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Perversion and Neurosis: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Perversion and Neurosis: Two Sides of the Same Coin[1]

Stephanie Metcalfe

If analysis has made any positive discovery about libidinal development, it is that the child is a pervert, even a polymorphous pervert.[2]

Lacan reminds us that Freud’s contention that the germs of perversion inherent in all subjects remains one of the most important, if widely refuted discoveries of psychoanalysis. This paper aims to interrogate in more detail the oft-quoted phrase ‘neuroses are, so to say, the negative of perversions.’[3] An in-depth examination of the analytic perspective allows us to understand this statement more fully and to grasp how the development of sexuality relates to the emergence of a neurotic position.

Keywords: Freud; Neurosis; Perversion; Infantile Sexuality; Civilisation

Infantile Sexuality

Freud recognised infantile sexuality from his extensive work with neurotic patients as far back as the late 1800s and throughout the whole of his work he was unwavering in his conviction that what is laid down at this very early stage for the child has a determining effect on their later sexual development and the emergence of neurotic symptoms. In a paper entitled Sexuality in the Aetiology of the Neurosis Freud appeals to his contemporaries and the wider public in relation to their ability to speak about sexual matters, stating:

…a place must be created in public opinion for the discussion of the problems of sexual life. It will have to become possible to talk about these things without being stamped as a troublemaker…And so here, too, there is enough work left to do for the next hundred years – in which our civilization will have to learn to come to terms with the claims of our sexuality.[4]

I wonder in relation to this statementwhether we have, indeed one hundred and twenty years later, in our so called sexually liberated society, come to terms with sexual matters. Indeed, have we even developed an ability to speak about them? It is important to remember that Freud parted ways with many of his peers and colleagues, Breuer[5] and Jung,[6] to name two, as they were not willing to remain as steadfast in their belief in the importance of the theory of sexuality. In light of this, it is not surprising that Freud would make such an appeal and the question remains regarding what progress we have made. Where are we today in relation to sex?

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