SEXUAL REALITY AND HOW WE DISMISS
||Paper presented as part of Panel: "What is Sex
For?", Annual meeting, American Association of the Advancement of
Science, S.F. State University, November, 1984.
In the play
Harvey, Elwood P. Dowd declares that he struggled with reality all
his life and finally overcame it. I think he was speaking for all of us.
How we overcome sexual reality is a case in point.
with the question facing our panel: What is sex for? The first answer that
most people give is that sex is for procreation. Now suppose that we were
to point out the unreality of this answer by suggesting that if the
purpose of sex was procreation there would be no way to account for our
experience of year 'round estrus since procreation is efficiently
accomplished in infrahuman species even when limited to one month out of
the year. (Homosexuality, if cited as an example of nonprocreative sex,
would only be dismissed as an aberration.)
would then undoubtedly go on to the next answer, that sex is an expression
of love—the ultimate form of intimacy. Suppose that we were then to remind
them of the reality of tits and ass, inflatable dolls, spike heels and
patent leather, as well as fanny pinching and the other varieties of rape
This would cause
our respondents no difficulty, of course. They would simply reply (much as
they would about homosexuality) that these are perversions of sex,
in other words, distortions of sex rather than a manifestations of
what sex really is. But perhaps realizing that this answer is a bit too
dismissive, they might then fall back on a quite different answer, that
sex is for pleasure and relief from tension.
This would oblige
us to point out that people do not eat bull's testicles or powdered
rhinocerous horn to increase their capacity for tension release or sensual
responsiveness (much less to achieve greater intimacy). We would call our
respondent's attention to the real world in which sex is a test of
adequacy, a test of virility for men and of warmth and responsiveness for
women. The scorn expressed in the terms impotence and frigidity is
reserved for those who fail to pass these tests.
are engaging in a kind of mental trick. Without thinking about it they are
making a distinction between the imperfect world of sexual experience and
sex as a biological given that underlies and transcends this imperfect
world. This logic springs from the experience that most of us have of
struggling to control sexual impulses or even of simply witnessing the
play of our own sexual reflexes. We feel the stirrings of urges toward
sexual union, stirrings that can come upon us unbidden and that press for
release. We can keenly experience the need to decide how to gratify them,
whether with a partner, in masturbation—or not at all.
However, we are
here being affected, not by biology, but by a biological mystique, one
that replaced the earlier supernatural mystique. Where before we thought
that our wet dreams were the work of incubi and succubi who stole beneath
the bedclothes while we slept, we now experience ourselves as inhabited by
agents of a more material causality. Although this means that we are a
little closer to recognizing that we are having sexual wishes,
however reified, we are still sufficiently disconnected from them to
experience them as originating outside us, not literally outside us, as in
former times, but outside our experienced self.
Thus, just as we
now know that our wet dreams are caused by what we dream rather than by
night-demons, so what we experience as biological sex is caused by our
waking fantasies. What fatefully clouds our thinking about sex is the
difficulty we all have in being able to distinguish between what is real
in sex and what is fantasy. In the past our sexual fantasies were more
ego-alien and so the reality they projected for us was corrupting and
invasive. We were the victims of demoniacal possession. Although we now
are more favorably disposed toward the experience of sex, it still is
experienced as something that comes over us, even if now from an internal
source, biological rather than demoniacal possession.
To illustrate the
way our vision of sexual reality is shaped by our fantasies, an example
from the thinking of our forebears will be more compelling just because
their reality is now such a transparently naive projection. John Howard
Van Amringe (Maeroff, l984), a dean of Columbia College (an Ivy League
school) in the late l9th century said in defense of the all-male private
college: "If you can teach mathematics to a boy when there's a girl in the
room then there is something wrong with the boy."
To Dean Amringe
sex was a biological imperative independent of the context. What makes
this kind of conception so persistent is its imperviousness to negative
instances. Even if all boys could be taught mathematics with girls in the
room this might only raise a question about the virility of all boys, with
the possible exception, of course, of those who fail mathematics.
it happened, so many boys have learned mathematics with girls in the room,
that we need to ask where Dean Amringe went wrong. The answer is that he
confused fantasy with reality. He imagined what it would be like to be a
boy in a coed college and this just seemed to him to be a highly erotic
by the reality of coed experience, our imagination is no longer so free to
play upon it. However, this is a rather small conquest in the campaign to
rescue sexual reality from sexual fantasy. Like Dean Amringe, to many of
us sex can feel like a biological imperative straining against arbitrary
sanctions. Then whenever the sanctions are removed and we do not feel
especially aroused, we do not question our fantasies or our biological
mystique, we simply think that there must be something wrong with
was Freud who offered the most sweepingly romantic
modern version of this vision of sex. As is well known, he proposed that
sex must be constrained to make civilization possible, even to the extent
that the human race may die out as a consequence:
Obviously, this is not
one of the ideas Freud will be remembered for, one embarrassingly period
bound. But Freud is, of course, the modern authority for the image of sex
as wild and primitive, at odds with decency, the beast with two backs
rattling the bars of its makeshift cage. Perhaps no less than St. Paul he
thought of us as daily wrestling with our animal nature. Although Freud's
conception is well known, it is not so well known that it was based on an
||Thus we may perhaps be forced to become reconciled
to the idea that it is quite impossible to adjust the claims of the
sexual instinct to the demands of civilization; that in consequence
of its [that is, man's] cultural development, renunciation and
suffering, as well as the danger of extinction in the remotest
future, cannot be avoided by the human race (1912, p.
Now here's a big
surprise: the reality that Freud observed was entirely the reverse.
Freud's belief in the strength of the sex drive was based on his
observations of its weakness. The evidence that Freud adduces for
his vision of universal sexual repression is his observation of a
widespread lack of libido in both men and women that he called impotence,
being careful to say that he was using the term in the broadest possible
sense. The above citation was the conclusion he came to at the end of an
essay (ibid., pp. 184f) in which he presents the following
This was the sexual
reality that Freud observed only to reject it. It is as if he observed
that all the boys were learning mathematics with girls in the room and,
fully agreeing with Dean Amringe, concluded that there must be something
wrong with all the boys. This could not be the natural state of man. Hence
Freud's inference that this lack of sexual excitement must be the wound we
bear in the service of civilized life.
||If the concept of psychical impotence is broadened
and is not restricted to failure to perform the act of coitus...we
may in the first place add all those men who are described as
psychoanaesthetic: men who never fail in the act but who carry it
out without getting any particular pleasure from it—a state of
affairs that is more common than one would think.... An easily
justifiable analogy takes one from these anaesthetic men to the
immense number of frigid women...
