THE COMMON ROOTS OF FREUDIANISM AND FEMINISM
1) Freudianism and Feminism grew from the same soil. It is no accident that Freud began his work at the height of the early feminist movement. We underestimate today how important feminist ideas were at the time. The parlor conversations about the nature of men and women, the possibility of artificial reproduction (babies in glass bottles) recorded in D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover were not imaginary. Sexism was the hottest topic of the day: Lawrence was merely picking up on it, adding his own views. Sexism also determined nearly the whole of G. B. Shaw’s material. Ibsen’s Nora in The DolVs House was no freak: such arguments were splitting up many real-life marriages. Henry James’s nasty description of feminist women in The Bostonians and Virginia Woolfs more sympathetic ones in The Years and Night and Day were drawn from real life. The culture reflected prevailing attitudes and concerns: feminism was an important literary theme because it was then a vital problem. For writers wrote about what they saw: they described the cultural milieu around them. And in this milieu there was concern for the issues of feminism. The question of the emancipation of women affected every woman, whether she developed through the new ideas or fought them desperately. Old films of the time show the growing solidarity of women, reflecting their unpredictable behavior, their terrifying and often disastrous testing of sex roles. No one remained untouched by the upheaval. And this was not only in the West: Russia at this time was experimenting at doing away with the family.
At the turn of the century, then, in social and political thinking, in literary and artistic culture, there was a tremendous ferment of ideas regarding sexuality, marriage and family, and women’s role. Freudianism was only one of the cultural products of this ferment. Both Freudianism and Feminism came as reactions to one of the smuggest periods in Western civilization, the Victorian Era, characterized by its familycenteredness, and thus its exaggerated sexual oppression and repression. Both movements signified awakening: but Freud was merely a diagnostician for what Feminism purports to cure.
2) Freudianism and Feminism are made of the same stuff. Freud’s achievement was the’rediscovery of sexuality. Freud saw sexuality as the prime life force; the why in which this libido was organized in the child determined the psychology of the individual (which, moreover, recreated that of the historic species). He found that in order to adjust to present civilization the sexuate being must undergo a repression process in childhood. While every individual undergoes this repression, some undergo it less successfully than others, producing greater (psychosis) or lesser (neurosis) maladjustment, often severe enough to cripple the individual altogether.
Freud’s proposed remedy is less significant, and indeed has caused actual damage: by a process of bringing to the surface the crippling repressions, of conscious recognition and open examination, the patient is supposed to be able to come to terms with, to consciously reject rather than subconsciously repress, the troubling wishes of the id. This therapy process is entered into with the help of a psychoanalyst through “transference,” in which the psychoanalyst substitutes for the original authority figure at the origins of the repressive neurosis. Like religious healing or hypnosis (which, indeed, Freud studied and was much influenced by), ‘‘transference” proceeds by emotional involvement rather than by reason. The patient “falls in love” with his analyst; by “projecting” the problem onto the supposedly blank page of the therapeutic relationship, he draws it out in order to be cured of it. Only it doesn’t work.
For Freud, in the tradition of “pure” science, observed
psychological structures without ever questioning their social context. Given his own psychic structure and cultural prejudices—he was a petty tyrant of the old school, for whom certain sexual truths may have been expensive— he can hardly have been expected to make such an examination part of his life work. (Wilhelm Reich was one of the few who followed that path.) In addition, just as Marx could not take fully into account the future advent of cybernetics, Freud then did not have the mindbending knowledge of technological possibility that we now have. But whether or not we can blame Freud personally, his failure to question society itself was responsible for massive confusion in the disciplines that grew up around his theory. Beset with the insurmountable problems that resulted from trying to put into practice a basic contradiction—the resolution of a problem within the environment that created it—his followers began to attack one component after another of his theory, until they had thrown the baby out with the bath.
