SEX AND FANTASY: Patterns of Male and Female Development by Robert May
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SEX AND FANTASY: Patterns of Male and Female Development

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What we know as male or female is the result of an interplay of our bodies and our social reality,"" May proposes; and as he explores the ways in which men and women--some men and women--differ, one is impressed by the vitality and scope of his inquiry. Essentially he maintains that men exhibit patterns of pride, women of caring and attachment. These patterns, which appear as different orientations toward activity (revealed in fantasy if not always apparent in behavior), are not merely by-products of socialization: they derive in part from biological differences, and may moderate with age. This is not, of course, a wholly original proposition but it is a richly defended one. An Amherst College counseling director and private psychotherapist, May writes gracefully and incisively (not unlike Erikson, a similar sensibility), and he builds a strong if not watertight case, challenging the more respectable feminist opposition and upholding the work of the commonly misquoted Freud. (""The complexity, tentativeness, and evolution in Freud's thought are ignored"" by his critics, the writer demonstrates.) May uses psychological test responses, Greek myths, and individual case histories to establish his male/female styles; draws on cross-cultural data to further his argument (""every society we know about does distinguish between men and women""); and recognizes the contributions of biological research to our understanding of gender behavior. Moreover, he introduces such evidence with appropriate qualification, acknowledging, for example, the snares of interpreting unique anecdotal material. In conclusion, he rejects the New Androgyny because, rooted in ambivalence, it ""[minimizes] the importance of our bodies [and overlooks] the tenacity of our individual histories."" A skillfully developed thesis that will appeal to readers of Daniel Levinson, George Vaillant, and Christopher Lasch.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1980
ISBN: 0393336883
Publisher: Norton