The Sexual Century

The Sexual Century

ETHEL SPECTOR PERSON
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 408
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bj3g
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  • Book Info
    The Sexual Century
    Book Description:

    Over the course of the past century, sexual liberation has transformed the way in which most of us regard our bodies and live our sexual lives. Now a preeminent psychoanalytic theoretician on sex and gender discusses what has gone into this unquiet revolution-the roles played by sexologists and psychoanalysts, antibiotics and birth control, the liberation movements, and Freud's insight that sex has as much to do with the mind as with the genitals.In this collection of new and previously published papers, Ethel Person writes of the centrality of sexuality to our identity. She describes the role of fantasy in desire, its different expression in the sexes, and the way in which desire is inevitably intertwined with power. Her classic papers on transvestism, transsexualism, and cross-dressing homosexuals, written with Lionel Ovesey, help us to understand how gender and sex develop in all of us. The public acceptance of the transsexual, says Person, is emblematic of the profound scientific and intellectual shifts that have taken place in the past hundred years. The way that sex and gender develop and are experienced and expressed is the resultnot only of nature and nurture but also of the culturalzeitgeist, its unspoken values and biases.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14727-8
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    My interest in sex and gender and in the symbolic meanings that attach to them began early in my professional life. One of my first analytic patients entered treatment because he was fearful that he would be unable to impregnate his wife. In the third week of the analysis he told me a dream in which his wife was pregnant. In his associations to the dream he revealed that shewaspregnant, and that in fact he had already known this when he first came to see me! I reacted calmly, although I was worried, since it seemed to me...

  5. PART I Sex and Gender:: General Considerations
    • 1 The Sexual Century (1998)
      (pp. 11-30)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      While victorians “dressed” their piano legs so as not to offend anyone’s sense of propriety, today it is considered acceptable to expose legs, breasts, and buttocks on beaches, in discos, and in centerfolds. This is but one small example of the startling changes that have transpired over the past hundred years in sexual modesty and in the public expression of sexuality if not in sexual practices. It’s safe to assume that few sexual acts have been discovered for the first time in the twentieth century, though the number of practitioners of different kinds of sexual acts has undoubtedly increased. What...

    • 2 Sexuality as the Mainstay of Identity: Psychoanalytic Perspectives (1980)
      (pp. 31-54)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      It has long been recognized that certain conventions—the double standard, the cult of virginity, and the requirement that female sexuality find expression solely within monogamous heterosexual marriages—control and inhibit female sexuality. Whatever their origins might be, these conventions are major supports for male dominance and patriarchy. Consequently, various feminist critiques have proposed one or another new prescription for sexuality as a part of a general restructuring of society.

      However, it is difficult to formulate such prescriptions without a large theory of sexuality. The aim of this chapter is to evaluate psychoanalytic paradigms, themselves in transition, in order to...

    • 3 Psychoanalytic Theories of Gender Identity (1983)
      (pp. 55-71)
      ETHEL S. PERSON and LIONEL OVESEY

      For many years, there was essentially no interest in the origins and development of femininity and masculinity. They were simply assumed to correspond by nature to the two biological sexes, despite their historical and cross-cultural variability. The insight that the existence of personality differences between the sexes required explanation was a major intellectual leap. Freud must be credited with that insight, for psychoanalysis was the first comprehensive personality theory that attempted to explain the origins of what we now call gender.

      Historically, there have been three psychoanalytic formulations that have attempted to account for the origins of gender: Freud’s original...

    • 4 The Influence of Values in Psychoanalysis: The Case of Female Psychology (1983)
      (pp. 72-88)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      At the heart of the psychoanalytic enterprise is the purpose of examining the ways in which thoughts and behaviors, beliefs, preferences, and values are influenced by unconscious mental processes. Psychoanalysis is a discipline that fosters skepticism about the apparent meaning of surface phenomena, thereby challenging the certainty of either revealed or objective truth, the first (religion) explicitly and the second (science) implicitly. Like philosophy, psychoanalysis alerts us that we must look for the values and ideology underlying any body of knowledge, including psychoanalysis itself.