If however we turn our attention
not to an extension of the concept of psychical impotence, but to
the gradations in its symptomatology, we cannot escape the
conclusion that the behavior in love of men in the civilized world
bears the stamp altogether of psychical impotence.
To be sure, Freud
thought he saw a lot of evidence for the presence of repressed sexuality
although, of course, none of it was direct and at least some of it
suggests that Freud's biological mystique came first. A good example was
his concept of the "actual" (literally "present-day") neurosis, a
condition in which the sufferer was directly poisoned by the toxic effects
of dammed-up libido.
elaboration of this concept will repay a detailed examination since it is
a striking example of the way the biological mystique can collapse under
the weight of its reified metaphors.
Freud (1906, p.
273) claimed that an actual neurosis, although appearing to be a
psychoneurosis was in fact not a psychological condition, but was instead
a case of toxicity (created by dammed-up libido) similar to "the phenomena
of intoxication and abstinence after the use of certain alkaloids, as well
as Graves disease and Addison's disease:"
of sex as a "load of pressure" is not widely shared by women. Not
surprisingly, therefore, regarding women Freud did not feel himself to be
on equally firm ground: "Where women are concerned, however, we are not in
a position to say what the process analogous to the relaxation of tension
of the seminal vesicles may be (ibid., p. 109)."
||Properly speaking, it [anxiety neurosis, one of
the actual neuroses, along with neurasthenia and hypochondriasis]
has no psychical mechanism. Its specific cause is the
accumulation of sexual tension, produced by abstinence or by
unconsummated sexual excitation (l895a, p. 81, italics added). In
the sexually mature male...somatic excitation is manifested as a
pressure on the walls of the seminal vesicles...and something
positively must take place which will free the nerve endings from
the load of pressure on them (l895b, p. l08f).
must wonder how this "load of pressure" on the vesicular nerve endings can
be sufficiently sustained to generate an anxiety neurosis, neurasthenia,
or hypochondriasis, since any such pressure would be relieved through
masturbation, a nearly universal activity or, failing that, through
nocturnal emissions. Freud (ibid.) explains that:
(ibid., p. 124) argues that masturbation and spontaneous emissions
are "incomplete," and hence the "disburdening" is "inadequate." But how
incomplete can masturbatory discharge be if the man masturbates, say,
eight times daily? True, it is probably not emotionally adequate,
but then what is? And that takes us some distance from the seminal
vesicles (even though it lurks behind Freud's impressionistic
||neurasthenia develops whenever the adequate
unloading... is replaced by a less adequate one—thus, when normal
coition, carried out in the most favorable conditions, is replaced
by masturbation or spontaneous emission.
Here we find
Freud (ibid., p. 111) speaking of "masturbators" who "have been
accustomed for so long to discharging even the smallest quantity of
excitation, faulty though that discharge is." If even the smallest
quantity of excitation is discharged and if the problem is the build up of
excitation, how can this discharge be faulty?
Let me pause here
to explain why this exercise in exegetics. Freud's argument is even more
elliptical than was customary for him, and this may itself be a case in
point. One gets the sense that he was working intuitively, working within
a world of experience that he could assume was shared by everyone. His
readers could be counted on to know that masturbation and spontaneous
emissions are not an "adequate unloading" of sexual urges.
may even have had a hidden assumption that "excitation" must build up in
order to create an adequate discharge, and thus the "masturbator" who
discharges "the smallest quantity of excitation" may be getting a "faulty"
result. (This, at least, was how Wilhelm Reich took it in his elaboration
of Freud's actual neuroses into a whole system in which the build-up of
sexual tension is as critical for bodily well being as is the manner in
which it is discharged.) If this indeed was Freud's assumption, these
vesicular nerve endings begin to look unusually demanding. They may well
want foreplay and even romance.
Freud was as much
a captive of the biological mystique as are most men. Coital orgasms are
generally the most satisfying and therefore seem to reflect a biological
imperative, especially in view of the apparently procreative purpose of
sex. Indeed, Freud even questioned whether coital orgasms are
necessarily adequately "disburdening." Thus anxiety neurosis could even be
caused by "sexual intercourse with incomplete satisfaction" (l895c, p.
124). For example, even men who have "normal" sex lives may develop actual
neuroses if they delay orgasm in deference to the woman (1895b, p.
In other words,
civilization requires men to continually defer to women by inhibiting the
urge toward sexual discharge. As a result, "libido gradually disappears."
This is the effect of unrelieved pressure on the vesicular nerve endings.
Thus we are obliged to enjoy sex to the fullest if we are to avoid being
poisoned by it and it is every man for himself.
||Coitus reservatus with consideration for
the woman operates by disturbing the man's psychical preparedness
for the sexual process in that it introduces along side of the task
of mastering the sexual affect another psychical task, one of a
deflecting sort. In consequence of this psychical deflection, once
more, libido gradually disappears, and the further course of things
is then the same as in the case of abstinence.
Now how did Freud
know that what he saw when he looked around him was not sexual reality but
a simulacrum? He responded only as everyone does. Like Harvey's
protagonist, we cope with reality by rejecting it. My contention is that
this was Freud's way of accounting for the difference between his sexual
fantasies and his sexual reality (given also his early attempts to emulate
the nineteenth century physiology of Helmholtz and Brucke).
guess is that this was a relatively simple case of Freud's knowing that he
had all kinds of forbidden impulses during the day, but when opportunity
presented itself he was not always ready. As do most men, he concluded not
that he had learned something about sexual reality, but that his ability
to respond sexually had been impaired, and that this might even portend
the eventual extinction of the human race "in the remotest future" (an
idea that has been politely ignored, perhaps as part of the quota of such
allowed a man of genius).
Thus sex still
was a simple, automatic reflex response, or it would be if people didn't
reaffirmed his conception of the actual neuroses as late as l925 (they
"must be regarded as direct toxic consequences of disturbed sexual
chemical processes," 1925, p. 26), he radically revised his theory of
anxiety in the following year. He had come to the recognition that it is
not the repression of libido that causes anxiety, it is anxiety that
causes the repression of libido. He acknowledged this shift in a charming
retraction (1926, p. 109):
Although this was a
momentous shift in Freud's understanding of repression, it may be accurate
to say that it represented no shift in his understanding of sex. Three
years later, Civilization and its Discontents appeared, Freud's
great statement of his belief in the sexual renunciation required for
civilization to endure. He was as far as ever from conceiving of the
possibility that the "complete" sexual satisfaction that he envisioned
could only be made possible by civilization.
||It is no use denying the fact, though it is not
pleasant to recall it, that I have on many occasions asserted that
in repression the instinctual representative is distorted,
displaced, and so on, while the libido belonging to the instinctual
impulse is transformed into anxiety.
