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the oral fixation

May 26, 2011


once in a while i go back through my writing and take note of words that i use more than others. it’s very interesting and sometimes frigging weird. there are definitely words or images that i use more than others. going back over them is a good exercise for me because i go “oh shit i used the word lackadaisical twice in two chapters can’t use that ten dollar word more than once” or “i’ve described his mouth seven times in this book. NOT GREAT.” i tend to use words such as:

– “tilt”

– “odd”

– “hot” (and any kind of imagery relating to heat, which is supremely fascinating – who knows what that says about me?)

– i also tend to veer towards describing the body in terms of ropes – “corded”, “lean”, “lithe” – muscles as fibres

– religious imagery – “apse”, “penance”, “tithe”


but the main image that pervades my writing – the image of the mouth.


i guess this makes sense on a pretty apparent level. i am the daughter of a dental oncologist and a (former) dental hygienist. one of the first things i look at are people’s teeth. i spent a lot of my youth in a dentist chair – whether it was the four years of braces, the many extractions i had done (i kept four of my adult cuspids, had my oral surgeon clean them and bore a hole in their respective roots, and used to wear them on a necklace. no joke.), or the many, many, MANY cavities i had filled/still have filled. in fact, i’m one of the only 23 year olds i know who has had a root canal.

okay, so that makes sense i suppose.

i know that sigmund freud has been really slammed in the modern day and age. as a psychology student, i have read a lot of his theories, and i have to say that i kind of love him. he was CRAZYTRAIN. he prescribed cocaine – and heavily used it himself. he was pretty unbalanced (some would say misogynist, but i don’t think he necessarily hated women) in his gender theories. however, i have seen the oedipal complex enough (in the men i’ve dated!?) to know that it exists. the electra complex and penis envy is … weaker.

but the point of that rant was to say that i do think some of freud’s theories are interesting and WORTH CONSIDERING. and he was the one to coin the term “oral fixation.” (there is also anal, phallic, latent, and genital, but personally i don’t find them as interesting.) freud believed that each stage was a progression, and some people got stuck in some phases and others got stuck in others, but the goal was to progress all the way through to “genital” which would give you some semblance of a normal sex life.

okay, that’s kind of hooey, and kind of weird.


but the idea of the oral fixation  in its basest stage – the idea that people can become fixated on body parts because of personality traits, or vice versa (never mind maturity or stages) – it’s something i’ve always been interested in and identified with. and freud explains it in terms of sexual experience, and erogenous zones, yes, but it’s more than just that. it expands to personality traits and nervous tics. theoretically someone with an oral fixation would also be big on mouth things – gum chewing, smoking, candy eating, singing, talking, biting fingernails, moving their hands in or around their mouths, lip biting, tongue-tapping, spit-clicking – not necessarily sexual things but mouth-related is also said that an orally-fixated person is “garrulous” and sarcastic. and possibly a heavy drinker. (side note: i am pretty sarcastic. i cannot buy gum because i chew it all in my nervous habits. i can’t wear lipstick because i’m always touching my mouth. you see why i identify?)

once i sat down and really went through my writing, i realised how much i write about mouths. it begged the question – do i have an oral fixation? am i fascinated by the way that people speak, and use their mouths, and what they eat, and what they sound like?


maybe. and if so, i don’t think there’s a problem in that. every writer gets caught up in some sort of whirlwind romance with a body part, or an inanimate object, or a person. the mouth is the centre of the being, in my opinion. i feel that the power of voice – the ability to speak, to say what is on the mind – has always been the most powerful thing a human being can do. i was always a vocal person. i say what’s on my mind and i say it when i want to. (this is not always a good thing.) i notice people’s teeth, and the way they hold their lips. i notice the way a mouth sits on a face – low slung, or high strung. i’ll pay attention to how someone wets their lips, or how someone holds the tip of their tongue against their teeth. i’m interested in the human voice, the sarcastic wit. in the idea of food. in the idea of consumption – consuming in every way. i don’t know what that necessarily says about my maturity – am i stuck in the lowest stage of psychosexual development? – but i think it’s a pretty great body part to write about. the mouth does so much. we say so much. we inflect so much. a simple movement of the lips can change brain chemistry or change the mood of another. the mouth is communication, communion. it is the ultimate connection.

…. orrrrrrrrrr maybe i just write about people who have all of the nervous tics and personality traits that freud identifies with the oral fixation, and he’s totally right, and therefore unknowingly i also write characters who are stuck in the oral stage.

well, probably not. but at least i’m fascinated with an able, powerful body part.

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