‘Nymphomaniac’ raises questions about sexuality

Nymphomaniac movie 

 The entertainment world is abuzz with the release of a video featuring actor Shia LaBeouf performing a variety of simulated sexual acts with his female co-star Stacy Martin. The clip which was pulled and then re-released on Youtube, is part of a series of teasers for Lars von Trier’s controversial erotic film ‘Nymphomaniac.’

The film stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe, a self-proclaimed nymphomaniac and follows her sexual relationships from teenagehood to her 50’s. If the recently released clip is any indication of what’s to come when the film debuts in North America, the film’s graphic sex scenes are sure to spark discussion about what we consider “normal” when it comes to human sexuality.

‘Nymphomaniac’ is a loaded term with a storied history. Coined to describe individuals with “excessive sex drive” during the Victorian era, nymphomania was treated as an exclusively female mental illness. Women were diagnosed as nymphomaniacs if they were a victim of sexual assault, bore illegitimate children, masturbated or were deemed promiscuous and were subjected to treatments such as induced vomiting, bloodletting and in extreme cases, female circumcision. Nymphomania was a catch-all diagnosis that took female sexual experience and pathologized it as a means of social control.

Although we have moved past the Victorian era of sexual repression, the term remains highly stigmatized and contested. Mental health experts continue to study hypersexuality (the existence of extremely frequent or suddenly increased sexual urges or sexual activity), however have yet to reach a consensus on its definition or causes. Others have questioned whether the term hypersexuality is worth discussing, arguing that by labelling sexual urges as “extreme” we stigmatize people who do not conform to the norms of their culture or peer group.

As Jesse Bering, a psychologist and author of the book, ‘Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us,’ says, what is often considered sexual deviance “is no more and no less than a statistical concept that signifies being off course from our societal norms.”

If we were to go by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders’ (DSM-5) proposed diagnosis of hypersexualization, which includes behaviours such as recurrent and intense sexual desires, repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies and enjoyment of masturbation, pornography, sex, cybersex, telephone sex, and going to strip clubs, it would seem that many of us are on some level sexual deviants.

Calgary Sun

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Categories: Sex

One Comment on “‘Nymphomaniac’ raises questions about sexuality”

  1. bwglynn
    December 12, 2013 at 2:39 am #

    I guess we all have some deviance in us. But who will admit the truth?

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