Lets talk about sex

From the outside you’d probably think that anyone working in psychoanalytic circles is talking about sex ALL the time.

Actually my experience is that in the hallowed circles of psychoanalysis although we skip like young gazelles over the topics of death, psychosis and sadism put us in front of an act of psychic copulation and we’re stumbling around like a bunch of girls from a Swiss finishing school at a Young Farmers’ disco an hour before midnight.


Last week a ‘good idea’ I pitched to the London School of Economics to celebrate 100 years of Freud’s On Narcissism at next year’s literary festival was accepted. Not put off by narcissism being the most written about and muddlin’ concept in Freudian thought I’ll be doing an event looking at the impact of online technologies and free porn on our attitudes towards sex, work and relationships.



Secure in the belief that the LSE wouldn’t have the, well, balls to do it I didn’t hold back on a question we’ve all been tip toeing our way around for some time. Is the use of technology leading to an increase in narcissistic withdrawals from the difficult business of relationships with real people?


Have we come to use the anonymity of the internet to avoid the blood n guts stuff of intimacy, or, is online porn turning us into wankers?  Discuss.


My immediate reaction to actually securing a public platform to discuss sex with the outside world was firstly to deny everything and state “I don’t know anything about sex” followed by a good blub at the prospect of having to say the word ‘masturbation’ out loud in public.


Note to self: Like a good sexual fantasy, some things are better when they’re just in your head.


Tempting as it is to pretend that surviving work has got nothing to do with sex, this might turn out to be an opportunity to throw aside my puerile ways and grow up.


Freud said that love and work are the ‘cornerstones of our humanness’, two connected attempts to be in the world with other human beings. Whatever our relationship with work, we do it as human beings full of libidinal urges and the desire for intercourse with others.  All over the world, attempts are made to produce things with others, involving hard work, slaps and tickles and the hope of ending the day with a bit of mutual work satisfaction.


The desire to connect and create is alive and kicking in a workplace near you.  Sexuality is a very important piece of the workplace jigsaw. It’s just that it often gets lost behind the staff room sofa, lurking quietly until that unfeasibly handsome youth from the Birmingham office tries to complete the picture.


Concerned that I’m about to spend the next 4 months stuttering and blushing,  I started my research on the safe turf of academic research – from the narcissistic implications of having a primary relationship with an ipad to the growth of narcissistic personality disorders in 15 year old girls in Glasgow.


I then adopted, with striking psychic ease, the identity of a teenage boy and went online to see what porn I could access without a credit card. At which point I became actively afraid.


One aspect of narcissism is the absence of empathy, being willing and able to put yourself in the position of other people. No wonder then that there’s a link between porn and narcissism. Getting a kick out of porn requires us to mess around with our mental health to numb us from the trauma of watching the distress of the real people on screen. It’s not that I’m against a massive societal cull of sexual inhibitions but watching another human being in pain doesn’t hit the right spot.


Not wishing to reduce everything to sex, it also matters that Surviving Work is a female. Following the 2013 Summer of Hate there’s no need to be optimistic about online hostile projections of the sexual variety towards women with opinions. Although working in mental health, and being a bit cheeky  about death, loneliness and despair is not always met with a warm hug, add sex to the mix and I’m wondering if I’m about to move from the mental health front line to neatly folding my clothes and leaving them on the sea shore.


I’m a big fan of technologies that allow us to know the things that are hard to face up to. In the world of mental health this is crucial, to be able to explore ideas and experiences without the judgement of others. So I’m not on a moral crusade here, but I am asking the question whether in this age of narcissistic withdrawal we need to work harder to protect each others humanity.


Periodically over the next few months we’ll be talking about sexuality, intimacy and narcissism asking how to be intimate with the people around you, including the ones you work with. And you won’t be asked to hand over either your humanity or your credit card number for this hard core psychic journey.

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