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Joseph, E.D. (1974). An Aspect of Female Frigidity. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:116-122.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:116-122

An Aspect of Female Frigidity

Edward D. Joseph, M.D.

FRIGIDITY AS A SYMPTOM of female sexual difficulty has been known to psychoanalysis since its early days. Freud (1905) discussed this problem in his "Three Contributions" and in many of his later writings. Part of the difficulty in assessing frigidity and understanding its genesis results from deficiencies in our knowledge of the development of normal female sexuality. A panel of the American Psychoanalytic Association (1960) was devoted to this theme. Moore (1964), in a review of the psychoanalytic literature, discussed a number of the determinants which enter into this symptom. Problems of both a biological and psychological nature may contribute to frigidity. Among the psychological factors are active and/or passive trends, libidinal and aggressive fantasies of either an oedipal or preoedipal nature, narcissistic elements, fantasies such as the masculinity complex and penis envy, the transfer of erotogenic zones, and certain masochistic character traits all of which may be combined to produce the symptom.

The early writings of both Freud and Abraham emphasize that frigidity is multidetermined. Like any neurotic symptom, it can represent a disguised libidinal gratification. Abraham (1920) described a category of frigidity that represented the gratification of certain revenge fantasies derived from the castration complex and penis envy. Other fantasies having to do with hostile wishes or disappointment concerning the male, a vagina dentata, etc., may be involved in the symptom complex of frigidity, in which the symptom represents a defense against the gratification of such hostile desires.

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