Genders & Sexualities

Fourth Year Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2022-23, 3rd Trimester — Fridays, 1:45-3:15pm
Danny Gellersen, LICSW FIPA


This class is designed with 2 goals in mind: 

  1. We will primarily narrow the class in the work of Jean Laplanche, and several of the contemporary writers he has inspired.  My hope is that this will feel grounding, as there is an ocean of theoretical conceptualizations on this topic one can and will examine across a psychoanalytic career.  My preference is to focus on disrupting our personal affective/identificatory experience rather than a disruption of the intellectual—though I certainly hope for an “all of the above” to unfold. 
  2. We will expand the notion of where we look to observe and analyze the gender/sexual in day-to-day living.  Art will be given some preference in this conversation, but I hope you’ll chime in with your own observations.  

I have tried to select readings that serve internal disruption and potential overwhelm. The papers we are reading may not always appear to reflect the patients you are feeling stuck with, or your own sexual/gender identities. Our work will be to find application in the human condition across difference, including your own personal reactions to the material.  Everyone is encouraged to bring material that most interests them in their work.  It need not apply directly to the topic of any given paper we are reading.  

There are two texts I am asking you to purchase, I do not take this request lightly—I completely understand how expensive training is.  I feel strongly that both texts are excellent additions to a Psychoanalytic library and will be books you can return to overtime to think through difficult case material.  The texts are: 

We are fortunate to be concluding during PRIDE month, so on either May 25th or May 27th (Thursday or Saturday TBD by class) at our midpoint I’d like to take the class to attend a drag show.  Normally this show runs on Fridays, and I had hoped to be able to take you straight away from class, but scheduling issues with the venue changed the date of the show during May this year. I hope this will be both a much-needed celebration for your hard work over the year, and an opportunity to think about the material we are experiencing in an interesting way.  

Suggested assignment:  For those of you who have read Bollas, he has an interesting concept regarding the innate creativity of the unconscious he calls this “Psychic Genera.” To my understanding, this sits in tension with Trauma states, which can power-down psychic genera.    Inspired by Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I invite everyone to write 3 pages of pure free association (aka “pages”), upon waking up each morning.  I will be joining the class in this exercise.  Write without discrimination, even if you repeat yourself or render yourself nonsensical.  Do not edit, review your writings, and please wait to read over what you’ve wrote until towards the end of the course.  The point of this exercise will be to put ourselves in touch with our own psychic genera and track its relationship to the work we are doing in the consulting room and in class.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, candidates will be able to:

  1. Be able to compare and contrast Laplanche’s Sexual theory from Freud’s 3 essays leading to application of the theories in both practice application, and reading of contemporary writing on sexuality within Relational Psychoanalysis. Also will develop a familiarity with Judith Butler’s work with gender theory.
  2. Develop a deeper integration of art, social and race theories in studying the conceptualizations of sexuality and the unconscious.
  3. Mentalize and make application of “Overwhelm” as described by Avgi Saketopoulou’s work in service to deepening more difficult case work.

April 28, 2023 — Freud’s 3 Essays on Sexuality discussed

[28 pages]

Freud asserted that psychosexual development is fundamental to our shaping of thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Perhaps most famously in this paper, he introduces infantile sexuality. We will be learning about Freud through a paper by Dominique Scarfone, a Laplanche scholar.  A 2nd paper by Galit Atlas introduces us to the Relational school’s perspectives on Sexuality and also makes reference to Laplanche.

Scarfone, D. (2014) The Three Essays and the Meaning of the Infantile Sexual in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 83:327-344

Atlas, G. (2018) Has Sexuality Anything to Do with Relationality?, Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 28:330-339.

Optional Reading

Freud, S. (1905) Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud 7:123-246

May 5, 2023 — Laplanche 101

Jean Laplanche’s theory on sexual, sex and gender.  We will focus this class strictly on this essay, I encourage students to purchase this text for your psychoanalytic library.

