CFP: Psychoanalysis and Sexual Violence

Psychoanalysis and Sexual Violence
Penumbr(a): A Journal of Psychoanalysis and Modernity. No. 1
Call for Papers

Thanks to the collective reckoning of the #MeToo movement, together with revelations of the scope of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church, it is now a matter of public record that sexual violence is not and probably has never been an isolated occurrence but rather is a systematic feature of modern society, regardless of the ideals that orient social justice movements and the political institutions that lay claim to their legacy. This should not come as a surprise, of course. For decades, feminist scholars have argued that the social bond is founded on the open secret of sexual violence. And for well over one hundred years now, psychoanalysis has recalled that the social and psychic life of the subject ultimately pivots on a refractory kernel that often manifests itself in acts rather than words. Precisely because of its unrelenting attention to subjective history, however, psychoanalysis has often been accused of discounting the veracity of victim testimony, reducing reality to fantasy, and promoting private rather than public speech. Freud’s abandonment of the seduction theory, many have argued and continue to argue, doomed psychoanalysis to underestimate—if not actively cover up—the prevalence and importance of sexual violence in society. In the notorious letter to Wilhelm Fliess in which Freud informs his friend that “I no longer believe in my neurotica,” because “in all cases the father, not excluding my own, had to be accused of being perverse,” and that “such widespread perversions against children are not very probable.” It seems probable, especially today, that Freud didn’t adequately recognize the prevalence of sexual violence in society. And yet, is this the end of the story? Is this all there is to say about psychoanalysis? If psychoanalysis is not all about sexual violence, is it precluded from contributing anything to the still inchoate discussion of sexual violence in society and politics?

The most affirmative dimension of #MeToo is the refusal to keep silent any longer, the simple assertion that sexual violence, the act itself, will not have been the end of the story; that history is not written by the perpetrators. But the most affirmative dimension of psychoanalysis, too, is the refusal to believe that sexual violence is the end of the story—the end of the subject’s story and the end of the story for psychoanalysis itself; the refusal to allow the very reality sexual violence to become an alibi that makes it possible to avoid talking about other, perhaps more unspeakable things, and that blocks the freedom of speech and association. Is it possible to write the history of sexual violence or even to do justice to the experience of victims if the act of breaking the silence impedes speech on another level? Is it possible to understand or even condemn sexual violence without grasping all the histories that such violence prevents from being written? Is it possible to write the history of sexual violence, today, without the unwritten and untimely histories to which psychoanalytic speech gives access?

Papers might address such topics as: the clinic of sexual violence, sexual violence and femininity, democracy and patriarchy, forensic psychoanalysis, the ethics and politics of testimony, truth and reconciliation, public speech and analytic speech, shame, sexual violence and institutions (school, church, army, university), sexual violence and psychic structures (neurosis, perversion, psychosis), passages-à-l’acte, the logic of fantasy, repetition compulsions, the symbolic order and legacies of silence, sexual violence and war, sexual violence in queer communities, sexual violence and the brain, empirical and transcendental violences, archives of sexual violence, the aesthetics of #metoo, hashtags and politics.

Penumbr(a): A Journal of Psychoanalysis and Modernity is the new journal of the Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis & Culture at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). For our inaugural issue, we invite essays of 6000-8000 words that explore how the theory and practice of psychoanalysis contends with the experience of sexual violence on an individual or social and political level. We also welcome reviews of recent publications in psychoanalytic studies and related fields of up to 2000 words. Please send submissions as an email attachment to slm26@buffalo.edu no later than May 1, 2019.

Self-Care

The news cycle has been rough since, you know, the campaign.

If the recent news cycle has been particularly debilitating, LifeHacker offers some rather helpful advice** in the post How to Cope With the Current News Cycle as a Sexual Abuse Survivor.

Setting boundaries, learning to breathe, and recognizing that different selves need different kinds of care are all useful tools to make use of in times of great strain.

“‘Self care’ is about defining for yourself what nourishes you,” Bryant-Davis says. “For you that could mean going to yoga; for someone else it could mean going to a prayer meeting or going to a rally. Sometimes when we’re caught up in emotion we forget what’s worked for us in the past.”

The inverse of this is that you shouldn’t feel obligated to try a new strategy. If your friends are trying to get you to go to yoga class, but you’re feeling tender and aren’t sure you can deal with the yoga teacher’s talking about “feeling into your pelvis” or sit bones, maybe suggest another class. “People should not feel pressured to do things that will only activate them more,” Appio says. “There’s time and space to practice other strategies. Do what works. Do the lower risk thing first for sure.”

 

 

**Especially if you are a survivor of sexual assault.

Verdict Rendered

How do we develop an ethical framework for judging past actions?

One might say, we look at how those actions transact with the present and future that emerged with them. That is, if we think about time–even a single point in time–as past/present/future in constant and embodied communication, the question of whether or not one should be held accountable for past horrors and violence committed becomes a question about our present and future.

Padma Lakshmi closes her brave and touching personal essay about her own rape at 16 on a similar point.

Some say a man shouldn’t pay a price for an act he committed as a teenager. But the woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her.

I think if I had at the time named what happened to me as rape — and told others — I might have suffered less. Looking back, I now think I let my rapist off the hook and I let my 16-year-old self down.

Let us not let ourselves down now (or in the future) when we think about holding abusers/predators accountable for sexual assault.  Our ethics in these cases should be wary of a temporal limit.

#ThemToo

The Feminist Philosophers blog offer a succinct and necessary call-out of Professor Ronell and her supporters in their “appalling” attempts to discredit Ronell’s accuser.

This sounds all too familiar:

Professor Ronell and some who are backing her have tried to discredit her accuser in familiar ways, asking why he took so long to report, and why he seemed so intimate with Professor Ronell if he was, in fact, miserable. Maybe, Professor Ronell suggested, he was frustrated because he just wasn’t smart enough.

For more information, check out the NYTimes.