BuiltWithNOF
Perversion

Cross-dressers are perverts, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as:-

    “A person whose sexual behaviour or inclinations are regarded as abnormal and unacceptable.”

That cross-dressers are perverts was also the view of Robert Stoller - who I’m happy to report was killed by his own stupidity in a driving accident as he left his home, one day in 1991.

Unfortunately, there are still many people to this day who share Stoller’s vile, highly offensive and pejorative view.

Stoller also maintained that cross-dressing is the expression of unconscious aggression and the desire for revenge against the person whom the child considered responsible for the threat to its core sexual identity during its formative years. According to Stoller, all perversions including cross-dressing represented an expression of unadulterated hatred. His book Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred is one of the most unpleasant I have ever read and, in its day, caused as much angst and distress to members of The Beaumont Society - which I was at that time - as Michael Bailey’s notorious and grotesquely named work The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism (see Footnote) subsequently caused. Incidentally, for those who have not read these works for themselves, I would urge them to do so, but it should be noted that both of these works have about as much empirical science in them as a cheese sandwich. 

It seems to me that Stoller’s obvious interest in perversion  probably indicated that he was indulging in what Stephen Purcell refers to as “perverse countertransferences”, i.e. the case histories of his subjects invokes perverted excitement in the psychoanalyst studying them, in his paper The analyst's excitement in the analysis of perversion, published in The International Journal of Psychoanalysis (2006 Feb;87(Pt 1):105-23). It should come as a surprise to many that Purcell acknowledges the fact that analysts might themselves wish to deny or otherwise suppress their perverse countertransferences, but it seems self-evident to me that they might wish to do so.

Perhaps psychoanalysts also dislike being referred to as perverts?

Nowadays, of course, no suitably politically-correct  clinician would refer to any of his patients as perverts. The word they now use is paraphiliacs, but many of them manage to imbue that with the same disapprobatory tone that they reserved for the word perverts.

How things change - NOT.

Nevertheless, Stoller’s views on perversions demonstrate a distinct break from Freud’s notions on the subject.

Freud believed that perversions arose out of a “fixation” during an early stage of emotional development - or “regression” to that earlier stage - whereas, for Stoller perversions represented emotional revenge for childhood traumas that enabled the pervert to triumph sexually in some symbolic sense over the person they perceived themselves to have been damaged by.

Admirers of Stoller maintain that he was some sort of psychoanalytical hero, because they claim that he made no distinction between what was “sick behaviour” and “healthy behaviour”, providing it did not infringe the rights of others. Thus they claim that he “normalised” perversions. However, I was not given that impression by Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred when it was published in 1975 and neither were any other people I know who also read it. Still, it was a long time ago, and my recollections are not always as clear as they should be.

In Freud’s view, cross-dressing was a perversion, but he went on to say in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality that:-

    A disposition to perversions is an original and universal disposition of the human sexual instinct and no healthy person ... can fail to make some addition that might be called perverse.(emboldening added)

Thus, for Freud, cross-dressers might be perverts, but then everyone else was probably one too. It is also notable, particularly in the light of so much psychoanalytical writing since his day, that he constantly emphasised that psychoanalysis “has no concern whatever with... ‘judgements of value’”.

Like Stoller, Jacques Lacan also differs from Freud, but the latter’s work is too complex - and opaque, if not deliberately obscure - to analyse here in any detail. Suffice to say that Lacan makes a distinction between perverse acts and perverse structures. That is to say, he maintains that perverse acts may be indulged in by non-perverse subjects, but that perverse structures are always perverse, even when they are socially condoned.

For Lacan,  cross-dressing represents the epitome of the  “perversion of perversions”, as the symbolic object - probably initially the subject’s mother’s panties - is taken by the child as  a symbolic substitute for what he believes to be her missing penis.

Naturally there is much criticism of Lacan’s work - he was even barred from the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1960 - but anyone who does criticises him is met with the accusation from his protagonists that they simply do not understand his work.

I wonder how many who claim to champion him do?

Fewer than you might think, but then members of the French cultural and intellectual elite have always had a ready self-serving coterie of lick-spittles to support them and claim that they themselves had understood every word that the great man had uttered, as anyone familiar with French culture will readily acknowledge.

 The  volume and complexity of clinical and theoretical literature on the subject of perversion in general, and cross-dressing in particular, is such that I’d need to write a book of my own to do it all justice.

Suffice to reiterate that, except for the ignorant and the downright offensive amongst us, the word perversion should not be used any more to refer to cross-dressing, as the correct psychoanalytical word is paraphilia, but whether cross-dressing even qualifies to be called that - bearing in mind the definition of paraphilia in the DSM-IV (see here) - is a moot point.

Personally, I am consider myself no more a paraphiliac that I did a pervert.

Footnote: The best critique I have encountered concerning Bailey’s book is by Alice Dredger, entitled The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age, a copy of which can be seen here. I would urge everyone who wants an unbiased perspective on Bailey’s book to read all 62 highly detailed pages of Dredger’s critique, but it should be noted here that Bailey is not the only one who is deservedly criticised. Some of his detractors are rightly criticised too.