What Freud Really Said About Homosexuality - And Why Abstract There is increasing public and professional debate over the normality and treatability of male homosexuality. This warrants a return to the earliest professional understandings of the condition, i. While gay-affirmative theorists dismiss early psychoanalytic theory regarding the nature and causes of homosexuality, this perspective continues to offer a foundation for understanding same-sex attractions and for the application of effective therapeutic interventions.
While often unclear about his views on homosexuality, in three primary and other peripheral writings, Freud depicts his diverse, perhaps ambivalent, views on the phenomenon. These views are summarized in seven categories: The Reality of Reproduction.
The Theory of Universal Bisexuality. Introduction There is increasing public and professional debate over the normality and associated treatability of male homosexuality. Throughout his life Freud approached the subject with caution and made only tentative assumptions. This inquiry begins with Freud. As the founder of psychoanalysis, Freud laid the foundation for more than a century of scientific investigation. From this historical context, we ask the reader to consider that critical, judgmental, and even deprecatory concepts and vocabulary to be understood from that perspective.
Freud considered homosexuality to be a perversion in the classical psychoanalytic sense of that term, i. Freud strongly opposed social intolerance of homosexuals. It is one of the obvious social injustices that the standard of civilization should demand from everyone the same sexual life-conduct which can be followed without any difficulty by some people, thanks to their organization, but which imposes the heaviest psychical sacrifices on others.
What are known as the perverse forms of intercourse. These activities cannot, however, be regarded as being as harmless as analogous extensions [of the sexual drive] in love relationships. They are ethically objectionable, for they degrade the relationships of love between two human beings from a serious matter to a convenient game, attended by no risk and no spiritual participation.
Freud was unclear about whether homosexual object-choice should be considered a singular and unitary entity, or several, separate varieties Freud, , p. In other words, Freud was not sure if homosexuality was a singular phenomenon or had various manifestations. He continually returned to the question of causation, offering several theories but never diverging very far from his foundational theory of the Oedipus Complex. Because the father is the one who is privileged to sleep with his mother, the boy is propelled into an emotional rivalry with his father.
The resolution of the conflict between the drives of the id and the ego is the defense mechanism of identification through which the boy internalizes the personality characteristics and the masculinity of the father. This negative Oedipal outcome may result in adult homosexuality. Freud used the Oedipus Complex alone to explain child development and attempted to explain homosexuality with that model solely.
Homosexuality is seen by Freud as the result of a failed resolution of the Oedipus Complex. This could occur either when this complex was not worked-through completely, or because a previous trauma had caused a psychosocial fixation within the pre-Oedipal state, preventing the child from beginning the Oedipal dynamics Freud, c, p.
An additional limitation of the Oedipus Complex model is that it views the parent-child bond as a sexually based attachment, i. His best explanation was that the child who becomes homosexual identifies with the mother and therefore loves men as she would Freud, c, p. Central to this pattern is the potential for reproduction.
The common characteristic of all perversions, on the other hand, is that they have abandoned reproduction as their aim. We term sexual activity perverse when it has renounced the aim of reproduction and follows the pursuit of pleasure as an independent goal. This effectively moved psychoanalytic theory away from the objectivity of the natural sciences upon which Freud had attempted to build psychoanalysis.
These theoretical departures from the reproductive function of sexual activity to the subjective and qualitative experience of human sexual relations served to further divide psychoanalysis from the natural sciences. Freud thought that homosexuality was rooted not only in the unsuccessful resolution of the Oedipal Complex, but also in some undiscovered biological component that predisposes some children to homosexuality.
Freud considered that narcissism also might have a biological component. Describing the evolutionary basis of sexuality, Freud wrote: Psychoanalysis considers that a choice of an object independently of its sex—freedom to range equally over male and female objects—as it is found in childhood, in primitive states of society and early periods of history, is the original basis from which, as a result of restriction in one direction or the other, both the normal and the inverted types develop.
Thus from the point of view of psychoanalysis the exclusive sexual interest felt by men for women is also a problem that needs elucidating and is not a self-evident fact based upon an attraction that is ultimately of a chemical nature. These theorists argue that whether the individual uses his sexuality for reproduction or pleasure, this should not be the gauge of his psychosexual maturity. He concluded that homosexuality finds its origins in childhood anxieties and not in biological constitution.
Psychosexual Immaturity In spite of his theory of universal bisexuality, Freud viewed normal psychosexual development as inevitably ending in heterosexuality.
Homosexuality represented an inhibition in development and did not represent mature sexuality c, p. The cause for this inhibition, he maintained, could be found in constitutional and early family factors. Anticipating the release of the Bieber, et al. In all our male homosexual cases the subjects had had a very intense erotic attachment to a female person, as a rule their mother.
This attachment was evoked or encouraged by too much tenderness on the part of the mother herself, and further reinforced by the small part played by the father during their childhood. Indeed, it almost seems as though the presence of a strong father would ensure that the son made the correct decision in his choice of object, namely someone of the opposite sex. He explained that homosexuality is a derailment from the natural sexual object.
