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Renik, O. Grossman, L. (1994). Contemporary Theories of Female Sexuality: Clinical Applications. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 42:233-241.

(1994). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 42:233-241

Contemporary Theories of Female Sexuality: Clinical Applications

Owen Renik, M.D. and Lee Grossman, M.D.

RENIK BEGAN BY NOTING that Freud was not entirely satisfied with his theory of female sexuality, and that many analysts since Freud have criticized it. Almost seventy years ago, Horney (1924) offered an alternative view that was based on her efforts to explain analytic work with her female patients. More recently, revisions of the psychoanalytic theory of female sexuality have arisen from introspection and extraclinical observation. Renik challenged the panelists to present case material to show whether newer ideas about the psychology of women actually make a difference in what the analyst does in his or her work with patients.

Silverman spoke on "The Role of Penis Awe, Penis Envy, and Penis Resentment in Female Psychology." He hoped to study female development free from a phallocentric bias. In his view, boys' genitals are experienced as acting upon external objects; girls' genitals are experienced as acted upon. Girls possess internal organs that are nonvisualizable and difficult to define. Self-exploration tends to be insufficient for self-definition, especially since masturbation in preadolescent girls tends to be conflicted and seldom leads to orgastic satisfaction. The girl has trouble recognizing genital sensations as active and autonomous. The vulva and vagina are given definition by their interaction with the male organ in coitus. The girl tends to idealize the male genital for its ease of definition, its activity, and its necessity as a means of her sexual self-definition. A young girl in treatment lamented having her ovaries inside, unlike her brother's testicles: "I can't see mine. I can't touch mine. I don't know myself!" The girl may come to view the male genital as complementary to her own, or she may come to see it as an object of awe and envy, which she resents needing, depending on a host of developmental and social factors.

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