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Stoller, R.J. (1974). Hostility and Mystery in Perversion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 55:425-434.

(1974). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 55:425-434

Hostility and Mystery in Perversion

Robert J. Stoller

Society changes and in doing so puts pressure on certain psychoanalytic attitudes. This is happening with the term 'perversion', which was metamorphized via 'aberration' into the benign 'deviation', new words that are not mere substitutions but serve social and scientific functions. 'Perversion' to many of liberal intent no longer represents objectivity; they feel it cannot be freed of moralistic meanings and that it is misused by conservative elements in society for the purpose of insult or to subdue sexual practices that such people consider threatening. Likewise, to some, the term seems to fail, since its meaning excludes their scientific world, wherein they observe conflictless, intrapsychically adynamic factors, like biological forces; deviance in lower animals; conscious, free choice in sensible defiance of a hostile community; or variability of sexual customs from culture to culture and from generation to generation. Yet an analyst, in contrast, may retain 'perversion', since it implies essential properties of aberrant sexuality washed out in the more benign phrases. He will not give up the conviction that unconscious pressures—the result of infantile trauma and frustration that lead to conflict and compromise formation—lie at its core.

Getting rid of the term 'perversion', then, serves to banish the psychoanalytic belief that such sexual behaviour is the product of conflict, and so we still find unresolved today in the scientific world the same disagreement there was, when Freud first made so clear that perversion is an unconsciously willed, erotically gratifying defence (Freud, 1905a).

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