The nerve endings
call out for satisfaction, "complete" satisfaction. "Civilization"
represented an opposing force. The irony is that it is "civilization" that
led Freud to the view that the sexual reality he saw was a simulacrum, a
pale shadow of the passionate and unfettered sexuality immanent in our
natures. It is our institutionalized otherworldliness that formed Freud's
vision. It is "civilization" that led Freud to his belief in the
defectiveness of his and all his cohorts' sexuality.
All of this is to
say that when people are asked what sex is for they respond reflexively,
wittingly or unwittingly making a distinction between sex as they know it
and sex as they imagine it should or could be. This is the sex of
corrupting demons, surging hormones, and heavenly choirs. If this much is
clear, I would now like to reverse this way of thinking about sex in favor
of discovering what sex is about by looking around us.
What would sex
look like to a Martian? My guess is that he would rather quickly conclude
that the purpose of sex is to possess another person. To pick a
seldom discussed but nevertheless highly revealing example, most cultures
are and have been fascinated with bridal virginity. This should not be
dismissed simply as a concern with property rights. A man feels quite
differently if what is stolen from him is his wife as compared with his ox
or his car, and he takes title with a good deal more gusto. Here is how
one scholar put it (Tannahill, l980, p. 37l):
This is the sex act as
a ritual of possession. "Masculine boasting over the act itself" suggests,
of course, that the sex act in this context has little to do with sensual
pleasure, much less intimacy, but is a celebration of masculine status.
Most societies throughout history and most contemporary societies are, of
course, authoritarian and sex is therefore a celebration of status and
role, much as is the rest of the pattern of human
||Bridal virginity has been a preoccupation of most
societies throughout history, but although it is usually associated
with questions of legality and legitimacy there is much to suggest
that the specifically sexual aspect was also important, particularly
in places such as Sparta, Crete, and Rome, where the wedding
ceremony incorporated a kind of formalized representation of
kidnapping for the purpose of rape—which, psychologically, is a more
extreme version of defloration. Indian Muslims, at some stages of
history, are recorded as practicing public defloration as proof of
the bride's premarital chastity, while both they and the tribal Kurd
were accustomed to display a cloth stained with hymeneal blood for
the same reason. In both cases the avowed object helps to mask a
strong element of masculine boasting over the act itself. Muslims
appear to have been particularly fascinated by defloration. In the
Islamic paradise, the believer was promised 10,000 virgins who,
deflowered each night, have their virginity miraculously restored on
the following morning.
This means that
the man who cannot boast over the act itself is as much in trouble
as is the woman who cannot produce hymeneal blood. Indeed, with men's
higher status comes greater vulnerability to humiliation. Thus, my use of
the term "possession" is intended to convey the way sex can be a masculine
province, but I want to stress that the prerogatives and entitlements that
thereby accrue are also duties. Just as are women, men are prisoners of
Now what of
simple lust? My argument is that lust best describes the sex of our
fantasies and that although that is the sex we know best, it only clouds
our vision of sexual reality. All the people Freud observed who were
sexually apathetic were not simply, or not necessarily repressing (or
otherwise avoiding) their sexual potential, they were reacting to (or
against) the sexual reality that in fact existed. Men of Sparta, Crete,
and Rome, the Indian Muslims, and the Kurd, may have at times not looked
forward to their ritual consummations. On the other hand, the believer who
is to spend his time in paradise with 10,000 virgins may be counted on to
look forward to it since fantasy partners can be expected to be unerringly
arousing, unlike his real partner, someone chosen by his family as a good
social and/or economic investment.
Certainly it is
difficult to see what there would be in it for the woman to experience
being possessed in this way. From this standpoint sexual apathy does not
look like the product of repression; it looks entirely appropriate.
Consider this picture of contemporary sexual reality (Davenport, 1977, p.
distaste, and anorgasmia seem obviously appropriate once this picture of
sexual reality is presented. Of course, it rarely is presented, making it
easy to think that sexual apathy is wholly a consequence of sexual
repression, and there goes sexual reality.
||In most of the societies for which there are data,
it is reported that men take the initiative and, without extended
foreplay, proceed vigorously toward climax without much regard for
achieving synchrony with the woman's orgasm. Again and again, there
are reports that coitus is primarily completed in terms of the man's
passions and pleasures, with scant attention paid to the woman's
response. If women do experience orgasm, they do so passively. In
the Ojibwa, a North American Indian group, it is reported that women
are passive during intercourse and orgasm; however, they may take
the lead in initiating coitus. In the Guinea survey of young single
adults from several African ethnic groups, the women overwhelmingly
reported passivity during coitus, embarrassment at expressing
satisfaction during intercourse, distaste for caressing and many
admitted an inability to achieve orgasm.
It is less
obvious what the men experience. The fact that "without extended
foreplay," they "proceed vigorously toward climax" suggests not only that
the women are sexually dispossessed (as well as possessed) but that these
men who are strangely in a hurry must not be having peak experiences
either. This haste is a good indicator of ritualization and
There can be no
question that sex from within the old paradigm represented a requirement
to demonstrate proficiency at one's role. Examples are available as far
back as recorded history takes us: Ancient Egyptian physicians signified
on their papyri that a man was impotent by writing that he was "incapable
of doing his duty" (Tannahill, 1980, p. 65). Essential to the role is the
capacity to possess the partner. Whether or not the act is enjoyed
is not a relevant question from within this paradigm.
There is an
almost universally shared impression among sexologists that men did
experience a kind of unfettered sexuality in Ancient (Taoist) China.
However, a closer look indicates that this was only the freedom to perform
(Tannahill, 1980, p. 168):
Ask any Sultan
whether a harem was as much a garden of erotic delights as Reubens would
have it, considering the schedule of sexual encounters that he was
expected to adhere to undeviatingly, with time off only for illness
(ibid., p. 189):
||Just as the European of early medieval times knew,
without quite understanding why, that sex was sinful but
occasionally permissible, so his contemporary in China knew, without
quite understanding why, that sex was a sacred duty and one that he
must perform frequently and conscientiously if he was truly to
achieve harmony with the Supreme Path, the Way, Tao.
