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Int J Psychoanal 2007;88:113552

10.1516/ijpa.2007.1135

The intersubjective links in perversion1


ALBERTO EIGUER
154 rue dAlesia, F-75014 Paris France albertoeiguer@voila.fr
(Final version accepted 19 October 2006)

The author studies the intersubjective links which the pervert maintains with
analyst or partner, attempting to indicate the differences between the investments
in each case. Rather than accepting that empathy towards these patients is
impossible to achieve and disturbs the countertransference profoundly, it attempts
to show that these difficulties may be overcome if they are reinterpreted in the
light of the theory of the intersubjective link. The author examines the theories and
the practice of intersubjectivity and gives a definition of his approach to the link
between two subjects. He applies these ideas to the case of a sexually masochistic
female patient. The countertransference is marked successively by indifference,
rejection and smothering. The analysis of the analysts dream allows the situation
to evolve. Failures in primary identification can result in domination over others
and utilitarianism. The author examines the place of the challenge to the Law
and the father (in the attempt by the patient to put a theory to the test) in order to
identify the figure of the witness in the perverts intersubjective links. The desire of
the transference would be marked by the figure of the witness rather than by that of
the analyst as accomplice.

Keywords: intersubjective link, pervert/victimaccomplice link, pervert/analyst


link, predisposition, force of attraction, domination, formation of groups, witness

This article examines the intersubjective links which the pervert maintains with
analyst or partner, and attempts to indicate the differences between the investments
in each case. There have been excellent contributions (e.g. Jimnez, 2004; Ogden,
1996) which look at the intersubjective relation between pervert and analyst, or
between pervert and partner, but, as far as I know, no one has made a comparison
between the two types of relationship. Rather than accepting the idea that empathy
towards such patients is impossible to achieve and likely to disturb the counter-
transference profoundly, I attempt to show that these difficulties may be overcome
if they are reinterpreted in the light of the theory of the intersubjective link (that is,
the relation of reciprocity between two subjects where the unconscious of each is
influenced by that of the other). To begin, I summarize intersubjectivity theory and
mention certain philosophical contributions to this topic.
Studies of intersubjectivity generally start from the analytic situation, of which
it can no longer be claimed that it is the effect of the patients psyche alone. The
contribution of Baranger and Baranger (1985) has introduced into the discussion
the idea of the phantasy of the couple. They argue that this phantasy is a new and

Translated by Margaret Whitford.


1

2007 Institute of Psychoanalysis


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original one, produced by the relation between analyst and patient from the moment
that it begins. The evolution of the phantasy makes it possible to analyse new
transferential phantasies as and when they emerge, while the countertransference
echoes it, opening up an area for transformation in so far as the analysts -function
is available. In other words, the analytic process creates a dynamic field which is
animated by this intersubjectivity. It is a field which cannot be foreseen or formulated
in advance of the encounter between the two protagonists in the analytic situation.
According to Puget (2005), a staunch defender of this view, the link between two
subjectivities is subject to the principles of unpredictability and non-deducibility
(indeterminism). Baranger et al. (1994) propose calling it the intersubjective field.
Their original idea has inspired numerous contributions that have confirmed and
enriched it (M. Baranger, 2004), among them that of a matrix of possible stories
(Ferro, 2002), a sort of creative space in which patients can recount their memories
in different ways, and reconstruct their history, whose symbolic meaning becomes,
as a result, more readily accessible.
However, Baranger and Baranger (1985) are careful to confirm the importance
of analytic asymmetry, based on the parentchild model and therefore organized by
castration. The analyst offers the setting, for which he takes responsibility, but, at the
same time, he is included in the intersubjective field. As object of the transference, he
resonates with the analysands communications; his psyche is permanently on the
alert to analyse the productions of his own unconscious, as Baranger et al. remind us
(1994, pp. 3623). Since the analyst has a double role, it would be relevant to speak
of a second look, to which he has recourse when he runs into a stumbling block
which he experiences as something odd, a particular feeling, a physical reaction,
a spontaneous phantasy. Baranger et al. speak of something which gets hold of us,
which grips us in spite of ourselves (1994, p. 367). While the first look bears upon
the material produced by the patient, this second look addresses itself to the field of
which the analyst is a part. The analyst questions himself, seeking to analyse and
identify his unconscious participation in what he is experiencing.
Is it possible to transpose this approach to intersubjectivity to other modalities
of human relationship in order to draw general conclusions about intersubjectivity?
The analytic situation is undoubtedly quite unique: the partners in this relation
are not acquainted, while the analytic regression, and the dependence which it
furthers, reach primitive levels of functioning, in the service of a regression which
predates historically the time when object relations and their structuring function
came into play. As a result, the association or inclusion of these two psyches
(analystpatient) erases certain of the boundaries of the self and encourages the
narcissistic illusion, as many analysts have pointed out, including Grunberger
(1979), who identified a so-called analytic honeymoon state at the beginning
of treatment. This state with its admixture of idyllic exaltation and idealization
effectively becomes an organizer of the relationship. The theorization of inter-
subjectivity adds something new: even though the analyst knows intellectually
and from experience that the honeymoon state is unpredictable and passing, that
does not mean it has nothing to do with him. Each time it happens, the analyst can
believe in it and plunge in.
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In search of an author
Bion (1965, 1989) emphasizes the implications of the two-person nature of the
analytic field. A good interpretation has no author, he says, as is the case with any
true thought. He claims that ideas are produced by the group, not by the declared
authors; applied to the patient/analyst group, this notion warrants our full attention.
It is not that the analytic link lacks density or bathes in confusion, but that, on the
contrary, it has a definite identity which depends more on the joint construction of
the whole situation, rather than on either one or other of the participants, even if the
contribution of each can be easily recognized. Nonetheless, we should not confuse
the one who formulates an interpretation with the process which shapes it.
Ogden (2003, 2004a), a follower of Bion, studies the role of the analysts imagi-
nation in the session as he associates, often unexpectedly, to his own memories,
occasionally feeling guilty for not sticking to the principle of evenly suspended
attention. He may be moved while listening to a patient who is unable to express his
pain (interrupted cries), or remember his dreams, or whose capacity to dream is
affected because his dream is interrupted by intense anxiety while he sleeps, or by
a nightmare; the patient might also have night terrors (which is even more serious).
The analyst, in a manner of speaking, lends to his patient his own capacity to
dream. This is likely and all the more relevant when the reveries and the emotions of
the analyst correspond with the phantasies that the patient is unable to translate into
a verbal form, owing to insufficient preconscious resources. The patients mental
functioning is often damaged by the violent nature of one of these phantasies. They
are like fragments of ideas in search of an author. The analysts daydreams, products
of moments at which his free-floating attention lapses, constitute valuable resources,
putting him on the track of something which would otherwise be inaccessible.
Further, Ogden considers that the function of the analyst is to enable the restoration
of the patients ability to dream. He even claims that it is the analysts essential goal,
which is more debatable. If it were, what then would be the situation in the case of
our neurotic patients, who are fully capable of dreaming, yet who are suffering? The
basis of Ogdens view seems to be the idea that the work in the session continues or
reproduces the dreamwork, but the new element in what he proposes is the idea that
the work is carried out jointly.
By relativizing the concept of truth and that of the creation or the author of an
idea, Ogden (2004b) takes up these notions and develops them with his suggestion
that truth is all relative, that ideas are all the more true when they are not owned by
any one individual. He quotes Jorge-Luis Borges (1964), who, like other writers, has
claimed the necessity of plagiarism, because he found it difficult to distinguish in his
writing between passages of his own inspiration and those which had been suggested
by his extensive reading, to the point where he had unwittingly copied them.
In his discussion of philosophical writing, Derrida (1988) puts forward similar
notions. An authors conclusions escape him completely once they have been read;
once the reader has accepted, integrated and appropriated them for himself, he can
in the end consider them as his own production; he is their author. Goldschmit
emphasizes, in his commentary on Derrida,
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It must be possible to repeat and reproduce writing in a context other than that in which it
was produced and emitted; [writing] must therefore be able to signify outside of its context of
emission: in this sense there is no writing without context . The sign or mark of writing is
inscribed in the context in which it is emitted, but does not belong to it, nor can it be reduced
to it; it follows then that it exceeds its context, it is not possible unless, in its very structure,
it can cross from one context to another. (2003, p. 173)

