1st Edition

The Age of Perversion Desire and Technology in Psychoanalysis and Culture

By Danielle Knafo, Rocco Lo Bosco Copyright 2017
    302 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    302 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis Book Prize Winner for 2018 (Theoretical Category)

    We have entered the age of perversion, an era in which we are becoming more like machines and they more like us.The Age of Perversion explores the sea changes occurring in sexual and social life, made possible by the ongoing technological revolution, and demonstrates how psychoanalysts can understand and work with manifestations of perversion in clinical settings.

    Until now theories of perversion have limited their scope of inquiry to sexual behavior and personal trauma. The authors of this book widen that inquiry to include the social and political sphere, tracing perversion’s existential roots to the human experience of being a conscious animal troubled by the knowledge of death. Offering both creative and destructive possibilities, perversion challenges boundaries and norms in every area of life and involves transgression, illusion casting, objectification, dehumanization, and the radical quest for transcendence.

    This volume presents several clinical cases, including a man who lived with and loved a sex doll, a woman who wanted to be a Barbie doll, and an Internet sex addict. Also examined are cases of widespread social perversion in corporations, the mental health care industry, and even the government. In considering the continued impact of technology, the authors discuss how it is changing the practice of psychotherapy. They speculate about what the future may hold for a species who will redefine what it means to be human more in the next few decades than during any other time in human history. 

    The Age of Perversion provides a novel examination of the convergence of perversion and technology that will appeal to psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists, social workers, mental health counselors, sex therapists, sexologists, roboticists, and futurists, as well as social theorists and students and scholars of cultural studies.

    Part One: Theories of Perversion and Three Clinical Cases

    Chapter 1. Psychoanalysis and Perversion

    Chapter 2. Guys and Dolls: A Pygmalian Fantasy

    Chapter 3. Soul in Silicone (How Dolls Become Real)

    Chapter 4. Gals and Dolls: Fake Babies and Living Barbies

    Part Two: Widening the Scope of Perversion: Existential and Techno-Social Domains

    Chapter 5. Perversion: Historical, Existential, and Social

    Chapter 6. Technology and its Discontents: The Dark Side of Cyberworld

    Chapter 7. The Institutionalization of Human Evil: 1984 as a Paradigm for Perversion

    Chapter 8. Black Mirror


    Danielle Knafo is a professor in the clinical psychology doctoral program at Long Island University and a faculty member and supervisor in New York University's postdoctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. She has lectured internationally and published extensively, including Dancing with the Unconscious (2012) with Routledge. She maintains a private practice in New York. 

    Rocco Lo Bosco is a teacher and writer who has published nonfiction, poetry, short stories, and two novels - Buddha Wept (2003) and Ninety Nine (2015). He edits articles on psychoanalysis, science, and the philosophy of science.

    The Age of Perversion is a riveting (pun intended!) existential psychodynamic account of perversion in the 21st century. Building on Freud's pioneering insights -- fortified by wide-ranging interdisciplinary scholarship, clinical case studies, and empirical inquiry -- Knafo and Lo Bosco explain how perversity, for better and worse, is the inevitable manifestation of self-conscious human animals protesting their corporeality and finitude: desperately striving to maintain a sense of meaning and value in a sexually saturated, narcissistically inflated, commercially inundated, technologically permeated, rapidly changing cultural milieu. Playful, profound, and provocative; a must read."-Sheldon Solomon, Author, The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

    "Knafo and LoBosco have written a veritable atlas of human perversion, which includes, among its delights and surprises, the perverse practices of the NSA, the APA, and the Vatican. Knafo, a renowned analyst, takes us into her consulting room where she works with men who marry dolls and women desperate to look like dolls while Lo Bosco illuminates the perversity of various corporate practices. The authors leave the reader thinking differently not only about sexual acts but also about the perverse strategies we all use to violate boundaries, toy with the forbidden, and deny death. This disturbing and remarkable book makes it clear that the very way we define our humanity is changing before our eyes." -Deborah Anna Luepnitz, Ph.D., Author, Schopenhauer's Porcupines: Intimacy and its Dilemmas.

    "Through their exquisite clinical/sociocultural observations, Knafo and Lo Bosco render virtual, robotic relations frighteningly sensible. With depth and breadth, they broaden the gender spectrum to include dolls, robots, gynoids and androids. They describe perverse forms of relating as psychogenetically adaptive, salvation-seeking efforts while warning that the capacity to damage social life is profound. The authors also make important connections between techno-perversion and trafficking, genocidal atrocities and black markets for organs, guns, and drugs. If there is a redemptive quality to this disturbing, dark subject, it is the authors’ ability to find meaning and method in these dangerous acts. They have crafted an insightful, disturbingly relevant book that all clinicians should read."-Andrea Celenza, Ph.D., Author, Erotic Revelations: Clinical Applications and Perverse Scenarios

    "Danielle Knafo and Rocco Lo Bosco have produced a book that is equally frightening and enlightening. By considering the boundary between the human and the machine, they touch on issues in the philosophy of science, ethics, sociology and social psychology as well as clinical psychoanalysis. Their synthesis of these fields and their combination of depth and breadth make theirs a book well worth reading.

    In a unique combination of daring, scholarship and compassion, the authors enter the world of a future where the line between the human and the machine is blurred so badly, it is merely smudge on the horizon. While considering the difference between love and perversion they give the reader a sense of how technology provides a substitute for human love that can satisfy some men more than interaction with another person could do. In her case studies, Dr. Knafo dares to raise the question of whether we should regard this as pathology or as the best some people can do in finding satisfaction in their otherwise isolated and lonely lives. 

    In contrast to Knafo’s psychoanalytic view of the use of dolls as sexual partners, this book contains a sociological view of sexual and aggressive aspects of perversion provided by the authors. The world of no feeling but mastery and of no communication but constant chatter predicted by Orwell provides a framework for the scary projections of a future in which machines think better than humans and humans exist to serve machines. The possibility of such a world is chilling. So the authors warn readers against what the readers have little or no power to avoid or control."-Arlene Kramer Richards, Author, A Fresh Look at Perversions.

    "The Age of Perversion courageously explores the impact of technology on human life–– sex dolls, electronic devices, robots, the Internet, and more. Based both on broad research and in depth clinical investigation, the book has several merits. It acquaints the reader with an astonishing range of perversions that have only become possible through new technologies. It explores the social side of perversion and examines how perversion has entered mainstream culture. Finally, it shows how psychoanalytic theory helps us understand the seemingly weird and unintelligible in human and humane terms."-Carlo Strenger, Ph.D., Author, The Fear of Insignificance: Searching for Meaning in the Twenty-First Century and Freud’s Legacy in the Global Era.

    From the preface: "This book examines how our ever-increasing access to technology is profoundly altering our lives, endowing inanimate objects with social and sexual cachet, and stretching the boundaries of our normal frames of reference."-David Levy, author, Love and Sex with Robots.