This is quite
another version of civilization and its discontents.
||It might reasonably be expected that where
polygamy flourished there would be no need for prostitution. But
this was very far from the case. The conscientious Chinese husband,
in fact, frequently went to prostitutes not for sexual intercourse
but to escape from it.
then, of course, there is Polynesia. Among sexologists, this is the other
lodestone for the biological-romantic mystique. As Haeberle (1978, p.
464), the well-known historian of sex, put it:
In Mangaia, for
example, there even is a word for the sound of moist genitalia bumping
together (Marshall, 1971, p. 118). Haeberle reports that Cook was
especially impressed to find that the Tahitians "had sexual intercourse in
public and 'gratified every appetite and passion before witnesses'."
However, this should have been a clue to the possibility that this was not
the sexual freedom it appeared to be. An additional clue in Cook's own
account was his observation that "Among the spectators were several women
of superior rank who...gave instructions to the girl [who participated in
a demonstration witnessed by Cook] how to perform her part" (Haeberle,
||Various explorers returned home with news of
sexually uninhibited "noble savages" in distant parts of the globe.
The French Captain Bougainville and the English Captain Cook found
sensuous, happy people in Tahiti and on other Pacific islands, and
this discovery cast serious doubt on the sexual standards of
are confirmed by Marshall's (1971, pp. 118f) more systematic ethnographic
account of Polynesian sexuality:
Polynesian men have no complaints about the women's sexual
demands; they are fully prepared to meet them (ibid., pp. 124,
||The Mangaian, or Polynesian girl takes an
immediate demonstration of sexual virility and masculinity as the
first test of her partner's desire for her and as the reflection of
her own desirability... One virility test used by Mangaian women is
to require a lover to have sexual intercourse without making contact
with any part of the partner's body other than the
Marshall reports that "invariably, tira [impotence] is said by
informants to be 'common'." He speculates that a cause may be "the stress
upon nightly copulation." He also adds that "the shame factor in impotence
is very great" (caused by the demands of "civilization?"), and so we can
expect that Captain Cook was offered no chance to witness a public
exhibition of this feature of Polynesian sexuality.
||The Mangaian emphasis is not on upon the number of
times a night that a man can achieve climax; rather, he sets his
sights on the number of nights a week that he is capable of coitus.
In his teens and twenties, he aims at every night
He also judges potency by his
ability (or that of others) to get the same woman pregnant twice in
Mangaian men are aware that in central Polynesia it is said that the
name of an island "travels on a man's penis." Mangaian men do not
wish to let the name of their island "fall."
are authoritarian and in them we are not likely to find areas of freedom,
sexual or otherwise. Along with bridal virginity, the arranged marriage is
the institution that best conveys the temper of the typical human society.
Arranged marriages are only one part of the pattern of arranged
relationships. This proved to create an almost insurmountable
problem for the makers of a recent film done in the Australian Outback
with an aboriginal cast. Once one person was selected to play the lead,
this automatically projected his relationship grid onto the rest of the
tribal group, the network of kin and clan roles that determined who could
talk to whom about what, and with what degree of deference. It is only a
slight exaggeration to say that once the filmmakers chose the lead, all
the other roles were cast.
Of course, the
Australian aborgines are known to represent an extreme form of
ritualization. In fact, this has somehow been to their credit. In the
early days of cultural relativism, ethnologists would almost take pride in
the fact that this technologically paleolithic people had a marvelously
complex kinship system, as if this demonstrated an unexpected gentility.
The unstated message apparently was that the aborigines, naked and
unsheltered, actually were just as human as we since in their
relationships they were not indiscriminate and promiscuous. This is not a
convincing point in any case, since infrahuman species are even more
dominated by the pressures of status and role than are humans, and
"promiscuity," however bad its name, is the mark of human groups.
both man and beast share is a fear of one another that is reduced by
making all members of the group predictable, although the fear resurfaces
as "fear of the stranger" (this is the term used in the Harvard Cultural
Index), a fear of anyone who does not fit the categories. It is only after
the strange wolf has gone through a period of probationary groveling, and
this includes sexual groveling, that the pack can feel unthreatened enough
to include him. (Sexual deference and submission, although a familiar
component of infrahuman sex, has never found representation in our
biological mystique, perhaps because it plays no part in the procreational
In our progress
toward developing individual egos we have reduced the fear in a new way;
we now have been able to internally locate and make sense of much of our
experience. We can even risk a little promiscuity. But fewer arranged
relationships has thus far meant fewer relationships of any kind since our
fear of the stranger is by no means eliminated and we now lack adequately
reassuring meeting-and-greeting rituals. This has even resulted in
preventing some people from having any partners, an astonishing
development, at least from a tribal perspective. We now find ourselves
groping for the lost rituals. We now write to advice columnists asking how
to make or break a date, how to refuse an invitation, or how to get our
guests to leave.
non-authoritarian Western cultures individual needs and desires (feelings)
are now beginning to rival duty as socially appropriate motivations,
although the fight still goes on (e.g., the abortion controversy). With
the rise of individualism in the West came the idea of romantic love, the
decline of arranged marriages and, most significantly, the endorsement of
women's sexuality. Although much has been made of the contribution of
Victorian modes of thought to our present sexual anxieties, in fact the
Victorian period can be understood as a reaction against the changes that
the anti-authoritarian revolution had set in motion. If Victorianism
represented a revival of sex-as-duty, this was only a delay in the general
Western movement away from ancient tribal conceptions of sex and of human
relations as a whole. After all, even the grimmest of Victorian pieties
are easily matched by the possession-consciousness found in present-day
China, India, Russia, Latin America, and of course, the Islamic
Perhaps the most
signal accomplishments have been the appearance of the ideas of emotional
intimacy and of authenticity. As a consequence, devotion to duty has
become a much less compelling criterion of integrity. Conscientiousness,
at least as contrasted with fidelity to one's feelings, is now often a
longer offer their wives for the night to male houseguests. Indeed they
are no longer as likely to offer their last crust of bread or any other
prized possession. A houseguest is now less likely to be responded to
ritualistically, less likely that is to be responded to on the basis of
his or her status as a house guest alone. We feel freer to respond
differentially, to respond to a guest in accordance with how we feel. This
is, of course, a momentous step in the development of the human ego. It
represents the ushering in of nothing less than a new paradigm for human
However, we have
only begun to grasp its implications and we will need a few more centuries
to work it through. As for hospitality rituals, we still are limited in
how differentially we can respond. To the pain of many a host, and to the
profit of many an advice columnist (as I noted above), we still have no
way to get rid of houseguests or even guests for the evening without loss
It seems as if
this pain is caused by having to endure the unwanted guest, but it
actually is created by the new paradigm. From within the old paradigm it
was a point of pride to endure the unwanted guest. Dedication to duty and
the subjugation of feelings was the path of virtue. Further, without
realizing it we made a virtue of necessity: by subjugating our feelings we
made ourselves reliable to one another and this protected us from the
always-imminent encroachments of interpersonal anxiety.
