To conclude, I would say that the benefits ofsublimation does have an affect on those impacted by the difficult demands ofsexual morality, however does not necessarily compensate for the hardships theyoung men and women went through.
Civilized sexual morality in a sense shapedthe character of the man or woman, and it is these characteristics thatdetermine their place in society. These moralities made it very diifcult forthem to gain their full force and energy required to fit in, and to an extent, the defence mechanismof sublimation can provide a different platform in which the can express theirfeelings. It would not override everything that they had been through, butcertainly does provide an alternative way of thinking in which their ownfeelings can be characterised, in order to find their place in society. In essence, the benefits sublimation canbring to society can have an affect on the difficult demands of civilizedsexual morality. For example, if the young man is always refrained from sexualactivity, resulting in a loss of the energy/force needed to find his place insociety, he could potentially use the arts to express himself and his feelings.This can fill the gps of the missing or lacking of energy required for hischaracter, which in turn can enable him to find his place and fit into society.
The same can be said for the young woman. They have had their intellectualminds dimminished through the supression of sexual thought. Therefore, throughthe art medium for example, the woman could transfer all the sexual thoughts andconsiderations and express those feelings through this.
Freud argues that he is describing a state ofaffairs in which equally bad instances can be repreated observed. He statesthat it is “hardly credible how seldom normal potency is to be found in ahusband”. He also expresses that the wife is usually frigid among marriedcouples who’s life is dominated by civilized sexual morality. The most obviousoutcome for this in Freud’s eyes is “nervous illness”. There are consequences which can arise with womenas well. They have been able to preserve their virginity through similarmeasures of satisfaction, and show that they are anaesthetic to normalintercourse in marriage. However, the man’s weakened potency has such a strongaffect on women, that the woman would even remain anaesthetic if her frigiditydoes become overpowered by a great sexual experience.
In addition, thisweakness in potency by the man has long term consequences throughout marriedlife. It can make difficult the conceiving of a child, but it also means thatmen start to badly tolerate the use of contraception. This can lead to thecease of sexual intercourse altogether, and with this comes the abandoning of thebasis of married life.
For men, the consequence that enforcedabstinence brings is the fact that they can become habituate to unrealistic,not normal conditions of satisfaction. This can come as a result ofmasturbatory or perverse sexual practices, which in turn, can diminish potencyin marriage. They develop unrealistic expectations of how women are perceivedto be and how they can be satisfied, thus ruining the preparation of marriage. There are many unavoidable consequences thatcome with enforced abstinence and the demands pf civilized sexual morality.Freud expresses that all unavoidable consequences for abstinence “converge inthe one common result of completely ruining the preparation for marriage”. For young women, their upbringing plays avital role in terms of what they are expected by society to be thinking aboutintellectually.
For example, Freud states that any form of sexual problem isforbidden to be concerned about amongst young women. They do however continueto feel very curious about these problems, however it does come with a mentalconsquence. Younger women feel frightened to condemm this curiosity as “unwomanly”,and in the eyes of society, it is seen as a “sinful disposition”. In otherwords, any form of thinking scared them away, and any knowledge that would’ve beengained by them will have lost its value. Freud also has the belief that theintellectual inferiority of so many younger women can be traced back to the “inhibitionof thought necessitated by sexual suppression”. Following on from the difficult demands ofcivilized sexual morality, there are many problems which arise for the youngman with regards to enforced sexual abstinence. For the young man, abstinencewhich is continued after the age of 20 years would be no longerunobjectionable.
In other words, civilized education would potentially lead tofurther damage when it doesn’t lead to neurosis. This instinct is so powerful,that it is said that any attempt to fight it can “steel the character”. It canalso be said that a differentiation of an individual character can come as aresult of the current existence of sexual restriction.
However, this sexualrestriction and the struggle against sexuality can eat up the energy availablein the character. For the young man, this can be especially dangerous, giventhat in order for a young man to fit in and “earn his place in society”, hemust have possession of all attainable forces. This can further highlight the problems that come about with enforcedabstinence, reiterated by the fact that this sexual instinct is able to act ina “self-willed and inflexible fashion” as a result of abstinence. This canreflect on a man’s sexual behaviour, which according to Freud “lays down thepattern for all his other modes of reacting to life”. A man will usuallypursure other aims with the same amount of energy used in comparison to theenergetic character when he is winning the object of love. If for any reason herefrains from satisfying his strong sexual instincts, his behaviour will beseen as more resigned rather than vigorous, across all aspects of life.
