Freud's ménage à quatre

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The term sex is ambiguous, referring to both sexual difference and sexual behavior. Most psychoanalytic research over the past few decades has focused on the former (often under the rubric of gender) to the neglect of the latter. Likewise, the academic field of queer theory has drifted away from thinking about sex in favor of other objects of inquiry. In this chapter, Dean thinks through the difficulty of sex, and specifically the challenge of dispelling certain assumptions about it—such as its dyadic relationality, ineluctable heterosexuality, vulnerability to pathologization, and its status as either symptom or cure. For Dean, what is most proper to psychoanalysis is not heterosexuality, but a sexuality that undoes stable binary categories. He refers to Freud’s famous quip that there are at least four people present in any coupling of two, showing how psychoanalytic insight makes simple arithmetic not so simple at all. What may be symptomatic, in the end, are our assumptions that we can say with certitude what sex is. Our confident descriptions and prescriptions are perhaps symptomatic of the relentless pressure induced by the enigmas at the heart of sex.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychoanalysis, Gender, and Sexualities
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Feminism to Trans
EditorsPatricia Gherovici, Manya Steinkoler
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003284888
ISBN (Print)9781032257587, 9781032257600
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Freud's ménage à quatre'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this