Cover image for Women and desire : beyond wanting to be wanted
Women and desire : beyond wanting to be wanted
Young-Eisendrath, Polly, 1947-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xv, 251 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ1206 .Y69 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



An internationally recognized Jungian analyst and psychologist helps women reclaim true desire for themselves. Not since Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex has female desire been explored so deeply and provocatively. This groundbreaking book delves into the complex world of female desire where women simply "want to be wanted." Many women encourage others to identify or validate images that give them feelings of worth or vitality and then feel resentful because they have sacrificed their real needs and desires. Instead of knowing who they really are and what they would like to do with their lives, they become trapped in their images. As a result, self-direction, self-confidence, and self-determination are undermined from adolescence through old age. Dr. Polly Young-Eisendrath examines this damaging syndrome of female development, showing women, and girls, how to untangle themselves from the web of reflected images that confuses or conceals their authentic wants and needs. Women and Desire empowers women to understand and take control of their sexual, social, and spiritual lives.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Desire--libido, Freud called it--is not just sexual, though Freud included the sexual in the force of moving toward whatever enlivens a person. Women today, psychologist Young-Eisendrath argues, are out of touch with the libido and focused on being a desirable commodity rather than a desiring being. Wanting to be wanted, she says, takes the place of awareness of one's own desire in relationships that begin with sexual love and expand to include other, familial and professional, connections. Young-Eisendrath's analysis is cogent and compelling, especially when she ties thwarted desiring to such psychological malaises as addictive behavior and obsessive, clutching love. (Her take on Princess Diana, though far from the popular view, is extraordinarily convincing.) If there is any flaw in her argument, it is that she does not make space for examining influences that discourage women from claiming their desire. But her call for the freeing of feminine libido should rouse a passionate, wide audience. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

In providing some answers to Freud's famous question about what women really want, Young-Eisendrath draws on her experience as a psychotherapist and on ideas gleaned from Buddhism, Jung and feminist writings. She argues that most women don't have a clue about what they want because society has programmed them simply to want to present a desirable image. Illustrating her thesis with mythic tales and case studies of her own patients, the author shows how our culture recognizes two female stereotypes: the beautiful muse and the ugly hag-bitch who wields power to fulfill her own desires. Women should not be objects of desire, but subjects of desire, she writes, not only in personal relationships but in the workplace. While women may believe that competence leads to success at work, she contends that "what leads to power is self-promotion, making the right connections and being self-confident." According to Young-Eisendrath, women's rampant consumerism, shoplifting and binge eating are simply manifestations of unconscious desires. Although she contends that established religions have subordinated women, the author advocates learning to distinguish pathological desires from authentic ones through traditional spiritual practices or New Age feminist communities. She treads on familiar ground, but Young-Eisendrath writes with authority, offering women a valuable perspective on understanding and changing self-defeating behaviors. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

What do women want? According to Young-Eisendrath (psychiatry, Univ. of Vermont Medical Coll.; The Gifts of Suffering), women want to be wanted. Hoping for approval and self-validation, women often conform to ideals of beauty, sexual attractiveness, and femininity before they have identified their own desires and needs. Such choices lead to resentment and a loss of self-confidence when reality does not meet expectations. Using examples from myths, fairy tales, and case studies from her own work as a Jungian analyst, Young-Eisendrath demonstrates that women can learn to know their strengths and weaknesses and become the subjects of their own desires rather than the objects of others'. Young-Eisendrath challenges widely accepted beliefs about female power and proposes an alternate view that encompasses both compassion and cooperation. Recommended for public libraries.ÄLucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.