Reich and Radical Sexual Politics

“Marriage as a tie, family as a duty, fatherland as a value in itself, morality as authority, religion as an obligation deriving from eternity.

The rigidity of the human musculature could not be more accurately described!””

                            -Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism”


Wilhelm Reich was a revolutionary. His life work was to systematically create the basis for radical sexual politics, a concept that didn’’t exist in his day. Working alongside Freud, yet transcending the narrow confines of Freudian thought, Reich attempted to change the framework of psychoanalysis to include the biological functions of the body, including and especially the sexual functions that are commonly blocked and suppressed. Reich was uncompromising in his emphasis on ““the sexual question”” and fierce in his analysis of state oppression, two stances which would eventually lead to his death in prison, which many say was at the hands of the state.

According to Reich,

“…”…patriarchal family attitudes [which are the basis of sexual repression] and a religious frame of mind are the basic psychological elements of fascism and imperialistic nationalism in the masses.””

Together these two cultural forces work against the common good of society in subtle yet undeniable ways. By suppressing natural sexuality and replacing it with feelings of religious ecstasy, those in power have not only successfully locked all of society into culturally and religiously upheld expectations, but have also locked the musculature into a set pattern of rigidity, blocking the sexual and energetic freedom necessary for revolutionary action.

“”More than the economic dependency of the wife and children on the husband and father is needed to preserve the institution of the authoritarian family. For the suppressed classes, the dependency is endurable only on the condition that the consciousnesses of being a sexual being is suspended as completely as possible in women and children… Sexual awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology.””

Liberation means then, changing both the landscape of sexual politics on a mass scale and consciously unlearning what we have been taught about sexuality and morality on a personal level. This is no easy process! The effects of sexual repression and religious morality- guilt, anxiety, etc.- are stored in our very being. Our muscles, along with our whole biological system, hold these tensions in very literal ways. Therefore the process of liberation requires both mental and physical work.

“”For if religious feelings are not imposed on us, but are embedded and retained in our structures, opposed as they are to our own vital interests, then what is needed is an energetic change in our [physical] structures.””

Reich called for a massive campaign of revolutionary sexual politics. He has much to teach today’s radical community. The current campaigns of radical queers, public-sex advocates and sex-positive provocateurs remind me of Reich’’s proposed mission. Reich was effectively silenced by those who opposed his ideas, and his credibility has been questioned. Yet his ideas have spread seeds far and wide. His books were required reading in many universities internationally for years, yet those who are embarrassed by talk of sexuality and politically offended by radical propaganda have smeared his name and wiped him from memory, along with the medicine of witches and all other threats to patriarchy. But his memory will not be forgotten. So here’’s to Wilhelm Reich- the revolutionary!

“”It is a question of making suppression conscious, of dragging the fight between sexuality and religious morality into the light of consciousness, and bringing it to head under the pressure of a mass ideology and translating it into social action.

…Let me stress once more that the objective loosening of reactionary shackles placed on sexuality cannot under any circumstances be retightened. This is our greatest strength… If revolutionary sexuality is carried out consistently, political reaction would have no answer and no counter-ideology. It’s ascetic teachings are tenable only as long as sexual affirmation in the masses is secret and fragmentary, only as long as it is not collectively organized and directed against political reaction’s asceticism.””


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