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Bálint, M. (1937). A Contribution to the Psychology of Menstruation. Psychoanal Q., 6:346-352.

(1937). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 6:346-352

A Contribution to the Psychology of Menstruation

Michael Bálint

I am of the opinion that menstruation, in the same way as erection, may be interpreted as a conversion symptom, and consequently that it unites in itself different opposing wishes and instinctual impulses. Such a dual wish would be genitalsexual excitation and defense against this; or, described from the standpoint of object-relationship, the tendency to excite the partner, to seduce him, and the opposing tendency to refuse the excited and seduced partner.

It is well known that in setting a wedding date, special care is taken that it shall fall between the bride's menstrual periods. In spite of this precaution it happens with astonishing frequency that menstruation starts precisely upon the wedding day, often at the very moment when the bride and groom are for the first time alone together.

A woman aged 30, still a virgin in spite of the fact that twice she had got to the point of wanting to yield to a lover's desire, suddenly began to menstruate on both occasions, once at the last minute—and so was able to preserve her virginity. The defensive function of menstrual bleeding is quite clear here. With its help the dreaded coition and defloration were avoided. This defense by bleeding from the genitals, being physiologically a genital hyperæmia, might be considered to be at the same time, an expression of sexual excitation.

In other cases it is easy to demonstrate not only the bodily, the physiological excitation, but also the conscious sexual wish in connection with menstruation. A lady living abroad became acquainted with a man, a former lover of her sister. They were rather attracted to each other, but the time at their disposal was too short for the development of an intimacy. This lady wanted to visit her sister whom she had not seen for several years.

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