Page 5, 18th November 1966

18th November 1966
Page 5
Page 5, 18th November 1966 — THE "NEW MORALITY" AND PORNOGRAPHY
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THE "NEW MORALITY" AND PORNOGRAPHY

DAVID HOLBROOK

ECHOING a pronouncement of the Editor of Penthouse ("pornography exists only in unsophisticated minds") Taya Zinkin wrote recently in The Guardian that "pornography is to be found, above all, in the mind of the beholder". She also says, "censorship over sex and reproduction seems to be the prerogative of those who think themselves grown up but obviously have hidden complexes".

• There are certain assumptions behind such attitudes which are nowadays common. At times the expression of them is so grotesque that it becomes a caricature of itself. For instance, in a Christmas advertisement in the New York Review of Books, we read: "Gift book's . . . befitting the Moral Revolution that has brought a new togetherness into the American Home . . . The Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom . . . ruthless pornography" . . . etc.

When I come across such an obvious example of the dirttrade masquerading as "enlightened" I'm inclined to be cynical about the whole of the "new morality" movement, with its talk about a new "open communion" between the sexes. Isn't it, I ask myself, significant that this compulsive preoccupation with sex has accompanied a growing crisis in the writer's situation? It's harder than ever to make a living, and the word "sex" sells —as we can see by looking along the shelves of any paperback shop.

Hasn't the "sexual revolution" coincided in a significant way with various publishing crises—e.g. the staff meeting of a progressive newspaper at which it was decided to develop a "bright" policy; the growth of the colour supplement field, with its intensification of "impact" and its arrogant inversions of moral standards? Hasn't the "new morality" been created largely by journalists who care less for principles than for keeping their own name, and their paper's name, before the public? How is it that a man accused of a perverted sexual murder should be saying in court ("it all depends on the dirty minds") the same thing as The Guardian, Mr. Girodias and John Calder (whose latest advertisement reads "Are you easily shocked?")?

I'm sure some of my misgivings on such scores are justified. But it's also obvious that there is a good deal of sincerity too behind the liberal-minded concern to resist censorship, to foster tolerance, and to 'include" more relaxed forms of sexual relationship and discussion of sex. There is a firm belief abroad that, more certain forms of harm are done by trying to repress or restrict these, than by allowing them, tolerantly. It is important to respect these beliefs, even those which go so far as to say "we do not know" what is right or wrong.

B,...„1 there are certain areas where tolerance patently does not bring the benefits claimed for it. And here, I think, we need to do some hard reconsideration, at deeper levels, of the basis of the "new morality" of "enlightenment".

It is beginning to be obvious that one area in which ultrapermissiveness is not working is that of drugs. Of course, it is important to ask whether authorijarian bans don't make the harmfulness of drugs and alcohol worse: but it is unreal to extend this concern, to imply that it is only the bans which cause the harm. The harm is there for all to see. There is an impulse in some to fortify their own identities by doing harm to others; and this we must be aware of.

But yet there is a prevalent impulse to deny such evident hate. The same is happening in other spheres of concern with behaviour traditionally regarded as fraught with harm, such as sex and depiction of sex. What is being denied is the unconscious hate with which we all have to struggle in sex, and such aspects of "whole being". Because of such blindness, values are being inverted —in a way which in itself has something strangely perverse about it. Even more perverse is the way "progressive" papers will now refuse to publish one's doubts about the toleration of pornography.

It is implicity assumed that attitudes such as those quoted above are based on authentic "realistic" studies of human nature. largely taken from psychoanalysis. The truth is that this is not so—if we take into account what psychoanalysis has done since Freud. The concern to bring about an atmosphere of demoralisation is, in fact, based on out-of-date Freud, in such a way as was never even endorsed by psychotherapeutic practice. Strangely enough, the prevalent journalistic view is based on that side of Freud whose pessimistic attitudes had affinities with fascist philosophies—such as those of Schopenhaur and Pareto (as Guntrip points out).

Such journalists as Taya Zinkin, obviously, assume that they represent some kind of enlightened "wisdom".

They suggest that those who seek to restrict utterance about sex are themselves "evil" .or suffer from "hidden complexes". The use of the latter phrase suggests that the wisdom of these commentators is based on psycho-analytical concepts. The reference is meant to imply that because they base their "realism" on these, the writers' own attitudes must themselves be sane and cornplex-free. It is this kind of assumption in particular that I wish to question. I think it is a false and ignorant one. In truth, what background of study are their attitudes based on?

