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Wilkinson, S. (1999). The Many Faces Of Eros: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Human Sexuality: Joyce McDougall. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995, 288 pp., $30.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(1):257-261.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(1):257-261

Sexuality

The Many Faces Of Eros: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Human Sexuality: Joyce McDougall. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995, 288 pp., $30.00.

Review by:
Sallye Wilkinson

Current hot topics in psychoanalysis revolve around postmodern theory and two-person psychology. Analysts are struggling with epistemological determinants and scouting the clinical frontier, where intrapsychic and interpersonal phenomena are indistinct. In the context of such efforts, sexuality fades into the background, if it is not dismissed as a relic. Thankfully, these philosophical and intersubjective pursuits are roundly complemented by Joyce McDougall's reaffirmation of sexuality as a core element of psychological life in her evocative book, The Many Faces of Eros: A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Human Sexuality.

The faces of Eros that McDougall describes represent the unending quest each of us must make for a sexual solution—the essential problem being that children from a self-identity as “feminine” or “masculine” not by virtue of biological givens but through mourning humankind's ineluctable monosexuality. Compromises for bisexual wishes must be found. Responses to the dictates of the biparental unconscious must be negotiated. If mourning of unattainable bisexual desires is accomplished, an internal integration is achieved in which love transcends an equation with catastrophe, castration, or death, and the genital complementarity of the parents, with their separate sexual identities, is recognized. This process is to be understood neither as developmentally linear and uncomplicated, nor as stage-specific. By tracing the sexual currents inherent in the “faces” of femininity, creativity, somatization, and sexual deviations, McDougall reaches after the nuanced sexualities that we each confront, sort, and internalize. In so doing, the narrower focus on femininity and masculinity invited by traditional oedipal theories falls away.

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