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Two Modes of Sexuality

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In this article the focus is on Male Sexuality

Many of my views on sexuality differ from those of Freud. He focused his ideas on the explanation of neurosis and the removal of symptoms of neurotic behaviour. Such behaviour is a way of circumventing moral conditioning. His ideas were generated by his analysis of himself. My analysis of myself had to go much deeper.

I centred my psycho-analysis on the understanding of the causes of psychosis.

Sub - Headings
Uses of Pornography 
Two Responses
Two Patterns

There is a world of difference between Freud and myself. The experience of childhood trauma means that the foundations of the ego are confused and fragile, resulting in a potentially unstable ego. [¹]. In the adult, this instability is likely to surface when the pressures of external factors, such as relationships, generate too much anxiety. In attempting the elimination (or cure) of madness it is not the removal of symptoms that is primary, but the re-structuring of the ego (in order to remove the weak foundations). Therefore the psycho-analysis has to reach down to the time when the infant was first creating its ego, before moral conditioning even begins. [²]

Freud assumed that the sexual instinct, or libido, was the same as sexual desire (a psychological factor). I reject attempts to base a theory of dynamic psychology on instincts: instincts are only influences, and not determining factors.

Freud was right on one point: in the world of the child, only psychic reality matters, not physical reality (though even here, psychological reality comes before psychic reality). I understand my experience in this way: what the child believes is happening to him he takes to be reality. How the parent believes that he (parent) is relating to the child can be very different from how the child believes that he (child) is relating to that parent. Even in the world of the adult, psychological reality is still supreme.

I phrase reality in this way: my idea of the world is what I react to. The physical world has no meaning for me until I translate it into psychological and existential ideas.

For Freud, neurosis originates in the conflict between sexual problems and morality. However, he failed to see the importance of the clients’ attitudes to authority. In his analyses of his clients’ problems his cognitive understanding did not go beyond the phenomenon of catharsis, although he recognised the states of resentment and bitterness (which he classified as the client’s ‘resistance’ ). [³]. Catharsis usually concerns morality, and morality takes for granted the need for external authority. Freud did not understand situations where conflict arose from non-moral attitudes to authority. Perhaps all his insights came from situations where neurosis was ended by catharsis, that is, from situations that usually involved sexual conflict. If so, then it becomes understandable why he originally concluded that sexual desire had primacy over all other desires.

My main disagreement with Freud over sexuality has two components.

I reject the primacy of sexuality, and
I reject the assumption that it is a unitary phenomenon.

Power, which functions through the loop of projection and introjection, is always prior to sexuality. [4]. And sexuality itself functions through two different modes, as I illustrate below.

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Uses of Pornography

I go on a short detour in order to explain how my sexual awareness began to develop. Prior to my self-analysis I had no understanding of sexuality. My ascetic nature that had developed in my 30s hid the problems of sexuality from me. When a person is not aware of a problem then he obviously cannot analyse it as a problem for him. So fate stepped in to increase my awareness.

In the autumn of 1986 the evening class in psychology that I wanted to enrol on was filled up very quickly, so I missed it. The only other course available was one called ‘Human Sexuality’, of which I had no details, but I decided to enrol on it nevertheless ; my rationale was that any course was better than no course.

The first session featured a video program focused solely on the vulgar language of sexual parts of the body and of sexual activity. I went into a state of shock, and only recognised it when it disappeared two weeks later.

In the eighth session I tried to talk about my sexual experiences but it felt as though someone was strangling me, trying to prevent me from talking. I had to use considerable effort to squeeze the words out of my throat. Yet within two weeks I could talk freely.

In the ninth session I experienced a severe band of tension all around my head, above the eyebrows. Tension in my head was not new, but the symptom of it as a constricting band was.

By the tenth and last session I was feeling nervous excitement for the first time – this was obviously a time of catharsis, though catharsis as such I had not yet learned to recognise.

About half of the sessions featured video films on soft pornography. As an ascetic I was unaware of the extent of my sexual repressions. The films made me uncomfortably aware of them. Pornography is a direct confrontation with sexual attitudes and inhibitions ; as a means to help face up to them, pornography is very effective. The repressive nature of a person’s attitudes to sexuality cannot be changed until he can recognise what his problems are.

Repression leads to the denigration of sexuality. Alternatively, the person ceases to control his sexual desires and switches to a hedonist mentality. These two attitudes go together: they are just complementary parts of an immature response. The elimination of one of these attitudes requires also the elimination of the other one. Pornography can be employed to increase one’s sexual awareness. However, if it is used simply as a form of entertainment then its effects can become destructive and generate sexual obsessions – this is the very opposite effect of the liberating result of educational therapy.

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Two Responses

During the time that I studied Freud’s ideas I accepted as a working assumption that sexuality was just a unitary phenomenon. But I was becoming increasingly aware that it was producing two different responses in me. So eventually I split sexuality into two factors, calling them sexual desire and sexual attraction. At that time I could not verbalise what the difference was. The best that I could do was to say that I liked sexual attraction but loathed sexual desire ; the latter response engenders physical intimacy and passion, the former does not.

Consider the idea of sexual attraction.
That this is a fascination with sexuality without, however, having any automatic or compulsive desire for sexual intercourse is a familiar theme in mediaeval and chivalric literature. The male hero venerates his woman patron but does not usually want to consummate the relationship. Such non-passionate sexuality enhances attitudes of nobility. In modern times the chivalric demeanour has become translated into a pose of leaning on the lamp-post and watching all the girls go by !  The beauty of a woman is more entrancing than the beauty of nature.

