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Grand, S. (1997). On the Gendering of Traumatic Dissociation: A Case of Mother-Son Incest. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(1):55-77.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(1):55-77

On the Gendering of Traumatic Dissociation: A Case of Mother-Son Incest

Sue Grand, Ph.D.

Elsewhere I have suggested that patriarchal discourse informs the dissociative processing of incestuous experience, by determining what can be known and how it can be known. In this paper, I argue specifically that traumatically induced “disorders of knowing” are informed by gender polarities, so that every face of terror and protest, presence and absence, knowing and not knowing becomes a gendered face. Analysis of sexual trauma therefore entails the exhumation of a labyrinth of dissociated masculinities and feminities, each of which bears a unique relation to memory and history. Drawing on the work of trauma theorists and researchers, as well as feminist psychoanalysts, I propose that delayed memory and gender confusion are socially constructed and mutually embedded phenomena.

To exemplify my thesis, I utilize the perspectives of Benjamin (1988) and Coates (1992) in an analysis of a case of transvestism and mother—son incest. In the labyrinth of the patient's gender fragmentations, I emphasize a dissociated, masochistic girl self living within his erotic enactments. It is this girl self who personifies and remembers disavowed experiences of sexual victimization. Integration of this girl self and her knowledge allows the patient to recreate a fluid and more authentic gendering.

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