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The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, & the Problem of Domination

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  169 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Why do people submit to authority and derive pleasure even others have over them? What is the appeal of domination and submission, and why are they so prevalent in erotic life? Why is it so difficult for men and women to meet as equals? Why, indeed, do hey continue to recapitulate the positions of master and slave?

In The Bonds of Love, noted feminist theorist and psychoana
Paperback, 318 pages
Published July 12th 1988 by Pantheon (first published 1988)
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This is a fabulous fabulous book. It lags at times, but for someone who is only sparsely versed in psychoanalytic theory (as I am--now being forced out of my protective zone, since I like using people like Kristeva, sans hardcore psychoanalytic theory), Benjamin provides very accessible accounts of major frameworks and debates that have been--and are still being--articulated in the theory. For example, we all know a bit about oedipalization--but Benjamin clearly defines the parameters of various ...more
I was introduced to this book nearly ten years ago by my favorite professor, Dr. Schapiro, and have read and referenced it numerous times since then. I consider it one of the core books that have shaped my personal belief system and values. In fact, almost every book I read for Dr. Schapiro in college is part of that core collection!

Benjamin writes in a way that makes psychoanalysis and feminist theory accessible even to those who have not studied psychology and/or literary criticism. She ties
Aida Hussen
Sep 09, 2007 Aida Hussen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
I've read this book several times before, and am skimming through it once more as I prepare to write a diss chapter that uses psychoanalytic theories of masochism as an allegory for racial/political desire in Octavia Butler's novel "Kindred." Benjamin is brilliant and wonderfully accessible. I alternate between convictions that I am a masochist/that I am a sadist.
Jul 07, 2013 Simon marked it as read-enough-of
Not sure this belongs on my "read-enough-of" shelf (for books where I think I've got the gist adequately) rather than on my simply "unfinished" shelf, but what the heck. I'm gonna live dangerously. The first chapter is on some competing theories of the development of the ego, focussing mostly on what the author calls "intersubjective theory," inspired by Hegel (on the master-slave dialectic) and Winnicott - her approach - and the alternative ego-psychology account (associated here with Margaret ...more
Matthew Leroy
I found it fairly dense, and Benjamin makes very clear the historical positioning that she is coming from. I found this great and informational, but at times it was also hard to follow because of how careful she was in laying the groundwork for how domination comes to exist in individual and cultural experiences. Her thoughts are using Hegel's dialectic of master and slave were informative and I believe influence the way we can think about culture, and microaggressions. It reframes many of the d ...more
Changed my mode of apprehension from as an object to be seen, back to a subject that sees, the original position. I also began to write my novel at this time. I began staring strangers down on the sidewalk to experiment with Benjamin's idea of personhood as colored by this neat dichotomy. Poof, like that, I was looking, seeing thinking and writing.

Cansu Çetin
It is pretty good and easy to read. I've read it enthusiastically as if it were a novel...
Nick Buck
Benjamin is incredible. This is a fascinating look at gender and power. Can't recommend it enough.
Dec 13, 2010 Kalia added it
This is a difficult book for me to read. The psychoanalysis is a bit hard for me at time, but that's not at the root of my troubles. What makes it hard is the content, not the style. Sometimes it's painful to look at myself and my relationships, and that's exactly what this book forces me to do. The problem of domination and more importantly for me, submission, is something i've been thinking about for awhile, so this book his helpful, albeit painful.
Mary K
No, psychoanalysis is still primarily useless aside from literary analysis... but hey, sometimes it produces really stunning works of contemplative feminism. Her discussion of the Story of O is obnoxious; instead of seizing the opportunity to interview an individual involved in the BDSM community, she just interrogates a piece of erotica. Other than that, stellar book.
What I learnt from this book, well I wasn't able to read this book when it was assigned in class. I had a strong resistance towards it probably becasue Jessica Benjamin was literally hitting me right on the head. I guess I have learnt something about myself a year and a half later... Will get around to reading this again. someday
this book was very illuminating for me and helped to bring me out of a real negitive loop cycle regarding my was pretty analitical though not the easiest read of my life...wonder if that was because my ego had so much to learn here?!
Remind me never to read a book with the word "psychoanalysis" in the title or subtitle. Feminist mumbo jumbo is still mumbo jumbo. And I didn't even agree with her principle arguments, especially in chapter 5. Grrr...waste of time.
"The self's aspiration to be absolute destroys the self, as well as the other, for as long as the other cannot face the self as an equal in the struggle, the battle results in loss" (p. 215).
inverts the paradigm by showing how Hobbes's theory and Hobbesian theories are a symptom of the problem of how to love. Changed my views on Columbus and all that.
Easy read on the very complex idea of intersubjectivity.
so much psychoanalysis... too much for me.
Apr 14, 2008 Jack rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jess Brock
I am very grateful that I read this book.
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“In the most common fantasy of ideal love, [...], a woman can only unleash her desire in the hands of a man whom she imagines to be more powerful, who does not depend upon her for his strength. [...] The boundedness and limits within which one can surrender, and in which one can experience abandonment and creativity, are sought in the ideal lover. (p. 120)” 7 likes
“Destruction, in other words, is an effort to differentiate. In childhood, if things go well, destruction results simply in survival;” 0 likes
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