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Infantile Sexuality, Gender Identity, and Obstacles to


Oedipal Progression

Phyllis Tyson, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT
Contrary to when it was first proposed, infantile sexuality nowadays is accepted as an
important part of child development. However, Freud's views on masculine primacy
and feminine inferiority are seen to be incomplete and inaccurate not only because
they overemphasize sexuality and sexual anatomy, but also because they neglect
aggression, object relations, ego and superego functioning, and the sense of self.
Infantile sexuality is therefore reconsidered within the broader perspective of gender
identity. Within this broader perspective, normal and aberrant sexual development is
discussed, and new ideas are offered about familiar concepts such as castration
anxiety and penis envy.

CONTRARY TO WHEN IT WAS FIRST PROPOSED, we easily accept infantile


sexuality as a fundamental influence in the development and organization of the
personality. However, some of Freud's views on masculine primacy and feminine
inferiority in conscious and unconscious mental life have come to be seen not only as
narrow, concrete, outdated, and sexist, but also wrong, despite the internal
consistency in classical formulations derived from these models. These earlier ideas
are incomplete and inaccurate because of their overemphasis on sexuality and sexual
anatomy per se, and also because of their relative neglect of the roles of object
relations, ego and superego functioning, and aggression in personality development,
conflict, and character formation. Today we see infantile sexuality in the broader
perspective of gender identity, the psychological sense of a
—————————————

Child Supervisor and Senior Faculty, San Diego Psychoanalytic Institute; Assistant Clinical
Professor of Psychiatry, University of California at San Diego.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American
Psychoanalytic Association, Chicago, May 9, 1987. Accepted for publication January 6, 1988.

masculine or feminine identity, a developmental achievement that combines


sexuality with object relations, ego and superego functioning, and a sense of self
(see Kleeman, 1976); (Stoller, 1976); (P. Tyson, 1982). Sexual development as
proposed by Freud (1905) is therefore only one among many "developmental lines"
which converge with the formation of the Oedipus complex. These same lines can
provide pitfalls to oedipal consolidation. It therefore seems timely that we reconsider

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infantile sexuality within this broader perspective. To this end I shall present material
from the analysis of four children, two boys and two girls. One child in each group
illustrates the normal progression and integration of sexuality; the other shows
aberrant sexual development which interferes with oedipal progression.
Jimmy, aged five and a half when treatment began, enacts six or seven play
scenarios over several sessions. Using a Barbie doll, a Ken doll (the adult male doll in
the Barbie series) and a smaller boy doll, he pretends that Barbie, alone in an open
grassland, is confronted by a lion. The boy rescues her, kills the lion, and takes Barbie
behind the horse stable where they become silly and giggly, hugging and kissing.
Ken, whom he represents as Barbie's mate, arrives on the scene, chastises the boy,
and takes Barbie home, where they go to bed, naked; Jimmy giggles. On another day
Jimmy pretends he is a jester. A woman is captured, and put into the dungeon. The
king plans to kill her. But he, the jester, entertains the king in order to trick him and
save the woman. Just as he is stealing away with the woman, the real jester appears,
and Jimmy is exposed as an imposter—only a child. "Well," he explains to his captors,
"I was just trying to keep everyone happy and entertained"; the imposter is then
killed. The game changes. Now he and I share taking care of a baby, but, he asserts,
no one has any relationship with anyone else. He says, "I am not the mother!"
Discovering his slip, he gets a little flustered and says, "Oh! I mean I am not the
father, you are not the mother, and we are not married!" Affectionately, he reads to
the baby. Another time, Jimmy's parents accompany

