Biography and Sexual Teachings of Sigmund Freud Part 4

About the famous psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, history and biography of the man who had a lot to say about sexuality.


SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939), Austria

Physically, Freud was a handsome man, with a mustache, pointed beard, dark hair, and quick-moving dark eyes. Before W.W. I, on vacation, he liked to sport a Tyrolean costume--shorts with braces, a green hat with a feather, and a walking stick--for long walks in the woods looking for mushrooms, which he had an uncanny ability to find.

Though he kept much of his own private life secret (twice he destroyed his personal papers), Freud tended sometimes to be indiscreet with secrets entrusted to him by others and was open enough to discuss his bowels, which he affectionately nicknamed Konrad, with his close friends.

In spite of the fame which came to him when he was old, Freud had a curious humility. When Princess Bonaparte referred to him as a genius, he told her, "Geniuses are unbearable people. You have only to ask my family how easy I am to live with, so I cannot be a genius." At another time, he wrote, "I am not really a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, and not a thinker. I am nothing but by temperament a conquistador--an adventurer, if you want to translate the word--with the curiosity, the boldness, and the tenacity that belong to that type of being."


Freud originally dealt with patients with psychosomatic symptoms which he classified into two groups. One group he called neurasthenics, and he felt their difficulties arose from excessive masturbation--he put one girl under 24-hour watch to stop her from doing it--or nocturnal emissions or sexual arousal without consummation (anxiety neurosis). The other group were hysterics, women whose sexual repressions at an early age caused them to display psychosomatic symptoms. In Studies of Hysteria, he documented his work with case histories of some of these women.

He put forth theories of infantile sexuality--that a child has sexual feelings toward his mother or her father (Oedipus complex and Electra complex), that girls suffer from penis envy (boys have something they don't), and boys have a castration complex (fear of having the penis cut off). He said that children, previously thought "innocent," were "polymorphously perverse." Childhood sexuality, according to him, begins shortly after the child is born (the mother's breast is the child's first love object) and is not concentrated merely in the genitals but in all the erogenous zones.

Freud claimed that women had two kinds of orgasm--clitoral, which he considered infantile, and vaginal, which he saw as "mature." (This concept has since been debunked.) He termed the clitoris a "stunted penis," claiming that masturbation does not give a little girl satisfaction, so "as a rule she soon gives up masturbating, since she does not wish to be reminded of the superiority of her brother or playmate, and turns away from sexuality altogether." (This idea was disproved by Kinsey, who found that females masturbate quite a lot.) She blames her mother for "having sent her into the world so insufficiently equipped" (without a penis) and emulates her father, eventually wanting a baby from him. She survives these feelings by marrying a man like her father, recognizing his authority, and making do with him and his penis. Modern ideas about women make Freud's theories largely unacceptable, yet when considered in their context--the end of the Victorian Era--one can understand how they once seemed quite sensible.

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