The terms "Androphilia" and "Gynephilia" describe the two major romantic and/or sexual orientation/s of humans → towards "masculine" humans and "feminine" humans, respectively.

Generally any human (including Asexuals which only lack the desire to have sex but not the romantic connection desire) will likely be classified by some in society as a "heterosexual", "homosexual" or "bisexual", according to that person's romantic and/or sexual orientation/s and in the context of gender.

  • One can say that attractions to FTM transgenders and attraction to MTF transgenders are separate major philias "Andromimetophilia" and "Gynemimetophilia"(as somewhat accurate yet probably bad terms).

  • One could speak of a third and forth philias (or fifth and sixth philias, depending how one counts) to Male-oriented intersex individuals and Female-oriented intersex individuals.

  • One could go to the extreme and speak about philias to FTM and MTF detransitioned people.

My problem

Any of the above philias can have one or more paraphilias, which can be not harmful or does harmful but it is unclear to me if there is a criterion to distinct between a philia and a paraphilia.

Non harmful examples

  • A man with gynephilia (heterosexual) can have a paraphilia such as for women in army uniform and on the contrary, a man with androphilia (homosexual) can have a paraphilia for men in army uniform.

  • A man with gynephilia (heterosexual) can have a paraphilia for women with Gothic appearance and on contrary, a man with androphilia (homosexual) can have a paraphilia for men with Gothic appearance.

Harmful examples

  • The first harmful example is pedophiliac paraphilia:
    A man with gynephilia (heterosexual) can have a paraphilia for little girls (say under sexual maturation) and on the contrary, a man with androphilia (homosexual) can have a paraphilia for little boys (say, under sexual maturation).

  • Another harmful example is zoophilia which includes exploitation of animals who cannot give consent and might be raped.

Both pedophilia (not to be confused with hebephilia which is attraction to young teenagers) as well as zoophilia, are rare paraphilias that may manifest themselves in harmful or illegal behavior.

Interim note

As I have shown, the "philia" term can describe both sexual orientations and their sub components (not harmful and is harmful).

My question

Is there a criterion to distinct between a philia and a paraphilia?

This question encapsulates the question:

  • Does the term Philia exists in psychological literature for describing romantic and/or sexual orientation/s and not just fetishes, or alternatively, as a standalone term?

1 Answer 1


As far as I am aware, there is no such word in the English language as Philia, but it is a suffix within words.

Also, the suffix of -philia in a word does not necessarily denote anything sexual.

The -philia suffix denotes one of the following (Merriam-Webster, n.d.):

  1. friendly feeling toward
    (as in Francophilia)
  2. tendency toward
    (as in hemophilia)
  3. abnormal appetite or liking for
    (as in necrophilia)

The term paraphilia

denotes any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, physically mature, consenting human partners (APA, 2013 p.685).

So a man or woman in uniform will not be a paraphilia. For more on paraphilias see McManus, et al. (2013).

On the subject of -philias, there is one point you made which is not entirely accurate. You said

Both pedophilia and zoophilia are rare harmful paraphilias that require hospitalization, therapy, surveillance and generally also chemical castration.

I am not sure on zoophilia, but:

  • paedophilia and hebephilia is extremely common and therefore not rare (Gerwinn et al., 2018).

    Contrary to public perception, child sex offending (CSO) and paedophilia are not the same. Only half of all cases of CSO are motivated by paedophilic preference, and a paedophilic preference does not necessarily lead to CSO. However, studies that investigated clinical factors accompanying and contributing to paedophilia so far mainly relied on paedophiles with a history of CSO.

  • Estimates on the prevalence of paedophile CSO are wide ranging, and more accurate with better reporting, but they include:

  • there are hebephiles and paedophiles who do not act out on their desires, and there are helplines such as Stop It Now! for those who are worried they may act out, so therefore
  • these sexual tendencies do not necessarily need hospitalization, therapy, surveillance and chemical castration.

Chemical castration is an idea put forward to deal with pedophilia, and even made mandatory in states such as Alabama (LegiScan, 2019). However, there is no strong scientific evidence to back the idea that this helps to stop pedophilia or hebephilia, and many criminologists argue that police investigators treating castrated men as less likely to reoffend than non-castrated men may cause an investigation bias and self-fulfilling prophecy (Horne & Lovaglia, 2008; Sismondo & Greene, 2015; Fridell, 2016).


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.

Gerwinn, H., Weiß, S., Tenbergen, G., Amelung, T., Födisch, C., Pohl, A., ... & Wittfoth, M. (2018). Clinical characteristics associated with paedophilia and child sex offending–Differentiating sexual preference from offence status. European Psychiatry, 51, 74-85. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2018.02.002

Horne, Christine; Lovaglia, Michael J. (2008). Experiments in criminology and law: a research revolution. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-6027-7

Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis, I. A., & Smith, C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: prevalence, characteristics, and risk factors. Child abuse & neglect, 14(1), 19. doi: 10.1016/0145-2134(90)90077-7

Fridell, Lorie A. (2016). Producing Bias-Free Policing: A Science-Based Approach. Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-33175-1

LegiScan. (2019). Alabama House Bill 379. In LegiScan API Retrieved from: https://legiscan.com/AL/bill/HB379/2019

McConaghy, N. (1998). Paedophilia: a review of the evidence. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 32(2), 252-265. doi: 10.3109/00048679809062736

McManus, M. A., Hargreaves, P., & Lee Rainbow, L. J. A. (2013). Paraphilias: definition, diagnosis and treatment. F1000prime reports, 5. doi: 10.12703/P5-36 pmcid: PMC3769077

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). -philia. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/-philia

Oluwatosin, S. A., & Akinbo, O. T. (2017). Prevalence and Public Perception on Causes of Paedophilia in Osun State Nigeria. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 4(24). doi: 10.14738/assrj.424.3847

Sismondo, Sergio; Greene, Jeremy A. (2015). The Pharmaceutical Studies Reader. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-89654-9

Stoltenborgh, M., van Ijzendoorn, M.H., Euser, E.M., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J. (2011) A global perspective on child sexual abuse: meta-analysis of prevalence around the world. Child Maltreat, 16(2), 79-101, doi: 10.1177/1077559511403920

  • $\begingroup$ Hello ; if by "pedophilia" you meant to what I would name "hebephilia" then I could see what we differ about. From my experience there is a great lack of distinction between these very different terms. If you actually meant hebephilia, I believe your answer should be edited in this context. $\endgroup$
    – user24978
    Feb 2, 2020 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDoea - Some people do not agree there is a distinction between paedophilia and hebephilia, and my answer applies to both paedophilia and hebephilia. I have edited to suit $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2020 at 11:07
  • $\begingroup$ Even if an extension is made, I never recognized evidence that pedophilia (say, attraction to children from age 3 to 10-11) is not rare. I forgive to accept such evidence; I would agree that hebephilia is not rare. $\endgroup$
    – user24978
    Feb 3, 2020 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ I forgive to accept such evidence. → I reject to accept such "evidence". $\endgroup$
    – user24978
    Feb 4, 2020 at 6:24

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