ritual means freedom to experience interpersonal anxiety. With regard to
my example of hospitality rituals, it is the freedom to risk alienating an
unwanted houseguest. Not surprisingly, in the face of such a risk we
instinctively fall back on ritual, but where before we took pride in not
acting on our feelings, now this is cause for shame. By a kind of paradigm
slippage we now lose face if we are inauthentic. We are caught in a
paradox, feeling compelled to be ritualistically nonritualistic.
why we now feel oppressed by the unwanted guest. We are ashamed of our
inability to be "authentic" because authenticity is still understood from
within the old paradigm, which is to say that it is ritualistically
continuing with my illustration: in the past we could take pride in our
ability to treat the unwanted guest as handsomely as the wanted one,
not realizing that we could not have handled any greater range of options,
that we were in effect making a virtue of necessity. This necessity to
avoid interpersonal anxiety forces itself on us when we try to act more
assertively and we then feel ashamed of having to fall back on tribal
rituals. The ultimate accomplishment in consciousness raising would be to
be able to tolerate recognition of our vulnerability to interpersonal
Essential to the
new role definition is the capacity to make contact with the partner. We
now hear that sex is communication (a rather foreign notion to the
Indian Muslim, the Taoist Chinese, the Polynesian, the Victorian, or for
most other peoples, past or present.) This is why when asked what sex is
for, most people will now say that it is an expression of love and the
ultimate form of intimacy. This is taken ritualistically, as I have been
arguing, with the result that we now feel obliged to respond to our
partners and to make our partners respond to us. One way to put this is to
say that sex as a ritual of possession is in the process of being replaced
by sex as a ritual of mutual affirmation.
The new purpose
for sex has been structured in the old way, integrated in accordance with
our duty-bound habits of thought. In the past we felt ashamed of not being
able to perform in sex. We still do. Only now we also feel ashamed of
wanting to perform.
THE JOB OF
Sex therapists are
repeatedly struck by the way most people feel compelled to perform in sex,
having to respond on cue. In fact, the conception of sex as a performance
is built into the language. We say that a man is or is not able to
get an erection. If he is not able to he is impotent, which
is to say powerless. If he is not able to maintain his
erection, we say that he lost it, not that it got lost or that it went
But, as I
discussed earlier, when people are asked what sex is for, they don't say
anything about it being a test of adequacy or a performance. They say that
sex is for procreation, release, or the expression of love and closeness.
Yet these are the same people who, when they are not being asked what sex
is for, will unapologetically speak of sexual prowess.
there is no necessary inconsistency here. When people say that sex means
release and closeness it is true that they do not think of themselves as
describing sex as a test of adequacy, but what they are in fact doing is
giving the criteria on which the test is to be graded. What sex therapists
observe is that in sex people are trying to be adequate at the new role
definitions. They are trying to be adequate in the pursuit of pleasure and
Sex partners work
at being mutually reassuring. Sex talk is all encouragement and flattery
(I have at times likened it to infield chatter). Sex means always saying
yes. It is all hyperbole; no one believes or expects their partner to
believe anything said in sex. Perhaps the most telling clue to
sex-as-performance is the fact that in sex we all try to keep everything
as smooth as possible.
What does keeping
things smooth and always saying yes have to do with release, pleasure,
love, or closeness? What we all are doing is trying to act as abandoned
and intimate as possible. This is the test. And this is why when asked
what sex is for no one mentions the pressure to be responsive; they just
say that sex means being responsive.
biological mystique. This responsiveness is thought of as biological, as a
reaction pattern waiting to be triggered. No matter how hard people work
at sex, they still believe that the reaction pattern they are after is
spontaneous. They see themselves as working only to trigger
I said that this
is what sex therapists observe, that most people are concerned with
performing, with proving their adequacy in sex. But when sex therapists
are asked what sex is about they give the same answers as everyone else.
Just as everyone else, and despite what they observe in their daily work,
sex therapists do not emphasize the way that our orientation toward sex is
dominated by the concern with performing and with tests of adequacy.
Indeed, they do not mention it at all. This is the most striking example
of our rejection of sexual reality.
Here is an
example from the work of one of the best known and most widely respected
husband-and-wife sex therapy team. There is nothing unusual about this
example; I have chosen it only because of its unimpeachable
representativeness. As they note in their introduction, the Zussmans wrote
a book based on their clinical work with over 800 couples. What is of
interest to us is their statement about the nature and purpose of sex.
Regarding the purpose of sex they declare (l978, p. 12):
And regarding the nature of sex:
||If you want to get really close to another person,
sharing your sexuality is the most intense [they mean the best] form
of communication available.
Now, I hardly
need tell you that this was not a summary of what the Zussmans
found to be the nature and purpose of sex from their work with the 800
couples. I would be surprised if even one of these couples experienced sex
in the way the Zussmans describe it, as without goals or rules and as an
unparalleled form of communication.
|| There are no standards to meet, no goals
that must be reached, no rules except a responsibility to not hurt
others or to allow yourself to be hurt.
answer to this point is that the couples that the Zussmans worked with are
deviant. But, I think we are entitled to ask, deviant from what?
The Zussmans would undoubtedly say that these couples are deviant from the
couples that they did not work with. So they worked with 800 couples and
then based their conception of the nature and purpose of sex on couples
that they did not work with.
The answer to
this point might be that there is nothing unusual about inferring normal
functioning from the study of pathological functioning. However, as you
might expect, the Zussmans offer no basis for their inference. It is as
if, from a study of the weather, one were to conclude that the normal day
is sunny and clear.
Think of it this
way: How many couples would the Zussmans have to work with before they
began to revise their conception of the nature and purpose of sex? Sixteen
hundred? Thirty-two hundred? Thirty-two thousand?
