Definitions of Some Sexual Deviances



            The term incest is derived from the Latin word incestum, which means unchaste. The “cestus” or “girdle” of Venus, when loosened by the husband in marriage was a good sign, but if loosened by some other male in the family was considered a violation of the cestus, or incest. In modern terms, incest can be defined as sexual intercourse or marriage between two persons who are too closely related by blood or affinity to be legally married. Most every known culture today is said to have some sort of incest taboo, although how each defines incest varies from group to group. In the animal world, however, incest is practiced without inhibition, and without any indication of instinctive repulsion. Also, certain African and Indonesian tribes are said to sanction some practices of it.

            Currently in the United States, every state, except Rhode Island, has some statutory prohibition against incest, and it is considered a felony in every state, except Delaware and Virginia, where it is considered a misdemeanor. Parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles are all considered to be off-limit family members in regards to the incest statute in every state that has the one. However, the states vary in their inclusion or exclusion of adoptive, step-, or in-law relations. Also, each state defines the incestuous act a little differently. For some the focus is solely on sexual relations, usually sexual intercourse, although some include other forms of sexual contact.  For most, both marriage and sexual relations are included in the definition. In Connecticut, however, only marriage is of concern.

            In his book Sexual Freedom and the Constitution, Walter Barnett considers the justification for the prohibition of incest involving “the genetic theory that sexual unions between individuals who were closely related would be more likely to produce defective offspring,” (p. 12. Barnett) a theory that may now be rendered more debatable by modern genetic science, and perhaps made completely irrelevant due to the availability of effective contraception. He also remarks that the incest taboo is a product of cultural conditioning, and not one of instinct, noting that other animals have no such instinct; however, Reay Tannahill in her book Sex in History, notes that other animals in the animal kingdom do not seem to think much of incest.  Barnett mentions another popular justification for the incest taboo which is that it encourages exogamous dating and strengthens ties between families, but then he offers a justification he feels is more likely, which is that it keeps intrafamilial sexual jealousies and tensions to a minimum, keeping the peace in the family. Haebele corroborates this position in The Sex Atlas.



      The word pedophilia is derived from the Greek words pais, meaning boy or child and philien, meaning love. In Greek times, it generally referred to a “love of boys,” but in our time, it has a much less agreeable connotation. In his 1978 book, The Sex Atlas, Haeberle defines pedophilia, “in the strict sense,” as “the psychological inability of adults to have sexual relationships with other adults, and their resulting urge to seek such relationships with children.” (p. 273. Haeberle) In their 1961 book Sexual Behavior: Psycho-Legal Aspects, Caprio and Brenner describe it as “a deviation of the sexual impulse characterized by the compulsive urge to accost or assault children sexually.” (p. 205. Caprio and Brenner.) Ullerstam in his 1966 book, The Erotic Minorities, simply defines pedophilia as an affliction in which one feels attracted to children. Currenty, pedophilia is regarded as the psychological propensity, where child molestation or child sexual abuse are regarded the actual terms to describe sexual contact between an adult and someone who has not reached the legal age of consent. The American Psychiatric Association defines a pedophile as:

            “a person who over at least a 6 month period of time has recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (age 13 years or younger.) These fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children. Not to include an individual in late adolescence involved in and ongoing sexual relationship with a 12 or 13 year old (straight or gay).” (ReligiousTolerance.Org)


            According to John Money in his book Lovemaps, there is a myth that pedophilia is more prevalent in homosexuals than in heterosexuals. He suggests that, in fact, the opposite is true, especially if one takes into account incest statistics. The sterotypical psychological profile of the pedophile is one of a male, although can be one of a female, who feels in some way sexually inadequate. It is said that the pedophile seeks sexual contact with children because with them he feels less inferior. Also, he identifies himself with the child, and derives erotic pleasure from “the knowledge that the sexually innocent child is being stimulated.” (p. 205. Caprio and Brenner) It is thought that the pedophile is experiencing his own childhood eroticism vicariously through the child with whom he is engaging.

            Karpman, in his book The Sexual Offender and His Offenses, indicates that most cases of pedophilia, do not involve sexual intercourse, but rather various forms of preliminary sex play, and in fact that many pedophiles report that they are actually impotent. Ullerstam remarks that many pedophiles are very kind and peaceful individuals, and that often the children they have offended are “strikingly loyal” to them. Contrary to popular belief, there is often no force or coercion involved and the child may actually enjoy the encounter. Incidents in pedophiliac behavior vary widely in terms of the amount of force or coercion used, the extent or kind of sexual activity involved, and the age of the child involved. Regardless of the particular circumstances, our society tends to disdain any form of sexual interaction between adults and children, often fearing the worse, perhaps partly due to sensational news reports, and offenders are not only convicted as felons, but perhaps worse, highly stigmatized.



