• Paraphilia as an identity, part 2

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    In my previous post titled “Paraphilia as an identity” I made a brief reference to the origins of this term. I didn’t know enough to go into detail about it, so I just said “It was made up by a researcher (although not a doctor) Friedrich Salomon Krauss in 1904 to denote any non-procreational sexual behavior”. Now I know more and can add corrections and details.

    First of all, I was wrong about the year – for the first time we can see the term “paraphilia” in Krauss’ article titled “Psychopathia sexualis” in the 17th volume of Wiener klinische Rundschau (August 2, 1903), a German journal on medical topics. You can read the original German text here (readable letters, but scanning mistakes) or here (photos of the original pages, poor letter readability). I have also put the scanned version through Google Translate and uploaded here. In the future I will collaborate with someone on a more literate retyping of the original text and a real translation.

    Krauss (who was a doctor – but not in the medical, psychiatric sense, he was an ethnographer) coined the term “paraphilia” as an explicitly neutral alternative to “psychopathia sexualis” and “sexual perversion”. He defended the point of view that not every paraphiliac needs medical invasion, that paraphilias can develop and exist in clinically sane people, and that his contemporary medical field is too keen on pathologizing human sexual expression. 

    As a part of his work as an ethnographer he was collecting uncensored erotic folk tales and was put on trial for it, accused of spreading pornography. In “Psychopathia sexualis” he also made a reference to traditions and cultures of nonwestern nations who had a different attitude to sexuality, as an argument that nonnormative sexual preferences are not pathological.

    Knowing this leads me to believe that the original meaning of “paraphilia” was benign. And that its later usage by the medical system was an appropriation. In a way, this resembles how the term “homosexuality” was coined – by a sympathetic person, as a neutral and non-derogatory alternative to earlier language. And it too was later taken by doctors as a name for a disorder.

    Homosexuality, by the way, was included by Krauss in his original definition of a paraphilia, because he defined it as any sexual preference that did not lead to procreation. I personally support defining paraphilia as a non normative orientation, without specifying. It became a matter of principle for people to exclude queerness from paraphilias, but after witnessing my country impose more and more homophobic laws, I started seeing my gender preferences (multisexual) as a part of my paraphiliac orientation. I think inclusion of queerness into paraphilias should be the matter of individual choice, like how medically transitioning transgender people get to choose if they consider themselves transsexual – even though they fit the original definition.

    There also are people who consider paraphilias queer (such as the coiner of the term “radqueer”), and I take a stance here similar to the above – an individual paraphiliac should be free to define their paraphilias as queer, but they are not inherently so. These both are rather vague terms that depend on the wider culture surrounding them. What does the culture see as abnormal? What identities and experiences are considered connected to LGBT? There is no universal answer for either of these questions, and so there is no hard line between paraphilia and queerness, and no flawless way to include one into another.

    On a relevant note, a few weeks ago August was suggested as a paraphilia pride month. I find that August 2 being the day of the term’s coinage is quite suitable. What do we want from this month? Some people suggested an advent calendar, days of visibility for particular paraphilias, art.  

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