Freud And Gilman's Theories Of Human Sexuality

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At the cusp of the twentieth century, social thinkers turned increasingly to examining the dynamics of gender in society, the psychology of the human mind, and the social implication of evolution. In Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, the famed psychoanalyst delineates his theories about the development of human society in relation to his theory of human sexuality. Similarly, feminist author Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Women and Economics examines the effects that society has on the development and advancement of women. Both authors deal with the questions of individual happiness, human civilization, and human sexuality to some extent. However, their vastly divergent theories and consequent conjectures can be explained according…show more content…
Freud, for example, asserts that the happiness a person feels “comes from the...satisfaction of needs which have been damned up to a high degree,” in other words, fulfillment of one’s base desires is the cause of individual happiness (43). This definition of happiness aligns exactly to Freud’s pleasure principle, thus informing his subsequent clarification of civilization’s effect on individual satisfaction. Foremost, Freud explains that human civilization is an institution put into place to limit the happiness of the individual by restricting one’s ability to act on their most base desires. As humans, specifically men, become frustrated by their inability to fulfill their most libidinal desires, Freud insists that they focus their attention instead on creating and cultivating a civilization. Freud insists though, that “the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness” in each individual, because civilization inherently inhibits the ability to fulfill the pleasure principle (Freud 131). As humans develop a civilization, it begins to take on characteristics of the human psyche. In the individual mind, the ego emerges to provide rational distractions from our desires. In civilization, a societal ego emerges when people begin to study disciplines such as science and art as a…show more content…
Freud, for example, essentially reduces women to their role as sexual objects for men and as mothers to their children. Throughout the entirety of Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud spends very little time considering women specifically, instead choosing to focus on men, whom he believed were the main driving force behind the creation of civilization. As he considers the how the typical family unit came into creation, Freud essentially boils it down to the fact that “the male acquired a motive for keeping the female, or, speaking, more generally, his sexual objects, near him” because it was simply more convenient (Freud 77). To Freud, women represented an embodiment of all of the primal desires that aggravated men, thus leading them to channel this frustration into the cultivation of society. Freud allows that women might serve one other function; that of a maternal figure. In this way, Freud does not even afford women the chance to be fully autonomous, complete individuals, as he describes their children as “part of [woman] which had been separated from her” (Freud 79). This insinuation that women are merely extensions of their children is not surprising coming from someone that blatantly refers to women as the “sexual objects” of men throughout his very scant mentions of the female gender. In fact, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s
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