that reduce testosterone levels or block testosterone’s effects, as well as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The drugs appear to be quite effective but can have serious side effects. Castration is an effective but rarely used method of preventing recidivism by men who commit repeated, serious sex crimes.