Sexual Deviance as a Disease

Sexual "deviance" is technically any deviation from the sexual norm. Sexual disease, a new diagnostic category in the eighteenth century, was classed as a syndrome and seems in retrospect to have been an iatrogenic one based more on philosophical and moral grounds than on any medical ones. The disease entity, however, was fitted into some of the medical theories of the time, and as these theories were challenged and undermined, modifications were made in order to justify maintaining certain forms of sex behavior in the category of disease.

In recent decades much of the sexual behavior previously classed as disease has been removed from that category. This redefinition has been based on a better understanding of sexual behavior. It has also been a result of the protests of some groups who reject being classed as ill or sick and having their behavior categorized as pathological, emphasizing the iatrogenic component of the disease. Nonetheless, efforts are being made to maintain other kinds of sexual activity under the rubric of disease. Generally, these are activities that are regarded as unacceptable by society or viewed as compulsive behavior by behavioral psychologists. Perhaps both groups maintain the classification as a way of justifying their intervention or of promising a cure.

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