But was there any value in these ideas? Let us reexamine some of them once again, this time from a radical feminist view. I believe Freud was talking about something real, though perhaps his ideas, taken literally, lead to absurdity—for his genius was poetic rather than scientific; his ideas are more valuable as metaphors than as literal truths.
In this light let us first examine the Oedipus Complex, a cornerstone of Freudian theory, in which the male child is said to want to possess his mother sexually and to kill his father, fear of castration by the father forcing him to repress this wish. Freud himself said in his last book, “I
venture to assert that if psychoanalysis could boast of no other achievement than the discovery of the repressed Oedipus Complex, that alone would give it claim to be counted among the precious new acquisitions of mankind.” Contrast this with Andrew Salter in The Case Against Psychoanalysis:
Even those most sympathetic to Freud find the contradictions in the Oedipus Complex somewhat confusing. Says the Psychiatric Dictionary of the passing of the Oedipus Complex, “The fate of the Oedipus Complex is not yet dearly understood.” I think we can talk with certainty about the fate of the Oedipus Complex. The fate of the Oedipus Complex will be the fate of alchemy, phrenology, and palmistry. The fate of the Oedipus Complex will be oblivion.
For Salter is plagued by ah the usual contradictions in a theory that assumes the social context, the cause of the complex, to be immutable:
Freud’s thought about the “normal” disappearance of the Oedipus Complex suffers from a critical inconsistency in logic.
: If we grant that the disappearance of the Oedipus Complex is achieved through castration fear, does it not appear as if normality is acquired as a result of fear and repression exerted on the boy? And is not the achievement of mental health by repression in flagrant contradiction of the most elementary Freudian doctrines? (Italics mine)
/ submit that the only way that the Oedipus Complex can make full sense is in terms of power. We must keep in mind that Freud observed this complex as common to every normal individual who grows up in the nuclear family of a patriarchal society, a form of social organization that intensifies the worst effects of the inequalities inherent in the biological family itself. There is some evidence to prove that the effects of the Oedipus Complex decrease in societies where men have less power, and that the weakening of patriarchalism produces many cultural changes that perhaps can be traced to this relaxation.
Let us take a look at this patriarchal nuclear family in which the Oedipus Complex appears so markedly. In the prototypical family of this kind the man is the breadwinner; all other members of this family are thus his dependents. He agrees to support a wife in return for her services: housekeeping, sex, and reproduction. The chil – dren whom she bears for him are even more dependent They are legally the property of the father (one of the first campaigns of the early W. R.M. was against the dep. rivation of women, upon divorce, of their children), whose duty it is to feed them and educate them, to.“mold” them to take their place in whatever class of society to which he belongs. In return for this he expects that continuation of name and property which is often confused with immortality. His rights over them are complete. E he is not a kind father/master, tough luck. They cannot escape his clutches until they are grown, and by then the psychological molding has been accomplished: they are now ready to repeat his performance.
It is important to remember that more recent versions of the nuclear family, though they may blur this essential relationship beyond recognition, reproduce essentially the same triangle of dependencies: father, mother, son. For even if the woman is equally educated, even when she is working (we need to be reminded that until the hard – won advances of the W. R.M. of Freud’s time women were not educated, nor could they find jobs), she is rarely able, given the inequality of the job market, to make as much money as her husband (and woe betide the marriage in which she does). But even if she could, later, when she bears children and takes care of infants, she is once again totally incapacitated. To make both women and children totally independent would be to eliminate not just the patriarchal nuclear family, but the biological family itself.
This then is the oppressive climate in which the normal child grows up. From the beginning he is sensitive to the hierarchy of power. He knows that in every way, physically, economically, emotionally, he is completely dependent on, thus at the mercy of, his two parents, whoever they may’ be. Between the two of them, though, he will certainly prefer his mother. He has a bond with her in oppression: while he is oppressed by both parents, she, at least, is oppressed by one. The father, so far as the child can see, is in total control. ("Just you wait till your father gets home from the office. Boy, will you get a spanking!”) The child then senses that his mother is halfway between authority and helplessness. He can run to his father if his mother tries anything unjust; but if his father beats him there is little his mother can offer except tea and sympathy. If his mother is sensitive to injustice, she may use her wiles and tears to spare him. But he uses wiles and tears himself at that age, and he knows that tears don’t compare to solid force. Their effectiveness, at any rate, is limited, dependent on many variables (“bad day at the office”). Whereas physical force or the threat of it is a sure bet.
In the traditional family there exists a parental polarity: the mother is expected to love the child devotedly, even unconditionally, whereas the father, on the other hand, seldom takes an active interest in infants—certainly not in their intimate care—and later, when the son is older, loves him conditionally, in response to performance and achievement. Erich Fromm in The Art of Loving:
We have already spoken about motherly love. Motherly love is by its very nature unconditional. Mother loves the newborn infant because it is her child, not because the child has fulfilled аду( specific condition, or lived up to any specific expectation. . . . The relationship to the father is quite different. Mother is the home we come from, she is nature, soil, the ooean; father does not represent any such natural home. He has little connection with the child in the first years of its life, and his importance for the child in this early period cannot be compared with that of the mother. But while father does not represent the natural world, he represents the other pole of human existence; the world of thought, of man-made things, of law and order, of discipline, of travel and adventure. Father is the one who teaches the child, who shows him the road into the world. . . . Fatherly love is conditional love. Its principle is “I love you because you fulfill my expectations, because you do your duty, because you are like me.” … In this development from mother-centered to father-centered attachment, and their eventual synthesis, lies the basis for mental health and the achievement of maturity.
If this were not the case when he wrote it, it certainly would be by now: Fromm’s book on love has been translated into seventeen languages, selling—as it says on the jacket—1,500,000 copies in English alone. Later on I shall deal in greater detail with the nature of mother love that such a quote espouses, and the kind of damage such an ideal does to both mother and child. Here I’ll try to show only in what way this traditional polarity relates to the Oedipus Complex.
Freud, unlike others, did not underestimate what goes on in a child before the age of six. If an infant’s basic needs are taken care of by his mother, if he is fed, dressed, and coddled by her, if he is loved by her “unconditionally” as opposed to “conditionally” by his father—seldom seeing him and then only for punishment or “manly approval”—and if moreover he senses that he and his mother are united against the more powerful father whom they both must please and appease, then it is true that every normal male first identifies with the female.
As for desiring his mother—yes, this too. But it is absurd what Freud’s literalism can lead to. The child does not actively dream of penetrating his mother. Chances are he cannot yet even imagine how one would go about such an act. Nor is he physically developed enough to have a need for orgasmic release. It would be more correct to view this sexual need in a generalized, more negative fashion: that is, only later, due to the structuring of the family around the incest taboo, must the sexual separate from other kinds of physical and emotional responses. At first they are integrated.
What happens at the age of six when the boy is sud* denly expected to start “shaping up,” acting like a little man? Words like “male identification” and “father image” are thrown around. Last year’s cuddly toys are snatched away. He is led out to start playing baseball. Trucks and electric trains multiply. If he cries he is called a “sissy”; if he runs to his mother, a “mama’s boy.” Father suddenly takes an active interest in him (“You spoiled him.”). The boy fears his father, rightly. He knows that between the two of them, his mother is far more on his side. In most cases he has already observed very clearly that his father makes his mother unhappy, makes her cry, doesn’t talk to her very much, argues with her a lot, bid – lies (this is why, if he has seen intercourse, he is likely to interpret it on the basis of what he has already gathered of the relationship: that is, that his father is attacking his mother). However, suddenly now he’s expected to iden – – tify with this brutish stranger. Of course he doesn’t want to. He resists. He starts dreaming of bogeymen. He becomes afraid of his shadow. He cries when he goes to the barber. He expects his father to cut off his penis: he’s not behaving like the Little Man he had better learn to be.
