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The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, & the Problem of Dominationby Jessica Benjamin
Synopses & Reviews
From its beginnings in Twilight fan-fiction to its record-breaking sales as an e-book and paperback, the story of the erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey and its two sequels is both unusual and fascinating. Having sold over seventy million copies worldwide since 2011, E. L. Jamess lurid series about a sexual ingénue and the powerful young entrepreneur who introduces her to BDSM sex has ingrained itself in our collective consciousness. But why have these particular novels—poorly written and formulaic as they are—become so popular, especially among women over thirty?
In this concise, engaging book, Eva Illouz subjects the Fifty Shades cultural phenomenon to the serious scrutiny it has been begging for. After placing the trilogy in the context of best-seller publishing, she delves into its remarkable appeal, seeking to understand the intense reading pleasure it provides and how that resonates with the structure of relationships between men and women today. Fifty Shades, Illouz argues, is a gothic romance adapted to modern times in which sexuality is both a source of division between men and women and a site to orchestrate their reconciliation. As for the novels notorious depictions of bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism, Illouz shows that these are as much a cultural fantasy as a sexual one, serving as a guide to a happier romantic life. The Fifty Shades trilogy merges romantic fantasy with self-help guide—two of the most popular genres for female readers.
The Fifty Shades trilogy of erotic romance novels has been a publishing sensation, with over seventy million copies sold worldwide since the first volume appeared in 2011. Clearly, Fifty Shades is a cultural phenomenon worth serious scrutiny, and sociologist Eva Illouz provides it in this short, engaging book. Illouz first places the trilogy in the context of best-seller publishing, then delves into the nature of its appeal. She argues that the Fifty Shades trilogy is neither “mommy porn” nor anti-feminist hackwork. Rather, she shows that it affords intense reading pleasure to many women readers because it resonates with the sociological structure of mens and womens relationships today. Fifty Shades, she argues, is a gothic romance adapted to modern times in which sexuality is a source both of division between men and women and a site to orchestrate their reconciliation. But Illouz also wants to show that BDSM is as much a cultural as a sexual fantasy, for it functions here as a self-help category, a guide to a happier romantic life. In other words, Fifty Shades is genre fiction that weaves together a commentary on the deprived condition of love and sexuality, a romantic fantasy, and self-help instructions on how to improve the readers life.
Why do people submit to authority and derive pleasure even others have over them? What is the appeal of domination and submission, and why are they so prevalent in erotic life? Why is it so difficult for men and women to meet as equals? Why, indeed, do hey continue to recapitulate the positions of master and slave?
In The Bonds of Love, noted feminist theorist and psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin explains why we accept and perpetuate relationships of domination and submission. She reveals that domination is a complex psychological process which ensnares both parties in bonds of complicity, and shows how it underlies our family life, our social institutions, and especially our sexual relations, in spite of our conscious commitment to equality and freedom.
About the Author
Jessica Benjamin is a practicing psychoanalyst in New York City and is on the faculty of the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Her highly acclaimed articles have been published in feminist and psychoanalytic journals and are widely anthologized.
Table of Contents
1 Best-Sellers and Our Social Unconscious
2 How to Find Emotional Certainty in a World of Sexual Uncertainty
Epilogue: Sado-Masochism as a Romantic Utopia
Coda: BDSM and Immanence
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