It's special time for orgasm science. This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of Wilhelm Reich, the controversial philosopher who was eventually sent to prison for his theories of sexual revolution and the "orgone," a unit of energy derived from human orgasms. His personal papers, held at Harvard until 50 years after his death, will now be open to researchers. I can't wait to know more about this guy, who invented bizarre "orgone accumulator boxes" (see picture above) for collecting orgasmic energy, and who led 1940s-era hippies in mass orgasmic rituals on his 175-acre Maine farm. Reich, whose work has influenced generations of psychiatrists, was sent to prison by US authorities shortly after a famous article about the sexy goings-on at his farm was published in Harper's magazine under the title "The New Cult of Sex and Anarchy."
Many believe Reich was imprisoned for just his beliefs, but he was actually arrested for claiming that his orgone boxes could do things like cure cancer. That kind of fraud is punishable under the law, but giving the old guy a jail sentence — during which he died — was clearly unnecessary and says more about the times in which Reich lived than the gravity of his crimes. Before he got all into orgones, Reich was famous for writing brilliant psychoanalytic books about why people become fascists (The Mass Psychology of Fascism), and how sexual oppression fits into political oppression (The Sexual Revolution). In the 1970s, orgone boxes and blankets were all the rage among the granola-and-crystals set.
This month, there will be a Reich retrospective at a museum in Vienna and scholars will start getting their knickers in bunches as they send pleading emails to archivists at Harvard, begging to be the first to see the secret papers of the guy who invented orgasm studies.