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South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and the Power of Sex in our Lives

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

During the past twenty to thirty years, it has been fashionable to criticize and dismiss the works of Sigmund Freud and what was called “Classical Psychoanalysis,” as wrong. The criticisms have ranged from, Freud focused too much on sex,  is anti feminist and a misogynist or woman hater to, his theory of the unconscious and the importance of sex is totally fabricated and false. Well, when we look at the evidence present in newspapers and television today, Freud appears to have been quite correct about many things, including the presence of an unconscious mind and the importance of sex or the libidinal drive in the lives of every living person.

The potential future Republican presidential candidate for the next election in 2012, Governor Mark Sanford, has evidently destroyed any hopes for running for president because he has evidently admitted to allegedly having an extra marital affair during a recent trip to Argentina.

If Mr. Sanford were the only politician whose career was ruined by scandal due to “dangerous liaison’s,” I could be accused of overstating the idea of sex and its role in daily life. However, Mr. Sanford is only the latest in a very long line of politicians accused and condemned by illicit sexual affairs. The most recent and famous, before Mr. Sanford, was the scandal generated in the White House during the term of then President Clinton. The sexual adventures between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky are now history. Actually, stories of his sexual escapades preceded his entry into running for the presidency of the United States.

However, it is a mistake to believe that these affairs occurred only during modern times. Nelson Rockefeller, former governor of New York State, died of a heart attack during an extra marital love making session. It has been rumored that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was involved with a woman during the time of his Presidency.

None of these affairs are restricted to politicians or to men alone. In fact, let us not forget that these men were involved with women. However, famous women themselves are reputed to have had affairs. Elizabeth Taylor was proud of the fact that she could have any man she desired. She certainly has had multiple marriages. Lou Andreas Salome, a well known female psychoanalyst of the late 19th and early twentieth century, was know to have many lovers and to have lived the life of a “free woman,” even though she was married.

In any case, the list can go on and on, and not just in the United States but throughout the world and as long as recorded history provides us with information.

It is always a mistake to diminish the importance and power of the sexual drive in human life. Some people mistakenly blame men for not controlling their sexual impulses or for thinking with their genitals. However, the same can be said for women. The bottom line is that sexuality dominates our lives and, the younger we are, the more powerful it is.

Many of us decry the presence of pornography on the Internet. However, the reason pornography exists is that it attracts millions of viewers, many of whom are women.

The great psychoanalyst, Karl Jung, modified Freud’s account of the sex drive but did not diminish its importance. According to Jung, the sex drive is what shapes our artistic expression, whether it is painting, writing, sculpture, etc. Do you doubt Jung? Well, have you seen the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome? I have seen it in person, and I have seen it in photographs and it is inspiring for its beauty and power. Need I remind the reader that many of the figures in the paintings are nude?

Michelangelo not only painted the Sistine Chapel but sculpted the awesome statue of David. David stands nude, in his full beauty. One wonders how stone could have been shaped into such a magnificent work of art. Well, Jung tell us. David is an example of the sexual drive being used as the force for generating creativity. Lest you think that it is only nude works the Jung is referring to, I want to remind everyone of Picasso, and countless other artists who created works that stand the test of time.

To reiterate my point, the sexual drive dominates human life. Whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, blue collar worker or brain surgeon, we are all fueled by this enormous force.

Freud referred to sexuality as Eros. Eros is the “Life Force.” On the other hand, Thanatos is the “Death Force.” This is why, according to Freud and modern present day health and mental health workers, the healthy expression of our sexuality allows us to feel energetic, happy and productive. On the opposite, suppression of Eros leads to feelings of depression, hopelessness and thoughts of death or Thanatos.

Whenever I have worked with married or unmarried couples in psychotherapy, I have always inquired, sooner or later, about their sexual relationship. So many times difficulty with sexual relationships was one of the dominating factors in their troubles. Many of us in the therapeutic community have commented on the fact that money and sexuality are the predominant factors in our clients’ relationships. 

Every time we read about the latest sexual indiscretions in the news we react with shock and dismay. Examples are, 1. The young Catholic priest has an affair with a woman and decides to leave the priesthood and move to one of the Christian Sects so that he can marry, 2. A teacher has an affair with a student and they both swear their ever lasting love for each other. Sometimes the teacher is male and sometimes the teacher is female, 3. Upstanding pillars of the community are caught in a police trap to prevent internet sex abuse of under age teenagers. When we hear of the person involved we are shocked. Sometimes the this pillar of the community is caught in a heterosexual pedophile or a homosexual pedophile. It makes no difference that he has been married 40 years, has children and never before committed such an act, 4. Marriages are destroyed by the fact that one or both spouses had extra marital affairs. Sometimes the couple was married a long time and sometimes they are a young couple, one last example is that of the psychiatrist, dentist, general practitionr, lawyer, and so on, has an affair with a patient and is then sued for malpractice for taking advantage of the vulnerability of a patient or client.

It is important that we stop reacting with shock and accept the fact that sexuality is a powerful and dominating force in the lives of men and women. It may be that part of our problem, especially as Americans, is that we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our children and our leaders. Perhaps, what is comes down to is that our leaders must be people and their sexual exploits are their own business and that of their families and should not concern to rest of us. In addition, except for pedophilia, rape and professional misconduct in all professions, people should be left to live their sexual lives so long as they are not hurting anyone. If their wives or husbands are  hurt then the arena of conflict should remain in the home for them to deal with.

Finally, we need to admit that “they are us,” because we are all sexual.

What are your thoughts and opinions?
Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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