Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 197–216 | Cite as

What Pat(rick) Califia can teach us and Deleuze cannot: A Lacanian reading of BDSM erotica and contemporary ideologies

  • Yen-Ying LaiEmail author
Original Article


Based on his reading of Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Deleuze claims that one aspect of masochism is the repudiation of the father. Following this, many critics argue for a subversive nature in perversion, and misperceive the dynamics of sadism and masochism. A Lacanian reading of an experientially grounded representation of BDSM, as conveyed in the stories of Califia, allows us to dispel the Deleuzean misunderstanding of perversion and bypass a two-dimensional portrayal of the power relation between sadists and masochists. As explicated through Lacan and Califia, an understanding of BDSM practice also helps to reveal the underlying erotic structure of forms of contemporary politics such as fundamentalism and liberalism. To understand BDSM in Califia’s story, the Lacanian imaginary/real/symbolic triad is employed, serving first as a framework to dispel the Deleuzean miscomprehension of masochism, and then as a way to fully grasp Califia’s perverted world.


Lacan BDSM Žižek Sacher-Masoch fetishistic disavowal 


Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Languages and CulturesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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