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Hershey, D.W. (1989). On a Type of Heterosexuality, and the Fluidity of Object Relations. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:147-171.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:147-171

On a Type of Heterosexuality, and the Fluidity of Object Relations

David W. Hershey, M.D.


This paper delineates a form of heterosexuality whose underlying psychological structure resembles that of perversions. It is characterized by: idealization of instinctual processes, whereby the ego subordinates the object to the actualization of the instinctual event itself; heightened narcissism in an otherwise neurotic ego organization; multiple intrapsychic uses of the object; a special kind of defensive organization; an experienced victory over the superego and associated elevation of certain aspects of the ego ideal; and a resultant alteration in the nature of close interpersonal relationships.

I use clinical vignettes from both male and female patients in psychoanalysis to focus on the phenomena in question. The thinking of Chassequet-Smirgel, Freud, Khan, Rangell, Socarides, and others is used in an attempt to gain an encompassing perspective. It is emphasized that patients demonstrating this form of heterosexuality do not possess a perversion per se, but demonstrate a character neurosis which integrates certain perverse mechanisms into its defensive organization. These mechanisms can be isolated and studied in psychoanalytic treatment, with the potential for illuminating their defensive and mood-regulating functions, and eventual working through and resolution of the intrapsychic conflicts underlying them. Some comments on the implications of this form of sexuality for our contemporary culture are included.

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