Laplanche, J. (2003). “Gender, Sex and the Sexual” in Freud and the Sexual: Essays, 2000-2006, pp159-201.

Optional Reading

Saketopoulou, A. (2023) "Introduction" in Sexuality Beyond Consent: Risk, Race and Traumatophilia.

May 12, 2023 — The draw to Overwhelm. Perversion and sexuality amongst the unconventional

[34 pages]

Building off Laplanche, Scarfone and Atlas, which situates us in a more fundamental conceptualization of sex, we now turn our gaze to the unconventional. The excitations of sex and our movement away and towards overwhelm are discussed. Contemporary understandings of perversion, and polymorphous perverse will be discussed. We will be making use of Saketopoulou’s text on “Sexuality Beyond Consent” to lead us.

Saketopoulou, A (2023) Ch 2, “ The Draw to Overwhelm” in Sexuality Beyond Consent: Risk, Race and Traumatophilia, pp56-89.

Please select one or two of the “Optional” articles based on your own personal interest.

Optional Reading

Dimen, M. (2005) Sexuality and Suffering, Or the Eew! Factor. Studies in Gender and Sexuality 6:1-18.

If you want to read about disgust’s excitations in sexuality.

Corbett, K. (2013) Shifting Sexual Cultures, the Potential Space of Online Relations, and the Promise of Psychoanalytic Listening. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 61:25-44.

Provides two interesting case studies on app culture/online dating.

Reis, B. (2007) Fetish: A Graphic Essay. Studies in Gender and Sexuality 8:303-311.

Gripping and original article on a straight man’s connection to women’s high heels.

May 19, 2023 — Gender Identity, performativity and the work of Judith Butler

[41 pages]

Judith Butler’s concept of Gender Melancholia/performativity has been reworked several times by her and others, her contributions to the conversation on Gender cannot be understated.  Lynne Layton wrote an interesting Relational critique of these concepts, and these readings should be very interesting for you as a pair.  I suggest Reading Butler’s article first, so you can fully grasp how Layton built out her arguments.

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

Layton, L. (1997) The Doer behind the Deed: Tensions and Intersections between Butler’s Vision of Performativity and Relational Psychoanalysis. Gender and Psychoanalysis 2:131-155

May 26, 2023 — Exigent Sadism, Art, Creative functioning (Drag Performance)

Sexuality within art form, Exigent Sadism—a useful concept for exploring internal boundaries, and erotic countertransference/transference. The suggested reading is an interesting and dense examination of a reworking of Drag within Lacan’s ideas/contrasting with Judith Butler.

This particular week you are invited to join me in attending a drag performance on either May 25th/27th as determined by the class.

Saketopoulou, A. (2023) Ch5, “Exigent Sadism” in Sexuality Beyond Consent: Risk, Race and Traumatophilia, pp169-193.

Optional Reading

Glazier, J.W. & Roberts, J.L. (2015) Lacan in drag: The apotheosis of sexual difference. Psychoanalysis Culture and Society 20:267-283

June 2, 2023 — Gender Embodiment, Crossing Over

[43 pages]

These readings are probably some of the more evocative to sit with if you do not share the identities/experience of the authors or subjects.  This will also be our opportunity to explore your feelings on the course as a whole and share any observations from the “pages” experiment. 

Read any/Read them all.

Hansbury, G. (2017). The Masculine Vaginal: Working with Queen Men’s Embodiment at the Transgender Edge. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. 65(6):1009-1031.

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

An analyst “crosses over” in her work with a patient who gradually comes to terms with her gender.  Very moving paper and has an embodying edge.

Kulick, D. (1998) Ch5, “Travesti Gender Subjectivity” in Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes.

The Travesti are a fascinating group of Brazilian Transgender Prostitutes that have something to teach us outside of the Cis/Trans binary.  Their self-expression and bodily modifications make for a fascinating exploration of intersectionality.