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INTRODUCTION

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Lisa Downing

As has been pointed out by several of the authors whose contributions form the first section of this book, the notion of perversion is an increasingly controversial one. Sergio Benvenuto makes the comment that “today … the word ‘perversion’ is not considered politically correct”. Nick Totton asserts that it “is both normative... and punitive” and may therefore be “an unhelpful term both for its broad vagueness of usage and for its moralistic/pathologizing overtones”. This awareness has led in recent years to a change of emphasis from viewing perversions as moral deviations to seeing them as variations on a statistical sexual norm. However, while to differing degrees acknowledging that the meaning of perversion is dependent on historically and culturally contingent mores and morals, the writers in Part 1 unanimously state that the modes of human sexual fantasy and behaviour known as perversion, and the types of psychical organization they imply, continue to constitute a significant and fruitful problematic; one with which psychoanalysis cannot dispense.

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CHAPTER TEN: The feminist ethics of lesbian sadomasochism

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Mandy Merck

When, in her influential 1980s account of feminism’s “sex wars”, B. Ruby Rich assigned “political correctness” the role of casus belli, she matched it with an equally notorious opponent. “Nowhere”, she argued, “has this Manichean struggle between updated bourgeois respectability and its opposite become more attenuated than in the debate over lesbian sadomasochism” (Rich, 1986, p. 529). As Rich herself notes, that sexuality is a rather odd choice for the “bad girl” part in these conflicts. Heterosexual sadomasochism seems a far more prominent practice, and lesbian feminists have been outspoken in its condemnation, seeing in it the inherent condition of all heterosexuality.

Nevertheless, the perception of some intimate connection between feminism and lesbian sadomasochism persists, posed in terms of their successive historical emergence, unacknowledged ideological complicity, or, in the psychodynamics of feminism, as a family romance. Rich, for example, employs all three explanations to describe lesbian sadomasochism as part of a “daughters’ revolt” against the sexual legislations of their feminist predecessors, but enacted within understandings of subjectivity, fantasy, and “health” shared by both sides.

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6. Ineluctable Nodalities: On the Borromean Knot

Dany Nobus Karnac Books ePub

Ineluctable Nodalities: On the Borromean Knot

Luke Thurston

I. Introduction

The first step towards an understanding of the Borromean knot—the key figure in the topological elaborations which were the central preoccupation of the last ten years of Lacan's life—is to separate it from its legendary penumbra. A predominant image of the knot as the emblem of a terra incognita of dark, abstruse speculation, the incomprehensible grand finale of Lacanian theory, has led to two opposing forms of misunderstanding: on one side, a sort of transferential supposition of knowledge, elevating the knot to the status of a hieratic mystery, a master signifier available only to the initiated; on the other, the idea of the knot as an irrelevant scholastic whim, which has allowed hostile critics to dismiss any talk of psychoanalytic topology as mere étourderie (absent-mindedness), echoing the title of a famously difficult Lacanian text from 1973.1

If Lacan was himself at times during the 1970's complicit with a certain imaginary notion of the knot (he occasionally allowed his stylistic elegance to slip into self-dramatization, causing one of his followers to refer ironically to ‘the epic of the Borromean knot’), we should not allow its legendary aura to hinder our efforts to analyze its emergence and development in Lacan's thought, and to try to grasp some of the problems and questions it raises.2

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CHAPTER THREE: Perversion and charity: an ethical approach

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Sergio Benvenuto

Moral psychopathology

Today, simply using the word “perversion” is not considered politically correct, and rouses suspicions—above all in the USA. “What is perverse and what is not?”, people ask perplexedly. “Perversion”, it is often said, “is basically a moral category, which varies according to the customs of each epoch.” The American sexologist John Money no longer speaks of perversion but of “paraphilia”, as distinct from “normophilia”. The latter is defined as “a condition of being heterosexually in conformity with the standard as dictated by customary, religious, or legal authorities” (Money, 1988, p. 214). Thus, paraphilia is still defined as sexual behaviour that deviates from the norm.

Nineteenth-century positivist sexology, which produced the term “perversion” for a type of sexuality, gave itself the ethico-legal mission of distinguishing the “pervert” from the “libertine” (Lantéri-Laura, 1979). The former is a sort of sick person, while the latter is a normal subject to be judged according to moral criteria. Today, the distinction between pervert and libertine has been abandoned, and replaced with the distinction between “sexuality according to the average standard” and “sexuality deviating from the average standard”. Thus, perversion tends to be considered less and less as a disorder and more as a variation in sexual phenomenology.

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CHAPTER SIX: The structure of perversion: a Lacanian perspective

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Serge André

Freud’s work only provides us with a very basic idea of the structure of perversion. He explains the mechanism that he calls Verleugnung, translated into English as “disavowal”, in his 1927 paper “Fetishism” (Freud, 1927e) and subsequently in his 1938 paper “Splitting of the ego in the process of defence” (Freud, 1940e), yet Freud’s explanations in these texts merely constitute a beginning, a way in to the issue of perversion as structure. For example, in “Fetishism”, Freud leaves us completely in the dark concerning the actual turning point of the perverse orientation:

Probably no male human being is spared the fright of castration at the sight of a female genital. Why some people become homosexual as a consequence of that impression, while others fend it off by creating a fetish, and the great majority surmount it, we are frankly not able to explain. It is possible that, among all the factors at work, we do not yet know those which are decisive for the rare pathological results. [Freud, 1927e, p. 154]

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