Jonathan Xu, Rachel Gotlieb, Shannon McNall, Octavia Devon
First Published: Jan. 6, 2023
As the originator of the term “sexual revolution”, Wilhelm Reich – an Austrian physician, psychoanalyst, political activist and author – was a significant, albeit controversial, contributor to his field. Throughout his career he extensively studied the human orgasm and developed the theory of “orgone energy” as a driving force present in animate and inanimate beings. While Reich’s theories are now largely seen as pseudoscientific, his views on sex and orgasmic energy have had an enduring impact in popular culture and society.
We analyzed primary material including journal entries and personal accounts obtained from the Wilhelm Reich Museum (Rangeley, Maine). We reviewed published secondary sources on Reich, news articles, and biographies obtained through on-line public resources as cited.
Following a tumultuous childhood, Reich attended medical school in Vienna and started his early career under the tutelage of Sigmund Freud. Freud’s influence was instrumental in the development of Reich’s theories on character analysis and orgastic potency and his ideas were some of the first linking mental and sexual health. Reich also notably combined his interests in politics and sexual health and created “Sex-Pol” clinics, clinics that provided both sexual and Marxist education along with contraceptives, to the working class. Prior to WWII, Reich fled Nazi Germany to the United States, where he studied the relationship between sexual health and cosmic energy, a novel concept he termed “orgone”. To harness this energy, Reich invented “orgone accumulators’’ which, among other claims, were thought to improve physical and mental health. Ultimately, Reich’s notoriety garnered him attention from the American government, which led to the censorship of his works and ideas and eventual downfall and imprisonment.
Although Reich’s theories were largely discredited later in his life, he was a pioneer in advocating for a deeper curiosity of sexual health and its personal and societal consequences, which continue to impact society today.
Editor in Chief: John L. Phillips, MD
Journal Design: Akhil A. Saji, MD
US ISSN: 2769-2183