Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Body piercing -a counterphobic mechanism to combat hysterical fear of genital sex?

I recently came across two women who had great fear of being penetrated by needles and in both cases I found that the phobic fear of needles had found its pathological reinforcement from a hysterical fear of genital sex.
Now almost everybody has some queasy aversion to being poked by hypodermic needles even for vaccination or blood drawing which are no more painful than a mild pinch. But when the fear is completely out of proportion to the pain involved, the psychoanalyst is forced to assume that some neurotic process is at work, and the source of fear is from some other conflict of which the person is not aware of in his conscious mind.
The easiest way out is to explain it away as some higher sensitivity to pain in these individuals, because of this gyrus or that cortex of the brain or some other neurological gobbledygook. But when we find that these same individuals show no hypersensitivity to pain in so many other areas of life, in fact they eagerly court pain, then the neurological explanations start ringing hollow.
In both of my patients there was great fascination for body piercing and adorning themselves with rings, nails, and other shiny stuff. One of them had 10 piercings through her nose and lips and the other 12 through her ears. And both had tattooed their bodies as well.
In both the patients it could be confirmed that there was disinclination for genital sex, a fright at being poked by some strange man, of being violated genitally, and a fear of the pain that they anticipated, or must have once anticipated, that must be involved in the process, and the shame associated with playing the passive role in sex and of being treated as a sexual object by a man.
Both the women were highly tomboyish in their younger years and even now took pride in never taking any nonsense from any man.
One even had nails pierced through her lips, and analysis showed this nailing of her mouth was to prevent herself from biting the penis off of any man who behaved like "a prick" with her. An interesting fantasy [neurotic fear] of this girl was of zombies taking over the world and cannibalizing humans. The man-eating zombies, of course, were projection of her own ambivalent desire to have oral sex with a man and then bite off his penis for being subjected to the humiliation of placing her mouth on his penis.
That her nailing of the lips was a symbolic, though unconscious, attempt to prevent her from acting out her oral aggression was further bolstered by the fact that she had recurring dreams of her teeth falling out. These appeared to be punishment wishes for the impulse to bite off the penis.
The nails she had placed on her lips after piercing them looked unmistakably like fangs. So while they had been placed there to block her oral aggression, the original impulse had broken through and they nevertheless looked like fangs of a tigress. She had tattoos etched on her forearms that proclaimed prominently give respect on one side and get respect on the other. The explanation she gave for having these tattoos was that for others to get respect from her they must first give respect to her. It was once again rejection of the humiliation involved in being the object of genital sex.
So it appears that aversion to genital sex, and a neurotic inhibition in dealing with genital areas, was being handled by great adornment of the face, and upper body, with shiny jewelery and intriguing tattoos, and all in order to deflect attention from the lower to the higher parts of the body.
Now we know that hysterical women and men often get accused for being a tease. They love to flaunt their sexuality a la Marlyn Monroe, and are easily excitable and flamboyant like Elton John and Liberace. However, when it comes to actual genital sex they flee from it. Of course some of them can overindulge in sex - some even to the point of nymphomania - but a little analysis shows that it is more a show of sex to convince oneself and others of one's lack of fear of sex. It is a cover up for the humiliating realization that one cannot derive normal pleasure from genital sex. Their steamy sexual behavior on analysis shows to be fantasies of how sex should be and modeled after what one has watched, head, or read about sex.. Their sexuality is more about flamboyant display of non-genital body parts, with bright makeup, gaudy dresses, and shocking plumes, feathers and hairdos. Sex is "a big act" for such artistic folks.
Could all those piercing and putting of nails and rings in the nostrils and ears may also not be displacement of the sexual act from the genitals to the face? Now we do know that in hysteria other parts of the body take over the role of genitals. Globus hystericus occurs when the mouth and esophagus start acting like the genitals. In fact the Greeks defined hysteria as "wandering uterus". Could piercing and putting nails through also may not be symbolic creation of another genital passage that is being penetrated by the nail? Now Freud has considered hysteria as a fright and fleeing away from genital sex because of premature exposure to adult sexuality - sexual demands made upon the child when her genitals are devoid of sexual sensations, hence incapable of reacting to the demand appropriately, and thus compelled to discharge the stimulation from other parts of the body than the genitals. High erotogenicity of pregenital sexuality in hysterics can be explained as a result of this displacement.
But why does not fear of genital sexuality cause a simple inhibition without the need to recreate symbolic genital sexuality on face and other parts of the body? Why the displacement? It appears as if the original fright of the genital penetration makes the child flee, but later in life she regroups to try to brave the trauma once again, this time with more experience and courage. However, not at the original spot where the trauma has left permanent scars but in areas where she feels she has greater strength to handle the pain.
This first sounds too far fetched, but let us not forget that fear can have very diverse effects. The fear of castration in hands of the father leads one to abandon all Oedipal sexual striving, giving up of infantile masturbation, and a regular arousal of fear whenever one is tempted towards having sex with anybody who reminds one of the mother. Yet, the same boy who is full of fear of father in matter of sex can show tremendous fearlessness in other areas of masculinity. In fact their behavior becomes full of defiance and opposition to make a show of their masculinity.
Many wrestlers who give up heterosexuality out of fear and deference to the father may show no fear at all in entering into mortal combat with other wrestlers. So inhibition due to fear in one area of psyche may provoke a compensatory excessive boldness in another. Dare devils who are looking to climb up the highest mountain or descend in to the deepest valley, and sky dive from breathless heights, are in some sense undoing the psychic trauma of facing the fear of the father in which they were bested by him and which produced a permanent damage to their sexual potency. Now they seek father figures, which include anything majestic in nature to turn the tables.
And we see the same overcompensation in the people who pierce and seek tattoos. They look so brave and fearless but at the very core it is an exaggerated reversal of one's inability to bear pain of genital sex, and all the problems that come attached with having genital sex, including pregnancy which destroys woman's youth. And we know how narcissistic hysterical women are about their beautiful bodies.

12 comments:

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