I’ve been going back and forth between doing a post on Sigmund Freud and Rape Culture.
I’ve been going back and forth because I know that to do it justice and deflect nay-sayers and those weirdo Freudians who think he is still relevant, I would have to do an actual amount of research, which I don’t have the time or health to do right now. (I think I have an ulcer or gastritis or diabetes or cancer or death…but I also might just be under too much stress.)
So I don’t have the time, but I’m going to anyway. Fuck you. This is my blog. If you like Freud’s theories, go home and continue in your delusion.
I’m honestly pretty embarrassed that my field still uses Freud as a mascot. It’s pretty insulting that we even still respect him. (In case you haven’t gotten it, this is a super biased post, so again, feel free to leave). We give him credit for pretty much inventing psychology and psychotherapy, when in reality we are misdirecting credit that should go to others. Freud didn’t come out of nowhere, he did not invent the “talking cure” as many want to think. Nor did he really cure anyone.
Aaaaaaannnnnd on to my rape culture rant.
This was a some type of treatment for Hysteria…Yeah…
Coming up in psychology I’m sure I got the same schpiel (I have no idea how you spell that, or if it’s a real word) that everyone else got in their intro classes about Freud’s theory on psychosexual development. Psychosexual stages of oral, anal, blah blah I hate them too much to even recall or google them right now. We learned the Oedipus Complex and the less well known Electra Complex (for girls! written something along the lines of 15 years later because it took the culture that long to realize that he had completely left women out of the developmental picture). It all seemed very single minded to me. Really? Everything, every pathology and tic is a result of some type of sexual regression? I figured that it was just a very watered down undergrad version of the theory and went on with my life. And even then I thought of it as a historical science blip, like the sun revolving around the earth. My very hippied out Personality Psych Prof in undergrad then let us in on the secrets of Freud’s private life. He didn’t have sex for decades and there was some weird shit with him and his mom and he threw away and attempted to disgrace any upcoming psychologist/intern/admirer who disagreed with him. Fun stuff. Just the kind of guy I would want laying down judgments on me.
Anyway, as part of my grad training, I had to take classes in each of the major orientations (Psychodynamic [Freud, et al], CBT, Humanistic, and Systemic), most of which were taught by very staunch adherents to their theory who refused to see any flaw in the classic theories of the orientation (except my CBT prof who outrightly said “all what I’m teaching is being outmoded by new theories and will be irrelevant in a few years—but failed to teach us said new theories). Anyway, I went into my Psychodyamic class trying to have an open mind about Freud. We learned all of his greatest hits and made-up phrases like “Regression in service of the ego” and something about “cathexis.” I tried to follow, but it was all too foreign and self-righteous for me. I passed the class and went on with my life accepting that I had wasted that time and money and disappointed the prof never even uttered the name Carl Jung. I was but a wee grad student with a high level of anxiety and a fear of making waves (clearly this phase of my life has passed, as I have heard myself saying “fuck that” during seminars–I may not get far in my career, but I will be true to myself).
As I implied, this prof refused to address any issues or faults in Freud’s theory. When someone asked about his theory on homosexuality, the prof said “oh we will discuss that at a later date.” “A later date” never came.
Let me bring up to you Freud’s theory of sexual abuse towards girls and women: It was all their fault and they were asking for it.
Now, this was not always Freud’s theory. Initially, Freud saw the relationship between “Hysteria” and childhood trauma, specially sexual trauma. A little background on Hysteria: essentially this was the term for a cluster of symptoms relating to anxiety in women, such as hyperarousal, pulling away at being touched, uneasiness, crying, etc. My personal favorite description being: “a dramatic medical metaphor for everything that men found mysterious or unmanageable in the opposite sex.”
Freud, Charcot, Breuer, and others in the field at the time all recognized the relationship between this “disease” and trauma. Freud even had a strong enough base of evidence to write about the relationship between girlhood sexual abuse and hysteria. Legit and fantastic. A difficult subject to breach at the time. So difficult, in fact, that Freud became uncomfortable with the idea, retracted the theory, and reconceptualized all of the work that he had previously done. Apparently, the idea of rampant, systemic childhood sexual abuse was so threatening to Freud he disavowed his own thoughts and journals. He retracted previous writings and revised his theory.
I want to stop here. Because I want to point out that Freud and his counterparts recognized this in the early 20th century and had the opportunity to intervene. To change the way women and hysteria was thought about and treated. To really, genuinely address issues of rape and sexual abuse. But Freud said “No.”
He was actually so uncomfortable with this idea that he revised his theory to state that the sexual abuse was “imagined” and even later “wanted” by the women during childhood. That they created the situation to deal with their distance from the father and jealousy of the mother. I could say the same for the Oedipus complex, but like I said I don’t have the time, energy, or health to back it up legitimately. (I know I rarely do citations here, because it’s not a peer-review journal, but please trust that I’m not making shit up as I go along and I do have articles if you are that desperate to fact-check me.) Freud’s eventual theory came down to the fact that women imagined sexual abuse, they wanted to be sexually abuse…wait, I should correct myself, we are talking about childhood sexual abuse, so I should be saying girls. Girls wanted to be sexually abused, the desired the trauma, so much so that if it wasn’t real, they would imagine it.
Why am I so furious to write an entirely too long post? Because out culture still thinks this way. We blame girls and women for being abused, for being raped, for being traumatized. We don’t believe their stories. We look for every reason to think they are lying or that they are asking for it. Well, I blame Freud for a lot of this. He created the theory that allowed us to believe this tripe. Thanks, Freud, for the victim blaming and slut shaming.
I wanted to end on some awesome quote/picture. I got nothing. Have a good night.(And have sex. It will anger the ghost of Freud, and that will make the world a better place)