What is perversion? Whether we’re talking about sexual perversion or behavioural perversion, the question doesn’t lead to a rigid medical definition. What does “perversion” actually mean? Like many terms that we use in our daily lives, it poses a great entry for some interesting philosophical, psychoanalytical creative thinking.
“You are such a pervert!”
If spoken in a flirtatious manner, it can be erotic. But if it is spoken by a mother to her child, suddenly the sentence is charged with the negative condemnation of being morally unacceptable.
If we use the social normality measurement ruler to judge “pervert”, then certainly the concept of being perverted relates to being an outlier. For example, homosexuality or even masturbation were deemed as perversions, but as we have been through some remarkable shifts in social acceptance, these acts have become normalised and less perverted.
THE UNNATURAL BEHAVIOURS
As Priest (1997) suggested, the “more plausible, common, account of perversion is that perverted acts are those that are unnatural” (p. 362). He points out the very contradicting concepts of societal expectation to “natural” and “unnatural”. If we see perversion, evaluate it from an objective lens and take away its morally charges, perverted acts are unusual or unnatural, there is nothing inherently negative or positive about it.
Take the death penalty, for example. Many would argue that it is unnatural for the legal system and governing body to possess the power to end another human’s life. On the contrary, it is unnatural for society to stop someone who has decided to end his/her own life. If human beings are the primary judgement for what may be deemed as natural and unnatural, every human act (including perverted acts) are included within human civilisation as human nature. Hence, the concept of perversions are socially and culturally constructed. Eating insects are the norm in some countries, yet may be deemed as a sort of perverted act in other countries, and there are hundreds of examples of this type of judgement we can and do make, including those related to religious rituals and practices, government policies, legal justice, social orders, etc.
PERVERSION AND PSYCHOANALYSIS
There is something special about being a pervert, or acting pervertedly. Although it may sound immoral and evil to some, wouldn’t Batman be considered a pervert? As a night vigilante, he has his special belt that can do many powerful things to bad people, and it’s easy to contexualise him in a perverted imagination.
Lachmann (2005) explains the thrill of this night vigilante in his article discussing “Creativity, Perversion and the Violation of Expectations”.
Both creativity and perversion have intrigued and challenged psychoanalysts, and have probably even evoked some envy. After all, Freud said that psychoanalysis lays down its arms before the creative artist… About perversion, Freud said that it was the opposite of neurosis. The pervert does what the neurotic might only imagine… I propose that both creativity and perversion are based on violations of expectations. I do not address all creative works or perverse acts, but rather propose that violations of expectations identify a theme that bridges these two domains. (p. 162)
THE PERVERTED PLEASURE
If we follow this approach of perversion as a creative act in violation of expectations, the more rigid societal norms are, the more creative potential there is to be violated. Hence, providing more transgressive pleasure for the fellow creative kinksters out there.
The less expectations and societal rules and norms there are in society, the less the thrill a perverted kinkster may get out of the act of violation.
Here lies the very core of the pleasure of being a pervert, we constantly, strategically, walk the thin edge between societal normality and expectation. To seek for invention and innovation, be it for our selfish desire of romance and intimacy or selfless act for the future of mankind, perversion will always be in the deepest parts of our souls.
If you want to read more about the thrill of transgression, see my previous thought in The Secret Transgression of an Undercover Lover
Lachmann, F.M., 2005. Creativity, Perversion and the Violations of Expectations. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 14(3-4), pp.162–165.
Priest, G., 1997. Sexual Perversion. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 75(3), pp.360–372.