            The term pederasty is derived from the Greek words paidos, meaning boy, and erastes, meaning lover, and the term paiderastia, refers to the ancient Greek custom of an “educational love relationship between a man and a male adolescent.” (p 235. Haeberle), The practice of pederasty was widespread throughout Asia and the Orient, as well, but it is most abundantly found and famously known of in Greece. Many famous Greeks, including Aristotle, Socrates, Caesar, Caligula, and Nero, are said to have had these kinds of relationships, which were not considered criminal at all, but in fact were actually glorified. In fact, the relationship between an older man, usually a teacher or philosopher with high status, and an adolescent boy, in the “full glory of his youth,” was considered to be the highest possible form of love according to Ancient Greek thought. Note that those who were engaging in it were the very ones contributing to Ancient Greek thought. It is hypothesized that “the majority of practicing Ancient Greek homosexuals were, in fact, pederasts preferring youths and young men to adults,” (p. 15. Bresler) and also that in fact, while some pederasts were indeed homosexual, many were actually bisexual, because they also engaged sexually with women.

                  In modern terms, pederasty often merely refers to anal coitus with a boy as the passive partner, and an adult male as the active partner. It is essentially sodomy where the passive partner is a boy. For most, it does not have the same romantic connotation that it once had in Greece, however, the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), is a group that considers pederasty to be a beneficial practice for boys and the men who love them, and are currently advocating for these kinds of relationships to be legal.



            This term derives from the Greek words hebe, which means youth, and philia, which means love. The hebophile loosely translates into youth-lover, or in today’s language teen-lover.  It refers to preferential attraction to adolescents, boys or girls, who have entered puberty, ranging from 14-17 years of age.  The term is primarily used to distinguish between attraction to pre-pubescent children and attraction to post-pubescent ones. Another term, ephebophelia, refers to preferential attraction to youth at about the age of puberty, more like 11-14 years old. Hebephilia, like pedophilia, refers to the psychological propensity, and not an act itself. Actual sexual contact with a post pubescent youth would be referred to as statutory rape, child molestation or child sexual abuse, depending on the actual ages of the adult and the child. The law does not distinguish between pedophilia and hebephilia, perse. 


 Child abuse:

            Child abuse refers to the mistreatment or neglect of a child by a parent, guardian, or caregiver that results in “injury or significant emotional or psychological harm, or serious risk of harm to the child.”  (National Clearing House on Family Violence) Only recently in our history has child abuse been perceived as a major social problem. Children have of course, been abused throughout history, however, child abuse has never been dealt with as it is today. We now have legal definitions, conduct thousands of research studies on the effects of abuse, and have government agencies that can remove an abused child from their home. Though child protection is considered by most to be essential in our society, some feel we can go too far. There is much debate about many of the issues concerning child abuse.

            Child sexual abuse falls into this category. Most state penal codes punish child molesters with prison terms ranging from a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of life. Child molestation laws in the United States are among the controversial issues concerning child abuse. The legal definition of child varies from state to state. In some states, the age of consent is 18. Also, the age of the offender is not always taken into account, nor is the degree of consent on the part of the “child.” So, essentially two willing teenagers could engage in sexual intercourse, and one of them, the male, could be convicted as a child molester. This does not seem fair to many, who feel the age of consent should be much younger. Some even argue that there should be no “age of consent” statute.


Statutory rape:

            Statutory rape is defined by authors Crooks and Baur in their textbook, Our Sexuality, as intercourse with a person who is under the age of consent. Haeberle defines this term as “rape created by statute.” This law assumes that a person who is under the determined age is not mature enough, or does not have a requisite level of cognitive and emotional understanding to give their “informed consent” to have sexual intercourse. The “age of consent” law reflects a person’s capacity for meaningful psychological consent, based solely on their age. “Statutory rape is considered to have occurred regardless of the apparent willingness of the underage partner.” (p. 548. Crooks and Baur) Statutory rape is considered a serious criminal offense for the older party, however never for the younger party.

