Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 419–426 | Cite as

Is a Diagnostic Category for Paraphilic Coercive Disorder Defensible?

  • Raymond A. KnightEmail author
Original Paper


There is a proposal to establish a paraphilic coercive disorder as a new paraphilia in the DSM-V. The empirical data do not, however, support the hypothesis that a distinct syndrome exists that comprises males who are sexually aroused by the coercive elements of rape per se. Purported evidence for this syndrome has centered on the results of phallometric studies. Higher plethysmographic responses of rapists to coercive rape scenarios may, however, be better explained by the failure of coercive elements to inhibit arousal to sexual aspects of the stimuli rather than by arousal specifically to the coercive elements. In addition, sexual fantasies about forcing sex and about struggling victims are highly correlated with sadistic fantasies and have not been shown to identify a syndrome that can be discriminated from sadism. Finally, taxometric evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that the underlying components of rape are distributed as dimensions and do not constitute a separate taxon. Consequently, the criteria purported to categorize rapists into the proposed syndrome would have to be arbitrarily determined. Not only does there seem to be little empirical justification for the creation of this new syndrome, the inclusion of this disorder among the paraphilias would have serious potential for misuse. It would imply endorsement of Paraphilia, NOS, nonconsent, which is currently inappropriately employed in civil commitment proceedings to justify commitment.


Paraphilias Paraphilic coercive disorder Sadism DSM-V 



I would like to thank Jane Harries, Matthew King, Elizabeth Saunders, and Judith Sims-Knight for their insightful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this article. The author is an Advisor to the DSM-V Paraphilias subworkgroup of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Workgroup (Chair, Kenneth J. Zucker, Ph.D.). Reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V Workgroup Reports (Copyright 2009), American Psychiatric Association.


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Copyright information

© American Psychiatric Association 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, MS 062Brandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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