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Ross, J.M. (1998). The Movies: The Femme Fatale and the Battle of the Sexes. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 3(2):213-233.

(1998). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 3(2):213-233

The Movies: The Femme Fatale and the Battle of the Sexes

John Munder Ross, Ph.D.

This paper is distilled from two chapters of the author's book The Sadomasochism of Everyday Life (1997). In this contribution, eleven principles are developed.

(1) Sadomasochism is an expression of a fundamental death instinct or Nirvana principle in all individuals, all of whom are born to die. (2) Sadomasochism provides one major way of channeling one's own dangerous aggression toward others. (3) It portrays the fact that pleasurable stimulation and painful stimulation are always closely associated. (4) Sadomasochism both expresses and defends against the lack of personal boundaries. (5) It both defends against and expresses a threatening, yet desirable, loss of sexual identity. For a man, it reveals his highly conflicted wish to be a woman. (6) Sadomasochism represents the achievement of moral self-restraint, that is, superego—ego conflicts derive, in part, from unconscious primal scene fantasies involving masochistic homoerotic submission to the parent of the same sex. (7) It is a regressive alternative to facing the conflicts encountered in becoming an independent and responsible man or woman. (8) It empowers the self. (9) Sadomasochism represents a symbolic transcendence over actual death and destruction. (10) It is a cultural requirement of groups and individuals that guarantees social stability and personal protection, and maintains societal and psychic equilibrium. And (11) sadomasochism obeys the two basic principles of “overdetermination” and “multiple function.”

In this paper, sadomasochism's presence in the contemporary media will be examined.

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