rethinking concepts of sexology

Some critical remarks and alternative suggestions. (Pesso-congres Amsterdam, 1992)

Louis Sommeling copyright


In these day's of women's Lib as a sexologist I am not primarily concerned with specific sexual abuse but rather with the general subtle hidden agression of our macho-culture and his reflections in ordinary people and their daily difficulties to build up an emotional adult and sexual real intimate relationship between modern men and selfconfident women (Sommeling, 1992).
Unwrapping masculinity we have not only to critize the division of labour, the division of housework and childcare, the division between paid and unpaid work, the creation of 'mens's jobs and women's jobs ', but in a male ordered society there seems to be a hidden second major structure (Cockburn,1988). It has to do with the pattering of object-choice, desire and desirability; with the antagonism of gender (woman-hating, man-hating, self-hatred); with solidarity in relationship. In this structure of cathexis we are in a space for making a new map of a our human world and it his here that Psychotherapy has to do his work. We have to carry it in the area of object-choice and desire, not exclusively sexual, but desire may mean also the love of children or the lust to kill.
(Translation at the end of this paragraph) Het concept van ´sexuele energie´ en lichaamspantsers die door een blokkade gevormd zouden zijn, zoals Reich ons dat liet zien, blijkt volgens latere analytische theoriën te lichamelijk en werd aangepast. De zo lichamelijk gekleurde ´seksuele energie´ waar de bio-energetica vol van was, wordt hier wat menselijk aangepast en de psychische componenten worden blootgelegd. Ook de moderne seksuologie combineert cognitie met lichamelijkheid. De nadruk verlegt zich dus van remmingen bij de seksuele ontlading naar remmingen van het menselijk hart. Otto Rank voorzag in een belangrijke, zij het vaak over het hoofd geziene, brug tussen deze beide gezichtspunten. Rank veranderde de theorie van één over het genitale orgasme tot één over een soort ego-orgasme, waarbij hij beschreef hoe het ego tracht ´zichzelf af te leggen´door middel van liefdesrelaties en zich daarmee te bevrijden van innerlijke spanningen en remmingen door van een andere persoon ´gebruik te maken´ via sex of liefde. Epstein citeert hier Rank met grote instemming in zijn boekje waar hij psychotherapie vanuit Boeddhistisch perspectief ontwikkelt (1997). Maar een mens blijft in die liefdesdaad eenzaam en angstig individueel achter en ervaart de liefdesdaad als isolatie wanneer hij niet tot een bepaalde mate van zelfstandigheid is gekomen of anders gezegd wanneer hij zich niet krampachtig meer aan zijn ego (als verdediging) vasthoudt. The concept of ´sexual energy´ and bodyarmouring constructe by blockades, as Reich formultated, is a too bodily level. The cognitive and psychological parts of human sexuality till now in bioenergetics are neglected. As Rank stipulated the focus is replaced from blockades of the sexual arousal to blockades of the human heart. Rank has changed the theory of the genital orgasm to the theory of a sort of ego-orgasm. The ego is trying to loose herself by loverelations and using the other. He remains isolated and indivudual is thus a love-trial if he has not resolved his egoproblem and not has found some autonomy and not has stopped his forced egomaintenance.

In this lecture I will restrict my scope to sexual desire, especially to the way men are relating to the objects of their sexual desire. As men we operate within definitions of masculinity that hide the mechanism of our power. Only friendly speaking about feminism, we evacuate questions of our own sexuality.
Feminism has challenged the power of masculinity by exposing its mechanisms. Just as the individual path of Dante was lighted up by Beatrice, and just as Molly on a near religious way revealed James Joyce to himself, feminism suplies a rudimental language for personal selfunderstanding.
For building a real bridge between modern men and selfconfident women, we have to explore both sides of the river, like shape and copuntershape. As Feminism is discovering one side of this terra incognita, it is extremely important to also rethink our male concepts on sexuality.
Consequently we will have to update Pesso-psychotherapy theory on sexual energy, therapy-interventions on body movements, and metaphors about archetypical male and female polarities (cock and countercock, magical penis and vagina). However, liberated from too traditional Freudian and Jungian influcences, Pesso-psychotherapy Psychotherapy posses surprising possibilities for a new culture.
