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Archive for October 23rd, 2013

Is there a difference in the way men and women are affected by sexual repression?  And what’s the biggest personality difference between sexually liberated and sexually repressed people?

Zombie Rising from the Grave by Diane DiederichI think the main difference is that in general, women are better at totally repressing their sexuality than men are.  Most women can sublimate their libidos into other things, which they may become incredibly fanatical about; examples include their children or pets, art, social activities and religious or political crusades.  Men may also sublimate in this way, but the sex drive won’t stay buried; they’ll still seek out porn, sex workers or even unwilling partners (as the numerous cases of boy-molesting priests amply demonstrate).  Sexual repression in either men or women may lead to an obsession with suppressing sexual expression in others, and (especially in men) the psychological defense mechanism called “reaction formation” will often reveal the person’s particular kink.  For example, there are many cases of pedophiles who campaign against “child porn”, closeted homosexuals who lead anti-gay crusades, compulsive clients who loudly support criminalization of sex work, etc.  Full-blown sexual reaction formation is less common among women; this isn’t to say that women’s anti-sex campaigning isn’t due to sexual repression (I suspect it usually is), merely that it’s a lot harder to tell exactly what urges are being repressed by looking at the subject of their obsession.  In other words, it’s unlikely that a woman involved in an anti-porn jihad is reacting to a repressed fascination with it; in fact, the trauma which produced the hate may have nothing at all to do with porn, which is merely an external symbol of male sexuality or “privilege”, essentially an effigy she can burn.

In general, sexually repressed people can be detected by their strange, uptight attitudes toward sex.  Even if they don’t picket strip clubs, pass out anti-gay hate leaflets or try to get people criminally charged for displaying vaguely-sexual art, their reactions to sexual topics or imagery will generally be extreme, inappropriate and wildly disproportionate to the stimulus; examples might include feeling the need to comment on the clothing or “sexy” behavior of a young woman one does not personally know, or getting someone fired for a silly off-color joke.  People with healthy sexualities do not generally feel the need to police the sexual or quasi-sexual behavior of others, and I suspect are generally more tolerant and accepting of individual differences even in areas which don’t appear to have anything to do with sex.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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