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With all the fuss about porn addiction and hypersexuality, my colleague Lucie Fielding and I are bringing our folkloric and literary knowledge to the table at AASECT 2017.

A public domain image of Snow White receiving the poisoned apple (from an 1852 edition of an Icelandic translation of the Grimms).
A public domain image of Snow White receiving the poisoned apple (from an 1852 edition of an Icelandic translation of the Grimms).

Readers will recall the series of guest posts my colleague Lucie Fielding wrote for me about out-of-control sexual behavior (OCSB), starting with A History of (Hyper-)Sexuality Vol I. I’ve also been addressing this issue in my blogging, as with Why the Language of Porn Addiction Matters. Well, I’m pleased to announce that Lucie and I will be presenting on these topics at AASECT 2017 in Las Vegas this June!

Our abstract is provided below for those who want to know specifically what we’re talking about, but we also want to make two very important points about what our panel contributes to the dialogue:

1) One distinguishing aspect of this workshop is that it brings together the perspectives of both the therapeutic realm and sex education, two perspectives which, while never in conflict, sometimes have different concerns, audiences, and discursive modes. Strangely, it is not terribly common to find educators and therapists occupying the same dais and actively collaborating. But we are coming at the topic of OCSB, hypersexuality, and the addiction model from a position of sharing and exchange, and we believe that doing so adds enormous value to the organization as a whole as well as to audience members seeking to provide accurate human sexuality and sexual health knowledge to clients and students. Both of us have PhDs in humanities disciplines and academic teaching experience with specializations in historical, literary, and folkloric constructions of sexuality and erotic expression. For her part, Lucie is pursuing an MA in Counseling Psychology and is currently in a supervised clinical internship.

2) The theme of this year’s AASECT annual conference is “honoring our past; celebrating the present; and envisioning our future.” We proposed our workshop to purposefully address each aspect of the conference’s theme. We are bringing to bear our literary, folkloric, and historical expertise—and these features represent vitally important perspectival shifts. We know some members of our audience might have the question:  “I’m a therapist treating folks who feel as if they have out of control porn viewing habits, how does knowing about 17th-19th century discourses help me? What has this to do with me? What’s the value-added?” Here, we might revisit Lucie’s reaction to the 2016 AASECT Summer Institute, and particularly David Ley’s closing workshop, namely, that in order to come up with better metaphors (than the sex/porn addiction or hypersexuality models provide) and better stories to engage the field and our clients with regard to OCSB, we need to understand the discursive fields that produced those models and to reveal the classist, misogynist, heterosexist, mono-centric, racist assumptions that underpin them.

For your reading pleasure, here’s the long abstract for our panel, plus a bibliography that we hope you’ll find as tantalizing as we did! And if you’re at AASECT this June, we hope you will attend our panel.


Hungers and Hypersexuality: Locating Sex Addiction in Fairy Tales, Erotic Novels, and Overheated Uteruses

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” warned twentieth-century philosopher George Santayana. This sentiment is precisely what has happened with respect to what we now call sex addiction and hypersexuality.

Historians of the sex addiction model often describe sex addiction and hypersexuality as “a product of late twentieth-century cultural anxieties” borne out of the so-called sexual revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s, the offspring of a confluence of discourses including “an addiction discourse (gambling, alcohol) that leant itself almost seamlessly to sexual matters; a strange and momentary combination of conservative Christian and radical feminist social purity; and the initial impact of AIDS in the 1980s that so dramatically intensified such sexual apprehensions” (Reay, Attwood, and Gooder, 2015, p. 7). The contemporary social contexts that combine to make the sex addiction model so impactful are undoubtedly real, and very present in the minds of those struggling with what they feel to be out of control sexual behavior.

But the discursive field of sex addiction and hypersexuality, we argue, is far older and far more deeply imbricated in Western European conceptions of gender, sexuality, and even race, than previously acknowledged or discussed. Through explorations of literary, folkloric, philosophical, and proto-psychiatric texts, this panel will delve into the history structuring and underlying what we now think of as sex addiction and hypersexuality. Special attention will be given to female sexuality, subjected for the last two centuries to diagnoses of nymphomania based on amorphous and fluid conditions (Groneman, 1995), given that the construction of female sexuality differs widely in literary and folk texts of the same time periods.

