Paraphilias: Pedophilia, sadism, masochism, fetishism …

Paraphilias Pedophilia, sadism, masochism, fetishism

Paraphilias: unusual sexual practice or psychological disorder?

“You don’t behave like a normal person”, “Does what you do seem normal to you?” How many times have these same phrases been heard and reproduced in situations where the other acts in an unexpected way?

There are few occasions in which behavior is judged and questioned by the environment, despite not being harmful to the other or to oneself.

“It is not easy to specify where to establish the limits of normality, especially when we speak of normality in sexual behavior.”

The concept of normality.

So how can the concept of “normality” be delimited? This question has generated great controversy over time, especially in psychology, since the statistically unusual has tended to be associated with the abnormal. In this way, the abnormal has been understood as something problematic and pathological, thus being susceptible to diagnosis and, therefore, treated at a therapeutic level.

A clear example of this is when the debate arises as to what is “normal” in human sexuality.

It is clear that the sexual practices of the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea seem unacceptable in Western culture: males must perform fellatio on adults before adolescence, ingesting the sperm to inseminate females after puberty.

Similarly, in Spain the authorization of a Moroccan judge for a man to have sexual relations with his late wife would be a cause for scandal. Both cases confirm that there is no common criterion in this type of question.

There is great variability not only between different cultures, but within one’s own , due to social, cultural and political changes (eg until the early 1970s masturbation or homosexuality were considered sexual anomalies).

Normality without sociocultural prejudices.

Thus, psychology has tried to approach the notion of normality in a skeptical and non-judicious way, trying to leave out the sociocultural prejudices and the possible moral debates that these types of questions may entail.

In this way, psychology does not define pathological paraphilic behaviors as arousal before objects and situations that are not part of socially accepted sexual patterns, but as those sexual behaviors that generate clinically significant discomfort in the individual. In other words, we are talking about sexual behaviors that interfere in your life by compromising your work, social, and sexual well-being, etc.

These behaviors prevent you from having a satisfactory sexual relationship without paraphilic stimulation, probably difficult to obtain in many cases (eg fetishism, sadomasochism).

(1) – Sadomasochism.

Likewise, it must be emphasized the obligation that the person with whom it is decided to put the paraphilic fantasies into practice freely consents and without prejudice to their physical or mental health, outside of possible accidental observers.

However, a  large part of the paraphilias currently included in the DSM-5 are those in which the other person does not give their consent. This is the case in frotteurism, voyeurism, necrophilia or zoophilia, and very especially in cases of pedophilia, where the minor is not aware of the abuse to which he is being subjected.

Thus, the concept of “normality” associated with sexuality cannot be limited merely to statistical and cultural criteria (even more so in the case of a taboo subject), since who can judge which tastes are better or more appropriate? Psychology is clear about it: the discomfort it entails for those involved.

What are paraphilias?

The term paraphilia comes from the Greek for- (altered, abnormal) and -philia (love). These are intense and recurring sexual fantasies, impulses or activities related to inanimate objects, suffering or humiliation (of oneself or of the partner), or with people who do not consent to said relationship (eg children).

As previously mentioned, for said fantasy, impulse or sexual activity to be considered a paraphilic disorder , it must cause discomfort in the individual or harm to third parties and / or a certain degree of social, work, etc. deterioration . The latter is what turns the inclination or even the consummate interest – the philias – into a psychological disorder, since these people are unable to function without the specific sexual stimulus .

In this way, in addition to limiting the range of potentially exciting stimuli, said paraphilia can generate negative emotions such as guilt and shame due to the fact that these are preferences that the person may consider deviant but that they need to feel sexually satisfied.

In addition, being discovered often causes relationship problems (for example, having resorted to prostitution to carry out these fantasies) , social and work problems (for example, in a case of exhibitionism), without taking into account those cases in which that for the achievement of paraphilia a crime has been incurred, in which case the loss of employment and social isolation are guaranteed.

What are the most frequent paraphilias?

First of all, it should be noted that epidemiological studies on paraphilias are not abundant. This is due to the socially reprehensible and even criminal nature of the act.

For this reason, the most frequent cases in the psychological consultation are those derived by the judicial system, these are, those of exhibitionism, voyeurism and pedophilia.

Regarding sex, it is worth highlighting the highly higher prevalence of the male segment and, in most cases, paraphilic behavior begins before the age of eighteen .

(2) – Pedophilia.

The following are the most common paraphilic disorders:

  • Fetishism : Use of inanimate objects.
  • Cross- dressing: Dressing in clothing associated with the opposite gender.
  • Voyeurism : Observing other people doing intimate activities without consent.
  • Exhibitionism : Exposing one’s genitalia to a stranger.
  • Frotteurism : Having physical contact and brushing against a person against their will.
  • Sexual masochism : Voluntary submission to sexual humiliation and abuse.
  • Sexual sadism : Perpetrating humiliating or abusive sexual acts on others.
  • Pedophilia : Performing sexual activities with prepubertal children.

Can exempting paraphilias be considered in sexual crimes?

