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Gilman, S.L. (1981). Freud and the Prostitute: Male Stereotypes of Female Sexuality in fin-de-siècle Vienna. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 9(3):337-360.

(1981). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 9(3):337-360

Freud and the Prostitute: Male Stereotypes of Female Sexuality in fin-de-siècle Vienna

Sander L. Gilman

I. The Puzzle

We begin with a conundrum set by a master puzzle solver. Steven Marcus, in his lucid introduction to the American paperback edition of Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), presents the riddle so:

One can add as a piece of crowning confusion the following leap in the dark from the second essay. In his discussion of the polymorphous perverse sexuality of children Freud pauses for an illustration: In this respect children behave in the same kind of way as an average uncultivated woman in whom the same polymorphous perverse disposition persists. Under ordinary conditions she may remain normal sexually, but if she is led on by a clever seducer she will find every sort of perversion to her taste, and will retain them as part of her own sexual activities. Prostitutes exploit the same polymorphous, that is, infantile, disposition for the purposes of their profession; and considering the immense number of women who are prostitutes or who must be supposed to have an aptitude for prostitution without becoming engaged in it, it becomes impossible not to recognize that this same disposition to perversions of every kind is a general and fundamental human characteristic. One doesn't know where to look for a handle to these remarks. It is even difficult to frame a context that might make discussion of them pertinent. Perhaps we can do no better than repeat the waggish observation that it is very difficult to know the meaning of a statement about Freud being right or wrong since he is always both.

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