As a comparison, sexual desire, the desire for physical union, can never be the stimulant for noble ideals.

It took me five years of analysis to conceptualise the difference between the two factors. They are the ways that sexuality is viewed from the twin poles of the person, those of narcissism and jealousy. [5]

Sexual attraction arises when the person is sexually stimulated through the vanity mode of narcissism. It engenders admiration for compatible personality characteristics.

Sexual desire arises when the person is sexually stimulated through the self-pity mode of jealousy. It engenders physical intimacy and passion.

These two modes function differently according as to whether the social situation is perceived to be non-sexual or sexual. The presence of anxiety turns the person’s response into one of weakness.

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In a non-sexual social situation, narcissism in vanity mode combines with anxiety to rouse the inferiority complex: the person is absorbed in himself, feeling his lack of will power. But when the social situation is felt to be sexual then the inferiority complex turns into sexual attraction. Now the person becomes absorbed into the aspects of will power and character that shine within sexuality – these aspects are non-emotional. So this form of sexuality is tied to the inferiority complex. [6]

Jealousy produces a different scenario. In a non-sexual social situation, jealousy in self-pity mode combines with anxiety to generate the need for social approval : the person feels his social inadequacy. He needs supportive friends. When the social situation is felt to be sexual then this need changes into sexual desire. Now the person centres on sensuality as the way to seek acceptance. He needs a mate rather than a friend. So sexual desire is just an intense form of the need for social approval. [7]

Psycho-analysis has the effect of weakening, and perhaps even ending, the power of the inferiority complex and the need for social approval. Hence a psycho-analysis, when deep enough, can radically alter sexual attitudes and sexual needs (sexual activity becomes optional instead of compulsive). This effect poses the question : Is sex really a part of human nature, or merely a part of human conditioning?

What confuses an analysis of sexuality is sexual bonding. Transference and identification, which arise from the love mode of jealousy, govern the person’s perception of the characteristics of other people that the person admires or dislikes. [8]. Under the impact of intense anxiety the love mode of jealousy can change to the self-pity mode, and then sexual desire may be stimulated. Therefore, when awareness is superficial, it seems to the person that love ends in desire.

The love mode of narcissism is also sensitive to anxiety. In a social setting such love may transform into the love mode of jealousy, and then the person can find himself sliding down into sexual desire as the love mode in turn changes into self-pity mode.

Overall, therefore, the love modes of narcissism and jealousy are vulnerable to anxiety, changing easily into the vanity or self-pity modes. If anxiety is too extreme, then all responses may end in sexual desire.

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Two Patterns

The two factors of jealousy give rise to two patterns of jealous relationships:

1). When the self-pity mode is dominant, the relationship can be maintained so long as each partner gives the other one the required amount of social approval. When this is no longer forthcoming then the ‘love’ rapidly fades and dies. Without support from a partner, a person’s self-pity can never sustain intimacy. In this mode of relationship, anyone, any personality type, can be a partner to the person.

2). In bonding love, love is independent of the need for social approval. It can exist in the person even if the partner rejects him. Hence such relationships are very binding. The limitation here is that this mode of love indicates that the object of love has approximately the same personality as the parent. Transference and identification are very active. So the problems that the person experienced (as a child) with his parents will surface in his sexual partnership.

In pattern (1) the primary factor that cements the relationship is mutual support. In pattern (2) it is personality traits (good and bad) that take dominance.

For comparison -
Relationships based on narcissism centre mainly on friendship and camaraderie. Sex is not very important, so when it occurs, sex will be casual sex.


The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.  For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.

[¹]. Childhood trauma, or infancy trauma, is explained in two articles on my website Patterns of Confusion. The first article, Vulnerability of the Ego, focuses on the origins of violence. And the second one, Guilt & Meaning - part 2, centres on why trauma occurs unintentionally ; a shortened version of this article is  Infancy Trauma, on my website  The Subconscious Mind.

Also, an article on Bonding focuses on some problems of a sensitive child and explains an unintentional source of infancy trauma. [1]

[²]. My website on psycho-analysis and personal identity is  The Subconscious Mind[2]

[³]. The third article on Abreaction explains catharsis : Catharsis and Suggestion. The states of resentment and bitterness are explained in the fourth article : Resentment and Bitterness. For the other articles on abreaction, see home page. [3]

[4]. See the article Projection and Introjection. [4]

[5]. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. [5]

[6]. The inferiority complex is analysised in the article Social Approval & Inferiority on my website  The Subconscious Mind, or in the article Approval, Inferiority & Power on my website Discover Your Mind[6]

[7]. The need for social approval is analysed in the same articles as in footnote 6. [7]

[8]. See articles on Transference and Bonding. For identification, see the article Identification and Absorption, on my websites  The Subconscious Mind, or Discover Your Mind[8]

Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Two Modes of Sexuality - sexuality is dual in form.

Bonding - continues the bonding patterns.

Oedipus and Electra - symbolism in sexual practices.

TV / TS - transvestism & trans-sexuality, plus voyeurism and groping.

Sadism and Masochism - sexual violence and degrading phantasies.

Structure of Sexual Response - four relationship responses.

Partnerships - the way that change affects partners.

The copyright is mine, and the articles are free to use. They can be reproduced anywhere, so long as the source is acknowledged.

Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
All Rights Reserved

Ian Heath
London, UK

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