I think the
answer is that even if they worked with everybody, this would have
no affect on their conception of sex. If they worked with everybody and
found that everybody felt this pressure to prove their adequacy in sex,
the Zussmans would feel bad about that but it would not affect their
conception of sex. They would just think that they were witnessing an
epidemic of sexual afflictions.
Indeed, we read
about just such epidemics in the daily newspaper. Michael Carrera, a
prominent sex educator, made a prototypic statement in a newspaper
interview publicizing his recent and generally well-received resource book
on sex for the general reader (Stein, 1981):
People are so
frantic about having superior orgasms, as measured against "outside
standards," that they forget why they are there. They forget the
nature and purpose of sex. They forget that there are no rules or
standards in sex and that it is not a test of adequacy. So there are no
rules or standards in sex, unless you forget that and, at least according
to Carrera, people usually do.
||People want to have an orgasm like a grand
mal seizure. In their frantic search they forget who they are
with and why they are there. Instead of following their own
inclinations, they tend to measure themselves against outside
There is the
irony here that if it is true that people forget that sex is a test of
adequacy, therapists (of all kinds) forget that they, perhaps more than
anyone else, take the ability to fulfill sex role-demands as an ultimate
test of adequacy (maturity). Although this practice by no means began with
Freud, he gave it much of its present currency among therapists. He quite
literally adopted prevalent sex-role definitions as his measures of
maturity. Thus, impotence was explained as an inhibition of aggression and
frigidity as a resistance to surrender since it was clear who was supposed
to be aggressive and who passive.
Despite the fact
that sex is so obviously treated as a test of adequacy by both laypersons
and professionals, everyone feels neurotic about experiencing it this way.
(I have, 1984, referred to this as performance-anxiety anxiety.) Carrera
is only reflecting everyone's latter-day anxiety about the role concerns
that we can no longer respect but that both laypersons and professionals
alike have yet to work their way out of.
There also are no
rules or standards in sex unless you count the rule that there are no
rules or standards. This is, in fact, the most oppressive of the rules.
The rule of no-rules is just the idea that sex should be spontaneous, that
people should let it happen and stop interfering with it. Just as people
think that no matter how hard they are working at sex they are simply
trying to trigger a spontaneous reaction pattern, so even sex therapists
will offer rules that are not rules because they are designed only to
liberate our spontaneous sexual selves. For example, Hartman and Fithian
(1972, p. 186), a leading West Coast sex-therapy team offer the following
no-rule rule designed only to avoid an eventuality that "often seriously
Fithian precede this advice with a cautionary tale about a woman who
interrupted sex, with disastrous consquences:
|| The couples who function best are the ones
who are always saying yes to the lovemaking activites in which they
are involved. The implicit suggestion here [meaning the lesson to be
learned from this observation] is that couples encourage their
partners, and engage in those activities which they do enjoy,
reaffirming by saying yes that they are enjoying the activity. We
strongly encourage all our therapeutic couples to lead their
partners into positive and pleasurable activities to which they,
with complete abandon, can say yes because they are genuinely
enjoying those particular activities. A negative response often
seriously inhibits further lovemaking efforts and should be avoided
This sense of a
"momentum well underway" strikingly conveys the vision of sex as an event
about which there should be no rules except for rules that will insure
that it happens right. Although I do not pretend to be able adequately to
solve this ontological conundrum, I can at least recognize that the sex
experts are, like Harvey's protagonist, struggling with reality,
but unlike him I think they are not so much overcoming it as being
overcome by it.
||Several years ago while observing a research
couple in coitus, the female in the midst of coital activities said
to her partner very loudly "stop." Needless to say, the entire
lovemaking activities halted. All the enjoyable feelings and the
degree of arousal which had been present went "down the drain," and
then in a somewhat embarrassing and uncomfortable situation, both
partners attempted to continue with their lovemaking
activities—never fully recovering the momentum well underway at
Fithian's morality tale, Carrera's admonishments, and the Zussman's
propositions all represent the familiar apocalyptic vision of sex that
regularly appears in the women's pages (men read the sport pages). The
tone is consistently deploring. Sex therapists and sex educators
accurately perceive sexual reality only to reject it. We are told in the
most unflattering of terms that we do not take enough time for sex, and
that when we do take enough time for it we do it too fast, and that even
when we take enough time for it and do it slowly enough, we treat it like
an Olympic event.
This is to say
that these are not observations of our sexuality that the experts are
using to formulate a model of our sexual reality. Such observations cannot
be developed further because their effect is to dismiss sexual
reality. Carrera's comment expresses impatience with people for forgetting
the nature and purpose of sex: people are ruining sex. Hartman and
Fithian show no interest in why the woman they observed suddenly shouted
"stop." By irresponsibly injecting a personal note into what Hartman and
Fithian like to call the "lovemaking activity," she irreparably jarred it,
this result being an object lesson for all of those who would take
liberties with sex.
Perhaps more than
any other branch of sexology, the professional sex-film movement best
captures the way many of those in the field dismiss sexual reality in the
name of sexual liberation. The guiding assumption is that people have been
taught to say no to sex; this makes them "sex-negative." They must be
taught to say yes to sex, to be "sex-positive." They must be taught that
sex is not dirty.
sexologists are only purveying the general consensus. Popular wisdom now
has it that sex is not dirty. This proposition is always presented as a
counter-dogma and professional sex-films are unabashedly propagandistic.
Booklets accompanying films made by a major sex-film producer are titled
the Yes books (Multi Media Resource Center, 1972-3). The actors in
these films are unfailingly nice and the tone is upbeat and
With the goals of
"permission" and "desensitization," the image of sex presented in these
films is one of hearty good fellowship, an image far removed from the
threat to civilization that Freud envisioned. Whatever you want to do is
OK (the only exception being that you should not impose your
demands on your partner and should not allow your partner to impose his or
her demands on you).
As I put it
(Apfelbaum, 1984b, p. 332):
In short, they
always say yes. This is not presented as an ideal; it is presented as the
way sex is, or would be if only people would allow it. There is no
evidence of any thought being given to why sex may be considered dirty.
The idea is that our guilt about sex and our sexual inhibitions are a
historical accident, a vestige of our Puritan and Victorian heritage that
has no basis in reality.
||The sexual reality found in professional sex films
is a far cry from the sexual reality we all know... What it actually
represents is a denial of sexual reality.
The people in professional sex films
rarely have sex problems and those they do have are easily solved.
They always know what they want and they always ask for it with a
smile. They are understanding and patient and never want more than
their fair share.
