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Does anybody recognize differences between the following sentences?

  1. She took a perverse interest in photos of boys.
  2. She took a perverted interest in photos of boys.
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2 Answers 2

Confusing perverse and perverted seems to be a fairly common error in English. Of the sites that explain the difference, Ginger seems to have the most concise definitions:

Perverse: Marked by a disposition to oppose and contradict

Perverted: (of sexual behavior) showing or appealing to bizarre or deviant tastes

As this site explains, neither word necessarily has any sexual connotations:

The sex-related meanings of words tend to drive out all other meanings. Most people think of both “perverse” and “perverted” only in contexts having to do with desire; but “perverse” properly has the function of signifying “stubborn,” “wrong-headed.”

Nothing erotic is suggested by this sort of thing: “Josh perversely insisted on carving wooden replacement parts for his 1958 Ford’s engine.”

It’s better to use “perverted” in relation to abnormal sexual desires; but this word also has non-sexual functions, as in “The bake-sale was perverted by Gladys into a fundraiser for her poker habit.”

These sentences place your examples in a context that might make their word choice more clear:

  1. Despite her strait-laced upbringing, Mandy took a perverse interest in photos of boys in Tiger Beat.
  2. Her maternal instincts thwarted, Matilda took a perverted interest in photos of boys in Speedos.
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I think using 'perverted' makes the jump immediately to the sexual connotation whereas using 'perverse' allows for other interpretations.

perverse :

  1. Turned aside; hence, specifically, turned away from the (morally) right; willfully erring; wicked; perverted.
  2. Obstinately in the wrong; stubborn; intractable; hence, wayward; vexing; contrary.
  3. (law, of a verdict) Ignoring the evidence or the judge's opinions.

perverted:

  1. deviating from what is normally considered right, normal or correct

  2. of, relating to, or practicing unusual or "kinky" sex

  3. misrepresented, altered or distorted
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