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Menage à trois: Freud, Beauvoir, and the Marquis de Sade


Without rejecting Simone de Beauvoir's often cited feminist agenda, this paper takes up her less frequently noted insight – that woman's existence as the inessential other is more than a consequence of material dependency, and political inequality. This insight traces women's subordinated status to the effect of a patriarchal desire that produces and is sustained by a political imaginary that is not economically grounded and is not undermined by women's economic or political progress. Taking up this insight, this paper reads Beauvoir, Freud and Sade through each other, to critique the myths of femininity. It argues that unless feminists of the 21st century follow Beauvoir's logic of ambiguity to challenge the ways in which sexed and gendered subjectivity is currently structured, the place of the inessential other will be preserved, and the feminist vision will be betrayed.

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Berghoffen, D. Menage à trois: Freud, Beauvoir, and the Marquis de Sade. Continental Philosophy Review 34, 151–163 (2001).

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  • 21st Century
  • Political Philosophy
  • Marquis
  • Material Dependency
  • Feminist Agenda