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Free «Freud and Marcuse on Sexuality» Essay Sample

The sexual revolution encompasses the changes in social thought and codes of behavior related to sexuality throughout the Western world. In general use, the term "sexual liberation" is used to describe a socio-political movement, witnessed from the 1960s into the 1970s. During the 1960s, shifts in regards to how society viewed sexuality began to take place, heralding a period of de-conditioning in some circles away from old world antecedents, and developing new codes of sexual behavior, many of which are now integrated into the mainstream (Wikipedia). Among the major theorists on sexuality were Hebert Marcuse's and Sigmund Freud.

According to Marcuse the society can be divided into two: the repressed society (capitalist society) and the non-repressed society ('other ' societies). Freud is also renowned for his redefinition of sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life, as well as for his therapeutic techniques, including the use of free association, his theory of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and the interpretation of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires. These two theorists have helped shape up sexuality and different aspects like taboos regarding human intimacy.

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According to Marcuse's, sexuality in a repressive society (for example, capitalism) is seen as a
deflection from the 'real ' aims and objectives of that society: the production of money. It is stated that if energy is put into sex then the production of money will decrease, and therefore the capitalist nature of society will return to Marxist notions of primitive capitalism. Thus, sexual instincts and desires are afforded a negative connotation within these societies. Ultimately, it is said that they get in the way of this type of society progressing and continuing to civilize. Capitalist societies are presented as societies that are not very much concerned with human intimacy and desires. The societies are more focused on achieving the real goal which is production of money.

 
 
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Within non-repressive societies, however, we can see that the role of sex in relation to both the ethics and morals of the society as well as the power relations within the work force are central to the 'freedom ' of this society. Eros, or erotica, is the Greek word for libido or drive. This means that when Eros is central to a non-repressive society the working-class (and not just the capitalists) is relinquished from their chains of oppression or repression. Eros, he continues to say, is central to a non-repressive society due to the acknowledgement and determinant of the power hierarchies that exist within a repressive society.  Clearly the non-repressive societies are presented as societies that are very concerned with sexuality and the aspects of human intimacy.

Self-sublimation refers to the collective suffering of a group of people. In Marcuse (1955) case the working-class or the repressed society. The self-sublimation of sexuality, however, '. Implies that sexuality can, under specific conditions, create highly civilized human relations without being subjected to the repressive organization which the established civilization has imposed upon the instinct (Marcuse, 1955) Thus meaning that this energy (Eros) can be refocused on to other things depended upon whether you live in a repressed or non-repressed society.

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While Freud's ideas were ignored and embarrassing to Viennese society, his work provoked a serious challenge to Victorian prudishness by providing the groundwork for the ideas of sex drive and infant sexuality. Freud's theory of psychosexual development proposed a model for the development of sexual orientations and desires; children emerged from the Oedipus complex, a sexual desire towards their parent of the opposite sex. Freud's ideas on the first sexual instincts of a child were not well taken. Many people considered his ideas immoral. The ideas were considered immoral because Freud suggested that the first sexual instincts of a child are directed toward the parent of the opposite sex.

 
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According to Freud's theory, in the earliest stage in a child's psychosexual development, the oral stage, the mother's breast became the formative source of all later erotic sensation. This new philosophy was the new intellectual and cultural underpinning ideology of the new age of sexual frankness. The theory revolutionized sexuality. People became more open to experimentation, sex outside marriage. In the late seventies and eighties newly won sexual freedoms were exploited by big business looking to capitalize on a more open society, with the advent of public pornography and hardcore.

Marcuse argues that the abolition of taboos in the Third Reich led paradoxically to a "greater repression of liberty" in that it coordinated the private and political sphere, integrating private functions into political life and deepening individual allegiances to the political system. "The abolition of highly sanctioned taboos is one of the most daring enterprises of National Socialism in the field of mass domination," Marcuse writes. Marcuse designates three factors that effectively counteracted the "abolition of taboos" under National Socialism: The emancipation of sexual behavior was bound up with the eugenics policies of the Third Reich, which connected released sexual desires to an external state end. Secondly, the political intervention in sexual life destroyed the emancipator potential of the private sphere, which no longer served as a locus of privacy and protest. Lastly, the exclusive nature of Third Reich sexual privilege fostered antagonistic sentiments of racism and biological superiority.

