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Chasseguet-Smirgel, J. (1976). Freud and Female Sexuality—The Consideration of Some Blind Spots in the Exploration of the 'Dark Continent'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:275-286.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:275-286

Freud and Female Sexuality—The Consideration of Some Blind Spots in the Exploration of the 'Dark Continent'

Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel

Because time is limited it will not be possible for me to deal with Freud's ideas on female sexuality in their entirety, even less to compare them with opposing views expressed by other psychoanalysts. I shall therefore speak about only those issues which have caused the greatest controversy.

Let me open this discussion with a remark of a general nature: if a subject as fundamental as female sexuality causes such disagreement among analysts after almost 80 years of clinical experience, it must be because it stirs up certain internal factors in a particularly intense way which somehow interfere with our progress towards knowledge. Our differences of opinion about female sexuality are such that in the mêlée we lose sight of the truth.

A correlative comment comes to mind: divergencies in our understanding of female sexuality inevitably breed corresponding differences of opinion concerning male sexuality. Bisexuality, the notion of a 'complete' Oedipus—both negative and positive—the necessity for dual identification, all conspire to cast the shadow of the 'dark Continent' on to male sexuality. It seems to me artificial and fallacious to completely abstract the study of female sexuality from that of the femininity common to both sexes and of human sexuality in general.

I shall therefore restrict my study of Freud's work on female sexuality to the discussion of some essential points; but at the same time I find myself forced to broaden the scope of these very same issues.

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