The authors intentionality is subject to deconstruction:


What is said, communicated, can as a result never be reduced to what the subject of the
enunciation means to say, for the sign always exceeds the intention which emitted it, and
which it carries. Writing is not possible unless it can be repeated and signify something
other than what it signifies; the signifying intention of the subject is now continually divided
and multiplied over and over again, so long as there are possible [reading] contexts. (p. 174)

One might make the connection here with interpretation which escapes the control
of the analystinterpreter through the new and antithetical meanings proffered by
the analysand, or his unusual associations. The interpretation would be all the more
pertinent if it did not insist on being definitive and self-enclosed. From the moment
that the analytic dialogue gets going, innumerable unconscious objects and links
intervene.
This huge debate interrogates the concept of identity in depth, leading us to
reconsider it from the viewpoint of the distribution of functions in an intersubjective
link. These are functions which help to redefine more precisely the identity of each
of the protagonists of the link and of the totality which they form together. One
participates in the link because one has tasks to carry out, rather than because of
what one is; otherwise the risk is that the position of each will be modified and
the situation will become interminable. The analysts professional role depends no
longer on what he may be, on his reputation, his seniority, etc. but on what he does,
that is, essentially, the continuous analysis of what he observes and experiences, and
the formulation of interpretations.
All things considered, it would seem important to compare these discoveries
concerning the analytic situation with other modalities of the link between two
(or more), in the first instance with family links, and among these, with the early
motherinfant links. The very fact of pathology raises questions that we need to
investigate, in that it bears witness to certain relations which guarantee the stability
of early links and even more the possibility of a real reciprocal unconscious influence
which would feed pathology and thus make it resistant to any therapeutic change.
The analytic relation is not an easy one, that is clear, but as Baranger et al. remark,
the resistances would not be able to develop and persist without the unconscious
compliance of the analyst (1994, p. 364). This is what is generally identified as
counter(transference)resistance. Further, this resistancecounterresistance nexus
is nourished reciprocally by both protagonists in the treatment. Certain of the
patients complexes will arouse the admiration of the analyst; others will disturb
him and will therefore be avoided. In those cases where he is aware of it, he will
find reasons for not interpreting them. But often he is not. As a result, there is a
curious paralysis in his capacity for meta-observation, or the second look, which
THE INTERSUBJECTIVE LINKS IN PERVERSION 1139

normally allows him to integrate his self-analysis with the movement of the patient.
Thus has arisen the concept of bulwark (Baranger and Baranger, 1985), a term that
stresses precisely the rigid, impenetrable, fortified aspect of such joint resistances,
whose invasive, deviant and perverse character must be emphasized. The analyst
is caught in a trap in which at the same time he satisfies one of his partial perverse
drivessadomasochistic, voyeurist or exhibitionist (the perverse field) (Baranger
et al., 1994; see also Joseph, 1971; Losso, 2000). This becomes particularly blatant
when the patient fascinates the analyst by recounting the social activities where he
has triumphed (Jimnez, 2004).
These studies have led me to think that it would be interesting to examine the
pathology of perversion in the light of the patients intersubjective relations with
an other, to understand better how these bulwarks are elaborated, as well as to
determine their psychogenesis. Globally, the term perversion designates a sexual
behaviour that is deviant (with respect to the aim and the object), in which the
partner is considered no more than an object to be used in the pursuit of the desired
satisfaction. The other of the moral or sexual pervert, his partner, may appear as his
victim, or be revealed as his accomplice (Eiguer, 1989; Khan, 1979). The pathology
of perversion inclines us all the more in favour of this idea, in that it is impossible to
imagine a pervert without an other who lends himself to the proposed scenario and
participates in it, or may even, with the agreement of the pervert, initiate it.

