Image of the Week: Freud’s Porcupine

Wellcome Trust Blog

L0077373 Porcupine model, bronze

In honour of The Institute of Sexology opening yesterday at Wellcome Collection, we’ve decided to showcase a very special object from the exhibition. This little porcupine has been gaining quite a bit of attention recently, but we feel that it is well deserved.

What is the link between porcupines and sexology you may wonder? Whilst many objects in the exhibition have an obvious link to the study of sex and sexuality, this innocent looking porcupine may seem a little out of place amongst the phallic amulets and Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Accumulator, parodied by Woody Allen as the “Orgasmatron”.

This bronze porcupine was kept on Sigmund Freud’s desk. He thought it represented the prickliness of human relationships. Porcupines crowd together when cold; however their sharp quills cause them to move away from each other when they get too close. This forces them to shift closer and then further apart until a…

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