Sexual Health Q&A

How common are paraphilias?

It is difficult to know how common paraphilias are because they are not always reported.

Many types of paraphilias, such as pedophilia (sex with children) and exhibitionism (showing one’s genitals to strangers) are illegal, so people may not admit to them or seek treatment.

Others, such as transvestitism (sexual arousal from dressing as a member of the opposite sex) or fetishism (arousal from an inanimate object) may not cause distress or harm between partners. In that case, the paraphilia, while unusual, may not be reported because it is a private matter between consenting adults.

However, scientists have found that paraphilic disorders – which do cause distress, harm, or the risk of harm to others - are more common in men than in women. They typically occur between the ages of 15 and 25. Pedophilia, voyeurism, and exhibitionism appear to be the most common types of paraphilic disorders