Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Smear of Reich: "The Story of V."

Another Smear of Reich: "The Story of V."

This noxious stuff just keeps on going.  First the Brady smears which brought Reich down.  Then came the slimy embrace of Dusan Makavejev, in a "popular" movie among the porno-craving crowd.

Now, the Makavejev smears get picked up, and used to misportray Reich as the pornographer.  Other people's dirty words are put into Reich's mouth, in what appears to be a deliberate move.

Below are the details.



Book Review on

The Story of V: A Natural History of Female Sexuality (Hardcover)
by Catherine Blackledge

Outrageous Lies In this Book, November 27, 2007
By James DeMeo (Ashland, OR USA)

The author gathers a lot of interesting material, but what stunned me was her apparent severe hatred for the important and pioneering sexual research findings of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, who in fact was one of the very first of the Freudians to speak favorably about female orgasm. But he also spoke about both male and female sexual impotence, identifying a lot of sexual behavior as rooted in sex-frustration and incapacity to achieve orgasm. This idea is hated by the S&M, "anything goes" advocates of "multiple sexualities". They hate Reich's guts. But instead of the author honestly making a criticism of Reich, citing from his publications that which she disagrees with, she instead quotes from the narrative of a pornographic film by the Yugoslavian director Dusan Makavajev -- "WR Mysteries of the Organism", which is uniformly rejected and criticized by every authentic clinician and historian as a severe distortion of Reich -- claiming this was some kind of "propaganda film" MADE BY Reich. There is not a shred of fact in that claim. So are we to assume author Blackledge does her "research" by watching porno flics? And then mis-attributes what she sees to Reich??!! Merely because the director of the porno flic says so? Sloppy scholarship doesn't get any worse that that, and it may have been a deliberate slander for all we know. What other falsehoods are in this book? It never should have gotten past the academic reviewers, but hey, the "new sexualities" allows anybody to claim anything, without worry of getting tagged by equally uncritical academic reviewers. This book is Not Recommended if you want a scientific discussion on sexuality. See Reich's "Function of the Orgasm" instead. It is still a light-year ahead of this nonsense.


Dr. Philip Bennett also did research into this matter, actually writing to the author through her publishing house, and getting a reply... of sorts. (Thanks to Dr. Bennett for permission to circulate his email.)

At 10:11 AM -0500 12/17/2008, Philip W. Bennett wrote:
Colleagues: I believe the issue of the Story of V was raised in the  past.  Finally, this November, I wrote a letter to the author's publishing house in London. Here it is:
November 6, 2008

Editorial Staff
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
The Orion Publishing Group
Orion House
5 Upper Saint Martin's Lane
London, WC2H 9EA

To whom it may concern:

I would appreciate your passing this letter on to your author, Catherine Blackledge, and to whoever on your staff served as her editor for the book, The Story of V: A Natural History of Female Sexuality, which you published in 2003.  Thank you. PB


In The Story of V: A Natural History of Female Sexuality, your author, Catherine Blackledge, entitles her final chapter, "The Function of the Orgasm," an obvious nod towards Wilhelm Reich, whose most famous book has that title.  And in keeping with the title of the chapter, Blackledge does discuss Reich's ideas, but the discussion is riddled through with inaccuracies, one of which is totally scandalous.
First, Blackledge refers to Reich's book, The Function of the Orgasm, as having been published in 1927.  The full citation in her end-notes to this chapter is "Reich, Wilhelm (1927), The Function of the Orgasm-sex-economic problems of biological energy, London: Souvenir Press, 1983" (p. 307 of the Rutgers University Press edition).  While Reich did publish a book entitled Die Funktion des Orgasmus in 1927, the book that your author cites is a very different one, having very little in common with the 1927 text.  The Souvenir Press edition of 1983 is a translation of a book written by Reich in 1940 and originally published in English in 1942.

One wonders how Blackledge could have possibly read the book in question, and have come away thinking it had been written in 1927.  Even a casual perusal of the text makes it completely clear that the book was written much later, with references to Hitler and his rise to power in 1933, references to Reich's other writings, like Die Bione, published in 1938, and Reich's discussion of orgone energy, which he didn't claim to discover until 1939.  Indeed, the passage she quotes is from the "General Survey" that precedes the text and is clearly dated 1940. Did she read past page seven, where this passage occurs?

Misdating a book is minor and understandable, in one sense, since Reich did write a book in 1927 entitled Die Funktion des Orgasmus.  But what follows the reference to this text is absolutely outrageous.

I quote Blackledge:
    Reich's views of the importance of sexual pleasure were not shared by everyone, perhaps because of his controversial exhortations to fuck freely. A propaganda film he made in his youth, Mysteries of the Organism, promoting what he called  orgasmatherapy, declares:
    "The human being averages 4,000 orgasms in a lifetime. Do not turn off this pulsating motor of joy and life forceĀŠ The biological charge and discharge produced by the genital embrace causes the  orgasmic reflex, supremely pleasurable muscle contractions. Subjection to social disciplines may cause gastric ulcers, respiratory, coronary and vascular diseases. Comrade lovers, for your health's sake:  fuck freely" (p. 264).

What Blackledge is referring to is a film entitled, WR: Mysteries of the Organism, made by Dusan Makavejev in 1971, long after Reich's death.  While the film does include some footage from Reich's early days, no one who has seen the film could possibly think that it was made by Reich himself.  Indeed, the film begins with the words, "This film is in part a personal response to the life and teachings of Dr. Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957)." Just as there is evidence that Blackledge didn't read the  Function of the Orgasm, I also think it rather obvious that she didn't watch Makavejev's film. Like all too many young scholars these days, she was probably relying on some third source.   