PERHAPS I should try to make my own position as clear as I can, first. I recognise censorship as a danger: I detest the authoritarianism of such organisations as M.R.A. I know censorship is linked with that authoritarianism that marks a distrust of human nature. But I would go on to argue that overpermissiveness merely inverts this distrust, and is hypomanic denial of our need to deal with our own hate and guilt, to be truly independent. With Mr. C. H. Rolph, I also believe that a degree of censorship is inevitable.

The reason why I believe this is that I know that some human beings have an impulse to harm others, and that we all have a problem of hate. I would do everything 1 could to get a Jewbaiting paper closed down, and it is obvious that Mrs. Zinkin would too. Where we all differ essentially is the question as to whether there is hate in sex, and in the depiction of sex, and in related areas of moral "enlightenment". After some years' study of psycho-analytical theory I am convinced that the prevalent attitudes of the "New Morality" arc based on a disastrous failure to take into account the problem of unconscious hate in such manifestations as pornography.

As will become clear later in this article I think there are subtle psychological reasons ("hidden complexes" if the reader likes) why we prefer to pretend that this hate doesn't exist. And there are also social reasons why an atmosphere has been created in which this hate is denied. To put this briefly, the hate in sex-expression is not only a money-spinner, but it is also an important means to bolster one's identity which one finds it hard to sustain by the false solutions of an acquisitive ethos. The utterance of "mind sex", in pornography and near-pornography for in: stance, is both lucrative, but also a means of satisfying the unconscious impulse to build one's own identity at the expense of others. As Guntrip says, "better to be a bad somebody than a weak nonentity".

So the hidden impulse behind such a piece of intellectual pornography as Eros Denied may be the exhibitionism of a weak identity. Inevitably in our society it gains ground, for what is regarded as most "successful" is the capacity to make oneself big and powerful at the expense of others. If one can do this by playing on their anxieties through the hate of greed, this only feels the more appropriate.

Over such matters, I think the liberal mind has here become victim of its own goodnatured belief in human nature. Just as the liberal mind had the greatest difficulty in believing in the destructive evil of fascism in the thirties, it is today being misled by its innocence into accepting a process of demoralisation. This demoralisation is based not on authentic

findings of psychoanalysis, or even of philosophy, but largely on the unthinking assumptions of journalistic writers. Of course, there are writers who must be taken seriously, such as the Bishop of Woolwich, John Wilson, the Existentialists and perhaps even Dr. Comfort.

One can't tackle such a formidable array of ultra-permissive writers in a short article. What one can however suggest is that, while the ultra permissive attitude finds easy acceptance in the press, the same press does not pay equal attention to the other points of view —perhaps more full of doubt, less enthusiastic, but also perhaps more authoritative. which are opposed to such writers as the above.

INthe background, for instance, to the Sunday newspaper fly-sheets announcing the "sexual revolution" is Wilhelm Reich's book The Sexual Revolution. Who would believe that in the International Journal of Psycho-analysis this book was re

viewed briefly as follows:

"The reader of this book is unlikely to guess that the author has ever had more than superficial acquaintance with psycho-analysis and that he had passed adolescence for quite some time when he wrote the book".

Reich's approach recommended "the creation of a non-authoritarian structure in the child" by removing children from the parents' influence. "Collectives" would supersede the family, and we should not determine the form sexual relations should take in these. Vestiges of the Pantisocratic flavour of this anarchic attitude arc found in Dr. Comfort and Wayland Young (the latter pustulates a "golden age" of sex in the future!) urging the cornplete abandonment of restrictions on sexual behaviour and sexual expression.

The essential basis of these attitudes is a version of Rousseauism. Rousseau's philosophy, for all its usefulness, was one which essentially sought to deny the responsibilities and pains of maturity. Rousseau, as Dr. R. D. Money-Kyrlc (the psycho-analytical philosopher) says, "blamed society for all faults and tried to construct an ideal one in which we should all be good as well as happy".

He substituted, as it were, a myth of primal innocence for that of original sin. But his system was achieved at the cost of leaving something out—"namely the whole problem of the individual's guilt which is rooted in the conflict between love and hate". These problems of guilt, love and hate are still too much denied by liberal pro gressive thought: "the sociological" concern with life today will be found still to make Rousseauistic assumptions about man in his social context.

