Malcolm J. Brenner, the internet sensation who had sex with a dolphin (and wrote a book about it called Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover), is attempting to crowdfund the printing of his second book, Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Secrets Of A Reichian Childhood.
The second book, which serves as a 336-page explanation for the first, details the strange and tragic events of Brenner's childhood.
Brenner's parents believed in the theories of Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian psychoanalyst who thought all mental health problems could be fixed by having fully uninhibited and repeated orgasms. In the mid-1930's, Reich made what he thought was an amazing discovery of this stuff called "orgone energy" that was the basis of the libido and the sex drive. Then he invented these machines called orgone boxes that supposedly collected orgone energy in a small telephone-booth-sized box that a person could sit in to cure anything from a lagging sex drive to cancer. The Brenner family had one in their basement. When one of the kids would fall down and scrape their knee, the Brenner family rushed to get the "orgone blanket," another one of Reich's inventions they used to supposedly heal themselves.
But the belief that Brenner says really did damage was Reich's theory on "muscle armoring." The Austrian psychoanalyst believed in preventing the "armoring" of children through a process called "vegetotherapy." It looked to establish a patient's "orgasm reflex" and "orgastic potency," which Reich described as "the ability for total surrender to the involuntary contractions of the organism and the complete discharge of the excitation at the acme of the genital embrace." Through this method, Reich believed he would create the sexually liberated "children of the future."
The treatment, called Orgonomic Therapy, is performed with the patient completely nude. And in young Brenner's case, it was done in a soundproofed room by one of Reich's underlings.
Written in almost chronological order, the reader grows with young Brenner and his struggles. But as Brenner matures, his sexual fantasies, urges, and actions come out in a way that no one could either expect or explain.
The Orgone Box lulls you into a false sense of security as it guides you through the life of a young man trying to make sense of the very strange and increasingly distorted world around him. Seemingly normal childhood memories are disrupted by sharp, loud, and violent episodes of sexual abuse detailed as graphically as the sex with animals that follows.
In Wet Goddess, we learn that in 1971 Brenner got in a car and drove to a near-abandoned Florida amusement park to have sex with a dolphin he believed he was in telepathic communication with. In Growing Up In the Orgone Box, we learn that Brenner started his trip to that amusement park long before 1971.
SF Weekly sat down with Brenner via Skype to talk about his new book.
SF Weekly: So, for those people who don't know what your book is about, can you explain a little bit of how Wilhelm Reich and his beliefs affected your childhood?
Malcolm Brenner: My problem with Wilhelm Reich is that he appointed another psychiatrist ... to run his orgonomic children's center. [The doctor], it turns out, was a sadist serial pedophile, who not only molested me in the course of my orgone therapy treatment, but also I have reason to believe hundreds of other children that were sent to him by well-intentioned parents.
I've contacted several of these people. Some of them were friends of my family, others I have met on the Internet, and the stories we tell are just amazingly similar about how this man tormented, tortured, and just shook us to the very core of our being. It was a terrible and terrifying experience that set back my social and emotional development by a decade.
In the epilogue, you say that this book was written as a form of revenge against this doctor. Can you explain that?
Yes, I would say a large part of the reason I wrote the book is revenge, pure and simple. I want to expose this guy for the bastard he was, and I also want to take down Reich's reputation a peg or two. My brother is still practicing Reichian therapy, although he ... is much more gentle. He is a kind and considerate person. He's not a sadist pedophile.
So he treats kids now?
Among other patients, yeah, he treats kids.
Did your brother ever go to a orgonomic therapist as a kid?
No, he was deemed too perfect.
In the book you write about how one of the techniques your orgonomist therapist prescribed to you to get rid of your nightmares was to gag yourself every night before you went to sleep. And that was one thing that actually worked. Is there any part of you that still believes in this techniques or therapies because of some of it has worked for you in the past?
Well I think some of Reich's early writings on development of character analysis and in particular some of his writings about fascism and how it uses pent-up sexuality to achieve its ends were very insightful. I think Reich had a lot of interesting insights about human character. What I think he was really really terrible at was science.
And as Christopher Turner describes in his book about Reich that came out two years ago, Adventures In The Orgasmatron, Reich was apparently such a troubled character himself, he just left a trail of broken marriages, friendships, and relationships everywhere he went.
In other words, I don't think this guy was worthy of worship most of his devout followers put on him.