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CHAPTER THIRTEEN: On sexual perversion and transsensualism

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

Vernon A. Rosario

As someone trained in the history of medicine as well as a practising child psychiatrist, I have long been concerned with the role that history—particularly the history of sexuality—can, and should, play in clinical practice. For a decade I have been focusing on transgenderism—a relatively new phenomenon in the history of medicine—by drawing upon my historical and theoretical interests in gender and sexuality in order to assist me in psychotherapy with transgendered children, adolescents, and adults. I will start by situating my historical work on “sexual perversion” and then turn to my recent clinical experiences with transgenderism.

Historically, sexual perversion was central to the early development of psychoanalysis at the fin de siècle. Sexual inversion or homosexuality remained a vexing challenge to analysts throughout the twentieth century and continues to be a controversial issue at the fringes of the profession due to the work of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (www.narth.com) and the inflexible views of analysts such as Charles Socarides (1995), who continue to insist that homosexuality is a curable perversion. Despite this shameful legacy, psychoanalytic theories can still teach us much about sexual diversity and assist therapists in working with a wide variety of clients struggling with issues of gender and sexuality.

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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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2. The Master Signifier and the Four Discourses

Dany Nobus Karnac Books ePub

Bruce Fink

I. Introduction

Lacanian psychoanalysis constitutes a very powerful theory and a socially significant practice. Yet it is not a Weltanschauung, a totalized or totalizing world view, though many would like to make it such.1 It is a discourse and, as such, has effects in the world. It is but one discourse among many, not the final, ultimate discourse.

The dominant discourse in the world today is no doubt the discourse of power: power as a means to achieve x, y, and z, but ultimately power for power’s sake. Lacanian psychoanalysis is not, in and of itself, a discourse of power. It deploys a certain kind of power in the analytic situation, a power that is unjustifiable according to many American schools of psychology wherein the ‘client’s’ autonomy (read: ego) is sacrosanct and must remain untrammeled and unchallenged. Psychoanalysis deploys the power of the cause of desire, in order to bring about a reconfiguration of the analysand’s desire. As such, analytic discourse is structured differently from the discourse of power. Lacan’s ‘four discourses’ (the master’s discourse, the university discourse, the hysteric’s discourse and the analyst’s discourse) seek to account for the structural differences among discourses, and I will turn to this accounting in a moment.

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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 FOUR: The problem of inscription and its clinical meaning in perversion

Lisa Downing Karnac Books ePub

André Michels

Freud recommends the study of fetishism to anyone who wants to understand the enigma of the castration complex: “An investigation of fetishism is strongly recommended to anyone who still doubts the existence of the castration complex or who can still believe that fright at the sight of the female genital has some other ground …” (Freud, 1927e, p. 155). Because repression fails, at least partially, the fetishist has recourse to another defence mechanism, which differs from the neurotic one, and which allows him to replace the missing phallus with another organ (such as the foot) or with a lifeless object. In this way the fetishist finds it easier to come to terms with what is missing, castration being simultaneously acknowledged and denied.

This paper is concerned with the problem of inscription in terms of sexual differentiation, and the way in which it is conditioned by castration. Perversion is inextricably linked to this problem and therefore has a different meaning for men and women. Perversion also affects the generational process and therefore the fundamental differences on which the symbolic order and mental life are based. In so far as it challenges the core processes of becoming a subject and becoming human, perversion is of great relevance today, in an era that is indelibly marked by the Nazi catastrophe, radical breaks with tradition and the failure of traditional discourses. Nobody is able to gauge the terrible consequences of “biological and scientific” racism. Much like all the other discourses, science produces its own form of perversion. It was incapable of erecting a barrier against barbarism and it failed to derive ethical criteria from its own structure. These criteria always rely on singularity, the particularity of a subject, for which there is no place in science. As a result, the danger of biologism and eugenics becoming leading discourses has not completely disappeared, especially at a time when the genome can be deciphered and genetics are a central aspect of research. The only thing we are left with at the moment is memory, but we also know to what extent it can be falsified. Time and again we encounter people who have seen certain things, yet who claim at the same time that what they have seen is not there and could never have existed.

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