Based on Sigmund Freud’s “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love,” Freud defines two important conceptual theories: The affectionate current and the sensual currents. The affectionate current is based on the affection someone receives as a child from their primary caregiver who was most likely the man’s mother or sister. Freud says that during childhood we experience sexual instinct but they are more innocent then the sexual instincts of an adult so they manifest themselves as affection and become the affectionate current. The sensual current is different in that it develops during puberty and is based on overt sexual desires. It would be incestuous to express these new feelings toward the same person who the affectionate currents are directed toward, they are then directed toward someone with similar qualities but who is not related. Freud describes that physical impotence happens when the sensual current and the affectionate current do not come together like they should. He means that the ultimate desire is still intact but during certain occasions he is unable to physically perform the sex act even though he wants to. What this means is that when they are separated a man can not feel affectionate and sensual toward the same woman.
Lets say the woman is moral and therefore highly respected she’s deemed through the affectionate current attached to his childhood and therefore becomes taboo because of the laws of incest. But the man still holds on to his sexual desires and needs to find an outlet for them. The end result is that in order to keep these sensual and subliminally forbidden feelings away from the one he respects and loves he finds women that he doesn’t love to express them with. Ultimately, he can not become aroused by the woman that he loves and he can not love the woman that excites him sexually. Freud argues that because of this separation of currents “a man only receives full sexual satisfaction through the debasement of the woman that he sexually desires,” (Freud 257) and it only makes sense since he over cherishes the woman that he loves. Based on what Freud said, “The condition of forbiddeness in the erotic life of women is, I think, comparable to the need on the part of men to debase the sexual object.” (Freud 258) By debasement Freud means that the man finds a woman that is lower than him in character, status, ethics, and/or value.
Only when the man feels superior to the woman, and therefore free of judgement by her, can he feel free to let go of his inhibitions and enjoy himself to the fullest extent of his sexuality. For instance, married men are often caught going to prostitutes, one of the lowest form of women as our society views them. Men have affairs with women who know that they’re married, and according to popular opinion she is not a respectable woman for sleeping with a married man. Rape, perhaps the ultimate form of control and debasement, is committed all of the time. Women in pornography are often portrayed as being an object for the man’s pleasure rather than an equal. How often do you hear of male fantasies directed toward virtuous and pure women as opposed to the slutty stripper at the local girlie bar? In my opinion acceptance by our peers is a strong motivator for us. When we feel judged we do not feel accepted. People go to great lengths, sometimes even crossing their own moral beliefs, to achieve that acceptance. During Freud’s time the wife was looked at as well brought up, virtuous, and pure.
Because of this the simple fear of rejection and judgement stopped the husband from introducing his wild sexual fantasies to her and achieving the full sexual satisfaction that he desired. It is impossible to adjust the claims of the sexual instinct to the demands of civilization, because what some may consider sexual instinct others may feel that it’s a perversion. According to Freud sexuality must be restrained in civilization to preserve the family. He also said that “Socialization is the source of our particular desires and of our particular ways of satisfying these desires.” (Freud 259) When Freud explained, “that something in the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavorable to the realization of complete satisfaction.” (Freud 260) That is, in general the “psychical importance of an instinct rises in proportion to its frustration.” (Freud 260)
Thus, Freud assumes that there is something in the nature of the sexual instinct which makes it itself unfavorable to realize its complete satisfaction. He claims that there are two factors that might account for this: 1) due to the incest taboo, etc. the final object choice is always a replacement of the original one; and, 2) the sexual instinct has the greatest number of components–all of which cannot be taken up (society’s rules, etc.) –“good” and “bad” elements alike. Freud emphasized the looseness of the ties of the sexual instinct to the (expected) sexual object. Freud’s view is ultimately quite simple and certainly conforms to the ruling codes of his time and place sexuality outside of reproduction is essentially perverse. If obtaining sexual pleasure becomes ‘easy’, its value is diminished, and even life itself seems less worth living.