As we continue America’s long climb toward a sex-affirming culture, let’s jump back to the time of the second sexual revolution to learn about Dr. Wilhelm Reich.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich may have been a prophet.
For now it sometimes seems that all America is one big orgone box.
~ Time Magazine, 1964
Although he lived and worked just down the street from Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Reich rebelled against the idea that sexual repression was just a natural part of life. Realizing that it would take a revolt to throw off this repression, he coined the term ‘sexual revolution’ as a Marxist in the 30’s. After escaping WWII to New York in 1939 he agreed with Kinsey about America’s “puritanical veneer”.
He studied a life-force energy – which he named orgone energy. So as a mad inventor often does, he made something to collect it – the Orgone Energy Accumulator. Sexy right? A dubiously simple wooden box, lined with metal and insulated with steel wool, legend goes that if someone sat inside, for 30 minutes each day, for several days, the immune system and life force would expand for more curative and powerful sex.
It seems ridiculous that a claustrophobic metal box could come to be seen a a bohemian “liberation machine”, but this eccentric invention was a Pandora’s box that unleashed us from the old Freudian prison. In 1947 Harper’s called him “the leader of a new cult of sex and anarchy”. If you were having great sex on your own terms, you were part of an elite group that felt superior to the nebulous grey corporate blob. You had a way to express your identity; you defined your own pleasure.
Reich, of course, took everything way too far and was pursued into paranoia by the FBI for his communist past. As they chipped away at his credibility, he began to lose his mind. He joined Henry Miller and other bohemians who were living in shacks on the west coast and began making claims that the orgone box could cure cancer. He was relentlessly pursued by the FDA as a quack until he was ordered to stop making the machines. He died in jail in 1957, convinced of an oncoming UFO attack, never witnessing the free-love flowers that would soon blossom from the seeds of his powerful ideas.