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Salton, W.L. (2004). Perversion in the Twenty-First Century: from the Holocaust to the Karaoke Bar. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(1):99-111.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(1):99-111

Perversion in the Twenty-First Century: from the Holocaust to the Karaoke Bar

William L. Salton, Ph.D.


Perversion has always been of interest to mental health professionals. Beginning with Krafft-Ebing's (1906) Psychopathia Sexuallis and the first of Freud's (1905) Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, this has been a topic which has fascinated psychotherapists and theoreticians alike. Krafft Ebing's more than four hundred page book was a catalogue of perverse behaviors and practices that would rival anything on today's Internet with parental advisories. He addressed only the phenomenology of perversions, however, and did not consider other important issues, such as conscious and unconscious thoughts, affects, relationships, or development.

In 1905, Freud published the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Whereas Ebing simply listed deviant sexual practices, Freud proposed a continuum between what he believed to be “normal” sexualities and perversions, according to variations within an instinctual model of sexuality. This model includes the following components: “source,” relating to any erotogenic zone; sexual “object,” which could be a woman, man, animal, or thing; and “aim,” which is the pattern that the instinct takes (coitus, voyeurism, etc.) With this work, he added the postulation that a perversion is an expression of an erotic drive that, due to developmental vicissitudes, became fixated, or regressed, from the oedipal stage to an earlier point in development. Thus, the erotic drive becomes displaced onto different erogenous objects with a sexual aim that is incompatible with genital primacy.


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