Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 1905, by Sigmund Freud
Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality is a 1905 work by Sigmund Freud which advanced his theory of sexuality, in particular its relation to childhood. Freud considered these essays to be his second greatest work. His most important work, according to him was The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud began developing these theories after working with female patients. Most of these patients were loosely diagnosed to suffer from hysteria. The symptoms for this term were quite varied. For instance, symptoms as paralysis or insomnia were diagnosed to be hysteria. It also included psychotic instances and wild mood swings. Interestingly, one of the common ways of treating it was for a doctor to cause the patient to have an orgasm. This may have had a great influence on Sigmund Freud's work.
Sigmund Freud was mentored by Jean-Martin Charcot, a renowned Psychiatrist of his time. He was the first to use hypnosis in treating patients that were diagnosed with hysteria. However, Freud abandoned the practice later in his career, finding it to be ineffective. Freud's own success came from dealing with patients who had psychosomatic illnesses. He theorized that the symptoms, which these patients were experiencing, were due to repression of sexual desires. Consequently, Freud postulated that treatment of these symptoms was by bringing these suppressed desired into the conscious mind.
Freud's work has generated a lot of controversy, especially among feminist groups. They view Freud's work as a sexist. However, newer theories into human sexuality are still based on the original Freudian theories. These opponents are particularly offended by the use of the term "normal". They argue that normal is subjective and thus Freud's work is flawed. Freud did also observe that people with "normal" sexual tendencies were not normal afterall. He claimed that there was no normal sexual behavior. On the issue of pedophiles, Freud had an interesting observation. He characterized such perverse feelings as originating form fear. For instance, animals, which were unable to mate successfully with others, would take their frustrations out on young ones. Thus, he observed that pedophilia was not innate but rather grew out of fear.
Despite the major flaws, Freud does make a number of important points. This work was based on famous sexologists of his time. He read their theories and observed their work before coming up with his own theory. The first part of this work is dedicated to studying sexual behaviors that were not "normal". In his work, Freud observed a number of different sexual orientations, which he had observed such as homosexuality and bisexual tendencies. Freud observed that some of this individuals have always had this attraction since birth while others developed this "condition" after a certain trigger.
Sigmund Freud was the first to give detailed description of how children experienced sexual pleasure. He described that children experience pleasure through mechanical processes such as being flung in the air. He claimed that the sense of fear they experience followed by a sense of calmness was an intense source of sexual pleasure. In his work, Freud also suggested that children had specific erogenous zones through which they would experience sexual pleasure. For instance, the act of a child sucking on their thumb was for sexual pleasure. He also postulated the anal area could be converted into an area of sexual pleasure where the child experiences pleasure by exerting pressure.
On his explanations on the stages of sexual development in children, Freud claimed the first stage was borne out of curiosity. A young boy will wonder why they are built different from girls. He also suggested that girls on discovering they do not have a penis develop what he termed as "sexual envy". Freud suggested that this early developments in the child of a life had a great influence on them later on in life. He suggested boys would develop a fear for their father and thus try to mimic him in an attempt to appease him. This fear was the fear of castration. According to Freud this fear came out of sexual desire for his mother. He also postulates he discovery of the penis to be the origin of misogyny. Freud suggested that when the boy made the discovery that the opposite sex lacks a penis, he would henceforth look down on the as lesser men. Freud suggested that later on, this feeling would disappear but re-emerge later in puberty. At this stage, the person's sexual desire and relationships would be staged by the early stages of development. One of his wildest claims was that the desire for intellectualism was driven by sexual desires.
The essays also do briefly touch on sadomasochism. He explained that the drive men had to be aggressive was rooted in more than a desire to mate. He postulated that men were driven by the dire to completely dominate the female in every way. He also observed that this trait was common in most men. However, it existed in varying degrees among different men.
The original Freud theories have been revised over the course of more than a hundred years. Although most of his work has been disproved. He did make some very progressive a point for a man of his time. For instance, he gave an explanation to what were seen as perverse sexual nature of people at the time. In essence, Freud was challenging the long held notion that all sexual desire came from a biological desire to mate. Here in lies the contradictory nature of Freud's work. Although he clearly described sexuality developing independently from a desire to mate, he still viewed it as perverse. Freud also viewed sexuality as fluid and not fixed, thus it developed over the course of an individual's life.
From the aforementioned summary, it is quite clear that Sigmund Freud was obsessed by development of human beings as rooted in sexuality. However, his work does raise some interest. For instance, Freud's attributes the rise of monotheism and the strong hold it had at the time to psychosexual development. In addition, Freud attributed the ease with which strongmen in most states at the time ruled with absolute authority to development of human sexuality. His work was controversial during his time and still is even today. However, Freud's contribution to modern psychoanalysis is not in doubt.