Sexual Deviance as a By-Product of Societal Confusion

Stories of sexual deviance and sexual criminal offenses have run rampant in today’s media. From Congressmen to the average person in the general population, the prevalence of socially unacceptable behavior of a sexual nature seems to be ever increasing and occupying the front pages of our news outlets and tabloid gossip columns. But what is the cause of sexual deviance? In this article, the author proposes that sexually deviant behavior is a by-product of our cultural confusion over sexuality. Additionally, while a technical definition of deviant behavior may be any behavior that is “outside the norm” of socially acceptable behavior, for the purpose of this discussion, “sexual deviance” is loosely defined as sexual behavior that is on the verge of or crosses the line into criminal behavior.

American culture is obsessed with sexuality. There is no corner of our culture that is not permeated with sexuality. There is sex in our politics. There is sex in our churches. There is sex in our schools. Even the sexual activity between two consenting adults, which is the sex acts of same-sex couples and different-sex couples, is the subject of endless debate throughout the country. Sex is on our television sets and our radio stations. I have often commented to my wife about the unabashed sexual activity of teenagers on popular shows on cable’s so called “family channels.” The fact is: we are completely and utterly enthralled by sex in all its forms. So what is the connection with sexual deviance?

Not only does our culture throw sex in our face where ever we look, but we are also faced with a cultural zeitgeist that sexuality is bad. From the time we are born, we are taught that our bodies are to be hidden and our sexuality is to be shunned as less worthy of exploration than the quest for piousness and sexual restraint. Religion preaches the evils of sexuality, while politics criminalizes certain sexual acts between consenting adults, and politicians cry “don’t ask, don’t tell.” 

The divergent concepts of sexuality as pervasive, yet to be shunned, combine to create an atmosphere of sexual confusion. The ever-present sexual innuendo and in-your-face bravado and the over-reaching message that sex is bad take a psychological toll. Like the small child who is both praised for his physical aggression and punished for it, and later develops masochistic, bullying, and antisocial behaviors, some individuals develop a dark side whereby they begin to act out sexually in the dark corners of our society. Their sexual behaviors may take on a deeply sinister aura that involves the misuse or abuse of themselves or others. Many of these individuals are so overwhelmed with their own personal and sexual inadequacies that result from a pervasive confusion over sexuality that they subconsciously seek to resolve that confusion by sexual exploration, to include deviant behavior. Due to their self-perceived inadequacies, some will turn toward those whom they feel empowered over, namely children, the disabled, and the elderly to explore their sexual urges and curiosities. Often the sexual deviant or criminal sex offender’s behaviors lead to even darker act, to include murder and torture. 

It should be noted that understanding the root of sexually deviant behavior does not excuse it. Those who engage in sexually deviant behavior should be held accountable, particularly when it is criminal and has a victim. With that said, as alluded to at the beginning of this article, not all criminal sexual behavior is deviant. For example, sodomy is a common practice among many hetero- and homosexual individuals, yet it is still a criminal act in many legal jurisdictions around the country. Never-the-less, sexually deviant behavior continues to be a significant problem in our culture. As long as society remains confused about sexuality, it is likely to continue as a major problem.

This article is authored by Jerry D. Smith Jr., Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist and CEO at Breakthrough Psychological Solutions, PLLC.

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