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Jesse Bering

On Sale October 8, 2013
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“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...

“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.”


A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

“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.”

“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


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.


More About Perv

  • The Independent (UK): Perv a 'mind-boggling tour through human sexuality'

    The Independent (UK) reviews Perv, commending Jesse Baron's "fascinating book" full of "scintillating snippets."

  • Starred Publishers Weekly review 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)

  • Perv is The Bookseller (UK)'s Non-Fiction Book of the Month

    "I was won over by Bering's scientific yet compassionate, sensible, and often very funny approach to the kinky kaleidoscope that is human sexuality." —The Bookseller (UK)

  • Perv selected as an Editor's Choice by The Buffalo News

    Read the review here

  • PERV named a NYT Editors' choice!

    See the notice here.  

  • The Wisconsin Gazette runs a paraphilia "match game" in its notice of Perv

    Match the paraphilia to its description – and no Googling.

    1. Agalmatophilia

    2. Chasmophilia

    3. Katoptronophilia

    4. Nebulophilia

    5. Pygophilia

    6. Xylophilia

    A. Buttocks

    B. Caverns, valleys

    C. Sex in front of mirrors

    D. Wood

    E. Statues

    F. Fog

  • Salon Excerpt: Sexual Deviancy Is Normal

    Even in extreme cases, there’s “some tension” about whether sadism indicates mental illness. Not for the squeamish.


  • From Slate: How a book on sexual deviancy got a moral message

    "I decided to write a book that directly challenged the ethics and logic of some of our most deeply held sexual assumptions." —Jesse Bering in Slate

  • Perv named a Publishers Weekly "Pick of the Week!"

    PW selected Perv as one of "The Best New Books for the Week of October 7, 2013"

  • Beware the Ultimate Orgasm: Autoerotic Fatalities

    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—and who, in the process, unleashed a collective wince heard around the world once the x-ray image of hissounding went viral online—shines a light on the lengths some people will go to for an intense erotic high. Many of us might prefer death to the mortification of having to explain to doctors how it came to be that a full-sized dining utensil made its way into our penis, but nonetheless, this individual was fortunate that his dangerous liaison with a fork didn’t end tragically. “Successful removal,” the surgeons could jubilantly declare, “[was] achieved via forceps traction and copious lubrication.” Others in pursuit of extreme sensualism, in all its forms, aren’t always so lucky.

  • I Don’t Mean to be Forward, but Please Park on my Face?

    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 comes to human sexuality, anything—and I really do mean anything—can become subjectively eroticized in a rogue mind. And, indeed, for the 20-something masochist described by the psychiatrist Martin Keeler in 1960 (in a report published as a brief case study in a long-forgotten issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry), nothing was hotter than the thought of a beautiful woman hitting him with her car.

  • Bite Those Nails, Baby: A “Quick” Tale of Fingernail Fetishism

    Suum cuique pulchrum est—“to each his own is beautiful.” For an otherwise normal, 23-year-old male patient described by the Wisconsin psychiatrist Austin McSweeny in 1972, the most arousing sexual fantasy was the image ofan obese woman nibbling at her nails. And so be it. One man’s bad habit is another’s erotica.

  • The Opposite of "Protection": A Fetish for Used Condoms

    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 Vincent Tremayne explains the fetish for latex condoms

  • Hearts of Stone: Sexual Deviants in Antiquity

    Paraphilias change with the times—and with the materials at hand. One of the reasons that completely new forms of sexual deviancy continue to emerge, while others vanish, is the fact that, as society changes, so too do the cultural factors upon which sexual imprinting occurs. In 1975, the scholars Alex Scobie and Tony Taylor argued that a once relatively common type of paraphilia known as agalmatophilia (from the Greek agalma, statue) had by then become so obscure as to be nonexistent in the modern world. By contrast, frequent references to some men’s exclusive sexual interest in stone statues can be found throughout antiquity, especially in the records of Ancient Rome and Greece. 

