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Worried that your deepest darkest fantasies aren’t exactly “normal?” According to traditional psychology, they might be more average than you thought. What’s more: your partner is probably right there with you: A new study in The Journal of Sex Research found that what psychiatrists classify as abnormal sexual preferences are actually very common.
Researchers from the University of Montreal surveyed a diverse group of over 1,000 people in Quebec on what sexual acts they do and don’t enjoy. The catch? Their options were the intimacy interests deemed “paraphilic,” or atypical by the bible of mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Some of the interests that qualified: exhibitionism (enjoying watching others have sex), voyeurism (enjoying others watching you), fetishism (sexual arousal from inanimate objects or body parts), frotteurism (dry humping), sexual masochism (pleasure from receiving pain or ridicule), sexual sadism (pleasure from giving pain or ridicule), and transvestism (excitement from wearing clothes of the opposite sex).
Chances are when you read that list, at least one struck you as not that outlandish. It’s probably totally different, though, than the one that seems normal to your neighbor—and that’s the point.
“The main goal of the study was to determine normal sexual desires and experiences in a representative sample of the general population,” said co-author Christian Joyal in a press release.
In fact, 46 percent of those surveyed were interested in at least one of the behaviors considered abnormal, while 33 percent had practiced at least one, at least once. Furthermore, of the acts in the survey, half were found to be common among the experiences or desires reported by both the men and women surveyed. Thirty-five percent of people were into voyeurism, 26 percent fetishism, 26 percent frotteurism, and 19 percent masochism.
The DSM-5 is quick to point out that not everyone who has atypical interests behind bedroom doors has a mental disorder. Technically, to have paraphilic disorder, one has to feel personal distress about their interests (not just from society’s disapproval) or have a fantasy involving another person’s psychological or physical distress.
But it also explicitly labels these particular interests as not normal. And the fact that nearly half of respondents found what the DSM considers worrisome to instead be arousing proves that there is no real “normal” when it comes to nookie.