Psychoanalytic Challenges: A Contribution to the New Sexual Agenda

  • Stephen Frosh


Since the publication in 1974 of Juliet Mitchell’s book, Psychoanalysis and Feminism, psychoanalysis has been drawn upon by many theorists attempting to articulate a new vision of gender and sexual relations — a ‘new sexual agenda’. This does not mean that Mitchell’s defence of psychoanalysis has gone unchallenged. Indeed, psychoanalysis’s conservatism in this area is well documented: in theory and in clinical work it has rarely supplied convincing recruits to the ranks of sexual revolution. Those who have tried using psychoanalysis in this way — for example, Herbert Marcuse (e.g. 1955) — have usually been outsiders to the movement itself; the exceptions — most obviously Wilhelm Reich — have risked having bitter ends. Moreover, classical psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on repression and hence on the difficulties of finding outlets for sexual ‘tension’, now appears dated, out of touch with the concerns of people in contemporary society. Where the nineteenth-century hysteric was defined by problems of control and sexual expression, the late twentieth-century narcissist is consumed by the problem of being a ‘self’ and of forming meaningful relations with others (Lasch, 1979; Frosh, 1991). What, therefore, might be the most promising way forward for a psychoanalysis committed to furthering the new sexual agenda?


Sexual Identity Subject Position Gender Development Sexual Revolution Fluid Identification 
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© Stephen Frosh 1997

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  • Stephen Frosh

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