The Case of the Lesbian Phallus: Bridging the Gap between Material and Discursive Analyses of Sexuality

  • Jane Ussher


Psychology has traditionally examined human experience from a realist perspective, within a positivistic framework which focuses on observable ‘facts’. The psychologist’s aim has been to uncover objective ‘truth’, and narrowly to delineate the boundaries of the scientific gaze. This is never more clear than in areas of psychology which focus on the body. Sexuality has been reduced to hormones, penile pulse amplitude or vaginal swelling; reproduction to evolutionary concepts of mating or to the physical machinations of the womb. In recent years, those working within a ‘biopsychosocial’ framework, or those interested in social and psychological aspects of experience, have ‘added on’ a psychosocial analysis to reductionist interpretations of sex, or reproduction. However, many theorists working within this field still rely on realist assumptions, failing to question the social or discursive construction of bodily experience. They also fail to address the role of discourse associated with the body in social regulation and the construction of identities — in defining what it means to be ‘woman’ or ‘man’.


Premature Ejaculation Lesbian Woman Gender Position Discursive Construction Sexual Anxiety 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • Jane Ussher

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