How Do I Get Rid of My Sexual Perversions?

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Reader’s Question

I am a 30-year-old virgin very much obsessed with sexuality and unable to focus on other things. I fantasize about some things that I find very queer and that make me feel that I am a sexual pervert. These attractions include cavity spots on a woman’s molar teeth when she opens her mouth, moles on the back of a woman, dimple chin, arm-pit hairs, exposing my nude body to a woman, and sniffing my genitals and anus. I don’t know how to get rid of this problem.

Psychologist’s Reply

Despite lots of research, no one knows why an individual is sexually attracted to particular things or people. When something is a fairly consistent source of sexual arousal, such as the sight of a nude woman by a heterosexual male, we tend to take it for granted. When an individual is sexually attracted to something clearly out of the mainstream, however, we raise our eyebrows, and words such as “deviant” and “pervert” start to be heard. Interestingly, we don’t stigmatize people based on their unusual preferences for the taste of particular foods, or colors, or music.

The predominant theories as to why people frequently vary in their sexual turn-ons are based on behavioral principles such as classical conditioning and reinforcement. The assumption is that the individual had an experience (often during late childhood or adolescence) in which a particular thing, or body part, or activity was associated with getting sexually aroused. Then, if the individual continued to reinforce that connection by stimulating themselves while fantasizing or acting on the new connection, it eventually became an automatic stimulus for arousal. This theory helps explain why sources of sexual arousal are often things that are taboo or typically associated with being physically intimate with someone.

The theory based on classical conditioning also implies that if an individual experiences frequent sexual arousal, or is easily aroused, that person has greater likelihood of associating that arousal with a variety of things, including many that will be unusual. By not being in a sexual relationship, you may feel sexually deprived, and thus think about women you see in even more frequent sexual terms than many men already do. One aspect of human nature is the tendency to want something more if access to it is blocked or limited. So, your lack of sexual expression with a partner is liable to fuel what feels like an obsession with sex. Also, with relatively little sexual experience with partners, your sexual arousal may be more likely to attach to intimate aspects of women’s bodies other than the breasts and genitals, which you would only see if you viewed pornography.

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Perhaps the most rational “solution” to the type of situation you’ve described is to accept that your experiences make sense given our theories of how sexual attractions develop, and that there is unlimited variety to what people find sexually stimulating. In other words, the problem lies not in what you find arousing, but in your self-judgment about it. As long as your sexual attractions do not violate the rights of others, one could easily argue that there is no problem to worry about. If, however, you prefer to try to dampen these attractions, the behavioral intervention is to cease reinforcing them. Instead, focus on sexual stimuli that you find more acceptable, and use those as sources of arousal. It’s important to substitute the acceptable stimuli for the unacceptable, as solid research has shown that simply trying to suppress thoughts often fuels their intrusion into our awareness.

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