Dis-orienting Paraphilias? Disability, Desire, and the Question of (Bio)Ethics

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Abstract

In 1977 John Money published the first modern case histories of what he called ‘apotemnophilia', literally meaning ‘amputation love' [Money et al., The Journal of Sex Research, 13(2):115–12523, 1977], thus from its inception as a clinically authorized phenomenon, the desire for the amputation of a healthy limb or limbs was constituted as a sexual perversion conceptually related to other so-called paraphilias. This paper engages with sex-based accounts of amputation-related desires and practices, not in order to substantiate the paraphilic model, but rather, because the conception of these (no doubt) heterogeneous desires and practices as symptoms of a paraphilic condition (or conditions) highlights some interesting cultural assumptions about ‘disability' and ‘normalcy', their seemingly inherent (un)desirability, and their relation to sexuality. In critically interrogating the socio-political conditions that structure particular desires and practices such that they are lived as improper, distressing and/or disabling, the paper constitutes an exercise in what Margrit Shildrick [Beyond the body of bioethics: Challenging the conventions. In M. Shildrick and R. Mykitiuk (Eds.), Ethics of the body: Postconventional challenges (pp. 1–26). New York: MIT Press, 2005] refers to as “postconventional ethics”.

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