The previous post is here.
The World Health Organisation has declared that bdsm, fetishism and transvestism are not “diseases” or disorders. Its latest issue of the publication “International Classification of Diseases”, or ICD-11, has dropped these categories from its list of “paraphilic disorders”. This represents an end to years of struggle by bdsm advocates, LGBTIQ activists, also academics who pay attention to actual evidence.
This post looks at what those sexual tastes and orientations were doing there in the first place.
The Freudian hangover
They were in the ICD in the first place for two entirely spurious reasons. The first is simply bigotry and social disapproval, often but not always religiously based. The second was non-empirical theorising by pre-scientific writers on sex and psychology.
Freud is perhaps the most important culprit, because he managed to found a cult around himself and his musings, so that his influence lingered far longer than, really, it should have.
Also, Freud’s ideas about bdsm were so alarming, to those who took them seriously, that his followers had to give the “problem” of bdsm close attention.
The consequence was that from 1930 to 2000, most academic writing on bdsm was by Freudians. (I’ve used academic databases, and counted.) To most psychologists, bdsm was simply a sexual taste, that some people have and some people don’t, and they didn’t look much further than that. But if the head of a cult declared it was a threat to all life, cult followers need to spend a lot of time writing about it. To a man and woman, what they wrote was evidence-free word-spinning.
Freud believed a lot of fairly odd things about bdsm, but one of the most dangerous things he wrote was that “masochists” seek to avoid pleasure, and since all life seeks pleasure, then “masochists” must be in the service of some sort of death force. This death force is fundamentally opposed to the life force.
It seems likely that the only “masochist” Freud ever actually talked to (though he claimed otherwise) was his own daughter, Anna, who he used to spank over his knee when she was a little girl. Later, she went into analysis with her father, and they talked about the erotic feelings he’d aroused in his own daughter, in a “therapist/client relationship”.
Any modern therapist belonging to a professional association who did something as unethical (for multiple reasons) as that would get struck off so fast it’d make their ears spin.
Anyway, the one piece of evidence Freud had was that spankings can bring out an erotic, pleasured response. Ignoring that one piece of evidence, he built up an apocalyptic theory that “masochists”, as haters of pleasure and life, are trying to bring about the end of all life. Later, he decided that “sadists” are also part of the death force, as well as being the cause of Nazism. So bdsm is of tremendous importance, and it is disastrous.
(However bdsm people shouldn’t feel singled out. Freud also claimed that the Eqyptian king Akhenaten escaped his death, scrambled across the desert, converted to Judaism and became Moses. The fall-back position was that Moses was a priest of Akhenaten. Either position has to ignore the 500 year gap between Akhenaten and the rise of Judaic monotheism.
Have I digressed yet? And, Freud wrote, the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare.)
However, if Freud was right about bdsm, then you can make some empirical predictions. For example:
- people who practice bdsm are more likely to have spent time in jail, because of their anti-life, antisocial sexuality and their propensity for death and violence;
- people who practice bdsm should be earning less money, because their anti-life, anti-social sexuality would stop them from holding down a good job;
- people who practice bdsm should have less education, because their anti-life and anti-social tendencies would stop them from staying in school, let alone going on to higher education;
- people who practice bdsm should enjoy sex less than most people, since all the masochists are seeking to avoid sexual pleasure.
These and other predictions were eventually tested. Not, it goes without saying, by Freudians.
For the results, tune in the same time and place next week.