Sexuality Study: ‘Unusual’ Sexual Interests May Be Common

Couple with foreheads touching sitting on bedResults from a study of people in Québec published in the Journal of Sex Research undermine a number of widespread beliefs about sexuality, including the preconceived notions that sexual fetishes are uncommon and women are less interested in sex than men.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) lists eight paraphilic, or abnormal, interests. To qualify for a diagnosis these sexual behaviors must reach a point where they cause some distress, but according to the DSM-5, these behaviors are unusual or atypical. The study undermines this claim, providing evidence that at least four paraphilic interests may actually be common in Québec.

Are ‘Unusual’ Sexual Interests Common?

Researchers Christian Joyal and Julie Carpentier, from the Institut Philippe-Pinel de Montréal and the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, conducted phone and online surveys of 1,040 Québec residents. The participants were representative of the general population and answered a number of questions about their sexual interests and preferences.

About half (45.6%) of participants were interested in at least one “anomalous” sexual behavior, and 33% had participated in the behavior at least once. Among respondents, voyeurism (35%), sexual fetishism (26%), frotteurism (26%), and masochism (19%) were found to be common desires or experiences.

Male respondents were more interested in paraphilic behaviors than female respondents, but women who reported an interest in sexual submission or masochism had more varied sexual interests. They also reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction. The researchers found an interest in sexual submission was correlated with an overall increase in other sexual interests.

What Is ‘Normal’ Sexuality?

The study’s authors caution that mental health professionals must know what constitutes normal sexual behavior before labeling certain behaviors as deviant or unusual. They also highlight the difference between sexual paraphilic disorders—which involve partners who do not consent or sexual acts that trouble the person with the paraphilia—and paraphilic behavior.

A paraphilia is a sexual behavior that may be necessary for sexual satisfaction. For example, a person with a submission paraphilia might not be interested in sex that does not involve sexual submission. Paraphilic behavior, by contrast, is not necessary for sexual satisfaction. People with paraphilic behaviors may only engage in the “unusual” behavior from time to time and may have a wide range of other sexual interests.

The results can’t be broadly applied to Americans or Europeans, because the team only studied people from Québec. They believe future research will likely find similar results among other populations.

References:

  1. Joyal, C. C., & Carpentier, J. (2016). The prevalence of paraphilic interests and behaviors in the general population: A provincial survey. The Journal of Sex Research, 1-11. doi:10.1080/00224499.2016.1139034
  2. Paraphilic disorders [PDF]. (2013). Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  3. Quebeckers’ sexual tastes and interests: A new study debunks preconceived notions. (2016, March 9). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-03/uom-qst030816.php

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  • Josephine

    Josephine

    March 10th, 2016 at 3:20 PM

    Well I think that you hit the nail on the head by asking what is “normal’> We all have different definitions of what that means so what is normal to one person may feel unusual to another. We for the most part have to learn to accept what we like about being sexual and find someone else who either enjoys the same things that we do or who is at least willing to try something different or out of the norm for them so that everyone’s needs are being met.

  • Mike

    Mike

    March 11th, 2016 at 11:56 AM

    Unusual or not it is all about finding that person you can be compatible with, who loves all of your quirks.

  • Lisa

    Lisa

    March 12th, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    I think that most of us have some weird things but how many will admit it?

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