'Weird' sexual fetishes are actually very normal, study suggests

Of the eight types of sexual behaviours listed of anomalous, four are neither rare or unusual

A number of sexual fetishes considered anomalous in psychiatry are actually common in the general population, a study has found.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), sexual interests fall into two categories: normal (normophilic) and anomalous (paraphilic). 

Researchers asked 1,040 Quebec residents, representative of the general population, about their experiences of sexual behaviour considered abnormal by the DSM-5. 

The study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, found that of the eight types of anomalous behaviour listed in the DSM-5, four were found to be neither rare or unusual among the experiences and desires reported by men and women.

"Overall, nearly half (45.6%) of the sample subjects were interested in at least one type of sexual behaviour that is considered anomalous, whereas one third (33%) had experienced the behaviour at least once," Professor Christian Joyal, one of the study's authors, explained.

"These facts suggest that we need to know what normal sexual practices are before we label a legal sexual interest as anomalous.

"Some paraphilic interests are more common than people might think, not only in terms of fantasies but also in terms of desire and behavior."

Of the sample, 35 per cent said they were interested in voyeurism, 26 per cent in fetishism, another 26 per cent in frotteurism and 19 per cent in masochism. 

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They also found levels of fetishism and masochism were not significantly different between men and women.

Masochism was also found to be significantly associated with more diverse sexual interests and linked with higher sex life satisfaction.

The researchers also found people were more likely to acknowledge their interests in fetishes in an online, rather than telephone, survey.

Professor Joyal concluded: "In general, it is true that men are more interested in paraphilic behaviors than women.

"However, this doesn't mean that women don't have these interests at all. In fact, women who report an interest in sexual submission have more varied sexual interests and report greater satisfaction with their sex lives.

"Sexual submission is therefore not an abnormal interest."

He added: "We have reasons to believe that this study's results which are based on Quebec's population can be applied to the population of North America and Europe as well".

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