Sigmund Freud's "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality", written in 1905, attempted to trace the course of the development of the sexual instinct in human beings from infancy to maturity. This instinct is not simply an animal instinct but is specific to both human culture and the form of conscious and unconscious life we live within it. For Freud sexuality is infinitely complicated and far-reaching in its effects and forms the basis of self-identity and interactions. His Third Essay discusses the transformations of puberty in both males and females. Part four of this essay focuses on the differentiation between male and female sexuality. Freud states in this part that 'as far as the autoerotic and masturbatory manifestations of sexuality are concerned the sexuality of little girls is of a wholly masculine character' . This paper will attempt to identify the assumptions that lead Freud to this contention, whilst also providing an assessment of Freud's account of the distinctions between 'active and passive' and 'masculine and feminine'.
Freud begins his discussion by noting that while it is true that masculine and feminine dispositions are already easily recognisable in childhood, it is not until puberty that a sharp distinction may be drawn between the two sexual characters. Freud identifies in young girls a tendency to sexual repression to a greater degree than is found in little boys. Young girls also tend to develop inhibitions to sexuality, the negative repressive emotions such as shame, disgust and pity, at an earlier stage than little boys and submit to these emotions with less resistance. According to Freud, little girls prefer the passive form of sexual gratification in relation to the compound erotogenic zones identified in infantile sexuality. Having noted this, however, Freud contends that infantile autoerotic activity and the erotogenic zones are the same in both sexes. Therefore, sexuality in little girls and in little boys is essentially the same. He then states that the libido is invariably and necessarily of a masculine nature regardless of the sex in which it occurs and the object to which it is directed.
To understand this point it is necessary to first discuss Freud's distinction between 'masculine' and 'feminine'. He clarifies in the footnote to the above statement as to the character of the libido that there are three popular uses of the terms 'masculine' and 'feminine', which he lists as 'active/passive', 'biological' and 'sociological'. Freud's use relates to the first distinction. He underlines the point that libido is described as being 'masculine', in that it is 'active' rather than 'passive' in its aim, which is the seeking of an object. This can be understood to mean that instinct always initiates activity even if that activity is passive in nature. In this way it is clear that Freud views 'masculine' to be analogous to 'active', whilst 'feminine' is 'passive' in nature.
Freud's notion of the innate bisexuality of human beings, discussed in his First Essay, which posits the bisexual nature of all human beings possessing anatomical and psychical traces of the opposite sex , denotes that masculine and feminine characteristics may be found in varying degrees in all human beings. This is important to an understanding of the sexual manifestations that are actually observed in men and women. By stating that the auto-erotic and masturbatory sexual nature of little girls is of a wholly masculine nature, Freud is thus contending that the sexual nature of little girls is active, unlike the sexual nature of post-pubertal girls, which undergoes a kind of transformation to become predominantly passive. The leading erotogenic zone in female children, Freud contends, is 'located at the clitoris, and thus homologous to the masculine genital zone of the glans penis' . Early masturbation in little girls is related to the clitoris and not to the external genitalia. Sexual excitement in little girls is...
Bibliography: Freud, S. (, 1977), Third Essay: The Transformations of Puberty in Three Essay on the Theory of Sexuality and other works, Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood Australia.
Freud, S. (, 1977), First Essay: Sexual Aberrations in Three Essay on the Theory of Sexuality and other works, Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood Australia.
Freud, S. ([c.1938], 2003), Femininity in CLS2950: Freud and Feminism 2003, Course Dossier
Minsky, R. (1996), Psychoanalysis and Gender: An Introductory Reader, Routledge, London, UK.
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