A glaring example Paul Strom's article "Mellyagant's Primal Scene," (available in The Norton Critical Edition of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur, p. 894). The whole article is an extended attempt to apply one of Freud's theories about the effect on a child of witnessing his parents engaged together to a scene in Malory's work that involves neither children nor an actual witnessing of any such engagement. The result is pathetic. There is no reason to believe that Freud's theory is correct applied to other cultures; nor to different centuries; nor that a theory pertaining to a child can inform the reaction of an adult; nor that a theory built around the child/parent relationship should apply to cases of unrelated adults; nor that a theory about witnessing sex in progress captures the reaction of discovering some evidence of sex having happened at another time. In point of fact, there really is no evidence that Freud's theory holds even for all children living in his own time and culture. Nevertheless, the inclusion of Dr. Strom's article in the Norton Critical Edition shows how much academia is captured by this approach. It's a masterful example of the genre, even if it generates misapprehension and misunderstanding rather than insight.
There's another good example linked by Arts & Letters Daily today in a book review by one Sara Wheeler, apparently a feminist theorist. She is reviewing a book on penal codes related to sexuality, and relates a few examples and then her general complaint:
The supposed Enlightenment transition from religion to reason was patchy: in 1806 England hanged more sodomites than murderers, while fear of masturbation reached such a climax in Germany that men caught at it had their foreskins tied shut over their members and held fast with iron rings.The very next paragraph begins:
What all this amounts to, in most of the human cultures that have ever existed, is the male fear of and wish to subjugate women. I would have liked Berkowitz to spell this out.Apparently the irony of the remark was lost on her and her editors, if any.
What is also lost is the sense that the theory isn't adequate to the reality being encountered. This is not to say that codes regulating sexuality never have to do with a wish to subjugate women; but the assumption that they always or mostly do is an assumption being brought by the theory. These should stand as counterexamples to the sufficiency of the theory as a mode of understanding human sexuality. It may be that a more complex set of assumptions is needed: it may even be that the assumptions need to be revised.