medieval torture

Large photo

Home | Index of articles

---

From The Kamasutra to Tinder: Sex And Love in India

India is a country much written about by outsiders, a legacy, perhaps, of European colonialism. But when it comes to writing about sex in India, being Indian probably helps.

Australia’s current debate on marriage equality reminds us that sex and love are volatile subjects in every culture. So imagine writing about them in a country like India, where every issue is enmeshed in both ancient social and religious customs, and transformative technological and economic change.

In 2014, Ira Trivedi, an India-born, U.S educated novelist and journalist — are there any novelists who are not both these days? — stepped into the arena with her non-fiction debut India in Love: Marriage in Sexuality in the 21st Century. The way Trivedi tells it, India is in the midst of twin socio-economic and sexual revolutions.

Every minute of every day, 31 villagers migrate from the countryside to an Indian city. If current trends continue, 700 million people will shift over the next 40 years. When they arrive, their lives change. Not only does mobility weaken caste and class barriers, but also marriage and family ties. Add exposure to urban middle-class aspirations and mores, and the rapid spread of access to the web, and the seeds of a sexual revolution would appear to have been sown.

When I last lived in India in 2001, some 15 million people had access to the Internet. In January this year, India boasted 375 million web users. Trivedi links rising Internet access to increasing consumption of online porn. Like much of her data, there is little effort to challenge figures that counter her argument, like a BBC report that suggests porn’s “domination” of the Internet is exaggerated. However, some statistics back her claim. In 2014, the Indian porn star Sunny Leone was the most searched for name on Google India, beating Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Indians out sign-in the world on the marital infidelity site AshleyMadison.com. In 2016, India Today’s annual sex survey reported one in five Indians were “fine” with their partners experimenting sexually outside their relationship. Saucy online shops like Masalatoys.com and Zivame.com lingerie have done a roaring trade.

India in Love portrays an India in which arranged marriage as an institution is “shattering.” Parental matchmaking is accepted, but while the at times lengthy search goes on, its subjects are busy “dating and mating rampantly.” Divorce is “soaring,” and LGBTIQ lifestyles, open marriages and live-in arrangements are being “explored.” Social media, chat rooms and online porn, writes Trivedi, “have teased the imagination of a young India, expanded her horizons and aspirations with the click of a button.”

As writers never cease to remind us, India gave the world its first sex manual, the Kamasutra, and Trivedi details Hinduism’s celebration of sex and romantic love. The goddess Parvati’s suicide after her family disapproved of her phenomenal desire for Shiva, and his stunning vengeance on her father for interfering in love’s realm, is recalled today at peeths, or shrines, across the country. So too, sexual practices that awaken the kundalini, or life force by any means necessary, including adultery. Centuries of Islamic rule, and subsequent British colonialism, weren’t exactly encouraging of this kind of thing. The British also criminalized homosexuality in 1860.

Ironically, the freedom fighter Gandhi’s legacy — so progressive in so many ways — was also pretty prudish, reinforcing the anachronistic attitudes to gender and sexuality of the colonial rulers he helped oust. In this sense, an Indian sexual revolution, unlike a Western one, would reclaim a progressive past, not build it from scratch.

If Indian youth are as open to change as Trivedi maintains, the impact could be profound, because India is not just the world’s second most populous nation, but also demographically-speaking its youngest, with an average age of just 29. However, her claim that “the choices, freedom and experiences of the present generation” are radically different from all who have gone before seems little more than a reflection of what her own elite social circle can do and know. In my view, she, overemphasizes both the extent of the current “awakening” and the middle classes’ role it, which she says is driven by a desire to “fit in to a globalized world.” A strange reason for redefining one’s sexuality, I’d have thought.

What is true, and what Trivedi deserves credit for underlining, is that Indians are no strangers to the changing sexual mores affecting other parts of the world. It’s the depth of that engagement that, despite the author’s categorical conclusions, remains unclear. And as Trivedi herself acknowledges, the backlash against change is also powerful.

The current Hindu Nationalist government has reduced financial support for AIDS prevention programs, and its Science minister is a strident opponent of sex education in schools.

Article continues below the image

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---

Writing — even fluent prose like Trivedi’s — can only take us so far in understanding a society. Legal and legislative change might be surer guides.

In 2009, the powerful Delhi High Court ruled that the British prohibition of homosexual intercourse, which survives in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, violated fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Republic’s Constitution. However, four years later the ruling was set aside by the country’s Supreme Court.

