Perhaps you may remember the movie called Looking for Mr. Good Bar. It depicts the story of a woman who is attracted to a demon lover. In our book A Womb of Her Own (Routledge, 2017) Dr. Kavaler-Adler discusses this phenomenon very poignantly in her account of the psychological vulnerability to rape when certain factors are present in a woman’s early background.
Dr, Kavaler-Adler writes as follows: When in addition to early pre-oedipal maternal deprivation, the woman’s father has also been traumatizing, the demonic aspect of the chosen male is often significantly compounded. In the female version of the demon-lover complex, the god-father male forces submission, and he averts or precludes surrender by the woman. He attacks the woman with a manic erotic intensity and sadism that may or may not be explicitly sexual. And, when he has forcibly conquered the woman who craves merger with his power, he both imprisons his female victim under his omnipotent control, and then – emotionally or literally abandons her. Often the demon-lover sadistically attacks his female prey with a sexualized lust, which can result in rape, beating, torture, or sometimes even murder.
In the literary examples of the demon-lover complex that women like Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Diane Arbus, Edith Sitwell, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and others have written about, death is the inevitable fate of the woman who is attracted to her demon-lover .This is true whether this death is achieved through murder by the male’s manic erotic intensity and sadism – as in Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights– or by the woman’s overt suicidal act – as in Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Diane Arbus, and Virginia Woolf (see Kavaler-Adler 1993a, 1996, 2013b). Suicide often comes at the point when the lady has given herself to the demon-lover, both sexually and psychically, and then feels murderously betrayed.
In the case of Sherry, as we will discover here, the murder is not literal, but psychological, as it occurs through rape. Yet Sherry becomes obsessed with the writings of Marquis de Sade after her date rape by the hyper-masculinized, manic-erotic, narcissistic man. She reads about how Marquis de Sade raped, tortured, and abused his female victims to the point of death. And she becomes fascinated!
Nevertheless, due to the therapeutic process in which the early pre-oedipal mother has been dealt with through a critical “developmental mourning process” (Kavaler-Adler, 1992, 1993a, 1993b, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2005a, 2005b, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2006d, 2007, 2013a, 2013b, & 2014)—the young lady suffering date rape will be seen to survive psychologically. She will take her psychological power back from the man. A therapeutic writing group milieu becomes part of Sherry’s healing process, as will be seen in her case. We will witness here that during this healing process, Sherry projects her male demon-lover rapist onto Harry, a man in one of my therapeutic writing groups, when Harry makes some comments that had re-triggered Sherry’s horrifying rape trauma. (This re-traumatization is frequent with PTSD, but it cannot always be talked about, as it could be in this therapeutic atmosphere.)
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.