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Four's company
Just who all am I having sex with?

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I was in bed with someone recently, basking in the afterglow, when the gentleman who was with me pointed out that there were actually four of us there: me, him, my ex and his. Luckily, he pointed this out afterwards, not before, or I may not have been able to get in the proper mood. But he said it's quite commonly known that, psychologically speaking, one's ex is always there, poking and prodding your consciousness. He also said the idea originated with Sigmund Freud. But I tried to look it up on the Web and wasn't able to find anything. So I now turn to you, oh great one. Is it in fact a ménage à quatre every time we try to be alone with someone?

Polly More Fuss

Polly: Great, so now I can't even masturbate without having someone - and not just any ol' someone, but my ex! - looming over my shoulder, questioning my technique and overall commitment to the matter at hand. Like I didn't get enough of that when we were still together! My only consolation is that I myself must have been having a lot more sex than I thought I'd been having, because I have a lot of exes, each of whom (to put it delicately) gets around. And I must confess that it gives me a twinge - okay, a massive convulsion - of pleasure to know that I'm there too, questioning their technique and overall commitment to the matter at hand. Like I didn't do enough of that when we were still together!

One small problem: I don't think Freud was talking about our exes. The remark you're referring to came in a letter to his good buddy, Wilhelm Fleiss, who, depending on your perspective, either helped invent psychoanalysis or led Freud so far astray that the whole enterprise took on an aura of quackery. And here's the remark: "I am accustoming myself to the idea of regarding every sexual act as a process in which four persons are involved." Now, setting aside the fact that it doesn't seem to have occurred to Freud that there might have been four actual persons involved (were there no orgies in fin de siècle Vienna?), this remark is rather cryptic, wouldn't you say?

Actually, Freud added a line: "We shall have a lot to discuss about that," to which Fleiss undoubtedly replied, "Yes indeedy-do." For it's a very provocative notion, a very Freudian one, this sense that someone from our past is lingering, rattling around inside our head. It's just that the someone, in this case, is our parent of the opposite sex, or so I understand it. Freud, you may recall, thought we're innately bisexual, if not polymorphously perverse. Only after flitting around a bit, developmentally speaking, do we land on a sexual persona. (I've landed on enough of them to qualify for my pilot's license.) But the personas we left behind - our masculine side, our feminine side, what have you - linger, rattling around in our heads, not to mention our beds.

Does that make sense? I didn't think so. And if any trained psychotherapist wants a shot at it, you know where to reach me. But the idea, in a nutshell, is that our parents, with whom we formed our very first romantic triangle, continue to invade our thoughts later in life, even though many of those thoughts are repressed. And all I can say is, "Hey, whatever turns you on, Sigmund!" A lot of people these days think that everything Freud wrote was total crap, a choice of words that would not have gone unnoticed by Herr Siggy. But I happen to believe that he, not unlike our parents, has so invaded our thoughts that we may never get rid of him. He's even there in bed with us, questioning our technique and overall...

A ménage à cinq. Yeah, baby!

If you suffer from both castration anxiety and penis envy, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.

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