him to his session. He positions mother between himself and his stepfather. He
becomes flirtatious and silly with mother; stepfather sternly reprimands him; Jimmy
then regresses and becomes more like mother's baby than her love. On another day
Jimmy plays wild horses and ponders what will tame the wild horses? He thinks a
rider would help. We agree that it would be good if Jimmy could put a rider on his wild
horse.
A little background history will provide a context for these analytic excerpts.
Jimmy's parents separated when he was two years old. Mother remarried when he
was four and a half. Jimmy admires and adores both his stepfather and his natural
father, but the two men hold very different values and present contrasting models for
identification. His natural father is something of a brute, offering a rough, tough,
macho view of masculinity. His stepfather is quiet, soft-spoken, affectionate, but
firmly in control.
As Jimmy struggles with these two views of masculinity, superego integration and
effective functioning suffer. He is small in stature, and he is quick to anger when
teased about his size. He attempts to show off his masculinity by being physically
aggressive and attacking. Then he becomes depressed and views himself as a bad
boy. This oscillation between behavior problems and depression brought him to
treatment. He thinks he would please his mother more if he were "good," like a girl.
While Jimmy seems to have successfully reached the Oedipus complex, he does seem
to have problems with gender-related issues. He is insecure in his sense of
masculinity and sometimes wishes to be a girl; he vacillates in his gender role
between being a baby, a mother of a baby, or a knight in shining armor.
Jonathan illustrates aberrant sexual development. He is a tall, well-built boy who
began treatment when he was nearly five. At seven, he still customarily sits cradled
in his mother's arms as she reads to him while waiting for his analytic hour. A recent
session captures the essence of Jonathan's pathology. He saunters into the room,
makes a provocative gesture, and becomes engaged in a ball game, jumping
excitedly into the air,

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praising himself while clutching his penis, when he makes a point in his fantasized
game, the rules of which he does not share with me. He ties the girl doll to a rope and
dangles her in the air, takes off her clothes, and attacks her genitals. He laughs and
masturbates. Later he pulls the head off the doll. His play is generally characterized
by endless battles. Using a Nazi demeanor complete with foreign accent, he plays at
killing: "Splat! Bang! Killing! Killing! More guys dead!" Clang associations and primary
process predominate as he stomps the toy soldiers into the ground to make sure they
are dead, or rips off their heads, his excitement mounting. Although he mostly
ignores me, he often refuses to leave at the end of sessions, and tries to engage me
in a struggle. Jonathan is often preoccupied, attending only when attended to. His
mother asks him to take his bath, and when she checks on him, finds him sitting not
on, but in the toilet, masturbating. Yet there is a sweet, affectionate side to Jonathan,
and an almost angelic expression on his face. On leaving his treatment sessions, he
frequently tells me he loves me.
Jonathan was adopted at birth by loving and caring parents who provided a
consistent, probably somewhat better than "average expectable" environment. His
developmental history is unremarkable; there were no traumatic episodes, no
separations, and developmental milestones were on schedule. Yet he is like a horse
without a rider; his ego-integrating functions are weak, for reasons unknown, so that
sexual and aggressive impulses become exaggerated; they disrupt object relations
and interfere with formation of an integrated sense of self.
Our increased understanding of object relations has led us to view the
contribution of sexuality to the sense of self in the broader context of gender identity.
Identification with the object is also central to gender role identification. Gender
identity, gender role identifications, and conflicts over object choice converge with
the Oedipus complex.
I see the Oedipus complex as the normal developmental conflict which provides a
nexus around which all the evolving

developmental currents converge. The formation of the Oedipus complex implies


some consolidation of a sense of gender identity—masculinity or femininity—the
assumption of a particular gender role, and some position, although conflictual,
regarding object choice. According to Loewald (1985):
The oedipus complex, with its basis in instinctual life, stands as a symbol in psychoanalytic
psychology of the first delineation of man's love … a symbol of the clear awakening of his life as
an individual. It takes form through his passionate involvement, in love and hate, with his first
libidinal objects, and through the limitations placed on this involvement which throw him back on
himself [p. 442].
Loewald calls this process "soul making."

Obstacles to Oedipal Progression


As we know, development is not always smooth, and there may be obstacles to
oedipal progression. Jimmy clearly chose his mother as his love object. But he was
not so sure he wanted to be male. His insecurity in his sense of masculinity and in his
control over his sexual and aggressive impulses led him to oscillate between saving
the damsel in distress, mothering the baby, or being the baby. These oscillations
emphasize the need to distinguish object choice from gender identity and gender role
identification. Here we are forced to question one of Freud's (1923) principal
assumptions: that a central characteristic of the "infantile genital organization" is that