I will make some critical remarks and will outline some perspectives.

Modern sexologist have liberated sexuality from mere biological models and mechanistic ways of thinking.
The famous arousal curve of Masters and Johnson despite of its suggestive clarity turns out to be a simplification of reality: it demonstrates sex only as a simulation of the mere biological heterosexual procreation act with orgasm as top of physical excitement.
However, as Helen Kaplan(1974) has pointed out, in reality there is no such thing as a continiously rising 'sexual energy' process, there are at least two stages to be distinguished: a genital-vagocongestive reaction (blood supply resulting in erection, moistening of the vagina, swelling of the labia) and a reflexive reaction (primarily muscular, resulting in contraction of the muscles and orgasm). The importance of these findings of Helen Kaplan is the insight that one stage being ignited does not necessarily imply that the other stage has to follow.
A "natural" way of sex doesn't exist. There is not only one proper way to do it.
An erection therefore does not mean that ejaculation should follow. And its a misconception that if a man can not spend his built up arousal, the inevitable result is all sort of physical or psychosomatic complaints or unhealthiness!
We men can indeed stop halfway the curve, and - in a metaphor - halfway up the mountain we can stop for a nice picnic on a meadow. Later on we can decide either to go back to the valley or, as yet, make it all the way to the top.
In addition to these biological refinements, and the consequences for our behavior, modern sexologist have argued sexuality also is the expression of our psychological reality. Being aroused, our sexual desire being intens, falsely we are lead to believe there is a mere physical drive active in our body, labeled as sexual energy. But that is not the whole story: the sexual hormones and the human experiences affect each other. Especially learning-experiences decide what we admit as stimuli and in this way what we shall experience and what we label as "sexual". So sexuality is not merely an in nature anchored unchangeable drive, but a product of hormones, social context, cognitions, attitudes and behavior. Sex is not primarily between our legs, but also between our ears!
Next to psychological, also there are sociological variables. In a more specific way according to the Dutch sexologist Paul Vennix, sex can be seen as a game with rules. Discussing this rules can open our (and clients) eyes for the hidden power aspects of sexuality. Who defines the rules?
Here is an exampe of a male rule:
"The penis is the organ which offers most pleasure, so a nicely fitting vagina is the best you can have".
If women were to formulate the rules in a similar way, and in the case they sometimes want a physical orgasm ,the answer might be: "The clitoris is the organ offering most pleasure, so soft fingers or the tongue is what I should look for in a man.
What does all this mean?
By realising the psychological variables of sexuality and the hidden poweraspect of who defines the rules and the concepts, possibilities appear for changing and for bridging the modern gap between men and women.
The chances are men will also be able better to fall in with female sexuality. We have more ways of making love to our disposal. We can widen, or better rediscover, our possibilities for arousal. As a baby our skin was sensual from top to bottom; as Winnicot says: as a child we are able to play, to get excited while playing and to feel satisfied with the game, without feeling threatenend by a physical orgasm of local excitement. In making love, it should be possible to enjoy this friendly continious stage of arousal, not just the sudden physical penis-located top excitement.
Summing up this section, we conclude sex is not merely a biological drive between our legs, but primarily a psychological reality and construct between our ears, and - as we will see in the next section - at the end it is an expression of the needs of our heart!

(Object Relation Theory).
In the book Moving Psychotherapy, Joseph Crandell (1992) is integrating Pesso-psychotherapy and the Object Relation Theory. He quotes Fairbarn (1952), and I am gratefull to him for that:
' Libido is not primarily pleasure-seeking, but objectseeking'.
In the psychological birth of the human infant, as Mahler (1975) has shown us, we had to separate and individuate ourselves out of a symbiosis with the maternal object. Only by learning to trust our own richness and possibilities we are able to become autonomous and later on an adult subject. We have to find the optimal distance for real intimacy, sometimes we withdraw anxious for being engulfed. At other times we are anxious for the opposite, we feel our distance to others and want to go in a symbiosis.
Sometimes we are raged for loosing an object and in our fear to be alone urge ourselves to excitement. And now an important step in our argumentation. According to Schmidt (1974) , our libido is thus not primarily objectseeking because we are driven and feeling sexual aroused, but it just the other way round: we are longing for an object and for that reason make make ourselves excited.
