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Brady, M.T. (2006). The Riddle of Masculinity. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 54(4):1195-1206.

(2006). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 54(4):1195-1206

Panel Report

The Riddle of Masculinity

Mary T. Brady

This panel was born out of Nancy Chodorow's observation that the “riddle of masculinity,” has not generated the extensive thought that has been accorded the “riddle of femininity” (her reference was to Freud's famous remark in 1933 that psychology is “unable to solve the riddle of femininity”). Maleness has been seen as the norm, and thus unnecessary to think about. Chodorow pointed out that Freud's writings, and those of his colleagues, which assumed a male norm and assumed that the penis (present, absent, or castrated) is central to gender and sexuality for both sexes, have received extensive criticism and revision. Indeed, the “riddle of femininity” has occasioned wide-ranging theoretical work. Writings on female psychology have expanded our understanding of the oedipus complex, preoedipal phases, psycho-sexual development, superego formation, bisexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality. A “matricentric” focus has contributed to our understanding of the early mother-child relation and led to relational psychoanalysis, the elaboration of Kleinian and object relations theories, attention to nonverbal elements in the analytic space, and the characterization of analysis as unfolding in the transitional realm. Our understanding of female psychology has deepened and gained in nuance and complexity. Meanwhile, the “riddle of masculinity” remains largely unremarked and unaddressed.

Chodorow expressed indebtedness to the studies of colleagues who have described homosexual boyhoods, alternative masculinities, and the becoming-gay boy's relations to his mother and father. By comparison and implication these studies have also delineated patterns of typical heterosexual masculinities.

Chodorow asked the panelists to problematize their understanding of masculinity by responding to three central questions.

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