Embodiment and the Perversion of Desire

by Andrea Celenza, PhD


A contemporary definition of perversion is offered that aims to reveal a form of psychic functioning as a quality of being toward others in the external world, translating to a mode of relating toward internal objects, and/or a mode of relating toward one’s body as an object. This quality of being is contrasted with perversion denoting a specific set of behaviors, as in classical conceptualizations. Two schematics illustrate healthy and perverse phenomenological positions (i.e. identifiable within the person’s preconscious or conscious perspective and experience). These positions highlight ways in which perverse modes of experiencing can be depicted, by use of internal psychic positions and the extent to which these are integrated, interpenetrate one another or are truncated and foreclosed. In particular, a perverse internal psychic mode is proposed where affective, embodied, and pre-reflective self-experience is split off or dissociated. The case of Laura is offered as an illustration of a perverse mode of being and a perverse relationship to her body. I also suggest that perverse modes of relating towards others (primarily through objectification) is more common in males whereas the objectification of one’s body is more common in females.

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 89(3), 369-398, July 2020.

Link to Online Publication [fulltext can be requested from the library].

About the Author

Andrea Celenza, PhD is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School. She is also Adjunct Faculty at the NYU Post-Doctoral Program in Psychoanalysis. She has written numerous papers on love, sexuality and psychoanalysis. She has two online courses, including a blended, online program in Psychoanalytic Studies (sponsored by William James College). She is the recipient of several awards and her writings have been translated into Italian, Spanish, Korean and Russian. Her third book, entitled, Transference, Love, and Being: Essential Essays from the Field, is forthcoming. Visit Andrea Celenza’s website to learn more about her work. Dr. Celenza is in private practice in Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. 

Previous Posts:

Steven H. Cooper, PhD (2021). Donald Winnicott and Stephen Mitchell’s Developmental Tilt Hypothesis Reconsidered. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 31(3), 355-370.

Elsa Ronningstam, PhD (2021). Cultural Function and Psychological Transformation of Silence in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. In Dimitrijevic, A. and Buchholz, M.B., eds. (2021). Silence and Silencing in Psychoanalysis: Cultural, Clinical, and Research Perspectives. Routledge, pp. 105-127.

Paola M. Contreras, PsyD (2021). The Magical and the My-Person in Psychoanalysis During the Covid Pandemic. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 68(6): 1113-1126. Open Access, DOI: 10.1177/0003065120981733

Don R. Lipsitt, MD (2020). In Freud’s Pocket: A Totem of Medical Ambivalence? American Imago, 77(4): 738-751.

Rachel Brier, EdD and Anna Ornstein, MD (2020). Tracking Changes in the Disruption/Repair Sequences: Important Aspects of Clinical WorkPsychoanalysis, Self and Context.

Rodrigo Barahona, PsyaD (2020). Living the Non-Dream: An Examination of the Links Between Dreaming, Enactment, and Transformations in hallucinosis. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 89:4, 689-714.

Sarah Ackerman, PhD (2020). A Diagnosis for Psychoanalysis in the 21st Century: Freud as Medicine. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 89:4, 667-688.

Lora Tessman, PhD (2020). Review of Ghost in the Human Psyche: The Story of a ‘Muslim Armenian’ , by Vamik D. Volkan. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 56(2-3):457-464.

Steven H. Cooper, PhD (2019). A Theory of the Setting: The Transformation of Unrepresented Experience and Play. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 100:6, 1439-1454.

Anton Hart, PhD (2020). Principles For Teaching Issues Of Diversity In A Psychoanalytic Context. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 56:2-3, 404-417.

Lawrence J. Brown, PhD (2020). Trauma and Representation. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 100:6, 1154-1170.

Penelope Moore, LICSW (2020). Incest from a Young Age … Lasting a Lifetime. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 48(1), 41-54.

Judith L. Kantrowitz, PhD (2020). A Psychoanalytic Memoir: The Analyst Enabled and Disabled by What is Personal. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 68(1), 83–100.

Cuneyt Iscan, MD (2020). Learning Along the Way: Further Reflections on Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy by Patrick Casement, Routledge, Abingdon and New York, 2019, 156pp. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 80:2, 235-239.

Click here to see a full archive of featured papers. All articles can be requested from the library.