The Invasion of Compulsory Sex-Morality by Wilhelm Reich




"The clinical and ethnologic material for this book was compiled between 1920 and 1930. It was rounded out by the extraordinary material Bronislaw Malinowski presented in 1930 in his comprehensive book The Sexual Life of Savages. My study of the origin of human sexual morality was written in September 1931 in the midst of the social storm that rocked the German republic before Hitler's ascendancy to power; and the strong political slant of this book stems from the experiences of that period. Nothing of what shook our social existence at that time (1930-45), in the political sense, has survived. However, the facts about the history of human character development have not only survived the last twenty years but have gained in consistency and social influence, which is, in the long run the true social power."

Wilhelm Reich, M.D.
(from the Preface – 1951)

This study of the invasion of compulsory sexual morality into human society, written in 1931, was Reich's first step in approaching the answer to the problem of human mass neuroses, preceding The Mass Psychology of Fascism and The Sexual Revolution. Growing out of Reich's involvement with the crucial question of the origin of sexual suppression, this attempt to explain historically the problem of sexual disturbances and neuroses draws upon the ethnological works of Morgan, Engels and, in particular, Bronislaw Malinowski, whose remarkable studies of the sexual life and customs of the primitive people of the Trobriand Islands confirmed Reich's clinical discoveries.

Repudiating Freud's idea that sexual repression is an essential component of the development of human society, and rejecting Géza Roheim's anthropological efforts to substantiate it, he grasps the problem of the relationship of socio-economic living conditions and the formation of human character structure. Reich writes, "The organization of social life determines the quanitity and the quality of the equalization of tension and discharge in the psychic apparatus. If there is a lack of social possibilities for genital gratification...if the measure of unpleasurable stimuli is too great owing to distress and want, the psychic apparatus works with substitute mechanisms that seek to bring about some discharge at any cost. The results are neuroses, perversions, patholiogical changes of character, anti-social manifestations of genital life and, not least, work disturbances."
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