Last month my paper “Towards a tender sexuality: From Freud’s implicit taboo on adult erotic tenderness, to the unexplored tender critical potential of Mitchell and Perel’s clinical practice” got published in Psychoanalytic Psychology.
With more than 10 million views, the TED Talks of couples therapist and author Esther Perel strike a chord with the general public. How to sustain desire in a loving relationship? she asks, while giving glimpses into the discontents couples face when navigating tender love and erotic desire. This framework comes from clinical psychoanalyst Stephen Mitchell (Can Love Last?) who returns to an often forgotten Freudian text in which the split between tenderness and sensuality is positioned at the core of civilized and healthy adult sexuality. My paper complements these popular but insubstantial accounts on love and desire, recognizing their urgency, yet redressing their unexplored critical potential, by returning to the sex, gender and racial assumptions of Freud’s tender-sensual split. This paper suggests that at the heart of Freud’s work lays a crucial yet overlooked concept, tenderness. Simultaneously I claim that his theory of adult sexuality is built upon a taboo on adult erotic tenderness. I return to his “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” (Freud, 1905/1973c) and “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love” (Freud, 1912/1957) to expose and critique the implicit imperative that healthy civilized adult sexuality requires the repression of tenderness. Methodologically, I follow Laplanche’s method of historico-structural approach, combined with a feminist-queer critique of the phallic and teleological foundations of Freud’s theory of sexuality. I suggest that Mitchell and Perel’s clinical practice goes radically against Freud’s implicit taboo. Most significantly it urges us to rethink phallic sexuality and subjectivity as tender. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
Those of you who are interested in reading the article, but who do not have access to it through their university or institution, can shoot me a message!
I look forward to your feedback!