This is his “difficult transitional phase.” What finally convinces the normal child to reverse his identification? Fromm puts it so well: “But while father does not represent the natural world, he represents the other pole of human existence; the world of thought, of man-made things, of law and order, of discipline, of travel ahd adventure. Father is the one who teaches the child, who shows him the road into the world. …” What finally convinces him is the offer of the world when he grows up. He is asked to make a transition from the state of the powerless, women and children, to the state of the potentially powerful, son (ego extension) of his father. Most children aren’t fools. They don’t plan to be stuck with the lousy limited lives of women. They want that travel and adventure. But it is hard. Because deep down they have a contempt for the father with all his power. They sympathize with their mother. But what can they do? They “repress” their deep emotional attachment to
mother, “repress” their desire to kill their father, and emerge into the honorable state of manhood.
It is no wonder that such a transition^ leaves an emotional residue, a “complex.” The male child, in order to save his own hide, has had to abandon and betray his mother and join ranks with her oppressor. He feels guilty. His emotions toward women in general are affected. Most men have made an all-too-beautiful transition into power over others; some are stiff trying.
Other components of Freudian theory open up just as well when examined in power, i. e., political, terms; the antidote of feminism cancels the sex bias that produced the initial distortion.
It is generally believed that the Electra Complex is less profound a discovery than the Oedipus Complex, because, like all Freud’s theories about women, it analyzes the female only as negative male: the Electra Complex is an inverse Oedipus Complex. The Electra Complex, with its interwoven castration complex, is briefly as follows: The little girl, just like the little boy, begins with a fixation on the mother. Toward the age of five, when she discovers that she has no penis, she begins to feel castrated. To compensate, she tries to make an affiance with her fattier through seduction, thus developing a rivalry with, and a subsequent hostility to, her mother. The superego develops in response to repression by the father: But because he is the object of her seduction, he does not repress her as he does his son, who is his sexual rival for the affection of the mother, and thus the young girl’s basic psychic organization differs from, is weaker than, that of her brother. A girl who persists in strongly identifying with her father is said to be retarded at the “clitoral” stage of female sexuality, likely to be frigid or a lesbian.
The most remarkable feature of this description, restated in feminist terms, is that the little girl, also, is first attached to her mother (which, incidentally, disproves a biologically determined heterosexuality). Like the little boy, the little girl loves her mother more than her father,
and for precisely the same reasons: the mother cares for her more closely than the father, and shares her oppression with her. At about the age of five, along with the boy, she consciously begins to observe the father’s greater power, his access to that interesting wider world that is denied her mother. At this point she rejects her mother as dull and familiar, and begins to identify with her father. The situation is complicated further if she has brothers, for then she observes that the father is more than willing to allow her brother to share his world, his power, and yet that world is still denied her. She now has two alternatives: 1) Realistically sizing up the situation, she can start using female wiles for all they’re worth in the attempt to rob the father of his power (she will then have to compete with her mother for the favors of the powerful) or 2) She can refuse to believe that the physical difference between her and her brother will forever imply a corresponding power inequity. In this case she rejects everything identified with her mother, i. e., servility and wiles, the psychology of the oppressed, and imitates doggedly everything she has seen her brother do that gains for him the kind of freedom and approval she is seeking. (Notice I do not say she pretends masculinity. These traits are not sexually determined.) But though she tries desperately to gain her father’s favor by behaving more and more in the manner in which he has openly encouraged her brother to behave, it doesn’t work for her. She tries harder. She becomes a tomboy—and is flattered to be called one. This obstinacy in the face of an unpalatable reality may even succeed. For a time. Until puberty perhaps. Then she is really stuck. She can no longer deny her sex: it is confirmed by lustful males all around her. This is when she often develops a female identification, with a vengeance. (Teenage girls, so “difficult,” “secretive,” “giggly”; with boys it’s the brat stage.)
