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Birksted-Breen, D. (2016). Editorial. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(3):559-561.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(3):559-561


Dana Birksted-Breen

Freud complained he was accused of being too “one-sided in our estimation of the sexual impulses” (Freud 1920). But has it gone the other way? Has sexuality virtually disappeared from contemporary psychoanalytic thinking and literature?

What psychoanalysis means by ‘sexual’ and ‘sexuality’ is far from straightforward. It is often forgotten that Freud insisted psychoanalysis should speak of psychosexuality, stressing that the mental factor in sexual life should not be overlooked or underestimated. The body is always mediated by the psychical. For this reason, nothing about sexuality is simple or as it appears. It might be easier to say what sexuality is not. Sexuality, from a psychoanalytic point of view, is not simply about behavior and the manifest. It is also not about biology. Freud writes, “from the point of view of psycho-analysis the exclusive sexual interest felt by men for women is also a problem that needs elucidating and is not a self-evident fact based upon an attraction that is ultimately of a chemical nature” (footnote p 144 added in 1915 to the Three Essays 1905). It is clear from Freud's final idea about the fundamental refusal of the feminine in both sexes that we cannot speak of a simple dichotomy between male and female. Sexuality goes beyond issues of gender and identity and beyond the choice of object. It has to do, as Blass writes (this issue footnote to her paper) with ‘the person in so far as he is a sexual, instinctual, desiring, psychological being’.

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