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- Category: A Study Of Psychopathology
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At this point, it may be useful to go into the sexual problems of these patients, in view of the ill-disguised passive-feminine tendencies described above. As already mentioned, these tendencies were hardly regarded as threats to one’s masculine identification. The culture allows much room for their expression without sacrificing one’s masculinity. Through the eyes of an American, for example, dependency on one’s wife and mother to this extent might be suspected as potential inroads into a man’s masculine image; the American’s index of masculinity consists of a man’s ability to be on his own and to meet his responsibilities as head and provider of the household. To him, dependency is weakness and if dependency is on a maternal figure, then it is a sexual weakness.
To the group of men in this study, the genital function, in a literal sense, is the exclusive criterion for settling doubts about one’s masculinity. This is both the personal and cultural point of view. Other stipulations, such as domination by or dependence on a woman (financially, for example), are secondary in importance and do not quite receive the same valence as they do in other cultures, except of course, if they are carried out in a deliberately harsh and castrating manner.
The high premium on masculinity in the culture fosters a touchiness about it. Thus, being visited or called by the wife at his office, makes a man fair game for teasing regarding his doubtful manliness. The TV commercial which won a prize for most successful advertising in 1965 was one which jokingly depicted an emasculated man doing the family laundry while emulating the detergent product. The humor embodied in this little vignette hits right where it hurts most subconsciously.
This touchiness leads to avoidance of any uncertainty about one’s masculine image. Each sexual activity, particularly intercourse, is held to be an affirmation and confirmation of one’s sexual powers. Thus, the woman’s virginity at the time of marriage is of greatest importance to a man, There is no event more damaging to the man’s self-esteem than the discovery that his wife has had previous pre-marital relations with another man. This appears to be an unforgivable sin. Long afterward, through the years of marriage, it is still thrown at her and is in fact recalled again and again to rationalize his tensions, his disillusionment and even the failure of the marriage itself. Furthermore, it seems that premarital intercourse with the husband himself renders her suspect also. Oftentimes I have heard this remark made by husbands whose wives had “given in” to them prior to marriage “How can I trust her? If she could do it with me under cover, she can do it with someone else.”
All of this points to a great need to have the woman he loves as pure and clean as possible. Unconsciously, it is also a way of protecting himself from indirect homosexual contact, as is implied when two men share one woman in the sexual act. The sex he participates in with his wife has to be free from any taint of perversity, including disgust and sadism, such as what he usually would reveal in a similar experience with say, a prostitute. He expects his love object to be as removed as possible from the idea of sex as “sinful play.”
The love-sex dichotomy, with the concomitant double standard of morality, is the predominant orientation both in this group of men as ‘well as in the general culture. It seeks to entrench further the emphasis on the exclusive masculine right to sexual pleasure as well as reinforce his superiority over the woman, by virtue of his sexual prowess. The woman tends to be regarded therefore as a mere instrument for this purpose. (In Tagalog, the word gamit meaning “to use” is often employed to indicate sexual intercourse with a woman. It is never used in the converse way, with the man as object.
Other oft-used terms, ginalaw or giiapang indicate “to aggress” or “to move or stir up” more as an euphemism for “to mess up” or, as in ginapang, an act of surreptitious aggression. All these terms betray unconscious attitudes about woman and her role in sex.)
This seemingly paradoxical attitude towards women—on one hand, wanting them to be pure and on the other, treating them like dirt—can only lead in actual relationships to the categorization of their sexual life in terms of where they may fulfill themselves one way or the other. For an understanding of this, we may find clues in his Oedipal experience. The standard psychodynamic explanation for this dichotomy of love and sex implicates the idealization of mother and the internalization of all the attitudes of disgust, repulsiveness, and sinfulness towards sexual impulses with implied punishment should one indulge in it. The turning away from sex is presumably enforced by father, who forces the young boy to give up his sexual strivings at the threat of castration. The ideal woman is like mother, devoid of sex. The “sexy” woman is the opposite of mother and therefore evil. The middle-class mores and the great emphasis placed on sex as sin by traditional religion contribute to this attitude in no small measure.
What has been the Oedipal experience of the men in this study? One indeed found elements in operation in the above explanation. Firstly, like the women in this study, the men have also repressed to an even larger extent the genital strivings towards the parent of the opposite sex. The occasional patient who became consciously aware of incestuous fantasies towards mother, sister, or aunt was greatly frightened. Usually it was a young man overwhelmed by instinctual fantasies. Unable to intellectualize or isolate these thoughts, he quickly sought denial through displacement of these impulses to another object. In the great majority, repression was complete. When the wife is chosen or perceived unconsciously on the basis of being a second edition of mother, the sexual striving is thereby repressed, too. The man performs sex our of a need for physical release and concrete reassurance and as many of these patients said, “out of a sense of duty.” Their erotic strivings were directed towards other women, who were not perceived as mother and with whom one’s sense of masculinity is affirmed through pleasure gratification, untainted by superego commands.
Castration anxiety is strongly suggested by the inordinate sensitivity to anything which may detract from one’s masculinity. That the relationship to father has contributed to this cannot be denied. The great fear towards authority figures, the verbalized longings, as well as resentments towards a paternal figure point to this major flaw. However, except in a minority of cases, father is not viewed as a rival for mother’s affections. This is where the classical Freudian presentation of the Oedipal conflict does not completely obtain in these Filipino patients. When the Filipino father “castrates,” in form of teasing or comparing the son to others or in form of severe punishment, it is an issue between the two of them, man to man. Mother is not the object of contention as in the classically described Oedipal situation, wherein she has to be given up, lest the father, in wrath, castrate the boy. In the Filipino situation, mother is not given up at all and the boy may continue his close, warm, dependent relationship with her. The only element he gives up by rigid repression is his genital strivings towards her. (This is analogous to the daughter’s repression of genital strivings towards the father.) But in all other respects, he is allowed to have her.
The ambivalent feelings towards father were only partially resolved. Fear of him and fear of all authority figures like him were handled primarily by avoidance or manipulation. The latter consisted of a variety of maneuvers, from ingratiation to submission. The relationship of a man to other men was much more challenging to the patients in this study. This came out markedly in competitiveness and, at the same time, great caution in avoiding conflict with them. On the other hand, there is in the culture an abounding enthusiasm for barkada activity, where companionship with men is preferred to women.
The unresolved ambivalence towards father presents a real internalization of the conflict, by which one can truly say as in the classic resolution of the Oedipal problem that “the supergo is the heir to the Oedipal conflict.” The implications of this in conscience formation will be discussed separately.