chapter  7
15 Pages

Freud, Gross, sexual revolution

ByALFRED SPRINGER

The term `sexual revolution' in the context of this chapter needs clari®cation. Since we will be concerned with constructs of ideas from the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, the concept of sexual revolution that we are talking about needs as a cultural frame the standards of bourgeois morality prevalent during that epoch. It is based therefore also on a critique of some features of that set of moral rules, such as double moral standards or surplus repression of sexual acting out, as well as on the commitment to free women from the restraints of double moral standards. It seems clear that simple acting out of sexual desires is not a revolutionary issue. On the part of the male gender, that kind of lifestyle was rather usual during the late nineteenth century, as has been vividly depicted by the great novelists of that period. But we know that moral standards reigning at the same time led to a markedly different situation for men and women. Even if in Schnitzler's play Reigen (a remarkable document of the sexual ± and seemingly liberal ± mores of that time) libertinage is not restricted to men, there can be no doubt that female sexuality was kept down through the means of the taboo of virginity, and that transgressions of the rules of monogamy committed by women were sanctioned and eventually became both pathologised and criminalised. Unrestricted satisfaction of sexual needs alone therefore does not signify sexual freedom either on the social or on the psychic level and `sexual revolution' must be something other than a call for erotic acting out. On a conceptual level it has to target attitudes and values and most importantly has to focus on the eradication of gender-related discrimination.