I began to understand Freud’s premise. He was saying that we pay a price for civilisation and sexual repression is among its costs. We repress natural impulses in favour of order which seeks to keep sex contained. But the repressions are troublesome. They come with a morality attached which with its rules and values creates as many problems as it solves. Historically such morality has demanded that individuals conform to a strict set of conventions for how they will be acceptably sexual. They will be exclusive in their partnerships and any attempts to subvert the conventions such as with infidelity or prostitution will be branded deviant then stigmatised.
Of course people continually bust out of such impossible confines never more so than currently when something approaching half of all marriages are broken up. New ones are entered into to be broken up also. Three, four and five unions for some people are thus commonplace leaving an unholy mess in the wake. To call these scenarios “blended” families is ridiculous because they are often fractious and toxic, and very costly to individuals and society alike. To say that a whole new paradigm is needed here is an understatement.
I think change would have to be fundamental, potentially undoing thousands of years of embedded practice, pulling from older ways of living perhaps, from pre-civilisation indeed. It would mean reversing the whole idea of exclusivity in sexual relations. It would probably mean returning to some kind of communal existence, moving away from living in shoeboxes, a culture which has become a harbour for all kinds of emotional problems, neuroses and abuses. These harmful traits, rather than being incubated as they tend to be inside families, could be easier neutralised in a more communal environment. There, people would have to amend, upgrade and refine themselves and learn to live in ways that were more relationship friendly, more spiritually enriching, more mature, actually more civilised.
I read an instructive book called Sex At Dawn. It makes the case for homo sapiens being the most sexual of the primates and by nature more creative in its mating patterns. The authors argued that older humanity had seen sex as part of common existence and as a cohesive force socially. For pre-civilised man individual paternity was not so important because the community acted as parent with the responsibility for child rearing shared across the group. It was even believed, wrongly of course, that sperm from multiple partners made babies. Theirs was no hippy ideal but just the natural way of things for all their lack of knowledge.
Obviously no one is suggesting a return to pre-civilisation. That would be neither possible nor desirable short of a global catastrophe. But what might be possible is to take insights from older mankind about the home-truths of base humanity, especially about sexuality and how far civilisation with its moral imperatives has forced humans away from their core. Although Freud was in favour of the civilising forces and accepting of their compromises, his work points to the possibility of striking a better balance between real needs and the maintaing of order. It is a radical notion but radical is required I think if we are to address the endemic problems caused by the failures of exclusive partnerships.
order comes at a price