The thinking here
is slipshod to the point of capriciousness. Sex guilt and sexual
inhibitions are world-wide. The sexual restrictions found in China, India,
and Russia can hardly be traced to the Puritans and the Victorians. Even
the Church Fathers did not originate sex guilt. Indeed, Augustine, in his
City of God (Book XIV, Chapter 18), argued that he saw evidence of
sexual shame all around him (he at least did not dismiss sexual reality,
even if he took it too much at face value), and that it was this rather
than some purely supernal vision that led him to conclude that sex is
No one has yet
offered a way to reasonably comprehend the idea that sex is dirty. It
seems to me that the best way to comprehend it is to think of it as a
reaction to the exploitive side of sex, a not inconsiderable side of
sexual reality. In this light the counter-dogma that sex is OK (not dirty)
represents a laundering of sexual reality.
The dirty side of
sex is disposed of rather ingenuously in the codicil to the proposition
that sex is OK. Recall that it is OK as long as you do not impose your
demands on your partner and do not allow your partner to impose his or her
demands on you, that is, as long as it is not exploitive. Implicit in this
guideline is the assumption that sexual exploitation and the imposition of
sexual demands is obvious, conscious, and avoidable—rather than difficult
to detect and universal. In other words, sex is clean as long as it is
proposition is nonsense on the face of it, it represents a real position.
It represents a flat-out dismissal of sexual reality. It means treating
rape, harrassment, and other forms of sexual exploitation as distortions
of sex rather than as part of what sex really is. This means blaming the
victim, especially in the case of the institutionalized soft-rape that is
universally part of marital contracts. Thus, a woman in the past was
duty-bound to allow herself to be possessed even if the most it could mean
to her was thinking of England. Sex was a dirty duty, literally a favor
women did for men. Now that sex is to be thought of as not dirty, this
woman is expected to enjoy what still is a duty, and if she does not she
is found wanting (by herself as well as others). She had no right to
complain then and she has no right to complain now.
In the moral
perspective of the pre-modern era the unpatriotic Englishwoman (or the one
who recognized that this exhortation misrepresented the object of her
charity) was considered simply to be mean-spirited. Now (with Freud) we
think she is afraid of sex, that she is afraid of closeness or of
letting go. What gives this conception so much plausibility is the fact
that it is descriptively correct.
My contention is
that such a woman, to continue with our example, is not literally afraid
of sex, however convincingly this may appear to be the case. She is afraid
of being inadequate. This is easy to miss because both laypersons and
professionals ignore the way that sex is a test of adequacy.
underlying fear of inadequacy is also easy to miss because there are, of
course, always reasons why such a woman is unable or unwilling to fulfill
the required role demands. She may have been raised as a strict Catholic,
she may have suffered incest, or she may be turned off by her husband. It
never is difficult to find such influences and such a woman and any
therapist she goes to is quite likely to believe that these influences are
the cause of her problem, rather than that they prevent her from being
automatically responsive and hence create feelings of inadequacy by making
it hard for her to enact her role.
Thus, this woman
and her therapist can be expected to believe: (1) that there is no good
reason for sexual antipathies, (2) that there is no good reason to
experience sex as a test of adequacy, even though (3) they both take it
for granted that one's capacity and willingness to fulfill one's sex role
is, in actuality, an ultimate test of one's adequacy (maturity). They both
think that she should not experience sex as a test, and this is the new
test. (Feeling tested may be the most spontaneous of sexual responses,
even if it does not fit our fantasy of sexual spontaneity, since it
appears to be the most difficult to extinguish.)
in sex means always saying yes, at least as I have proposed, it should be
clear that the Yes books and the yes-films must intensify the
pressure to perform, just as sex educators and sex therapists decry the
concern with sexual performance while giving rules about how to perform
better. Professional sex films are, in effect, training films for the new
I single out
sexologists not only because they are in the best position to observe
sexual reality, but also because more than anyone else they are expected
to be able to look at sexual reality without being put off by it. However,
I also have been suggesting that everyone dismisses sexual
The best example
of how we dismiss sexual reality is our new (barely a century old) idea
that sex is the best form of communication. Recall that the Zussmans
called it the most "intense" form, which presumably means the same thing.
Now, what is the reality being dismissed here?
Everyone is well
aware of the fact that sex talk is all encouragement and flattery, as I
noted above. Outside of that, people can't talk in sex. For example, sex
as we know it usually happens in bed just before going to sleep, with the
man on top. As likely as not, the woman's head gets pushed up against the
headboard or the wall, but she dares not say anything about this because
it might interrupt sex, the best form of communication. (With regard to my
earlier parallel with infield chatter, it would be as if a ballplayer were
to shout to his teammates that it was getting awfully hot in the
Now some may
object on the ground that sexual communication is nonverbal and so this
woman would not be expected to say anything; she should communicate
her discomfort with body language. So she squirms uncomfortably and her
partner, perceiving her as writhing with pleasure, gives her a few extra
In fact, in the
best representation of sexual reality available in the professional
literature, Masters and Johnson (1979, pp. 64-81), reporting on their
observations of volunteer couples in the laboratory, found that discomfort
was ritualistically concealed. Their sample was composed of 307 committed
heterosexual couples, chosen for their freedom from sexual difficulties.
The women were often made uncomfortable by the rather abrupt and vigorous
way their partners fondled their breasts, especially during their
menstrual periods. Although the women admitted their discomfort to Masters
and Johnson, on only three occasions (out of thousands of observations)
did a woman ask her husband to be more gentle and no woman ever asked her
husband to stop. The same problem arose over early and deep digital
penetration of the vagina by their husbands, as well as overly vigorous
were, if anything, even less likely than their wives to communicate
dissatisfaction. The most frequent complaint made to Masters and Johnson
by the husbands was that their wives did not grasp the shaft of the penis
tightly enough. Not one of the men had ever mentioned this to his wife
either during the period of observation or at any other time.
level of communication is perhaps best conveyed by the report that
although it invariably was the man who decided when to penetrate, all the
men were under the impression that it was in some sense a mutual decision
since, as the investigators learned from interviewing them, they only went
ahead "when she was wet." In their discussion of this finding, Masters and
Johnson point out that lubrication signifies only the capacity for
penetration, not the desire.
husbands were conspicuously unable accurately to perceive their wives'
states of mind, what was most revealing was the husbands' belief that
their perceptions were accurate despite the obvious ambiguity they
were faced with. They asked no questions. Yet they were consistently
oblivious to their wives' discomfort even though the women's pained
grimaces were plainly visible to the observers. The men assumed their
wives were enjoying it and few of the women punctured this illusion. When
the men were interviewed afterward they expressed surprise to learn of
their wives' discomfort and the unanimous reaction was, "Why didn't she
tell me?" The answer to this should have been, "She didn't tell you
because sex is the best form of communication."
