Relocating Marie Bonaparte's Clitoris

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Journal Article
Australian Feminist Studies, 2009, 24 (60), pp. 149 - 165
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This article is an attempt to engage in precisely this kind of reconsideration, followed by a claim to resituate Bonaparte in light of the historic context in which she belongs, a context that pre-dated feminist and sexological critiques of the clitoralvaginal dichotomy as a repressive model. Bonaparte's oft-misunderstood views about the place of the clitoris in modern heterosexual relations is subjected here to an historical contextualisation that relocates them within interwar anxieties about gender differentiation, pronatalism and women's social power. I argue that Marie Bonaparte's clitoris may offer much for an interrogation of simplistic binary habits of judging past figures according to a reductive feminist/anti-feminist barometer. Her baffling ambiguity when measured against recent feminist contestations of genital pleasure highlights the aterity of the past she inhabited, while her anathematised place within canonical works of eminist theory show just how much such debates refuse to pass in the ongoing elaboration of normative views of orgasm.
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