Scopophilia

 

Freud isolates scopophilia as one of the component instincts of sexuality that exist as drives independently of the subject’s erotogenic zones: in scopophilia, the subject takes other people as objects of (sexual) pleasure by subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze. Freud also associates the impulse for mastery and control with the “anal” phase of child development (the time when the child learns to control its (pleasurable) toilet functions while being supervised by an authority figure—a parent. See “Character and anal erotism,” S.E., 9:169-175). Freud’s examples centre on the voyeuristic activities of children, and their desire to see the private and forbidden (e.g., curiosity about other people’s genital and bodily functions, about the presence or absence of the penis, etc.). “Dirt” in Nineteen Eighty-Four is associated with this. Parsons’ children are emblematic of the global tendency towards scopophilia in the novel.

 

TOUCHING AND LOOKING: Neither can be considered to be “perversions” so long as in the long run the sexual act is carried out. Scopophilia becomes a “perversion” when the following conditions apply: 1) touching/ looking are restricted exclusively to the genitals; 2) touching/ looking are connected to an overriding disgust; or, 3) touching/ looking supplant the “normal” sexual aim (S.E 7:156-157). In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the party seeks to connect sex with disgust (Winston’s wife) and seeks to dispense with the sex act altogether whilst harnessing its energy (this accounts for the propaganda rallies and “sex-crime”).

 

SADISM AND MASOCHISM: According to Freud, S&M are the most common and significant of the perversions. Sadism is said to be active in nature, while masochism is passive. The roots of sadism lie in aggressiveness and produce a desire to control/ subjugate the other (especially in the male). Sadism corresponds to a component sexual instinct where the desire to subjugate and control has become independent of the erotogenic zones and becomes exaggerated: it thus supplants the sex drive.

 

Masochism occurs in situations where satisfaction is conditional upon suffering—either physically or mentally—at the hands of the sexual object (7:157). This other acts as an “extraneous self” which turns the drive back onto the subject’s own body. However, if masochism is sadism turned upon the subject’s self, then the self also becomes a sexual object (7:158). Self and other are therefore blurred. This process underlies Big Brother’s surveillance insofar as the individual subjects him/herself to control and aggression through a fear of being seen by others. The most remarkable feature of this perversion, says Freud, is that its active and passive forms are habitually found together in the same individual: “A sadist is always at the same time a masochist.” This is so even if the active/ passive dichotomy is strongly developed (7:159). Freud concludes that impulses to these “perversions” may be due to the bisexuality of humans (7:160).  

 

See The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological works of Sigmund Freud (S.E.), volumes 7 and 9. Translated from the German under the general editorship of James Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud.