8. SEXUAL MALADJUSTMENT
In our society, the word "maladjustment" is easily misused. All sorts of individualistic, energetic, enterprising, curious, critical, and creative people are called maladjusted by conformist dullards who are afraid of any sign of spontaneity. In fact, very often the so-called well-adjusted person who passively accepts oppressive living conditions is the one with the problem. In some situations, maladjustment is the only proper response.
This is especially true in regard to sexual oppression. People who have no difficulty renouncing their sexual interests, who readily adapt to narrow sexual roles, and who never question the official sexual morality hardly seem human and (if indeed they exist) may very well be unfeeling, dangerous characters. Actually, and perhaps fortunately, in real life this kind of total adjustment is rare. After all, not even the most righteous New England Puritans were always free of temptation. No matter how hard they tried to conform to their rigid culture, they never succeeded for long. Thus, by their own unrealistic standards, they were sexually maladjusted, but actually they had little reason to feel guilty.
Our own present culture still contains many puritanical elements, although to the superficial observer it may seem that we have freed ourselves from most of the traditional fetters. However, our moral values, criminal laws, and medical standards still reflect an arbitrary and very restrictive sexual ideal. Thus, now as before, a certain amount of maladjustment is unavoidable. In other words, under the present circumstances only very few people can claim to be perfectly happy in their sexual lives.
On the other hand, it remains an open question whether complete sexual liberation is even possible. To some extent, sexual misery may simply be part of the human condition. Or perhaps it is a price we have to pay for being civilized creatures. At any rate, it seems childish and insolent to insist at all times on total gratification. A mature person can live with some disappointment and does not always expect to be in harmony with his surroundings. Where he sees room for improvement, he readily works for it, but he also learns to accept what he cannot change.
Therefore, given the general imperfection of the world, and taking into account the inevitable frustrations of our particular civilization, we should not become disturbed by every instance of sexual maladjustment. After all, very often it is merely a sign of life. Indeed, both the ready suppression of all personal sexual desires and the stubborn insistence on their complete satisfaction seem to merit much greater concern. Most human beings spontaneously try to find a reasonable balance between these two extremes. They may very well be maladjusted, but they neither want nor need professional help.
It seems necessary to repeat these truisms here because otherwise the following remarks could easily be misunderstood. When we now proceed to discuss various specific forms of sexual maladjustment, we do not necessarily imply that they represent "unnatural" conditions, moral transgressions, crimes, or diseases. We simply recognize that in some men and women the "normal" lack of sexual conformity or contentment can become aggravated to the point where it seriously interferes with their ability to maintain simple personal relationships. Or, stated in another way, certain people are sexually so ill at ease that some outside intervention seems justified and desirable, either in their own interest or in that of their partners.
We are, of course, not talking about physical shortcomings, malformations, or handicaps, or about illness in the usual sense of the word. These are discussed in detail elsewhere in this book (see "Some Physical Problems."). Instead, we are referring to persons whose bodies are perfectly healthy, and whose sexual problems are of a psychological nature. For example, some men and women suffer from a psychological impairment of their sexual response. They are, to use a current professional term, "sexually inadequate". However, many of them can be helped by some special sex therapy. Others are so helplessly inflexible in their sexual behavior that they become unhappy with themselves and inconsiderate of others. Their sexual acts either constitute some frustrating and self-defeating ritual or turn into outright assault. Therefore, they can only be described as compulsive and destructive. In extreme cases, such individuals have to be restrained by the law. Very often, however, they can also profit from some form of psychotherapy.
Finally, there are some persons who are maladjusted to their very anatomies. Through no fault of their own, they have developed a gender identity that is contradicted by their biological sex. They feel that they are trapped in the wrong body, and therefore they cannot be truly happy until the mistake is corrected. Only a "sex change" will eventually bring them full peace of mind. Obviously, these so-called transsexuals appreciate any professional intervention which can bring them closer to their goal.
The following pages provide some basic information about the problems of sexual inadequacy, problematic sexual behavior, and transsexualism, The social implications of some of these behaviors are discussed more fully in the third part of this book, "Sex and Society."