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Lord Happy Toast

Do you believe in sexual repression?

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The term sexual repression can mean a number of different things. It can mean that 1) someone is unwilling to acknowledge their sexual feelings 2) that not acting on sexual desires will somehow lead to neuroses 3) that all people are naturally interested in sex and that if someone isn't interested, it must be because they are "repressing" their sexuality, 4) that a society's rules about sexuality are oppressive and prevent people from enjoying sexuality 5) that a person is unable to have the kinds of sexual encounters they want because their society won't allow it or 6) that a person has sexual problems because messages their society taught them about sexuality prevent them from being able to do so.

As I understand it, the term originates from Freud, who meant it is senses 2 and 3 (generally, the most anti-asexual ones of the bunch.) I've increasingly come to disbelieve in sexual repression. Even though some of the above are real enough, using the term supports the imaginary oppressive meanings as well. I was curious what other people thought about the topic.

I'm asking because I just wrote a blog about the subject for those interested in where I'm coming from with this. (It's called Am I sexually repressed?, a more serious post than my satiracal mockery of sexual repression Repressed!.)

Anyway, I think that we in the asexual community should oppose this nonsensical idea of "sexual repression." And was curious what other people think.

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I believe that sexual repression is possible, if the person repressing their sexuality has gone through something traumatic or has been brainwashed. However, the idea that all or most asexuals are simply "repressed" is completely ludicrous. Sexuality can't be repressed by society (unless it's a militaristic dictatorship that tortures its people daily or something) or by being raised very religious or even by not wanting to be sexual.

I suppose, though, that most of what I just said applies to people who have socially acceptable sexual orientations. Maybe some pedophiles can self-repress due to societal pressure; I don't know.

Side note: I think it's fairly possible to ignore one's sexual feelings or get really good at pretending they're not there, but I would call that "denial" not "repression."

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See, in my experience, all of those are real, except for the obnoxious 2 and 3 (and maybe 5, since lots of people with socially unacceptable sexual desires find ways to work around the societal constraints in question - but people often go through a lot of confusion and angst and pain because they're not sure whether they actually want to do that or not.)

It's conceivable that we could find other things to call those things except for "repression", if the term "repression" is too problematic, but in that case what would we call them?

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I definitely think that for the real ones we should find alternate terms for them besides sexual repression. I think it would add clarity, decrease confusion, and not reinforce the stupid meanings.

I think that for a lot of them, alternate terms are pretty easy.

For number one: Not acknowledging one's sexuality/sexual feelings, being in denial about one's sexuality, being uncomfortable with one's sexuality, not being comfortable talking about sexuality etc.

For number four, we could just replace "repress" with "oppress" and the situation is fixed.

For number five, I don't really see a need for a single term for this and when needing to describe it, generally a whole sentence would work. (i.e. Because of the taboo against X sexual act in society Y, many people are forced to go underground with their sexuality/have difficulty finding sexual partners/can only find sexual partners in unsafe ways, etc.)

For number six, the term "internalized homophobia" already describes one type of this. Other terms like "internalizing negative societal messages about sexuality" should work.

I think that for most of these, there already are terms (in English, at least) to describe them. It doesn't seem like there is even a need to use work-arounds or PC sounding language to accomplish the task of not talking about "sexual repression." More than that, I think people would be more intelligible if they used these rather than the vague "sexual repression" that no one seems to know what it means. At least, that's my totally biased opinion.

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Anyway, I think that we in the asexual community should oppose this nonsensical idea of "sexual repression."

Well, I'm there. Down with vagueness!

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Sexual repression is part of Freud's ideology, much or even most of which has been discredited by further research. It's time that the phrase "sexual repression" was retired. It means nothing; you're either acting out your feelings or you're not.

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True, Freud's findings are quite dismissed in actual psychological studies. Plus, the idea of sexual repression appears to me as totally invented by homophobic or asexual-phobic (how do you call people who don't accept asexuality?) people who believe that all humans are heterosexual and have a serious problem if they don't show such behavior.

