Arousal: Bodies and Pleasures

Martha Roth, Author, J.D. Roth, Author
Martha Roth, Author, J.D. Roth, Author Milkweed Editions $20 (200p) ISBN 978-1-57131-220-4
Reviewed on: 03/30/1998
Release date: 04/01/1998
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In this muddled academic feminist discourse, Roth, co-editor of Transforming a Rape Culture, on the one hand deplores the countless images linking sex and violence in movies, TV, novels, ads--images which turn women into objects. On the other hand, her graphic autobiographical account of her own sexual coming-of-age dwells on her ambivalent pleasure in violent sexual fantasies--a predilection she traces to growing up Jewish in Chicago during WWII, when her fear of becoming a victim of violence, fusing with parental strictures to keep erotic pleasure secret, led to fantasies of being a beautiful captured spy or Jewish prisoner. Writing in the tradition of Julia Kristeva and Helene Cixous, Roth meshes a sophisticated feminist critique of Freudian phallocentric society with psychoanalytic insights a la Jacques Lacan and Eastern wisdom. Her wide-ranging meditation on women's suppression of their sexuality touches too sketchily on diverse topics (from androgyny to the gynecological profession), using an array of illustrative examples ranging from Plato to Masters and Johnson, and from Colurbet's female nudes to Robert Crumb's comics. Her prescription that releasing the Kundalini energies linked in yoga to creativity and arousal will trigger both a transformation of our sexual selves and a social revolution seems as vague and pointless as Madonna's exhortations that sex is a good thing. Author tour. (May)
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