Have you ever asked yourself (or someone else? wow… ) questions like:

  • I love wearing pantyhose? Am I normal?
  • Women (men?) in swimsuits, shiny stockings and high heels drive me crazy? Is it curable?
  • Has anybody tried to give up his/her latex addiction? I can’t live with it anymore.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

OK, as always, let’s go step by step. We will not focus on “why”, but rather on “what” and “how”.

Paraphilia is a biomedical term used to describe sexual arousal to objects, situations, or individuals that are not part of normative (1) stimulation and that (2) may cause distress or serious problems for the paraphiliac or (3) persons associated with him or her.

“Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices” by Anil Aggraval lists 549 paraphilias, and the list will only increase.

Some paraphilia forms are widely known:

  • Fetishism – sexual arousal by inanimate objects.
  • Transvestic fetishism – the sexual arousal by clothing worn by the opposite sex.
  • Sexual sadism – the derivation of sexual pleasure from the infliction of pain (physical, psychological or both), suffering and/or humiliation upon another person.
  • Sexual Masochism – the recurrent urge or behavior of wanting to be humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer for sexual pleasure.
  • Hypoxyphilia (aka asphyxiophilia, autoerotic or sexual asphyxia) – a sub-category of sexual masochism, a potentially lethal sexual practice that refers to sexual arousal that is produced while reducing the oxygen supply to the brain.
  • Pedophilia – strong sexual attraction to prepubescent children

And now …. drum roll … (something I suspected and even voiced a couple of times)…

Paraphilias are found almost exclusively in males.

Other sources are less categorical: “Most paraphilias are far more common in men than in women.”

Something what the so called “female fetishists” never admitted when I asked them directly. They “love” fetish clothes not because they are made out of latex or thin nylon, feel good or stimulate them, but because they love the effect the material or clothes cause on males! Unlike males, female will never wear fetish clothes if they know that nobody can see them. Yes, of course, there are exceptions and they are very welcome!

Also, as correctly guessed by many:

With the present state of knowledge, there is no “cure” for these abnormalities.

In other words, if someone loves swimsuits or shiny pantyhose, he (now we can almost with 100% certainty say “he”) will love them forever. He can hide this love from others, but the love will remain.

And most do love their love:

Many paraphilic individuals are poorly motivated to undergo treatment.

But if they feel guilty or frustrated:

Motivated patients can, however, be helped to control their urges thereby reducing their own distress and reducing the likelihood of harming themselves and/or other people.

And the above leads us to another very important moment. I placed three digits on the paraphilia description. Let’s go through it again.

1. Normality and public moral

What is legal is written in the law and is more or less logical. But what is normal? In this particular case it’s define by the society, by the public moral and public opinion. This is a very vague grey area, which can rarely be properly defined, predicted or explained. Sometimes illogical and pure ethical subject.

Fashion, religion, climate, trends, education, history and dozens of other factors define and influence the public moral. It can be different just hundred meters or two years away. Just to give some examples:

  • On a nudist beach you are expected to be naked. Just over the fence you will be arrested for the same absence of clothes. Some African tribes are always naked.
  • The fashion history tells us, that stockings, tights and leggings were originally made for men.
  • Paedophilia in ancient Greece was quite common
  • The age of consent is different in different countries.

In the mathematical terms. God makes Gaussian noise. Gaussian distribution is also known as “normal distribution”. (See?) Within a society people behave randomly. The absolutely expected behaviour is located in the very centre of the bell shaped curve and called “mean” (μ, location of the peak). And there is also “standard deviation” σ (see? More similar words ;-)

About 68% of values drawn from a normal distribution are within one standard deviation σ away from the mean; about 95% of the values lie within two standard deviations; and about 99.7% are within three standard deviations.

Every society has its own mean and deviation (own expected behaviour). And the lower the peak and wider the curve, the higher tolerance.

I think it would be quite safe to say that 70% of the people living within one society will be considered by this society perfectly normal. 25% – rather strange with some unexpected behaviour and 5% – abnormal.

If something is not considered normal in one society or group of people, you can try to find another place (country, state, city, region, club) where the local criteria of normality closer correspond yours. Typical examples are: age of consent, homosexual weddings, wearing burqas, nudist beeches, latex and bondage clubs, etc.

2. Distress or serious problems for the paraphiliac

If you are happy with your deviation, love your fetishes and do not seriously harm yourself, this problem does not exist. Period.

Let’s take pantyhose as an example. Most say: “What will the people around say? They all will look at me! Point at me! And laugh at me! It’s so embarrassing…”

Wearing pantyhose is legal, right? Public opinion follows the adequateness of the person. The deviation (mathematically speaking) is probably bigger than 1σ, but very far from 2σ. Everything depends on the person, how confident he is, how he behaves, how he talks, what he does, etc. Is it a fashion statement? Or probably a medical treatment? Or a sexual fetish? If the rest is not over the edge (think of σ), nobody will care.

In other words – it’s all in your head. It’s all about how you think of yourself, about your inferiority complexes. You must allow yourself to have “features” and enjoy them.

And vice versa – if you think that “it” is sick, so will the rest. If you do not love yourself, who will?

3. Distress or serious problems to associated persons

3 = 1 + 2 Both (1) and (2) apply here because another living creature is involved.

To summarize all three parts: if you and you partner are happy, you do not break the law and disturb your neighbours – there’s nothing to worry about.

But (oh…. all these “buts”…. ) if you have kids there’s more responsibility. We will discuss this subject later.

The video spawned interesting question:

Question: this vid seemed to assume moral relativism (i.e., social norms arbitrarily distinguish kinds of paraphilia). But acts of pedophilia have long-lasting damaging results on the victims. Are you really making the claim that this is no different than a high-heel fetish, except that it the latter is socially acceptable? [Suspending moral judgment for the sake of neutral description is different from asserting the vacuousness of moral judgment altogether. Which are you doing?]

Answered by the authors of the video:

“But acts of pedophilia have long-lasting damaging results on the victims.”

That’s precisely while paraphilias are moral issues.

Morals are based on empathy and not doing harm to yourself or others.

“Are you really making the claim that this is no different than a high-heel fetish, except that it the latter is socially acceptable?”

Psychologically they are the same mental phenomena, i.e. sexual associations.

Morally, they are two entirely different things.

Photos by: Christine Kessler, Eric Kroll, Olga Fomina, Nylon Michelle, Perry Gallagher, Bob Carlos Clarke, Lochai, Chris Bell, Helmut Newton