With all of the hullabaloo about the twittering of Anthony Weiner (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/12/anthony-weiner-photos-resign_n_875534.html), We asked ourselves, “Why weren’t we writing a blog about his escapades?” Sure, he for the past three years, sent twitters of himself in various states of dress and undress to women who because of their interest in his political prowess, thought they would like to see his package. Not a particularly glaring oversight considering the acts of other politicians, (Schwarzenegger, Vitter, Ensign) and sports figures (Favre, Woods). Why didn’t he cease and desist after marrying Huma Abedin or when he discovered that he would have a child and become a father? Now his wife has to decide if he has been unfaithful with his sexting (http://www.timeslive.co.za/lifestyle/article1114177.ece/Is-sexting-the-new-age-version-of-infidelity). He even continued his sexting after Andrew Breitbart and others told him they were on his tail and let him know what they found. This must be a pervasive, well-established behavior, but very understandable to us experts in human behavior but strange to most others. How might we make sense of this?
The father of psychoanalysis and the greatest influence in personality theory (Schultz & Schultz, 2005), Sigmund Freud, asserted that boys love their mothers from about age 4, the phallic stage of child development. The boy overtly expresses his love for his mother and fantasizes about realizing his love for her. He competes with his father for his mother’s love. The son knows the father has a special relationship with his mother, which causes him to feel jealous of and then angry with his father. Freud wrote, “I have found love of the mother and jealousy of the father in my own case, too.” (Freud, 1954,p.223) The son expects that the father will attack him by cutting off his penis, the source of the boy’s sexual maternal interests and this becomes, what Freud called, castration anxiety. This anxiety is worsened when the son is punished by the father for masturbating or even for the desire to masturbate. How can the son get rid of such an unpleasant emotional state? He identifies with the father and seeks to behave like him and can redirect his sexual longing for his mother with acceptable forms of expression of affection, such as bringing his mother flowers or helping her with household chores. By discovering acceptable expressions of love for his mother, the son resolves his Oedipal Complex, seeks work that symbolizes his male virility, and remains proud of his penis.
For Freud, girls had a greater developmental challenge when they realized that they did not have a penis. They would feel inferior and blame their mother, which could become hate. Freud wrote that “girls feel deeply their lack of a sexual organ that is equal in value to the male one: they regard themselves on that account as inferior and this envy for the penis is the origin of a whole number of characteristic feminine reactions” (Freud, 1925, p212). Freud identified these feelings of little girls as penis envy.
So little boys, four and five years old, will masturbate in front of others, because of the pride they have for their penis and their wanting to let the world know they are just like their Dads. They are usually punished for such acts and with maturation, they discover socially acceptable ways to satisfy their passionate needs. When a mature adult behaves like a five year old, a follower of Freud would conclude that he has not sufficiently resolved his Oedipal Complex and therapy is pursued to accomplish what nature has failed to achieve.
There are other theories that are useful to understand why men would want to send women pictures of their penis or shots of them undressed sporting the results of their workout. Gorillas will flex their muscular bodies, beat their chests, and show off in front of the female. However, female Gorillas usually start the ritual by touching their lips or sitting on the male’s lap. With power and social status comes an increased risk of men seeking mates outside of their monogamous relationship (Knox, Vail-Smith, and Zusman, 2008) and women are soliciting men by sexting, and if Mr. Weiner had googled, he could have read rules for sexting men (http://www.askmen.com/dating/dating_advice_400/477_sexting-etiquette.html).
So what are women to do? Karen Horney was so incensed by Freud’s postulating woman’s penis envy that she defected from his psychoanalytic doctrine and found her own school of psychoanalysis. Horney considered Freud’s view that women envied the penis as demeaning and asserted that men feel inferior because they cannot bear children and consequently, suffer from womb envy. “Is not the tremendous strength in men of the impulse to creative work in every field precisely due to their feeling of playing a relatively small part in the creation of living beings, which constantly impels them to an overcompensation in achievement?” Horney explained.(http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/bio_karenhorney.htm)
Kristen Schaal, the Women’s Issue Correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (http://www.thedailyshow.com/), perhaps most accurately summarized Anthony Weiner’s goal for his therapy. There is an “age old misconception; that women want more information about your penis and that seeing it will make you more attractive. Men need to realize their penis has far more power over them than it has over us.”
Best wishes to Anthony Weiner as he pursues his treatment.
Freud, S. (1925) An autobiographical study. In Standard Edition (Vol. 20). London: Hogarth Press.
Freud, S. (1954). The origins of psychoanalysis:Letters to Wilhelm Fleiss, drafts and notes: 1887-1902. M. Bonaparte, A. Freud, & E. Kris (Eds.). New York: Basic Books.
Horney, K. (1939). New ways in psychoanalysis. New York, Norton.
Knox, D., Vail-Smith,K,., and Zusman, M. (2008). Men are dogs’: Is the sterotype justified? Data on the cheating college male. College Student Journal, Vol 42(4), Dec, 2008. Pp. 1015-1022.
Schultz, Duane P., & Schultz, Sydney Ellen, Theories of Personality, 8th.ed.,Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.