Psychoanalysis and Contemporary American Men: Gender Identity in a Time of Uncertainty, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Psychoanalysis and Contemporary American Men

Gender Identity in a Time of Uncertainty, 1st Edition

By Steven Seidman, Alan Frank


260 pages

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Debate over gender and especially the lives of men is currently at a fever pitch, particularly in the United States. New perspectives that capture the complexity of men and a rapidly changing gender landscape are therefore critical today. Psychoanalysis and Contemporary American Men challenges narrow stereotyped views of men by arguing that men are as complex and layered as women.

In the light of the recent #MeToo movement, stereotypes of men are being recycled. While aligned with the spirit of this movement, the authors worry that negative stereotypes of men are being perpetrated at the very time that men are renegotiating their gender experience. The authors present a critical non-heteronormative perspective addressing current gender transformations. Although the lives of men are changing, the stories that dominate the public sphere often represent them as narrowly phallic—controlling, detached, sexist, and homophobic. Seidman and Frank offer a counter point: men are also "guardians" driven to be useful and to do good, to live valued and purposeful lives. They argue that men are not only driven by a will to power but by an ethically-minded, relationally-oriented sense of responsibility to care for others, whether partners, children, or fellow citizens.

Drawing on historical, sociological, and psychoanalytic work, this book provides a nuanced, multidimensional construct of American men today. Psychoanalysis and Contemporary American Men will be of interest to psychoanalysts and psychotherapists as well as scholars and students of gender and queer studies.


"I admit I was skeptical that a traditional psychoanalytic framework could encompass the massive changes in gender and sexuality, but Seidman and Frank proved me wrong. Their explorations of masculinity widens the range of psychoanalysis and also deepens our understanding of different groups of men. A primer for our time."—Michael Kimmel, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies; Executive Director, Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, USA

"Doing for men what psychoanalytic feminists have done for women, Seidman and Frank offer compelling perspectives and fascinating clinical stories revealing the struggles men undergo as they wrestle with phallic and narcissistic masculine demands while creating their own ethically informed and individualized gendered subjectivities. This book makes it clear that psychoanalytic exploration is crucial for understanding the extraordinary range of how contemporary men ‘do’ gender."—Lynne Layton, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis, USA; author of Who's That Girl? Who's That Boy? Clinical Practice Meets Postmodern Gender Theory

Table of Contents

Preface Chapter 1: Gender Uncertainty in 21st Century America: Psychoanalysis Widens the Conversation Chapter 2: Straight Families Making Straight Boys: Phallic and Relational Threads in Boys’ Early Lives Chapter 3: Gay Boyhoods and Fathers: The Gay Oedipus & Beyond Chapter 4: Authenticity: Men’s Struggle to Live an Ethical Life Chapter 5: Between Abjection and the Ecstatic: The Erotic Lives of Men Chapter 6: Intimate Knots: The Unconscious Dynamics of Intimacies Afterword: A Transsituated Perspective on Bodies and Genders

About the Authors

Steven Seidman has written widely in the areas of gender, sexuality, queer studies, and American culture. His books include Romantic Longings: Love in America 18301980, Embattled Eros: Sexual politics and Ethics in Contemporary America, and Beyond the Closet: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life. He is currently a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City, USA.

Alan Frank co-edited Intimacies: A New World of Relational Life (Routledge, 2013). He is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City, USA.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies