Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

This attitude, as can readily be understood, might well contribute to another characteristic of patrists – a dislike of research and enquiry. To them, enquiry is a thing which may well uncover what would much better be kept dark. Freud suggested that the roots of the desire for knowledge consist in a desire for sexual knowledge, and in particular a desire to confirm the Oedipal suspicion; so it is not difficult understand why the patrist – generalising his unconscious determined attitudes in the customary way-should regret the pursuit of knowledge with suspicion. Here again, whether one accepts the Freudian explanation or not, the facts of Christian history demonstrate with what ferocity the medieval Church opposed scientific enquiry. Roger Bacon, though a friar, was imprisoned for many years as a result of his impious enquiries. Cecco d’Ascoli, who suggested that the earth was round and cast the horoscope of Jesus Christ, was burned alive. Peter d’Abano only escaped a like fate by dying in prison. As early as the fourth century Eusebius had attacked scientific enquiry, expressing his contempt for this “useless labour”; by the eighth century, when Vergil of Salzburg revived the idea that on the other side of the earth might be found the Antipodes, Boniface condemned it as “iniquitous and perverse”. By the fourteenth century, things had reached the point at which the Church induced the rulers of France, Spain and other territories to forbid all physical experimentation. (247)

Finally, I must come to a topic which will recur throughout the book, and from which we can derive some very significant clues: this is the regular variation in public attitudes towards incest and homosexuality. We shall find that in matrist periods, incest is a common pre-occupation and seems invested with a peculiar horror; while in patrist periods homosexuality seems to dominate men’s thoughts and appears to them as the unspeakable sin.

Whenever an act is invested with supernatural horror, we can diagnose the presence of unconscious processes. This is not the place to enter into a complete examination of the psychological processes underlying these attitudes, but it seems essential to make two points.

The reason why patrists should be preoccupied with homosexuality and matrists with incest, is to be found in the Oedipus situation. As already noted, the small child deals with the Oedipus situation in one of two ways. In order to retain exclusive rights to his mother’s love and to eliminate the paternal rival, the child may identify himself with the father, at the cost of suppressing his love for him. This is the patrist solution, with heterosexual love preserved and homosexual love suppressed. The alternative solution is to identify with the mother and take her place, retaining the father’s love. This produces, if not outgrown, the state known as inversion, or homosexuality as the word is popularly used. The individual concerned thinks of himself as a woman, and devotes all his erotic feeling to men.

But it is obviously much easier for a boy to identify with his father, since he is in fact a male, than it is for him to identify with his mother. We therefore get a third possibility: the individual who has retained his love for his mother without identifying with his father.

Now, just as the boy’s love for his father is in the strict sense homosexual, so his love for his mother is in the strict sense incestuous. And just as, if he suppresses the first, homosexuality becomes a preoccupation, so, if he suppresses the second, incest becomes his preoccupation, and seems to him the most awful of sins. Here we have the case of the matrist, the person who, while remaining sexually normal, models himself upon his mother rather than his father, tends to see his relationship with a woman as a mother son relation, and feels incest to be the unforgivable sin.