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Highet, A. (2018). Sexualities: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives. Edited by Alessandra Lemma and Paul E. Lynch. London: Routledge, 2015, 244 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 105(3):353-359.

(2018). Psychoanalytic Review, 105(3):353-359


Sexualities: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives. Edited by Alessandra Lemma and Paul E. Lynch. London: Routledge, 2015, 244 pp.

Review by:
Alistair Highet, M.A., LP

“So what's all this sex stuff about then?” asks a patient after “devoting much of his session to persuading” one of the editors of this volume, Alessandra Lemma, “that his sexual fantasies were of no import, that they had no connection whatsoever with the chronic back pains that had brought him to analysis” (p. 1). I suspect all contemporary psychoanalysts have met the same skepticism and resistance in their patients, who have a vague or not so vague anxiety that their sexual life—fantasies, inhibitions, amnesias, delights—will be dragged into the conversation despite their best efforts to prevent it. One of the many fascinating dimensions to this broad collection of essays on contemporary psychoanalytic perspectives on sexuality is that it returns the enigma of sexual desire to the center of the discussion of the psyche and its discontents, while acknowledging the complicity of psychoanalysis in the postwar period in pushing sex back into the shadows from which Freud had exhumed it.

By its own admission, “the book reflects a somewhat idiosyncratic collection” (p. 11), ranging widely, beginning with an invaluable essay by Dagmar Herzog on the history of sexuality in psychoanalytic thought, the stubborn persistence of homophobia in analytic circles, and the desperate efforts of established psychoanalysts in America to be perceived by the general public as purveyors of a “love doctrine” (p. 25) as opposed to a suspiciously Semitic sex cult (to which I will return). There is a selection of theoretical reflections in part one; an exploration of theories of homosexuality with case studies in part two; and reexamination of the notion of perversion with case studies in part three.

If there is a unifying conceptual framework through which all of these pieces can be viewed it is supplied by Jean Laplanche (Laplanche, 1995; Laplanche & Pontalis, 1968) as elaborated in Mary Target's essay in this collection, “A Developmental Model of Sexual Excitement, Desire, and Alienation” (p. 50).

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