Difference between revisions of "Sexuality"

From No Subject - Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis
Jump to: navigation, search
(Removing all content from page)
Line 1: Line 1:
Sexuality as understood by Sigmund Freud is "psycho-sexuality," and should be taken "in the same comprehensive sense as that in which the German language uses the word '<i>lieben</i>' (to love)."<ref>1910k, pp. 222-23</ref>
In his clinical work during the closing years of the nineteenth century, Freud noticed how significant a role sexuality played in the mental conflicts of his patients, eventually concluding that it was invariably one of the poles of any symptom-generating conflict. In <i>The Interpretation of Dreams</i> (1900a), he evoked the importance of childhood sexuality solely in connection with neurotics, but beginning with the first edition of the <i>Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality</i> (1905d) he asserted its presence and its essential role in all children. Thereafter Freud conceived of human sexuality in a broadened sense that included childhood and perverse sexuality. Childhood sexuality had three main characteristics: it was autoerotic, subject to the primacy of erotogenic zones and component instincts, and anaclitically dependent on the self-preservation instincts or ego-instincts.
It would take twenty or so years for Freud to arrive at the theory of the four stages of psychosexual development that we now find in the manuals. Each stage was characterized by the dominance of a different erotogenic zone: oral, anal, phallic, genital. The child was polymorphously perverse in that the primacy of the genital zone and of the relationship to the object was not yet established. The pervert remained fixated in, or regressed to, a subordination to one or other of the non-genital zones, ruled by component instincts. Despite this broadening of the concept of sexuality, Freud continued to define a so-called normal sexuality, reached at the end-point of development and characterized by the primacy of the genital zone and of the relationship to the object. But he had trouble completely detaching normal sexuality from the goal of procreation, something he had been able to do in the cases of infantile and perverse sexuality (see the twentieth of the <i>Introductory Lectures</i> [1916-17a]).
Another point, often insufficiently stressed, is the distinction Freud drew between two currents, the affectionate and the sensual, "whose union is necessary to ensure a completely normal attitude in love."<ref>1912d, p. 180</ref>
The whole of childhood sexuality falls under the rubric of the "Oedipus complex," a term first used by Freud in "A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men,"<ref>1910h, p. 171</ref> even though he had referred to Sophocles' <i>Oedipus Rex</i> as early as 1897 in a letter to Fliess. The Oedipus complex was at first presented by Freud from the young boy's point of view, and in a simplified form: the little boy is in love with his mother and so becomes his father's rival. In the complete form, bisexuality came into play: the boy also wants to take his mother's place vis-à-vis his father (inverted Oedipus complex). The Oedipus complex of the girl was not in Freud's view symmetrical with that of the boy, for the girl did not experience the tragic conjunction of love for the mother and a rivalry with the father provoking murderous wishes.
A sexuality that could be called perverse inasmuch it activated erotogenic zones other than the genital nevertheless had a place in normal sexuality in the shape of "fore-pleasure." What characterized perverse sexuality proper was the rigidity and exclusiveness of the manner of achieving orgasm.
Until 1920 Freud described mental conflict as a clash between the sexual instincts and the self-preservative instincts, also known as ego-instincts. Beginning with <i>Beyond the Pleasure Principle</i>,<ref>1920g</ref> however, a new opposition came to the fore in Freud's thinking, though without eradicating the earlier: that between Eros (life instincts or sexual instincts) and Thanatos (death instincts). This was yet another broadening of the concept of sexuality: Eros—love—sought to hold things together, while Thanatos—death—strove to tear them apart and destroy them. As noted above, Freud gave sexuality the same extension as the verb "to love"; since one side of the conflict is always sexuality, it may reasonably be deduced that all mental disturbance has a connection with sexuality conceived as love, as a tie to an object.
Freud was accused by some of "pansexualism." It is true that sexuality was present everywhere in his theory, yet it was always seen as in conflict with other instinctual forces, so that Freud was surely right to defend himself against this charge.
