Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

These two identifications represent, of course, two alternative solutions to the Oedipus conflict. The child may cleave to its mother and hate its father as an interloper-this is the situation which gives rise to mother identification-or it may cleave to its father, in which case it will hate its mother as a betrayer. This, of course, is the basis of father identification. This is why the father identifier betrays a characteristic resentment of women, and tends to see in them the source of sexual sin. We can see the process at work quite openly in some of the Christian zealots, notably the great eleventh century Christian writer and preacher, Peter Damiani. He was totally obsessed by the perfidy and unfaithfulness of women, and devoted his life to compelling as many as possible of them to be virgins. For example, he strongly pressed the Pope to degrade any priests who were living with their wives, and proposed that the offending women should be seized by the Church and forcibly immured in nunneries. He asserted as a cardinal principle that “Since Christ was born of a Virgin, He could only be served by Virgins.” He was especially concerned about whores, and spent the whole of his life attempting to stamp out prostitution and in forcibly reforming individual whores by his personal efforts. (Custance did likewise.)

All this becomes understandable when we learn that he was himself the son of a whore. The initial shock of the Oedipal “betrayal” was reinforced by numerous other betrayals and confirmed his infantile resentments so effectively that the later rational discovery that his own circumstances were actually exceptional could no longer modify the attitude already set up.

These are the processes which, in a less obvious form, lead the father identifier to restrict the freedom of women and to set a high value on female chastity. In contrast, the matrist assigns a high status to women. To this can be attributed the second consequence: matrists tend to attach importance to the function of supplying food and shelter, to the succour and help of others-for this is precisely the function which the woman performs with regard to the infant-and he tends to regard interference with this function as a crime. It is therefore significant that today, in an age which (as I shall show later in more detail) has moved far in the direction of matrism, we find a great pre-occupation with schemes of social welfare and insurance, and especially with the assuring of an adequate supply of food, combined with a considerable toleration for crimes of unchastity, provided they are not accompanied by violence, but are performed by mutual consent.

Per contra, the role of the father in the family is to act as the final authority: the matrist, who has directed his resentments at the father, denies this authority. We should expect him to be opposed to tyranny, perhaps even a revolutionary, and as we shall later see, this is often the case. Furthermore, the patrist tends to be conservative-that is, he wishes to leave things as his father had arranged them, for to alter them would be a challenge to his authority. Conversely, the matrist, who wishes to overturn the father’s authority, we should expect to be an innovator or a progressive. These differences were amusingly demonstrated at the time when the National Gallery cleaned a number of pictures by Old Masters. In the controversy which followed, persons known to hold progressive views were uniformly in favour of the cleaning; those who opposed the cleaning seemed to be persons whose position in life suggested an authoritarian or conservative attitude. One of them, after producing a number of unconvincing reasons for not cleaning the pictures finally admitted that he did not think “we should touch anything which our forefathers had done, even if it were to improve it”.