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Lester, E.P. (2003). The Sexual Century. By Ethel Spector Person. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, 387 pp., $35.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 51(1):355-357.

(2003). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51(1):355-357

The Sexual Century. By Ethel Spector Person. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, 387 pp., $35.00.

Review by:
Eva P. Lester

This is a vast and complex book, a large text in the best psychoanalytic tradition, tracing the momentous changes in our thinking on sexuality during this, our sexual century. Person conceived the idea of collecting in one volume the papers she had written, both with Lionel Ovesey and on her own, on sex and the sexual while she was preparing the keynote address at the 1997 conference on Sexuality and Psychiatry organized by the Sociedade de Psichiatria in Gramado, Brazil.

Despite its mass and its extension into numerous themes subsumed by the title, the collection makes for lively reading. If Person's prose is at times dense, it is almost always colorful and rendered with considerable elegance.

Early on, Person cites Paul Robinson as a key source of the momentous change in our attitudes toward sexuality: he was the “intellectual historian” who posited that by removing sexuality from the institutional context of marriage and “delinking sex from procreation,” the whole range of sexual acts could be looked at from a different perspective (p. 13). As another fundamental contribution to change, Person identifies Money's introduction in the fifties of the concept of gender, which opened the way to broader exploration of sexuality.

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