Oral-genital intercourse has been practiced since primeval times. In the Orient, thousands of years of oral-genital activity have resulted in the development of fellatio as an art. African natives, at least those as yet untouched by all of “modern” society’s mores, find great interest in all forms of sexual stimulation and gratification, with the exception of the universal incest taboo. This applies as well to their counterparts in all the less “civilized” areas of the world.
However, members of civilized society indulge in oralism as well, and in a few countries in the Western world can do so freely. According to the laws of the United States, however, oral-genital sexual activity is strictly illegal, and, therefore, unethical and immoral. Morality is certainly not something which can be legislated, and oralism between consenting sexual partners cannot be termed unethical. That such laws have been established is proof of the horror with which many members of our society, composed of various ethnic groups, view oral sexuality, and this horror can no doubt be traced to guilt feelings resulting from inhibited sexual development. In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Freud points out the remarkable dichotomy regarding the use of the mouth as a normal sexual variation:
“The use of the mouth as a sexual organ is regarded as a perversion if the lips (or tongue) of one person are brought into contact with the genitals of another, but not if the mucous membranes of the lips of both of them come together.”
Those people who would experience real disgust at the thought of giving or receiving fellatio or cunnilingus, an act between two mucous membranes, in this case the mouth and genital, would think nothing of giving or receiving a passionate mouth-to-mouth kiss, which is a purely conventional meeting of two mucous membranes.
Subjectively, sexual activity, both infantile and mature, is connected with pleasure sensations which are different, in kind and intensity, from any other forms of gratification. And the very earliest pleasure sensations came from the mouth. The forerunner of fellatio was the mother’s breast, and, when the breast was removed, the thumb filled the void nicely, and baby was a self-contained sexual being, simultaneously self-stimulating and self-satisfying.
This satisfaction from sucking is removed from the first use of the mouth and tongue, namely nourishment, and becomes sensual for its own pleasure alone. It is a pleasurable enough experience to repeat often throughout life, and is obviously a universal characteristic.
While the openness with which people discuss their sexual activities and preferences varies from society to society, the activities themselves do not. Ethnic differences have as far as can be determined by the statistics at hand, no bearing on the relationship between sexual activity and oral-genital sexuality.
Religious differences, however, most certainly serve to influence sexual practices. The Amish and Quaker people are raised to view sexual activity as an adjunct to procreation only. Foreplay and sexual variation are unthinkable.
Conversely, Buddhists and their cultures arising there from pay special attention to schooling woman to serve man sexually to the best of her ability. It is a logical progression that fellatio is a learned skill in these cultures. In Japan, sexual attitudes have become so liberalized that, for the past twenty years, no stigma has attached to a bride for having formerly been a prostitute.
Muhammed, founder of Islam, so idolized woman that he attempted to raise her to a pedestal above man. However, in reality, the Islamic woman is regarded as little more than a sex object, and no concern is shown for her sexual enjoyment. Richard von Krafft-Ebing, in Psychopathia Sexualis, notes that:
Above all things Islamism excludes woman from public life and enterprise and stifles her intellectual and moral advancement. The Mohammed-an woman is simply a means for sensual gratification and the propagation of the species.
There is no doubt that oralism fulfills many sexual desires. Oral-genital contact provides sexual pleasure from the stimulation of two erogenous zones. Additionally, the close contact of face-to-genital proximity gratifies even the most ardent of voyeurs.
The oral stage of development is a natural stage for mankind. No one is ever taught to suck. It is a phylogenetic acquisition.
The early oral phase is accompanied by feelings of total pleasure. It nearly recapitulates the womb situation, where satisfaction was simultaneous with desire. The breast is perceived by the child, at this time, as a part of the child’s body and not a part of the mother.
Gradually, however, the infant learns the law of reality, deferred gratification. Initially, he won’t accept this situation and looks upon his mother as a punishing figure, the one who holds back the breast. But the situation progresses and eventually the breast is recognized as an object exterior to the self. In his attempt to interject this once greatly prized possession, he passes through a stage of oral “cannibalism”. Then, when the child grows his first teeth, weaning is made necessary and the breast is withdrawn forever. The normal child is able to overcome this “weaning trauma” and proceed to the next stage of psychosexual development, the anal-sadistic phase.
People who cling to the infantile sucking stage are always seriously hampered in the maturation of their sexuality. The instincts of nutrition and of sexuality remain connected to each other. The libido remains fixated and the primary esoteric zone is not transferred to complete concentration on genitality, the stage necessary for the propagation of the species.
To these oral-regressed and oral-fixated individuals, narcissism is the primary character trait. There is no exterior love object, and oral reincorporation of the longed-for breast and its contents remains the principal concern.
