5a.ikuscommentary.stoycheva_riegler (p)

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Unformatted text preview: The
Difficult
Mating
of
Truth
and
Facts—Commentary
 on
the
paper
of
Julia
Riegler:
“Re­Constructing
 Women’s
Experiences
of
Sexual
Pain:
The
‘Deviant’
 Body
as
an
Object
of
Cultural
Psychological
and
 Feminist
Consideration”
 KATYA
STOYCHEVA
 Sofia,
Bulgaria
 
 Scientific
inquiry
is
about
truth
and
facts
that
challenge
each
other.
Truth
and
facts
that
 challenge
 each
 other
 are
 bringing
 about
 new
 kinds
 of
 knowledge
 and
 new
 ways
 of
 knowing.
The
interesting
and
thought
provoking
paper
of
Julia
Riegler
tells
us
the
story
 of
setting
up
and
meeting
such
a
challenge.


 
 This
 is
 my
 second
 encounter
 with
the
 work
of
 Julia
 Riegler,
 after
 the
 presentation
 she
 gave
at
the
University
of
Sofia
in
December
2007
together
with
her
colleagues
from
the
 Vienna
 Institute
 of
 Cultural
 Psychology
 and
 Qualitative
 Social
 Research.
 It
 is
 a
 real
 pleasure
 to
 re‐discover
 the
 elegance
 of
 her
 logic
 and
 consistency
 in
 presentation,
 the
 clarity
 in
 exposition
 of
 complex
 ideas,
 and
 further
 gains
 in
 her
 argumentation
 and
 thesis’s
elaboration.


 
 Julia
 Riegler’s
 paper
 challenges
 the
definition
of
 a
 bodily
 phenomenon
 (recurrent
 pain
 during
 (hetero)sexual
 intercourse
 in
 women)
 and
 its
 predominant
 psychological
 and
 medical
examination
as
‘sexual
dysfunction’
or
‘sexual
disorder’
(p.
62).
This
ambitious
 undertaking
and
its
 realisation
recall
some
valuable
insights.
It
is
a
useful
reminder
that
 established
 definitions—within
 or
 across
 scientific
 disciplines,
 may
 acquire
 a
 considerable
normative
power
that
may
and
needs
to
be
challenged.
Also,
the
scientific
 treatment
 of
 a
 phenomenon
 is
 often
 correlate
 of
 specific
 scientific
 practices
 within
 a
 specific
scientific
tradition,
and
we
need
to
be
aware
of
the
risk
of
substantiating
existing
 constructions
 of
 reality
 and
 of
 (re)
 producing
a
 dominant
 discourse.
 Furthermore,
 the
 object
 of
 research
 is
 not
 a
 priori
 given
 but
 constitutes
 itself
 on
 theoretical
 and
 methodological
premises
that
are
better
made
explicit.

 
 Thus
 the
 feminist
 cultural
 psychological
 perspective
 that
 challenges
 the
 pathologification
 of
 female
 body
 can
 be
 extended
 to
 a
 humanist
 perspective
 that
 challenges
the
pathologification
of
human
body
in
general
(that
is
also
the
location
of
the
 homosexual
‘disease,’
 for
example,
 or
of
 our
‘bad’
impulses
 and
‘adverse’
 desires).
The
 next
step
would
be
to
challenge
the
definitions
of
disorder
and
normality
themselves.
Is
 ‘difficult
 mating’
 a
 deviation
 from
 normality,
 or—as
 many
 philosophical
 traditions,
 psychological
 schools
 and
 everyday
 practices
 would
 show—a
 normal
 part
 of
 the
 continuum
of
our
experience
as
humans
and
as
sexual
beings?

 
 Julia
Riegler’s
paper
also
provides
an
instructive
example
of
a
fruitful
cross‐disciplinary
 exchange
of
ideas
and
approaches.
The
change
of
perspective
that
she
proposes
is
from
a
 psychological
 and
 medical
 definition
 of
 dyspareunia
 as
 individual
 somatic
 or
 psychic
 Psychology
&
Society,
2009,
Vol.
2
(1),
72
‐
74
 72 deficit
 to
 a
 cultural
 psychological
 and
 feminist
 point
 of
 view.
 The
 realisation
 of
 the
 proposed
 approach
 passes
 through
two
sociological
 traditions
 that
provide
 theoretical
 and
methodological
basis
for
the
conceptualisation
of
sexuality
as
a
social
practice
and
 its
 constitution
 as
 an
 object
of
 empirical
reconstruction.
Its
 operationalisation
consists
 in
the
reconstruction
of
the
practical
accomplishment
of
painful
sexual
intercourse
in
its
 complex
collective,
cultural
and
social
contexts.
 