On the other hand, the issue of the relationship between sexual disturbances and psychopathology is not simple. It is quite possible to encounter dysfunctional sexuality in the strict sense in a person who presents no particular mental symptoms in other areas, while a perfectly satisfactory orgasm may occur in otherwise deeply disturbed individuals. But the libidinal tie and the relationship to the object are always implicated in the organization of the personality and in mental pathology. In psychoanalytic treatment, the transference instates a relationship of libidinal dependence with the analyst that repeats the relationship with parental figures. The transference—the motor of psychoanalysis—may become an obstacle to treatment if it takes a totally eroticized form.
For Freud, then, human sexuality was psychosexual, and individual and cultural ideas played an important role therein; yet in his view it was also biological, and he was certainly not mistaken in this. The object of the instinct is not given with the instinct itself. The history of the individual, which is to say the history of that individual's relationships with his mother, father, and other key people in the entourage, contributes to the constitution of his particular sexuality. Freud wrote that the infant's relationship with the mother who gave it the breast supplied the prototype for the adult's later love relationships. Weaning brought about the loss of the breast as libidinal object, and thereafter the individual would seek to rediscover that lost object. But some infants are not breast-fed, in which case weaning will not have the same character, and may not be so late. The breast has become a metaphor for all bodily attentions from the mother (Donald W. Winnicott), or else as a part-object (Melanie Klein). In language, and for the infant—even an infant which has not been breast-fed—the breast symbolizes the mother, and is an object of desire. Freud seems never to have heard little boys crying because they cannot have breasts like their mother, and he retained only the little girl's penis envy as a mark of the child's confrontation with the anatomical difference between the sexes. Freud's patriarchal and phallocentric assumptions echo his culture, and he was unaware of them. Only rarely do we now see the typical neuroses and disturbances of sexuality that Freud described in his "Contributions to the Psychology of Love" (1910h, 1912d); and when we do, patients usually come from families where they have received a traditional patriarchal upbringing.
Freud never suggested that unbridled sexual activity could remedy sexual and mental problems. Certainly, he at first emphasized the conflict between sexual wishes and the external world, and made "civilized sexual morality" responsible for "modern nervous illness."<ref>1908d</ref>  But later on he located the essential conflict—that between the forces of binding and the forces of unbinding—within the psyche. A strong superego, constituted by means of identification with the father as prohibitor of incest—and also (as something of an afterthought on Freud's part) by the mother—he judged necessary not only to morality but also to creativity, to sublimation, that is to say to the inhibition and diversion of strictly sexual instinctual aims. Libido seemed to Freud to be masculine in essence, and he considered the woman's superego—and hence her moral sense and creativity—to be weaker than the man's. Women were destined to passivity, or at least to activities with passive aims. Freud rejected feminist aspirations to equality between men and women.<ref>sexuality, 70, 102, 107, 146, 149-60, 172, 174-7, 180, 184, 188-9, 191-4, 196-7, 199, * 203-6, 257, 266, 270, 276, see sexuality and death [[Seminar XI]]</ref>
==See Also==
* [[Bisexuality]]
* [[Death instinct (Thanatos)]]
* [[Female sexuality]]
* [[Heterosexuality]]
* [[Homosexuality]]
* [[Life instinct (Eros)]]
# Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. SE, 4-5.
# ——. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE,7.
# ——. (1908d). "Civilized" sexual morality and modern nervous illness. SE,9.
# ——. (1910h). A special type of choice of object made by men (contributions to the psychology of love I). SE, 11.
# ——. (1910k). "Wild" psycho-analysis. SE, 11.
# ——. (1912d). On the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love (contributions to the psychology of love II). SE, 11.
# ——. (1916-17a). Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 15-16.
# ——. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18.
[[Category:Postmodern theory]]
[[Category:Jacques Lacan]]

Revision as of 12:55, 28 December 2008