Dr. Jemma Tosh is no stranger to the topic of sexual abuse or the controversy and conflict that goes with writing about it. Having outlined the complex and contested diagnosis of 'paraphilic coercive disorder' in her historical and critical analysis of sexual violence in Perverse Psychology (Tosh, 2015), she is soon to deliver on her new book on the body, consent, and violence within psychology, psychiatry, and medicine. It sounds broad in scope and considering Jemma's style of drawing together diverse and expansive topics in a discursive and intersectional analysis, we asked her where the idea came from, how it's going, and what readers can expect from this new work.
You have written several books over the last few years. How do you come up with your ideas, and this latest book in particular?
I have an unusual habit where as soon as one book is finished, I get an idea for the next. After I finished Psychology and Gender Dysphoria, despite being exhausted, on the same day I wrote my proposal for The Body and Consent in Psychology, Psychiatry, and Medicine: A Therapeutic Rape Culture. It just came to me and it was incredibly clear. I knew that if I didn't put it down on paper right there and then, I would forget it. That tends to be how my process works.
How have you found writing a book about such an emotive topic?
This is probably the most difficult piece of writing I have done in my career, for many reasons. I have spent much of my research and writing discussing difficult and emotive topics, most of it on sexual violence, but this book was more difficult because in addition to the violence described, there is the added aspect of the medical profession, and psychology and psychiatry, justifying or normalising it, or discrediting victims in various ways. So, it was like having to immerse yourself in this double victimisation. It is also always very difficult for me to write, despite how much I love it, because I'm a survivor of sexual abuse myself. I'm well aware of the topics I am writing about, not just because of my education and research, but because I have physically experienced it too. I think that was one of the reasons that I felt it was so important to include an analysis of the issue, in medical settings, with the embodied experience front and centre of a predominantly discursive piece.
Why did you write this book and why now?
I spent several years analysing different diagnoses related to sexual abuse, as well as the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals and sexual violence. The more I researched, and the more perspectives I included, the more connections and patterns I started to see across those diverse examples. I wanted to bring them together in one book, so that we could see the connections between, say intersex protests against non-consensual surgeries on infants, the gatekeeping of transgender individuals in accessing body modification procedures, and women pathologized for supposedly being 'too' sexual or 'not sexual enough' - and the context and situations that put these individuals at risk of violence or abuse due to the common issues of pathologization, medicalization, patriarchy, and medical authority.
What are you most proud of?
The scope of the book. It is always difficult as an author to decide what makes the last cut - I'm always way over my word limit and it breaks my heart to choose what stays and what has to wait until the next publication. It's about finding that balance between breadth and depth in an analysis. I'm proud of the scope of this book in terms of gender, in that I have discussed experiences of sexual abuse in medical settings with chapters on intersex individuals, transgender and nonbinary people, as well as cisgender men and women. As a queer and genderfluid survivor, who has been assaulted by men and women, I have often found writing on the topic of sexual abuse very binary and heteronormative. It was helpful and, in a way, cathartic to be able to bring these other experiences to the forefront of the discussion.
What do you think you will do next, once this one is in press?
I have already started a proposal for my next book and I am working on the release of a new online course on sexual abuse and therapy. I'm very excited about both, but I will take a break first though!
Jemma's new book The Body and Consent in Psychology, Psychiatry, and Medicine: A Therapeutic Rape Culture will be available to buy from Routledge in 2019.