 The
 adopted
 methodology
 takes
 its
 starting
 point
 in
 everyday
 practice
 and
 everyday
 knowledge
 to
provide
 empirical
 data
 for
further
 analyses.
 It
 uses
 the
 method
of
 group
 discussions
in
generating
impromptu
narratives
consisting
of
descriptions
and
accounts
 of
 everyday
 practices.
 Spontaneous
 depictions
 of
 a
 sequence
 of
 incidences
 are
 understood
 as
 reflecting
 the
implicit
knowledge
that
 guides
 subjects
and
 their
actions,
 and
are
therefore
documents
of
underlying
non
conscious
patterns
that
guide
subjects’
 everyday
practices
beyond
their
subjective
intentions.
 
 The
 reconstructive
 method
 of
 interpretation
 of
 the
 empirical
 data
 identifies
 collective
 bodies
of
knowledge
and
meaning,
differentiates
between
subjective
meaning
(manifest
 content)
 and
 documents
 meaning
 (the
 principles
 of
 fabricating
 social
 practices),
 and
 defines
 the
 relation
 between
 these
 two
 levels.
 The
 proposed
 example
 of
 a
 group
 discussion
(the
interviewer
asked
two
women,
who
have
being
friends
for
ten
years,
to
 discuss
 their
 expectations
regarding
their
 real
sexual
 interactions)
and
its
analysis
 are
 presented
 only
 briefly.
 It
 is
 not
 possible
 to
 follow
 the
 way
 of
 reasoning
 from
 the
 transcribed
 discussion
to
the
proposed
 interpretation
and
 either
accept
 or
 question
it.
 Cultural
 psychological
 approach
 and
 qualitative
 social
 research
 would
 certainly
 gain
 from
being
more
explicit
on
their
procedures
of
data
collection
and
data
interpretation.

 
 The
 document
 meaning
 that
 is
 derived
 from
 the
 interpretation
 of
 the
 recorded
 discussion
 focus
 on
 the
 conflict
of
 imagination
and
reality
and
 the
 opposition
between
 autonomy
 and
 intimacy
 (longing
 for
 love
 and
 sexuality),
 and
 is
 considered
 as
 a
 revelation
of
a
fundamental
dilemma
in
women’s
action
orientation.
It
seems
to
me
that
 this
point—a
crucial
one
for
the
paper’s
conclusions—needs
further
elaboration.
What
it
 is
 in
 it
 that
 reveals
 dominant
 ‘patriarchal’
 discourse
 and
 ‘androcentric’
 ideology?
 Discrepancy
between
imagination
and
reality
is
a
common
lot
of
human
beings
endowed
 with
consciousness.
When
and
why
it
is
experienced
as
destructive
or
constructive
(as
in
 play,
 for
 example).
 Similarly,
 the
 independence—dependence
 dilemma
 holds
 for
 all
 of
 us.
 Men
 and
 women
 alike
 are
 dependent
 on
others
for
goals
 and
satisfactions
 that
are
 important
for
them
and
this
happen
to
be
a
painful
(or
a
pleasant)
experience.


 
 As
 a
 conclusion
 from
 this
 study
 female
 ‘disease’
 is
 analysed
 as
 a
 crystallisation
 of
 women’s
 social
 world
 and
 a
 manifestation
 of
 the
 suffering
 from
 patriarchal
 society
 against
 it:
 Pain
 becomes
 a
 symptom
 and
 a
 symbol
 of
 a
 struggle
 that
 both
 expresses
 power
relations
and
tries
to
overcome
them.
Women
are
no
more
regarded
as
‘affected’
 by
‘dyspareunia’
and
are
constituted
as
social
actors.
Here
however
lies
my
concern
with
 woman’s
 position
 as
 human
 subject.
 She
 is
 no
 more
 a
 single
 deficient
 woman
 whose
 deviant
 body
 causes
 her
 having
 painful
 sexual
 intercourse;
 she
 is
 a
 woman
 with
 a
 specific
 cultural
 and
 biographical
 background
 who
 is
 guided
 to
 having
 painful
 sexual
 intercourse
 by
her
 unquestioned,
 habitual,
non‐intentional
 everyday
 practices.
 Could
 a
 feminist
psychological
tradition
make
a
step
forward?
 
