William Henry “Bill” Cosby Jr., the American standup comedian, actor, author and activist, has been an icon in American show business and brought laughter to millions of people during the many years of his television career.
However, beginning in 2013, allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced when several women accused him of drugging and raping them while unconscious.
It has now been 14 years since the first woman publicly accused Cosby of assaulting her. Since then dozens of women have brought allegations against him. In her Vanity Fair article, “Bill Cosby Drugged Me: This is My Story,” Beverly Johnson (2014) wrote about her encounter with the television legend:
Imagine my joy in mid-80’s when agent called to say Bill Cosby wanted me to audition for a role on the Cosby Show. Cosby played an obstetrician and he sometimes used models to portray pregnant women sitting in his office waiting room. It was a small part with one or two speaking lines at most, but I wanted in. . . . Cosby’s handlers invited me to a taping of a show so I could get the lay of the land and an idea of what my role required. After the taping, I met all the cast and then met with Cosby in his office to talk a bit about the hell I had been through in my marriage. He appeared concerned and then asked me what I wanted from my career going forward. He seemed genuinely interested in guiding me to the next level. I was on cloud 9.
I brought my daughter to the next taping I attended. Afterward, Cosby asked if I could meet him at his home that weekend and read for the part . . . . Like most kids my daughter loved him . . . . Cosby suggested I come back to his house a few days later to read for the part. I agreed and one late afternoon the following week I returned. His staff served a light dinner and Bill and I talked more about my plans for the future.
After the meal we walked upstairs to a huge living area of his home and featured a massive bar. The huge brass espresso contraption took up half of the counter. At the time, it seemed rare for someone to have such a machine in his home for personal use. Cosby said he wanted to see how I handled various scenes, so he suggested I pretend to be a drunk. (When did a pregnant ever appear drunk on the Cosby Show? Probably never but I went with it). As I readied myself to be the best drunk I could be, he offered me a cappuccino from the espresso machine. I told him I didn’t drink tea or coffee that late in the afternoon because it made getting to sleep at night more difficult. He wouldn’t let it go. He insisted that his espresso machine was the best model in the market and promised I would never taste the cappuccino quite like this one.
It’s nuts, I knew but it felt oddly inappropriate arguing with Bill Cosby so I took a few sip of the coffee just to appease him. Now let me explain this: I was a top model during the 70s, a period when drugs float at the parties and photoshoots like bottled water at a health spa. I would had my fun and experiment it with my fair share of mood enhancers. I knew by the second sip of the drink Cosby had given me that I would be drugged—and drugged good. My head became woozy, my speech became slurred and the room began to spin none stop. Cosby mentioned for me to come over to him as though we were really about to act out the scene. He put his hand around my waist and I managed to put my hand on his shoulder in order to steady myself. As I felt my body go completely limb my brain switched into automatic survival mood. That meant making sure Cosby understood that I knew exactly what was happening at that very moment. “You are a mother fucker aren’t you?” that’s the exact question I yelled at him as he stood there holding me, expecting me to bent to his will. I rapidly called him several more “mother fucker’s” by the fifth I could tell that I was really pissing him off. At one point he dropped his hand from my waist and just stood there looking at me like I had lost my mind.
What happened next is somewhat cloudy for me because the drug was in full play by that time. I recall his seething anger at my tirade and then him grabbing me by my left arm hard and yanking all hundred and ten pounds of me down a bunch of stairs as my high heels clicked and clacked on every step. I feared my neck was going to break with the force he was using to pull me down those stairs. It was still late afternoon and the sun hadn’t completely gone down yet. When we reached the front door he pulled me outside of the brownstone and then with his hand still tightly clenched around my arm stood in the middle of the street waving down taxis.
