Influence of Culture on Normal vs Deviant

Cultures and Their Impact on Paraphilia

Cultures frequently impact people's opinions of what is normal and what is abnormal. Such conclusions are heavily influenced by a variety of factors, including religion. The concept of sexuality, in particular, has garnered diverse perspectives, with some having a sex-positive stance and defining it as a crucial act of pleasure, while others regard it negatively as an act for procreative objectives (Harden, 2014). These beliefs are held because paraphilia plays an important part in determining what is legal and what is illegal across societies. Thus, the purpose of this research is to present the impact of culture on paraphilia, as well as its understanding and identification. It will also be presented that while cases of paraphilia are high, its presence in the society is largely shaped by what is considered normal or deviant.

Understanding Culture

Humans, as presented by Puts (2016), are sexual beings. Their sexuality, however, differs across cultures in the concept of whether sex is for recreation or for pleasure. In the non-procreative tradition, sexual behaviors get charged depending on the opportunities, availability of partners or fantasies. Such beliefs are also dictated by other major concepts that include religious taboos, cultural norms, societies, and the expectations of society members. While it is hard to quantify acts of paraphilia, some types of unaccepted sexual behaviors in the society can be easily quantified. Taking sexual addiction as an example, it can be assessed based on the number of sexual partners one has compared to the established cultural traditions. The full understanding of the cultural approach to paraphilia, however, first relies on the understanding of diverse cultures. As presented by Todd et al. (2015), culture can be classified as socio-centric or ego-centric. The socio-centric cultures in many cases champion for the "we-ness" and the community members since childhood get introduced to groups that continue to guard their values in exchange for immense loyalty. Though the collectivism concept that is presented in the socio-centric cultures, people uphold emotional interdependence, collective identity, and the sharing of obligations. Egocentric cultures, on the other hand, emphasize weak ties among the members of the society and champion that an individual can only look after himself and the immediate family. It thus promotes "I-ness" and advocates autonomy, privacy, emotional independence, and pleasure-seeking. The egocentric and socio-economic cultures thus not only judge the attitudes of people towards the concept of paraphilia but also determine the behaviors and the relationship that people get to develop in the cultural setting.

Consideration of Individual Sexual Behavior

The consideration of a person's sexual behavior must be informed by an analysis of the individual's fantasies as well as preferences. Through such a mechanism, one can be able to know the role of both culture and circumstance in the conduct of a person and not necessarily his orientations or desires. Paraphilia in the past has received diverse forms of descriptions that are associated with sexual minority behaviors. Besides the fact that such behaviors are rampant throughout societies and cultures, they may be considered normal in some settings. In egocentric cultures, for example, tension is likely to be developed with regards to pleasure-based sexual practices. The socio-centric society, on the other hand, has a likelihood of impacting personal moral values thus complicating individual concerns towards sexual behavior, sex, and sexuality. Cultural diversity also creates a complication with regards to the concept of masculinity and femininity. While some cultures champion equal gender roles, others believe that men are superior and thus deserve more. These factors thus create differences in interpersonal relationships as well as the sexual concept. Cultures with specific dimensions of the gender and cultural settings have a higher risk of sexual-related problems. Cultures that are masculine and egocentric, for example, have a short-term orientation and therefore can promote paraphilia. Despite the fact that enough cross-cultural studies have not been undertaken on the factors in order to determine its contribution to paraphilia, the analysis can be very helpful in understanding the cultural factors that contribute to diverse sexual behaviors.

Cultural Perception of Paraphilia

From the cultural point of view, one great problem in the description of paraphilia lies in how the sexual behaviors are viewed. Such can include whether they are seen as abnormal or deviant. Many cultures make a separation between what is normal and what is not basing either on expert opinion, social judgment, or deviation from the mean (Wahl & Hendricks, 2017). During determination, paraphilia is taken to include sexual sadism, pedophilia, fetishism, and sexual masochism. The essential features of paraphilia during analysis, however, should include intense sexual urges, sexual arousal fantasies, or behaviors that involve non-human objects. Such considerations thus beg the question of whether Paraphilia is an illness or a disease. As presented by Yarber, Sayad & Strong (2013), diverse cultures hold different stands regarding sexual behaviors and attitudes. Sexual activities are thus condemned or promoted through diverse assumptions that are lined with the concept of religion. The cultural values either promote some sense of tolerance on paraphilia or present strong grounds towards their end. Tolerance in most cases is presented with regards to sexual assumptions generated by the societal beliefs. Such is evident in cases such as heterosexual intercourse in which the society can view it as part of an essential culture based on religious and philosophical accords. The consideration of what is unacceptable therefore can differ not only within diverse segments or over time but also from one person to another within the same cultural setting. Wide variation and wide agreement in the attitudes people hold regarding sex occur both within and across cultures. It thus explains the fact that although masturbation was a taboo in a specific society, people could still be found engaging in the act.

