Gender and Sexuality

Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2019-20, 1st Trimester — Fridays, 1:45-3:15pm
John Cardinali, PsyD
Karen Weisbard, PsyD


This nine-week course is designed to give participants an overview of contemporary psychoanalytic theory and practice in the broad field of gender and sexuality.   The evolution of psychoanalytic thought in the context of changes in society over the past half century will be illuminated as the following topics are explored:  developmental aspects of psychosexuality and gender identity; homosexuality; transgender identifications; sexuality as an embodied experience; and perversion.

Learning Objectives

  1. Through gaining an understanding of how psychoanalytic theory and practice regarding gender and sexuality have evolved over the past half century, clinical associates will be able to provide more sensitive and relevant treatment.
  2. While gaining knowledge regarding contemporary theories of psychosexual development, homosexuality, transgender experience, perversion and sexuality as an embodied experience, students will have an opportunity to deepen their philosophical understanding of how individuals, groups and society at large determine what is considered normal versus what is considered pathological. Such an understanding will allow clinical associates to listen to patient material with sensitivity to cultural blind spots which will increase treatment effectiveness.
  3. Readings represent a broad range of clinical approaches and theory. Students will be encouraged to discuss their own clinical experiences. As a result, students will be better able to respond flexibly and creatively to their patient’s material regarding gender and sexuality. Specifically, class discussion will include a consideration of different types of intervention which is informed by our study of gender and sexuality.

November 8, 2019 — Introduction

[34 pages]

This session will provide an introductory framework for the course.  We will consider historical influences on the development of psychoanalytic theorizing on sexuality and gender identity.  In addition, we will take time to determine individual learning objectives for members of the class.

Dimen, M. & Goldner, V. (2011). Ch10, “Gender and Sexuality” in Textbook of Psychoanalysis (2nd Edition), pp133-152.

Chodorow, N. (2011). Freud’s Three Essays on Sexuality, ch. 4 in Individualizing Gender and Sexuality, pp26-39.

Optional Reading

Herzog, D. (2015). What happened to psychoanalysis in the wake of the sexual revolution?. In Sexualities: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives (pp.19-40)

November 15, 2019 — Psychosexual Development and Gender Identity

[86 pages]

The development of sexual and gender identities have played a prominent role in psychoanalytic theory.    In this class, we will consider revisions in psychoanalytic conceptualizations of how these core components of identity develop. Chodorow suggests that because heterosexuality is taken for granted as the outcome of normal psychosexual development that it has been insufficiently theorized.  She makes her case by contrasting this approach to sexual identity development with that of homosexuality which has largely been viewed a symptom and considers the symptomatic aspects of heterosexuality. Target builds on earlier work with Fonagy which suggested that sexuality is no longer the primary basis and driver of character development and psychopathology.  Target asserts that conscious and unconscious attachment needs are not only central in personality development, but also set the stage for psychosexual identity, erotic fantasy, and pleasure.

Chodorow, N.J. (1992). Heterosexuality as a Compromise Formation: Reflections on the Psychoanalytic Theory of Sexual Development. Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 15:267-304.

Target, M. (2015). Chapter 2, “A developmental model of sexual excitement, desire and alienation” in Sexualities: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives, eds A. Lemma and P.E. Lynch, pp43-62.

Harris, A. (2000). Gender as a Soft Assembly: Tomboys’ Stories. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 1(3):223-250.

November 22, 2019 — Homosexuality

[53 pages]

Psychoanalysis has had a difficult history with regard to the conceptualization and treatment of persons with same gender sexual object choice.  Contemporary views of homosexuality emphasize the meanings and experience of desire rather than the psychopathological origins of homosexual desire.  Consequently, we will consider some unique aspects of the pathway to and experience of same gender object choice.  Elise operates from two primary assumptions: innate bisexuality and that the mother is the first love object for both girls and boys.   Elise’s ideas have implications for women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual.  In a clinically oriented paper, Phillips provides an example of a nuanced theory regarding some unique dynamics of gay male development.

