Sexuality and disfiguration: from 19th century medical theories to psychoanalytic's infantile sexual theories

By Andréa Linhares

What relationships exist between sexuality and the body images? Medical literature of the early 19th century repeatedly established a link between sexual practices and morphology, between physical attraction and anatomical differences. According to the illustrious doctors of this period, the idea of corporeal disfiguration was often connected to deviant sexual practices. Disfiguration was sometimes imagined as the cause of forbidden desires or the visible physiological consequence of illicit sexual relations. It was as if the so-called “normal” body corresponded to the so-called “normal” sexual practices and vice versa. The deformed body would therefore reflect sexuality which was abnormal, repressed and ungraspable. Can these historical conceptions of the body and sex cast light on certain experiences we encounter in psychoanalytic practice today? That is the goal of this article; in both cases, the image of disfiguration may constitute a bodily figure able to include the excess, strangeness and infraction proper to unconscious sexuality.

  • fantasy
  • disfiguration
  • anatomy
  • deviant sexuality
  • infantile sexual theories
Go to the article on