Psychic Contact and Vegetative Current:
the sexual coquetry found in hysteria also shows this duality of function. Flirtation is the expression of repressed genital desires, i.e. directed towards the world. At the same time it is a defence against genitality, the expression of an anxious "feeling out" of the object, to determine, as it were, where the genital danger is coming from. This is the only possible explanation for the extensive sexual life of hysterical women suffering from severe genital anxiety 302
Reich is in effect describing the basis of the repetition-compulsion. The genital danger in question is elaborated by other analysts as fear of rape:
The content of hysteria is equivalent to 'I am vulnerable to frustration' stated in many different ways.
The hysteric lives out an invitation to rape and lives in perpetual fear of it.
There is a fusion of orality and vaginality in the hysterical woman.
The hysteric attempts to protect herself from childish impulses and at the same time gratify them. p.264 Kramer, C.H. (1967). Maxwell Gitelson: Analytic Aphorisms
I was unsure for a long time about the validity of this construction but when I looked at Reich's work on anthropology and then at later ethnographies the transition to sex-negative culture does seem to be attached to fears of rape.
Malinowski had opportunity to observe another primitive society that lay south of the Trobriand Islands in the Amphlett chain. This people were very similar to the Trobrianders in race, customs and language, writes Malinowski, but they differed considerably in their social organization; they already manifested a strict sexual morality in regard to premarital intercourse, which they condemned, and they lacked any such institutions as found among the Trobrianders for fostering sex activity; characteristically, the family life was much more privatized. Even though maternal authority still prevailed, a much stronger role for patriarchal influence had emerged, and “this, combined with the sexual repressiveness, establishes a picture of childhood sexuality more similar to our own”. Malinowski states: “In the Trobriands, though I knew scores of natives intimately and had a nodding acquaintance with many more, I could not name a single man or woman who was hysterical or even neurasthenic. Nervous tics, compulsory actions, or obsessive ideas were not to be found.” There were occasional occurrences of cretinism, mental retardation and speech difficulties; also infrequent outbreaks of anger and violence. The natives ascribed all this to black magic… “During my stay in the Amphletts, my first and strongest impression was that this was a community of neurasthenics. Coming from the open, hearty, gay, accessible Trobrianders it was astonishing to find oneself among a community of people distrustful of the newcomer, impatient in work, arrogant in their claims, though easily cowed, and extremely nervous when tackled more energetically. The women ran away as I landed in their villages and kept in hiding the whole of my stay… I at once found a number of people affected with nervousness”. (Sex-Pol, p.127-8)
In Gregor's Anxious Pleasures a similar response is recorded:
Today the Mehinaku recall their first contact with a white man as follows: Everyone was very frightened and fled to the forest leaving only the best bowmen in the village. When the white man came… the young girls covered their bodies with ashes so they would be unattractive and not carried off by the white man… 19 M
Reich was right that there was a sociological difference between matriarchy and patriarchy but was wrong in claiming it was the Oedipus complex. Or, at least he never differentiated between the Oedipus complex as sexual impulses towards the mother vs.
wanting to "marry the mother". For this same reason he didn't conceive of orgastic potency as related to the perversion brought up in the relation to the phallic mother. The difference between the Trobriand Islanders and later patriarchal cultures is that the uncle is represented as the head of the family and the mother doesn't depreciate him as she would the husband who could have caused her disappointment. The phallic mother is the sociological condition that arises in patriarchy but the Oedipus complex as a drive to duty, a superego of guilt, and the following identification with the chief as group leader (from latency) is clearly present with the Trobriand Islanders.