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"As a sex writer, Jesse Bering is fearless—and peerless." —Dan Savage
"You are a sexual deviant. A pervert, through and through." We may not want to admit it, but as the award-winning columnist and psychologist Jesse Bering reveals in Perv, there is a spectrum of perversion along which we all sit. Whether it's voyeurism, exhibitionism, or your run-of-the-mill foot fetish, we all possess a suite of sexual tastes as unique as our fingerprints—and as secret as the rest of the skeletons we've hidden in our closets.
Combining cutting-edge studies and critiques of landmark research and conclusions drawn by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, and the DSM-5, Bering pulls the curtain back on paraphilias, arguing that sexual deviance is commonplace. He explores the countless fetishists of the world, including people who wear a respectable suit during the day and handcuff a willing sexual partner at night. But he also takes us into the lives of "erotic outliers," such as a woman who falls madly in love with the Eiffel Tower; a pair of deeply affectionate identical twins; those with a particular penchant for statues; and others who are enamored of crevices not found on the human body.
Moving from science to politics, psychology, history, and his own reflections on growing up gay in America, Bering confronts hypocrisy, prejudice, and harm as they relate to sexuality on a global scale. Humanizing so-called deviants while at the same time asking serious questions about the differences between thought and action, he presents us with a challenge: to understand that our best hope of solving some of the most troubling problems of our age hinges entirely on the amoral study of sex.
As kinky as it is compassionate, illuminating, and engrossing, Perv is an irresistible and deeply personal book. "I can't promise you an orgasm at the end of our adventure," Bering writes, "but I can promise you a better understanding of why you get the ones you do."
In a book as informative as it is entertaining, Bering (Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?) argues for the efficacy of science and logic over irrational morals when addressing "sexual deviancy." Citing numerous studies and historical sources, Bering makes the claim that, deep down, we are all sexual deviants in one form or another and that sexual deviancy is, in fact, not deviant at all. From the beginning of human history, people have engaged in antiheteronormative behaviors, from bestiality to pedophilia. Furthermore, Bering shows how most sexual deviancy isn't a choice, but rather is the result of a genetic predisposition over which the individual has no control. Laws and medical diagnoses controlling sexual activity should investigate whether the activities in question cause "harm" (though harm itself is subjective, and is therefore also a problematic way to assess behavior), rather than whether society is merely grossed out by them. This is clearly a personal topic for Bering, who is gay and, in fact, discusses his experiences of self-loathing and discrimination. Despite the occasional preachy paragraph, Bering's latest is a delightful, intelligent, and thought-provoking addition to the growing body of our sexual knowledge of self.