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Foulkes, S.H. (1943). The Idea of a Change of Sex in Women. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:53-56.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:53-56

The Idea of a Change of Sex in Women

S. H. Foulkes

In a number of women patients the idea of being transformed into a man was of outstanding importance. Every analyst must be familiar with this phantasy, but it does not seem to have received the attention it deserves. We are in the habit of considering it as an expression of a desire to compensate for or deny the absence of a male organ, which is frequently regarded as a castration.

In the cases which I am about to describe, however, the matter was not so simple. The event of the change itself filled them with horror and disgust. Some wanted it to be brought about artificially by an operation, in order to get rid of the dreaded phantasy. Finer analysis, which was possible in these cases, brought out a rather astonishing fact: the patients considered themselves possessed by a male principle, a man, or, more concretely speaking, a penis inside themselves. To this they attributed dangerous and horrifying qualities. It will be understood that I refer to unconscious formations revealing themselves under analysis, but there could be no doubt as to the validity of the observations. I say observations because interpretations scarcely entered into it. A point of special interest seemed to me that the incorporation of these phallic images served as a protection against them, a true incarceration. The frightening element in the threatening change of sex lay precisely in the fact that these phantasy organs had thus to be revealed, to come out into the open and be set free. Further analysis showed that the underlying anxieties and feelings of guilt were connected in the usual way with infantile masturbation and the Oedipus complex. This, as well as their pregenital foundations, does not interest us here and we shall not enter further into it.

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