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Elise, D. (1998). The Absence of the Paternal Penis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(2):413-442.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(2):413-442

The Absence of the Paternal Penis

Dianne Elise

Girls' experiences of object loss, in conjunction with female anatomical structure, may lend themselves to a particular genital anxiety regarding openness and emptiness. The relational void in giving up the mother as love object may lead to an internal self-representation of a “hole” to be filled, much as the mouth sucks the pacifier in the absence of the nipple. This image may then be extended to the genital representation. In turning to the father, a girl may find that she lacks a relationship with him in the relational space opened up by the loss of the mother; the penis is symbolically withheld from her in the father's relational distance. This lack of sexual and relational gratification, it is proposed, may be schematized by a female as her body being empty of something. The father's absence—the absence of the paternal penis—may lead to an absence of the mental representation of the vagina and to an inhibition of the role the vagina then plays for a woman in sexual desire. Vaginal repression may serve to disguise object hunger that might otherwise be experienced as vaginal longing. An abbreviated clinical vignette, revolving around a masturbatory fantasy, is offered in partial illustration of the thesis.

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