Sexual excitement is as individual as a fingerprint and as complex as a psychological life-history, For most people it is a melodrama composed of the past and present, building on tensions of risk, mystery, illusion, hostility, and revenge. Consciously or unconsciously, we relive our earliest experiences and become aroused when we can turn the traumas of early life into the triumph of sexual pleasure.
Through the story of Belle, a young woman in psychoanalysis, Professor Robert Stoller advances the theory that sexual excitement, from the most aberrant to the relatively normal, is related to hostility, the desire to harm. At the center of Belle's character is a key erotic fantasy that contains in symbolic language, her sexual autobiography. In fantasy, Belle rewrites the story of her life, exacting mastery over and revenge on the important figures who caused her pain in the distant past. Her adult erotic pleasure is a literal, though hidden and ritualized, victory over the inevitable defeats of childhood.