Cultural Scripts and Gender Roles

According to Deaton (2013), cultures and societies can be described as either having negative or positive perceptions towards sex. For those that take sex as negative, the loss of semen is viewed as a mistake, and thus sexual purity is promoted. Those that take sex as positive, however, insist on pleasure and the non-procreative aspects that come with sexual encounters. Taking early religious beliefs as an example, the Romans and the Greeks largely acknowledged sexual activities. The outcome of Christianity, however, changed their concepts by emphasizing the need to preserve semen as well the need for women to procreate accordingly. The people thus later embraced the aspects of sex that emphasized its role in marriage. Even in traditions that embraced the sex-positive culture, some aspects such as adultery and incest were considered taboos and thus received a lot of victimization amongst the community members. With the advancement and modernization of society, the people's perceptions towards sexual activity and sexuality have drastically changed. Religion in early centuries was the biggest reference with regards to what sexual encounter was allowed and which was not. The concepts have, however, been transformed by the scientific and philosophical ideologies that have been brought up with time. Such is evident through the pornographic films that have been produced as well as brothels and prostitution.

Cultural Influences on Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors

The connection between human sexuality and the sociocultural factors in society has always generated concerns amongst scholars. According to Doyle (2017), sexual practices heed to the cultural scripts that champion specific aspects of sexuality and condemn others. Such scripts can be developed just like the case for heterosexual attraction, which can be considered innate or a behavior that is learned in the cultural setting. Sexual scripts are also dictated by religious practice, age, economic status, educational background, and social status. Paraphilia is thus considered both as a social or individual problem and thus is either accepted, rejected, or tolerated by the society. The diverse gender roles also play an important part in shaping the society's understanding of paraphilia. According to Puts (2016), the members of the more powerful sex, who are, in major cases, male, secure control over important social institutions that shape sexual attitudes and behaviors. The fact that sexual arousal or attraction is biological also brings an interesting subject in the relationship between biology and the social structures. It thus brings out the fact that besides the role played by culture in sexuality, the underlying biological factors also contribute to cases of paraphilia. The attribution of biological factors to the occurrence of paraphilia holds greater weight than the social values.

Personal and Societal Influences on Sexual Activity

The determination with regards to whether something elicits sexual reactions is entirely personal. The characteristics, however, can also be championed for by the societal norms. In many societies, many females are likely to receive much attention because of their physical beauty, unlike the men. Such reflects the patriarchal social systems that promote the need for sexual encounters among men. Even with arousal, the society in many cases determines the sexual activity that is permitted. For the societies that have strong restrictive attitudes towards sex, teenagers are required to suppress their sexual desires. In those that have less restrictive measures, the youth tend to create a way of circumventing their way with sex, although such attracts punishments. The concept of where sexual activity can be undertaken also plays a major role in many cultures. Such is enforced by societies through emphasizing that sex can only be done in seclusion.


In conclusion, culture plays a crucial role in shaping what is accepted sexually and what is prohibited. While some cultures view paraphilia as a non-issue, many cultures have strict regulations that govern it. Sexuality for diverse cultures is judged based on whether they take the sex-positive or the sex-negative approach. Furthermore, paraphilia is judged depending on whether a specific society is socio-centric or ego-centric. Many cultures thus have their own understanding of paraphilia and control the behavior of its members based on the acceptable norms.


Deaton, D. L. (2013). Amy T. Schalet: Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex.

Doyle, K. A. (2017). Social Scripts to Teach Conversation Skills to Adults Significantly Impacted by ASD (Doctoral dissertation, University of Cincinnati).

Harden, K. P. (2014). A sex-positive framework for research on adolescent sexuality. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(5), 455-469.

Puts, D. (2016). Human sexual selection. Current opinion in psychology, 7, 28-32.

Todd, A. R., Forstmann, M., Burgmer, P., Brooks, A. W., & Galinsky, A. D. (2015). Anxious and egocentric: How specific emotions influence perspective taking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(2), 374.

Wahl, H. W., & Hendricks, J. (2017). New dynamics in old age: Individual, environmental and societal perspectives. Taylor & Francis.

Yarber, W. L., Sayad, B. W., & Strong, B. (2013). Human sexuality: Diversity in contemporary America. McGraw-Hill.

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