An attachment to being taken


I would like to discuss a case which will allow us to go into the question more deeply.
When Eglantine (a librarian) was born, 35 years before she came into treatment
(three times a week analysis for 4 years, on the couch, still in progress), her father
was no longer living with her mother; he had left 2 months earlier. She was brought
up by a mother who was psychologically absent, preoccupied with her husbands
abandonment, and living in retreat with her own mother and her two daughters,
Eglantine and her older sister. It has been possible to reconstruct in analysis this
period during which the patient felt disorientated without any clear sense of family
reference points. It took a long time for her to find out who was who in her family.
She had news of her father when she was 45 years old. From that time on, she
went to see him regularly and got to know him. She tells me that sometimes her
father would forget to come and meet her at the station when she arrived. During
her adolescence, she had a sexual encounter with the son of her fathers relation-
ship with his new wife. Her mother did not speak to her about her father, neither
positively nor negatively. She heard various versions of his departure; the one that
seemed to her the most plausible was that the father had to move to another town
in connection with his work, and asked his wife to come with him, to no avail. But
that version only barely disguised the fact that he was being smothered in that all-
female milieu which included Eglantines maternal grandmother, and that his new
employment had given him a pretext to try to separate his wife and children from the
mother-in-law so that the family could breathe. After realizing this, Eglantine tried
to get closer to her father, though, according to her, not very successfully.
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At the time she came to see me, she had just come out of hospital where she
was being treated for anxiety and depressive syndrome. She had had a violent
quarrel with her husband after he found out that she was having an affair with one
of his close friends. She and her husband had a sadomasochistic (SM) sexual life,
in which she played the masochist. In addition, they had a masterservant type of
relationship in which Eglantine was used for all kinds of errands and tasks, while
receiving nothing but humiliations in return. Her husband was an imposing and
domineering man, as Eglantine gradually came to discover in her analysis; to begin
with, her view of their relationship had been rather airbrushed. With her lover, she
also had an SM relation, but, unlike her husband, the lover was less violent and
more imaginative.
During sexual intercourse, her lover would employ a lengthy ritual; he would
tie her up and hit her. After a while, both of them would go into a trance. Eglantine,
who would be relatively withdrawn up till then, would come out of her torpor and
insistently beseech him to break her, to pierce her, to make her explode. In that
way, she regained the upper hand, by taking charge of the game, despite seeming
to be imploring him. In the course of time, her lover suggested that she see other
sadists, women or men whom he introduced to her. Eglantine was not someone who
was going to argue with what her master requested of her.
At different times, I was able to interpret to her that, in this kind of relation with
her partners, she was seeking a solution to the mystery of her fathers departure. It
was as if Eglantine imagined that he had abandoned her because he feared that the
daughter whose birth he was expecting (herself) would be rebellious and insolent.
That might have been the reason she had submitted to her partners, why she gave in
to them completely and why it gave her satisfaction to be downtrodden. In making
herself guilty, she anticipated and took charge of her own guilt. Perhaps she accused
herself of being violent even before there were any grounds. She begged to be chas-
tised, whereas her mother could not or did not know how to implore the father not to
leave her. When I interpreted in this way, sometimes Eglantine would say, Where
did you get that from?; at others she would acquiesce.
I chose this line of interpretation because I could feel the omnipresence of her
father in everything she said, although he appeared unreachable. Might one suspect
that the lack of affect in the relation with her mother had led her to anaesthetize
herself physically and psychically? I had some evidence for this shortly after.
She brought a symptom of a masochistic nature to which she had recourse in
an isolated way. When she felt tense, she would open a vein in her forearm and
let her blood flow in small quantities. These incisions made her feel calm and
peaceful. As she put it, she adored the warmth of her blood and its odour. That
worried me; I was afraid for her life. When I commented that this was an act with
suicidal characteristics, she rejected my remark and added that she enjoyed it; it was
beautiful. Dont worry, Im not going to become anaemic, I suck the blood and I
swallow it, she added, with irony.
She seemed unaware of my concern for her physical health. And my aesthetic
tastes did not coincide with hers. As I listened to her talking about her incisions,
I felt her to be odd and remote, cut off from me. She did not seem to be the
THE INTERSUBJECTIVE LINKS IN PERVERSION 1141

