Reconsidering Perversion – a Conceptual Proposal

  • Ralf Binswanger


There is still no simple or agreed-upon definition of perversion. Furthermore, changing cultural opinions on sexuality question even the use of this term. In answer to these challenges, a conceptional distinction is proposed between sexuality per se, describing an aspect of an individual’s personality, and sexuality in actu, describing manifest sexual fantasy and behavior. Sexuality per se subsumes hetero- and homosexuality as well as conditions traditionally called “perversions” on the same de-pathologized level and calls them adult sexual organizations. The use of the terms perversion and perverse is restricted to a specific mode of sexuality in actu, i.e. when, in sexual activities, non-sexual functions have gained priority over sexual drive satisfaction. This clarifies which sexual activity may be an issue of psychoanalytic scrutiny and of often successful therapy and which not. Two case examples and a brief look into psychoanalytic literature illustrate the proposal.


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Binswanger, R. (2017). Reconsidering Perversion – a Conceptual Proposal. Journal für Psychoanalyse, (57).