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"for both sexes, only one genital, namely the male one, comes into account" (p. 142).
In other words, "maleness exists, but not femaleness" (p. 145). Do we agree that
maleness is primary, as Freud implied? Is the sense of masculinity a given, based
solely on the possession of a penis? Or is the acquisition of a secure sense of
masculinity a more complex process? Stoller (1985) for one thinks that it is, for he
says that acquiring a sense of masculinity is an achievement.
To the extent that the sense of self or of identity accrues partly by identification
with the primary object, built into a boy's core gender identity, his most primitive
sense of himself, is a vulnerability to a sense of femaleness (see Stoller, 1985). In
order to gain a sense of maleness, the boy must establish a sense of differentness
from the primary object. A sense of masculinity, rather than being guaranteed by the
possession of a penis, depends on the boy's early disidentification with his mother.
Castration anxiety, an insecurity in the sense of body integrity and in the sense of
masculinity, rather than coming into florescence and completion in the phallic phase,
as Freud thought, is something the boy must overcome from the beginning of the
separation process.
Greenacre (1953) stressed the importance of the first 18 months for the boy's
ultimate gender identity. She pointed out that trauma or continual exposure to
female genitals often resulted in confusion and uncertainty about his body image,
predisposing the boy to severe castration reactions in later stages of development.
The contribution of aggression to castration anxiety must also be considered. The
prominent anal and genital concerns that arise in the second year (documented by
Roiphe and Galenson, 1981) are set against the background of the aggression of
anal/rapprochement conflict. If in order to allay his discomfort the boy projects his
aggression onto the mother, his concept of the mother as omnipotent gains
credence. We may surmise that the boy experiences his fear of punishment as
castration anxiety because he is experiencing pleasure in genital arousal.
The manner in which the toddler and the mother negotiate anal-phase conflicts
affects not only the sense of masculinity, but also the soundness of ego and superego
integration (Tyson and Tyson, 1984); (P. Tyson, 1988). When there is a
disturbance in the mother/child relationship and, for whatever reason, the mother is
unable to ensure a basic level of safety, or the child is unable to utilize whatever it is
that the mother provides (as in the case of Jonathan, which I suspect is
because of constitutional factors as Abrams, 1986, describes),

exaggerated or unrelieved rage may disrupt ego functioning and object attachment.
Loved and hated object representations remain poorly integrated, and the ordinary
sense of helplessness accompanying the sense of separateness may be accompanied
by impotent rage, narcissistic vulnerability, and heightened castration anxiety.
Instinctual tension may be increased resulting in rage becoming associated with
genital arousal, but instinctual satisfaction remains separate from any loving tie with
the object. Jonathan's behavior seems to illustrate such a child. He seems to be
unable to utilize what his mother can provide and so instead has developed
enormous castration anxiety and cruel, hostile, erotically exciting fantasies,
accompanied by envy and hostility toward women which are kept separate from any
loving tie to his mother.
Optimally, the father as the less "contaminated" object can help the boy resolve
rapprochement conflict by providing a figure for identification so the boy can
increasingly disidentify with the mother and find his own independent identity.
Identification with the father fosters a sense of masculinity and confidence in intact
genitals. More recently we have come to appreciate the important role of the father

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in also facilitating the boy's progressive modulation and integration of aggression
(Herzog, 1982). Improved control over aggressive urges renders
anal/rapprochement conflict less noxious and facilitates resolution. In some cases,
however, father may fail. He may be passive, uninvolved, and thus unavailable as a
figure for identification. Or his own explosive or competitive hostility may lead him to
struggle with or attack his son, physically or verbally, exacerbating rather than
minimizing hostile aggression and therefore contributing further to fears of
castration. Or the father may be sexually stimulating to his son, taking showers with
him, or sharing toileting activities. Instances of exaggerated hostility or escalated
sexual excitement may heighten castration anxiety rather than foster an intact sense
of masculinity.
Castration anxiety is not only an issue to be resolved in the

