“I can’t promise you an orgasm at the end of our adventure,” psychologist/ sexologist/ sex-psychologist, Jesse Bering admits in the introduction of Perv.
“But I can promise you a better understanding of why we get the ones we do.”
So begins the guided tour through the scary neighbourhood of sexual desire, stopping at Acrotomophilia Avenue, Podophilia Place and a whole range of erotic locales you’ve never heard of. Buckle up!
Let’s firstly get our etymological ducks in a row; Perv concerns the study of the Paraphilia, a condition whereby one’s sexual arousal and gratification are wholly dependent on fantasizing or engaging in ‘atypical’ sexual behaviour. Foot fetishism (podophilia) falls at the common and rather garden-variety end of this spectrum. Acrotomophilia, however – a sexual attraction to amputees – falls at the ‘rare, but not as rare as you might expect’ end of the sex spectrum.
It would be easy at this point to continue list all bizarre sexscapades contained within Perv’s pages, but to that would do a massive disservice to Bering’s meticulously researched, compassionately written work. We are all perverts – or “erotic outliers”– in one way or another, Bering argues, but some find dealing with their aberrant desires more difficult than others, either as a result of personal discomfort or societal judgement, so it behoves society to adopted a more enlightened approach to the subject.
Imagine, for example, that you wake one morning up to find yourself afflicted with one of the unpleasant, social unacceptable paraphilias, like necrophilia or even zoophilia? Sex with a corpse – gross, right? Well, it’s easy to judge – humans have been trained for moral panic and less so for reasoned dispassionate investigation – but when one considers that sexual desire beyond a certain point in ones development is pretty intractable, and that we are the passive recipients of our paraphilias, then you might begin to think differently.
A particularly interesting chapter (‘Sister Nymph, Brother Satyr’) delves into the attitudes around male and female sexuality. In Victorian times expressions of female ‘lust’ are considered signs of illness, and a diagnosis ‘nymphomania’ is applied to woman exhibiting any signs of amorousness. Did you know the one of the first uses of radiotherapy was to obliterate teenage girls’ clitorises in order to discourage masturbation? Well, you do now. Don’t dismay though sisters – paraphilias are by and large a male problem, with a ratio of only one woman to every 100 men afflicted.
I could go on listing humorous examples of deviant sex (like the guy with an overwhelming bizarre and ultimately career-destroying fetish for seeing a man “sneezing handsomely”) or I could close by simply saying that Perv is a fantastic read.
Eloquent, informative and a must-have for anyone interested in the science behind why we find the things we find titillating.
Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us is out now.