Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Approx. half of the people in the general population who were perverts (nowadays, of paraphilic interests) acted upon those

Concordance and Discordance between Paraphilic Interests and Behaviors: A Follow-Up Study. Christian C. Joyal, Julie Carpentier. The Journal of Sex Research, Oct 12 2021.

Abstract: Although paraphilic interests represent significant risk factors for recidivism among sexual offenders, little is known about the magnitude of concordance between paraphilic interests and behaviors in the general population. The goal of this follow-up study was to conduct secondary analyses based on a sample of 1040 adults (475 men; 565 women) recruited in the general population. Levels of associations and active concordance (having both interest and experience), passive concordance (having neither interest nor experience), active discordance (having experience without interest) and passive discordance (having interest without experience) between paraphilic interest and corresponding behavior were assessed. Concordance and discordance indexes were also computed, as well as regressions and moderation analyses. As expected, paraphilic interests predicted corresponding behaviors, although the mean active concordance rate was only approximately 50%. Concordance rates varied with gender and the criminal nature (legal vs. illegal) of paraphilia. Paraphilic interests in adults from the general population may not have the same predictive value as that observed in medico-legal contexts. The possible role of other moderators in the concordance between paraphilic interest and behavior in non-clinical populations should be assessed. These findings have implications for sexual abuse prevention programs aiming at individuals in the community.


The main goal of this study was to evaluate the magnitude of association, concordance and discordance between interests for, and experience with, paraphilic behaviors in a sample of participants recruited among the general population. In line with previous studies (Bártová et al., 2021; Seto et al., 2021), correlations between the level of paraphilic interests (including none) and the frequency of corresponding behaviors (including none) were all positive and highly significant. When only participants with interest were considered, most of these associations decreased, indicating that the no-interest/no-behavior pairing explained in part these links. Still, all associations remained significant, although variation between them varied considerably (from a low of .197 for voyeurism to a high of .650 for sexual sadism). These results suggest that the link between interest and behavior fluctuates significantly across types of paraphilia. For instance, the three strongest associations between interest and behavior (all above .400) were found for sexual sadism, exhibitionism, and sexual masochism. It is worth noting that Seto et al. (2021) reported higher correlations between interest and behavior for masochism (.664) and sadism (.665) compared with other paraphilias. In addition, two rates in the present study increased when only interested participants were considered (sexual sadism and exhibitionism), indicating that for some paraphilias, associations between levels of interest and frequencies of behavior are in fact higher when absence of interest is eliminated from the equation. In these cases, the presence of interest may have a better predictive value for the appearance of the corresponding behavior.

Regression analyses also confirmed that having the desire to engage in a paraphilic behavior was significantly associated with acting on that behavior (see also Seto et al., 2021). Still, gender also represented a significant factor for the realization of some (but not all) paraphilic behaviors. As expected, fetishistic, voyeuristic, and exhibitionistic behaviors were associated with being a man and masochistic behaviors were (almost significantly) associated with being a woman. Seto et al. (2021) also found that four paraphilic behaviors were associated with gender: eroticized gender (men), frotteurism (men), zoophilia (men), and masochism (women). Given that the present study was not based on the same instrument and the same paraphilias, results are difficult to compare with those of Seto et al. (2021). Still, it is worth noting that in both studies, sexual masochism was associated with being a woman.

As for the more specific measure of correspondence between paraphilic interests and behaviors, the active concordance index, it was moderate on average (approximately .50), suggesting that about one person out of two with such interest also reported (or not) the corresponding behavior. Therefore, the presence of a paraphilic interest (or even a desire, as in this study) among people of the general population is only partially indicative of their experience with the corresponding behavior, perhaps less than what is usually reported in forensic contexts (e.g., Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005; Mann et al., 2010). Concordance rates also vary significantly across paraphilias. A first source of variation was the criminal status (legal vs. illegal) of the paraphilia. Although the concordance rates suggest that the sole criminal nature of a paraphilia is not sufficient to explain the odds of acting out (e.g., voyeurism, frotteurism), legal paraphilic interests were significantly more likely to be associated with corresponding behaviors than interests for illegal sexual behaviors. A similar result was reported by Seto et al. (2021).

