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Sitbon, A. (1999). Le refus du féminin (La Sphinge et son âme en peine) [Repudiation of femininity: the Sphinx and her distressed soul]: Jacqueline Schaeffer. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. 1997. Pp. 237. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(6):1256-1258.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(6):1256-1258

Le refus du féminin (La Sphinge et son âme en peine) [Repudiation of femininity: the Sphinx and her distressed soul]: Jacqueline Schaeffer. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. 1997. Pp. 237

Review by:
Annick Sitbon

Sigmund Freud described the repudiation of femininity in both sexes as ‘bedrock’, part of the ‘riddle of sex’. For Jacqueline Schaeffer, the riddle concerns not so much a repudiation of femininity as femininity itself—that is, adult, genital femininity as constituted by the ‘sexual relationship of pleasure’. The author's central thesis, based on ideas developed with Claude Goldstein, is that ‘the more welcoming the ego is to the sexual drive, the more access it will have to sexual pleasure, the richer it will be, the better it will live and love, the more healthy it will be and the better it will think’ (p. 16).

What Schaeffer calls ‘femininity’ (here, that of women)—i.e. woman's psychosexuality—is stated to arise through the action of three ‘feeding invaders’, namely the constant pressure of libido, the difference between the sexes, and the ‘lover in the sexual relationship of pleasure’. These are three major, inevitable and structuring reality tests. Whereas the first two belong to infantile sexuality, only the third permits the constitution of ‘a woman's most perfected femininity’. This third ‘feeding invader’, the way for which is paved by the first two tests, allows all the experiences of

invasion to be elaborated retroactively. This elaboration involves a ‘genital feminine erotic’ masochism derived from the primary erotogenic masochism described by Freud.

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