1st Edition

A Womb of Her Own Women's Struggle for Sexual and Reproductive Autonomy

    264 Pages
    by Routledge

    264 Pages
    by Routledge

    Gender and body-based distinctions continue to be a defining component of women’s identities, both in psychoanalytic treatment and in life. Although females have made progress in many areas, their status within the human community has remained unstable and subject to societal whim. A Womb of Her Own brings together a distinguished group of contributors to explore, from a psychoanalytic perspective, the ways in which women’s sexual and reproductive capabilities, and their bodies, are regarded as societal and patriarchal property, not as the possession of individual women. It further examines how women have been viewed as the "other" and thus become the focus of mistreatment such as rape, sexual slavery, restriction of reproduction rights, and ongoing societal repression.  

    Postmodern gender theories have greatly enhanced understanding of the fluidity of gender and freed women from repressive stereotypes, but attention has shifted prematurely from the power differential that continues to exist between men and women. Before the male/female binary is transcended, the limitations imposed upon women by the still prevailing patriarchal order must be addressed. To this end, A Womb of Her Own addresses issues such as the prevalence of rape culture and its historical roots; the relationship of the LGBT movement to feminism; current sexual practices such as sexting and tattooing and their meaning to women; reproductive issues including infertility; adoption; postpartum depression and the actual experience of birthing—all from the perspectives of women. The book also explores the cultural definitions of motherhood, and how such definitions set exacting standards both for the acceptable face of motherhood and for women generally.

    While women’s unique anatomy and biology have historically contributed to their oppression in a patriarchal society, it is the exploration and illumination of these capabilities from their own perspective that will allow women to claim and control them as their own. Covering a broad, topical range of contemporary subjects, A Womb of Her Own will appeal to psychoanalysts, psychoanalytic psychotherapists, as well as scholars and students of gender and women’s studies.

    Introduction Ellen L. K. Toronto

    Section One: A Culture of Oppression

    Commentary on Section One Maurine Kelly

    Chapter One: Gender Inequality in a (Still) Binary World Ellen L. K. Toronto

    Chapter Two: Feminism: A Revolutionary Call about Female Sexuality Doris Silverman

    Chapter Three: "We’re (Not) Pregnant": Gay Men and Women’s Reproductive Rights Richard Ruth

    Response to Section One Marilyn Metzl

    Section Two: Women and Sexual Trauma

    Commentary on Section Two Kristin Davisson

    Chapter Four: Date Rape and the Demon-Lover Complex: The Devine, The Deviant, and the Diabolical in Male/Female Politics Susan Kavaler-Adler

    Chapter Five: Secondary Sexual Trauma of Women: Female Witnesses Kristin Davisson

    Chapter Six: Chasing Justice: By Stander Intervention and Restorative Justice in the Contexts of College Campuses and Psychoanalytic Institutes Katie Gentile

    Section Three: Women Defining Motherhood

    Commentary on Section Three JoAnn Ponder

    Chapter Seven: Childfree Women: Surviving the Pushback and Forming an Identity in the Internet Era Adi Avivi

    Chapter Eight: A Perfect Birth: The Birth Rights Movement and the Idealization of Birth Helena Vissing

    Chapter Nine: From Infertility and Empty Womb to Maternal Fulfillment: The Psychological Birth of the Adoptive Mother JoAnn Ponder

    Section Four: Mother as Therapist / Therapist as Mother

    Commentary on Section Four Ellen L. K. Toronto

    Chapter Ten: Too Soft, Too Warm, Too Maternal: What is Good Enough? Meredith Darcy

    Chapter Eleven: Get a Grip: How a Psychotherapist’s Postpartum Depression Disrupted the Illusion of the Idealized Mother and Changed Forever What It Means to "Hold" Kristin Reale


    Ellen L.K. Toronto is in private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is co-editor of Psychoanalytic Reflections on a Gender-free Case: Into the Void (Routledge, 2005), the author of Family Entanglement (CreateSpace 2013) and writes a weekly parenting blog for PsychCentral.

    JoAnn Ponder, PhD is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Austin, Texas.

    Kristin Davisson, PsyD is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Chicago.

    Maurine Kelber Kelly PhD, FIPA is a Training and Supervising Analyst with the Contemporary Freudian Society and served as adjunct faculty in the PsyD program at The George Washington University.


    "Written by psychoanalytic scholars, researchers and clinicians, the publication presents a transformative multidimensional view of women’s experience in a cultural context of a patriarchal society. In exploring dynamics of complex interactivity of biological, cultural and intropsychic factors, psychoanalytic theory is used to conceptualize the issues, as well as to offer novel ways to address them. By putting the inseparatble link between the functioning female body and female psychological development at the center, the book takes the conversation on femininity and female development as primary to another level, towards true internal and external emancipation."-Eva D. Papiasvili, PhD, ABPP, Co-Chair for North America of the International Psychoanalytical Association’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis Task Force.

    "This is a unique, important, and powerful book which has provided these authors with a unique platform from which to speak and be heard. The title calls our attention to and plays on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 classic A Room of One's Own, which was a call to action for women writers to acknowledge and free themselves from the dominance of men in the literary world. As in this book, Woolf was critiquing the difference between the idealized position of women as objects and their experience of being silenced as subjects. This book takes Virginia Wolf’s call for action to important new psychological levels, not centering the conversation in the usual abstract postmodern discourse, but speaking directly from women’s bodies, their womb, their sexuality, and their ever present consciousness of rape as a crushing act of personal and political power. As a man, I did not feel talked down to but rather included in difficult and painful conversations including: choosing to become a mother or not; struggles with infertility; adoption; hooking up; and finding personal and communal voices through which to speak after being crushed and silenced by rape. I was quite moved by this book and began looking at women and their experience from a different, more truly egalitarian perspective. I enthusiastically recommend this book to woman who will feel affirmed, recognized and empowered, and to men who will have a deeper appreciation for woman as full subjects rather than simply as idealized mothers or fantasy sexual beings."-Joseph Newirth, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University and former Director, Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, NYU; author of  Between Emotion and Cogniiton: The Generative Unconscious.