same. Because of the gulf between us, I could not imagine that I might offer her
an interpretation of a symbolic nature. I found her violence so unbearable that it
seemed impossible for me to identify with her experience. Yet, even so, I did tolerate
it. Today I wonder whether in the end she thought I was maso too.
As the analysis evolved, she had less recourse to masochistic practices. A quite
striking transferential reaction made its appearance (in their place?); she became
passive, adhesive and adoring. She began to live for me. She sought information
on my background and various aspects of my past and my family history. She spent
the analytic breaks investigating the available data (in archives, on the Internet),
looking for stamps, postcards, photos and other memorabilia of Buenos Aires from
the period which must correspond to that of my childhood.
While I could appreciate her efforts and her perseverance, I felt as though I had
been invaded. It was almost more troubling than when she had been odd and remote.
It was as though I could not breathe. And it felt like a violation of my intimate self.
At that point, I had a dream. I belonged to an air-force unit, and we were
surrounded by our enemies. Lets hide our weapons, one of my buddies said,
then they will think we are civilians. It was obviously my dream, but I think that the
dream was connected with my recent experience. I felt myself surrounded, observed,
pinpointed by my patient, just as, many years before, her father, surrounded by
women, had felt suffocated. I consoled myself by thinking that my inner self had not
been completely violated. The patient had discovered the identity of my forefathers,
the environment of my childhood; she could imagine those, but she could never
imagine my life, or my emotions, or my intimate conversations with those close
to me. She knew everything, but at the same time she knew nothing. My name,
for example, had sent her in the direction of a town with a similar name, and led
her to think that it was where my family originated. But it was pure coincidence.
I experienced a kind of perverse enjoyment when I saw that she believed she had
pinned me down and triumphed in her penetration into my inner self, while all the
time, without letting on, I was well aware that she was mistaken.
We were entrapped in a game of hide-and-seek, in which I could not see that the
perverse enjoyment which each of us felt was intensifying the confusion and paralysis.
It was a kind of bulwark from which it seemed difficult to find a way out.
At that point, I remembered her comment about her mother who spoke neither
positively nor negatively about her father. Eglantine presented that as a sign of her
mothers maturity. It reflected rather an indifferent or undifferentiated neutrality, an
obliteration of any conflict; it translated the lack of affect in her experience of the
link between her parents and her mothers link with herself. Nothing was to be said,
or thought, about it.
In my dream, I appeared as a serviceman defending a garrison. Had I been too
on my guard? Was I picking up considerable hostility beneath her warm feelings
towards me and was I seeking to protect myself from it? I remembered one of my
teachers (Jos Bleger) saying that the adhesiveness of certain patients can arouse us
to similarly violent rejections because we perceive their explosive potential. She had
certainly guessed that I felt her to be strange and weird. Then her desire to seduce me
irritated me more than anything, like those overpowering and intoxicating perfumes
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which prevent one from appreciating other scents. And yet it had to be admitted that
she had been highly imaginative in her efforts to please me.
Was she seeking something that I had not noticed? A town like mine or that of
my forefathers where she might be (re)born? A new skin?
Among the different possibilities, I chose to say to her that, through her inves-
tigations, she was taking me inside her and holding me there, as she would have
liked her mother to have done with her when she was an infant. Did she wish to
experience in analysis something which had not been possible for her as a child?
(The investigations into my life increased during the long summer vacation.)
After this, material appeared linked to her father and his secrets, that of the
mystery of his departure. The voyeurism involved in these enquiries seemed undeni-
able. She was reproducing in the transference her desire to investigate me in order
to deduce the reasons which had motivated her father to act in the way he did. In
subsequent associations, she showed a kind of oscillation between the impervious-
ness of her mother, with her homosexual fidelity to the grandmother, and the enigma
of her headstrong father to whom she wanted to gain access. In short, in this way,
she would have liked to reunite her two parents in phantasy (loving each other and
conceiving her).
The link appearing in perversion is built at one and the same time on a volcano
and on a hollow mountain. My patients attempts to create for herself a reciprocal
relation had proved to be fruitless (Jimnez, 2004). Either too distant from me or
too close, she reproduced her failure to capture/captivate the other as a partner in her
psychic life. It is clear that, beneath the smouldering sensuality, it is sexuality which
is conspicuous by its absence. For sexuality is the spark which lights the fire. The
link is probably a (the) source of libido.
Now I want to turn to the sense of oddness, and look at the reasons why it
appeared in the analysis. The concept of link may come to our aid here. I think that
it may lead to misunderstanding if one believes that intersubjectivity involves only
those experiences in which the persons concerned feel in tune, and excludes the
dissonance between them. If one were to accept this interpretation, then intersub-
jectivity would be only the realm of the same and of the identical, that of perfect
understanding. Thinkers such as Levinas (1981, 1989), Ricoeur (1992, 2005) and
Derrida (1978) help to shed light on these issues, which include that of the recogni-
tion of self and other in the construction of their link.