In a possible harbinger of what might happen on marriage equality in Australia, the Congress Party MP Shashi Tharoor took up the fight in parliament, introducing a bill to decriminalize homosexuality. It was rejected 71 votes to 24.

India is a country much written about by outsiders, a legacy, perhaps, of European colonialism. But when it comes to writing about sex in India, being Indian probably helps. At the very least, nationalists who delight in decrying the views of outsiders are denied the parochial argument.

The benefits of local voices — even in the elite cadence of a foreign-educated Trivedi — go further, if the work of Western writers and journalists on sex in India is a guide. For decades, they’ve been fixated on quirky tales of bazaar-based sexologist-wallahs, and romanticized stories of Brit officers “gone native.”

Sex crimes in India have received blanket coverage in western media outlets. Yet India in Love appears not to have been published outside India. Could it be that we take a prurient interest in the failings of developing countries, but lack interest the social and economic contexts of their occurrence? Or that news gatekeepers are reluctant to carry positive news from developing countries?

India in Love is an example, I think, of several healthy trends. Firstly, that instead of joining the brain drain, “globalised” Indian writers educated abroad are returning to India and taking on controversial, tough to research subjects. Secondly, that unlike countries like Australia and the US, the relative health of print media in India continues to support a culture of serious journalism, and the non-fiction book projects that are so often a by-product of it.

Thirdly, that India’s lively domestic book publishing industry is sustaining and growing a market for good writing on serious subjects. Productivity Commission, take note.

It’s true that most of these affordances have to date been concentrated in India’s English language media, in other words, the privileged end of the socio-economic spectrum. One wonders what the Dalits, once known as Untouchables, make of all this. All perspectives, even those of outsiders, have potential value. The key to a healthy discourse lies in enlarging the chorus, rather than shutting down particular voices.

The author is senior lecturer in Journalism, School of the Arts & Media, University of New South Wales, Australia.

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---

Irvine, California: Why people kiss

Jesse M. Papa 334 Joy Lane Irvine, CA 92614

This post from Natalie Engelbrecht, psychotherapist, naturopathic doctor, and researcher, originally appeared on Quora as an answer to the question, "Why do we kiss?"

The scientific study of kissing is called “philematology” (philos in ancient Greek = earthly love). During a kiss, couples exchange 9 mg of water, 0.7 mg of protein, 0.18 mg of organic compounds, 0.71 mg of fats, and 0.45 mg of sodium chloride, along with 10 million to 1 billion bacteria according to one estimate.

Kisses use as little as two muscles, burning only 2 to 3 calories, while passionate kissing involves up to 34 facial muscles along with 112 postural muscles and burns around 26 calories per minute.

The original theory was that primate mothers chewed their food for their babies. However, as evolution continued the kiss began to be used to pass on information regarding biological compatibility of a mate via pheromone chemical signals as well as promote social bonding and expressing love, with the ultimate goal of procreation.

With the kiss, partners are able to get close enough to each other to assess essential characteristics about each other, none of which are consciously processed. Although the vomeronasal organs—which are responsible for pheromone detection and brain function in animals—are thought to be vestigial and inactive in humans. Research indicates we do communicate with chemicals.

One study found that when women were asked to smell T-shirts of different men and choose their favourite, the choice was not made randomly but was based on the man whose major histo-compatibility complex (MHC)—a series of genes involved in the males immune system—was different from their own. The importance of this is that different MHCs mean less immune overlap which indicates more healthy offspring.

While men are not selective in terms of kissing, women are very choosy. This is because on an evolutionary level women were looking for a mate to raise their offspring with, and kissing could be an unconscious but accurate way for women to assess the immune compatibility of a mate, before she invests too much time and energy in him.

While males will have sex with women without kissing them beforehand as well as have sex with a woman who is not a good kisser, most women will never have sex without kissing first. Men tend to initiate French kissing and research suggests this is because saliva contains testosterone and this increases the sex drive of their mate. Furthermore, men are able to sense a woman’s level of estrogen which is a predictor of her fertility.

“There is evidence that saliva has testosterone in it,” said Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, “and testosterone increases sex drive. And there is evidence that men like sloppier kisses with more open mouth. That suggests they are unconsciously trying to transfer testosterone to stimulate sex drive in women.”

