Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Independently of psychoanalysis, students of personality had noted that certain attitudes tend to be found in association with one another. For instance, those men who accorded women a low status, seemed to favour authoritarian methods of handling political and organisational problems, and to set a high value on female chastity, but a low value on creature comforts. They also tended to be conservative or traditional in their approach to practical problems. In contrast, there is another type of Personality which takes just the contrary view. This type of person is progressive and ready to try new experiments, expects people to settle their problems by mutual discussion, or at any rate persuasion, and accords women a high status. In his approach to sexual matters this type of person is much more permissive than the authoritarian and is lenient to sexual irregularities; for him the important issues are not those of morality but of ensuring physical welfare and providing support for those in need. It was but a short step to link this up with the theory of parental identifications, and to say that the authoritarian, with the restrictive attitude to sex, was a man who had identified himself too exclusively with his father, while the progressive, with the permissive attitude to sex, was a person who had identified himself with his mother.

It will be my thesis in this book, that the various changes and contrasts in European sexual behaviour can be systematically accounted for in terms of these two identifications-that at certain periods there was a predominating tendency for male children to model themselves on their fathers, and so to produce an authoritarian and restrictive attitude in society as a whole, while at others there was a tendency to model on the mother, producing a very different attitude. (With the identifications of the female child I shall not deal, to avoid complicating the issue unduly.) But I shall also assume that here are two other possibilities: first, that the prevailing mode is at some periods to accept both parents as models and to produce a more balanced type of personality, in which spontaneous productiveness is subject to a moderate degree of discipline, and sexual behaviour is subject to modified control Second, that there may be a total rejection of both parents; since the adoption of parental standards is the first step in the formation of conscience, this leads to failure to form a satisfactory conscience, and completely ruthless and self-centred behaviour.

Though I am no great lover of jargon, it would be tedious to refer continually to persons who have modelled themselves on their fathers. I shall therefore speak of them as patrists, while those who have modelled themselves on a mother figure I shall call matrists. (225)

If the theory here put forward is correct, not only will attitudes to sexual matters change, as society changes from patrism to matrism, or vice versa, but attitudes to many other things will change at the same time.

The data already presented certainly fit quite appropriately into the two categories here proposed. Those who made the Medieval moral system show all the signs of father identification. They had a restrictive attitude to sex, depressed the status of women and attempted to impose their views by force. In contrast, the pre-Christian Celts were permissive about sex and accorded a high status to women; they did not, however, attempt to impose these views on those who differed from them. Significantly enough, the first group worshipped a father deity (and also called their spiritual superior “father”) while the second worshipped a mother deity, variously known as Anu or Brigit. They had no spiritual superiors, for the existence of a hierarchal system of control is typical of patrism, but it is noticeable that Anu was served by priestesses, not by priests. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the Christian moralists were dominated by father identification, while the pre-Christian Celts provide an example of mother identification.