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Paul, R.A. (2016). Is the Nature of Psychoanalytic Thinking and Practice (e.g., in Regard to Sexuality) Determined by Extra-Analytic, Social and Cultural Developments? Sexuality: Biological Fact or Cultural Construction? The View from Dual Inheritance Theory. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(3):823-837.
(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(3):823-837
Is the Nature of Psychoanalytic Thinking and Practice (e.g., in Regard to Sexuality) Determined by Extra-Analytic, Social and Cultural Developments? Sexuality: Biological Fact or Cultural Construction? The View from Dual Inheritance Theory
Robert A. Paul
It has been a conceit of Western society since the beginning the Enlightenment that we are engaged in a process of progress from ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and superstition to a more rational and truer state of affairs. This is no less the case in the area of sex: a true, reasonable, and/or natural attitude about sex and gender that had once been suppressed in an earlier era is being brought to light as the blinders of past prejudice and mindless tradition are cast off.
To a cultural anthropologist like myself, while of course in my ordinary life I live and participate in that sector of the contemporary world that sees the world this way, the image of falsehood overcome to reveal objective or naked truth is in fact illusory; what is happening, and what always happens, since humans always live in sociocultural systems larger and wider than their own individual experience, is that a system based on one set of premises and values has been replaced by another. While from the viewpoint of either one of these it looks like truth to itself while the other looks like falsehood, from an anthropological viewpoint they are simply different, and the task is to analyze what the premises and values are that differentiate them and make each seem bad or wrong to the other, and to understand why one has replaced the other.
The Western world has unquestionably undergone a major upheaval in its thinking about sex and sexuality over the course of the long 20th century. While the contemporary system, from its own perspective, can certainly be represented as a story of the liberation of a natural human capacity with many variants (such as same-sex orientation, or non-genital practices) from the shackles of needless restriction, seeing the matter this way simply restates our own contemporary implicit premises and values, and achieves nothing by way of self-consciousness and thus purchase on what is actually going on and why.
[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]