Theapplication of the proposition that “sexual life lays down the pattern for theexercise of other functions” can also be seen in women. The capacity to change an originally sexualaim for one which is no longer sexual, but psychically related to the original,is known as the capacity for sublimation.Sexual instincts can result in a phase of enforced abstinence for both theyoung man and woman, which can bring about problems, both mentally andphysically. Aswell as sublimation, it is important to understand the demands of civilizedsexual morality, and whether or not it can be compensated by sublimation. Referencing Christianvon Ehrenfels’ distinction between cultural and natural sexual morality, Freudexplains the “etiologicalsignificance of cultural sexual morality”as a reason for neurosis.
At the beginning, Freud states that cultural sexual mores impose constraints onthe individual, which can cause damage to the person, which in turn threatensthe cultureas a whole. Freud focuses on the consequences of socially-imposed repressionof the sexualinstinct as a cause of neurosis. According to Freud, civilisation islargely built up on the suppression of instincts. In other words, some parts ofan individual’s possessions have been yielded, whether it’s the “sense ofomnipotence or of the aggressive inclinations of his personality” (Freud,1906-1908). This gives rise to a more developed possession of material andproperty, as a result of this loss of individual possession. In a sense, thesexual instincts of the individual show us that it rather complex; it is madeup of multiple components which exert a large amount of force on the generalactivity of the individual. It has the capability to “displace its aim withoutmaterially diminishing in intensity”. (Freud, 1906-1908).
There are also some benefits for the personwhen it comes to sublimation. In Freud’s view, the process of sublimation canbe used as a defense mechanism by both sexes. Some examples of this includessarcasm; the person would not express his dissapointment directly to someoneelse.
Instead, he would use sarcasm to express disappointment. Another exampleis if a pianist is angry at someone, the pianist would not hurt the person, butwould express the anger through the playing of the piano. In other words,sublimation itself is a defence mechanismwhere people substitute sexual needs (one of id which could not be satisfiedfreely) to a cultural or social aim. Thismeans that we have the ability to convert some of our sexual energy to more sociallyor culturally acceptable things, such as expressing yourself creatively usingart (poem, sculptures, painting, songs) which is acceptable by people, whileretaining some of sexual drive for pursuing erotic pleasure.
With the last point in mind, it is importantto consider the relationship sublimation haswith culture and society as a whole. The links between sublimation, the role ofthe ego and super-ego in the internalisation of cultural values and therenunciation of drive gratification were central to the Freudian view ofcultural and social development (Freud, 1923 & 1930). Freudheld that the energy invested in sexual impulses can be shifted to the pursuitof more acceptable and socially valuable achievements of cultural endeavours,therefore sublimation is a key concept in his teaching connecting sexual theoryand theory of culture (“conspicuous feature of cultural development”). (VanHaute, 2004) Freud: “The task in sublimation is that of shifting the instinctualaims in such a way that they cannot come up against frustration from theexternal world. In this, sublimation of the instincts lends its assistance. Onegains the most if one can sufficiently heighten the yield of pleasure from thesources of intellectual work”.
When the concept of sublimation was first introduced by Freud in 1905,it referred to every conceivable result of instinct development except directsatisfaction and repression. Therefore, sublimation is embraced by a processcalled “reaction-formation”, which is the reversal of an instinct into itsopposite. According to the “Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex”,sublimation makes it clear that reaction-formation denoted just one specialform of it. Later on, Freud showed that sublimation cannot take place if theinstinct is repressed , whereas one of the conditions of reaction-formation isrepression. Sublimation used as a term to denote the outcome of instinctdevelopment can be characterised in three ways; deflection of instinct fromoriginal aim; deflection of instinct from its original object; gratification ofthe instinct by means of activity having a more acceptable social or culturalvalue than that of the original form of expression. In psychology, “sublimierung” (sublimation)is a type of defence mechanism, in which socially unacceptable instincts and fantasiesare unconsciously altered into socially acceptable actions or behaviour, resultingin a long-term conversion of the initial instinct.
Sigmund Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity and civilization, allowing people to function normally in culturallyacceptable ways. Howeverthere was an ever growing problem with civilized sexual morality, the problemassociated with enforced abstinence amongst young men and women. In this essayI will evaluate the relationship proposed by Freud between sublimation andculture, and determine whether or not the benefits of sublimation cancompensate for the difficult demands of civilized sexual morality.