Amsterdam Research Center for Gender and Sexuality

“Normophilia and Biophilia in John Money’s Sexology”

19Oct2012 15:30 - 17:00


Lisa Downing (Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality, University of Birmingham)

Universiteitstheater 3.01 (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16-18)

  • Universiteitstheater

    Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16-18 | 1012 CP Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 2997

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Of all twentieth-century sexologists, New-Zealand born, Johns Hopkins-based John Money 1921-2006) perhaps contributed the most to theories and treatment of sexual perversion or, as it became known in twentieth-century psychiatry, "paraphilia".  Although Money’s texts from the 1980s explicitly reject the values and systems of his historical forebears - the sexologists of the European nineteenth century - their logic and rhetoric nevertheless haunt Money’s thinking. This paper focuses on one key aspect of Money’s work on paraphilia that echoes nineteenth-century perceptions: namely, the idea that paraphilia is the dangerous and deadly form of eroticism that compromises the proper, life-giving “nature” of reproductive sexuality and thereby threatens the social order. It argues that, at the fantasy level of Money’s system, paraphilia is understood as leading to individual and social death. The lecture explores Money’s wish to attain a “paraphilia-free” world, alongside his paradoxical call for “a pluralistic democracy of sexualism” showing that his writing on paraphilia reveals one of the tensions at the heart of his “sex-positive” liberalism and libertarianism. For Money, and many who influenced and follow him, the possibility of the figure of the paraphilic citizen is not admitted. Using insights from the anti-social turn in queer theory, I critique the bio-normativity of Money's "normophilia" and the conservative paradigm of health and harm on which it rests.


Published by  ARCGS