Polymorphous perversity concept

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According to psychology, polymorphous perversity refers to a psychoanalytic concept that suggests the potential to obtain sexual fulfillment from beyond socially conventional sexual activities. Sigmund Freud utilized the idea to describe the sexual propensity that emerges from infancy to the age of five. In other words, polymorphous perversity is the ability to derive sensual pleasure from several regions of the body (Schneider & Hughes, 2009). According to Sigmund Freud, a youngster under the age of five is polymorphously perverse by nature. The concept means that before any form of education in the conventions of the civilized society, a child according to Sigmund Freud will turn to various body parts for sexual gratification and will not obey the rules or regulations that adults perceive as perverse behavior. However, it is important to note that through education, the polymorphous possibilities are suppressed in a child. In the end, the suppression leads to the creation of amnesia about the primitive desires. According to Sigmund Freud, some adults still retain the polymorphous ability.

According to Freud’s theory of polymorphous perversity, the behavior continuous from infancy progressing into three developmental stages namely the oral, anal, and phallic stage. Freud continues to highlight that only in the subsequent developmental stages that a child develops the ability to constrain drives towards pleasure satisfaction to the socially accepted norms. In the culmination of adulthood, the heterosexual behavior focuses on genitals and reproduction. In giving an example, Sigmund Freud holds the views that during this stage of undifferentiated impulse in pursuit of pleasure, the bisexual and incestuous urges are deemed normal(Schneider & Hughes, 2009). As a result, lacking knowledge that certain conduct of gratification is forbidden, the polymorphous perverse child seeks gratification where it occurs. For example, during the initial stage, a child gets gratification and pleasure from sucking the breast of its mother.

Alternative theoretical perspectives on development of healthy adult sexuality

Sigmund Freud believes that polymorphous perversity that commences from infancy is suppressed through the creation of knowledge realized through learning and education. However, Sigmund still argues that some perversity persist and still manifest during adulthood. In this case, research studies have been developed where some theoretical perspectives have been developed to explain the acquired healthy adult sexuality.

Operant conditioning is one of the alternative theoretical approaches that lead to a healthy adult sexuality. The concept of operant conditioning is closely associated with the psychologist B.F. Skinner. The approach argues that if a person performs a particular behavior referred to as operant that behavior is preceded by either a reward or punishment. In the instance where a reward preceded a certain behavior, the person is more likely to repeat the same behavior throughout the future. Thus, this brings in the argument that perversity that can persist through to adult behavior can be eliminated through repeated punishment. In the long run, as the child grows up there will be a depiction of a healthy sexual behavior in adulthood. Operant conditioning works on the principle of invoking punishment or rewards immediately because the longer the delay after the occurrence of sexual behavior the less effective it becomes in shaping the behavior (Atkinson, 2006). An example, a young teen who has been infected with treatable STI three times yet continues to have unprotected sexual intercourse. In this case, the pain associated with treatable STI is punishing but is outweighed by the immediate pleasure compared to the punishment that will manifest a few days later. However, the behavior stops following the awareness of irreversible punishment that might occur in the future.

Social learning is yet another theoretical approach that leads to a healthy adult sexuality. Developed by Isaac Bandura, social learning is based on the principle of operant conditioning, but it incorporates two other processes namely imitation and identification. For example, a girl acquires many traits of a female role by identifying herself with the mother through continuous imitation developed through constant observation (McCrae & Costa, 2003). Thus, this brings to the conclusion that the healthy adult sexuality manifested in the society is acquired through social learning where individuals imitate what they see in the immediate environment. In another classical example, the prettiest and sexiest girl in high school behaviors may be imitated by other girls through similar dressing or socialization norm. Thus, it can be argued the healthy sexual behavior emanates from imitation of what is observed in the environment or through identification of individuals close to in the vicinity.

Behavior modification is yet another theoretical approach that can be used to explain the healthy adult sexuality. The technique has continuously been used time and again to modify problematic sexual behaviors such as deviant sexual behavior. The behavior modification differs from the traditional approach off psychotherapy such as psychoanalysis (McCrae & Costa, 2003). In this case, the focus is only on the deviant behavior and how it can be modified using learning principles. The olfactory aversion therapy is one of the techniques that is used to modify sexual behavior that eventually ends with the development of a healthy adult sexuality.


Schneider, R., & Hughes, H. (2009). Holly Hughes: Polymorphous Perversity and the Lesbian Scientist. An Interview. TDR (2009-), 33(1), 171-183.

Atkinson, R. L. (2006). Hilgard's introduction to psychology (Vol. 12). Philadelphia PA: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (2003). Personality in adulthood: A five-factor theory perspective. Guilford Press.

April 19, 2023

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