Last modified date

What a Paraphilia is?

A paraphilia is a pattern of sexual behavior in which the predominant source of pleasure is found in objects, situations, activities or atypical individuals. There is no consensus to establish a precise limit between unusual sexual interest and paraphilia. There is even debate about whether any of the considered paraphilias should be included in the diagnostic manuals or not.

The number and taxonomy of paraphilias is also controversial; some sources list up to 549 types of paraphilias. The DSM-5 has specified eight paraphilic disorders. Several subclassifications of the paraphilias have been proposed but some argue that a complete psychological approach may better reflect the evidence.

In 1987 the American Psychiatric Association eliminated the term perversion of the DSM and the world psychiatric terminology. From that date onwards they are called paraphilias.

Considerations about the behavior considered paraphilic depend on the prevailing social conventions at a given time and place. Certain sexual practices, such as oral sex or masturbation, were considered paraphilic until the mid-twentieth century, although today they are considered non-paraphilic practices, provided that the subject’s activity is not limited to them. Therefore it is impossible to develop a definitive catalog of paraphilias.

The most usual definitions include behaviors such as sadism, masochism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, zoophilia, coprophilia, necrophilia, fetishism, frotism, etc.

Paraphilia versus eroticism

It should be noted that the practice of some harmless but uncommon sexual behaviors does not imply a paraphilia on its own.

You do not live in a situation of paraphilia if the unusual sexual practice meets these three conditions:

These sexual practices are not the only way in which the person reaches sexual enjoyment and can obtain an orgasm, but they are only a form of casual, voluntary and not indispensable sex or obsessive for sexual practice. For example, a couple who practices sadomasochism or asphyxophilia with some regularity, but can hold another type of sexual relations if they wish. In these cases the fetish becomes only an erotic practice that “spreads” the relationship, but it does not constitute the center of the relationship itself.


If these sexual practices do not cause physical, psychological, economic damage, etc., to the person who practices it or to the people who are involved in the practice. It becomes pathological when it objectively affects the life of the practicing person, those around him or society in general. Example: a sexual sadist is harmless as long as their partners, adult volunteers, participate consensually in the sexual act with the appropriate security measures. It becomes dangerous and parafĂ­lico when the sadist is out of control and goes to rape and torture helpless victims.

When those involved are conscious and voluntary people participating in the act in a consensual manner. This, of course, is impossible in some clearly transgressive paraphilias where the object of pleasure of the parafile is never able to give approval and the sexual relationship can always cause damage as in pedophilia, rubbing and somnophilia.

In short, not all non-traditional erotic practice is paraphilia. It becomes as such when it ceases to be healthy and controllable by the individual and when it is obviously destructive and sickly. He who “likes to handcuff his partner to bed from time to time” is not paraphiliac as if he were “incapable of having sex if the person is not handcuffed to bed”.

Origin of paraphilias

Different theories have been postulated regarding the possible causes of paraphilia, especially since all types of paraphilias have been registered, some even by objects and clearly non-sexual circumstances.

The sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld considers that sexual attraction always develops based on different individual stimuli of the environment. In this sense, every human being has normal and healthy “paraphilia” or “fetishes” like a heterosexual man who prefers blonde women over redheads or toward fat ones over thin ones, and vice versa. These sexual patterns can include not only physical aspects but objects – clothing, lingerie, uniforms, etc. – for Hirschfeld the fetish becomes pathological when one of these individual objects is overestimated, for example, the shoes.

The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott considered the origin of fetishes and paraphilia in the transitional object. The possession of a transitional object is normal and healthy in almost all human beings during childhood, but in some cases it becomes sexual. In any case, the theory of psychoanalysis considers that any childhood trauma can have an impact on the unconscious that later would result in a neurotic or perverse practice; It is the projection of the libido.

For some behaviorists paraphilia and fetishism are the product of classical conditioning, when a person is exposed to a specific sexual practice by associating it with an object, subject or circumstance in such a way that sexual gratification is associated with this conditioning. That is, in a similar way as Ivan Pavlov gets a dog to associate the sound of a bell with food and this makes the dog salivates, a fetishist is someone who is conditioned to believe that lashes in the back produce sexual pleasure.

The theory that paraphilias arise due to sexual abuse is not fully proven and is considered colloquial. The idea that all pedophiles were abused when they were children is not fully proven, although correlations have been found between people who suffered sexual abuse and then repeated this abuse in others. Even so, not all abusers were abused, nor do all abusers become abusers.

However, psychoanalysis postulates that childhood traumas can generate later pathological behaviors, through a psychic mechanism that they call repetition compulsion and that could explain the origin of some paraphilias.

Some psychoanalysts even postulated theories regarding the correlation between sexual stimulation and traumatic at certain stages of psychosexual development with certain paraphilias, for example, sadomasochism would be in relation to the anal phase, since sadomasochism finds pleasure in control and anal phase is that where the child gets erotic enjoyment by managing to control his body (in general, toilet training is the evolutionary task that is installed as a metaphor for any control), and so on.

Fetish Guide