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Kestenberg, J.S. (1968). Discussion. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 16:417-423.

(1968). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 16:417-423


Judith S. Kestenberg, M.D.

Sherfey's (12) impressive compilation of anatomy, embryology, and phylogeny focuses the attention of psychoanalysts once more on the biological basis of psychosexual behavior.

Her paper offers a stimulus to review the work of biologists on which she relies and to re-examine the foundations of psychoanalytic views on female sexuality. However, her attempts to reformulate psychoanalytic theory in conformity with new advances in biology fail because of a misinterpretation of certain biological data and a disregard of the two cornerstones of psychoanalysis—understanding of the unconscious and the insight that adult integration is an end result of progressive development.

The following brief critical remarks are based on clinical material that cannot be recapitulated here but is reported with other considerations fundamental to my comments (7)

When we think that we have "penetrated through all the psychological strata and have reached bedrock," we look to biologists for facts that will explain "the great riddle of sex" (3p. 252). And they look to us for a "reapplication of psychological and psychiatric theories based on what we now can show of physiologic and anatomic reaction" (8p. 529). In trying to do so Sherfey suggests that: "Other than concepts based on innate bisexuality, the rigid dichotomy between masculine and feminine sexual behavior, and derivative concepts of the clitoral-vaginal transfer theory, psychoanalytic theory will remain" (12p. 124).

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