Paraphilia (in Greek 'para' pa?? = besides and '-philia' f???a = love) is a Paraphilia term recently used to indicate sexual arousal in response to sexual objects or situations which may interfere with the capacity for reciprocal affectionate sexual activity.


The word is used differently by different groups. As used in psychology or sexology it is simply a neutral umbrella term used to cover a wide variety of deviated sexual interests. There are eight types of paraphilias and according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders the activity must be the sole means of sexual gratification for a period of six (6) months, and cause "marked distress or interpersonal difficulty".

  1. Exhibitionism is the recurrent urges or behavior to expose one's genitals to an unsuspecting person
  2. Voyeurism is the recurrent urges or behavior to observe an unsuspecting person who is naked, disrobing or engaging in sexual activities.
  3. Sexual Masochism is the recurrent urges or behavior of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.
  4. Sexual Sadism is the recurrent urges or behavior involving acts in which the humiliation of the victim is sexually exciting.
  5. Fetishism the use of non-sexual or nonliving objects to gain sexual excitement.
  6. Transvestic fetishism is wearing clothes of another gender for sexual reasons.
  7. Paedophilia the attraction to a prepubescent child or children.
  8. Frotteurism is the recurrent urges or behavior of touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person.

A paraphilic interest is not normally considered important by clinicians unless it is also causing suffering of some kind, or strongly inhibiting a "normal" sex life (according to the subjective standards of the culture and times).

Paraphilia is sometimes used by laypeople in a more judgemental or prejudicial sense, to categorize sexual desires or activities lying well outside the societal norm. Many sexual activities now considered harmless or even beneficial by many (such as masturbation) have often been considered perversions or psychosexual disorders in various societies, and how to regard these behaviors has been, and continues at times to be, a controversial matter.

The term "paraphilia" is rarely used in general English, with references to the actual interest concretely being more common. Some see the term as helping to aid objectivity when discussing taboo behaviors or those meeting public disapproval, but which may not in fact be a problem. Others interpret the term more pejoratively as rare conditions or serious disorders that meet with societal disapproval and are (or should be) criminalized or seriously require treatment.

It is worth noting typical clinical warnings given against improper assumptions about paraphilias:

  1. "Paraphilias are ... sexual fantasies, urges and behaviors that are considered deviant with respect to cultural norms..."
  2. "Although several of these disorders can be associated with aggression or harm, others are neither inherently violent nor aggressive"
  3. "The boundary for social as well as sexual deviance is largely determined by cultural and historical context. As such, sexual orientations once considered paraphilias (e.g., homosexuality) are now regarded as variants of normal sexuality; so too, sexual behaviors currently considered normal (e.g., masturbation) were once culturally proscribed"

What is considered to be "perversion" or "deviation" varies from society to society. Some paraphilias fall into the kinds of activities often called 'sexual perversions' or 'sexual deviancy' with negative connotations or 'kinky sex' with more positive connotations. Some specific paraphilias have been or are currently crimes in some jurisdictions. In some religions certain sexual interests are forbidden, and this has led to some people believing that all paraphilias must be sins. Since the development of psychology attempts have been made to characterize them in terms of their etiology and in terms of the ways they change the functioning of individuals in social situations. Some of these psycho-medical etiologies and descriptions have allowed many societies and religious/ethical traditions to view some of the paraphilias in a less negative light, at least in some circumstances. Some behaviors that might be classified as paraphilias by some subsets of society may be viewed as harmless eccentricities by other subsets of society, or entirely normal behavior within other societies.

Due to the somewhat subjective nature of their definition, the specific acts included under the umbrella of paraphilia vary from time to time and from place to place, and indeed from edition to edition of such works as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Behavioral imprinting

Observation of paraphiliac behavior has provided valuable scientific information on the mechanisms of sexual attraction and desire, such as behavioral imprinting. Careful investigation has also led to the tentative conclusions that normal biological processes may sometimes be manifested in idiosyncratic ways in at least some of the paraphilias, and that these unusual manifestations are frequently associated with unusual (and especially traumatic) events associated with early sexual experience.

History of the term

The term was coined by Viennese psychotherapist Wilhelm Stekel (in his book Sexual Aberrations) in 1925, from the Greek para- (beside) + philos (loving), and first used in English in Stekel's translated works. It was not in widespread use until the 1950s, and was first used in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM) in 1980. It was used by Sigmund Freud, as well as by the sexologist John Money.

Common paraphilias

The following paraphilias are sufficiently common in the general population to be frequently observed in clinical literature, as well as being able to support entire sub-genres of mainstream commercial pornography.