Rousseau seems to have been the inspiration behind many liberal attempts to reduce social tensions: but his failing (says Money-Kyrle) was to "deny the individual's unconscious sense of responsibility for predatory aggression". This abrogation of responsibility for one's own destructiveness has two kinds of consequence it can lead people (as under fascism) to subject their consciences to dictatorship, in fear of accepting responsibility for their own acts. Or it can (as in presentday English progressive attitudes) lead to a dangerous blindness to the problems of destructiveness in culture and conduct, and the harm these cause. (A significant gambit of the "new morality" is to ask for proof of the harm, knowing the area to be one in which proof is impossible.) THE worst aspect of this blindness is, I believe, a a process of demoralisation. Everywhere values are being inverted, so that serious writers can tell us that to be jealous over infidelity is "uncivilised", and that we should grow out of it (Christopher Driver) or that the only criterion in sexual relationships is the hedonistic "am I happy?" (John Wilson). In reviews we are told that films and books are "enjoyably smutty" (The Guardian) or "brilliantly dirty" (The Listener): in colour supplements that "pot-and-sex orgies" are "strangely innocent" (Weekly Telegraph).

The valuable liberal concern to exert a compassionate tolerance of homosexuality and to allow "frank" sexual expression have been extended to false assumptions that it is wrong to regard homosexuality as deviant (Anne Duchene on Le Batarde in The Guardian) and that pornography is valuable in itself (Amis). Even to talk of "curing" drug addiction is impermissible (Geoffrey Moorhouse reporting Trocchi). Peter Lennon, in writing of the intellectual gangster Figon seemed to admire the philosophical purity of his motives for involvement in unsavioury underground activities which may have involved murder. Wayland Young says "we must not condemn blackmail outright—it depends on who is being blackmailed". To such passes has moral relativism brought up : as Roubiczek indicates in his book on Existentialism similar arguments could be used to vindicate Nazi atrocities.

Such moral positions are false because they deny such evidence as we have in thousands of case histories that there are unconscious bases in such manifestations which mark incompleteness of identity or splits in personality. They also ignore the evidence that related aberrations can be at worst manifestations of the most terrible hate (as we see in the courts). That is, they have taken over a schizoid ethos rather than a valid ethical revolution. They have swallowed vindications of destructive behaviour at their face value: and implicitly they have come to deny that there are normative modes of behaviour, or even sanity, which is extreme.

Many writers are schizoid persons (because they have the schizoid's uncanny insight). I think that today the unconscious impulses of some writers has enlisted the sincere liberal mind to prompt the creation of an ethos (as over drugs and sex) in which demoralisation has reached such a pitch that a great deal of confusion, unhappiness and damage has actually been caused—as it was meant to be caused, unconsciously, by undermining the quest for identity in others, by unconscious schizoid impulses.

THE prevalent impulse to bring about such a demoralisation in so far as it is sincere, is based on a popular misunderstanding of the effect of Freudian psycho-analysis derived from his earlier theories. It is significant though that psychotherapeutic practice has always been something quite different (because it is "the analyst's love that heals the patient" as Sandor Ferenczi expressed it). But al

though psycho analytical theory has itself been significantly modified over three decades by such people as Susan Isaacs, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and D. W. Winnicott, prevalent theories which explicitly or impilicitly assume themselves to be based on psycho analysis significantly and perversely ignore these more recent developments.

It is thus that the "wise are sleeping while evil is succeeding": a journalistic fashion is based on phantom authorities. A suspicion of this accounts for the discomfort which many people feel about the way things are going.

As long ago as 1935 Ian D. Suttie discussed the problem of "therapeutic demoralisation". The attitudes of the "new enlightenment" and the "new morality" arc essentially based on this theoretical approach.

In the early days the neurotic was held to be morally hyperaesthetic, and contact with the broad-minded analyst desensitized him, or, as many disapproving lay writers held. demoralised him to the required extent. Needless to say, such a theory of therapy was never approved by serious analysts, though it was popular with rebel temperaments who embraced analysis for anti-social reasons— conscious or unconcious. The Origins of Love and Hate, p. 164.

From this point of view the therapeutic aim could be conceived in two ways: one in the postulated assurance to the patient: "These evil thoughts and wishes are not really bad after all. Sex is only bad for children, that is why it is hidden by adults from them. Now you are grown up and permitted to wish these things . . ." This Suttie calls "initiation"

therapy by demoralisation. The other is disillusion : "Of course you are bad—if you call sex bad: we are all bad in this sense, We are merely hypocrites, and goodness is an illusion."

Suttie quotes one Dr. Eder, "we are born mad. We acquire morality and become stupid and unhappy. Then we die".

This is a further stage in demoralisation, since it implies that all morality is futile: the similarity to certain prevalent avant-garde attitudes to life will be evident.




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