From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Examine these similar actions as we will, we shall find them resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse. We perpetrate them because we feel that we should not. Beyond or behind this there is no intelligible principle; and we might, indeed, deem this perverseness a direct instigation of the Arch-Fiend, were it not occasionally known to operate in furtherance of good." --"The Imp of the Perverse", Edgar Allan Poe
Perversion is a concept describing those types of human behavior that deviate from that which is understood to be orthodox or normal. Although it can refer to a variety of forms of deviation, it is most often used to describe sexual behaviors that are considered particularly abnormal, repulsive or obsessive. Perversion differs from deviant behavior, in that the latter covers areas of behaviour (such as petty crime) for which "perversion" would be too strong a term. It is often considered derogatory and in psychological literature the term paraphilia has been used as a replacement, though this term is controversial, and "deviation" is now used instead by others.
Late 14c., "action of turning aside from truth, corruption, distortion" (originally of religious beliefs), from L. perversionem (nom. perversio) "a turning about," noun of action from pp. stem of pervertere. Psychological sense of "disorder of sexual behavior in which satisfaction is sought through channels other than those of normal heterosexual intercourse" is from 1892, originally including homosexuality. Psychological sense of pervert for "one who has a perversion of the sexual instinct" is attested from 1897 (Havelock Ellis), originally especially of homosexuals.
The verb pervert is less narrow in reference than the related nouns, and may be used with no sexual connotations.
It is used in English law for the crime of perverting the course of justice which is a common law offence.
Modern use of the nouns perversion and pervert reflects their nineteenth-century psychological application, inasmuch as they tend to be used with reference to sexual rather than religious behavior. The first refers to behavior and the second to the person. They are generally derogatory and in psychological literature the term paraphilia is now used instead, (though this term is itself controversial).
The concept of perversion is somewhat subjective, and its application varies depending on culture. As a psychological term it was originally applied especially frequently to homosexual behavior. However, homosexuality is no longer treated as a disorder in mainstream psychiatry.
The verb pervert is less narrow in reference than the related nouns, and is more frequently used with no sexual connotations. One might say, for example, that a modern film version of Romeo and Juliet "perverts" Shakespeare's version of the story.
In a similar sense, the term was also used in the pre-Vatican II era by some Roman Catholics to describe the process of converting from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism. Whereas a Protestant who joined Roman Catholicism was described as a convert, a Catholic who became a Protestant was called a pervert (see Religious conversion). The phrase is no longer used by mainstream Catholicism, though traditional Catholics occasionally still use it.
In the last sixty years, the term "perv" has taken off as both a noun and verb. The noun is used as an abbreviated version of "sexual pervert", while the verb is used to describe the action of ogling or hitting on someone.
- Noun: "Mikey tried to lure me into his apartment. He is such a perv."
- Verb: "Yo, you can't just ignore me just because I perved on you a little bit."
- The Pervert's Guide to Cinema by Slavoj Zizek
- The Perverse Countess by Jess Franco
- Idols of Perversity by Bram Dijkstra
- The Angels of Perversity by Remy de Gourmont
- The Imp of the Perverse by Edgar Allan Poe
- Perversion for Profit, a cut-up film parody