Courtship disorder is a theoretical construct in sexology developed by Kurt Freund in which a certain set of paraphilias are seen as specific instances of anomalous courtship instincts in humans.[1] The specific paraphilias are biastophilia (paraphilic rape), exhibitionism, frotteurism, telephone scatologia, and voyeurism. According to the courtship disorder hypothesis, there is a species-typical courtship process in humans consisting of four phases, and anomalies in different phases result in one of these paraphilic sexual interests. According to the theory, instead of being independent paraphilias, these sexual interests are individual symptoms of a single underlying disorder.[2]

Courtship disorder hypothesis

According to the courtship disorder hypothesis, there is a species-typical courtship process in humans consisting of four phases.[3][4] These phases are: "(1) looking for and appraising potential sexual partners; (2) pretactile interaction with those partners, such as by smiling at and talking to them; (3) tactile interaction with them, such as by embracing or petting; (4) and then sexual intercourse."[5]

The associations between these phases and these paraphilias were first outlined by Kurt Freund,[6][7] the originator of the theory: A disturbance of the search phase of courtship manifests as voyeurism, a disturbance of the pretactile interaction phase manifests as exhibitionism or telephone scatologia, a disturbance of the tactile interaction phase manifests as toucheurism or frotteurism, and the absence of the courtship behavior phases manifests as paraphilic rape (i.e., biastophilia). According to Freund, these paraphilias "can be conceptualized as a preference for a pattern of behavior or erotic fantasy in which one of these four phases of sexual interaction is intensified and distorted to such an extent that it appears to be a caricature of the normal, while the remaining phases are either omitted entirely or are retained only in a vestigial way."[8]

Freund noted that troilism (a paraphilia for observing one's sexual/romantic partner sexually interacting with a third party, usually unbeknownst to the third party)[9] might also be a courtship disorder,[8][10] troilism being a variant of voyeurism.

Appropriate behaviors depend on the social and cultural context, including time and place. Some behaviors that are unacceptable under most circumstances, such as public nudity or sexual contact between dancers, may be accepted or even encouraged during celebrations like Carnival or Mardi Gras. Where such cultural festivals alter normative courtship behaviors, the signs of courtship disorder may be masked or altered.[11]

Evidence and acceptance of the theory

Paraphilias within the Courtship Disorder spectrum co-occur with each other more frequently than with paraphilias outside the courtship disorder spectrum.[12][13][14][15] The courtship disorder model offers an underlying common cause for these paraphilias in men to explain this co-occurrence.[6][7]

Courtship disorder is widely cited by sexologists and forensic scientists as one of the predominant models of the paraphilias.[16][17][18][19][20] Murphy and Page wrote that "The 'Courtship Disorder Theory' of Freund is one of the only theories specific to exhibitionism."[21] According to Lavin (2008), "Freund's theory, more than the others, makes it clear that the ordering of activities ... has clinical significance."[22]

Another theoretically based taxonomy of the paraphilias was proposed by John Money, who described the range of paraphilic interests as lovemaps.[23]

See also


  1. ^ Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4200-4308-2.
  2. ^ Freund, K.; Kolářský, A. (1965). "Grundzüge eines einfachen bezugsystems für die analyse sexueller deviationen ['Basic features of a reference system for considering anomalous erotic preferences']". Psychiatrie, Neurologie, and Medizinische Psychologie. 17: 221–225.
  3. ^ Freund, K. (1976). "Diagnosis and treatment of forensically significant anomalous erotic preferences." Canadian Journal of Criminology and Corrections, 18, 181–189.
  4. ^ Freund, K., & Blanchard, R. (1986). "The concept of courtship disorder." Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 12, 79–92.
  5. ^ Cantor, J. M., Blanchard, R., & Barbaree, H. E. (2009). Sexual disorders. In P. H. Blaney & T. Millon (Eds.), Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology (2nd ed.) (pp. 527–548). New York: Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ a b Freund, K. (1988). "Courtship disorder: Is the hypothesis valid?" Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 528, 172–182.
  7. ^ a b Freund, K., Scher, H., & Hucker, S. (1983). The courtship disorders. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 12, 369–379.
  8. ^ a b Freund, K. (1990). "Courtship disorder." In W. L. Marshall, D. R. Laws, & H. E. Barbaree (Eds.), Handbook of Sexual Assault: Issues, Theories, and Treatment of the Offender (pp. 195–207). NY: Plenum.
  9. ^ Hirschfeld, M. (1938). Sexual Anomalies and Perversions: Physical and Psychological Development, Diagnosis and Treatment (new and revised ed.). London: Encyclopaedic Press.
  10. ^ Freund, K., & Watson, R. (1990). "Mapping the boundaries of courtship disorder." The Journal of Sex Research, 27, 589–606.
  11. ^ Maharajh, H. D., & Konings, M. (2007). Dancing frotteurism and courtship disorder in Trinidad and Tobago. Journal of Chinese Clinical Medicine, 7(2).
  12. ^ Abel, G. G., & Osborn, C. (1992). "The paraphilias: The extent and nature of sexually deviant and criminal behavior." Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 15, 675–689.
  13. ^ Abel, G. G., Becker, J. V., Cunningham-Rathner, J., Mittelman, M., & Rouleau, J.-L. (1988). "Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders". Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 16 (2): 153–168. PMID 3395701.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Templeman, T. L., & Stinnet, R. D. (1991). "Patterns of sexual arousal and history in a "normal' sample of young men". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 20 (2): 137–150. doi:10.1007/BF01541940. PMID 2064539. S2CID 7570236.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Fedora, O., Reddon, J. R., Morrison, J. W., Fedora, S. K., Pascoe, H., Yeudall, L. T. (1992). "Sadism and other paraphilias in normal controls and nonaggressive sex offenders". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 21 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1007/BF01542713. PMID 1546932. S2CID 29725978.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Maea, M., & Coccaro, E. F. (1998). Neurobiology and clinical views on aggression and impulsivity (Clinical & neurobiological advances in psychiatry series). New York: Wiley.
  17. ^ McConaghy, N. (1993). Sexual Behavior: Problems and Management. New York: Plenum.
  18. ^ Coleman, E., Dwyer, S. M., & Pallone, N. J. (Eds.) (1996). Sex Offender Treatment: Biological Dysfunction, Intrapsychic Conflict, and Interpersonal Violence.
  19. ^ Krueger, R. B., Kaplan, M. (2001). "The paraphilic and hypersexual disorders: An overview." Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 7, 391–403.
  20. ^ Wiederman, M. W. (2003). "Paraphilia and Fetishism". The Family Journal. 11 (3): 315–321. doi:10.1177/1066480703252663. S2CID 146788566.
  21. ^ Murphy, W. D., & Page, I J. (2008). "Exhibitionism: Psychopathology and theory." In D. R. Laws and W. T. O'Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, assessment, and treatment (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford
  22. ^ Lavin, M. (2008). D. R. Laws; W. T. O'Donohue (eds.). "Voyeurism: Psychopathology and theory". Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.
  23. ^ Money, John (1986). Love Maps: Clinical Concepts of Sexual/Erotic Health and Pathology, Paraphilia, and Gender Transposition in Childhood, Adolescence, and Maturity. New York: Prometheus Books.