As for the “penis envy,” again it is safer to view this as a metaphor. Even when an actual preoccupation with genitals does occur it is clear that anything that physically
distinguishes the envied male will be envied. For the girl can’t really understand how it is that when she does exactly the same thing as her brother, his behavior is approved and hers isn’t. She may or may not make a confused connection between his behavior and the organ that differentiates him. Her hostility toward her mother is, again, only possibly tied up with an observed genital similarity: anything that identifies her with the mother she is trying so hard to reject is also rejected. But that a small girl on her own will see herself as of the same sex as her mother is much less likely than that she will see herself as asexual. She may even be proud of it. After all, she has no obvious protrusions, like the breasts that mark the female for her. And as for her genitals, her innocent slit appears to bear no resemblance to the hairy mound that her mother has: she is seldom even aware that she has a vagina because it is sealed. Her body as yet is as limber and functional as her brother’s, and she is at one with it: they are only equally oppressed by the greater strength of adults. Without specific direction, she could fool herself a long time that she will not end up like her mother. This is why she is so encouraged to play with dolls, to “play house,” to be pretty and attractive. It is hoped that she will not be one of those to fight off her role till the last minute. It is hoped she will slip into it early, by persuasion, artificially, rather than by necessity; that the abstract promise of a baby will be enough of a lure to substitute for that exciting world of “travel and adventure.” (A booming doll business capitalizes on this parental anxiety. As for the kid, she likes presents, whatever the obscure reasoning of adult minds. Though once they realize what the dolls are for, many sharp little girls hastily decide they want a different kind of toy, or at least a “Barbie” doll; after all, they’d rather sharpen their weapons against “Ken” then play already-conquered Mama.)
In the light of this feminist interpretation, many peripheral Freudian doctrines that had seemed absurd now make sense. For example, Ernest Jones, in Papers on Psychoanalysis:
With very many children there is a lively desire to become the parents of their own parents. . . . This curious construction of the imagination… is evidently closely connected with incestuous wishes, since it is an exaggerated form of the commoner desire to be one’s own father.
Feminist translation: Children fantasy being in a position of power over their parent masters, particularly the one who has really got the power: Father.
Or, here is Freud on fetishism:
The object is the substitute for the mother’s phallus which the little boy believed in and does not wish to forego.
Really, Freud can get embarrassing. Wouldn’t it be a lot more sensible to talk about the mother’s power? Chances are the little boy has not even seen his mother undressed, let alone closely observed the difference between the penis and the clitoris. What he does know is that he is attached to his mother and does not want to reject her on the grounds of her powerlessness. The chosen object is merely the symbol of this attachment.
Other such examples are abundant, but I have made my point: with a feminist analysis the whole structure of Freudianism—for the first time—makes thorough sense, clarifying such important related areas as homosexuality, even the nature of the repressive incest taboo itself—two causally related subjects which have been labored for a long time with little unanimity. We can understand them, finally, only as symptoms of the power psychology created by the family.
Durkheim, at the turn of the century, with his foundation work on incest, like Freud, triggered off a train of contradictory opinion that has lasted till our present day. Durkheim thought that the incest taboo originated in the structure of the clan:
[Many facts tend to prove] that at the beginning of human* societies, incest was not forbidden until division into at least two primary clans; for the first form of this prohibition that
we know, namely exogamy, seems above all to be correlative to this organization. The latter is certainly not primitive.
As the basic structure of the clan was a stage through which all human societies seem to have passed, and exogamy was strictly linked to the constitution of the clan, it is not surprising that the moral state the clan inspired and left behind it was itself general throughout humanity. At least it was necessary in order to triumph over it, to have particularly pressing social necessities; and this explains both how incest was legitimized among certain peoples and why these people remained the exception.
