David Profumo

A Very Important Subject

Male Fantasies

By Klaus Theweleit (translated by Stephen Conway)

Polity Press 518pp £8.95 order from our bookshop

In the beginning, presumably, there was good old vaginal intercourse. And this begat anal sex, oral sex, choral sex (wherein the active partner hums), and even, if Orton is to be believed, aural sex. There is intercrural frottage, manufriction, intermammary and axillary (underarm) excitation. The exotic Emperor Heliogabalus boasted he could accommodate five partners simultaneously. A celebrated Parisian courtesan would, for a special client, obligingly remove her glass eye, for which practice we might borrow Nabokov’s adjective ‘supralebral’. Fantasies touching on the human body arc nothing if not ingenious.

But there is little of any such stuff in this depressingly serious book, which prefers to address apparently more crucial issues, like ‘Is there a true boundary separating ‘fascist’ from ‘nonfascist’ men?’ It is the first volume of a study that seeks to analyse the cultural and sociological influences that shaped the collective psyche of a very specific group of men: the volunteer ‘soldier males’ of the proto-fascist Freikorps which was instrumental in stamping out nationalism and communism in Germany after the Great War.

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