early genital phase. With progression to genital primacy, phallic sexuality comes into
full bloom. One four-year-old boy expressed this nicely in his exclamation: "I know,
Superman's power comes from his penis!" Sexual excitement challenges immature
ego-integrating functions, and the loss of control experienced with spontaneous
erections can be mystifying and frightening. Castration anxiety typically emerges
again, mother continuing to be seen as the feared, punishing, omnipotent object who
more and more is viewed as penisless. Castration anxiety is hardly relegated to the
unconscious in little boys as they make up limericks and rhymes in attempts to
master their anxiety, such as: "If boys go to Venus, they lose their penis; if girls go to
Venus they can get a penis. Or: "I'm Popeye the sailor man, I eat from the garbage
can, I sit on the heater, it pulls off my weiner, I'm Popeye the sailor man."
The first of two important tasks the boy must accomplish during the early part of
the phallic phase is to again overcome castration anxiety and find a narcissistically
valued and intact sense of his male body. Maintaining self-esteem becomes
increasingly difficult for the boy as narcissistic balance becomes less dependent on
omnipotent and grand views of the self, and relies more on finding a view of the self
as masculine with a functioning, intact, valued male body. An "ideal self" image
forms as part of the emerging superego, yet this image tends to be built on
exaggerated caricatures of phallic masculinity. Efforts to reach the ideal lead to
phallic exhibitionism, but the extent to which the boy can find a comfortable,
narcissistically valued sexually differentiated view of the self depends on the extent
to which he can find pleasure in his own capacities (and in his own small penis in
comparison to father's large one) and gratification from the admiration he seeks from
both parents. After several months of playing at being "He-Man," Charlie, aged four
years, eleven months, said sadly, "I wish I really were strong and powerful."
A second task of the phallic narcissistic phase (Edgcumbe and Burgner, 1975)
is for the boy to assume a male gender
role. Oedipal progression and ultimate heterosexual adjustment now demand that the
boy shift in his role in relation to the love object; from being "baby" he now becomes
"lover" (P. Tyson, 1982). To make this shift the boy must have reasonable
confidence in his masculinity, and he must increasingly idealize and identify with
father. Jimmy's oscillating wishes illustrate some of the typical problems. Jonathan
shows little signs of making this shift as he sits cradled in mother's arms.
Davy, referred for treatment at four years and three months, had found another
solution: he wanted to be a girl. He played with girls' toys, and said he wanted to
have babies, like his mother. He loved to be with his mother or any other adult
female. His father, although he adored his son, was preoccupied with his successful
professional life and was therefore relatively unavailable and uninvolved with Davy.

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The result was that Davy had not had father's tempering influence in the handling of
aggression and had not idealized or identified with father. While Davy knew he was a
boy, primary identification with his mother added an element of femininity to his
sense of self, and his wished-for gender role was feminine. While the wish for a baby
and "womb envy" is a ubiquitous though less often emphasized element in male
development, in Davy it was exaggerated and not matched with age-appropriate
male preoccupations.
In the oedipal phase, the boy's guilt about his "inadmissible impulses" (Freud,
1924) and fears that father will punish him "in kind" leads to a revival of castration
anxiety. But now the feared perpetrator is father, not mother. Ideally, castration
anxiety eventually comes to be replaced by fear of superego punishment, and fears
of actual genital damage or loss generalize to more of a concern about one's
effectiveness or one's potency, as the ego ideal poses narcissistic threats.
Given all the obstacles, we may wonder how any boy establishes a secure sense
of masculinity. Considering the many possible factors that can undermine the sense
of masculinity, we might view castration anxiety as a developmental metaphor

in much the same way Grossman and Stewart (1976) have suggested in regard to
penis envy in women.
As a developmental metaphor, we can distinguish three phases in which
castration anxiety arises. In earliest childhood, self-object differentiation, body and
ego integration, integration of loving and hating feelings about the object and the
self, and disidentification with the mother are crucial developmental issues.
Castration anxiety deriving from this early period betrays a basic insecurity in
separateness and in differentness, an insecurity in an intact male sense of self.
Pervasive concerns over power and control seen in an adult may appear as
compensatory measures to preserve the precarious male sense of self. In the early
phallic phase, the consolidation of a narcissistically valued and intact body image,
with a delineation of a male gender role, is the crucial issue. Castration anxiety
deriving from this period, evident in pressured phallic exhibitionism, voyeurism,
demeaning attitudes toward women, and idealized exaggerations of macho sexuality
(see Person, 1986) indicates inadequate narcissistic investment and continuing
insecurity in the male body, as well as disturbance in object relations. In the oedipal
phase, the relationships to both parents as a function of the sexual difference and
triadic object relations lead to the familiar fantasies of oedipal conquest. Conflicts
having to do with object relations and drive impulses are central. Castration anxiety
deriving primarily from this period is manifested in fears of loss of love, of
humiliation, or of punishment from the father. Some resolution of oedipal conflict will
have an important influence in determining to what extent both conscious and
unconscious castration anxiety comes to represent earlier or later conflicts, and
continues to exert a central influence on psychological functioning.
Viewed as a developmental metaphor, castration anxiety can be considered not
only as an anxiety about loss of the penis, but also as related to the overall sense of
masculine identity and fear of one's masculinity being undermined. Clinically, the
problem then is to distinguish castration anxiety as it represents

unresolved oedipal conflict with continuing superego threat, castration anxiety is


representing vulnerability of phallic narcissism and failure to assume a male gender
role, and castration anxiety as representing a severe disturbance in object relations,

