Feeling Fetishes: Toward an Affective Theory of Sexuality Restricted; Files Only

Allen, Samantha Leigh (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5d86p049j?locale=en
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Abstract

Sexual fetishism has played a critical role in the development of the concept of a drive or sexual instinct that underlies sexological, psychological, and psychoanalytic theories of sexuality and yet it cannot be adequately described by those same theories. In this dissertation, I develop an affective theory of human sexuality grounded in the work of psychologist Silvan S. Tomkins that can understand sexual fetishism not as a deviation of the drive or sexual instinct but rather as a complex affective engagement with objects, practices, and ideas. This dissertation seeks both to advance sexual fetishism as an object of study for contemporary feminist and queer theory and to position Tomkins as a rich but underutilized resource for the study of sexuality. I will argue that the conceptual subordination of the drive or sexual instinct to Tomkins' affect system would have radical consequences for queer and feminist approaches to sexual variation.

In the Introduction, I argue via Michel Foucault that sexual fetishism helps to generate modern theories of sexuality from Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis to the work of Sigmund Freud. I observe that drive-foundational theories of sexuality have precluded an exploration of sexuality as affect. In Chapter One, I construct an affective theory of sexuality using Tomkins' Affect, Imagery, Consciousness in order to issue a challenge the conceptual primacy accorded to the drive or sexual instinct. In Chapter Two, I apply this theory of sexuality to a wide range of fetish literature including a psychological report on erotic vomiting; an Internet forum for sneezing fetishists; a selection mid twentieth-century aversion therapy research; as well as late twentieth-century fetish newsletters from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. In Chapter Three, I argue that reading sexual fetishism and other forms of sexual variation through the lens of a weak affective theory would run counter to a tendency of feminist and queer theory to use the category of perversion for illocutionary ends.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: Why Fetishism? ...................................................... 1

CHAPTER ONE: Toward an Affective Theory of Sexuality ..................... 37

CHAPTER TWO: Feeling Fetishes ...................................................... 72

CHAPTER THREE: Perversion ......................................................... 137

CODA: The Logic of the Heart ........................................................ 175

BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................ 179

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