The Freudian myth in the sexual contract

From The Sexual Contract by Carole Pateman:

“The original contract is a sexual-social pact, but the story of the sexual contract has been repressed. Standard accounts of social contract theory do not discuss the whole story and contemporary contract theorists give no indication that half the agreement is missing. The story of the sexual contract is also about the genesis of political right, and explains why exercise of the right is legitimate — but this story is about political right as patriarchal right or sex-right, the power that men exercise over women. The missing half of the story tells how a specifically modern form of patriarchy is established. The new civil society created through the original contract is a patriarchal social order.

Social contract theory is conventionally presented as a story about freedom. One interpretation of the original contract is that the inhabitants of the state of nature exchange the insecurities of natural freedom for equal, civic freedom which is protected by the state. In civil society freedom is universal; all adults enjoy the same civil standing and can exercise their freedom by, as it were, replicating the original contract when, for example, they enter into the employment contract or the marriage contract.

Another interpretation, which takes into account conjectural histories of the state of nature in the classic texts, is that freedom is won by sons who cast off their natural subjection to their fathers and replace paternal rule by civil government. Political right as paternal right is inconsistent with modern civil society. In this version of the story, civil society is created through the original contract after paternal rule — or patriarchy — is overthrown. The new civil order, therefore, appears to be anti-patriarchal or post-patriarchal. Civil society is created through contract so that contract and patriarchy appear to be irrevocably opposed.

These familiar readings of the classic stories fail to mention that a good deal more than freedom is at stake. Men’s dominance over women, and the right of men to enjoy sexual access to women, is at issue in the making of the original pact. The social contract is a story of freedom; the sexual contract is a story of subjection. The original contract constitutes both freedom and domination. Men’s freedom and women’s subjection are created through the original contract — and the character of civil freedom cannot be understood without the missing half of the story that reveals how men’s patriarchal right over women is established through contract. Civil freedom is not universal. Civil freedom is a masculine attribute and depends upon patriarchal right. The sons overturn paternal rule not merely to gain their liberty but to secure women for themselves. Their success in this endeavour is chronicled in the story of the sexual contract. The original pact is a sexual as well as a social contract: it is sexual in the sense of patriarchal — that is, the contract establishes men’s political right over women — and also sexual in the sense of establishing orderly access by men to women’s bodies. The original contract creates what I shall call, following Adrienne Rich, ‘the law of male sex-right’. Contract is far from being opposed to patriarchy; contract is the means through which modern patriarchy is constituted.”

Immediately, Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis came to my mind. You know, the Oedipal complex (from the myth of Oedipus) where he stated that male children seek to overthrow their fathers because they are attracted to and want to possess their mothers; unsuccessful resolution of this complex leads to neurosis, pedophilia, and homosexuality. Then there was the Elektra complex, among other theories. Only his theories were debunked – though not completely eradicated from men’s prejudices towards women. But with Pateman’s analysis we can say that the overthrow of the father was a collective, political endeavor, not an individualistic one. And it was successful, at least in the West. Hence why feminists state even secular men are misogynists; they’ve only removed God from the hierarchy of God > Man > Woman. It makes even more sense considering God not only as male but as the Father above all fathers. Another difference is that homosexuality doesn’t result from unsuccessful resolution of complexes or an interruption of psychological development, nor is it in any way similar to pedophilia, but that gay male supremacy is still male supremacy (x, x)


About Cammy

female artist knitter bookworm 34 years old bisexual spiritual atheist 420 friendly traveler occasional poet i have 3 blogs - 1 for poetry, 1 for politics and 1 for spirituality. anything else you want to know, take the time to get to know me and ask. concern trolls need not apply.
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