Sexuality is clearly something that grows as a person grows from a child to an adult. With his revolutionary method of listening, Freud heard patient after patient talk about childhood experiences and childhood sexual feelings and fantasies. He noted the similarity between the sexual fantasies of children and the fantasies involved in what were then called perversions and between the desires, perverse and otherwise, that persist in the unconscious lives of all adults. In everyday life, Freud understood, adults expressed the range of their sexual fantasies as symptoms of emotional disorders, as elements of dreams, in the making of art, and in overtly sexual acts. The sexuality of the adult originates in childhood but, like thinking and other human capacities, sexuality is not static-it matures and develops. (Leon, 2005).

 
 
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Most importantly, Freud recognized that enfolded within each developmental stage are feelings and experiences of the past. He saw the pleasure an infant experiences as both a prototype and an early version of the sexual pleasure experienced by a mature adult. In Three Essays he described this continuity: "No one who has seen a baby sinking back satiated from the breast and falling asleep with flushed cheeks and a blissful smile can escape the reflection that this picture persists as a prototype of the expression of sexual satisfaction in later life."

These ideas help us to understand that the desire for pleasure is an important motivating force in our lives. But this revolutionary insight has often been misinterpreted. As Freudian ideas filtered into our society, many thought that Freud promoted uninhibited sexual expression. To the contrary, psychoanalytic ideas help us appreciate the arc of sexual development and the pitfalls that can befall those who do not successfully mature. Psychoanalysis describes the conflicts that we experience between intimate personal fantasies and the norms of social life and individual development. Psychoanalysis recognizes the necessity of developing normal controls over the uninhibited expression of these fantasies. Psychoanalysis encourages the idea that parents need to promote children's development so that they can eventually integrate sexuality in their lives in a balanced way, so that sexual and intimate personal bonds can be integrated as much as possible.

Throughout Three Essays, Freud wrote about the importance of interpersonal relationships to a person's sexual and emotional development. From the earliest days of life, the mother's connection and her ministrations to the infant have an effect on the infant's later capacity for pleasure and attachment. Freud described two currents of emotional life in all of us: an affectionate current, including our bonds with the important people in our lives, and a sensual current, including our wish to gratify sexual impulses.

During adolescence, a young person attempts to integrate these two emotional currents. This is a very difficult task, and the risks are many. There are innumerable inner conflicts and subsequent failures of development that may trap a person in immature sexual patterns-evident in much that we see on the news. The real challenge is to bring about a convergence of the two currents-the affectionate and the sensual. The polymorphous sexual over exuberance often characteristic of adolescent experimentation is not adaptive in an adult.

Freud has really helped in the understanding of sexuality. He points out that Infantile sexual aim is to obtain satisfaction by stimulation of erotogenic zones and must have been previously experienced to leave behind need for repetition.

Freud attributes many 'normal' behaviors to deeper sexual drives. 'The sexual instincts are remarkable for their plasticity, for the facility with which they can change their aim...for the ease with which they can substitute one form of gratification for another' (Freud 1938).

In Freud's Psychosexual Stage Theory, sexuality is developed over time. He viewed adult traumas as stemming from earlier sexually-based trauma that ranges from the inability to successfully pass through development stages to physical abuse and the 'passing on' of trauma from person to person (although many patient's reports of abuse were later discovered to be recovered phantasies).

According to Freud, the sex drive is embodied in Eros, the very natural drive for survival of the species. It is only through social morals that sex drives receive labels of good and bad.

In early development, babies do not have a sense of morals, but they do have physical senses and have primitive sexual drives. When they touch themselves, they will feel more pleasure when touching erotic zones, and naturally will do this again. When suckling at the mother's breast, they may share some sense of sexual arousal with the mother which contributes towards mother-child bonding. Problems occur when the person fixates on these pleasurable sensations and seeks them to the detriment of others or their own other needs.

Freud's and Marcuse's theories on sexuality have really helped understand the human desire and sexuality. These theories try to explain why some trends in the human sexuality emerged. These theories help us understand why the sexual revolution might have occurred. It was a development in the modern world which saw the significant loss of power by the values of a morality rooted in the Christian tradition and the rise of permissive societies, of attitudes that were accepting of greater sexual freedom and experimentation that spread all over the world and were captured in the phrase free love.

   

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