The problem now confronts us that while libido is primarily objectseeking, sexual intimacy is only possible between subjects, not between a subject and an object (as Luce Irigary argues against Lacan, speaking of women as the 'oject of never satisfied male desire'). And as one of our main goals is building an intimate bridge over the todays split between men and women, the question rises: how can people learn to experience themselves as subjects? As Pesso-psychotherapy therapist, we know being at center is the condition for not merely objectivating our clients. Being atcenter we experience ourselves as subjects, and that is the condition for inviting the other (and the Other) also to become a subject. How can people learn to experience themselves as subjects?
First, by analysing our sexual motivations, we can humanize our sexuality and realize that we as subjects are shaping our own sexuality.
Our various relations to objects constitute our numerous sexual motivations. In interviews Fisher(1973) asked his clients: ' What is your motivation for sex, what are you exactly
longing for?'. At first people answered: 'Its not a conscious choice, in a natural way I like it'. But when Fisher sustained his research till eigthy motivations were revealed (affection, domination, uncertainty,transcendency etc.).
Analysing our own sexual motivations will provide us with less stereotyped ways and opens possibilities for more individual properly fitting ways of behavior.
(For example just wanting contact, holding each other and really looking to each other, is sometimes more adequate behavior then the orgastic solophase, where our attention is more focused on our own orgastic body and we are more separate. (Everaerd, Dekker,1981)).
A second condition for experiencing ourselves and others as subject, is that we are real autonomous. Quoting Winnicot(1965):
'Being able to enjoy being alone with an other person who is alone, is in itself an experience of health. Lack of id-tension may produce anxiety, but time-integregation of the personality enables the individual to wait and trust for the natural return of id-tension..'.
A healthy relationship between partners is like a bridge between two autonomous fundaments, two adult subjects. We don't have to confuse autonomy and individuation. Individuation is power within narrow drawned boundaries; it leaves no space for dependency, relationship or feeling. It is by dominating our emotional lives that we assert our individuation with is a feature of reason alone. Against that, real autonomy is founded in our body. Our subjective emotional and body-integrated sources permit us to experience dependent contact and at time to stand and wait sometimes without getting anxious.
Especially men have difficulty with staying alone for some time without looking outside themselves for a symbiotic confusion and manipulating the other, or without extremely withdraw themselves. Why especially men? In the introduction of this lecture I suggested that in the area of cathexis and objectchoices and male desire we are in a space for making a new map of a our human world and that it is here that Pesso-psychotherapy is able to do his work, as we will see at the next.
We don't have to confuse sexuality and gender-identity.
Gender-identity is the feeling to be a man or a woman.We don't critise individual men and their sometimes so pleasant quick aroused sexuality and initiative in making contact. We argue for a less onesideness of the concept of masculinity; it is primarily an opinion, a mental construction, founded in the individuation-separation phase.
'Far from being an expression of natural differences, exclusive gender identity is the suppression of natural simularities'. Men have been contrasted in a particular way and set at a particular distance from women, without intervening categories, not as a reflection but as a negation of biology (Cockburn,1988).
Last year at the international congres of Sexology, I met a fascinating man, an American Professor of Theology. I was deeply touched by his integrating metaphors and lifegiving alternatives and I translated some of his texts.
It is James Nelson's (1978,1988,1991,1992) contention that masculine gender-identity is largely negative in his formation, learned through defining itself against emotionality and connectedness. My genderidentity had to be established through separation from the desired object, my mother. We men, learn to draw our boundaries well. We learn that separation is more real than connection and attachement.
However, Nelson went further, and argued that current masculinity is too largely a negative identity because it is grounded in body alienation, for to heterosexual men it is women and gay men who most clearly symbolize the body. We learn that intimacy and eros are somehow ennemies of true maleness, because intimacy and eros are very bodily realities.
Women tend to diffuse their sexual feelings throughout their entire bodies, and deep in their bodies, they tend to experience their sexuality as internal, deep and mysterious. Men on the other hand tend to locate sexual feelings primarily in their penis and are often inclined to experience sexuality as instrumental. My penis is an instrument of power for penetrating and exploring a mystery which is essential external to me. And my power is hard and instrumental, one-way top-down power, restricted and not really integrated in my body.
