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Nierenberg, O. (1999). A Hunger for Science: Psychoanalysis and the “Gay Gene”. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 4(2):105-141.

(1999). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 4(2):105-141

A Hunger for Science: Psychoanalysis and the “Gay Gene”

Ona Nierenberg, Ph.D.

In the struggle to come to terms with the uneasy relationship between psychoanalysis and homosexuality, there is at least one point of agreement shared by many ofFreud's proponents and detractors alike: They identify Freud's theory of sexuality as the support of an ideal reproductive heterosexuality, and its supposed complement, homosexuality as pathology. This view is based on the notion that Freud's concept of psychoanalytic sexuality maps directly onto a biological model, an interpretation which has resulted in a recent proposition that psychoanalysts support the “gay gene” as a way of “naturalizing” homosexuality and undermining the privileging of heterosexuality. This papers argues that, on the contrary, Freud articulated a radically novel conception of human sexuality in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) which cannot be reduced to the paradigm of a biological imperative and its variants. The fate of Freud's “mythology” of the drives within psychoanalytic discourse is examined as that nodal point where the particularity of psychoanalytic sexuality was effaced in favor of a biological interpretation, much to the detriment of the theorization of homosexuality. A close reading of the genesis Freud provides for the emergence of the sexual drive in the human subject—and the importance eating plays in this trajectory—is offered as a way of understanding how the complexity of the human sexual “appetite” according to Freud could be mistaken for a biologically determined instinct by subsequent psychoanalytic theorists. Other aspects of Freud's theory of sexuality which

have been expunged due to their supposed lack of scientific validity—namely, bisexuality and the phylogenetic fantasies—are also examined as elements which contribute to a destabilization of a simple link between any form of human sexuality and “nature.” Thus, it is argued that attention to Freud's problematization of all human sexuality, as well as his attention to the knotting of bodily, cultural, and interpersonal elements, can help us escape reductionistic, dualistic, scientistic arguments regarding hetero- and homosexuality.

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