Freud gives authority to a dangerous idea: the idea that human sexuality belongs in the depths of our organic nature. It remains, in its inner nature, a force of the deep, against which we protect ourselves by the erection of our ‘mental dams’, but which is always ready to overflow and invade us. From this hydraulic picture arises a particularly seductive view of the human sexual impulse. It is seen as amoral, outside the sphere of personal feeling and relation, an appetite that is deflected from its inner purpose by the barriers of shame. We are charmed by the hydraulic image into a sense that this ‘damming up’ is intrinsically harmful — as though we hold back all that is most alive in us, impeding its development. When at last it bursts forth (as it must, the image tells us), it is in forms that are uncontrollable and destructive.

The image is a delusion. Sexual desire is not impeded by morality, but created by it.

– Roger Scruton, Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation (1986)


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