When one stopped, Cosby opened the door, shoved me into it and slammed the door behind me without ever saying a word. I somehow managed to tell the driver my address and before blocking out I looked at the cabbie and asked as if he knew “did I really just call Bill Cosby a mother fucker?”…. the next day I woke up in my own bed after falling into a deep sleep that lasted more than a day. I had no memory of how I got into my apartment or into my bed, though most likely my doorman helped me out. I sat in there still stound by what happened the night before, confused and devastated by the idea that someone I admired so much had tried to take advantage of me and use drugs to do so. Had I done something to encourage his action?…
I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of Bill Cosby’s drug me with the intention of doing God knows what… In part because of what happened to me nearly 30 years ago, I have agreed to serve on the board of Barbara Sinatra, center of abused children. The experience has been as humbling as it has been rewarding. Many of the young children I work with have been sexually abused and I watched in all of their bravery as they work to recover and feel better. How could I be any less brave?
In an interview with CNN, Cosby’s costar, Joseph Phillips (2015), posed a compelling question: “[Cosby] had money, fame and power; he was walking aphrodisiac. Why?”. Why indeed.
What is the psychological mechanism that makes a person with this stature, power and wealth resort to such deviant behavior? From where do these impulses come? The American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual fifth edition (DSM V) identifies these behaviors as paraphilia (sexual deviation), under which eight distinct categories are classified. Some paraphilia involves the derivation of sexual pleasure from objects such as fetishistic disorder, but some certain types of paraphilia involve another person. There is no distinct category for those who drug and rape someone while s/he is unconscious; nevertheless, this behavior is certainly considered a sexual deviation or paraphilia. With the exception of pedophilia, all other paraphilia behaviors involving another person must meet additional DSM V criteria for diagnosis. For example, a diagnosis of sexual sadism requires criteria A, that an individual must exhibit “recurrent and intense sexual arousal from the physical or psychological suffering of another person . . . over a period of six months” (p. 695) as well as criteria B, that “the individual has acted on these sexual urges with a non-consenting person or the sexual urges or fantasies cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” (p. 695)
Although the DSM V is considered the ultimate scientific authority in psychiatry, its definition of paraphilia reflects a disappointingly shallow understanding of sexual deviation, particularly in contrast to the orgonomic understanding of the term. In orgonomy, the sexual functioning of an individual is the most important indicator of his or her psychological health. From an orgonomic point of view, sexual arousal or pleasure derived from the physical or psychological suffering of another person indicates a major psychological disturbance, regardless of the issue of consent or the impact of the behavior on a patient’s social or occupational functioning. Orgonomists understand that sexual disturbances are symptoms of an underlying problem, attributing them to a patient’s distorted structure. Orgonomists do not consider the patient improved unless the sexual disturbance clears and sexual functioning returns to its normal and natural state, free from the abnormal, unnatural fantasies and impulses. The orgastically potent male and female are tender toward each other with no contradictory impulses. Any deviation from this behavior stemming from sadistic or masochistic impulses is considered pathological.
Contemporary professionals in medicine, psychiatry, and psychology have no understanding of these disturbances and their origins, and even the DSM, the most revered and referenced book in the field of psychiatry, distinguishes between consenting and non-consenting individuals engaged in sadistic behavior, referring to the former as “normal.” In contrast, orgonomists consider these disturbed sexual impulses to be a product of emotional illness stemming from armoring, whether the partner is consenting or not and whether these sadistic sexual urges cause social or occupational impairment or not. In his recent lecture in Philadelphia Dr. Morton Herskowitz eloquently stated,“I think that emotional armoring is one of the most important discoveries in the history of psychiatry. Psychiatric orgone therapy reaches places that have never been reached by traditional therapy before. I think it does things to people that has never been done before; I don’t think it’s a cure-all for all psychiatric problems . . . but in the matters that it does deal with it has an effect like no other therapy”.
Thus, understanding the process of armoring and its significance provides the key to understanding many psychiatric illnesses. Without such understanding, psychiatry will continue to label consenting sadistic behavior as normal! According to orgonomy, the body of knowledge developed by Dr.Wilhelm Reich, a normal human structure is one in which the psychosexual energy flows, unimpeded, from the center to the periphery of the organism. When this flow is chronically impeded by outside—usually social—forces, armoring begins to occur as social inhibitions begin to block a child’s healthy impulses. These blocked impulses split and the chronic inhibition subdues the initial natural impulse, causing contraction and encrustations of the tissues and muscle. Once armor is established, even if the outside inhibition is removed, the organism remains distorted and incapable of resuming normal functioning. The following diagrams schematically depict the process of armoring.
