A paraphilia is a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme. A paraphilia is considered a disorder when it causes distress or threatens to harm someone else. A paraphilia can revolve around a particular object (children, animals, underwear) or a particular behavior (inflicting pain, exposing oneself) but is distinguished by a preoccupation with the object or behavior to the point of being dependent on that object or behavior for sexual gratification. Most paraphilias are far more common in men than in women. The focus of a paraphilia is usually very specific and unchanging.
Paraphilias include sexual behaviors society may view as distasteful, unusual, or abnormal. The most common are pedophilia (sexual focus on children), exhibitionism (exposure of genitals to strangers), voyeurism (observing private activities of unaware victims) and frotteurism (touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person). Fetishism (use of inanimate objects), sexual masochism (being humiliated or forced to suffer), sexual sadism (inflicting humiliation or suffering) and transvestic disorder (sexually arousing cross-dressing) are much less common. There is also a category of paraphilias—known as Other Specified Paraphilic Disorders—which encompasses behaviors not covered by the already named diagnoses, such as those involving dead people, urine, feces, enemas, or obscene phone calls. Some of the behaviors associated with paraphilias are illegal; individuals under treatment for paraphilic disorders often encounter legal complications surrounding their behaviors.