Once the family had become the center of religious moral – ism, and all free passions had come to be tied up outside it, with women and sex, the taboo against incest became firmly established, self-perpetuating. For:
by the time the origins of this duality (between morality and passion) disappeared, it was firmly entrenched in the culture. The entire moral life had been organized as a result of this development; it would have been necessary to overthrow the whole morality to return to the previous status.
Durkheim adds, strikingly, “Without the origins in exogamy, passion and love between the sexes would not have become synonymous.”
So that to eliminate the incest taboo we would have to eliminate the family and sexuality as it is now structured.
Not such a bad idea. For this traditional and by now almost universal proscription on incest has caused us to accept as “normal” a sexuality in which individual potential remains unfulfilled. Freud described the psychological penalties of sexual repression caused by the incest taboo, discovering particularly the existence of the Oedipus Complex in every normal male child, and its counterpart, the Electra, in every normal female.
Homosexuality is only what happens when these repres
sions don’t “take” as they ought to—that is, rather than being thoroughly suppressed, allowing the individual to at least function in society, they remain on the surface, seriously crippling that individual’s sexual relationships, or even his total psyche. A system in which the first person to whom the child responds emotionally will require of him that he repress a substantial part of those responses is bound to misfire most of the time. As Ruth Hirsch – berger noted in Adam’s Rib:
It is significant that the same woman who awakens the boy’s affection (and few deny the sexual component in all demonstrativeness) is also the first to issue the taboo against his sexuality. . . . Suppression of sexuality becomes the ticket to the mother’s affection.
Or, male homosexuality could result from the refusal by the child at five or six to make the transition from “mothercenteredness” to “fathercenteredness”—often from a genuine love for the mother and a real contempt for the father. (In the case of the missing “father figure,” such a transition is never clearly demanded of the child.) Very often, it is true, given the war between the sexes as it presents itself in most marriages, the mother encourages such an attachment out of spite, to get even with the father by denying him the progeny for the sake of which he tolerates her. But I think it would be more accurate to say that the child has simply taken the place of the indifferent, often philandering father in her affections. Every mother, even the most “well adjusted,” is expected to make motherhood a central focus of her life. Often the child is her only substitute for all that she has been denied in the larger world, in Freud’s terms, her “penis” substitute. How can we then demand that she not be “possessive,” that she give up suddenly, without a struggle—to the world of “travel and adventure”—the very son who was meant to compensate her for her lifelong loss of. this world?
Female homosexuality, though it too has its sources in unsuccessful repression (the Electra Complex), is considerably more complicated. Remember that the little girl also is first attached to her mother. She may never, out of later rivalry, learn to repress this attachment. Or she may attempt to act like a boy also in order to win her mother’s approval (unfortunately women, too, prefer male children). Conversely, in cases where she does identify very strongly with her father, she may refuse to give up the desired male privilege even beyond puberty; in extreme cases she imagines herself really to be the male whose part she is playing.
And even those women who appear to be sexually adjusted seldom really are. We must remember that a woman can go through intercourse with almost no response; a man can’t. Though few women, because of the excessive pressure on them to conform, actually repudiate their sexual role altogether by becoming actively lesbian, this does not mean that most women are sexually fulfilled by interaction with men. (However, a damaged female sexuality is relatively harmless in social terms; whereas the male sexual sickness, the confusion of sexuality with power, hurts others.) This is one reason why in Victorian society as well as a long time before and after, including today, women’s interest in sex is less than men’s. This fact is so bafflingly obvious that it led a well-known psychoanalyst, Theodor Reik, to conclude (in 1966!) ‘’that the very sexual drive itself is masculine, even in women, because on a lower evolutionary level reproduction is possible without males.”
