The cause of sexual deviations is generally unknown. These preferences, which are much commoner in males than females, are usually present by early adulthood or before. They may therefore be regarded as a permanent feature of the personality that may become more marked with the passage of years or at times of stress. Some of these behaviours are associated with difficulty in forming normal relationships; for example, indecent exposure may occur in men with poor social skills and/or learning disability. Availability is also a factor, as in bestiality among men with ready access to animals. There may be a genetic component. In rare cases, a first onset in later life may be due to functional psychiatric illness or organic brain disease.

Psychodynamic theorists have suggested that these behaviours are due to abnormal parental attitudes, such as excessive dominance of one parent, or parental desire for a child of the opposite sex. In the behavioural model, deviant sexual behaviour is conceived as being learned by conditioning or modelling, and maintained by reward in the form of orgasm and anxiety reduction. Behavioural factors probably underpin cases where the person spends longer and longer viewing pornography, such as that available on the Internet; however, these cases may also have features of obsessive-compulsive disorder and/or addictive behaviours.

Individual deviations will now be briefly described.

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