Our transdisciplinary approach—spanning sex education, sex therapy, cultural history, erotic literature, and folkloristics—offers the combined benefit of collaborative methods and insights, as our materials range from literary texts, both censored and popular folklore collections (Legman, 1964), and obscene folk songs, to early modern scientific texts on gender and sexuality and modern critiques thereof. In particular, the shift from the one-sex to the two-sex model (Laqueur, 1990) and its implications for how sexuality was located, especially in women’s bodies, will be explored.

We will lecture on how hypersexuality is conceptually bound up in early modern anxieties over hunger, appetite, excess, moral-physical degeneracy, cis female sexuality, early race theory, and the consumption of the explosive new media of the eighteenth century, the novel. And we will engage panel attendees in a discussion of how this rich and troubled history continues to impact us as sex educators and sex therapists and how we might break out of this history through an informed, sexual health-grounded framework. This workshop’s focus thus continually shifts from a reflection on the past to a consideration of how that past has been used to shape our cultural present.

Braun-Harvey, D., & Vigorito, M. A. (2016). Treating out of control sexual behavior: Rethinking sex addiction. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Carnes, P. J. (2001). Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (3rd ed.). Center City, MN: Hazelden. Originally published 1983.

Goulemot, J-M. (1991). Ces livres qu’on ne lit que d’une main. Lecture et lecteurs du livre pornographique au XVIIIe siècle.  Aix-en-Provence: Alinéa.

Groneman, C. (1995). Nymphomania: The historical construction of female sexuality. In J. Terry & J. Urla (Eds.), Deviant Bodies (pp. 219-249). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kafka, M. P. (2010). Hypersexual Disorder: A proposed diagnosis for DSM-V. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(2), 377–400.

Kingston, D. A., & Firestone, P. (2008). Problematic hypersexuality: A review of conceptualization and diagnosis. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 15(4), 284–310.

Klein, M. (2012). America’s war on sex: the continuing attack on law, lust, and liberty. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger.

Laqueur, T. (1990). Making sex: body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press.

Laqueur, T. (2003). Solitary sex: a cultural history of masturbation. New York: Zone Books.

Legman, G. (1964). The horn book: Studies in erotic folklore and bibliography. New Hyde Park, New York: University Books Inc.,

Ley, D., Prause, N., & Finn, P. (2014). The emperor has no clothes: A review of the “Pornography Addiction” model. Current Sexual Health Reports, 6(2), 94–105.

Ley, D. J. (2012). The myth of sex addiction. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition of childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York : Irvington Publishers.

Money, J., & Lamacz, M. (1989). Vandalized lovemaps: paraphilic outcome of seven cases in pediatric sexology. Buffalo, N.J.: Prometheus Books.

Reay, B., Attwood, N., & Gooder, C. (2015). Sex addiction: A critical history. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity.

Reid, R. C., Carpenter, B. N., Hook, J. N., Garos, S., Manning, J. C., Gilliland, R., … Fong, T. (2012). Report of findings in a DSM‐5 field trial for Hypersexual Disorder. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9(11), 2868–2877.

Riskin, J. (2002). Science in the Age of Sensibility: The sentimental empiricists of the French Enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Rosario, V. A. (1997). The erotic imagination: French histories of perversity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rousseau, G. S. (1982). Nymphomania, Bienville and the rise of erotic sensibility. In P.-G. Boucé (Ed.), Sexuality in Eighteenth-Century Britain (pp. 95-119). Totowa, N.J.: Manchester University Press.

Stayton, W. R. (2007). Sexual values systems and sexual health. In Sexual health (Vol. 3). Westport, Conn.: Praeger.

Teulon, F. (1998). Le Voluptueux et le gourmand: économie de la jouissance chez La Mettrie et Brillat-Savarin. Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures (Symposium) 52 (3), 176-92.

Vila, A. C. (1998). Enlightenment and pathology: Sensibility in the literature and medicine of Eighteenth-Century France. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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Jeana Jorgensen

FOXY FOLKORIST Studied folklore under Alan Dundes at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to earn her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy...