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.

November 8, 2019 — Introduction

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. and Goldner, V. (2011). “Gender and Sexuality”, ch. 10 in Textbook of Psychoanalysis, second edition, pp133-152.

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

November 15, 2019 — Psychosexual Development and Gender Identity

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). “A developmental model of sexual excitement, desire and alienation”,  ch. 2 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

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.

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

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 (2015) 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. 

December 13, 2019 — Gender

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

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.

January 17, 2020 — Perversion

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.

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.