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Fenichel, O. (1928). Some Infantile Sexual Theories not Hitherto Described. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 9:346-352.

(1928). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 9:346-352

Some Infantile Sexual Theories not Hitherto Described

Otto Fenichel

In his paper on 'infantile sexual theories' Freud speaks of the difference between the theories formed at the stage of puberty and those of early childhood: The former are more rationalized, and are subjected to secondary elaboration. The latter have been long repressed by the time puberty has been reached; they are much more grotesque than the conceptions of a later period, and, as Freud says, always contain a fragment of truth in accordance with infantile pregenital sensations. Since actual bodily sensation points to a connection between the problems of child-getting and sex-differentiation and impulses to cruelty and excretory functions, curiosity is bound to proceed along the same path. As is well known, the attempts that are made to give early and natural 'explanations'—as Freud advises, and so to avoid the hurtful results of premature sexual enquiries, which are doomed to frustration, often miscarry. There are children who will not accept any explanation, and either refuse to listen when one is given or quickly forget it again; they prefer their own theories to the truth. Reflection suggests that the child with its pre-genital orientation is unable as yet to grasp genital reality. But that would not explain the affective refusal to listen. There must therefore already exist a repression, the ideational content of which approximates to the truth more closely than the theory the child clings to. Analysis teaches us that this points to a hostile attitude to the parents, which signifies: 'You have up till now not told me the truth, and now I won't listen to you', or, 'If you do not give me complete sexual satisfaction, I do not want want the surrogate of an "explanation"'. (Patients who complain that their parents kept back sexual enlightenment from them mean, in their unconscious, the refusal of sexual satisfaction.) But we learn further that various unconscious motives can lead to the rejection of sexual truth.

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