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Kaplan, L.J. (1991). Introduction. Am. Imago, 48(3):279-282.

(1991). American Imago, 48(3):279-282


Louise J. Kaplan

For the title of the first of his three essays on sexuality. Freud (1905) enlisted the conventional term “sexual aberration” as his designation for perversion. Of course, the essay itself went on to embody Freud's radical vision of the role of sexual conflict in the development of the human mind. Even as he spoke about aberrant sexuality, he was elucidating the uneasy reciprocity between psyche and reality, the intimate blending of morality and sexuality, the ways in which the body comes to life through the life of culture. As with all his earliest writings, Freud's essays on sexuality were a backdrop against which he would elaborate a theory of mind.

In “Sexual Aberrations,” Freud was comparing neurosis and perversion by exploring their symmetries. He stated that neurotic symptoms “are formed in part at the cost of abnormal sexuality: neuroses are, so to say, the negative of the perversions” (146). Perversion was conceptualized as a complex mental strategy, not simply (or necessarily) as an aberration of sexual behavior. Like neurosis and psychosis, perversion is a strategy that allows certain affects, fantasies and thoughts to achieve consciousness at the expense of their repressed counterparts.

In “On the Genesis of Perversion(1923), the first paper in this issue on perversion,1 Hanns Sachs, one of the two founders of American Imago (the other was Sigmund Freud), took another look at the conscious-unconscious conceptualization in perversion and neurosis. Informed by Freud's 1919 essay “A child is being beaten,” Sachs emphasized that a component instinct [e.g. exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadism, masochism, activity, passivity] is never given direct expression in a perversion “but rather had been deflected as it was forced to pass through the oedipus complex—as light rays are refracted in passing through a lens” (283). Thus a neurosis is an aspect of or a stage in every perversion.

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