email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing StoriesA Clinician's Guide to Legal Issues in PsychotherapyA Map of the MindA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyACT With LoveActive Treatment of DepressionAffect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of SelfAlready FreeBad TherapyBecoming an Effective PsychotherapistBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBetrayed as BoysBeyond Evidence-Based PsychotherapyBeyond MadnessBeyond PostmodernismBinge No MoreBiofeedback for the BrainBipolar DisorderBody PsychotherapyBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBrain Science and Psychological DisordersBrain-Based Therapy with AdultsBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Therapy Homework PlannerBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCase Studies in DepressionCaught in the NetChild and Adolescent Treatment for Social Work PracticeChoosing an Online TherapistChronic DepressionClinical Dilemmas in PsychotherapyClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCognitive Therapy for Challenging ProblemsCompassionConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsControlConversations About Psychology and Sexual OrientationCoping with BPDCouch FictionCounseling in GenderlandCounseling with Choice TheoryCouple SkillsCrazy for YouCreating a Life of Meaning and CompassionCreating HysteriaCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDeafness In MindDecoding the Ethics CodeDeconstructing PsychotherapyDeep Brain StimulationDemystifying TherapyDepression 101Depression in ContextDialogues on DifferenceDissociative ChildrenDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing CBTE-TherapyEarly WarningEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveErrant SelvesEssays on Philosophical CounselingEssentials of Wais-III AssessmentEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics in Plain EnglishEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingExpectationExploring the Self through PhotographyExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFear of IntimacyFlourishingFolie a DeuxForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFoundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in PsychologyFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFrom Morality to Mental HealthFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGod & TherapyHalf Empty, Half FullHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHandbook of Evidence-Based Therapies for Children and AdolescentsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHeinz KohutHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHigh RiskHistory of PsychotherapyHow Clients Make Therapy WorkHow Psychotherapists DevelopHow to Fail As a TherapistHow to Go to TherapyHypnosis for Inner Conflict ResolutionHypnosis for Smoking CessationI Never Promised You a Rose GardenIf Only I Had KnownIn Others' EyesIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyInside the SessionInside TherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsItís Your HourLearning from Our MistakesLearning Supportive PsychotherapyLetters to a Young TherapistLife CoachingLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMadness and DemocracyMaking the Big LeapMan's Search for MeaningMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMind GamesMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMoments of EngagementMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessMultifamily Groups in the Treatment of Severe Psychiatric DisordersNarrative PracticeOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOur Last Great IllusionOutsider ArtOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsOverexposedPathways to SpiritualityPersonality and PsychotherapyPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPhilosophical Issues in Counseling and PsychotherapyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPillar of SaltPlan BPlato, Not Prozac!Polarities of ExperiencesPower GamesPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPsychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy and ConfidentialityPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersPsychotherapy Is Worth ItPsychotherapy Isn't What You ThinkPsychotherapy with Adolescent Girls and Young WomenPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy without the SelfPsychotherapy, American Culture, and Social PolicyRapid Cognitive TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRebuilding Shattered LivesReclaiming Our ChildrenRecovery OptionsRelationalityRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulScience and Pseudoscience in Clinical PsychologySecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSelf-Disclosure in Psychotherapy and RecoverySerious ShoppingSex, Therapy, and KidsSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySigns of SafetySoul Murder RevisitedStaring at the SunStraight to JesusStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyTales of UnknowingTalk is Not EnoughTalking Cures and Placebo EffectsTelling SecretsThe Behavioral Medicine Treatment PlannerThe Body in PsychotherapyThe Brief Couples Therapy Homework Planner with DiskThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Clinical Child Documentation SourcebookThe Clinical Documentation SourcebookThe Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Couch and the TreeThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Cure of SoulsThe Death of PsychotherapyThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Ethical Treatment of DepressionThe Ethics of PsychoanalysisThe Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Healing JourneyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Heroic ClientThe Husbands and Wives ClubThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mindful TherapistThe Mirror Crack'dThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New Rational TherapyThe Older Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Other Side of DesireThe Pastoral Counseling Treatment PlannerThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Pornographer's GriefThe Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem of EvilThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy of HopeThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to PsychopharmacologyThe Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe Trauma of Everyday LifeThe UnsayableThe Way of the JournalTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapy with ChildrenTherapy's DelusionsTheraScribe 3.0 for WindowsTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThinking for CliniciansThinking for CliniciansThoughts Without a ThinkerThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreating Attachment DisordersTreatment for Chronic DepressionTreatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety DisordersUnderstanding Child MolestersUnspeakable Truths and Happy EndingsWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom?What Works for Whom? Second EditionWhen the Body SpeaksWhispers from the EastWise TherapyWittgenstein and PsychotherapyWorking MindsWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting About PatientsYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga Therapy
The Other Side of Desire tells the tale of four people whose paraphilic sexual desires are located firmly "on the other side." Jacob is a middle-aged salesman who is attracted to women's feet. The Baroness is a successful designer of fetish clothing and is a sexual sadist. Roy, a computer technician, is a pedophile who was sentenced to 20 years suspended after 30 days, with 35 years probation for sexually molesting his 11-12 year old step-daughter. And Ron is a successful fashion photographer who is sexually attracted to women amputees.
