Friday 4 September 2015

What Position did Oedipus have Sex with his Mother In?

Bijan Sheibani--Director of Almeida Oedipus Event
I’m delighted to be discussing mother-son incest at a staged public workshop and reading of Sophocles’ Oedipus at the Almeida Theatre on Sunday. The other speaker is David Bell, an eminent psychoanalyst and great company. He’s asked me about Jocasta’s famous line in Sophocles' Oedipus, which captivated Sigmund Freud--the one where she famously tells her husband/son not to worry, since lots of men have had sex with their mothers in their dreams (981-2).

It is less well known that our surviving ancient dream book, by Artemidorus, shows that many real ancient men reported such dreams when they paid for a session with the local interpreter. Artemidorus says (1.79) that the case of the son dreaming about sex with his mother is such a big category of common dream that it has different meanings. It depends on several factors including your occupation, sexual position, and whether she is dead or not in reality.

Mounet-Sully--the actor whom Freud saw playing Oedipus
For working-class men this dream is always good, as for politicians, especially if you dream that you are very much manually in control of your mother. If you are estranged from your mother it means you will be reunited.  It’s never good to dream about having sex with your mother if she is dead as this means you will die yourself soon, returning to ‘Mother Earth’. That is, unless you are currently involved in a lawsuit, in which case it signifies that your opponent’s case will wither away and you will win.

Jocasta thinks her baby died of exposure
Face-to-face sex with mum means you will fall out with your dad or your dad will die.  It is not good to penetrate your mother if she is looking away from you, standing up, kneeling or immobilised as this portends oppression and possibly slavery. If your mother is on top it usually means you will live an easy life, full of health and leisure, as she is the one out of breath from doing all the work. Oral sex with your mother is simply disgusting and portends terrible suffering—death of children and confiscation of property.

So there you go. I have never personally dreamt about having sex with either of my parents. My dreams are, I flatter myself, more Kleinian than Freudian--wicked stepmothers and enormous buckets of milk. I did once dream I had sex with Leonidas of Sparta (NB this was before 300 and NOT Gerard Butler), and on another occasion with John Cleese, or, to be precise, with Basil Fawlty. Unfortunately these gentlemen do not appear in any of the dreams described by Artemidorus, so I’ll have to interpret them for myself.


  1. The article is interesting but the very title is gross! Especially for those who knows nothing about the Oedipus Complex! It is not commonly known that there’s a similar type of complex – Elektra complex. The same as Oedipus but about girls and fathers)

  2. Spiritual Meaning of Having Sex in the Dream with Ex/Friend. One of the spiritual meanings of having sex in the dream can also be a sign of one's ability for fertility and a healthy subconscious mind.