In Parts I and II of this series, I wrote how desertification in the Middle East around 6000-4000 BCE caused a fundamental shift in the human psyche from peaceful to warlike to compete for dwindling food sources. These societies also became violently anti-sexual. There seem to be several reasons for this.

In Part II, I described the impact of aggression on the Ik people of east Africa. As they struggled for survival, not only did their emotional bonds dissolve but they also lost all sense of sex being pleasurable. It became solely a survival tool. This same shift is likely to have happened during the rise of patriarchy.

Infants were subject to early weaning. Deprived of both the nourishing colostrum and the sexually pleasurable sensation of breastfeeding, infants—particularly males—developed a capacity for violence and sexual rage that conferred an evolutionary advantage in the fight for survival.

These new warrior societies repudiated the practices of the peaceful, often goddess-worshipping cultures they supplanted. The entire Old Testament is a long struggle by an emerging patriarchy to stamp out the practices of its predecessors—particularly sexual practices: “You worship other gods by having sex on hilltops or in the shade of large trees” (Jeremiah 2:20).

The sexual-spiritual split

There was a more practical consideration, too. As I wrote in A brief history of shame, these warrior societies valued the male capacity for violence above all else. The women who bore such children—the women of the elite—had to be controlled to ensure they only had sex with the ruling males to protect the victorious bloodline.

Strict sexual rules developed for both men and women. The early books of the Bible are littered with examples. Punishments were severe. Sexual offences were deeply shameful for the victim, the victimizer, and their families.

This rejection and shaming of the entire sexual aspect of humanity caused a split in the human psyche. Michael Picucci, PhD, calls this the ‘sexual-spiritual split’.

In The Journey Toward Complete Recovery he describes it as “a deep psychic schism within almost everyone in our culture” which teaches that, “God, love and family are good while sex is dirty, bad and perverse.”

Genital mutilation

At some point during the rise of patriarchy the sex-negative sentiments behind the sexual-spiritual split manifested as genital mutilation practices. James DeMeo writes in Saharasia that, “Female genital mutilations are generally harsher, more painful, and more life-threatening than those performed upon the male.”

The intent, with both genders, was to inflict sexual trauma. Moses Maimonides, a physician and rabbi in Cairo (ca. 1175), wrote: “The true purpose of circumcision was to give the sexual organ that kind of physical pain as… to lessen the power of passion.”

This core sexual trauma became embedded in the collective unconscious, passed from one generation to the next. It exists regardless of whether a male has been circumcised or not—that’s only its external appearance. It continues to manifest in the on-going sexual negativity widely seen in the world today. Even for those with a sex-positive outlook it exists as an obstacle to complete intimacy.

Image: Tomb of Ankh-Mahor at Saqqarah, Egypt (ca. 2300 BCE)