However, the underaffirmed part of our body experience is our softness, the softness of our penis, the softness of our testicles Most of time my penis is not a hard one, but flaccid. The flaccid penis is empty of the engorging blood; flaccidity means letting go of all urgency; the spiritual experience of sinking, letting go, waiting of the divine grace (of the mystical dark 'Via Negativa') and trusting the power of the other. The testicles are a place of incubation, nurturance and vulnerability. They are symbolic of endurance - they just "hang in there" and wait. "Testicular masculinity" can be perceived as anti-dote for the cock-metaphor and tells us the desired object and the salvation and mystery is not totally outside and there. We inherit the Paradise not merel by hard working, it is already here.
It should be stressed that this kind of intimate connectedness with the whole male body shapes real autonomy and preserves us from to heavy sexual longing for an object we want to possess.
In this cathexis area we find the roots of an extremely comsumptive society, and the roots of sexal abuse, war and the rage of men. Trusting, waiting , not seeking outside, brings us to our center, to the experience of being a subject, and here is the condition to see the other as a subject too.
Our restricted aim in this lecture, an adult intimate sexual relationship for people in our days, is like a bridge between two subjects, between two autonomous separeted fundaments. The real fundament is our integrated body.
As a consequence of our macho-culture institutions, such as religion and psychotherapy, are mostly founded by men and consequently have one-sided, rationalistic and external traits.
Notwithstanding this, and because of its body-oriented approach, Pesso-psychotherapy is extremely important to liberate our institutions and individual men from the above mentioned body-alienation and to diminish the unconscious rage of men in our culture.
However, in my opinion the 'cock and countercock', the 'magical penis and vagina' too much emphases the merely genital and phallus oriented one-sideness of a patriarchal culture. For magical openess or omnipotence we will have to find less sexspecific metaphors. The Jungian archetypical analogy for male as powergiving and female as receiving no longer is acceptable. With this traditional complementarity women and men are not well served.
We have to make ourselves less sexspecific and moreover we have to desexualize our so called sexual interactions and forget about the Freudian omnipotent oedipal omnipresence of sex!
On these conditions I discovered as sexologist and as philosopher Pesso-psychotherapy has fresh possibilities for effectively realising that in our as 'sexual' labeled desires in fact we are sometimes longing for human basic needs: support, nurturing, protection and limitation. For instance we all know the Pesso-psychotherapy interpretation when a client is rubbing in his eyes or passing his hands across his legs. Besides we must not interprete but have to help the client to discover for himself the meaning of his gestures, I am wondering if this gesture is sexual. For me rubbing the eyes sometimes expresses the transition from agression to coming sadness about missing and longing for an object.
In describing daily bodily interactions in bed Pessotherapy can be full of potence for the science of sexology and for ordinary people! This way we humanize sexuality and bridge and reduce the so called and exagerated differences between male and female sexuality. Pesso-psychotherapy can supply ordinary people a language for the meaning of their so called sexual interactions and the basic needs needs within. In some ways of kissing we nurture ourselves. And on a deeper level the kiss is not merely the discovery of a new tactile sensual pleasure. It revives forgotten mythes that identify the soul with breath and symbolizes communion or Oneness of souls. In being erotically caressed along the bodyline our identity and ego-boundary is tenderly circumlimited and validated. Holding one another in the darkness of the blankets we protect or find protection. Many erogenic zones are precisely the places of the body where we can get support.
By formulating the conditions for interiorisation of these interactions, Pesso-psychotherapy can support the science of sexology and enriche the meaning of ordinary people's life. (Structure-level in bed!).
Finally summarizing: by focusing on bodily felt passive needs, by interiorisation of body contact, Pesso-psychotherapy has the potency to give men a trustly fundament in their own body. This way they can learn to wait, and in their center experience themselves as subjects. By learning not to objectivate in intimate object relations, men too are able to shape the conditions for real intimacy with an other subject.
In this lecture we explored one side of the river. I pictured a way we can prepare the male fundament for a modern bridge. On the other shore selfconfident women are friendly waiting.
Louis Sommeling. an Houtenlaan 26, 9722 Gt Groningen,vhe Netherlands.
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