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narcissistic development, and ego integration.
Jonathan provides an example. He has both enormous castration anxiety and
intense phallic hostility, which has a violent narcissistic quality, and he is prone to
disorganized and disorganizing rage. He relates to his parents primarily as if they
existed to satisfy his needs, with extremes of love and hate in evidence; yet in their
absence, he falls apart.
While the extremes of castration anxiety suggest that Jonathan has problems in
gender identity, closer examination reveals a fundamental disturbance in ego
functioning, object relations, and narcissism. Defenses against wishes to merge with
the mother and strivings toward disidentification lead to an attenuation of object ties.
However, this interferes with identification with the mother in other spheres, e.g.,
with the mother's regulating and integrating functions. Disturbance in ego
functioning interferes with the ability to distinguish fantasy, metaphor, or symbolic
representation from reality, so that castration continues to seem like a realistic
threat, and anxiety continues to be pervasive and exaggerated by sexual and
aggressive impulses. In patients like Jonathan, oedipal wishes may appear, but they
do not lead to the formation of an infantile neurosis because envy, spite,
possessiveness, and derogation of one or both parents play a larger role than wishes
for affection and love. Instead of superego integration and internal modification, the
object relationship is attenuated, with a corresponding increase in narcissistically
driven sexual and aggressive components. Castration anxiety is therefore the
manifest content of a profound character disorder.

Female Development
In Freud's claim that a sense of masculinity, for both sexes, is

primary, he said that the antithesis is between maleness and castration, not
maleness and femaleness. For the girl to accrue a sense of femininity, he said, she
had to give up her masculinity, accept her damaged, incomplete, inferior state, and
turn her affections away from her mother and toward her father (Freud, 1931, pp.
229-230). Only then can she enter into an oedipal constellation. If we continue
tracing the obstacles in the way of the child's finding a comfortable oedipal position,
we must reevaluate this statement. To do so, let me first present material from the
analysis of two girls.
Amy was brought to treatment at the age of five because she was prone to
depression and low self-esteem. Evaluation revealed extensive neurotic conflict and a
preoccupation with oedipal competition with her mother; her low self-esteem seemed
to derive primarily from oedipal failure. During analytic sessions, Amy dramatized
these conflicts through play with Barbie dolls in which she staged beauty contests
between Barbie and Skipper, the female adolescent doll. Ken, Barbie's mate, was
usually given the role of the judge. While Skipper was empathically concerned about
hurting Barbie's feelings should she win, she loved winning because the prize was a
date with Ken. Amy delighted in wearing nail polish and jewelry, and she talked her
mother into buying her a "sexy" bikini for the summer. She also loved gymnastics and
ballet and jazz dancing, and was indeed quite skilled. While Amy proudly announced
that she was a "daddy's girl," she wished she could have large breasts like the Barbie
doll or like her mother. Although she felt herself to be her father's princess, mother
remained Queen, leading her to feel inadequate and envious, and angry with her
mother. Her competitive feelings were followed by guilt, so that when her mother
bought her pretty clothes, the guilty feelings disrupted her confident sense of self,
her pleasure in her femininity, and her pleasure in the shared activity with her

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mother.
The second girl, Susie, was brought to analysis at the age of three and a half
because of her profound sense of self-hatred. She said she wished she were dead
because no one liked her. While

