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Sarlin, C.N. (1970). The Current Status of the Concept of Genital Primacy. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 18:285-299.

(1970). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 18:285-299

The Current Status of the Concept of Genital Primacy

Charles N. Sarlin, M.D.

DESPITE THE LIMITATIONS of the term, an unfortunate relic of the early days of id analysis, the concept of genital primacy is still an essential part of the libido theory of psychosexual development upon which psychoanalysis was founded. Before consideration of the modifications which increasing knowledge has made advisable, it is necessary to define the concept itself since some misconceptions still exist.

In "The Infantile Genital Organization of the Libido" (1923) Freud said: "the main characteristic of this 'infantile genital organization' is its difference from the final genital organization of the adult. This consists in the fact that, for both sexes, only one genital, namely the male one, comes into account. What is present, therefore, is not a primacy of the genitals, but a primacy of the phallus" (p. 142).

The recent Glossary of Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts(1967) does not use the term "genital primacy" but describes the "genital phase" as "The final stage of psychosexual development. The genitals have primary importance… The term implies more than a physiological capacity for orgasm, which may occur with masturbation or perverted acts. Also involved are attitudes and feelings which connote non-narcissistic object love."


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