From the book, "Character Analysis" by Dr. Wilhelm Reich.
The primary and natural drives are prohibited by the outer world. Under prolomged prohibition of these natural drives, the primary drive force dissociates and part of it turns against itself, consequently psychological and physical armoring sets in. Schematically, it is depicted below.
Id = Defense and change of function
C = Armoring
Once the organism becomes armored, the primary impulses that are natural—rational love, natural sexuality, rational anger and rational hate—become distorted.
The structure of the armor, however, is not a simple one consisting of two opposing forces, but a complex consequence of the interplay between many dynamic forces and consists of many layers. The structure of the armor does not consist of one warded off and one warding off impulse but of countless number of strivings. Which are disassociated and partially set off against one another. Schematically the structure of armor is as follows:
From the book “Character Analysis”
By Dr. Wilhelm Reich
Structure of armor resulting from interplay of dynamic forces.
This is the mechanism by which armored adults repeat their parents’ behavior even though they themselves hated it as children. Many of my patients told me “Doctor, I hated when my parents were doing this to me but now I catch myself doing the same thing to my own children and I can’t help it.” Such inhibitions and constraints become embedded in the structure of the person. Most children long to express their natural, healthy impulses; however, as armored adults, they become incapable of expressing these healthy desires and may even become hostile toward anyone else who tries to express them. Unfortunately, once the armoring occurs, the person becomes inhibited from within, incapable of expressing what he or she originally desired. This repression and armoring causes distortion in natural and healthy primary drives and hence a person in the height of fame and wealth may resort to distorted sexual actions that are incomprehensible to many people. This is why a person who has fame, money, and prestige will act on sexually inappropriate impulses: because when he once longed to act on his natural impulses, he was harshly inhibited and suppressed.
Armor, which is established in the body on a physical as well as emotional level, distorts the natural, primary drives that were social, loving and constructive to the secondary drives which are distorted, unnatural, and may become destructive and sadistic. In orgone therapy, psychiatrists and clinicians recognize the armor and try to restore the energetic flow to its undisturbed state by dissolving the armor. Psychiatric orgone therapy provides us the knowledge and technique to dissolve the armor and restore the energy flow to its original, healthy state.
Diagram depicting basic functions in an armored organism.
The inhabitation of primary impulses produces a secondary impulses and anxiety.
From the book Function of Orgasm by Dr. Wilhelm Reich.
The surface layer is the façade—the layer of a person that she or he presents to the world. To the psychiatrist and psychologist who is familiar with Reich’s orgonomic theories, a vast majority of people present with physical and emotional armoring evident in the rigidity or flaccidity of their muscles, their tone of voice, their glazed or piercing eyes their mask-like facial expressions, their rigid neck or their resigned, apathetic attitude. In his lecture in Germany, Dr. Herskowitz explained how armoring manifests itself:
“Armoring converts free laughter into a chuckle or twitter, it may cause a woman to speak in a little girl’s voice. It does not merely change a function by degree but by a kind. It renders behavior more predictable, more stereotype. Armoring puts life in constraint. Armoring is most often revealed in muscular tension but it also reveals in eyes that are glazed in excessive body fat, etc. it is a dynamic event and it entails consumption of energy. It constrains us physically emotionally and ideationally. It is a cocoon to which we gradually become accustomed.”
From the book Listen Little Man by Wilhelm Reich, with illustration by William Steig
Once the armoring process is set into motion in the human organism, it becomes a source for a vast array of pathologies.
For the clinicians familiar with orgonomy and psychiatric orgone therapy, distorted and disturbed sexual fantasies are surface manifestations of much deeper structural illnesses that need to be addressed. Such unnatural fantasies or impulses are considered harbingers of deeper structural distortions, regardless of another’s consent.
