Perverse – wrong, twisted, unacceptable?

Author: Kitteh
A to Z | Basics

What does “perverse” or “pervert” actually mean?

The term comes from the Latin “perversus”. The translation originally meant “upside down” or “reversed”. For the most part, the adjective is used in relation to sexuality. The term “perverse” or “pervert” is also often used to describe behavior that does not conform to the ethical consensus of the majority. Ultimately, even criminal abominations are referred to in this way. In everyday use, however, we also use the word casually to describe particularly unconventional preferences. All uses have one thing in common: it expresses an otherness, a liking for something “wrong”.

Who or what is perverse?

Perversity is usually in the eye of the beholder.

Jan Wöllert

This quote describes well why we do not label any practice or person as perverse. Above all, we associate “pervert” with taboo behaviour. But what is considered abnormal, deviant or obscene for one person is completely natural for another.

Kinks and BDSM practices in particular are often perceived as perverse by vanillas because they seem unusual, bizarre or absurd.

While the term “kinky” definitely alludes to a sexual difference, “kinky” does not necessarily have a sexual connotation. Non-traditional preferences in everyday life are also considered kinky. It’s not just young people who like to use the word jokingly among themselves. However, the term is mostly used to describe inclinations that lead to one’s own or others’ distress.

When is perversion pathological?

If you search for a medical meaning for “perverse” or “pervert”, you will almost exclusively come across highly antiquated definitions.1 According to these, any sexual practice apart from vaginal intercourse between a man and a woman is perverse. However, “perversion” or being perverted still does not exist as a concept of illness.

Inhumane crimes and sex offenders are often referred to as “perversion” in the media. Pathologically, we speak of perverted people as soon as someone tortures themselves or others. However, this does not mean that the person concerned suffers from the stigmatization of their behaviour. It actually means that his or her inclination causes suffering. This is the case, for example, when a behavior becomes an addiction. In contrast, the more harmless term “perversity” refers more to a vice.

What to bear in mind when using the term

The term pervert is used with caution, especially in the BDSM scene. Being a pervert has negative connotations for the majority and quickly leads to kinkshaming. There are certainly people who enjoy breaking the taboos of others. They enjoy being called perverted with a certain smugness. Or use it humorously and hyperbolically.

However, the term is still associated with non-consensual torment. Because “kinky” is largely used in a derogatory way outside of the scene and is therefore considered an insult. It is highly discriminatory to make people feel abnormal, deviant or dangerous because of their sexual preferences. Everyone defines and interprets the word differently. That’s why it’s better to use it once too seldom than once too often.

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