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Freud, S. (1920). A Child is Being Beaten—A Contribution to the Study of the Origin of Sexual Perversions. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:371-395.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:371-395

A Child is Being Beaten—A Contribution to the Study of the Origin of Sexual Perversions

Sigmund Freud


A surprising number of people who have come in search of analytic treatment on account of an hysteria or of an obsessional neurosis admit that they have experienced the phantasy: "A child is being beaten". Very probably it occurs even more often with other people who have not been obliged to come to this decision by an obvious illness.

The phantasy has feelings of pleasure attached to it, and because of them it has been reproduced on countless occasions in the past or is even being reproduced still. At the climax of the imaginary situation there is almost invariably an onanistic gratification, that is to say, a gratification in the genitals. At first this takes place in accordance with the will of the person in question, but later on it does so in spite of his efforts, and with the characteristics of an obsession.

It is only with hesitation that this phantasy is confessed to. Its first appearance is recollected with uncertainty. The analytic treatment of the subject is met by an unmistakable resistance. Shame and a sense of guilt are perhaps more strongly excited in this connection than when similar accounts are given of memories of the beginnings of sexual life.

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