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Kestenberg, J.S. (1956). Vicissitudes of Female Sexuality. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 4:453-476.

(1956). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4:453-476

Vicissitudes of Female Sexuality

Judith S. Kestenberg, M.D.

The divergent psychoanalytic theories of feminine sexuality center around the disputed question of early vaginal sensations. Freud (5) consistently maintained that the vagina is discovered at puberty and true femininity accepted only then. A number of other authors—among them Brierley (1), (2), Greenacre (7), Horney (8), (9), Jacobson (10), Jones (11), Klein (14), (15), Lorand (16), Muller (18), Payne (19) —modified this view, some finding a good deal of evidence for the occurrence of vaginal sensations in early childhood. In a later paper Freud (6) expressed pessimism concerning the resolution of penis envy in women and of feminine wishes in men. This opinion seems primarily based on Freud's respect for constitutional and anatomic differences. The question why femininity is difficult to accept may have its ultimate answer in constitutional hormonal differences. The anatomy of organs representing femininity, however, undoubtedly shapes the vicissitudes of feminine sexual development.

This paper, based on direct observation of children as well as on analyses of adults and children, is devoted to a reconstruction of feminine genital development. An attempt is made to unify and

1 This paper is a continuation and an enlargement of an earlier one "A Stage in the Development of Female Sexuality" (12) which was read before the Psychoanalytic Study Group in Seattle in January, 1954.

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