Hormone levels change after kissing. Specifically cortisol (stress) levels decreased in men and women after kissing, and the longer a couple is together the lower their stress hormones get. Interestingly oxytocin levels increase in men, however women’s levels decreased.

One theory is that women need more than a kiss to stimulate attachment and bonding. Kissing raises testosterone which increases sex drive, and also increases dopamine promoting romantic love, and oxytocin (men only) which promotes bonding.

Other benefits includes a modest increase in blood pressure and heart rate which helps our cardiac health, increased saliva produced during active kissing which helps to prevent tooth decay, and men who kiss their wives in the morning live 5 years longer on average and also make more money.

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---

Washington, Maryland: Germany - the world's capital of penis enlargement

Matthew R. Stewart 1147 Chatham Way Washington, MD 20008

One in five surgeries takes place in Germany, according to data released by plastic surgeons. Find out what other aesthetic operations are popular worldwide

It seems that spam emails inviting men to try increasing the size of their member would be best targeted to addresses ending in .de.

According to the latest data release by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), there were 2,786 operations estimated to have taken place in Europe’s biggest country - which is more than in any other nation.

The organisation estimates that there were 15,414 of these operations performed worldwide so almost one in five of those seeking to add centimetres to their member were in Germany.

It is not a huge amount of men deciding to have an intimate nip and tuck in Germany - it’s roughly eight out of every 100,000 adult males usually resident in the country. However, only Venezuela, where four out of every 100,000 adult males have a penis enlargement operation, comes anywhere near close to the German rate.

It’s worth pointing out here that the figures are not broken down by the nationality of the patient so it’s not necessarily German men or people that live there going for the procedure.

The German Centre for Urology and Phalloplasty Surgery claims to have performed over 6,000 penis enlargements (be warned there are graphic pictures available on the site). They claim to be able to enhance the length of the member by 3-6cm and the girth by 2-3cm. The cost of the operation? €9,600 (including materials and ancillary costs).

The growing trend for penis enlargement was noticed back in 2011 by English language site The Local. They reported the president of the German Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery as saying that the surgery was now the seventh most popular type of aesthetic operation for men in the country.

The ISAPS data is not broken down by gender for each nation so the relative popularity of penile enlargement is not quite clear.

Article continues below the image

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---

Breast augmentation the most popular surgery worldwide Taking a broader look at the data, there were more breast enhancement operations than any other surgical procedure worldwide last year. 18% of these took place in the United States.

The other procedures that are thought to have taken place over a million times were:

Liposuction (1.6m) - where fat is removed from the body Eyelid surgery (1.4m) - the removal of fat or skin from around the eye area Lipostructure/lipofilling (1m) - where parts of fat from the rest of the body are used to reshape the patients body (the count includes stem enhanced lipofilling) In total, there were an estimated 11.6m aesthetic surgical procedures that took place worldwide in 2013.

South American countries the most likely to have plastic surgery ISAPS collected the data using survey responses from 1,567 plastic surgeons. They were able to get counts for 96% of the total number of practitioners using national societies worldwide, which allowed them to project total worldwide numbers using these survey responses.

However, 1,567 is still a small sample size and they were only able to provide data breakdowns for the ten countries performing the most plastic surgery.

If you take the total number of procedures and adjust it by the country’s population in 2013 then Venezuela was the place where people were most likely to have had plastic surgery.

If you take a random sample of 1,000 Venezuelans, eight are likely to have had a surgical operation in 2013. Fellow South American countries Brazil and Colombia came second and third respectively for popularity per capita.

In terms of raw numbers, the most operations worldwide took place in this year’s World Cup host Brazil. The largest South American country had 1.5m operations in 2013, which is more than one in ten of all procedures worldwide.

However, when you factor in non-surgical operations such as botox then the US regains the top spot with almost 4m non-surgical and surgical procedures combined compared to 2.1m in runner up Brazil.

Update: 13.30pm The piece was rectified to make clear that it was not necessarily German men having the procedure but the operations took place in Germany.

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---

Seattle, Washington: Sciencists say penises are getting bigger (and we're here for it)

Gary J. Lugo 1832 Raccoon Run Seattle, WA 98133

If you're partial to a large penis, we may have some good news for you. Yup, scientists have announced the average size has gone up. Bendy penises, tattooed penises, small penises, they're all great in their own unique way and we're here for them all. And of course while we all know size does not matter, some people just genuinely prefer a monster cock and that's okay too.

The Mirror reports SKYN, who make condoms, worked with King's College in London to measure over 15,000 penises last year. They found the average, when erect, was 5.16 inches in all its glory.

This year though, it turns out the average for millennials has shot up to 6.1 inches. Don't go celebrating too quickly though because when you delve deeper it all sounds a bit suspicious, doesn't it? This time around, participants were left to their own devices and allowed to enter their own length via an online form. Anyone else see a glaring error here?

So only like 3,000 men participated this time and obviously could exaggerate slightly about their size. Not saying they all lied, but we're guessing a fair number of them added an inch or two, which is to be expected, right?

Pressure is heaped on guys from all angles 24/7 to have the biggest, meatiest cocks and to give their sexual partner super orgasms that'll blow their bits off. When really, we all know most people who are interested in penises sexually give zero fucks about how big they are.

It's kind of a shame that this research is so fallible though, because millennials could really do with some positive news right now. It's bad enough we'll never get on the property ladder and will be working until we're 100. This could have been our tiny glimmer of hope.

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---

Winston Salem, North Carolina: The Fortunes of Freud

Jesse B. Booker 1538 Fire Access Road Winston Salem, NC 27127

At their first postwar meeting in 1949, the president of the International Psychoanalytical Association called upon his colleagues to focus their work only on the “primitive forces of the mind.” He wanted them to avoid the “influence of sociological factors”: economics, politics, and even potential social influences on sex. Particularly in America, the Freudian establishment steered clear of political entanglements, not just those of outré psychoanalysts like Wilhelm Reich, inventor of the orgone machine, but also of sociologically-oriented neo-Freudians such as Karen Horney. Doing so, the profession reflected the conservative and conformist mood of the immediate postwar years, but also the pressures felt by the many émigré analysts who had fled Hitler’s Europe and sought now to fit into their adopted home.

Dagmar Herzog’s Cold War Freud traces the decline of psychoanalysis to this moment at the dawn of the Cold War, when political pressures began to narrow the profession in America, even as the meanings of psychoanalysis proliferated in other regions of the world. She begins in post-World War II America, where the medical and cultural authority of psychoanalysis was greater than anywhere else in the world, but would soon decline precipitously. In its heyday between the 1940s and 1960s, its most prominent practitioners enjoyed status as public intellectuals, and its ideas and therapeutic models figured in the popular culture. Freud’s central and pessimistic insight into the inescapably conflictual (and conflicted) nature of human existence, Jerry Adler argued in a 2006 Newsweek cover story titled “Freud is Not Dead,” resonated in an era lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation. And when the end of the Cold War brought a spur of optimism in the 1990s, psychoanalysis reached its nadir.

Herzog’s account treats the Cold War less as a specific struggle between America and the USSR, and more as the setting for a broad range of political and cultural forces that swept up and transformed psychoanalysis. Not least among them were religion and sex. While many scholars have discussed the adjustment of psychoanalysis to postwar America, Herzog pursues an underexplored path when she asserts that psychoanalysis, long considered the “Jewish” science, underwent a profound Christianization in the early postwar years. Practitioners of the ‘40s might have believed that they could analyze the individual psyche, without taking political circumstances into account, but they couldn’t altogether avoid sexuality—a subject Freud knew would challenge puritanical Americans. Freud’s original theory, after all, rested on an account of great psychical torsions set in motion by the libido.

Sex could never be fully excised from psychoanalysis, but in the conservative climate of the late 1940s and 50s, it had to be tamed and demoted if psychoanalysis were to assert mainstream legitimacy. And, in Herzog’s account, it is sex that roared back in the 1950s and 1960s to avenge itself on a science that had begun with the promise of sexual liberation but had conspired with libidinal repression.

In his 1946 book Peace of Mind, Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman argued not only that religion and psychiatry are compatible, but that Sigmund Freud had a spiritual purpose. An enraged Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen responded by attacking psychoanalysis for wallowing in “materialism, hedonism, infantilism and eroticism.” The analyst was not only lax on the question of the righteous life, thundered Sheen, he was more than likely to pathologize yearnings for purity and obscure their moral and spiritual importance.