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The idea of repression is kinda interesting, i used to believe that i was repressing my sexuality, but turned out that i wasnt, and i still with the same belief

I Truly believe that people that went into extreme cases (like abuse or rape) can really start to dismiss everything that issexual from their lives just because they didnt want be in contact with their traumas.

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As I understand the Freud bit if you are repressing, you dont know about it- so this would fit with asexuality- I suppose those of us with phobic attitudes to sex and other neurotic disorders (OCD, depression etc) have to seriously think about this one. But I think there are other reasons to be phobic and depressed and have OCD, so it certainly isnt something you are going to be able to reach any conclusions over.

However repression isnt the only option....

Sublimation is the unconsciousness suppressing sexuality prior to conscious comprehension, that could be a route to asexuality I suppose... it is generally considered the only healthy defense mechanism, because it just replaces one urge with another. So to be doing sublimation you need to be able to see in your life something that could possibly have taken over from sex as an interest (such as study or hobby).

I dunno I tend to think its much easier to say that those that become asexual (such as myself) are demisexuals who are repressing or sublimating further down the line at romantic attraction- that way they never get to sexual attraction.

Maybe you would even have to be a demisexual with demiromantic tendiencies (newish idea- means that the person is aromantic as default, unless someopne they connect with shows up).

I certainly dont rule out this route for myself, though it could be argued it was bought on by trauma, I dont think that is significant- its just cost-benefit analysis of the situation in the subconscious, I dont think the measures used being affected by one thing or another matter especially.

Also we should remember Freud was talking about libido not sexual attraction, its not clear if you can replace the drive with attraction and still claim repression or sublimation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_sublimation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_repression

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I hate Freud but I do believe people can be sexually repressed. Does that mean I believe asexuals are sexually repressed? No way.

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You don't need massive childhood trauma to be "repressed", at least on a mild level.

When I first started looking at girls (I'm a girl, bisexual) it wasn't sexual - I just knew I was drawn to them somehow. It was only after I started learning to accept those feelings, that it became truly apparent what they were. (Meanwhile, my heterosexual side was more or less alive and kicking, which was a little confusing? Meh.)

We can call that "being in denial" instead of "being repressed" if you want to, I guess.

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I believe people can be repressed ina great many ways, including sexually. However- that doesn't mean I think asexuals are all repressed.

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[This post is built from comments I left on the Asexual Explorations Blog]

Among the liberals I know, this is what I think they mean by sexual repression: Conservatives are just as likely to lust, just as likely be kinky, just as likely to be queer as are liberals. But conservatives are more likely to deny these facts, as if they were necessarily bad and denying them would make them disappear. That's why we have things like saddlebacking and the ex-gay movement.

This definition most closely fits Mandrewliter's 4th definition of sexual repression.

I completely agree with the idea that we should avoid the use of "sexual repression" in favor of more specific terms which are less prone to abuse. However, I'm not really happy Mandrewliter's suggested alternative term, "sexual oppression". Sexual oppression suggests to me that there is something even more insidious going on, like really strict gender roles or institutionalized honor killings.

I'm tempted to just explain out the entire concept in words rather than using a short label like "sexual repression" or "sexual oppression", but damn if that isn't impractical.

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As a point of reference, Siggy's link is to a second post (Accusing others of sexual repression..) that I wrote on the topic of "sexual repression." (The first was the one linked at the top of this thread.)

I got the term "sexual oppression" from a book called "The Sexually Oppressed", which was where the first article (that I know of) about asexuality appeared, though I'm not a fan of thinking of asexuals as a group as oppressed. (See, for example <a href=http://www.asexuality.org/avenues/2009_01_31.pdf>The (A)sexually Oppressed?</a> in the March 2009 issue of AVENues.) I don't feel any particular attachment to the term "sexual oppression." It was just the first thing that popped into my head at the time.

Offhand, I can't think of any especially good concise phrases, though it would be easy enough to just use phrases and sentences to describe what you want to describe. In my own googling of the term "sexual repression", sometimes the meaning that's used is number four, but I'm not convinced that that's always the meaning. I've seen uses where 2 and 3 seemed to be present (which is why I included them.) And there are other cases where I have absolutely no idea what people mean. (Including some of the previous posts on this thread.)

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