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What is Aggression



A number of psychologists hold that aggression is a basic instinct, meaning that it is a primitive drive and therefore cannot be decomposed into other drives. The truth is that aggression is not a basic drive. Desire for power is a basic drive, and aggression is what results when that desire is frustrated.

We have two basic drives. One is desire for power—or ‘power-lust’, as I will henceforth put it. The other is sexual desire.

Power-lust is individualistic. It is about distinguishing oneself from others.

Sexuality is collectivistic. It is about connecting with others.

In men, power-lust is primary and sexuality is secondary. Men regard their sexuality as an aspect of their power. A man who had no power and knew it, and who did not regard the sexual act on his part as an exercise of power, would derive no pleasure from sex.

In women, sexuality is primary and power-lust is secondary. Women regard any power that they have as an aspect of their sexuality.

The reason men are ‘sex obsessed’ is precisely that, in men, sexuality is subordinate to power-lust. Because a man’s sexuality is not the basis of his power, he conceives of it narrowly and therefore tends to identify it with sex.

And because a woman’s sexuality is the basis of her power, she conceives of it broadly, since conceiving of it narrowly would narrow and therefore weaken her; and she therefore tends not to identify sexuality with sex.

To be psychologically male is for one’s sexuality to be subordinate to one’s power-lust, and to be psychologically female is for one’s power-lust to be subordinate to one’s sexuality.

There is no way to reduce all of our drives to one drive. This is because some of our drives are individualistic and others are collectivistic, there being no way to assimilate drives with different polarities to one another. To be sure, collectivistic drives can be put to individualistic uses, as when men use sexuality to discharge aggression, and collectivistic drives can be put to individualistic uses, as when women use sexuality to acquire power. But such arrangements involve an element of perversity, this being an indication of the mutually opposed nature of the drives involved.

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