Linking
It seems to me important then to be precise about the concept of link when we
consider intersubjectivity. The concept brings together three psychic apparatuses,
that of the subject, that of the other, and that of the relation between them, but
without privileging any one of them. The object-relating concept is not sufficient,
since it applies only to the functioning of the subject. Winnicotts idea of cross-
projective identifications between two people, each treating the other as one of his
internal objects (1971), seems more pertinent.
Is it the case, however, that the links between friends, lovers, colleagues, partners
in a game, analyst and patient, participants in group therapy depend upon the same
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laws and mechanisms as the links between members of the same family? A general
approach to the concept of link may be attempted, provided that we recognize
variants at a later stage. At the present time, I think it is of interest just to speak of
intersubjective link.
We might propose that the link is the reciprocal relation between two (or more)
subjects whose psychic apparatuses interconnect with, and have an effect on, each
other. For the two subjects, the link is constituted as an instance or an entity which
is unconsciously experienced as a third; the link is the one plus the other, and also
neither one nor the other (Ogden, 2003); as a result it is a new analytic object.
The link brings into play cross-projective and other forms of identification (e.g.
primary and secondary, narcissistic, projective and attributive), giving rise to recip-
rocal involvement between the two subjects. Everything radiating from the other
subject would be processed and elaborated by the subjects psychic apparatus.
Before he perceives the other, the subject invests him (Lebovici, 1980). His psychic
functioning is predisposed towards the link. Through the traces which come from
its origins, each internal object retains an appetite for linking with other objects. The
ego mobilizes itself through gestures and behaviour to this end.
We could also say that new, unwonted and unexpected events, as well as the
particular, irreducible reality of the other (who is radically different), are worked
over by the subjects active internal models, with consequent effects on the intersub-
jective link. But the link is never hermetically sealed. The mysteries of the other not
only give rise to curiosity and discomfort but also become the motor of all relational
investment and experience, even of psychic production, in their capacity to arouse
the force of attraction. The non-familiar is at the heart of this universal experience,
revealing a lack of knowledge, which relates back to parentchild asymmetry and
undermines phallic omnipotence.
In fact, it is necessary to note that only mutual recognition will lead to knowl-
edge, a recognition to which this process leads involuntarily (Ricoeur, 2005). Three
senses of the verb recognize are put into play successively: recognize; recognize
oneself/each other; and be recognized. For Berenstein (2001, 2004), this sometimes
difficult and painful recognition is what the configuration of the intersubjective link
leads to, or is even its true beginning (2004, p. 80), in that one has to acknowledge,
then to introject, what is specific to the other, that is his originality. It is a question of
the subjects responsibility: the face of the other arouses a concern, an anxiety, for
the death of the other man, in other words for his destiny, his becoming, for what
the subject may do (or have done) to the other (Levinas, 1989). We never arrive at
a total comprehension of the other. He is different but some part of him remains
beyond our reach.
At the start of most intersubjective linkages, the primitive level, which is mobilized
by narcissism and illusion, is particularly active. Spelling out the dissimilarities comes
later. With a pervert in treatment, for example, there is always at least one period during
which the analyst feels dazzled (the shiny, sparkling phallus). At other moments, he
will be filled with bewilderment and tempted to abandon one of the analytic rules. It is
not unusual for him to feel he has been deceived by his patient, with the accompanying
sense of uneasiness, guilt and disappointment. Yet it would not be correct to think that
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these states prove a working analytic relationship to be impossible. On the contrary,


this is the route by which the patient enters into relation. These resonances allow us
to grasp the nature of the problem and to suggest a line of elaboration. It is not easy to
evade the patients attempts to spread his net and try to catch the analyst in it. We are
at moments his dream screen, at other moments the object of his dream desire. Before
perceiving him, knowing him and later recognizing him, we invest him. He would like
us to think highly of him, which for him would mean deceiving us. But our evaluation
of the patient diverges from his evaluation of himself. In this system of hunter/hunted,
each may imagine that he dominates the other. The patient would like us to admire
his sexual tastes, whereas the qualities we acknowledge are often those which in his
view seem secondary, his artistic capacities for example (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1984).
We inscribe him in our dream, in order to recognize him in his difference. The bridge
which makes the link between him and us is that of availability, not our respective
projects. Then the patient will come to acknowledge what he wants of us, which is
not solely what he deposits in us; but that is contrary to his custom. He is used to
applying techniques, but not to thinking about what he does. That requires recourse to
the mythic level of the link, with a view to finding common denominators with respect
to idealsthe pervert has his own ideals too.

Clinical approach to the intersubjective link


In the link between the patient and his accomplice, it is also a question of availability,
but their wishes and intentions harmonize; each partner incites the other, stirring up
the sensual appetites, while aiming to evade the superego or keep it out of play. Not
only that, they also bestow on each other a new dispensation, new laws specific to
the link. The relative loss of identity which appears in any link between two people,
particularly one of lengthy duration, is more pronounced in the perverse couple or in
SM groups (Eiguer, 2001; Stoller, 1985). Here intersubjectivity has a specific cast.
The deficits and inadequacies in the relation between Eglantine and her mother,
so characteristic of the homo-erotic relation, can be found in the history of any
perverse patient: an investment which is not a real investment, a mutual narcis-
sistic ignorance, autoerotism exhibited as the height of sexual pleasure. There is a
resulting impact on relationships; we can emphasize the following consequences,
among others:
In social life or in the couple, latent homosexuality plays a certain part. The
patient has contact(s) with the world, naturally, but the difficulties arise from a
weak attachment: superficial affectivity, tenuous adhesion; intimacy in the couple
is generally precarious, not so much because of persecutory anxieties, but because
of disturbances in the primary mutual identification which is normally present at the
deepest level of the link. In the same way, the libido lacks viscosity, in the sense
of a quality which promotes relational adhesion, somewhat like that which Freud
(1937) proposed in the case of patients who are loath to give up their symptom,
to which the libido remains too attached. In this case, viscosity represents the
intertwinement of destructive violence and life instinct. In the case of a pervert,
these two are, on the contrary, disentwined.
THE INTERSUBJECTIVE LINKS IN PERVERSION 1145

