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Welldon, E.V. (1995). Female Perversion and Hysteria. Brit. J. Psychother., 11(3):406-414.

(1995). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 11(3):406-414

Female Perversion and Hysteria

Estela V. Welldon

This paper was prompted by Freud's axiom that hysteria was the negative of perversion. I claimed ignorance on the subject but felt challenged by the possibilities in the light of change since Freud's time, when hysteria was the female counterpart of male perversion. Tied in with my own clinical findings was Juliet Mitchell's concern with male hysteria; we started to sketch out some comparisons with a view to future work.

I would now like to offer my views on female perversion, our initial views on hysteria and perversion, and a clinical case to illustrate a few points.

Female Perversion

In my view, as I have written elsewhere (Welldon 1988), some of the psychodynamic principles operating in perversion appear in females when they become mothers. A woman's capacity for getting pregnant and containing the baby within her own body provides her with some of the same emotional characteristics in her objectrelationships as are found in exaggerated and highly distorted forms in perverse relationships. These include the desire and intention to engulf the other person, to dehumanise the object, to intrude into, to invade, to be in complete control of and to merge with the other.

Motherhood is sometimes chosen for unconscious perverse reasons. ‘The woman would know that in achieving motherhood she is automatically achieving the role of master, that of being in charge, in complete control of another being who has to submit himself or herself not only emotionally but also biologically to the mother's demands, however inappropriate they may be’ (Welldon 1988, p.

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