email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting OffGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalIt’s Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot My ShameNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Evolution of BeautyThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe PervertThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
Sylvère Lotringer is a professor of French Literature and Philosophy at Columbia University. Overexposed: Perverting Perversions was originally released in 1987 and has now been republished with a new foreword by Semiotext(e), an imprint that he founded. His home page at Columbia describes this book as "an update on Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality," and the rest of his research is rooted in French theory by well-known figures such as Jean Baudrillard and Félix Guattari. Yet Overexposed is not a highly theoretical work: it is a description of his interviews with a group of therapists who propounded a new treatment for pedophilia, and one patient who received the treatment. This new mode of expunging the desires of pedophiles was created by Seymour Sachs, and the basic idea is a twist on aversive therapy. Rather than try to get pedophiles to associate erotic thoughts of children with pain, however, the idea is to make them associate them with boredom. The method is to expose them to those ideas for a long period of time -- so they get overexposed to the thoughts. Sachs claims that his method is extremely successful, and says he has the data to prove it. A patient explains how he and others fake their reactions to make the therapists think that their treatment has worked, in order to get of the treatment. Since this was going on in the 1980s, and currently in 2009 there are a number of treatments, the success of which is still debated and variable, so we can conclude that Lotringer's claims were overblown. This means that the book is a study in how psychology gets too confident, and the cultural forces that shape it.
Since most of the book consists of interviews, it is easy to read. After the foreword and Introduction, there are ten short chapters devoted to different stages of the therapy, with titles such as "Arouse," "Tease," "Enjoy," "Satiate" and "Deter." Lotringer maintains a fairly even tone as interviewer and discussion, although occasionally one suspects he might be a little sneering or condescending. With his theoretical background, such as his affiliation with Foucault, it is clear that he is very skeptical about the scientific claims of the therapists, and of any of their claims to objectivity. So on his approach, the words of the psychologists are not to be taken at face value, but rather are indications of how power operates in American culture.
Several aspects of the therapy come into focus through the interviews. Lotringer is especially interested in the instruments with which the psychologists measure the men's arousal; they use rings around their penises to see how erect they get. In his quotations from his interviews, he does not shy away from the most shocking parts of his subjects fantasies, although he says very little about what they have actually done -- most of them have convictions for sexual assault or sexual contact with minors. He also asks in detail out more mundane parts of the therapy, such as teaching social skills, and the more technical aspects of the treatment. At points he asks about some of the ideas behind the therapy, and gets fobbed off, told that they do not matter or that the contradiction he is pointing to is only in his mind. Lotringer gives little commentary, and so it is incongruous to characterize his work as linked to philosophical theorizing.
The foreword explains that Sachs went on to form Sachs Screening, Inc. which performed the Sachs Assessment for Sexual Interest, and Lotringer calls him the greatest American specialist on sexual assault. Maybe this is so, but an internet search comes up with no results on Sachs or his test, and several recent textbooks on the subject make no mention of Sachs. This is surprising for a company that is meant to be so successful and dominant. There are no references to any academic articles or books, and so there's no way to relate the therapy to existing literature. It makes one wonder whether Lotringer changed the name of the researcher and the treatment, but this would make little sense. So there's some uncertainty about Lotringer's claims regarding Sachs's influence and current status. This treatment may never have been as important as the book implies.
All this makes Overexposed more of a curiosity than a real contribution to the study of sexuality and perversion. It does not advance our understanding, but it does help indicate what a skeptical social constructionist approach to the treatment of pedophilia would look like. It would emphasize the construction of deviance, the use of power, possibly the implicit or submerged enjoyment of sexually explicit portrayals of children, and the subjugation of the deviant through humiliation. The apparent success of the treatment would be explained away through the desire of the researchers to be successful and the desire of the research subjects to escape the research.
While Lotringer's approach is not particularly convincing here, it is also clear that the cultural forces around sexual assault, child abuse and pedophilia are extremely strong, and so it is very plausible that the supposedly scientific and objective approaches of treatment and psychological theory will in fact be heavily laden with moral assumptions. It is further quite plausible that the moral imperative is so strong that it undermines the scientific ideal that psychology aims to achieve, given that any publication in this area will likely face strong moral scrutiny from people whose minds are already made up. The value for us now in reading Overexposed is to see how supposedly scientific approaches can so easily be perverted by conflicting forces. This is presumably what Lotringer is alluding to when he writes at the start of his new foreword, "The most perverse of perversions aren't always those we might think."
© 2009 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.