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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #15 of 52: Organic and Geriatric Mental Disorders | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #17 of 52: Dissociative Disorders »

March 26, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #16 of 52: Sexual Disorders

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- To talk about a disorder one must first have an order. To talk about disordered sexuality we must first establish what constitutes ordered sexuality. Unfortunately, there is no consensus as to what is ordered, what is proper sexuality.

As a matter of fact, the same goes for mental health in general. Folks flippantly employ the term mental disorder but if you ask them to tell you what constitutes mental health they are at a loss.

Sigmund Freud defined mental health as the ability to love ones self, love other people and earn a living for ones self and for ones loved ones. Alfred Adler defined mental health as having social interests, working for ones and other people’s interests, not just seeking ones interests at the expense of other people. You will probably agree that these definitions are not particularly helpful, or, are they?

The early psychologists like Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Otto Rank, Wilhelm Reich, Eric Fromm, Karen Horney, Gordon Allport, Abraham Maslow etc believed that there is such a thing as appropriate sexuality. Whereas they had no consensus in their definitions, they all agreed on what can be loosely called normal and abnormal sexuality, correct and deviant sexuality. They all, for example, considered adults having sex with children, pedophilia, inappropriate and persons of the same sex having sex as deviant sexuality.

THE POLITICS OF NORMAL OR ABNORMAL SEXUALITY

The mental health field, like most fields, is shaped by politics. What is considered appropriate behavior is a product of social power plays. Those who are powerful get their views seen as normal behavior and those who are weak get their views seen as abnormal behavior.

In the Western world, the homosexual group became powerful and forced the American Psychiatric Association, in 1980, to reclassify homosexuality as no longer a mental disorder. Prior to 1980 it was considered a mental disorder.

That is to say that politics defines what constitutes mental health and mental disorder. In that light, one supposes that should pedophiles become powerful and is able to prevail on the psychiatric profession to reclassify pedophilia as normal behavior, so it becomes? We apparently live in a looking glass world, Alice in Wonderland, where something is right because the powerful said so and nothing is right in and of itself?

There are those who are cultural relativist and everything done by a group of people, their culture, is right and must be accommodated as such irrespective of ones moral judgment.

Judgment? Who gave you the right to dare judge something good or bad? To judge presupposes a moral standard seen as good, with which one judges’ human behavior. Who told you that there is an ideal standard with which you can judge people’s behavior? Who agreed that there is such a thing as self evidently right standard?

Everything is a social construct and there is no knowing what is right or wrong, so accommodate every behavior, moral relativists tell us. This is the philosophy of cultural relativism, the philosophy that rules the contemporary world.

Hindus used to have a culture where ten year old girls were married off to old men, a culture where women were required to jump into their husbands’ funeral pyres and burn to death; all these are appropriate cultural behaviors and one is supposed to look away and not judge them good or bad. That is the world we now live in, an amoral world where nothing is deemed good or bad in itself. We are told to just tolerate everything.

Indeed, very soon the antisocial personalities of this world (those who steal, kill and hurt other people and feel no remorse for their behaviors) will organize and claim that since there is strong evidence that they are predisposed by their genes to steal and kill other people that they are normal and not deviant persons. Why not? Who has a right to judge them deviant? Who gave one the right to judge a thief a thief? Isn’t all property stolen, communists like Proudhorn tell us?

It is going to be an interesting world, this amoral world we are entering into.

In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association produced the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This political manual reclassified many sexual behaviors that were hitherto considered abnormal normal. As it now stands, just about every sexual practice is normal unless it has ego dystonia, that is, the individual does not feel good about it. And if that is the case, all he needs to do is convince himself that what he is doing is okay, form a support group to reinforce his practice, viola, his behavior is now normal. As long as a group of people accept a behavior as normal it is normal for them, in the moral relativist world we live in, after all notions of right and wrong are socially constructed and nothing is in itself good or bad.

Nevertheless, the psychiatric profession, now that it has arrogated unto itself the godlike function of defining what is normal and not normal ( a role that used to be performed by the larger society, particularly by religion) managed to define some sexual behaviors as not normal (until some powerful interest group defines them as normal).