reportedly a good baby, since the latter part of her second year she fought with her
mother over everything. She was envious of her mother's possessions, would steal
from her mother or female guests, and easily dissolved into fits of rage upon
discovering inequalities, such as finding that mother had two pillows and she had
only one. Yet she could not separate and would sneak into bed with her mother in the
early hours of the morning.
Frequently, she began a session by provoking her mother into punishing her in
the waiting room, after which she would run into my office and crawl under a chair
and sob. One day, after provoking such a scene, she dug her fingernails into her
mother's hands, saying, "I hate you Mommy, I wish you were dead!" As her mother
prepared to leave, she screamed in panic, "No, don't go! You'll never come back!"
Treatment was characterized by oscillations between playing "good" mother and
baby and "bad" mother and baby. In "good" mother and baby games, Susie would
alternate between being the mother and being the baby, playing out an idealized,
blissfull, contented "oneness" between mother and baby. She would then switch the
game, and envy and sadomasochistic fantasies with persistent attempts to control
and provoke me would be prominent. For example, one day, after several minutes of
pretending I was the all-giving mother, she said, "No, pretend you're a mean mother
and I'm a helpless little baby." With cold, calculated teasing and mimicking she tried
to provoke me to anger. When this failed, she repeated anxiously, "You have to be
mean! Come on, spank me!" Strange as it may seem, coming from such a young
child, she went on to construct an elaborate masochistic fantasy. "Pretend I'm in
chains, the helpless victim; and you whip me." Writhing on the floor, pretending being
beaten, she became increasingly excited by the fantasy, and began to masturbate.
She then switched the fantasy to a surgical operation in which her genitals are being
"worked on." Frustrated by her lack of success in manipulating me to physically
abuse her, she again changed the fantasy. Now she was Cinderella and I the

fairy godmother; I was to give her a wonderful dress and help her to go to the ball
and marry the prince. A sparkle in her eye and coquettish gestures accompanied the
fantasy. Then, projecting her guilty self-criticism, she assigned me the role of the
wicked stepmother, and I was to kill Cinderella so that I could marry the prince
instead.

Obstacles to Oedipal Progression


Both Amy and Susie have a clear sense of being female. Were we to compare
boys and girls according to the ease with which they establish core gender identity,
we might come to an opposite conclusion from Freud. Although some obstacles may
indeed exist, establishing a primary sense of femininity is facilitated by identification
with the primary object. A fantasized, wished-for mother-daughter "oneness" may
impede separation and oedipal progression, but such intimacy fosters rather than
interferes with core gender identity. Furthermore, a girl's genitals are an integral,
partly internal and protected part of her body, and genital sensations are internally
experienced. Girls may have difficulty seeing their genitals, but they have no trouble

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locating and experiencing genital sensations. Anxieties around genital damage may
arise because of masturbation, but while these may lead to sexualized fantasies of
being beaten, penetrated, or otherwise injured, such anxiety does not usually disrupt
an integrated sense of body self or necessarily provoke compensatory efforts.
The girl's narcissistic investment in her feminine sense of self, however, is a major
source of vulnerability, often interfering with oedipal progression. It is of such
prominent concern because the ability to maintain this investment is bound up with
hostility toward the mother. Excessive aggression toward the mother destroys the
feeling of intimacy, exaggerates a sense of separateness, and interferes with
selective identifications with the mother and with pleasure in being feminine like the
mother. Susie could love her Cinderella self dressed up to go to the ball

while she had the support of her fantasized fairy godmother, but her competition with
and hostility toward her mother put her at risk of losing mother's love, so she gave
up the fantasy and instead represented herself as a victim, a poor girl in rags.
It is in regard to the difficulty in maintaining sufficient narcissistic investment in
and deriving pleasure from the feminine sense of self that the subject of penis envy
often arises. It is not that the sense of masculinity is primary, but that a sense of
togetherness is idealized and loneliness and depletion often accompany the sense of
separate functioning. A girl may fantasize that possession of a penis might in some
way help her to repair the flaw in her relation with her mother and the flaw in her
self-esteem. There are, of course, many meanings for penis envy, and the meanings
may vary depending on the stage of development and the life experiences of the
individual in question (so much so that it can also represent a developmental
metaphor as Grossman and Stewart [1976] suggest). Penis envy is ubiquitous;
however, there is little evidence of it in either of the little girls I have spoken about.
But neither of these girls has a brother; neither has been exposed to father's nudity.
And while one has a younger sister, the other is an only child. Other girls I have
treated have shown unmistakable signs of penis envy, but with Amy and Susie,
interpretations I made in that direction went nowhere. Amy certainly was interested
and to some extent fascinated with her father's penis, but it was her mother's breasts
that she envied. Susie was equally clear in her wish for a baby, her mother's jewelry,
her mother's pillow, or her mother's husband; if she also wanted a penis, I saw no
evidence of it, which leads me to question whether penis envy is a necessary part of
every girl's normal development, and whether, in our attention to penis envy, we
have neglected the role of "breast envy" as a continuing source of self-esteem
vulnerability for the girl.
The sense of vulnerability and helplessness accompanying a sense of
separateness from the mother may combine with sexual and hostile urges and give
rise to masochistic fantasies