Homosexuality and Narcissism From his earliest formulations on the nature of homosexuality, Freud recognized the narcissistic structure of the condition: He conceptualized homosexuality as a developmental mid-point between immature narcissism and mature heterosexuality Freud, This narcissistic identification with her remains an impediment to authentic relationships in adulthood. While Freud wrote his ideas on homosexuality in scattered form, his paper on Leonardo da Vinci may be considered the most insightful and detailed analysis of the homosexual condition.
In this paper, for the first time, Freud linked this inhibition in development to narcissism: We have discovered, especially clearly in people whose libidinal development has suffered some disturbance, such as perverts and homosexuals, that in their later choice of love-objects they have taken as a model not their mother but their own selves.
In this observation we have the strongest of the reasons which have led us to adopt the hypothesis of narcissism. The ego seeks some kind of repayment for an offense suffered, or for a perceived loss or defect. This compensatory function of the ego came to be understood in terms of narcissism. Freud viewed homosexual behavior as a mechanism used as a defense against anxiety and fear. Earlier, Freud noted the reparative function of homosexuality in describing it as a defense against fear of women: Offering a clinical example of the reparative function of same-sex behavior, Freud stated: In the history of homosexuals one often hears that the change in them took place after the mother had praised another boy and set him up as a model.
The tendency to a narcissistic object-choice was thus stimulated, and after a short phase of keen jealousy, the rival became a love-object.
Therapeutic Pessimism Freud often expressed pessimism about the treatment of homosexuality, not because he was opposed to it in principle, but because he judged that the techniques of the time were ineffective.
In general, to undertake to convert a fully developed homosexual into a heterosexual does not offer much more prospect of success than the reverse, except that for good practical reasons the latter is never attempted. The number of successes achieved by psycho-analytic treatment of the various forms of homosexuality, which incidentally are manifold, is indeed not very striking.
Typically the neurotic was sufficiently enough distressed by his symptoms to motivate him to seek professional help. Because he experienced anxiety regarding his symptoms, he developed a transference onto the therapist, which is necessary for psychoanalytic treatment success. The homosexual is not able to give up the object that provides him with pleasure, and one cannot convince him that if he made the change he would rediscover in the other the pleasure that he has renounced.
If he comes to be treated at all, it is mostly through the pressure of external motives, such as the social disadvantages and dangers attaching to his choice of object, and such components of the instinct of self-preservation prove themselves too weak in the struggle against the sexual impulsions.
One then soon discovers his secret plan, namely, to obtain from the striking failure of his attempt a feeling of satisfaction that he has done everything possible against his abnormality, to which he can now resign himself with an easy conscience. While Freud was pessimistic about treatment success, he did not exclude the possibility of change, but rather thought that psychoanalysis could offer the patient a more conflict-free adjustment to his homosexuality.
It is not for psychoanalysis to solve the problem of homosexuality. It must rest content with disclosing the psychical mechanisms that resulted in determining the object-choice, and with tracing back the paths from them to the instinctual dispositions.
There its work ends, and it leaves the rest to biological research. What analysis can do for your son runs in a different line.
If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. In the sphere of sexual life we are brought up against peculiar and, indeed, insoluble difficulties as soon as we try to draw a sharp line to distinguish mere variations within the range of what is physiological from pathological symptoms.
The point at which a child became fixated in his psychosexual development determined whether or not he suffered from a perversion. The etiology of homosexuality placed the fixation before the period of the Oedipus Conflict, making the condition a perversion.
Success in mastering the Oedipal conflict allows the boy to move beyond the narcissistic phase of development, with its more primitive need-gratifying object relations, to a maturity that allows true object-relatedness. This focus on narcissistic gratification limits his sexual-object choices to those which offer reassurance against depletion of his masculinity threats of castration.
His tendency to seek an idealized object to fulfill his unmet narcissistic needs means that his relationships will be built upon psychic projections and repetitive enactments of reassurance.
Freud was the first to report the commonly found association between homosexuality and some degree of paranoia, which was frequently confirmed by other psychoanalysts Lewes, The transformative process from intolerable homosexuality to paranoia begins as follows: Homosexuality and Healthy Personality The fundamental question for Freud was whether homosexual love could be truly other-related; or, was it simply an extension of infantile pleasure-seeking, or an attempt at narcissistic gratification with a partial object?
Freud was impressed by the great artists whom he thought to be homosexual, such as da Vinci and Michelangelo, and he viewed them as some of the highest-level contributors to culture and mankind Freud, While Freud believed that homosexuality was an inhibition of normal psycho-sexual development, he recognized that it need not be an obstacle to development of the personality in other respects: He thought it possible for a homosexual man to be completely masculine-identified.
Years later, Freud noted: In this respect, his views precede what Socarides later described as post-Oedipal type of homosexuality Socarides, ; Nicolosi, Conclusion Classical psychoanalysis contains substantial contributions to the understanding of homosexuality. Recent political changes have resulted in the questioning of its foundational conclusions.
These principles include the likelihood that a male homosexual experienced over-identification with his mother, and a poor relationship with his father; that narcissism is a common feature of male homosexual development; and that homosexual attractions serve a reparative function to compensate for the preceding factors.
These principles have repeatedly been confirmed by mental-health professionals over a century of clinical practice. Discussion of papers by Dr. Panel on identification in the perversions.
The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 67, — A psychoanalytic study of male homosexuals.