Thus we see that in a family-based society, repressions due to the incest taboo make a totally fulfilled sexuality impossible for anyone, and a well-functioning sexuality possible for only a few. Homosexuals in our time are only the extreme casualties of the system of obstructed sexuality that develops in the family. But though homosexuality at present is as limited and sick as our heterosexuality, a day may soon come in which a healthy transexuality would be the norm. For if we grant that the sexual drive is at birth diffuse and undifferentiated from the total personality (Freud’s “polymorphous perversity”) and, as we have seen, becomes differentiated only in response to the incest taboo; and that, furthermore, the incest taboo is now necessary only in order to preserve the family; then if we did away with the family we would in effect be doing away with the repressions that mold sexuality into specific formations. All other things being equal, people might still prefer those of the opposite sex simply because it is physically more convenient. But even this is a large assumption. For if sexuality. were indeed at no time separated from other responses, if one individual responded to the other in a total way that merely included sexuality as one of its components, then it is unlikely that a purely physical factor could be decisive. However, we have no way of knowing that now.
The end of the compartmentalization of personality through reintegration of the sexual with the whole could have important cultural side-effects. At the present time the Oedipus Complex, originating in the now almost universal incest taboo, demands that the child soon distinguish between the “emotional” and the “sexual”: one is considered by the father to be an appropriate response to the mother, the other is not. If the child is to gain his mother’s love he must separate out the sexual from his other feelings (Freud’s “aim-inhibited” relationships). One cultural development that proceeds directly from such an unnatural psychological dichotomy is the good/bad women syndrome, with which whole cultures are diseased. That is, the personality split is projected outward onto the class “women”: those who resemble the mother are “good,” and consequently one must not have sexual feelings towards them; those unlike the mother, who don’t call forth a total response, are sexual, and therefore “bad.” Whole classes of people, e. g., prostitutes, pay with their lives for this dichotomy; others suffer to different degrees. A good portion of our language degrades women to the level where it is permissible to have sexual feelings for them. (“Cunt. Your brain is between your legs.”) This sexual schizophrenia is rarely overcome
totally in the individual. And in the larger culture, whole historical developments, the history of art and literature itself, have been directly molded by it. Thus the courtly honor of the Middle Ages, exalting women only at the expense of their flesh-and-blood humanity—making sex a lowly act, divorced from true love—developed into Mar – ianism, the cult of the virgin in art and poetry.
A song from the period illustrates the division:
I care not for these ladies Who must be wooed and prayed,
Give me kind Amaryllis,
The wanton country maid,
Nature Art disdameth,
Her beauty is her own,
For when we hug and kiss she cries “Forsooth, let us go”
But when we come where comfort is She never will say no.
The separation of sex from emotion is at the very foundations of Western culture and civilization. If early sexual repression is the basic mechanism by which character structures supporting political, ideological, and economic serfdom are produced, an end to the incest taboo, through abolition of the family, would have profound effects: sexuality would be released from its straitjacket to eroticize our whole culture, changing its very definition.
* * *
To summarize briefly my second point, that Freud and Feminism dealt with the same material: Freud’s fundamental hypothesis, the nature of the libido and its conflict with the reality principle, makes a great deal more sense when seen against the social backdrop of the (patriarchal ^ nuclear) family. I have attempted to reanalyze in feminist terms those components of Freud’s theory that most directly relate to sexuality and its repression within the family system: the incest taboo and the resulting Oedi
pus and Electra Complexes, and their common misfiring into sexual malfunctioning, or, in severe cases, into what is now sexual deviation. I have pointed out that this sexual repression, demanded of every individual in the interests of family integrity, makes for not only individual neurosis, but also for widespread cultural illnesses.
Admittedly more than a sketchy presentation is beyond the scope of this chapter: a thorough restatement of Freud in feminist terms would make a valuable book in itself. Неге I have submitted only that Freudianism and Feminism sprang up at the same time, in response to the same stimuli, and that essentially they are made of the same substance: in carefully examining the basic tenets of freudianism, I have shown that these are also the raw material of feminism. The difference lies only in that radical feminism does not accept the social context in which repression (and the resulting neurosis) must develop as immutable. If we dismantle the family, the subjection of “pleasure” to “reality,” i. e., sexual repression, has lost its function; and is no longer necessary.