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Romantic Love and Sexual Expression
The theory that there exists a relationship between romantic love and sexual blockage was once widely accepted, but has recently been ignored. The theory is poorly conceptualized and its implications are misunderstood. The author defines the terms and clarifies the relationship. He then examines 24 cultures and finds a strong correlation between the variables. Historical analysis alsosupports the theory. Evidence is presented that romantic love in the U.S. is declining as permissiveness increases. The implications of the theory for marriage are discussed. The idea that there exists a relationship between romantic love and the degree of sexual expression is an old one. Freud taught that the feeling of romantic love resulted from the blocking of the sex drive from its desired object.He called love "aim-inhibited sex" and stated further that "Wherever natural barriers in the way of satisfaction have not sufficed, mankind has erected conventional ones in order to be able to enjoy love" (Freud, 1922). Psychoanalyst Theodore Reik states that, "It would be appropriate to characterize romantic love as an aim-inhibited desire of conquest or of the possessive urge" (1945, p. 102).Willard Waller concluded that "Love is an idealized passion which develops from the frustration of sex" (1938, p. 189). In 1952, Robert 0. Blood looked at four or five different cultures and concluded that romance and premarital sexual relations are incompatible. In 1963, Stephens examined some cross-cultural data and concluded that there is some support for the idea that romantic love results fromsexual blockage, but there are also some contradictions. Since the late fifties and early sixties, the sexual blockage theory of romantic love has pretty much been ignored. It is not mentioned in most of the popular courtship and marriage textbooks. Even Blood, who tested the idea in the fifties, omits it from his popular textbook (1969). One exception is Udry, who does discuss the theory in histextbook. He concludes that there is not enough evidence to support the hypothesis, but does include it in a multicausal model of love (Udry, 1974). One of the reasons for the decline of the sexual blockage theory could be that our society does not view the implications of the theory favorably. The trend in our society is toward greater permissiveness which would result in a decline in romantic...