In Freud's 'The Sexual Aberrations,' the first essay of his famous 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality,'
he lists numerous sexual deviations in hope of determining what constitutes normal sexual behavior and what constitutes perversion.
While the 'normal' sexual aim is usually considered the unification of different genitals, Freud notes that there are many
cases that seem to contradict this popular notion and he devotes an entire section solely to concentrate on how looking and
touching work as a catalyst towards copulation. Freud seems to almost equate the two senses and proclaims, rather ambiguously,
that looking is "an activity that is ultimately derived from touching." Freud concludes that both seeing and touching
are necessary in the sexual process, to a certain extent, and that the procreation of the human race even requires the involvement
of these senses. He declares "Visual impressions remain the most frequent pathway along which libidinal excitation is
aroused; indeed, natural selection counts upon the accessibility of this pathway - if such a teleological form of statement
is permissible - when it encourages the development of beauty in the sexual object." This "pleasure in looking,"
is often referred to by Freud by the more official name of scopophilia. Freud takes the opportunity, in this brief section,
to speculate over the relationship between sex, beauty, and art and asserts that it is "usual for most people to linger
to some extent over the intermediate sexual aim of a looking that has a sexual tinge to it; indeed, this offers them a possibility
of directing some proportion of their libido on to higher artistic aims." Freud goes farther to say that he has "no
doubt that the concept of 'beautiful' has its roots in sexual excitation and that its original meaning was 'sexually stimulating.'"
This definition of beauty is very radical, especially when one tries to explain what exactly Freud means when he says, "beautifully
reflected in the poetic fable" to describe Plato's myth, earlier on, in the first page of this essay. Freud's previous
use of the word beautiful, and its context, tends to suggest that the lyrical beauty found in poetry is not necessarily caused
by sexual excitement but can, instead, be found when complex concepts are elegantly presented to us through the use of metaphor.
At least in this translation of his text, Freud seems to contradict himself. However, Freud's sexual definition of beauty
is, in a way, a refreshing alternative to the overly optimistic nineteenth-century view that beauty is, somehow, indicative
of the truth or the morally good. While often criticized by many feminists, Freud does also begin to shed some light on the
history of the male gaze, as well as the quassi-pornographic nature of academic art that was so often justified in the guise
of mythology. Freud states that sexual curiosity is "diverted ('sublimated') in the direction of art, if its interest
can be shifted away from the genitals on to the shape of the body as a whole." Sublimation, which often has negative
connotations, is the unconscious displacement of instinctual energy into a more civilized behavior. Freud, whether he realizes
it or not, therefore paints a primitive and bleak picture of the role of art in society.