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SEXUALITY AND MADNESS / Vol. 53, No. 2 (Summer 1986)

Arien Mack, Editor

The presumption that motivated this special issue of Social Research is that attitudes toward sexuality and madness, two apparently quite different aspects of human behavior, have been and continue to be intimately connected.

In contrast to 19th-century thought, which "feared" sex, 18th-century medical opinion in Britain maintained that too much culture was the danger and that delayed marriages forced sexual desires into destructive channels such as masturbation, prostitution, and other "unnatural" eroticisms, which worked physical rather than psychological damage.

Isaac Baker Brown, a gynecologist elected president of the Medical Society in 1865, believed that hysteria and nervous complaints in women was due to masturbation and that clitoridectomy was the key to their restoration. He was eventually expelled from the society, not because of cruelty or coercion of his patients, but because he offended the society's professional norms by publishing papers in a popular journal.

In Tudor and Stuart England, hysteria was treated as a physical rather than a psychological illness. Wives and daughters could therefore rebel without punishment by blaming witchcraft for their behavior.

Women authors such as Lucinda B. Chandler, Alice Stockham, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Mrs. Duffey wrote during the late Victorian era in an effort to encourage women to assert more power in society, insisting on female control of the frequency of sex mainly to maintain their health against the dangers of venereal disease, unwanted and repeated pregnancies, and marital rape.

The association of religion, sexuality, and madness has never been more popular. Yet the examples of this association have never had less to do with God. The rationalization of that science, exploration, and economic development have brought upon the world since 1600 has changed the usual form of religious madness from inspiration and possession to obsession and compulsion, with a consequent decline in the flamboyance of sexual devotion.

Examines the responsibility of the psychoanalyst in cases of sexual transference of patients by studying Freud's correspondence with his fiance, wherein they deplored the abrupt abandonment of "Anna O." by Freud's mentor Josef Breur after her assertion that she was having Dr. Breur's baby.

In New Guinea both sexuality and madness are subject to cultural controls, the total design of which relates to local ideas about human nature and the social communication of desires. This essay suggests that madness in New Guinea Highlands peoples signifies a loss of culture through a negation of communication.

Points out the differences between the Russian and dominant Western traditions in perceptions of sexuality and madness and their interrelationship. Whereas the West values purity, the Russians value fertility. Russian psychologists associate madness with female sexuality only when the latter occurs prematurely, either physically, emotionally, or morally (for this reason they disapprove of early marriages), or when female sexual needs are unmet.


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