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Wittels, F. (1933). The Super-Ego in our Judgements of Sex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 14:335-340.

(1933). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 14:335-340

The Super-Ego in our Judgements of Sex

Fritz Wittels

On more than one occasion and almost, it would seem, a shade impatiently, the creator of psycho-analysis and its most fearless thinker has stated that for psychology the concepts 'masculine' and 'feminine' have but little significance. For the anatomist, the biologist or the legislator they present no problem, and we may say the same as regards ordinary speech and practical life. Psycho-analysis, however, finds itself for the present compelled to substitute for these concepts, as a rough approximation, the ideas of 'plus' and 'minus', or 'active' and 'passive'. Everything that thrusts and penetrates is, it says, masculine, and everything that receives and endures is feminine. Now the behaviour of real, living men and women does not correspond to this bald definition. In psycho-analysis, therefore, we invoke the law of bisexuality, exhibited in all living beings, and, in so doing, we relegate our own definition from the realm of reality to that of abstractions. We assume the existence of masculine and feminine tendencies which, like the radicals of organic chemistry, occur only in various degrees of combination. It is helpful in analysis to defuse each tendency and to examine them separately—the masculine as active and the feminine as passive. But our formulations threaten to prove inadequate precisely in that respect in which psycho-analysis has always been able to claim its highest achievements: in a living apprehension of our psychic life.

Even 'sound common sense' rebels against a mathematical definition of masculine and feminine in psychology. It is true that we can make short work of the authority of 'sound common sense'. It has often been shown by psycho-analysis to be neither sound nor sensible, but to be based solely on ignorance and on error transmitted from one generation to another. But we have learnt to distinguish between so-called sound common sense [ gesunder Menschenverstand ], which represents an instinctive and instinctual resistance against intelligent understanding [ Verstand ], and that unerring feeling which indicates the way to deeper insight.

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