Sex Offenders and the Paraphilias

AuthorHy Bloom, Richard D Schneider
chapter seven
Sex Offenders and the Paraphilias
It goes without saying, but worth mentioning never theless at the outset of
this chapter, that even a treatise, let alone a chapter t hat focuses on the legal
aspects of sexua l behaviour in a primer of this kind, w ill not do justice to the
complexities of human sexualit y, the various normal and “abnormal” ways
of expressing it, and the bountif ul theories regarding t he causes of psycho-
sexual pathology. This c hapter introduces the reader to the phenomenology
of sexual offending a nd the psychopathological processes associated with
sexual devi ation (paraphilias). “Paraphilias” is the proper psychiatric ter-
minology for the various kinds of sex ually anomalous behaviours identif‌ied
in the Diagn ostic and Statistical Manual of the America n Psychiatric Associ-
ation (DSM-5).1 T he pref‌ix “para” denotes a deviation, and the suf f‌ix “philia
means that the deviation is in relation to sex ual attraction.
The intensity of the drive to pur sue sexual grati f‌ication, and the degree
to which the individual’s life may be taken up wit h that pursuit, is one of
the more notable clinical features of paraphilic (and hyperse xual, albeit to
normal stimuli) patients. “Pathologica l sexuality,” which in today’s age can
be more easily indulged (and arguably fostered) by Internet access to por-
nography, was described more than one hundred years ago by Kraff t-Ebing
It permeates all his t houghts and feelings, allowing of no ot her aims in life,
tumultuously, and in a rut-li ke fashion demanding grat if‌ication without
granting the p ossibility of moral and ri ghteous counter-presentations, and
resolving itself into an i mpulsive, insatiable succession of sexual e njoyments
1 American Psyc hiatric Associat ion, Diagnosti c and Statistical Manu al of Mental Disorders,
5th ed, (Washin gton, DC: American Psyc hiatric Association, 2 013) [DSM-5].
. . . . This pathological se xuality is a dreadful scou rge for its victim, for he is
in constant danger of v iolating the laws of the state and of moralit y, of losing
his honor, his freedom and even his life.2
Paraphiliacs are def‌ined by either (or both) sexu ally anomalous fanta-
sies and urges or deviant sexua l behaviours. Fantasies, urges, and behav-
iours are paraphilic when their subject matter or object i nvolves children,
unconsenting partners, non-human s ubjects, or the inf‌liction of pain a nd
suffering on oneself or another, or when they cause the ind ividual subject-
ive distress and/or interfere with day-to-day fu nctioning. DSM-5 stipulates
that a diagnosis can only be m ade if symptoms have been present for at least
six consec utive months.
Paraphiliacs exper ience deviant fantasies, urges, and behaviours to va ry-
ing degrees of exclusivity (over non-paraphilic interests) and levels of inten-
sity. There are individuals for whom the paraphilic subject matter or object
is obligatory, in that the behaviour or person of interest must invariably be
included in sexual ac tivity in order for the paraphiliac to become erotical ly
aroused. There are other cases, however, where the problematic interests
and preferences (for example, voyeurism, or exhibitionism) occur only epi-
sodically; these beh aviours are commonly brought out by stress. Individuals
in this category are generally able to func tion sexually w ithout reliance on
the paraphilic component. Pedophilia is another example. There are e xclu-
sive pedophiles, who cannot be aroused by anyone other than a prepubescent
child, and non-exclusive pedophi les who may be equally or more attracted to
age-appropriate partners.
Predecessor e ditions of t he Diagnost ic and Statistical Manua l (for ex-
ample, DSM II)3 considered homosexualit y to be a disorder. Ref‌lecting ad-
vancements in the understandin g of human sexualit y (and no doubt the
times), a subsequent edition (DSM III-R)4 delisted homosexuality as a dis-
order, and instead included the diagnostic designation “ego dystonic5 homo-
sexualit y” as a psychopathological character ization of a condition that may
result when an individual fails to accept his homosex ual orientation. DSM
2 As quoted by Dan J Stein et al, “Hyperse xual Disorder and Preocc upation with Internet
Pornograp hy” (2001) 158 Amer ican Journal of Psyc hiatry 1590–9 4, online: http://ajp.
3 American Psych iatric Association, Di agnostic and Sta tistical Manual of Ment al Disorders,
2d ed (Washington , DC: American Psychiat ric Association, 1968) [DSM II].
4 American Psychi atric Association, Di agnostic and Stat istical Manual of Ment al Disorders,
3d ed, revised ( Washington, DC: America n Psychiatric Associat ion, 1987) [DSM III-R].
5 The term ego dyst onic refers to thoughts, fanta sies, and/or circumstances th at the indi-
vidual exp eriences as alien or repugna nt to his self-image and sense of sel f.
Chapter Seven: Sex Offenders and the Paraphilias 221
IV-TR preserved the construct of ego-dystonic homosex uality under the r u-
bric sexual d isorders, and called it “sexual disorder not otherw ise specif‌ied”
(NOS); it was characterized by “persistent and marked dis tress about sexual
orientation .” DSM-5 makes no mention of a ny condition consistent w ith this
(former) condition. Note that cross-examiners, hoping to denig rate psych-
iatry’s status as a medica l science, have occasionally drawn on homosexu-
ality’s history in the DSM to high light the arbitrariness of the i nclusion or
exclusion of diagnoses as a little more tha n a function of changing tides.
From a psychiatric and sexologic perspect ive, there is a grey zone be-
tween sexua l practices (however bizarre) engaged in by consenting adults in
privacy, and true paraphilic sex ual practices. Ostensibly deviant or counter-
cultural se xual practices may be “norma lized” provided no laws are broken
and both (or all) participant s consent (and are capable of consenting). Sad-
istic and masochistic ac tivities whether pain is inf‌licted or blood is
drawn — are within the realm of acceptable behaviour, provided t wo capable
adults have consented to the activity.
Paraphilic Disorders: T he essential feature of this group of psychosex ual dis-
orders involvi ng anomalou s activit y preferences a nd/or anomalous t arget
preferences is the necessity of unusual, deviant, or biza rre images, urges,
or behaviours for sexual arousa l. The arousing fantasies or activities involve
either non-human objects, the use of chi ldren or adult non-consenting indi-
viduals, or causing one’s partner (or oneself) to e xperience either suffer ing
or humiliation. The term paraphi lia, according to DSM-5, refers to “any sex-
ual interest greater than or equal to norm aphilic sexual interests”6 and sub -
sumes sexual preferences or interests that equa ls or exceeds the person’s
interest in copulation or similar activ ities with others but does not cause
distress, impairment or harm to sel f or others that would make it a “para-
philic disorder.
To meet DSM-5’s criteria, the paraphi lic disorder either needs to cause
distress in the individua l in question, or cause harm or distress to an uncon-
senting person or a person incapable of consenting. Having a paraphilia is
not synonymous with being a sex of fender. In the case of certain paraphilias,
there is a high co-occ urrence rate between the cl inical and legal designa-
tions. A list of some of the more common paraphilic disorders follows below.
6 DSM-5, above note 1 at 685.

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