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Horney, K. (1924). On the Genesis of the Castration Complex in Women. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:50-65.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:50-65

On the Genesis of the Castration Complex in Women

Karen Horney

Whilst our knowledge of the forms which the castration complex may assume in women has become more and more comprehensive, our insight into the nature of the complex as a whole has made no corresponding advance. The very abundance of the material collected which is now familiar to us brings to our minds more strongly than ever the remarkable character of the whole phenomenon, so that the phenomenon in itself becomes a problem. A survey of the forms assumed by the castration complex in women that have hitherto been observed and of the inferences tacitly drawn from them shows that, so far, the prevailing conception is based on a certain fundamental notion which may be briefly formulated as follows (I quote in part verbatim from Abraham's work on the subject): Many females, both children and adults, suffer either temporarily or permanently from the fact of their sex. The manifestations in the mental life of women which spring from the objection to being a woman are traceable to their coveting a penis when they were little girls. The unwelcome idea of being fundamentally lacking in this respect gives rise to passive castration phantasies, while active phantasies spring from a revengeful attitude against the favoured male.

In this formulation we have it assumed as an axiomatic fact that females feel at a disadvantage in this respect of their genital organs, without this being regarded as constituting a problem in itself—possibly because to masculine narcissism this has seemed too self-evident to need explanation.

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