John Money's 'Normophilia': diagnosing sexual normality in late-twentieth-century Anglo-American sexology

Lisa Downing*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers the treatment of the concept of paraphilia in the work of sexologist John Money (1921-2006). It argues thatMoney's writing on paraphilia in the 1980s and 1990s, while both prolific and influential for clinical practice, has been ignored by historians and critics who have instead paid attention to his controversial pioneering work on gender identity and sex reassignment. First, the article reveals and analyses Money's indebtedness in conceptualising paraphilia to a nineteenth-century sexological model of perversion, based on a notion of the 'natural' gone awry, which stands in contradiction to his explicit political distancing from ideas of 'nature' in favour of the social constructionist concept of the 'lovemap'. Second, it considers Money's invention of the term 'normophilia' which works to construct an impossible standard for sexual behaviour. An analysis of the rhetorical uses of 'normophilia', by Money and others (including a self-identified fetishist writing on the internet), shows up the limits of Money's claimed ideal of a liberal sexual democracy and reveals the normativity inherent in his system. In pursuing both of these lines of enquiry, the article casts historical light on current debates about the legitimacy of paraphilia's continuing status as a mental disorder in the DSM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-287
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology and Sexuality
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • John Money
  • Normophilia
  • Paraphilia
  • Perversion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Gender Studies


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