In his early studies on the origins of neurosis, Sigmund Freud came to a damning conclusion about men. So many of his patients had revealed stories about sexual experience in infancy or childhood that Freud decided the “seduction” of children must be the root of all neurotic behavior. When his own sister began to exhibit signs of neurosis, Freud declared: “In every case the father, not excluding my own, had to be blamed as a pervert.”
I consider this statement as I stroke my daughter’s hair. Caroline is ten years old. Her eyes are closed, and her head is in my lap. This should be a tender, innocent scene, but we no longer live in a time when anyone believes in innocence. Blame and suspicion color the atmosphere. As a man and a father, I feel besieged and accused. I am appallingly aware of the trust I hold, in the form of my daughter’s sleeping body. The line between affection and abuse is in the front of my mind. I feel like a German coming to grips with Nazi guilt. Yes, some men are perverts—but all men? Am I?
Freud later rejected his early hypothesis after his own father died. He suspected that many of the stories his patients had related were fantasized. Once he had opened the door on that discovery, Freud went on to formulate the theory of infantile sexuality, which became the basis for many of the insights of the psychoanalytic movement. But now there are those who say