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Greenacre, P. (1953). Certain Relationships Between Fetishism and Faulty Development of the Body Image. Psychoanal. St. Child, 8:79-98.

(1953). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 8:79-98

Certain Relationships Between Fetishism and Faulty Development of the Body Image

Phyllis Greenacre, M.D.

SUMMARY

Fetishism is the result of a rather definite combination of genetic influences, in disturbances of pregenitality. These consist of (1) disturbances in the early months of life, producing instability in the formation of the body image, with uncertainty as to outline, and fluctuations in the subjective sense of size; and (2) complementary disturbances in the phallic phase, which produce an exaggeration of the castration complex. The genital area of the body image is under any circumstances less certain in the early months of life than other parts of the body except the face. Under normal developmental conditions, the genital area of the body image becomes consolidated during the phallic phase, due to the increase in the spontaneous endogenous sensations arising then. Under the disturbed conditions of pregenitality described, the overly strong castration anxiety is combined with body disintegration anxiety from the early phase, and depletes rather than reinforces the genital outlines of the body. These conditions also contribute to increase bisexuality and contribute to a corresponding split in the ego.

Due to the marked pathology of the first months, there is a persistence of the unusually strong primary identification (which in many cases has played a part also in confusing the genital part of body image). This persistent tendency to primary identification, especially through vision, again influences what happens with attempts at intercourse. Then the sight of the penislessness of the partner brings into focus the underlying feminine identification and makes genital performance impossible unless special support is offered.

The support is attained through the use of the fetish; which is tangible, visible, generally inanimate, unchanging in size, also not readily destroyed. It offsets the effect of the identification with the partner, and "pegs" the genital functioning by furnishing this external and material

symbol of the phallus to be reintrojected and reaffirm the genital integrity of the fetishist.

Thus, while the fetish is precipitated in the situation of the need to preserve the idea of the mother's phallus and so deny anatomical differences between the sexes, it functions by reinstating, through visual, olfactory and actual introjection, the phallus of the individual.

The choice of the fetish is abundantly overdetermined. It symbolically represents the phallus (but can also deny it), but its nature is further determined by the nature of severe prephallic castrating traumas; and in cases of fetishistic rituals, these incorporate the activity of the traumatic experiences in condensed fugue-like screening repetition.

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