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Voyeurism to masochism: study shows sexual deviancy is the new normal

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:55 IST

Have a kinky sexual fantasy and ashamed to admit it? The good news is that you are almost certainly not alone.

Sex has always been taboo. And I don't mean kinky sex, just the plain, vanilla kind. Take me, for example. I have 2 siblings, and, with my sister being adopted, I've always preferred to believe that my parents only had sex twice. It's illogical, sure, and *possibly* untrue (even if I can't be convinced to the contrary.) But it's a reminder of the shame and embarrassment that we, as a society, have inextricably associated with sex.

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Conversations about sex are carried out in hushed tones, with awkward glances, averted gazes and often behind locked doors. Browser histories are scrubbed clean and even when we're open about sex there's still a lot left unsaid.

And if sex, literally a biological imperative, is treated with this kind of secrecy, sexual 'deviancy' is kept locked away. But, according to a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, sexual behaviours that have long been considered paraphilic (sexually deviant) are now fairly mainstream.

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We've seen it reflected in our pop culture for a while now with fetishistic and non-traditional behaviour reflected on-screen and in literature. With the increased exposure the internet has brought about, we're now seeing what would once be considered perverse in spaces we never would before. Deadpool anyone?

But now researchers in Quebec have the results to prove that this behaviour isn't just on the silver screens but in bedrooms as well. The study, conducted amongst residents of Quebec, looked at the prevalence of paraphilic sexual behaviour as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

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The manual distinguishes sexual behaviour as falling into two categories - normal or normophilic and anomalous or paraphilic. People surveyed were picked to be representative of the population as a whole and were asked questions about their experiences and desire to indulge in paraphilic behaviour.

The research, conducted on over 1,000 citizens of Quebec aged 16-64, found that sexual behaviour termed anomalous by psychiatry was actually entirely commonplace in the real world.

According to the study, 45.6% of people surveyed expressed a desire to indulge in atleast one of the 8 paraphilias listed in the DSM. That's right: almost every second person was deemed a sexual deviant according to the DSM.

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Even so, these fantasies are usually kept between our ears (and legs), which is why the next finding was even more surprising - one in three people admitted to having already experienced some form of paraphilia at least once.

Of the 8 paraphilias listed - voyeurism, fetishism, frotteurism, masochism, sadism, paedophilia, exhibitionism and transvestism - the most common was voyeurism (35%), followed by fetishism (26%), frotteurism (26%) and masochism (19%).

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While the survey also showed that men were far more likely to admit to and indulge in paraphilias, it found that women and men were almost equally likely to be interested in masochism and voyeurism. Researchers also found a strong co-relation between an interest in masochism and a proclivity for more adventurous sexual pursuits.

Rather ironically, the study also found that respondents were more likely to admit to being interested in paraphilias online than over the phone. This indicates that while paraphilias may no longer be anomalous, there's still a great deal of embarrassment in admitting to them. Hopefully, with the publication of this study, that will become a thing of the past.

First published: 13 March 2016, 7:57 IST
 
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