      No cultural enterprise is value free, including science. Science values objective knowledge. Objectivity is fundamental to...

  6. PART II Cross-Gender Disorders
    • 5 Gender Identity and Sexual Psychopathology in Men: A Psychodynamic Analysis of Homosexuality, Transsexualism, and Transvestism (1973)
      (pp. 91-109)
      LIONEL OVESEY and ETHEL S. PERSON

      In the 1960s and 1970s, a burgeoning interest in gender and in the problems of gender identity began to emerge. Among the pioneers in this field, one in particular stands out. Through the study of hermaphroditism and other forms of sexual variation, John Money and his associates (1955a,b, 1968a) clearly established that the primary determinants of gender identity are psychological. Another worker prominent in this field is researcher Robert Stoller (1968a), a psychoanalyst who has concentrated mainly on the developmental dynamics of transsexuals and transvestites. In this chapter, we will first define gender identity and describe how it develops, drawing...

    • 6 The Transsexual Syndrome in Males: Primary Transsexualism (1974)
      (pp. 110-126)
      ETHEL S. PERSON and LIONEL OVESEY

      Transsexuals fall into two groups: primary and secondary. The former are transsexuals throughout the course of their development; the latter are effeminate homosexuals and transvestites who become transsexuals under stress. In this chapter we delineate the syndrome of primary transsexualism. We present clinical examples and discuss gender identity, family history, childhood development, clinical course, and personality structure. In the following chapter we discuss secondary transsexualism.

      In a previous paper (Ovesey and Person, 1973 [Chapter 5 in this book]), we established a theoretical framework in which we demonstrated the psychodynamic interrelationships between gender identity and sexual psychopathology in homosexuality, transsexualism, and...

    • 7 The Transsexual Syndrome in Males: Secondary Transsexualism (1974)
      (pp. 127-145)
      ETHEL S. PERSON and LIONEL OVESEY

      Secondary transsexualism is defined as transsexualism that develops in homosexuals and transvestites regressively, under conditions of stress. Homosexual and transvestitic secondary transsexuals are distinguished from each other and both from primary transsexuals. Primary transsexuals, as we have seen, are essentially asexual and progress toward a transsexual resolution without significant deviation, whether heterosexual or homosexual. In them, the transsexual impulse is insistent and progressive, and usually they cannot rest until they reach their objective. Secondary transsexuals are effeminate homosexuals and transvestites who gravitate toward transsexualism only after sustained periods of active homosexuality or transvestism. In them, the transsexual impulse may be...

    • 8 Transvestism: A Disorder of the Sense of Self (1976)
      (pp. 146-160)
      LIONEL OVESEY and ETHEL S. PERSON

      Transvestism is traditionally defined as heterosexual cross-dressing in which the clothing is used fetishistically for sexual arousal. It is usually classified by psychoanalysts as a sexual perversion, even though clinically the sexual component is far outweighed by nonsexual phenomena. We believe it may be more aptly described as primarily a disorder of the sense of self manifested by certain symptomatic distortions of both gender identity and sexuality rather than broadly as a sexual disorder (Ovesey and Person, 1973).

      In most of the psychoanalytic literature on transvestism, the transvestite appears as a man who struggles with the wish to don female...

    • 9 Transvestism: New Perspectives (1978)
      (pp. 161-177)
      ETHEL S. PERSON and LIONEL OVESEY

      The term “transvestism” literally means cross-dressing. In psychiatry, however, the term has been used not only phenomenologically but also diagnostically. Thus, the designation “transvestite” is traditionally reserved for the heterosexual cross-dresser who uses clothing fetishistically for sexual arousal. All reported cases, as far as we know, have been males.¹ The transvestite’s heterosexuality differentiates him from the homosexual cross-dresser, and his desire to retain his penis differentiates him from the transsexual: his fetishism differentiates him from both. The definition is accurate as far as it goes, but in our opinion it is incomplete, since many transvestites also use female clothing nonfetishistically...