Psychoanalysts from all religious backgrounds sprang to their field’s defense, but they tended to do so by deemphasizing the place of sexuality in their theory and practice. Karl Menninger, a leading analyst and a practicing Protestant, insisted that it was the patient, not the doctor, who had sex obsessions. He also countered the charge that psychoanalysis was indifferent to all matters of guilt, by claiming that analysis aims only to remove fantasmatic guilt, feelings of shame for things the patient did not actually do. Libido retained a place in the thinking of Karl Menninger and the so-called “ego psychology” that dominated American psychiatry until the 1970s, but the line between the normal and the pathological was sharply-drawn. Sex was understood largely as heterosexual, monogamous, and oriented to reproduction, essential to a stable personal identity, self-mastery, and the capacity of the individual ego to cope with the challenges of external realities

Ego psychology conquered large territories of American medicine and culture, but this strain of Freudianism also witnessed, beginning around 1970, the great rollback in medical, scientific and cultural authority from which American psychoanalysis has never recovered. Herzog cites numerous factors in this decline, including the rise of competing models of self-help and pop psychology, as well as a growing disrespect for high-handed experts in a culture that was leaning toward antiauthoritarianism. In this regard, one might add, psychoanalysis may have suffered disproportionately in the antipsychiatric mood that swept America in the 1960s and 1970s, generating works of protest such as R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. At the same time, a burst of new drugs announced what Edward Shorter has called the psychopharmacological revolution. In Shorter’s History of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (1997), this move toward medication rendered psychoanalysis nothing more than a “hiatus” in the march toward scientific understanding and medical treatment of mental illness.

The development of new-generation medicines aimed at altering brain chemistry undermined the scientific claims of psychoanalysis, by seeming to prove that Freud was tilting at windmills when he focused on the dynamic economy of the psyche instead of going straight to the physical constitution of the brain. Herzog recognizes the powerful effect of the psychopharmacological revolution upon Freudianism’s status, but she passes quickly onto other concerns. Nor does she mention at all the mounting philosophical attack on the discipline—exemplified by Karl Popper’s claim that psychoanalysis lacked the crucial feature of a true science, namely the possibility that its theories might be falsified. It bears mentioning that as the scientific credibility of psychoanalysis declined, the significance of its founder’s human, all-too-human weaknesses grew. Freud’s limits, whether personal (his obsessions, his sometimes vexed relations, his careerism) or historical (the specificity of Vienna, the peculiar hot-house atmosphere of the late Victorian bourgeois family, the persistence of patriarchy) came to look like the limits of his science.

The emergence of non-psychoanalytic accounts of sex also threatened the prestige of analysis. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Alfred Kinsey published his studies on human sexual behavior, which showed that ordinary people reported a wider range of sexual activities—including a surprisingly high frequency of homosexual encounters—than had been previously suspected. Psychoanalysts responded with prudish insistence that “normal” sexual ecstasy depended on love for the other person. Without love, it is all “sexual promiscuity or experimentation or athleticizing,” wrote Karl Menninger. Kinsey’s insistence on a finely-graded continuum from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality was not far removed from Freud’s own recognition of the fluidity of human sexuality, but in the early 1950s, it incensed American psychoanalysts.

A decade later Masters and Johnson’s Human Sexual Response (1966), writes Herzog, “took empiricism into the body itself, measuring pulse rates and erections and lubrications and flushed skin, providing data on what bodies really did in the run-up to and in the midst of and in the aftermath of climax.” From this physiological orientation, they argued for a therapeutic approach based on bodily responses and behavioral modification. They branded it as an appealing alternative to psychoanalysis. “Two weeks in a hotel in St. Louis making daily love with your spouse was certainly marketable as an improvement over seven years on the couch,” quips Herzog. Depends on the spouse, one might object; but the point was well taken in its time and continues to sway therapeutic decisions to our day, insofar as both individual people and insurers look for quick and inexpensive results.

Article continues below the image

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---

Ultimately, it was the sexual revolution, the women’s movement and gay liberation that simultaneously bypassed psychoanalysis—and forced a reckoning among psychoanalysts with their hetero-normativity, misogyny and homophobia. An early victory against the latter was scored in 1973, when homosexuality was removed from the updated edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it took almost twenty years before the American Psychoanalytic Association passed a nondiscrimination declaration that permitted openly gay and lesbian individuals to certify as analysts. This breakthrough came at an ironic cost as gay-friendly analysts in the 1990s and 2000s often repeated their predecessors’ inclination to emphasize attachment motivations at the expense of phallic drives. Or as Kenneth Lewes put it, analysts showed a tendency to disrespect those who came out as gay not because they wanted a relationship or a family but because they sought “the bare, forked activity of sex again and again, in all its variety, anarchy, repetition, and insatiability.”

