Hot Sheet: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Weekend
BY Advocate.com Editors
October 10 2013 4:44 PM ET
6. BOOKS: Jesse Bering, Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us
After reading gay author Jesse Bering's sociocultural and scientific volume Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? I promised not to miss a single book of his. I'm thankful I did, since his latest, Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, is even better. It's a reclamation of the word that makes kids snicker and adults hurl as an insult (and which many queers have reclaimed), but less for political gain than for a chance to argue that as a society we need to stop asking what is “normal” and “natural,” and instead ask what is harmful. The author argues that it's easy to condemn something we find disgusting or don’t understand, but we have a moral obligation, in the absence of demonstrable harm, to recognize that the “inherent subjectivity of sex makes it a matter of private governance.” The book is also chock-a-block with stats (most paraphilias — arousal involving unusual or socially unacceptable types of sex — begin between the ages of 4 and 9; which paraphilias show up in animals), and it makes a particularly strong argument about the concept of "personal distress," a factor by which the American Psychiatric Association determines if the paraphillia is intrinsically harmful. Bering reminds us that lesbians and gay men who had "personal distress" over being gay were once diagnosed with a mental illness labeled "ego-dystonic homosexuality." — Diane Anderson-Minshall
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