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Gartner, R.B. (1999). On Masculine Strength, Emotional Detachment, and the Praise of Incest: A Response to Irwin Hirsch. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 4(3):307-316.

(1999). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 4(3):307-316

On Masculine Strength, Emotional Detachment, and the Praise of Incest: A Response to Irwin Hirsch

Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D.

An adept discussant stimulates a writer to consider implications in his work that had heretofore been incompletely articulated. Irwin Hirsch, like Sue Grand in her review of my book appearing elsewhere in this issue, accomplishes exactly that in his thoughtful response to my paper on the depiction of sexual situations between boys and adults in film. Of the many issues he raises, I will respond to two: first, my underlying assumption that men can successfully change their unconscious socialized masculine gender ideals and, second, the possibility that maternal incest or incestlike behavior can have a positive effect on a boy. I will then discuss some of the cultural implications of discussions like this.

Hirsch takes the positions I argue in Betrayed as Boys (Gartner, 1999) to their logical conclusion: if I believe that successful treatment of sexually abused men often requires a critique of socialized masculine gender ideals, I am assuming that men are capable of making such critiques without entirely shattering their male identities. It is this assumption that Hirsch believes Stoller (1968, 1975, 1979) would consider “overly optimistic,” and about which Hirsch himself has some doubts. He believes that an in-depth consideration of the humiliation and dependence involved in maternal incest might be an optimal treatment for sexually abused men, but doubts that most men could tolerate this.

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