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Elise, D. (2002). The Primary Maternal Oedipal Situation and Female Homoerotic Desire. Psychoanal. Inq., 22(2):209-228.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 22(2):209-228

The Primary Maternal Oedipal Situation and Female Homoerotic Desire

Dianne Elise, Ph.D.

In this paper, I closely examine classical psychoanalytic theory on the female oedipal complex in order to shed light on same-sex object choice. Given that the mother is the first love object for the girl as well as for the boy, the girl's object relational constellation centrally involves the experience of homoeroticism as well as heteroeroticism. Yet, it remains a question as to whether a mother can see her daughter as a sexual subject; can mother-daughter homoerotic desire be experienced and validated by the mother? That a girl desires her mother is generally not seen or registered by the mother; it remains an unrecognized desire.

I suggest that the obscuring of female desire has to do centrally with the fate of eroticism in the early mother-daughter relationship. I propose relabeling the “negative oedipal complex” in girls as “the primary maternal oedipal situation.” Issues involving invisibility or stigmatization of one's erotic desire likely pose a significant challenge to the self-esteem of many lesbians. It is important in clinical work with lesbian patients to be open to a complex interweaving of developmental experiences, varying with each individual, some of

which may have been damaging to, and others strengthening of, female sexuality.

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