    • 10 Homosexual Cross-Dressers (1984)
      (pp. 178-193)
      ETHEL S. PERSON and LIONEL OVESEY

      “Drag,” observes Edmund White, “was once a major gay pursuit throughout the country …” (White, 1980). He contrasts this with the increasing masculinization of gay life in the 1970s; some also would point to a growing preoccupation with leather, S-M, and the insignia of violence. (One must trace these changes to the Stonewall riot in New York City in 1969, precipitated by “queens” who taunted the police carrying out one of their periodic raids. After the police dispersed the original protesters, a vast protest march materialized.) This change in manifest mores from a caricature of femininity to identifiable and exaggerated...

    • 11 Extreme Boyhood Femininity: Isolated Finding or Pervasive Disorder? (1985)
      (pp. 194-208)
      SUSAN COATES and ETHEL S. PERSON

      Twenty-five extremely feminine boys with DSM-III diagnosis of gender identity disorder of childhood were evaluated for the presence of behavioral disturbances, social competence, and separation anxiety. Using the Child Behavior Checklist created by Achenbach and Edelbrock in 1983, 84 percent of feminine boys were reported to display behavioral disturbances usually seen in clinic-referred children. Sixty-four percent of the sample had difficulties with peers that were comparable to those of psychiatric-referred boys. Sixty percent of the sample met the criteria for diagnosis of DSM-III separation anxiety disorder. Only one child in the sample fell within the normal range on all three...

  7. PART III Sex and Fantasy
    • 12 From Sexual Desire to Excitement: The Role of Sexual Fantasy (1998)
      (pp. 211-229)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      Desire, the subjective sense of longing, is hardly ever discussed as such in the psychoanalytic literature, even though it is central to our experience, particularly in the realm of sex.¹ The word desire does not rate a listing in the general subject index ofThe Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Freud. It’s not an entry in Moore and Fine’sPsychoanalytic Terms and Concepts(1990) or inThe Language of Psychoanalysis(1973) by Laplanche and Pontalis. No doubt this is because sex was first conceptualized as libido, an endogenous energy with a preordained developmental unfolding. While the sense...

    • 13 Gender Differences in Sexual Behaviors and Fantasies in a College Population (1989)
      (pp. 230-242)
      ETHEL S. PERSON, NETTIE TERESTMAN, WAYNE A. MYERS, EUGENE L. GOLDBERG and CAROL SALVADORI

      This study presents male and female responses of 193 university students to questions about sexual experiences and fantasies. There are few significant gender differences in experiences, but many in fantasies. Males fantasized about sex more and exhibited greater interest in partner variation and in the spectrum from domination to sadism. While male sexuality is often described as aggressive/sadistic and female sexuality as passive/masochistic, most men and women in our population donotreport fantasies supporting such stereotypes.

      This chapter analyzes data derived from the questionnaire responses of 193 university students in the years 1982 to 1983. We compare male and...

    • 14 Associations Between Sexual Experiences and Fantasies in a Nonpatient Population: A Preliminary Study (1992)
      (pp. 243-256)
      ETHEL S. PERSON, NETTIE TERESTMAN, WAYNE A. MYERS, EUGENE L. GOLDBERG and MICHAEL BORENSTEIN

      We have been interested in devising some methodology short of psychoanalytic therapy to study the relationship of conscious fantasy to personality trends and behavior. Presented here is a pilot study, utilizing the questionnaire technique, the sample consisting of 193 students enrolled at one prestigious urban university, that reports on the prevalence and content of conscious sexual fantasies in a normal (nonpatient) population and their relationship to sexual behaviors.

      Factor analysis suggested four experience and four fantasy clusters. Those individuals who score high on one experience factor are apt to score high on all other experience factors as well. The same...