In lesser hands, this material would have run the risk of being merely titillating or used as a means of moral pontification, either for or against those 'suffering' from atypical sexual desire. But in Bergner's sure hands, and under his penetrating gaze, The Other Side of Desire avoids these pitfalls and instead masterfully succeeds at a number of difficult tasks. He manages to study the particular people who exhibit these paraphilias and to enwrap them in the concrete texture of their lives. Hence, we come to know Jacob, the Baroness, Roy, and Ron as individual people who have struggled with and often continue to struggle with their sexual urges. This in itself is a tricky business. Does one want to understand and feel sympathy for a sexual sadist or a pedophile? Once again, however, Bergner manages successfully to walk a very fine line. In coming to understand his subjects, Bergner never gets sentimental. Roy really did molest his step-daughter thereby tossing her life, as well as those of his (now) ex-wife and many others, into complete turmoil and disarray. And the Baroness actually achieved perhaps her highest degree of sexual pleasure by roasting a man on a spit for several hours (even though it was with his consent). In another encounter, she "threaded the end of her whip through the hoop ring [her lover] Genevieve wore in her clitoris, then ripped the hoop out through the glistening tissue" (57).Bergner does not downplay these facts or attempt to explain them away. And yet we as readers still feel some connection with these people, disquieting though those feelings may be.
This can be explained in part by Bergner's weaving these four personal narratives within an abundance of contemporary research into sexual desire that shows that the gulf between 'normal' and 'perverse' desire may not be as wide as we typically think. For example, with respect to pedophilia, which is clearly the most morally troubling of the four paraphilias considered here, some research shows that pictures of pubescents and children arouse not only pedophiles. "Teleophiles," i.e., 'normal' individuals attracted to adults, are aroused as well (126-127) -- helping to explain, presumably, the otherwise odd strategy of using pubescent looking girls as marketing devices for the general populace. Of course, one needs to keep in mind here a remark originally made by Aristotle that while a person isn't responsible for their desires, they are morally accountable for how they deal with them. Still, one gets the sense from Bergner's book that the difference between someone with a paraphilia and someone without is in degree only, not in kind. And hence one cannot help but feel some sympathy for Jacob and Roy when they wonder and lament why they were cursed with their particular desires.
Sometimes, however, we make a mistake in trying to find commonalities in people's sexual desires. In wondering why so few women are, like the Baroness, true sexual sadists, Bergner explores the issue of the extent to which men and women may differ in their respective sexual desires. Some readers may already be familiar with Bergner's writing on this issue from a New York Times piece he published recently entitled, "What Do Women Want?" There, and in The Other Side of Desire, he refers us to the work, amongst others, of Meredith Chivers who argues that men and women differ in significant ways in their sexual desire. In one fascinating experiment, she measured the physiological responses of men's and women's genitals while showing them video clips and pictures from a wide array of scenes, both sexual and non-sexual -- from bonobo monkeys having sex, and hetero- and homosexual human sex, to people standing in fields. Whilst so engaged, the participants were asked whether the scenes they were witnessing sexually aroused them. From this Chivers discovered that men tend to be what she calls "category specific:" if they are heterosexual, then they respond physiologically only to depictions of women and to heterosexual and lesbian sex. Moreover, this is what they say when asked: hence, their objective and subjective reactions match. Women, however, display a marked difference between their objective and subjective reactions, typically maintaining subjectively that they are not aroused by something when physiologically they are. Even more surprising, however, is that women tend to be physiologically aroused by a much broader range of things than males: even watching bonobos having sex physically aroused them.
This, of course, raises questions about the basis of sexual desire, which is, ultimately, what this book investigates, whether the desire be male or female, straight or gay, 'normal' or paraphilic. As one would expect, there is a great deal of controversy regarding the answers to these questions covering the gamut from nature to nurture and everything in between. Even covering such well traversed terrain, Bergner manages to add something new by showing how different theories give rise to different treatment options, which, in turn, affect quite dramatically the people we've come to know though Bergner's narrative. Hence, for example, Jacob, who has a foot fetish might well have been told that there is nothing inherently wrong with his desire since it harms no one and that he should be open with his wife about his predilection. Instead, however, faced with Jacob's disgust over his paraphilia, he and his therapist agree to a treatment of chemical castration. Such castration is achieved through anti-androgens that work by preventing or inhibiting the biologic effects of androgens, or male sex hormones, typically by blocking the appropriate receptors in the brain thus obstructing the androgens' pathway. Unfortunately, these drugs are "horribly imprecise," and act like "a club" by "bludgeoning the hormonal foundation of desire rather than addressing specific desire" (24). Hence, while someone can experience some sexual desire while on a drug like Lubron, such desire will typically be faint, if extant at all. The hope is that by removing desire for aberrant objects, such as feet, one can allow for the onset of more conventional longings for genital sex. Amazingly -- perhaps bizarrely -- that burgeoning new conventional desire will then be intensified by prescribing a drug such as Viagra! While one can see readily why such a treatment would be employed for pedophiles, the case is less clear for a foot fetishist. One can imagine, then, a quite different treatment for Jacob that began by accepting foot fetishism and then working with him (and his wife) to an accommodation of his desire.
Bergner has said that examining people with extreme sexual desires will tell us not only about their uncommon desires, but of sexual desire in general. The Other Side of Desire demonstrates the wisdom of his insight.
© 2009 Robert Scott Stewart
Robert Scott Stewart, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Cape Breton University