The story of post-World War II Freudianism too often hinges on America, and when Herzog turns away from the United States—her book includes chapters on France and Germany—the picture looks different indeed. Viewed from beyond the United States, the story of psychoanalysis in the later years of the Cold War is not strictly one of decline, but of reinvention, renewal and proliferation.

In a fascinating chapter, Herzog traces how Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder came to be recognized, after Holocaust survivors sought financial compensation in Germany after World War II. She notes that oddly and ironically, it was doctors testifying against such claims who first drew on Freud and psychoanalytic concepts. It is actually not so surprising. In World War I, as the medical communities of all belligerents grappled with traumatized front line soldiers, German psychoanalysts were among the least sympathetic. Much as they would later insist that Holocaust victims suffered from problems that predated the trauma of the camps, World War One era German Freudians often denied that battlefront conditions themselves might account for mental breakdown and instead fell back on clichés about latent homosexuality or pathological dependence on the mother.

As the subject of Holocaust trauma commanded growing attention in America during the 1960s, it set the stage, Herzog argues, for the medical profession to take seriously the psychological condition of US soldiers returning from Vietnam. This amalgam, she claims, finally pushed PTSD into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III, where it is pointedly the only condition for which origin or causation are considered significant. Herzog avoids telling a story of unmitigated success: As some astute critics noted, PTSD came with the price of amoralizing trauma, blurring lines between survivors of Nazi camps and US soldiers, between victims and perpetrators. And, as she notes, “the possibility that the Vietnamese victims of US violence might be traumatized was not even taken into account.”

A 2006 New York Times article on Cambodia obliquely supports her contention. It reported that only 26 psychiatrists were grappling with the scars of a nation of 12 million people traumatized by the Khmer Rouge, American bombing, and Vietnamese invasion. That situation contrasted with America, where health professionals readily applied the PTSD diagnosis to refugees streaming in from southeast Asia, Africa, Khomeini’s Iran, and exiles from communist eastern Europe. Likewise, trauma became a crucial diagnostic tool for psychologists working in Latin American dictatorships, where torture, incarceration, and disappearance were brutal facts of life.

The decline of psychoanalytic authority among mental health professionals may be irreversible. Nonetheless, Freud’s language is woven into the everyday ways we speak of our own identities. The same is true for our politics, despite the efforts of post-war American psychoanalysts to purge their science of political analysis and commitment.

Back in the 1930s, contemplating German fascists’ success in drawing popular support away from the Left, the radical Freudian Wilhelm Reich asked, “Why do the masses allow themselves to be politically swindled?” It was clear to Reich that the answer had to be sought at the intersection of the individual psyche and the political-social world, with both Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx guiding traffic there. Herzog, presumably finishing her book around a year ago, finds a contemporary equivalent to Reich’s question in the meme, “What’s the matter with Kansas?” With the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, it is not only Kansas, but broad swathes of the nation that call for a reckoning with the enigmatic meeting place of politics and the psyche.

Not just masses, but also leaders have tempted psychoanalysts to enter the political fray since the time of Freud and Reich. It may be that Trump will breathe new vitality into the power of psychoanalysis to address politics. Buried in the 2006 Newsweek article is a glib definition of the ‘id’ that today reads like a portent. “If you’ve watched Donald Trump, you know everything you need to know about the id: the part of the psyche where sexual and aggressive drives are given free rein.” With his erratic conduct, chronic lying, manic swings, fragile ego, and limitless narcissism, Trump has brought psychiatrists and psychoanalysts back into the political realm.

For a similar intervention, we have to return to the halcyon days of American psychoanalysis, when over 1000 psychiatrists declared Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican candidate for president, to be dangerously unstable. A decade later, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association adopted what came to be known as the Goldwater Rule, declaring it professionally unethical to diagnose public figures from a distance and without authorization. It is remarkable to see doctors edging up to that line again, recognizing in Trump behavior they are more accustomed to seeing in their clinics than in the Oval Office. Modern-day psychiatry may be able to offer diagnostic tools, but psychoanalysis may offer the best arsenal for fathoming not only the personality of the 45th president, but more importantly, the webs of fantasy that bind him to his fervent base.

---

medieval torture

Large photo

---


Home | Index of articles