Study Reveals Something Surprising About "Abnormal" Sexual Interests

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“Weird” is the norm when it comes to sexual desires, according to a recent study from the University of Montreal. In fact, almost half of us could have sexual fantasies which are considered “deviant” or “atypical” under current psychiatric criteria.

The study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, probed 1,040 Canadians of both genders on their sexual behavior and interests. From this sample group, the researchers have said they imagine their findings could be applied to the whole of North America and Europe.

Under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5) – often mockingly referred to as psychiatry's "bible" – sexual behaviours are divided into normophilic (deemed as “normal” or "typical" behaviour) and paraphilic (deemed as “anomalous” or "deviant"). 45.5 percent of the people asked said they were interested in at least one type of sexual behaviour that is considered paraphilic and 33 percent had said they had actually acted on these fantasies.  

"Peeping Tom" - Voyeurism was the most popular "atypical" sexual preference studied in the research. Russell Lee. Farm Security Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

Among those questioned, 35 percent had a thing for voyeurism (watching someone engaging in intimate or sexual behaviour), 26 percent said they enjoyed fetishism (sexual stimulation from an inanimate object or nonsexual body part), another 26 percent said they liked frotteurism (unconsenting rubbing or groping), and 19 percent got a kick out of masochism (getting sexual gratification from another’s pain or humiliation).

Christian Joyal, one of the researchers, explained that while men and women had their sexual quirks, there were slightly different trends between the sexes.

In a statement, he said: "In general, it is true that men are more interested in paraphilic behaviors than women. However, this doesn't mean that women don't have these interests at all.

"In fact, women who report an interest in sexual submission have more varied sexual interests and report greater satisfaction with their sex lives. Sexual submission is therefore not an abnormal interest."

The DSM has previously come under criticism for the "medicalization" of human nature and being subjected to cultural bias – for example, homosexuality was deemed a sociopathic personality disturbance in the DSM until 1952. The team of researchers therefore hope to challenge the restrictive and inflexible criteria of the DSM-5, which they believe fails to take in to consideration the diversity of sexual preferences and tastes.

Professor Joyal added, "A paraphilia is not a mental disorder but rather a sexual preference for non-normophilic behavior, whereas paraphilic behaviour is non-preferential and only engaged in from time to time. At the same time, this study strongly suggests that some legal paraphilic behaviors are far from abnormal, contrary to what is suggested by the DSM-5."

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