of injury and a sense of being damaged. Such psychic events have frequently been
understood as "castration reactions." Susie's fantasies give ample evidence of an
erotized quest to be the victim of pain and suffering, which included specifically
fantasies of genital damage. Again, however, I did not see these fantasies as
attempts to master a sense of castration, and when I made interpretations along that
line, they did not seem to be very meaningful to Susie. Interpreting these fantasies as
related to wishes to repeat and to master the erotized, sadomasochistic interaction
with her mother that led her to feel helpless and lonely seemed more fruitful, and led
to the emergence of an idiosyncratic version of the Rapunzel story (see below).

9
A further obstacle to a girl's oedipal progression is fear of loss of, or loss of the
love of, the loved, idealized, hated, punishing mother. When Freud conceded that he
did not really know much about female development, he expressed the hope that a
major obstacle interfering with oedipal progression, the preoedipal mother-child
relationship, could perhaps be more fully elucidated by female analysts via the
transference neurosis. This hope has been realized, and the many conflicts between
mother and daughter which must be resolved before oedipal consolidation or
resolution is possible are now well known, and are illustrated in the cases of Susie
and Amy.
True, Susie's problems focus around enormous envy and anxiety. However, the
envy is focused on her mother's possessions and could be considered more "breast
envy" than penis envy; the anxiety is not about body integrity, but about the fear of
the loss of the loved and hated object whom she wants to kill and replace, but with
whom she also wishes to find a comfortable state of affective "oneness." While
oedipal themes are clearly in evidence in her wish to marry the prince, her extremes
of envy of and hatred and love toward her mother have impeded the establishment
of libidinal object constancy, without which she is unable to selectively identify with
her mother and find a comfortable sense of femininity. She is unable to extend her
affections to her father and elaborate oedipal themes. Her

struggle to resolve the conflict over object choice is illustrated by her version of the
Rapunzel story. Imagining herself to be Rapunzel, she taunts the witch about what a
bad mother she is, telling the witch that her prince gives her candy, which she likes
much better than the bones and mice the witch gives her to eat. As in the traditional
story, hearing of a rival, the furious witch cuts Rapunzel's hair to mar her beauty, and
banishes her to the desert; she then blinds the prince. In Susie's version, however,
when Rapunzel finds the prince wandering blindly in the desert and restores his sight
with her tears, Susie-Rapunzel abandons the prince to search for her real mother, the
lost, fantasized, all-giving, nurturing mother of infancy.
Amy, too, is envious of, yet wishes to retain the love of her mother. But a degree
of libidinal object constancy enables her to identify as well as compete with her
mother without fearing her mother's punishment or her own humiliation. More and
more she finds it is mother, not father, who lets her wear her teeny weeny bikini. Her
increasing ability to tolerate oedipal conflict and accompanying anger and guilt vis à
vis her mother has helped her to maintain a more constant sense of self-worth.
Resolving rapprochement conflict is a major step toward a girl's oedipal
progression. Failure to resolve rapprochement ambivalence undermines the girl's self-
esteem and interferes with pleasure in feminine identifications, which may also
interfere with gender role identifications. Failure to resolve rapprochement
ambivalence poses conflicts over object choice. This not only impedes forward
oedipal development, but may jeopardize an ultimate heterosexual object choice.

Conclusion
Freud's hypothesis that sexual impulses are crucial to the development and
organization of the personality has stood the test of time. On the other hand, as I
have discussed, his ideas are incomplete and at times inaccurate. Rather than
anatomy being destiny, it is the combination of a large variety of issues

related to gender identity, gender role identifications, and object choice, of which I

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have mentioned only a few (see P. Tyson, 1982, for a more complete list),
interaction with constitutional factors, object relations, predictable developmental
conflict, sexuality, aggression, and ego and superego functioning, which determine
the ultimate personality configuration. We must conclude that while the integration of
sexual strivings into smooth personality functioning remains a central task of the
immature ego, many developmental lines contribute to the formation of a secure
sense of masculine or feminine identity.
development J. Am. Psychoanal. Assoc. 32:75-98 [→]

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