Body pleasure and the origins of violence

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Human violence is fast becoming a global epidemic. [...] Recent research supports the point of view that the deprivation of physical pleasure is a major ingredient in the expression of physical violence. [...] Laboratory experiments with animals show that pleasure and violence have a reciprocal relationship, that is, the presence of one inhibits the other. [...]

I also examined the influence of extramarital sex taboos upon crime and violence. The data clearly indicates that punitive-repressive attitudes toward extramarital sex are also linked with physical violence, personal crime, and the practice of slavery. Societies which value monogamy emphasize military glory and worship aggressive gods. These cross-cultural data support the view of psychologists and sociologists who feel that sexual and psychological needs not being fulfilled within a marriage should be met outside of it, without destroying the primacy of the marriage relationship. [...]

Crime and physical violence have substantially increased over the past decade in the United States. According to FBI statistics, both murder and aggravated assault increased 53 percent between 1967 and 1972, while forcible rape rose 70 percent. These figures again raise the question of the special relationship between sexuality and violence. In addition to our rape statistics, there is other evidence that points to preference for sexual violence over sexual pleasure in the United States. This is reflected in our acceptance of sexually explicit films that involve violence and rape, and our rejection of sexually explicit films for pleasure only (pornography). Neighborhood movie theaters show such sexually violent films as Straw Dogs, Clockwork Orange, and The Klansman, while banning films which portray sexual pleasure (Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones). Attempts to close down massage parlors are another example of our anti-pleasure attitudes. Apparently, sex with pleasure is immoral and unacceptable, but sex with violence and pain is moral and acceptable. [...]

Within Judeo-Christian thought the purpose of human life was to save the soul, and the body was seen as an impediment to achieving this objective. Consequently, the body must be punished and deprived. In St. Paul's words: "Put to death the base pursuits of the body - for if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" (Romans 8:13). St. Paul clearly advocated somatosensory pleasure deprivation and enhancement of painful somatosensory stimulation as essential prerequisites for saving the soul. [...]

Another explanation may be that the increasing sexual freedom of women is threatening to man's position of power and dominance over women which he often maintains through sexual aggression. Rape destroys sensual pleasure in woman and enhances sadistic pleasure in man. Through rape, man defends himself from the sensual pleasures of women which threaten his position of power and dominance. [...] Available data clearly indicate that the rigid values of monogamy, chastity, and virginity help produce physical violence. [...]

If we strive to increase the pleasure in our lives this will also affect the ways we express aggression and hostility. The reciprocal relationship between pleasure and violence is such that one inhibits the other; when physical pleasure is high, physical violence is low. When violence is high, pleasure is low. This basic premise of the somatosensory pleasure deprivation theory provides us with the tools necessary to fashion a world of peaceful, affectionate, cooperative individuals. The world, however, has limited time to correct the conditions that propel us to violent confrontations. Modern technologies of warfare have made it possible for an individual or nation to bring total destruction to large segments of our population. And the greatest threat comes from those nations which have the most depriving environments for their children and which are most repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality. We will have the most to fear when these nations acquire the weapons of modern warfare. Tragically, this has already begun.

source: Article 'Body pleasure and the origins of violence' by James W. Prescott (neuropsychologist, health scientist administrator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland. Member of the Board of Directors of the American Humanist Association.; www.violence.de/prescott/bulletin/article.html; from 'The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists'; November 1975; Also in The Futurist; April 1975