The patient is neither assiduous nor stably attached; he is not motivated by the
desire to repair his object. If a masochist displays generosity, for example, his offer
appears inappropriate; it does not correspond to what the other would like to receive;
the patient does not easily recognize the inappropriateness.
Separations do not give rise to much feeling of loss; there is no question of beginning
to mourn, since the other is not experienced as a real object either psychically or
materially (Socarides, 1960). When Eglantine cut down her SM activities, she became
adhesive. I felt suffocated, scrutinized, penetrated, as if an unscripted scenario was
nonetheless being staged. This improvisation could have led me to reject her, if I
had not had that dream in which the disguise of the servicemen as civilians was the
detail which gave me as it were an alibi and offered a solution to my discomfort:
a dissimulation echoing a simulation. By means of play, I was able to disengage
from the dilemma of sensualityconstraint; I reflected that there was play also in the
transferential invitation.
The object is not in general sought as an anaclitic object; it is imagined rather as
becoming the anchor point of the manipulation. The primitive level of the link plays
a minor role here, as primary narcissism has not been sufficiently developed to be
available for being with the other. Simultaneously, the body image of the subject is
in danger of disintegrating (Greenacre, 1953). The preferred mechanisms are those
of domination, with intentionality preponderating; in the absence of a profound link,
a constricting armour plating is created.
The aims of the perverse patient have a utilitarian thrust. The victimaccomplice
will be tempted to submit to it.
The attraction to the visual and the tactile, in the case of perverse women, can
be explained by the development of an almost exclusively sensual skin-on-skin
gratification in the link with the mother. It finds expression in the cult of appearance,
while the interiority of the body is transformed into inert matter; this can be found
in fetishism and in other sexual perversions in both sexes. Eglantine appeared
overfamiliar because she had not absorbed enough intimacy in the family. From the
inside of my body, she could observe scenes of conception. Instead of interpreting
that, I privileged the analysis of the repugnance that closeness with her aroused
in me, though I was willing to accept it if necessary. She was a little surprised to
note that I had not taken offence. She had an internal detective; it was perhaps one
of her healthiest characteristics. I chose to speak to her about what was inside her
mother, because I believed I had felt, almost physically, her desire to penetrate me.
When she was small, even to get inside her mother in phantasy had seemed to her
impossible. It is true that the transference was attempting to realize a desire, but it
was that of being able to phantasize it.
It remains to decipher the meaning of the suggestion lets hide our weapons
made by the other serviceman in my dream. Retrospectively, I think I wanted,
as it were, to neutralize the fact that I was a man; it overdetermined the erotic
submission in Eglantines quest for my origins. If there was a seduction, it
belonged to a pre-oedipal masochistic register; she was not seeking a man for
herself, but a husband for her mother.
1146 ALBERTO EIGUER

I wonder if it could be of interest to designate all these modalities of the perverse


link as a false link, as one speaks of a false self. In the false link, it is not the sense
of the selfs continuity in space and time which is compromised by the artificiality, it
is subjectivity. False link: false reciprocity, inauthentic recognition, tenuous mutual
investment (the hollow mountain).

Theorizing
Before returning to the analystpatient link, I would like to speak about how
effectively the other is manipulated, which has much to do with the nature of the
perverse project, but also with the tendency on the part of the victimaccomplice
to refuse anaclisis. The victims curiosity, his desire for novelty and adventure
are mixed up with narcissistic fragility. He is frequently at odds with the law, and
would like to challenge it. He may believe that the sacrifice of his prerogatives is
the price he has to pay for brilliance. It is of little matter if he loses his self-esteem,
so greatly is he dazzled by the promised pleasures. What the victimaccomplice
does not know is that the manipulator has little to offer him. Using the latter as a
prop gives the victim a sense of triumph which sustains a narcissism at the end of
its tether (Racamier, 1978).
In order to defend their practices, directly or indirectly, perverts have in addition
a distinct tendency to create theories. There is a system of thought whose deductive
logic may be highly developed. Its guiding principle is a cynical view of the world,
expounded by means of an implacable rhetoric, and advocating a new ethics. This may
lead the analyst into a clash of ideas which distracts him from his aims (Etchegoyen,
1991). The patient sees himself as inspired by esoteric knowledge, object of a sort
of revelation (Rosolato, 1969) and selected for a mission: that of transmitting to the
world his belief in the persistence of the maternal phallus. Ogden (1996) would
put it in terms of a dead primal scene which the patient wants to believe (and make
others believe) is alive. The intersubjective link is, as it were, marked by the quest
for a disciple. The perverts manner of pressing his case induces a similar response,
and may be considered as equivalent to a speech for the defence.
During my treatment of a patient who engaged in frottage, I had the feeling
that he was trying to convince me that the womans body is nothing more than
excitable skin. His frottage on public transport gave him the opportunity to prove
it. He claimed that women readily accepted being fondled. When I interpreted to
him the impression I had, he confirmed it, and after a period of resistance this led
to working though. His frottage activities began to diminish and then disappeared
(Eiguer, 1999, 2001).
Work with other patients has made me think that the symptom is integrated into
a system of thought which aims to demonstrate a theory: as a test case, or a finding.
A few months after the sessions described above, Eglantine managed to find a sensi-
tive and affable man who had no hesitation in telling her he adored her. When she
recounted their meetings, she seemed to want to show me that his considerateness,
so rare in her previous lovers, was really the sign of a lack of virility. A real man
ought to be tough, give her orders and push her around.
THE INTERSUBJECTIVE LINKS IN PERVERSION 1147

The voyeur considers that the whole of sexuality is contained in looking. One
of my patients, for example, defends the idea of a natural, ecological sexuality,
without violence. His approach is like that of a scientist who observes a phenom-
enon without interfering with it, unlike the rapist who defiles his victim. Among
those who frequent clubs and groups of swingers, libertinism is generally presented
as an ideology in the service of a lifestyle whose qualities go beyond the context of
sexual encounter; it is thought of as a way of making links with others without being
shackled by conventions. If we examine the content of these arguments, we notice a
confusion between subjection and attachment which reveals not just an immediate
association to slavery, though its true this is feared; it is just as much evidence of
the unconscious difficulty in developing investments.
Two other aspects of the ideology promoted by the pervert are relatively well
known: 1) virtue can only lead to misfortune (cf Sade); and 2) evil is therefore
justified and beneficial. At the same time as he states these postulates and expatiates
on them at length, he verifies them in reality by means of manipulations carried
out on the victim. There is a paradoxical neo-logic at work which aspires to become
a system (Rayner, 1995).
We may recall Shakespeares Richard III who proposes a perverse pact:
Queen Elizabeth: Shall I forget myself to be myself?
King Richard: Ay, if your selfs remembrance wrong yourself.
(Richard III, IV.iv, [Lull, 1999, p. 181])

A witness who is not one, or the search for an actor


It is hard for the pervert to turn his analyst into an accomplice. So what other
outcome is open to him? The theory of intersubjective links allows us to give a
response to this question, via the study of perverse groups in which different kinds
of link coexist. Certain perverts even have a compulsive tendency to form groups
(SM groups, neo-fetishists, satanic sects). In natural or virtual perverse groups, the
roles are created by the group as a whole, that of witness being one example. The
latter contributes to the psychic stability of the others, and sometimes succeeds in
attenuating the ferocity of many other members of the group. Each is contained by
the group while containing the other, and confirming the victory over the law and
the contempt vis--vis the father. As there are several of us, we can reaffirm that
we are in the right.
In the ensemble formed by the pervert, the victim and the witness, each is
different but has a role within a collective logic. Within the group, the roles are
distributed. The witness has a significant function in the way that he observes the
pervert. The latter requires of him that he function as a mirror, which gives the
pervert an image of himself that he can otherwise not achieve, in the absence of an
integrated capacity to see himself as an other (Ricoeur, 1992). Most importantly, the
pervert maintains a relation with the witness, which has to do with his unconscious
link with the paternal function, comprising revolt, provocation of the father and
challenge to the foundation of the attachment to the law, which the father represents.
He claims to be the fathers master [per-version: towards (vers) the father (le pre)],
1148 ALBERTO EIGUER

seeks to invert the functions; we might note in passing that all inverted logics are
linked to this dislocation of the generations (Rayner, 1995). He pours contempt on
the law while seeking to demonstrate its impotence and its ineffectualnessas in
the case of the policeman chasing an exhibitionist who eludes pursuit. The witness
sometimes suffers the torments of humiliation, for example the prostitutes lover,
the technicianspouse of the woman who exhibits herself on the web, or the mother
of a girl with whom the father has committed incest.
The well-known literary character Mosca, the valet in Jonsons Volpone (as
reworked by Romains and Zweig, 1929), could be a witness, in his zealous assist-
ance of his masters scheming manoeuvres. Another witness would be Don Juans
valet, Leporello, in Mozarts Don Giovanni [1787] (Da Ponte, 1994), who could be
compared to a master of ceremonies who pulls the strings while himself apparently
innocent and uninvolved. Leporello keeps up to date the list of the women seduced,
sets up assignations for his master, protects him from retaliation. The pervert may ill
treat or terrorize the witness, but the latters position as voyeur allows him to enjoy
a secret satisfaction and feeds his sense of self-sufficiency. When he aspires to take
Don Juans role, Leporello admits that he wants to be (like) his master and cease
being his servant. The pervert calls the witness a coward if he has scruples. All
things considered, Mosca and Leporello come out of it brilliantly; once the tricks
have been unmasked, they regain their confiscated liberty.
The notion of intersubjective link makes it possible for us to think that perver-
sion stages a scene where the analyst is supposed to occupy a position, but that of
witness rather than that of accomplice (Khan, 1979). This hypothesis undoubtedly
opens up perspectives; however, the diversity of clinical situations inclines us to
remain cautious.

Conclusions
To summarize my argument, let me say again that the concept of link enriches
considerably the concept of intersubjectivity. The idea of intersubjectivity, despite
its pertinence, suffers from certain limitations, of which two are significant: a)
the exchanges between the two partners normally involve the deep levels of the
unconscious, and not only their subjectivity which is closer to consciousness; and
b) normally intersubjectivity is understood as an attempt to harmonize experiences,
and not as a move engendering differentiation in which mutual recognition between
subjects plays a major role.
I think that the intersubjective link leads to a new and enriched metapsychological
formulation. What seems to me equally indisputable is that the perverse link invites
us to recast the theory of the link. The domination which is a natural ingredient of
all links is, in the case of perversion, put to use in the degradation of the other; its
nature changes in virtue of the objectives intended by the subjects of the link.
In treatment, the intersubjective approach goes beyond the current understanding
of transferencecountertransference. Why? Because it emphasizes that the subjec-
tivity of the analyst appears to be profoundly marked by the process. Bion (1965)
required that the analyst refrain from memory and desire. We add that he will be led
THE INTERSUBJECTIVE LINKS IN PERVERSION 1149

to forget himself. It is another subject, another self, who emerges at the end of
the work.
For the pervert, analytic asymmetry does not mean the same as it does for us.
For him, asymmetry is a synonym for domination, utilization and humiliation of the
other. For most analysts, this difference in perspective is a stumbling block. But,
from the point of view of the intersubjective link, it may be surmountable. As a rule,
one focuses on what the patient, in his defiance of the law, stirs up in us. We ought
rather to wonder why and how he gets a grip on us.
In the case where a bulwark is organized, as with the sadistic gratification I
experienced when I realized that Eglantines research into my past was heading in the
wrong direction, the ethics of the two subjects of the link are compromised. It takes
courage for the analyst to come to recognize that, intoxicated by his gratification,
he may be tempted to bend the law. And, while under the sway of such gratification,
one no longer feels concerned about the other, or involved in what becomes of him,
let alone available. It is not essential to manage to understand all that, or interpret
it, but it is important to allow ourselves to take our personal investigation to its
conclusion, even if the latter disturbs us.
Many of the signs of perversion in the field of analystpatient dynamics have
been investigated and interpreted for some time now. By studying the intersubjec-
tive links which the pervert establishes with his victimaccomplices, it is possible to
grasp other aspects which in turn help us to reinterpret and rework what happens in
the sessions, the aggression against the setting and the analyst, the attack on thought,
intimacy and convictions. I prefer to say here that the reliability of the link is put to
the test.
If every patient seeks an author, the pervert seeks an actor who understands how
to interpret the role of witness. The analyst is invited to allow himself to be used.
Of course, everyone has his personal antipathies, and no one is obliged to respond
to the invitation. But to look at something that falls outside the bounds of humanity
can only be achieved from within a human vertex. That could attenuate the sense
of being a monster which the pervert conceals beneath the breastplate of unbridled
arrogance and violating overfamiliarity.