Reich never called his therapy "orgasmatherapy," though that term does occur in the film.  It is said by the lead character, Milena.  The passage quoted above that begins "The human being averages 4,000 orgasms in a lifetime..." nowhere occurs in Reich's writings but was written by Makavejev, piecing together fragments of things Reich did in fact say. Nor did Reich ever advocate that one should "fuck freely."  This too is Makavejev.  Indeed, Reich contrasts what he refers to as the "genital embrace" with fucking.  From Reich's The Murder of Christ:
    The longing for the fusion with another organism in the genital embrace is just as strong in the armored organism as it is in the unarmored one. It will most of the time be even stronger, since the full satisfaction is blocked. Where Life simply loves, armored life "fucks." Where Life functions freely in its love relations... so Life also lets its love relationships grow slowly from a first comprehensive glance to the fullest yielding during the quivering embrace.  Life does not rush toward the embrace. It is in no hurry... Armored man, on the other hand, confined in his organismic prison, rushes at the fuck (p. 26). 

What is truly sad about all this is that many people's only contact with Reich is through Majavejev's film, and those of us who have studied Reich's work seriously are appalled by this film and its distortions.  That the film should be attributed to Reich himself is beyond the pale.  And this is not some academic quibble: I remind you that Reich died in prison, due to the gross misunderstandings of his work.  Blackledge's totally inaccurate treatment of his ideas and work only contributes more to such misunderstanding.

Philip W. Bennett, PhD

I sent a copy of this letter to Rutgers Press, the American distributor for this travesty of a book.  Yesterday I received a hand-written reply from the Director of the Press:

"Dear Dr. Bennett:
Thank you for your note of 7 December regarding The Story of V.  We did indeed reply on Orion to certify that the information in that book was correct.  In our license with them, they are the responsible party.  These days, we don't have the funds to fact check books we originate, let alone books we import.  We certainly regret the inaccuracies. Cordially, Marlie Wasserman, Director."

No fact checking?  Rely on an author's integrity?  As if academics never invent stuff!  The author of the Story of V has a doctorate but more: This from her publisher:
"Cath Blackledge has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Birkbeck College, London. She has worked as a reporter, news editor and editor for numerous specialist publications, including European Chemical News and Pharmaceutical Business News, and is a former science and medical correspondent for The European. Now a freelance science writer and broadcaster, she was shortlisted for the prestigious Glaxo Science Writer's Prize in 1999."

See also Jim DeMeo's comments on Amazon about the book.
Philip Bennett, PhD

Readers are encouraged to leave their own comments to on-line bookseller websites where this is possible.  Given how the voices of those who support Reich's authentic work are constantly censored or drowned out, we should take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves.

Makavejev said that he began with the intention of making a documentary about reich to whom, and to whose theories,he had felt positively when he began, , but he came to the conclusion that reichian therapy released primal and destructive forces in people, and that he therefore coverted the docu into the movie. (Vide the scene in which the subjects of reichian therapy are in a room releasing tension and one woman is screaming "give it to me, its mine, give it to me".)

I believe makavejev mentioned this in a BBC interview with Barry Norman in a program about movies. In the 70s.
No doubt that Mr. Makavejev would say something like you report, but it sounds like he wants to blame Reich for the ugly pornography and slander contained in his film. Either he schemed to destroy Reich (very likely) or he did not understand Reich's therapy methods at all (probably so, but what scheming slanderer would?). Reich's therapy methods release bottled up emotions in people, safely in the therapy room, which are the force that otherwise unconsciously drives them into destructive actions. And by doing so, they no longer are burdened by such unsettling emotions, and no longer act in self-destructive or irrationally aggressive manners.

But this statement by Makavejev suggests, because he was worried about Reich's therapy, he decided to do his own bit of sex-slander and on-screen perversion. (Reich made me do it!!) And if you think his "Mysteries" film was the worst of it, look up his "Sweet Movie" which does not mention Reich at all (except as a promotional gimmick) and presents even more twisted sexual themes no decent person could find appealing.

I've written a more detailed account of Makavejev's film activities, and his implied or direct slanders of Reich, as some kind of pornographic character when in fact Reich was against pornography and the "free f*ck" as he called it, and would never have agreed with the Makavejev theme -- in my book "In Defense of Wilhelm Reich".

James DeMeo, PhD
I should also add, the description depicted by Makavejev of a supposed "Reichian therapy session" is pure fiction. Firstly authentic Reich therapy methods are not group sessions, but individually, one person only with the therapist, in a professional setting, without sexual touching and bears more similarities to traditional psychoanalysis than anything conjured up in Makavejev's fantasy world. Makavejev did however interview the Otto Muhl sex-cult in Austria, the AAO, which claimed to be following Reich but wasn't. It became an authoritarian mess, and Muhl was eventually convicted of pedophilia, which was also a complete topsy-turvy distortion of Reich's clinical methods and ideas -- he advocated for a freer sexuality overall, but was against porn, promiscuity, and demanded that children be protected from adult seducers. See my book for details and documentation from Reich's own writings.
WR is not fundamentally about Reich but about totalitarianism, especially but not only communist and soviet totalitarianism.
With Reich's name in the title, his pictures in the film, with documentary films made by Reich and interviews with Reich's family members and associates, with open discussion and distortion of his ideas, it is most clearly focused upon Reich and nobody else. Remove all of that and what's remaining? A very weak plot line mixed with pornographic scenes. There's very little criticism of socialist concepts, more criticism of American society in fact, as if people engaging in porn, group sex, masturbation fetishes, etc., are better folk than others. Read my book before commenting further, the chapter on Makavejev, for more documentation.
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