Sucking is a component instinct of the fully developed sexual organization. As such, it can be enjoyed as a sexual adjunct leading to the fulfillment of coitus. Only when it becomes the primary erotic zone do we speak of perversion.
Perversion is the psychodynamic opposite of neurosis. As the individual develops and matures, he learns to sublimate his desires. In other words, he displaces them onto other gratifying activities of a nonsexual nature. For example, one’s original bisexuality may be sublimated into the love for mankind in general or one’s desire for the mother may be displaced by various distracting activities. But the pervert has never learned to renounce one — if not more of his component instincts. In the case of orality, the punitive sucking and biting levels have been hard to renounce.
In the majority of instances the pathological character in a perversion is found to lie, not in the content of the new sexual aim, but in its relation to the normal. If a perversion, instead of appearing merely alongside the normal sexual aim and object, and only when circumstances are unfavorable to them and favorable to it — if, instead of this, it ousts them completely and takes their place in all circumstances if, in short, a perversion has the characteristics of exclusiveness and fixation — then we shall usually be justified in regarding it as a pathological symptom.
Possibly, this fixation may be caused by a trauma or a regression precipitated by an external and internal shock. Weaning itself comprises both of these types of trauma; the breast is removed externally, but it is considered as an internal loss. The trauma may even be provoked by a newly born brother or sister. The new addition to the family is viewed as a threat because of the envy created by the new child suckling on the much-desired breast. Normally, however, these traumas are overcome.
It is only when we find a strong fixation and a lack of inhibition together that we encounter a perverse personality. These fixated individuals are sometimes incapable of coitus.
In this book, we are basically dealing with oralerotic perversions. We must not forget that this type of individual is not only fixated upon the breasts and the nuclear element of non-separation of nutrition and sexuality, but the individual is also fixated upon the mother, with all that implies.
Additionally, mother-fixation develops passive identification with the mother. Primarily, the oral zone is passively structured, in a biological sense. It seeks to incorporate the breast which is a feminine or masochistic trait. Thus, we have said that the orally perverse individual is both masochistic in his incorporative function and sadistic in his cannibalistic function. This is seemingly a paradox. But the contrast between activity and passivity which lies behind them is a universal characteristic of sexual life. As Freud notes, in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality:
… the most remarkable feature of this perversion is that its active and passive forms are habitually found to occur together in the same individual. A person who feels pleasure in producing pain in someone else in a sexual relationship is also capable of enjoying as pleasure any pain which he may himself derive from sexual relations. A sadist is always at the same time a masochist, although the active or the passive aspect of the perversion may be the more strongly developed in him and may represent his predominant sexual activity.
But most importantly, what is normal or perverse is determined by the moral standards of the society in which we live. The social environment we live in is constantly changing and shifting. How far does this affect our ideas about normality and deviant behavior? One need not quote Kinsey to establish the fact that our aims and needs are largely conditioned by culture and social structure.
Is it a perversion when a man embraces and kisses another man? Or when a brother and sister perform sexual intercourse? Are they behaving in a perverted manner even though they are simply talking to each other? The answer is to be found, at least in part, in the relationship between the acts and the cultural environment in which they take place.
When the president of the French Republic embraces and kisses the recipient of a military honor, it is hardly regarded as an act of homosexual intention. Yet in other cultures, it might be a suspicious sign of asocial tendencies if two men merely touch each other. If a Japanese couple, proud of their ability to please each other with oral-genital sex, come to the United States, can they rightfully be arrested?
Similarly, it has frequently been pointed out that, in certain societies, brother-sister incest belonged to a particular institution within the socio-religious system. In sharp contrast, any sort of physical contact between male and female siblings is met with disgust, or even punishment, by a number of primitive people.
What often seem to be contradictions are actually culture-bound adaptations, rooted in the interaction between physiological, psychological and environmental forces. That is why normality is traditionally considered to be whatever the traditional behavior pattern in a culture dictates.
In view of the hundreds of cultures in the world, all exercising sexuality in whatever form the society considers normal; it is certainly difficult to ascertain what place oral-genital sexual activity would have in each. Many potentialities are molded by the cultural environment.
Warner Muensterberger summed it up well, in his Perversion, Cultural Norm and Normality, determining that:
We assume that our biological inheritance contains elements which decide certain behavioral tendencies. As these potentialities vary, it seems conceivable that any reaction type might be found in any ethnic milieu.
And of most importance, even in the most unified ethnic group, individual sexual behavior will in part be determined by the personal experience and erotic preference of each of its individuals, individually.
In the case histories which follow, it will be noted that only the places and incidental circumstances actually change. Whether we deal with a Negro female in Chicago or an Italian boy living in the sticks, we find that the same human impulses drive them, altered only by certain generational and ethnic characteristics of upbringing..."
The Many Tongues of Love