            During the 19th Century in the United States, most states had codified the age of consent as 10 years old. In the 20th Century, the age crept higher, and now varies from state to state, ranging from 14 to 18 years old. The age of the defendant, as well as the type of sexual activity, also plays into the statutes of the different states. “In the vast majority of the states, the age of consent is either fifteen or sixteen.” (p. 44. Posner and Silbaugh) In the 1950s and the 1980s, reforms were made to the statutes which had explicitly protected females from males and required that the victim be “of previous chaste character.” Most states now have gender-neutral reforms, making it possible to convict men and women of statutory rape, although the law is still harder on men, essentially because men cannot get pregnant. Debates continue over the specific age at which consent can be legally given, as well as whether age of consent laws should be abolished altogether.


The term rape comes from the latin word rapere, which means to seize, and refers to “serious sexual assault or sexual intercourse against the will and over the objections of the partner. It is usually accompanied by force or threat of force,” (p 274 Haeberle) although John Money notes in his book Lovemaps that “the act of rape need no longer entail forced seizure, but only the clambering or coerciveness of a male insistent on a genital resolution to a state of sexuoerotic arousal already arrived at by a mutual agreement.” (p. 53. Money) Money also describes another kind of rape, which he refers to as paraphilic rape, or biastophilia, and that he defines as a syndrome in which the terror, screaming, yelling, an struggling of a surprised victim are integral to the assailant’s arousal, and a victim’s compliance actually evokes the escalation of the assailant’s intimidation and violence, possibly culminating in death. 

Historically, rape was considered the taking and despoiling of a man’s property, i.e. his wife or child. It was essentially a crime against another man, not against the woman or child. Common law has defined rape as: “sexual intercourse by a man with a woman, not his wife, by force and against her will.” Although rape reform laws in the early 1970s have done much to make provisions for conviction of a rape within a marriage, or for conviction of a rape by a woman with a man, there are still arguments that the statutes do not protect women in date rape cases. In her 1987 book Real Rape, Susan Estrich takes a look at how date rape is often not taken seriously in the courts or considered real rape, because the assailant is not a stranger. This concept is corroborated by the following statement out of A Guide to America’s Sex Laws: “The Model Penal Code downgrades the offense of sexual assault where the parties were voluntary companions.” (p. 7. Posner and Silbaugh) Rape is a felony in every state, however, not all sexual assault is considered to be rape, and punishments vary depending on the degree of force used, as well as other factors pertaining to the nature of the assault.


Contributing to the delinquency of a minor:

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is legal jargon that is concerned with the behaviors or actions of an adult that lead to a child’s misbehavior. One legal definition is the encouragement of “the delinquency or unruly behavior of a child, whether by aiding or abetting or encouraging the child in the commission of an act of delinquency or unruly conduct or by participating as a principal with the child in an act of delinquency, unruly conduct or by aiding the child in concealing an act of delinquency or unruly conduct following its commission.” In the state of California, child molestation falls under the penal code of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.








About Male Homosexual  Attraction to Minors. 1. Retrieved February 12, 2003. World Wide Web.


Barnett, Walter. Sexual Freedom and the Constitution. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 1973. pp. 333.


Beserra, Sarah. Jewel, Nancy. Matthews, Melody. Sex Code of California. Sausalito: Public Education and Resource Committee of California. 1973. pp 197.


Bresler, Fenton. Sex and the Law. London: Century Hutchinson Ltd. 1988. pp 280.


Crooks, Robert. Baur, Karla. Our Sexuality. Pacific Grove: Wadsworth Group. 2002. pp 687.


Dissident. Diss-ertations on Adult/Teen Girl Love. 1. Retrieved May 1, 2003. World Wide Web.


Estrich, Susan. Real Rape. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1987. pp 160.


Green, Richard. Sexual Science and The Law. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1992. pp 323.

References, cont.


Haeberle, Erwin. The Sex Atlas. New York: The Seabury Press, 1978. pp 509

Hopper. Jim. Child Abuse: Statistics, Research, and Resources. 2. Retrieved May 1,

2003. World Wide Web.


London, Louis and Caprio, Frank. Sexual Deviations. Washington D.C.: The Linacre Press, Inc. 1950. pp 702.


National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Child Abuse. 1. Retrieved February 12,2003. World Wide Web. violence/pdfs/childabs.pdf


Posner, Richard. Silbaugh, Katharine. A Guide to America’s Sex Laws. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1996. pp 243.


ReligiousTolerance.Org. Child and Youth Sexual Abuse by Clergy: Definitions of Some Sexual Terms. 1. Retrieved May 1,2003. World Wide Web.


Ullerstram, Lars. The Erotic Minorities. New York: Grove Press, Inc. 1966. pp 172.