Paraphilias are abnormal sexual behaviors or impulses characterized by intense sexual fantasies and urges that keep coming back. The urges and behaviors may involve unusual objects, activities, or situations that are not usually considered sexually arousing by others.
Often, a paraphilia may be necessary for the person who has it to function sexually, despite the fact it may also be a source of significant distress. Paraphilias can lead to personal, social, and career problems, and a person with a paraphilia may be called "kinky" or "perverted." The associated behaviors may also have serious social and legal consequences.
What Behaviors Are Considered Paraphilias?
Exhibitionism involves someone exposing his or her genitals to an unsuspecting stranger. The individual with this problem, sometimes called a "flasher," feels a need to surprise, shock, or impress his or her victims. The condition is usually limited to the exposure with no other harmful advances being made. Nevertheless, "indecent exposure" is illegal. Actual sexual contact with the victim is rare. However, the person may masturbate while exposing himself or while fantasizing about exposing himself.
People with fetishes have sexual urges associated with non-living objects. The person becomes sexually aroused by wearing or touching the object. For example, the object of a fetish could be an article of clothing, such as underwear, rubber clothing, women's shoes, women's underwear, or lingerie. The fetish may replace sexual activity with a partner or may be integrated into sexual activity with a willing partner. When the fetish becomes the sole object of sexual desire, sexual relationships often are avoided. A related disorder, called partialism, involves becoming sexually aroused by a body part, such as the feet, breasts, or buttocks.
With this problem, the focus of the person's sexual urges is on touching or rubbing his or her genitals against the body of a non-consenting, unfamiliar person. In most cases of frotteurism, a male rubs his genital area against a female, often in a crowded public location. The contact made with the other person is illegal.
People with pedophilia have fantasies, urges, or behaviors that involve illegal sexual activity with a child or children. The children involved are generally 13 years of age or younger. The behavior includes undressing the child, encouraging the child to watch the abuser masturbate, touching or fondling the child's genitals, and forcefully performing sexual acts on the child.
Some pedophiles, known as exclusive pedophiles, are sexually attracted only to children and are not attracted to adults. Some limit their activity to incest, involving only their own children or close relatives. Others victimize other children. Predatory pedophiles may use force or threaten their victims with what will happen if they disclose the abuse. Health care providers are legally bound to report such abuse of minors.