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Mayer, E.L. (1995). The Phallic Castration Complex And Primary Femininity: Paired Developmental Lines Toward Female Gender Identity. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:17-38.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:17-38

The Phallic Castration Complex And Primary Femininity: Paired Developmental Lines Toward Female Gender Identity

Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer

I suggest that two developmental lines contribute to the achievement of female gender identity. One is rooted in the phallic castration complex, and the other in primary femininity. Far from being mutually exclusive, the two comprise necessary aspects of every girl's progress toward becoming a woman. To that extent, every woman's analysis will include the analysis of compromise formations that emerge from both. In distinguishing clinical manifestations of each developmental line, I suggest that it may be useful to conceptualize primary femininity and the phallic castration complex as affect-defense configurations which incorporate two fundamentally different ideas about danger. In conflicts of primary femininity, danger is anticipated: anxiety is the signal for compromise formation, since what is actually possessed (the female genital) is valued and is therefore imagined as subject to danger. In the phallic castration complex, danger is imagined already to have occurred. Depressive affect becomes the primary motive for defense, based on a fantasy that what is valued (the male genital) has already been lost. This distinction may facilitate our efforts to specify exactly how recent revisions in theories of female development have explicit implications for practice.

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