In Spain, paraphilia is not an excuse for sexual crimes, that is, it does not cancel the criminal responsibility of the aggressor. This is due to the fact that the subject shows full awareness and will when committing the crime because, even knowing that it is an illicit and execrable attitude, he freely decides to exercise his impulsive or compulsive desire despite being avoidable and knowing the damage that it will inflict on the victim.

“Faced with a sexual crime committed in Spain, paraphilias do not suppose any excuse of guilt”.

Curious paraphilias and sexual customs not punished in other countries.

The normality and social acceptance of certain sexual behaviors can be surprising from a Western point of view. However, they reveal the huge amount of abusive sexual relationships that take place in countries where sexuality is lived from selfish enjoyment and, many times, based on irrational ideas .

Next, the most striking sexual customs are exposed, being part of which paraphilic disorders discussed above.

Impossibility of rejecting the sexual act. 

Malaysian Semais do not allow a sexual proposal to be rejected, as it is considered equivalent to personal assault. The rejection could lead to a punishment from the spirits over the entire village, as they prohibit any wrong behavior (eg a discreet gesture that could generate frustration in the other person).

Arranged marriages and child marriage.

In some countries it is customary for families to choose the spouses of their children, so that many young people are married without their consent and have to have sexual relations to seal the marriage and guarantee family descent.

In certain cases, even girls can be married to adults. This is because economically disadvantaged families see marriage as a way to improve their lives or protect their children from future economic problems, while families with a more comfortable economy see it as a way to strengthen ties between families. most important and preserve their traditions.

These marriages can also occur after a rape, so that the victim is married to the aggressor to “preserve the honor of the family.”

“In some countries the victim of a rape has to marry the rapist.”

(3) – Marriage arranged in India with a minor.

Virgin women are not accepted. 

In the Arab world, what is expected is that the woman reaches marriage a virgin and there are countries where it is even forbidden to kiss in public. However, in Guam and other Pacific islands there are men who dedicate themselves to giving women sexual experience to arrive at marriage with a certain background.

In countries like Sudan or Botswana, girls are used to having sexual games with each other before being with men.

Marriages between relatives and incest.

In certain Arab countries, it is customary for both women and men to marry their brothers-in-law, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law in case they are widowed.

On the other hand, in the Australian Aranda tribe the bride has sexual relations with the groom’s relatives as a way to mark their sexual initiation before the wedding night.

“There are still European countries where incestuous marriage is allowed.”

Infidelity, polygamy and polyandry. 

While the men of the African tribe of Bantu put poison on their penises to harm potential lovers of their women, there are places where it is legal to murder the adulterer. Thus, in Hong Kong, a woman can murder her unfaithful husband as long as it is with her own hands.

On the other hand, there are other countries like Tanzania in which it is assumed that the woman is going to have a lover. Therefore, the others help the husband not find out.

Nepalese or Indian women can have multiple husbands (polyandry).

“Sinhalese women in Sri Lanka can marry several men as long as they are brothers to each other.”

In the Indian book Mahabharata, the story is told of Princess Draupadi, who married the five Pandava brothers.

(4) – Polyandry: Princess Draupadi and the five Pandava brothers.

On the other hand, the marriage of a man with several women (polygamy) is common in many Muslim countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Iraq or Jordan.

Extramarital sex allowed.

In Iran it is not acceptable to have sex before marriage or outside of marriage. However, it is allowed to pay a tax to legalize the affair before God and the law. Although married men can contract this figure of temporary marriage ( sigheh ) with other women as many times as they want, the woman must be a widow or divorced.

Couple loans.

In Mozambique it is common to lend to the couple when there are fertility problems. In contrast, in other African tribes it is customary for married men to steal each other’s wives during their annual festival.

Likewise, it is common among the Eskimos that the man of the house offers his wife a guest for the night, showing off his generosity as a host. The rejection of this offer is a great offense.

Oral sex as a rite. 

As briefly discussed above, young people from the Sambia tribe (and from other tribes in Central Africa) have to perform oral sex on the elders of the tribe and, less frequently, be anally penetrated in order to accumulate more semen inside their body and become men, thus being able to maintain future sexual relations with the women of the same, since they are separated at the age of seven from their mothers and remain that way until the age of fourteen.


Several tribes of the Amazon are used to cutting, puncturing and tattooing the penises in order to improve their sexual performance by getting angry at the pain experienced.

Many women are genitally mutilated as a transition ritual, as a way to control a woman’s sexuality or for various beliefs.

In Australia, fourteen-year-old adolescents from the Mardudjara tribe have their foreskins cut off to be eaten as a ritual of transition to maturity.


In Lebanon, zoophilia is not only not considered a paraphilia, but it is legal to practice it as long as it is with females. Otherwise, this practice is punishable by death.

“Also, in certain Islamic countries, you can have sex with a sheep, although you can’t eat it after sex.”

(5) – Zoophilia is allowed in some countries.

The aforementioned customs do not allow its citizens to experience sexuality from freedom. This is due to the fact that they ignore the great discomfort that these social conventions generate in the other due to the lack of consent (eg in child marriage) and the obligatory nature of sexual relations (eg, participation in rituals or in sexual activities because that is the custom of the place).

Now, what is the origin of these paraphilias? Are there more paraphilic disorders apart from those mentioned above? We will answer these and other questions in subsequent blog posts.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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