Needless to say,
the question "Why didn't she tell me?" was asked with some asperity rather
than with genuine curiousity. The men acted as if they had never heard
that sex is communication. They were no more interested in discovering
what the women were actually experiencing than Hartman and Fithian were
interested in discovering why the woman they were observing shouted
"stop." The show must go on.
The men just
wanted to know how to make the women satisfyingly responsive. This is the
sex-as-duty paradigm. The idea is that the women owe them the
response they need. It is not a matter of simple suzerainty since the men
feel bound to meet the women's needs, as I have already noted. Perhaps
what has happened is that the new mutuality is still understood from
within the old paradigm, meaning that sex is now organized as a ritual of
It may seem that
these findings and impressions concerning heterosexuality are not
applicable to homosexuality and especially not to the paraphilias
(perversions) in which there is no partner. To adequately treat this
potential objection I should first point out that these forms of sexuality
have typically been treated as irrelevant to any consideration of what sex
is. They are treated as inconsequential aberrations (or worse) partly
because they do not fit the procreational model, but primarily because
they are threatening departures from the roles everyone relies on (to pick
examples at random, the pre-Columbian Peruvians dragged homosexuals
through the streets at the end of a rope, hanged, and burned them; the
Aztecs disemboweled them, Tannahill, 1980, pp. 293f).
his influential Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), only mirrored
everyone's gothic imaginings about "degenerates" (the perversions were the
breakdown products of neural-moral degeneration). In view of this, it was
quite remarkable for Freud (1905) to look at Psychopathia Sexualis and,
rather than being repelled by it, to even be able to see himself in
Krafft-Ebing's gallery of grotesques, the result being his conception that
each of the paraphilias represents a component of normal sexuality, rather
than a perverse or distorted form of normal sexuality. Freud postulated
that these components then work together in most of us to create an
ensemble that represents a balancing off of all the component impulses.
Thus, we can learn about the components of our own sexuality from these
What can we
learn? Freud thought we could learn about components of the sexual
instinct, but in Freud's time the search was on for biological causes, a
reaction to the reckless purposivism of the earlier "Nature-philosophy," a
vitalistic, mystical movement in which both organismic and cosmic events
were seen as governed by supra-organic influences. In those more innocent
times, biology appeared to offer a safe refuge from such irresponsible
However, we need
not be dependent on Freud's answers to use his insight that the
paraphilias offer clues to the components of everyone's sexuality. They
can be understood as ways both to meet sexual-role pressures (to perform)
as well as to escape these pressures. Thus in S&M or B&D sex the
roles are clearly set out in advance, as is the whole scenario, a scenario
that escapes the requirement to be mutually affirmative. The compulsion to
act appreciative is entirely disposed of.
Although other of
the paraphilias appear to lack an object, they can be seen as versions of
sex-as-possession. Exhibitionists, voyeurs, and fetishists are all men (as
are almost all child molesters) and their sex pattern is essentially an
exaggeration of this essential component of male sexuality. It is as if
they possess what they can.
element of male sexuality is exaggerated in homosexual men. Here I refer
to cruising, to the bath and toilet scene (with its glory holes), and to
contacts with large numbers of partners (in a 1982 study of AIDS victims,
the centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found that the median number of
sexual partners these men had in their lifetimes was 1100; a few of the
men reported as many as 20,000).
lesbians typically engage in romantic and tender sex. When compared with
gay men, the contrast exaggerates that found between straight men and
women. Thus it is possible to lay some claim to generality for the
proposition that what we now find in sex is people who either play out a
ritual of mutual possession or who are refugees from it.
The way the new
paradigm has been understood in terms of the old is best captured by
Hartman and Fithian's recommendations (above) regarding proper sexual
conduct. Had they been writing in the pre-modern era they would not have
been at all hesitant about offering rules of conduct. There was no other
approach; all problems in relationships were solved by proposing rules of
conduct and the experts never tired of telling us how to behave. Hartman
and Fithian would simply have said that a lady just does not express
unseemly sentiments during sex since this can be highly vexatious for the
gentleman concerned. No one would have wondered what feelings she had to
suppress and at what cost. Self-actualization, authenticity, and
mutuality, in whatever rudimentary forms they existed were taken simply as
self-indulgences that one should have the strength of character to
things are not so easy for arbiters of sexual conduct. Now we worry, in a
word, that the lady will be uptight. So Hartman and Fithian recommend
"Accentuating the Positive—Always Saying Yes" (this is the heading under
which their cautionary tale is presented), but only by saying yes to
"activities which they [sex partners] do enjoy" and "to which they, with
complete abandon, can say yes because they are genuinely enjoying those
activities." In other words, sex is communication, but only if what you
want to communicate is unconditional acceptance.
Fithian risk redundancy (complete abandon implies genuine enjoyment) to
make it clear that they do not intend to offer rules of conduct. They want
people to follow their recommendations spontaneously. In other
words, what this ontological struggle represents is the new paradigm
caught in the death grip of the old. We are being admonished for treating
sex as a test of adequacy, thereby instituting a new criterion of sexual
adequacy, the ability to treat sex as if, in the Zussman's words, "there
are no rules or standards," and in Carrera's words, to follow our "own
inclinations" rather than to measure ourselves "against outside
standards." And, it is to be hoped, Hartman and Fithian's woman who
shouted stop will in the future follow the rules with complete
What we're being
accused of is inadequacy—in meeting the new performance criteria. If this
were not so, the experts wouldn't be dismissing reality; they would
be interested in it. They would be thinking less about "momentum" and more
about what those who would interrupt sex need to say. This is to say that
they would be less dominated by the biological mystique, with its
assumptions of fixed patterns and roles, a conception that much better fit
a time when all our patterns and roles were divinely inspired.
in their present mode sex therapists and sex educators do no more then
purvey the popular consensus. They preserve the paradox created by the
possession-consciousness on the one hand and the insistence on mutuyality
that characterize contemporary verities. Ideally, sexologists will soon
begin to entertain sexual reality rather than to dismiss it, with the
exciting consequence that we might then begin to apporach the genuine
mutuality made possible by our democratic institutions, and to reclain
another bit of our natures from the ausland.
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