  • Erotic Vomiting: You’re So Hot You Make Me Barf

    “Erotic” and “vomiting” are not words that appear together often—and fortunately so, for most of us. Orgasms and barfing are strange bedfellows, even natural enemies, you might say. Yet when it comes to human sexuality, subjectivity is the most critical ingredient in the alchemy of arousal, and there are rare individuals, believe it or not, whose most intense desires involve the gratuitous expunging of their own or others’ intestines. And it’s not just a sort of one-off, dubiously kinky act (what’s known in the circus world of extreme porn as—and apologies in advance to Romans—“Roman showers”). To the contrary, emetophilia seems to be a very unusual, but also very real, paraphilia. At least, that’s according to the psychiatrist Robert Stoller, whose 1982 article on the subject remains the only published scientific account on record.

  • Bromidrophilia: Beauty is in the Nose of the Besniffer

    “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 Emperor in French history had a certifiable case of bromidrophilia—a paraphilia in which the individual finds the natural body odors of attractive people to be the most arousing erotic stimulus imaginable. But it’s clear enough, anyway, that upon their being tickled by such pungent effluvia, the olfactory bulbs in Napoleon’s brain certainly weren’t inclined to give his fingers marching orders to pinch his delicate nose.

  • Meet the Feeders: Getting Off by Getting Fat

    “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 you do or fantasize about in order to achieve that orgasm as quickly as possible?”

    “I would use my vibrator and probably run the other hand over the thicker parts of my stomach and sides,” replied the woman. “I would likely imagine being fatter than I am, with [someone] telling me how fat I had gotten and how much bigger he was going to make me.”

  • Apotemnophilia: A Cut Above the Rest (of the Sexual Deviancies)

    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 shorn off. The available evidence suggests that a strong motivation for many of them, if perhaps not every single case, is autoerotic in nature. 

  • (Ever)lasting Beauty: A Sexual Attraction to the Elderly

    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 spectrum from pedophilia. In fact, perhaps the most bizarre theory concerning its etiological (or clinical) origins was put forth, without any supporting data, by the British psychiatrist T. C. Gibbens in 1982. This inventive author argued that gerontophiles are likely to have underlying pedophilic tendencies as well, with both paraphilias stemming from a phobia of pubic hair.

  • Paraphilic Infantalism: The Case of the Old Baby

    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 or some other tabloid venue that paraded them out on stage, but in fact these “Adult Babies,” as they refer to themselves, are not as uncommon as you might think. They’re common enough for some psychiatrists to recently attempt to formalize this sexual condition as “Adult Baby Syndrome.” There are also enough of them out there to inspire a small industry of products. Like those advertising patented torture accoutrements for BDSM enthusiasts, there are several commercial websites catering to the adult-baby aficionado. There, online, in clickable economics at, say,, one can find a virtual marketplace brimming with clothes for newborns and feeding bibs scaled up to adult sizes, extra-large baby blankets, baby food, feeding bottles, shiny new pacifiers and, of course, diapers—diapers with plenty of room for man-sized erections. Over (Adult Baby Diaper Lovers), you might even come across your very own obliging “mommy,” “nanny,” or “wet nurse,” who will bounce you atop her knees while relieving you of something other than gas.

  • Partial for Protuberant: The Man Who Was Into "Outies"

    Here’s a question for you: When did you last spend some serious, quality time with your belly button? As for me, it was the bellbottomed year of our Lord 1979 that I last engaged in a literal bout of navel-gazing, back when I was a hyperactive preschool contortionist bending myself into an awkward ball just so that I could inspect this curious hole in my torso. Filled with an unending spiral of raisin-like creases that appeared, to my overly imaginative eye, to lead directly into some dark, mysterious organic cosmos, it’s something only a five-year-old would find utterly fascinating.

  • Publishers Weekly gives Jesse Bering's Perv a starred review

    “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)

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