In 1974, Danish feminist Maria Marcus published Den Frygtelige Sandhed. En Brugs-Bog om Kvinder og Masokisme (The Awful Truth; a Workbook on Women andIn 1974, Danish feminist Maria Marcus published Den Frygtelige Sandhed. En Brugs-Bog om Kvinder og Masokisme (The Awful Truth; a Workbook on Women and Masochism); in 1981 it was published in English as A Taste for Pain; On Masochism and Female Sexuality. It’s an inquiry into masochism in women:
• A journal of Marcus’ struggle to come to terms with her own sexuality
• A report of her investigation into the theories of the experts
• Reflections on the depiction of women masochists in pornography or literature (starting, of course with the work of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and including The Story of O — which she calls a fable, a warning to women about brainwashing from our culture of male domination)
• And a plea to women masochists, to talk about it together; so we can learn how to heal our sexuality.
She studied everything she could find in order to understand herself. She conscientiously reports her feelings, reactions, experience; she carefully, rationally, analyzes as far as she can; she falls back eventually to metaphor, to story, as the only way to express what she perceives.
She stays rational much longer than I can when thinking about Sigmund Freud and his progeny, reporting on seven different psychoanalytic theories of masochism (all three separate ones from Freud himself), evaluating their fit to her experience. As I read the views of these presumed experts, I cringed. I raged. I felt crammed into one box and then another. I left Marcus’ book and came back, thinking I must pay attention to these ideas; they are what has formed my culture, formed my expectations. How can I break free of them if I can’t think about them?
She does find one psychoanalyst she can relate to: Karen Horney. Marcus applauds Horney for her radical departure from the Freudian canon in stressing the role of culture. However, Marcus observes that Horney questioned whether masochism is a sexual phenomenon, or a fundamental character structure expressed in all fields, and so in the sexual field as well.”  This would make sexual masochism only “a kind of sub-division of ordinary all-comprehensive authoritarian masochism, including a desire for subjection at all levels.”  Marcus disagrees: she sees sexual masochism as “clearly a very much more independent illness.”
Marcus differentiates two main forms of masochism: 1) sexual and 2) authoritarian, the habit of subordinating oneself, putting oneself down, that results from the authoritarian structure of our culture.  Marcus concludes they are separate from her own experience in emerging from social/authoritarian masochism while the sexual pattern remains recalcitrant. In addition however, she observes, the culture conflates the sexual and social problems, into one “female masochism,” regarding women as victims by nature. This mishmash, Marcus declares, is what makes the most harm.
Marcus also likes another important contributor to the theory of masochism: Wilhelm Reich, who valued orgasm as our primary connection to the life-force, the way to be in balance with the universe. He put the blame for neuroses on the punishment-based power structure of the traditional nuclear family. That all makes sense to Marcus (and to me, too). But she observes that Reich says “not a word about women.” Nothing about the larger cultural structures enforcing male domination, nothing about the sexualization of that domination. Nothing about how women are brainwashed by that domination into submission socially, psychologically, and sexually.
As Karen Horney observed, “In our culture it is hard to see how any woman can escape becoming masochistic to some degree, from the effects of the culture alone.”  We are all dealing with what Maria Marcus talks about. But Marcus blazes trail. The courage of this woman awes me: her dedication to learning and speaking the truth. She bears unflinching witness to the depths of her own soul, examining herself, questioning How? Why? … as well as What now?
￼  Marcus p. 227.  ibid.  The concept comes from Erich Fromm’s term “authoritarian personality” which he coined in Fear of Freedom.(1941?)  Feminine Psychology, 1967, p. 231...more
A four-year-old videotape of a gang rape proves the offense if the statute of limitations can be reinterpreted. This novella lacks some of the charactA four-year-old videotape of a gang rape proves the offense if the statute of limitations can be reinterpreted. This novella lacks some of the character and plot development of a full novel, but it gives a thoughtful investigation of how we make moral and ethical decisions. How over time our understanding of these values changes... and perhaps we grow in humanity, but the cost is painful....more
Case studies and interviews of people with brain problems that were retrained, with descriptions of the research that's expanding our realization of hCase studies and interviews of people with brain problems that were retrained, with descriptions of the research that's expanding our realization of how adaptable the brain is....more
Fascinating, fun, informative and up-to-date. Roach's wit provides relief from the mind-boggling density of academic research; her common-sense perspeFascinating, fun, informative and up-to-date. Roach's wit provides relief from the mind-boggling density of academic research; her common-sense perspective provides balance as she observes the researchers' biases. For example I learned from Bonk that Masters & ohnson pre-screened subjects for their fillx Sexual Response and selected only those women who reported a high frequency of orgasm during intercourse....more
Thassadit Amzwar has an unusually sunny disposition. The book hinges on how much of this is genetic. Certainly she does seem to have skills others canThassadit Amzwar has an unusually sunny disposition. The book hinges on how much of this is genetic. Certainly she does seem to have skills others can learn. But fame puts her through depressing changes. I was inspired by one remarkable scene, in which she stops a classmate from raping her -- by screaming at him a frantic, compassionate plea against what it would do to him....more
Brief biography/interviews, of twelve women who, like Mariane and her late husband Daniel, work for peace and justice, in the face of terrible odds. ABrief biography/interviews, of twelve women who, like Mariane and her late husband Daniel, work for peace and justice, in the face of terrible odds. As I read, the power of their faith and compassion lifted my heart. The articles are taken from a column Mariane Pearl wrote for Glamour magazine, which donates 100% of its proceeds and royalties from the book to charities selected by the women profiled. Lots of color photos....more
Pages 81 through 91 describes the 11-hour sit in, on March 18, 1970, by a coalition of Women's Liberation Groups in the office of John Mack Carter, edPages 81 through 91 describes the 11-hour sit in, on March 18, 1970, by a coalition of Women's Liberation Groups in the office of John Mack Carter, editor-in-chief of the Ladies' Home Journal. The demonstrators demanded Carter's resignation; that did not happen. They demanded a full issue of the magazine in which to publish their views on the true needs of women, and the ways they are denied. What the demonstrators got was a special eight-page section titled "The New Feminism" which they wrote, in the August issue.��Hershey, who was there as managing editor, also relates what an awakening the experience was for her personally. In 1973 she became the first female editor-in-chief since the magazine's inception, and served in that position for eight years. The following chapter, to page 108, continues her reflections on the subject of the women's movement, and the necessity for it. The rest of the book is memoirs about various other aspects of her career....more
A curious book, demonstrating both attitudes we still hold and some notable changes in thinking. For example he comments that Sappho could not have acA curious book, demonstrating both attitudes we still hold and some notable changes in thinking. For example he comments that Sappho could not have actually been writing about erotic love between women; it's just not possible: she must have been talking about friendship. Originally published in two volumes; this edition contains only the first....more
Miranda Shaw says of Chopel "A brilliant, iconoclastic scholar, he became convinced that the path of passion is the essence of the Tantric teachings aMiranda Shaw says of Chopel "A brilliant, iconoclastic scholar, he became convinced that the path of passion is the essence of the Tantric teachings and forsook monasticism, seeking enlightenment instead through the practice of sexual sadhana. Although the knowledge required for this path was not immediately accessible to him, he re-created the path for himself on the basis of textual research and experimentation and then developed his own theoretical elaboration of the path." (pp. 207-208, Passionate Enlightenment)...more