Fantasy's involvement with authority is, of course, the major concern of “A Child Is Being Beaten,” which traces both the content, and the rhetoric, of a common masturbatory fantasy among Freud's patients. The fantasizer is fully aware of, but removed from, a scene of violence, and seems initially to be unconcerned with the author of that violence. Beating fantasies thus represent nothing so simple as a direct, amoral identification with the exercise of mastery. Rather, they exploit the overlap between psychic investments and real-world power relationships, to the immediate end of autoerotic pleasure, but also for the long-range purpose of managing the fantasizers' own complex relationship to social power and power differentials. Trauma can never be appreciated or described at a distance, or in purely formal terms. Rather, it irrupts on thought as “enigmatic, traumatizing messages,” to which we must respond.
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