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Blake, N. (2004). Beyond Sexuality. By Tim Dean. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, xiv + 304 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(5):705-710.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(5):705-710

Books

Beyond Sexuality. By Tim Dean. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, xiv + 304 pp.

Review by:
Nancy Blake

In the introduction to her epoch-making essay, The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir noted: “A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male. But if I wish to define myself, I must first of all say: ‘I am a woman’; on this truth must be based all further discussion”.1 De Beauvoir inaugurated the contemporary feminist movement with her insistence on the need to reflect on the definition of femininity. Perhaps she would be surprised today to witness the plethora of books promoting the idea that masculinity also needs to be questioned and understood. Although she was an existentialist, de Beauvoir never subscribed to the brand of constructivism that makes gender exclusively a matter of performance, a la Judith Butler; though de Beauvoir insisted that one is not born but made a woman, she would not have allowed that this means gender is a mere construct, to be changed at will, even if it takes some time. Constructivism was one of the major claims of the post-May 1968 generation, framed within the larger belief in the fabricated nature of man in general, and the accompanying demand for equality. Those were noble ideals; however, in the ensuing years, both have proven wrong. Meanwhile, a diluted and Americanized brand of existentialism still enjoins us: “Be all that [we] can be.” The only group that is tempted to resist this vision of cateteria-style gender identity is a part of the gay community that is very committed to the notion of gender as being.

Even given the infeasibility of the conservative notion that sex is grounded in nature, is it necessary to subscribe to the idea that if gender is a product of discourse, the deconstruction of that discourse should suffice to alter sexuality? That is the point at which theory today needs to intervene. It would be a mistake to market this new book by Tim Dean exclusively in the category of “queer” theory.

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