  1. algolagnia: sexual pleasure from pain
  2. exhibitionism: sexual arousal through displaying genitals in public
  3. fetishism: sexual attraction to a physical object, with common examples being

    • balloon fetishism
    • fur fetishism
    • leather fetishism
    • panty fetishism
    • robot fetishism
    • rubber fetishism
    • shoe fetishism
    • smoking fetishism
    • spandex fetishism
    • transvestic fetishism

  4. autogynephilia
  5. sadomasochism: taking sexual pleasure in inflicting pain, or having pain inflicted upon one's self. (See also "bondage and discipline" and algolagnia)
  6. urolagnia: sexual attraction to urine
  7. voyeurism: sexual arousal through watching others having sex

Homosexuality was previously listed as a paraphilia in the DSM-I and DSM-II, but this has been rejected from the DSM-III and DSM-IV, consistent with the change of attitude among psychiatrists. There is still a disorder of homosexuality, but this refers to the repression of homosexuality. Likewise Zoophilia was clinically re-evaluated between DSM-III and DSM-IV. As of 2004, Transvestic Fetishism was still listed as a paraphilia in the DSM-IV-TR.

Note that non-consensual sadomasochistic acts may constitute assault, and therefore belong in the list below. Some jurisdictions criminalize some or all sadomasochistic acts, regardless of consent.

Non-consensual exhibitionism in public places, where people who have not previously consented to watch are exposed to sexual display, is also an offense in most jurisdictions. (See indecent exposure).

Non-consensual and criminal paraphilias

The paraphilias listed below are either non-consensual or, if acted out, sex crimes criminal in most jurisdictions (though these paraphilia can be acted out in through role-playing or sex chatrooms) .

  1. biastophilia: sexual pleasure from committing rape
  2. lust murder: sexual arousal through committing murder
  3. necrophilia: sexual attraction to corpses
  4. necrozoophilia: sexual attraction to the corpses or killings of animals, or necrobestiality

It is interesting to note that the preceding four paraphilias are common among serial killers.

  1. pedophilia: sexual attraction to pre-pubescents
  2. frotteurism: sexual arousal through rubbing one's self against a non-consenting stranger in public
  3. telephone scatologia: being sexually aroused by making obscene telephone calls
  4. zoophilia: sexual attraction to animals, or bestiality

Other paraphilias

The paraphilias listed below are less common.

  1. acrotomophilia: sexual attraction to amputees
  2. agalmatophilia: sexual attraction to statues or mannequins or immobility
  3. amaurophilia: sexual arousal by a partner whom one is unable to see due to artificial means, such as being blindfolded or having sex in total darkness.
  4. apotemnophilia: sexual arousal from having an appendage (limb, digit, or male genitals) amputated
  5. arachnophilia: several types of spider-themed erotic role-playing
  6. asphyxiophilia: sexual attraction to asphyxia; also called breath control play; including autoerotic asphyxiation
  7. coprophilia: sexual attraction to feces
  8. blondephilia: sexual attraction to blonde hair.
  9. crush fetishism: sexual arousal from seeing small creatures being crushed by members of the opposite sex, or being crushed oneself
  10. diaper fetishism: sexual arousal from diapers
  11. dendrophilia: arousal from trees or the fertility worship of them.
  12. emetophilia: sexual attraction to vomit
  13. ephebophilia: sexual attraction to adolescents
  14. frotteurism: deriving sexual pleasure from rubbing against other people
  15. galactophilia: sexual attraction to human milk or lactating women
  16. gerontophilia: sexual attraction to the aged
  17. harpaxophilia: sexual arousal from being robbed
  18. hematolagnia: sexual attraction to blood
  19. hybristophilia: sexual arousal to people who have committed crimes, in particular cruel or outrageous crimes
  20. infantilism: sexual pleasure from dressing, acting, or being treated as a baby
  21. klismaphilia: sexual pleasure from enemas
  22. macrophilia: sexual attraction to giants
  23. maiesiophilia: sexual attraction to childbirth or pregnant women
  24. mysophilia: sexual attraction to foul or decaying material
  25. pictophilia: inability to become sexually aroused except through the use of pictorial pornography
  26. plushophilia: sexual attraction to stuffed toys
  27. pyrophilia: sexual arousal through watching, setting, hearing/talking/fantasizing about fire.
  28. sitophilia: sexual arousal from food
  29. transformation fetish: sexual arousal from depictions of transformations of people into objects or other beings
  30. trichophilia: sexual arousal from hair
  31. vorarephilia: sexual attraction to being eaten by or eating another person
  32. xenophilia: sexual attraction to foreigners (in science-fiction, can also mean sexual attraction to aliens)

There are also many other rare paraphilias.

The supposed paraphilia of autogynephilia, or sexual pleasure from perceiving oneself as a woman, has been proposed as a motivation for transgender behavior, but is generally regarded as theoretical in nature. It is not well accepted.


The definition of various sexual practices as paraphilias has been met with opposition. Advocates for changing these definitions stress that, aside from "paraphilias" with a criminal element, there is nothing inherently pathological about these practices; they are undeserving of the stigmatism associated with being "singled out" as such. Those who profess such a view hope that, much as with the removal of homosexuality from the DSM (see homosexuality and psychology), future psychiatric definitions will not include most of these practices.

Religious views of paraphilia

Some religious conservatives view various paraphilias as deviations from their conception of God's original plan for human sexuality, or from their religious laws. Depending in part on the nature of the paraphilia in question, judgements can differ as to whether religiously it should be considered a case of sexual sin, or of mental illness.