Does repression of sexuality lead to 'abnormal' desires?

This came up in a pit thread recently (I’ll provide a link if anyone is interested); essentially, it seems to have been suggested that repressing one’s natural sexual behaviour could result in sexual desires that could not be considered ‘normal’ - for example a person taking a vow of celibacy and as a result of (the supposed) frustration and denial, acquiring the desire to molest young children.

Is there any evidence or reasonable argument to show that this is the case?

I doubt it. I’ve never gotten any nookie and I haven’t gone about hunting for tots.

Ok, some expansion. I don’t think anyone could say for an absolute certainty. I think its all bum, but I don’t believe anyone’s done any heavy research into Celibacy leading to perversion.

Or perhaps to look as it another way; is it possible that increasing the number of taboos might stimulate a desire to violate more of them (more of the pre-existing ones) than you otherwise would have?

Well, even if one isn’t celibate, one often has to suppress desires. I’m married, which means I have to suppress desires for other women all the time! Does suppressing this desire for other women lead me to lust after little boys? Of COURSE not!

Similarly, I doubt strongly whether any otherwise healthy, heterosexual male is driven to pedophilia by celibacy. Look, celibacy is a VERY hard requirement for anyone, straight or gay. But a frustrated celibate straight priest doesn’t start molesting boys. He may take cold showers, he may resign, or he may break his vow and see a woman on the sly, but the nature of his natural desires doesn’t change.

Good point, although there’s clearly an inportant difference between suppressing some of your desires (while still maintaining an outlet for the rest) and suppressing all of them.

Still, you make a very good case (I didn’t start this thread with any firm views on the subject).

Preist pedophilia doesn’t strike me as stemming from a suppression of the human need for sex, but rather as stemming from suppressing the human need for control. The satisfaction from a regular job typically comes from financial reward allowing one to pursue hobbies, recognition, advancement, benefits and eventual retirement to a life of comfort, surrounded by grandchildren. Most if not all of these are absent in the priest’s life. There was a time when the Church was a formal ruling body and priests could live in decadence with financial rewards, but the modern asceticism means a man who joins the priesthood has to give up more than just sex; in addition to a vow of chastity, a Catholic priest also swears to poverty and obedience. Give such a man control and influence over children, when he has relatively little control over his own life, and abuse of the power becomes entirely likely.

A healthy stable adult can live without sex, but imagine cutting off sex and the simple pleasures of owning your own home, your own car, being able to go to movies whenever you like, being able to bitch to your buddies about what a bastard your boss is, have a beer now and then…

Bryan, in these (hypothetical) situations, would you say that the person in question has latent desires to abuse children or do you think it’s possible for such desires to arise brand new out of abstention?

Surely it is at least equally likely to work the other way around – those with dysfunctional sexual desires may be drawn to a celibate lifestyle that they hope will allow them to escape and/or deny their desires. Of course, this is doomed to fail.

So is it doomed to fail or likely to work; I’m confused.

“a Catholic priest also swears to poverty”

I don’t believe all Catholic orderes do this. I dopn’t think even a majority take this vow. In any event, the Church generally makes sure they are in reasonable comfort. I suppose that’s part of the reward for the task of being a Community leader and being available. In any event, I know Priests certainly have private property and have a pension type deal.

Hmmm… I think the question is an interesting one. I’ve wondered myself if I could find more release sexually that I would do and think the strange things that I do and think. Certainly when I had a passionate girlfriend none of these ideas really came to me, or if they did they weren’t quite as alluring as they are now. (Sorry, not the place for TMI IMO so no spilling the beans here)

But some taboos have always been with me. An attraction to younger women, and attraction to older women (some consider it taboo, though as I grow older the “older woman” thing fades away toward “women my age” :p), the desire to have a girl I can worship, the desire to have a girl that worships me. :shrug: Many have been lurking there from time to time, and those that I recognize as seeking expression since the beginning of my misadventures in sex are probably the same ones that would seek expression during my misadventrures in sex.

But, as I said, other ideas only seem to hang around when I am, shall we say, in a dry county. So, for me, the idea is interesting.

I think this question probably misses the central point of the issue. While it may be true that sexual desire becomes enhanced when the ability to fulfill desire is diminished or eliminated, I highly doubt it would expand the types of desires experienced by the subject.

I believe that pedophiliac priests are no different than pedophiliac day care workers or children’s group volunteers: They pick their occupation and activities so as to put them in proximity to their victims.

I am, of course, making a distinction between priests who have sexual relations with adult or near-adult congregation members, but then I don’t count those desires as unusual, rather a normal human subjection to temptation.

In all the research and works I’ve read on pedophilia and sexual predation, however, by the time the person is able to make a career decision, he or she is already past the point of return in terms of deviance. He or she may not have acted on the predatory desires yet, but they’re deeply rooted and present by the time one enters the workforce, as a priest or as a MacDonald’s manager.

So, in short, my answer to the OP is no.

I should point out that although I did mention vows of celibacy in my OP, I did not intend to limit the scope of this debate to priests.

This is something of a GQ on my part, because I’ll freely admit my ignorance on the matter, and I can’t back up what I’ve heard, but I think it’s relevant to this thread.

It’s my understanding that those who commit pedophilic acts fall into two categories. One is the true pedeophiles, those who are (exclusively or primarily) sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children of the same or opposite sex for whatever reason. The second type are people who aren’t primarily sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children, but who use them as a sexual outlet because of a lack of other oppurtunities.

If this is true, then the second type of child molesters are in a situation somewhat similar to what Mangetout describes. But there remains some difference. It’s not a case of repressed desires leading to different abnormal desires, but rather a lack of willing adult partners of whatever sex the child molester naturally prefers leads him or her to use whoever is available. Of course, while that may be children, it may not be as well. And the vast majority of people who have a lack of sexual oppurtunities (for whatever reason), don’t engage in rape or molestation, I believe. So a lack of oppurtunities probably won’t make someone molest others, but it may cause some sociopaths to do things they wouldn’t if they had other oppurtunities.

Or at least that’s how I understand it. I’m sure if I stated things too poorly someone will correct me.

Freud seemed to believe there might be a link between frustrated sexual desires and neuroses. He even talked about “libido” as though it were an important component of emotional well-being.

Wilhelm Reich, who started out as one of Freud’s followers and eventually became a total nutjob, was absolutely convinced that all neuroses stemmed from the repressed expression of sexuality. It didn’t matter whether the neurosis was perversion, prudishness, excessive caution, sadism, masochism, you name it – repressed sexuality was to blame for all of them.