Sexuality, Intimacy, Power
By Muriel Dimen
Routledge – 2003 – 328 pages
Can contemporary psychoanalysis tell us anything about sexuality that is new and clinically meaningful? It most certainly can, answers Muriel Dimen in Sexuality, Intimacy, Power, a compelling attempt to revivify Freud's core interest, in "sexual impulses in the ordinary sense of the term." But there is nothing ordinary about Dimen's project. Drawing on contemporary relational theory, feminism, and postmodernism, she takes a sustained, sometimes irreverent, look at assumptions about psychosexuality. For Dimen, the shift from dualism to multiplicity that has reshaped a range of disciplines can also be brought to bear on our thinking about sexuality. She urges us to return to the open-mindedness hiding between the lines and buried in the footnotes of Freud's writings, and to replace the determinism into which his thought has hardened with more fluid notions of contingency, paradox, and thirdness.
By unveiling the colloquy among psychoanalysis, social theory, and feminism, Dimen challenges clinicians and academicians alike to rethink ideas about gender, eroticism, and perversion. She explores, among other topics, the relations between Lust and libido; the limitations of Darwinian thought in theorizing homosexuality; the body as projective test; and the intimate tangle of love and hate between women. Generous clinical examples illustrate the ways in which a radical re-visioning of psychosexuality benefits therapists and patients alike.
Mixing medium and message, Dimen draws on a variety of disciplines and styles to delineate the ambiguities, contradictions, and paradoxes that subtend sexuality in all its personal and clinical complexity. A brilliant example of contemporary psychoanalytic theory at its destabilizing best, Sexuality, Intimacy, Power is equally a historical document that will intrigue and enlighten students of women's, gender, and queer studies.
“This is a powerful book, an intimate book, a sexy book.. Throughout, Dimen encourages us to think of the ambiguity and multiplicity of gender, the paradoxical hopefulness and hopelessness of desire, and the abject corporeality of the human condition. Serious and playful, sincere and ironic, pulling together the learned and the commonplace, she manages to guide us through some of the most challenging issues in psychoanalytic thinking today: the persistent presence of the sexual, the ineffability of the unconscious, the ambiguities of lust, the impossibility of desire.”
- Karol Marshall, Ph.D., Contemporary Psychoanalysis
“Sexuality, Intimacy, Power is a remarkable document of recent Western intellectual and political histories. Via psychoanalysis, feminism and social theory, it attempts no less than to make some honest sense of what it is to be a person amongst people and how much we can know of such things. It is readable, brave, witty and in places, quite funny. Put simply, you’ll struggle through shelves on these subjects to find anything better.”
- James Taylor, Ph.D., Psychotherapy and Politics International
“Muriel Dimen, a prodigious reader and a sparkling writer, takes us on a journey of insight through all the central questions that have plagued and enlivened the conjunction of psychoanalysis and feminism in the last two decades. She has a rare gift for synthesizing a wide range of theoretical issues while balancing awareness of the complexity of clinical practice and the historical, cultural context. This is a book that enlightens, educates, and stimulates, speaking to readers from diverse worlds while illuminating their common, profound concerns.”
- Jessica Benjamin, Ph.D., NYU PostDoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
“There is a scintillating populist intelligence to Dimen's thinking, conveyed by a wit and irony that seem deceptively light. For this is a robust and serious work, challenging and wide ranging in its scope: a sexual discourse, intimate and powerful.”
- Christopher Bollas, Ph.D., British Psychoanalytical Institute
"Muriel Dimen's book is an open and engaging treatment of psychoanalysis, feminism, and social theory. She offers an excellent overview of the debates, and reinvigorates hope that the tension among these fields will remain productive and alive. She coins new and surprising terms and ideas, and she works deftly to produce conversations among fields where there haven't been enough. Her work as a clinician and as a theorist come together in a humane, subtle, even joyous account of the complexity of gendered life."
- Judith Butler, Author, Gender Trouble
Prologue: A Personal Journey from Dualism to Multiplicity I. The Story So Far: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and Politics 1. The Engagement Between Psychoanalysis and Feminism: A Report from the Front 2. The Third Step: Freud, the Feminists, and Postmodernism II. Mind, Body, Culture: Psychoanalytic Studies 3. On "Our Nature," or Sex and the Single Narrative 4. The Body as Rorschach 5. Between Lust and Libido: Sex, Psychoanalysis, and the Moment Before 6. Deconstructing Difference: Gender, Splitting, and Transitional Space III. The Personal Is Political Is Theoretical: A Sampler 7. Power, Sexuality, and Intimacy 8. In the Zone of Ambivalence: A Feminist Journal of Competition 9. Perversion Is Us? Eight Notes Epilogue: Some Personal Conclusions
Adjunct Professor of Clinical Psychology at New York University, Muriel Dimen, Ph.D., is an Associate Editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues and an Executive Editor of Studies in Gender and Sexuality. She is the author of The Anthropological Imagination (1977) and Surviving Sexual Contradictions (1986) and is the coeditor of several collections, most recently Gender in Psychoanalytic Space (2002, with Virginia Goldner).