Translations of summary
Die intersubjektiven Verbindungen in der Perversion. Dieser Beitrag untersucht die intersubjektiven
Verbindungen, die der Perverse zum Analytiker oder zu seinem Partner aufrechterhlt, und versucht, die
Unterschiede zwischen den jeweiligen Investitionen aufzuzeigen. Statt zu akzeptieren, dass Empathie
gegenber diesen Patienten unmglich ist und die Gegenbertragung massiv beeintrchtigt, versucht der
Autor zu zeigen, dass sich diese Schwierigkeiten bewltigen lassen, indem man sie im Licht der Theorie der
intersubjektiven Verbindung [intersubjective link] neu deutet. Er untersucht die Theorien und die Praxis der
Intersubjektivitt und definiert sein Verstndnis der Verbindung zwischen zwei Subjekten. Diese Konzepte
werden sodann auf den Fall einer sexuell masochistischen Patientin angewandt. Die Gegenbertragung ist
geprgt durch Gleichgltigkeit, gefolgt von einer zunchst ablehnenden und dann zudeckenden Haltung.
Durch die Analyse des Traums des Analytikers kann sich die Situation entfalten. Unzulngliche primre
Identifizierungen knnen zur Dominanz einer Identifizierung ber andere und zu einem Utilitarismus
fhren. Der Autor untersucht den Stellenwert der Herausforderung des Gesetzes und des Vaters (die
in dem Versuch der Patientin enthalten ist, eine Theorie auf den Prfstand zu stellen), um die Person des
Zeugen der intersubjektiven Verbindungen des Perversen zu identifizieren. Der bertragungswunsch gilt
der Person dieses Zeugen und nicht der Person eines Analytikers als Komplize.
1150 ALBERTO EIGUER

Los vnculos intersubjetivos en la perversin. Este artculo estudia los vnculos intersubjetivos que el
perverso mantiene con el analista o la pareja, indicando las diferencias de las investiduras en cada caso. El
autor, en lugar de aceptar que es imposible lograr una empata con estos pacientes y que ellos perturban la
contratransferencia de manera profunda, intenta demostrar que estas dificultades pueden ser superadas si son
reinterpretadas a la luz de la teora del vnculo intersubjetivo. El trabajo revisa las teoras y las prcticas de
la intersubjetividad, y define su enfoque respecto al vnculo entre dos sujetos. Asimismo aplica estas ideas
al caso de una paciente sexualmente masoquista. La contratransferencia est marcada sucesivamente por la
indiferencia, el rechazo y el ahogo. El anlisis de un sueo del analista permite que la situacin evolucione.
Los fracasos en la identificacin primaria pueden generar el dominio sobre los dems y una actitud utilitarista.
El autor estudia el lugar del desafo a la ley y al padre (en el intento por parte del paciente de poner a prueba
una teora), a fin de identificar la figura del testigo en los vnculos intersubjetivos del perverso. El deseo de la
transferencia estara marcado ms por la figura del testigo, que por la del analista como cmplice.

Les liens intersubjectifs dans la perversion. Cet article tudie les rapports intersubjectifs que le pervers
entretient avec son analyste et son partenaire en essayant de souligner les diffrences entre ces deux
investissements. A lencontre de lide que lempathie lgard de ces patients est une mission impossible
et quils perturbent profondment le contre-transfert, il essaie de montrer que ces difficults sont surmontes
ds lors quelles sont rinterprtes sous langle de la thorie du lien intersubjectif. Lauteur examine les
thories et les pratiques de lintersubjectivit et dfinit son approche du lien entre deux sujets. Il applique
ces ides au cas dune analysante masochiste sexuelle. Lindiffrence, le rejet, ltouffement, marquent
successivement le contre-transfert. Lanalyse dun rve de lanalyste permet ensuite que la situation volue.
Les dfaillances de lidentification primaire peuvent engendrer lemprise sur autrui et lutilitarisme. Lauteur
examine la place du dfi la loi et au pre (dans la tentative agie par le patient de mettre lpreuve une
thorie), pour dgager la figure du tmoin dans les liens intersubjectifs du pervers. Le dsir du transfert
serait marqu par cette figure du tmoin, plutt que par celle dun analyste complice.

I legami intersoggettivi nella perversione. Il presente articolo studia i legami intersoggettivi che il
soggetto perverso mantiene con lanalista o con il partner, tentando di indicare le differenze che esistono
tra questi due investimenti. Piuttosto che accettare limpossibilit di raggiungere unempatia verso questi
pazienti e il profondo disturbo che ci crea al livello del controtransfert, il presente lavoro tenta di
dimostrare come possano essere superate queste difficolt, analizzandole alla luce della teoria del legame
intersoggettivo. Lautore esamina le teorie e la pratica dellintersoggettivit e fornisce una definizione
del suo approccio al legame tra due soggetti. Egli applica queste ide al caso della paziente masochista
dal punto di vista sessuale. Il controtransfert poi caratterizzato da indifferenza, rifiuto e soffocamento.
Lanalisi del sogno dellanalista permette alla situazione di evolvere. Limpossibilit di unidentificazione
primaria pu portare a dominare sugli altri e ad avere un atteggiamento utilitaristico. Lautore esamina il
ruolo della sfida contro la Legge e del padre (nel tentativo da parte della paziente di mettere alla prova
una teoria) per individuare la figura del testimone nei legami intersoggettivi del perverso. Il desiderio
del transfert sarebbe caratterizzato dalla figura del testimone piuttosto che da quella dellanalista come
complice.

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