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Ross, J.M. (1993). Female Perversions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary. By Louise J. Kaplan. New York: Doubleday, 1991, 580 pp., $24.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:883-886.
(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:883-886
Female Perversions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary. By Louise J. Kaplan. New York: Doubleday, 1991, 580 pp., $24.95.
Review by: John Munder Ross, Ph.D.
Like the author's earlier contributions, Oneness and Separateness and Adolescence, this is a book that makes psychoanalytic thinking accessible to the general reader. It is a rich and varied psychoanalytic meditation on both female and male sexuality and sexual identity. The volume includes an array of data from case histories, literary biography, and fiction itself.
Against this sweeping backdrop, Dr. Kaplan argues that in addition to psychological developmental factors, socioeconomic forces and cultural ideals impinge on the ways in which little girls are reared and taught who they are supposed to be. Mediated through the family, sexual politics thus influence a woman's sense of what she truly desires. Like the clinical entities they refer to, even many of our psychoanalytic notions about women, the author continues, may represent "perversions" of what women want, stereotypes and distortions that bespeak the persistent sociopolitics of sexism.
Kaplan defines perversion in the least technical terms possible. And, in this broad sense, she asserts, perversions are arguably no less common in women than in men, as our conventional clinical wisdom would have it. Both these issues—the definition of perversions per se and the difference between men and women in displaying them—are points this review will isolate for consideration.
In fact, Kaplan begins by asking what exactly is a perversion. Based on the male model, she says, the "official definitions" have it that a perversion or paraphilia is an act whose aim "must be sexual excitement and performance" (p. 10).
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