By Karmen MacKendrick

Subjects: Gender Studies
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791441480, 212 pages, May 1999
Hardcover : 9780791441473, 212 pages, May 1999

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Table of contents


a pleasure must be incredibly intense

part 1. the classic counterpleasures

1. the literary eroticization of the death drive
Sadism and Masochism as narrative structures

2. Sadism

3. Masochism

4. asceticism
seducing the divine

part 2. contemporary practices and pleasures

5. theoretical displacement

6. m-powerment

7. switch/hit
taking it from the top

8. unspeakable pleasures
love is a series of scars




Takes up a series of literary and physical pleasures that do not appear to be pleasurable, ranging from Christian saintly asceticism to Sadean narrative to contemporary s/m practices.


Counterpleasures takes up a series of literary and physical pleasures that do not appear to be pleasurable, ranging from saintly asceticism to Sadean narrative to leathersex. Each is placed in its cultural context to unfold a history of transgressive pleasure and to argue for the value and power of such pleasures as resistant to more totalizing forms of power.

Karmen MacKendrick is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Gettysburg College.


"This book is about paradoxes in erotic experience, focused on the ways that pleasure and pain can become indistinguishable and what this confusability of the two conditions means to bodies of knowledge, such as Freudian psychology, predicated on understanding pleasure and pain as opposites. MacKendrick goes far beyond simply showing us what we probably already know—that tension can be pleasure, that pain can be a component of joy, etc. She does not leave this meeting of Eros and Thanatos mysterious, but instead offers plausible theories to account for the paradoxical experiences of 'perverse' writers, saints, martyrs, and late-twentieth-century s/m practitioners. She goes on to explain how these theories augment or revise philosophical and psychoanalytic texts on the same topics. A lot has been written about masochism and sadism by feminists in the 1980s and 1990s, but MacKendrick offers a fresh perspective and many new insights. She really does value what is different and shows why recognition of it is valuable both to the ways we think and the ways we live. " — Carol Siegel, coeditor of Genders

"This book is a joy to read. MacKendrick's personal voice comes through in a highly-engaging, indeed, seductive way. Her approach combines classical philosophical analysis with theological theory, and brings these two disciplines into conversation with each other in original ways that intersect with contemporary theories of sexualities and genders. While s/m per se may seem to be a 'marginal topic,' MacKendrick uses s/m and other 'counterpleasures' to address a broad range of issues that are of the utmost concern to anyone working in the field of contemporary cultural studies. " — Lynda Hart, University of Pennsylvania