Elise, D. (2002). The Primary Maternal Oedipal Situation and Female Homoerotic Desire. Psychoanal. Inq., 22(2):209-228.

Phillips, S.H. (2001). The Overstimulation of Everyday Life: I. New Aspects of Male Homosexuality. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 49(4):1235-1267.

Optional Reading

Rich, A. (1980) "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence", in Feminism and Sexuality (Jackson; Scott; Eds), 1996, pp130-141

Roughton, R. (2000). Sometimes a Desire is Just a Desire: Gay Men and Their Analysts. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 5(3):259-273.

December 6, 2019 — Sexuality and Gender as an Embodied Experience

[60 pages]

The focus of this session is on the manner in which the body mediates and influences our experience of our gender and sexuality.  Benjamin and Atlas look at the relationship between sexual excitement and early affect regulation, showing how excitement becomes dangerous, thus impeding or distorting desire.  Working with Laplanche’s theory of infantile sexuality, Saketopoulou suggests that the sexuality of suffering is developmentally rooted in early interactions with caregivers.

Benjamin, J. and Atlas, G. (2015) “The ‘too muchness’ of excitement:  Sexuality in light of excess, attachment and affect regulation”. International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 96:39-63.

Saketopolu, A. (2018). “The Draw to Overwhelm: Consent, Risk, and the Re-translation of Enigma”. Unpublished paper presented at the International Association of Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. 

Optional Reading

Balsam, R.H. (2013). (Re)Membering the Female Body in Psychoanalysis: Childbirth. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 61(3):447-470.

December 13, 2019 — Gender

[24 pages]

Butler, J. (1995). Melancholy Gender—Refused Identification. Psychoanal. Dial., 5(2):165-180.

Phillips, A. (1995). Keeping It Moving: Commentary on Judith Butler’s “Melancholy Gender—Refused Identification”. Psychoanal. Dial., 5(2):181-188.

January 10, 2020 — Transgender

[29 pages]

For the non-transgender analyst, there are few subjective experiences more difficult to understand in the consulting room.  In this session, we will look at a broad, social constructivist view of transgender phenomena provided by Goldner. To compliment this approach, Lemma provides a developmental model for understanding transgenderism which is rooted in attachment and object relations theory.  In addition, she offers a clinical example for working with these issues in treatment.

Lemma, A. (2013). The body one has and the body one is: Understanding the transsexual’s need to be seen. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 94:277-292.

Goldner, V. (2011). Trans: Gender in Free Fall. Psychoanal. Dial., 21(2):159-171.

Optional Reading

Hansbury, G. (2011). King Kong & Goldilocks: Imagining Transmasculinities Through the Trans–Trans Dyad. Psychoanal. Dial., 21(2):210-220.

Suchet, M. (2011). Crossing Over. Psychoanal. Dial., 21(2):172-191.

January 17, 2020 — Perversion

[51 pages]

How do we determine healthy from pathological sexuality when thinking about perversion?  What do we do clinically when confronted with the sexuality of our patients that challenge our own beliefs and experiences?  Both readings for this session will provide an opportunity to consider these questions in some depth.

Saketopoulou, A. (2015). “On sexual perversions’ capacity to act as portal to psychic states that have evaded representation”, in Sexualities: Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives, A. Lemma and P.E. Lynch (Eds.), pp203-217.

Dimen, M. (2001). Perversion Is Us? Eight Notes. Psychoanal. Dial., 11(6):825-860.

Optional Reading

Kernberg, O. (1991). Sadomasochism, Sexual Excitement, and Perversion. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:333-362.

McDougall, J. (1986). Identifications, Neoneeds and Neosexualities. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:19-30.

January 24, 2020 — Application to Case Material

In this session, we will select two cases from class members and spend extended time applying the ideas we have studied thus far to the case material.

January 31, 2020 — (To Be Determined)

Given the dynamic nature and cultural change around issues of gender and sexuality, we will leave this last week open before selecting readings.  We will allow the evolution of the class and resulting interests and needs of class members to inform our selection of the readings for our final session together.