Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group


The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Jesse Bering

Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

"As a sex writer, Jesse Bering is fearless—and peerless." —Dan Savage

"You are a sexual deviant. A pervert, through and through." We may not want to admit it, but as the award-winning columnist and psychologist Jesse Bering reveals in Perv, there is a spectrum of perversion along which we all sit. Whether it's voyeurism, exhibitionism, or your run-of-the-mill foot fetish, we all possess a suite of sexual tastes as unique as our fingerprints—and as secret as the rest of the skeletons we've hidden in our closets.

Combining cutting-edge studies and critiques of landmark research and conclusions drawn by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, and the DSM-5, Bering pulls the curtain back on paraphilias, arguing that sexual deviance is commonplace. He explores the countless fetishists of the world, including people who wear a respectable suit during the day and handcuff a willing sexual partner at night. But he also takes us into the lives of "erotic outliers," such as a woman who falls madly in love with the Eiffel Tower; a pair of deeply affectionate identical twins; those with a particular penchant for statues; and others who are enamored of crevices not found on the human body.

Moving from science to politics, psychology, history, and his own reflections on growing up gay in America, Bering confronts hypocrisy, prejudice, and harm as they relate to sexuality on a global scale. Humanizing so-called deviants while at the same time asking serious questions about the differences between thought and action, he presents us with a challenge: to understand that our best hope of solving some of the most troubling problems of our age hinges entirely on the amoral study of sex.

As kinky as it is compassionate, illuminating, and engrossing, Perv is an irresistible and deeply personal book. "I can't promise you an orgasm at the end of our adventure," Bering writes, "but I can promise you a better understanding of why you get the ones you do."



Gnothi seauton [Know thyself] —Inscription outside the Temple of Apollo at Delphi

You are a sexual deviant. A pervert, through and through.

Now, now, don't get so defensive....


Praise for Perv

“As informative as it is entertaining . . . Bering's latest is a delightful, intelligent, and thought-provoking addition to the growing body of our sexual knowledge of self.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Bering's a supple, witty writer, and praiseworthy terms like wry and irreverent suggest themselves readily. The book is a humane flirtation with the often-strange intimacies that drive people's lives.” —Michael Washburn, The Boston Globe

“A master craftsman at refashioning reproductive biology into provocative composition, Bering nimbly probes ‘the darkest corners of our sexual nature" with no illicit aftertaste.'” —Kirkus Reviews

“Against a colorful backdrop of science, history, and psychology, Bering calls on human society to stop judging people's sexual preferences based on a personal belief about what's normal or natural, instead asking what is harmful. [He] throws a bucket of ice-cold water on topics that often become overheated by the fires of morality, religion, and politics.” —The Scientist

“[A] lively exploration of sexual perversion . . . Bering has a very entertaining writing style, but don't let that distract you from the serious stuff he's talking about: this isn't just a list of so-called perversions but, instead, an exploration of the way the human mind and body work and the way we are all just a little bit unusual.” —Booklist

“As a sex writer, Jesse Bering is fearless--and peerless.” —Dan Savage

“Like a slightly kinky friend, Perv is sometimes weird, often revelatory, and always enthralling. You'd expect a book about sexual perversions to be at least interesting, but in Jesse Bering's hands it's also smart, humorous, and eminently humane.” —Florence Williams, author of Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History

Perv is a deeply fascinating and surprisingly insightful peek into the weird world of human sexuality. With his shocking examples and unique evolutionary approach, Jesse Bering provides perhaps the best testament out there to Mark Twain's immortal quip that man is the only animal that blushes--or needs to.” —Laurie Santos, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory, Yale University

“Come to gawk, stay to learn. Jesse Bering has written a fascinating, funny, and scientifically literate book about all the aspects of sex you didn't want to think about. Perv will change the way you see yourself and everyone around you.” —Art Markman, Ph.D., author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership

“If truth be told--and Jesse Bering urges us to be honest--we're all perverts. And if you're not, then most around you are. Bering pulls no punches in this engrossing romp through the history, cultural relativism, politics, and science of sexuality. He brings shadowy taboos out to the front stage for a juicy, humorous, and nonjudgmental outing. Perv is a page-turner that is hard to put down.” —Bruce Hood, Chair of Developmental Psychology in Society, University of Bristol, and author of The Self Illusion

“Jesse Bering's Perv is a copiously researched, scientifically solid, fascinating and fun ride through a museum of sexual oddities that makes a strong argument for why we need to ease up on our sneers at the 'erotic outliers' and admit the reality: To perv is human.” —Amy Alkon , author of I See Rude People

“In this unusual and wonderful book, Jesse Bering makes a persuasive case that we are all perverts. Bering is funny, brave, and deeply compassionate toward those whose desires cause suffering to themselves and others. This brilliant book will appeal to anyone who wants to learn more about the most unruly and intimate aspects of our lives.” —Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University, and author of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

“I have yet to come away from reading one of [Bering's] essays and not feel considerably better informed than I was just minutes before.” —Forbes with praise for 'Why Is the Penis Shaped like That?'

“Excellent in its entirety, woven of Bering's rare tapestry of scientific rigor and a powerful, articulate social point of view.” —Brain Pickings with praise for 'Why Is the Penis Shaped like That?'

In the Press

Age of Consent - Psychologist Jesse Bering on What the Law Says Versus What the Science Says - Feature stories on Seattle News, Politics, Arts and Culture. The Stranger covers Seattle and National News with a voice you can't find anywhere else. - The Stranger

When I first sat down to write my latest book, Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, I imagined the final draft as rather different from what it actually ended up being. I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s... - Slate

Atheists and homosexuals were called perverts once. Why do we still see perversion where no harm is done? - AEON magazine

Deviant of the Day #1. Here's a question for you: When did you last spend some serious, quality time with your belly button? As for me, it ... - Scientific American

For most of us, the prospect of getting injured in a car accident isn't particularly erotic. But of course, that's just most of us. When it ... - Scientific American

The recent headlining report of a 70-year-old man who inserted a fork into his urethra in a misplaced effort to obtain sexual gratification - Scientific American

In Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, Jesse Bering tackles some of the most sensitive issues in our society - Publishers Weekly

Using condoms is a good thing. Using used condoms, well, not so much. In a 2009 article published in Sexually Transmitted Infections, the British medical author ... - Scientific American

Paraphilias change with the times - Scientific American

"Erotic" and "vomiting" are not words that appear together often - Scientific American

"Coming home soon; don't wash," Napoleon Bonaparte once wrote to his wife, Joséphine. It's unclear from this snippet of a love note if the most famous ... - Scientific American

"If I offered you a million dollars if you could have an orgasm in the next 60 seconds," said the psychologist to the woman, "what would ... - Scientific American

Apotemnophiles (from the Greek, apo, away from + temnien, to cut) are individuals who exhibit an intense desire for one of their own limbs to be ... - Scientific American

Suum cuique pulchrum est - Scientific American

Autonepiophilia, or paraphilic infantalism, involves impersonating a baby to achieve sexual gratification. You may have encountered such pampered individuals on an old episode of Jerry Springer ... - Scientific American

Gerontophilia is an "erotic age orientation" in which one is most strongly aroused by the elderly, and so it is at the opposite end of the ... - Scientific American

Even in extreme cases, there's "some tension" about whether sadism indicates mental illness. Not for the squeamish - Salon

Most of us are convinced that we excel at being clearheaded, humane thinkers when it comes to sex. We appeal, and admirably so, to notions such ... - Scientific American

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Jesse Bering

Jesse Bering is the author of The Belief Instinct and Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? His writing and research have appeared in Slate, Scientific American, New York magazine, Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, and The New Republic, among other publications, and have been featured by NPR, Playboy Radio, and more. Bering is the former director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen's University, Belfast, and began his career as a professor at the University of Arkansas. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

Jesse Bering

© Mitchell Bach