Footnote 6 – Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality


In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Freud points out that repression in general terms, can be traced back to the imposition of domination of one individual over others, this first individual having been none other than the father. Beginning by such domination, the patriarchal form of society was established, based upon the inferiority of the woman and the intensive repression of sexuality. Moreover, Freud links his theory of patriarchal authority to the rise of religion and in particular the triumph of monotheism in the West. On the other hand, Freud is especially preoccupied with sexual repression, inasmuch as he considers the natural impulses of a human being much more complicated than patriarchal society admits: given the undifferentiated capacity of babies to obtain sexual pleasure from all the parts of their body, Freud qualifies them as ”polymorphous perverse.” As a part of the same concept, Freud also believes in the essentially bisexual nature of our original sexual impulse.


Along the same lines, and with reference to primary repression, Otto Rank considers the long development, which runs from paternal domination to a powerful system of state run by men, to be a prolongation of the same primary repression, whose purpose is the increasingly pronounced exclusion of women. In addition, Dennis Altman, in his Homosexual Oppression and Liberation, addressing himself specifically to sexual repression, relates it to a need, at the very origin of humanity, to produce a large quantity of children for economic ends and for purposes of defense.


With regard to the same subject, in Sex in History the British anthropologist Rattray Taylor points out that, beginning with the fourth century B.C., there occurs in the classical world an increase in sexual repression and a growth of the feeling of guilt, factors which facilitated a triumph of the Hebraic attitude, sexually more repressive, over the Greek one. According to the Greeks, the sexual nature of every human being combined elements which were as much homosexual as heterosexual.


Again Altman in the above-cited work expresses the view that Western societies specialize in sexual repression, legitimized as it is by the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. Such repression expresses itself in-three interrelated forms: by associating sex with (1) sin, and its consequent sense of guilt; (2) institution of the family and procreation of children as its only justification; (3) rejection of all forms of sexual behavior outside of the genital and the heterosexual. Further on he adds that traditional “libertarians” - in terms of sexual repression- fight to change the first two norms but neglect the third. An example of the same would be Wilhelm Reich, in his book The Function of the Orgasm, where he affirms that sexual liberation is rooted in the perfect orgasm, which can only be achieved by means of heterosexual genital copulation among individuals of the same generation. And it is under the influence of Reich that other investigators would develop their mistrust of homosexuality and of contraceptives, since these would interfere with the attainment of perfect orgasms, and as a result would be detrimental to total sexual “freedom.”


Concerning sexual liberation, Herbert Marcuse in Eros and Civilisation points out that the same implies more than mere absence of oppression; liberation requires a new morality and a revision of the notion of “human nature” itself. And later he adds that every real theory of sexual liberation must take into account the essentially polymorphous needs of human beings. According to Marcuse, in defiance of a society that employs sexuality as a means toward a useful end, perversions uphold sexuality as an end in itself; as a result, they lie outside the orbit of the ironclad principle of “performance,” which is to say, one of the basic repressive principles fundamental to the organization of capitalism, and thus they question, without proposing to do so, the very foundations of the latter.


Commenting on this manner of reasoning by Marcuse, Altman adds that at the point when homosexuality becomes exclusive and establishes its own economic norms, dispensing with its critical attitude toward the conventional forms of heterosexuals in order to attempt, instead, to copy the same it too becomes a form of repression, as powerful a one as exclusive heterosexuality. And further on, commenting upon another radical Freudian, Norman 0. Brown, as well as upon Marcuse, Altman infers that, in the last analysis, what we conceive of as “human nature” is no more than what has become the result of centuries of repression, an argument which implies, and in this respect Marcuse and Brown agree, the essential mutability at human nature.