A second source of concordance variation was gender (moderation variable), although it was significant for only three paraphilias (fetishism, transvestism, and exhibitionism, all related with being a man). These results suggest that even if odds of engaging in paraphilic behaviors are generally higher in men, the link between having a paraphilic interest and realizing it is not necessarily weaker in women. Seto et al. (2021), for instance, found that pedohebephilic interests were significantly associated with pedohebephilic behaviors in both men and women (if heterosexual) among the general population. In the present study, women who had interests in sexual masochism, sexual sadism, frotteurism, or voyeurism were as likely as men to have experienced it.

The active discordance index also generated interesting results. For instance, correlations between interest and behavior were higher for exhibitionism after participants with no interest and no experience with exhibitionism were removed from the equation. These results suggest that having interest in exhibitionism is significantly associated with behavioral exhibitionism. However, the active discordant index indicated that exhibitionism behaviors were more likely to be reported by participants who engaged in these behaviors without interest in doing so (as indicated by indexes higher than 1). Therefore, among the general population, having interest for a paraphilia such as exhibitionism seems to be significantly associated with the corresponding behavior, whereas the opposite is not true, i.e., exhibitionism is not necessarily indicative of a corresponding interest. In opposition, indexes of active discordance were especially low (.15 or less) for masochism (men and women) and fetishism (men). These results suggest that most people from the general population who engage in these behaviors also have the desire to do so.

Future investigations should assess the presence and importance of other possible moderating factors underlying the variation of concordance between paraphilic (or any) sexual interest and behavior. For instance, Bondü and Birke (2021) recently reported a significant association between coercive sexual fantasies and behavioral sexual sadism (consenting and non-consenting) in young adults (mainly university students), although less than 25% of the variance was explained by the sole presence of these fantasies. Importantly, inclusion of other factors such as personality traits, attitudes, and general aggressiveness increased that percentage to nearly 50% (Bondü & Birke, 2021). At the individual level, variables such as sexual drive, sexual orientation, behavioral impulsivity, psychopathic traits, substance abuse, intelligence and educational levels deserve further attention (e.g., Bondü & Birke, 2021; Seto et al., 2021; Williams et al., 2009). At the sexual interest level, low diversity of interests (e.g., having few but highly specific fantasies) paired with high intensity (e.g., very sexually arousing and recurrent), a non-volitional type of appearance (obsessional), a long history of emergence (e.g., early adolescence) and/or high frequency represent good possible moderating factors in the odds of acting on them. Because the present study was not designed to assess concordance between interest and behaviors, these intermediate variables were not assessed.

Finally, different definitions and measures of sexual interest might explain in part variation in rates of concordance across studies. Fantasies about (Bártová et al., 2021), arousal associated with (Bártová et al., 2021; Seto et al., 2021), and desire to accomplish (current findings) a given sexual behavior can all be defined as sexual interest, although their proximity with behaviors might differ. Given that sexual fantasies are not necessarily associated with an actual desire to realize them (Joyal & Carpentier, 2017), concordance between behaviors and desire might be somewhat higher than that with fantasies. The definition of behavior is also important, such as including (or not) exclusive pornography use, which influences reported rates (see Dombert et al., 2016 for instance). Rates of pedophilic interests and experience (involving children aged 13 or less) were particularly low in this study (0.6% and 0,4%, respectively, compared with 4.1% and 3.2% among German men; Dombert et al., 2016), perhaps due to fear of being reported in Canada and/or the exclusion of behaviors limited to pornography consumption. In contrast, rates of interest and experience (Joyal & Carpentier, 2017) and concordance (this study) for frotteurism were relatively high in this sample. This reflects, at least in part, an important difference between our definition of frotteurism (“Touching or rubbing yourself against a stranger”) and that of other studies (“Touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person,” e.g., Seto et al., 2021). Therefore, measures of paraphilic interests and behaviors should be validated for future studies, not only for convergent validity and reliability (Seto et al., 2021), but also for face and content validity.

Overall, there are growing data available concerning concordance and discordance between paraphilic interests and paraphilic behaviors among non-clinical, non-forensic samples of participants. Although there remain gaps in the literature, these investigations will help in developing risk assessment instruments for the general population, crucial for the emerging development of prevention programs against sexual abuse aiming at the community.

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