8 months ago

Sigmund Freud

have come to know it in

have come to know it in popular jargon, refers to someone who is, according to Freud, ‘orderly, parsimonious, and obstinate’ (Freud 1908c: 209). If faeces are the child’s first gift to the parents, then, later, faeces and money can come to be associated in fantasy life. The third and final erotic stage of infancy is the genital phase – also sometimes called the phallic phase, although it refers to both boys and girls. (It is important to remember that for Freud the three phases tend to emerge in that general order but they always overlap each other – it is not simply that one is replaced by the next.) In the genital phase the baby becomes aware of his genitals as a source of stimulation, exploring his own body in the normal course of events through masturbation. Infants can also be stimulated by being rubbed with a towel or by lots of other everyday occurrences that happen while taking care of a baby. If you remember, Freud initially believed that child abuse was always a key factor in the later development of sexual neurosis. In the seduction theory he stated that a parent or another older authority figure seduced or sexually attacked the innocent child, leading to later neurosis and hysteria. By the time he is writing Three Essays (1905) this theory has been superseded by the normality of infantile libidinal desires and fantasy. Children may suffer from abuse, and that certainly may lead to later neurotic illness, but children also have erotic desires of their own without any interference from others. The parents are usually the first objects of desire and fantasy for the child, for they are literally the first bodies with whom the child comes into contact. To recapitulate Freud’s major points from the Three Essays and his other early works on sexuality: the sexual theory Freud proposed in the first decade of the twentieth century did not distinguish between boys and girls. Both resembled adults in the passionate sexual nature of their attachments; both boys and girls had wider-ranging non-genital sexual lives than adults; both, in the forgotten period of infancy, and later in the revived sexual development of puberty, reacted to the sexually desired (and desiring) parental figures of childhood. Sexual pleasure could arise from any part of the body for infants. Therefore sexuality has to be understood as a term which refers to more than just pleasure received from genital sensation. The ‘foreplay’ of a kiss or other sexual activity, when viewed in the light of the reductive perspective that claimed that the aim of all sexuality was procreation, was seen as aberrant or perverse. Freud centrally pointed out that sexual instincts did not necessarily simply focus on the genitals. The sexual instincts were divided up into an aim (an activity that would help one achieve pleasure) and an object (the thing or person that will satisfy the aim), and there was no guarantee that aims and objects would correspond in ways that would conform to societal assumptions that suggested that boys should have active sexual aims towards girls, for instance, or that girls should have passive sexual aims towards boys. Sexual difference, which eventually emerges as a factor in Freud’s theory in puberty, begins only then to suggest a ‘natural’ path for each child’s desires to take – girls gravitating towards their father and boys towards their mother. But Freud’s central theory of sexual development, the Oedipus complex, was built for boys, not for girls, and for heterosexuals, not homosexuals. Freud’s conclusions in the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality leaves open the possibility that what is defined as ‘natural’ sexuality is a later societal imposition. Baby boys and baby girls have ambivalent attitudes towards both parents. AMBIVALENCE Ambivalence is the simultaneous coexistence in the mind of opposite emotions,

particularly love and hate. It is a very important emotional state for psychoanalytic theory. Freud writes: a boy has not merely an ambivalent attitude towards his father and an affectionate object-choice towards his mother, but at the same time he also behaves like a girl and displays an affectionate feminine attitude to his father and a corresponding jealousy and hostility towards his mother. (Freud 1923:372) It seems that the heterosexual object choice is no more natural or set than the homosexual one. The interest of Freud’s theories is often in his wavering between a normalising sexual development and the radical possibilities that infantile sexual desire is not set in any one path. I will turn in the last section of this chapter to Freud’s explanations for how sexuality comes to be policed and heterosexualised, and this will lead us back to the question of what psychoanalysis has to offer as an explanation for the sexual development of the girl child.

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