Perverting Perversions

Sylvère Lotringer

with a new introduction by the author and an additional chapter

Do you ever get aroused by your patient’s fantasies? Do you discover through them something about your own sexuality?
—About my sexuality?
You are exposed to a lot of fantasies.
—Oh yes. Quite frankly, I think it has a satiation effect on me. I’ve been a sex researcher for ten years, and sometimes I get fed up with it, you know. I talk to people about sex all day long, and it does get to be a drag.
—from Overexposed

The most perverse perversions are not always those one would expect. Originally conceived as an American update to Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Overexposed is even more outrageous and thought-provoking today than it was twenty years ago when first published by a commercial publisher. By a strange reversal, rather than being punished, deviant desire now is administrated in specialized clinics under medical supervision. Sexual excess is being turned into a “boredom therapy” claiming to rid patients of their own desires by forcing them to indulge them past the point of satiety. But are perversions still perverse when they are vindicated unconditionally? At once clinical, bewildering, and deeply poignant, Overexposed shows how science can pervert itself by identifying too closely with its object. This insider’s exposition of controversial cognitive behavioral methods (carried out with instruments straight out of A Clockwork Orange—penile transducer? pupillometer?) is a hallucinatory document on the manner in which our postmodern society exposes sexuality to the point of overexposure—in order to exterminate it.

Sylvère Lotringer, general editor of Semiotext(e), lives in New York and Baja, California. He is the author of Overexposed: Perverting Perversions (Semiotext(e), 2007).

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