 Psychology
&
Society,
2009,
Vol.
2
(1),
72
‐
74
 73 Female
experiences
of
recurrent
pain
during
(hetero)sexual
intercourse,
the
contexts
of
 their
 occurrence
 and
 their
 socio‐biographical
 embeddedness
 appear
 to
 be
 quite
 heterogeneous.
 This
 observation
 raises
 the
 question:
 How
 much
 of
 this
 experiential,
 behavioural
 and
 developmental
 variation
 can
 be
 accounted
 for
 by
 a
 “characteristic
 expression
 of
 a
 specific
 socio‐cultural
 context
 at
 a
 specific
 historical
 moment”
 (p.
 67).
 Implicit
 social
 norms
 are
 passed
 on
 within
 the
 collectivity,
 and
 social
 actors
 and
 their
 practices
are
always
embedded
in
specific
socio‐cultural
circumstances,
but
these
norms
 and
 practices
 are
 never
 enacted
 in
 the
 same
 way
 by
 all
 the
 members
 of
 the
 particular
 community
in
the
particular
moment
of
time.

Which
individual
variations
are
identified
 as
 divergent
and
deviating
from
normality
and
which
are
not,
and
why?
How
about
our
 implicit
knowledge
on
whether
and
which
norms
may
be
violated
or
not?
 
 We
may
need
to
take
into
account
that
the
implications
and
the
benefits
of
the
proposed
 approach
 to
 the
 phenomenon
 of
 recurring
 pain
 during
 (hetero)sexual
 intercourse
 in
 women
 are
 not
 self‐evident.
 If
 the
 current
 clinical
 practice
 inspired
 by
 the
 medical
 definition
of
disease
results
in
too
often
prolonged
treatment
careers
that
are
not
always
 successful,
 what
new
 and/or
alternative
 treatments
 and
clinical
 practices
would
 imply
 the
 cultural
 psychological
 and
 feminist
 consideration
 of
 this
 phenomenon?
 Even
 if
 the
 woman
does
not
carry
the
problem
anymore,
she
still
carries
the
symptom.
How
to
help
 her
in
an
adequate
way?
We
will
remove
the
‘deficit’
label
from
her
body
but
will
we
also
 remove
the
pain
from
it?
How
could
women
benefit
from
the
insights
of
this
study
and
of
 this
approach?

 
 How
 do
 we
 overcome
 alienation?
 Alienation
 from
 ourselves
 as
 unique,
 self‐aware
 individuals?
Alienation
from
our
body
that
both
is
part
and
is
not
part
of
‘us’?
Alienation
 from
others
who
are
both
like
us
and
not
like
us?
Alienation
from
all
these
relations
in
 which
we
experience
both
pain
and
pleasure?

 
 Julia
 Riegler’s
 cultural
 psychological
 and
 feminist
 perspective
 on
 the
 phenomenon
 of
 recurrent
pain
in
(hetero)sexual
intercourse
in
women
has
a
lot
to
tell
us.
 AUTHOR
BIOGRAPHY
 Katya
Stoycheva
holds
PhD
in
Psychology
(University
of
Sofia,
1993)
and
 Habilitation
in
 General
Psychology
(Institute
of
Psychology,
Bulgarian
 Academy
of
Sciences,
2004).
Her
 research
 interests
 in
 personality
 and
 creativity
 focus
 on
 tolerance
 –
 intolerance
 of
 ambiguity,
creative
 personality
and
creative
motivation,
creative
thinking
and
 decision‐ making,
creativity
at
school,
and
 gifted
children.
At
present
she
 teaches
part‐time
at
the
 New
 Bulgarian
 University
 and
 prepares
 a
 book
 on
 creativity.
 Email
 katya.g.stoycheva@gmail.com
 
 Psychology
&
Society,
2009,
Vol.
2
(1),
72
‐
74
 74 ...
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