The evasion of gender in Freudian fetishism

Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society 8 (2):289-98 (2003)
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In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Freud rejects the notion of a biologically determined connection of instinct to object, a position which helps him avoid the designation of all variations from heterosexuality as either “degenerate” or “pathological.” However, the gender roles and relations commonly attributed to heterosexuality are already implicit in his understanding of sexual instinct and aim. Consequently, even variations from the normal sexual object and aim exemplify, on his interpretation, the clichéd hierarchical opposition of femininity and masculinity. Freud’s theory of sexuality thus implies that the erotic bond is inevitably one of domination, and that the only possible human relation is one of subject to object, activity to passivity, whole to part, and owner to property. My primary intention in this paper is to explore, in Freud’s analysis of fetishism, traces of an alternate possibility to oppositional hierarchical gender roles and the negative forms of social relation that rely upon them. While Freud---in keeping with common opinion---characterizes sexual fetishism as a distinctly masculine phenomenon, the text also supports a more interesting interpretation: that the non-pathological fetishist evades the construction of gender in terms of sexual roles and that, consequently, fetishism can serve as a critique of Freud’s masculine model of sexual instinct and relation



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Donovan Miyasaki
Wright State University

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