The currently accepted abnormal sexual practices are Fetishism, Frotteurism, Pedophilia, Sexual Masochism, Sexual Sadism, Transvestite Fetishism, Voyeurism and the various sexual dysfunctions, such as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, Female Sexual Arousal Disorder, Male Erectile Disorder, Inhibited Organism, Vaginismus and others.

These disorders are really self defined and do not need further explanation but briefly, fetishism is characterized by such activities as a male using a female’s under wear to arouse himself sexually; pedophilia consists of desiring and or having sex with children (as defined by society, some societies, such as Brazil, define the appropriate age for sex as 14, others 16, such as the USA, and so on); masochism is desiring pain along with sex, sadism is desiring to inflict pain on the sexual partner; transvestitism consists of seeing ones self as the opposite gender and dressing in clothes meant for the opposite gender; voyeurism consists of peeping to see naked women and having sexual arousal from doing so. Sexual hypoactive means not overly sexual and hyperactive means overly sexual (as in nymphomania) and so on.


AFRICANS DENIAL OF SEXUAL DISORDERS

Nigerian, indeed, Africans would like to believe that they do not have sexual disorders. They would like to pretend that they are all normal, whatever that is. The fact is that they are human beings and have the same array of sexual issues that other human beings have.

However, in traditional African societies the culture used taboos to prevent people from engaging in what we might call deviant sexuality. Folks who committed incest, that is, have sex with their children and or siblings, were generally eliminated from African societies. Persons who had sex with their relatives wives or husbands were generally severely dealt with, such as being told to leave the village and disappear. Society protected itself by being very punitive to those who disobeyed the strict sexual norms it laid down.

African societies are no longer rural traditional societies where sexual taboos worked out well. Africans are increasingly becoming an urban people. The urban center has many characteristics, including anonymity. One does not really have a relationship with ones neighbor. Your neighbor is a stranger to you and what he does is none of your business, just as what you do is none of his business. Sociologists have talked about what they call anomie in the city.

In urban centers where people are cut loose from the watchful and controlling eyes of the rural village, people feel freed to act out their various sexual desires. Thus, in today’s urban Nigeria some folks act out homosexually (Gay and lesbian); some even engage in pedophilias and have sex with little children. These activities probably would have brought them instant social rejection, if not worse, in traditional African societies.

For our present purposes, however, what we need to know is that many things go with the urban territory. All the sexual deviances we encounter in the anonymous urban centers of the West are creeping into African urban societies. There is nothing anyone can do about it. My best female intellectual friend is a Nigerian lesbian. What can I say; such is our current world.

Of course, these seeming sexual aberrations will initially surprise Nigerians and efforts would be made to contain them through religious injunctions and even by passing laws against them. Alas, human beings are interesting creatures and will do whatever they want to do. Some say that they came to earth to defy whatever their creator, God and his will and have a defiant nature and will defy whatever they are told to do. If you told human beings what is appropriate sexuality, somehow, they would defy that injunction and do its opposite. The world is said to be in opposition to the will of God and as such must be a world where everything opposes every thing else. Abnormal sexuality must oppose normal sexuality or else we would not be living in an oppositional defiant world.

TOLERANCE

The Liberal approach to these matters is that as long as folks are not hurting themselves in whatever they are doing, good or bad, that we should look away and leave them to do their thing. But if they impose their will on other people and hurt them, they have committed a crime and are to be punished. If a man chooses to stick his penis into a willing man’s anus, that is their business, but if he imposes that will on an unwilling person he is to be punished for sodomy. That is where things currently stand in the Liberal Democracies of the West.

On the other hand, there are religious conservatives who believe that there is such a thing as right or wrong behavior, as defined by them (and their God). The Catholic Church represents this conservative bulwark against creeping modernism.


I am a political and cultural conservative, and agree with the Catholic Church on moral matters.

I presented this short essay just so you know what is out there. My goal is not to take sides. If you feel like you have issues with your sexuality that you would like to address, there are therapists who specialize on human sexuality. These sex therapists can help you sort things out.

Ozodi@africainstituteseasttle.org

Posted by Administrator at March 26, 2006 10:29 PM

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