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Burton, A. (1996). The Meaning Of Perineal Activity To Women: An Inner Sphinx. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44S(Supplement):241-259.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44S(Supplement):241-259

The Meaning Of Perineal Activity To Women: An Inner Sphinx

Anna Burton

This paper is an inquiry into the close association of anal and genital functions in women and the background and meaning of that association. Excerpts from the analyses of two women with sexual and intellectual inhibitions illustrate aspects of erotic life deriving from anal-phase development, and the unconscious fantasy of an inner, erotic, and powerful “organ.” Along with the lifting of their inhibitions, both analysands achieved integration of anal-sadistic and incorporative wishes with vaginal receptivity.

Female anatomy and physiology are so arranged that the action of perineal and sphincter musculature also stimulates the genital. This fosters overlapping mental representations of vagina and rectum which in turn affect body image and unconscious fantasy in women.

The experience of perineal contraction acquires complex psychic meanings with both libidinal and aggressive charge. The libidinal aspect is the largely covert erotic sensation that informs the mental representation of the genital and is destined to be integrated into female sexuality. The aggressive component may present as an unconscious fantasy of possessing an inner, powerful, and dangerous organ—a focus for conflict between anal-sadistic wishes and early elements of the superego.

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