“You are a sexual deviant. A pervert through and through,” begins Jesse Bering‘s new book Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All Of Us, and by the end of this humane, hilarious, and cutting look at the history of human perversion, we wholeheartedly agreed. Bering, a self-identified gay man, explains his argument’s motivation by pointing out that while the LGBTQ community has (at least some) “fearless and vocal advocates”, most “erotic outliers” of today (who have the same amount of choice in their orientations), do not, and are thus forced to live shamefully in hiding lest they someday be outed and face dire societal consequences for their predilections. Citing evidence from Kinsey to Freud and Krafft-Ebing and a host of contemporary psychiatrists, psychologists and theorists on the subject, Perv goes deep into the evolutionary biology and social conditioning that has created the damning judgments and barely disguised disgust we see today against various forms of sexual difference, whether your harmless run-of-the-mill foot or object fetishism to the far more dicey and destructive pedophilia.
Fun facts abound in this delightful study: did you know that to be a pervert originally meant to be an atheist? Or that women have far more erotic plasticity (the ability to change their sexual interests and tastes) than men do? Perv is at once cheeky and staunchly serious when it confronts the social implications of getting past our hangups over other people’s sex lives (when they don’t actually hurt anyone else, that is). Bering proclaims, “while we can’t undo natural selection and reengineer human social cognition so that we’ve no interest in other people’s sexual desires and behaviors, we have considerably more control over what we do with that information once it’s been revealed to us and how we treat a vulnerably ‘exposed’ person as a result of our knowing. Like fighting alcoholism, the first step in overcoming our sexual bigotry is recognizing that we’re sexual bigots.”