In his book, The Function of Orgasm, Reich (1973, Translated by Vincent R. Carfagno, p. 100) states:
The more precisely my patients described their behavior and experiences in the sexual act, the more firm I became in my clinically substantiated conviction that all patients, without exception, are severely disturbed in their genital function. Most disturbed of all were those men who liked to boast and make a big show of their masculinity, men who possessed or conquered as many women as possible, who could “do it” again and again in one night. It became quite clear that, though they were erectively very potent, such men experienced little or no pleasure at the moment of ejaculation, or they experienced the exact opposite, disgust and displeasure. The precise analysis of fantasies during the sexual act revealed that the men usually had sadistic or conceited attitudes and that the women were afraid, inhibited, or imagined themselves to be men. For the ostensibly potent man, sexual intercourse means the piercing, overpowering, or conquering of the woman. He merely wants to prove his potency or to be admired for his erective endurance. This “potency” can be easily undermined by uncovering its motives. Severe disturbances of erection and ejaculation are concealed in it. In none of these cases is there the slightest trace of involuntary behavior or loss of conscious activity in the act. Gradually, groping my way ahead step by step, I acquired a knowledge of the characteristics of orgastic impotence. It took me a decade to gain a full understanding of this disturbance, to describe it and to learn the correct technique for eliminating it. Orgastic impotence has always been in the forefront of sex-economic research, and all of its details are still not known. Its role in sex-economy is similar to the role of the Oedipus complex in psychoanalysis. Whoever does not have a precise understanding of it cannot be considered a sex-economist. He will never really grasp its ramifications. He will not understand the difference between health and sickness, [see definition of sexual sadism disorder in DSM V, American Psychiatric Association 2013, page 695, where this disorder is considered normal if the partner is consenting!!] nor will he comprehend human pleasure anxiety or the pathological nature of the parent-child conflict and the misery of marriage. It is even possible that he will endeavor to bring about sexual reforms, but he will never touch upon the core of sexual misery”.
In late 1990s and early 2000s, I was treating a medical resident suffering from depression. He complained of an inability to develop genuine, deep relationships with others; he described his relationships as superficial, and felt empty and confused. He had passive-aggressive behavior, on the one hand, overtly complying with authorities, yet he covertly distrusted and defied them in various ways. On the surface he was a pleasant man, agreeable and often smiling but underneath he was distrustful, hostile, and antagonistic. His sexual fantasies reflected his anger and sadistic tendencies. He became aroused by the fantasy of physically and verbally abusing and humiliating women. He frequented nude bars and paid prostitutes to consent to his sadistic fantasies of swearing at and humiliating them while he masturbated or had sex with them. Although he had a few occasions to act on these sadistic impulses with a consenting partner, he explained that he did not want to act upon them because he knew they were sick. He did have good insight about the unhealthy nature of these impulses and fantasies and knew that something was wrong with him. His treatment consisted of recognizing his superficial mask that was exposed in therapy. By resolving the superficial layer of the armor, his anger toward authority began to emerge, directly related to his authoritarian, threatening father and his younger brother who was favored by his parents. His repressed rage became more and more exposed. He gradually became capable of standing up to authority when necessary.
Along with these changes as his armor dissolved, his sadistic sexual fantasies gradually disappeared. One day he told me, “Doctor, I don’t know what happened; I don’t have any more of the sadistic desires or fantasies.” Moreover, he developed an aversion to such thoughts not because he had to fight or suppress any of these impulses; they simply evaporated, disappearing altogether.
Everyone knows that not having an antisocial impulse is healthier than having—and suppressing—it. Prior to seeing me, this patient had been in analytic psychotherapy for several years without results. Many patients suffer structural distortions that they had no part in creating and suffer symptoms, including sexual deviations with serious consequences, some individuals rotting in prisons with no prospect of help. I hope that the new generation of psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health professionals recognize their responsibilities and value the immense discoveries of Freud and Reich contributing more effective treatment modalities with the hope that one day we will have healthier society with fewer unhealthy and untreated individuals like Cosby.