Paraphilias are problems with controlling impulses that are characterized by recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors involving unusual objects, activities, or situations not considered sexually arousing to others. In addition, these objects, activities, or situations often are necessary for the person's sexual functioning. With a paraphilia, the individual's urges and behaviors cause significant distress and/or personal, social, or career problems. Someone with a paraphilia may be referred to as "kinky" or "perverted," and these behaviors may have serious social and legal consequences.
What Behaviors Are Considered Paraphilias?
Exhibitionism is characterized by intense, sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving exposure of the individual's genitals to an unsuspecting stranger. The individual with this problem, sometimes called a "flasher," feels a need to surprise, shock, or impress his victims. The condition usually is limited to the exposure, with no other harmful advances made, although "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 related to touching or rubbing his 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. This disorder also is a problem because the contact made with the other person is illegal.
People with pedophilia have fantasies, urges, or behaviors that involve illegal sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger). Pedophilic 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 are sexually attracted to children only (exclusive pedophiles) and are not attracted to adults at all. Some pedophiles limit their activity to their own children or close relatives (incest), while others victimize other children. Predatory pedophiles may use force or threaten their victims if they disclose the abuse. Health care providers are legally bound to report such abuse of minors. This activity constitutes rape and is a felony offense punishable by imprisonment.