  8. PART IV Sex and Gender:: Female Sexuality and Femininity and Male Sexuality and Masculinity
    • 15 The Erotic Transference in Women and in Men: Differences and Consequences (1985)
      (pp. 259-277)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      The talking cure, as is well known, was developed in the course of Josef Breuer’s therapy with Anna O, but it was the disruptions of that same therapy that circuitously led to the concept of transference and provided an insight into the nature of the erotic transference.

      Breuer’s preoccupation with Anna O’s treatment evoked his wife’s jealousy. Belatedly recognizing this problem he terminated Anna O’s treatment. Shortly afterward, he was called back to find his patient in the throes of hysterical childbirth. He calmed her down and, the next day, took his wife on a second honeymoon. Freud recounted the...

    • 16 Female Sexual Identity: The Impact of the Adolescent Experience (1985)
      (pp. 278-295)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      It is generally believed that men suffer more from gender identity problems and that women suffer more from sexual problems.¹ While it is true that men experience more gender identity problems, the extent and nature of sexual problems in women (frigidity and anorgasmia) are not well documented. They are believed to result most frequently from cultural inhibitions. The corollary belief is that such problems, particularly among young women, have now vanished because of the beneficial and sweeping influence of “sexual liberation.”

      Yet these popular beliefs are too optimistic. In discussing consciousness-raising groups during the 1960s, the noted feminist and novelist...

    • 17 Some Mysteries of Gender: Rethinking Masculine Identifications in Heterosexual Women (1998)
      (pp. 296-315)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      For a long time, psychoanalytic as well as general opinion held that sexual object choice and gender identity automatically went together. As Judith Lorber put it, the consensus was that “each person [has] one sex, one sexuality, and one gender, congruent with each other and fixed for life, and … [that] these categories [comprise] only two sexes, two sexualities, and two genders” (1994, p. 96). But the consensus was wrong.

      The idea of a congruency among sex, sexuality, and gender should have been suspect from the time it was first proposed. Homosexuality presents a challenge to any such formulation inasmuch...

    • 18 Male Sexuality and Power (1986)
      (pp. 316-332)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      Male psychology is beginning to attract the kind of attention paid to its female counterpart since the early 1970s. However, while the assumption that female sexual masochism is primary, universal, and defining has been challenged, the popular belief that male sexuality is innately aggressive and sadistic has persisted with minimal questioning.

      The cultural stereotype of male sexuality is of a kind of phallic omnipotence and supremacy, a phallus invested with the power of mastery. At the very least, this view depicts a large, powerful, untiring phallus attached to a very cool male, long on self-control, experienced, competent, and knowledgeable enough...

    • 19 The Omni-Available Woman and Lesbian Sex: Two Fantasy Themes and Their Relationship to the Male Developmental Experience (1986)
      (pp. 333-344)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      The feminist movement’s demand for a reevaluation of psychoanalytic sexual theories correctly pointed to erroneous concepts regarding female sexuality. However, the tacit and mistaken assumption was that these same theories exhaustively and accurately portrayed male sexuality. We are now beginning to see that theories of male sexuality are incomplete if not skewed, as described in Person, 1986a, reprinted as Chapter 18.

      In this chapter I propose to examine two sets of widespread male heterosexual fantasies—the omni-available woman and lesbian sex—the meaning of which draws our attention to an enlarged scheme of male psychosexual development. These fantasies are popularly...

  9. PART V The Impact of Culture
    • 20 Harry Benjamin and the Birth of a Shared Cultural Fantasy (1972/1997)
      (pp. 347-366)
      ETHEL S. PERSON

      Between Madison and Park, in the heart of boutiquedom, is the ground-floor office of a doctor with one of the strangest clienteles in Manhattan. If one sits in the sedate waiting room long enough, one will see recognizable New York politicos coming for their periodic testosterone injections to ward off impotence or a Buccellati-bejeweled woman seeking advice about how to confront her lover with his homosexual liaison, just uncovered by her private detective. But there is another group of patients too: in one corner sits a man with longish hair and a mild swelling of breasts under his shirt; in...

  10. REFERENCES
    (pp. 367-378)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 379-387)