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Corbett, K. (2011). Gender Regulation. Psychoanal Q., 80(2):441-459.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 80(2):441-459

Gender Regulation

Ken Corbett

In returning to Lawrence S. Kubie's “The Drive to Become Both Sexes” (1974), a contemporary reader immediately confronts a title that speaks the different ways we thought about the sexes then, and the ways in which we think about gender now. At the gate, one is compelled to consider the problematic twentieth-century psychoanalytic debate regarding the role of a driven, sexed body versus a relationally constituted body-mind.

Kubie (1896-1973) worked on “The Drive to Become Both Sexes” for twenty years, beginning in 1954, and presented the paper along the way to various psychoanalytic societies and at a variety of meetings. The paper was published posthumously in 1974. Kubie appears, though, to have been aware of the paper's impending publication, and also seems to have been engaged in some prepublication editing.

This long-pondered paper met print right at the start of second-wave psychoanalytic gender theory, as it was ignited by what was then the heyday of second-wave feminism. The sexed body as equivalent to gender was decidedly under question. Normative presumptions about femininity, in particular, were the source of lively debate. Gender was being retheorized as social as well as embodied and psychological. An epistemological shift was under way, one that gathered force as we turned into the final quarter of our first psychoanalytic century.


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