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Deutsch, H. (1933). Motherhood and Sexuality. Psychoanal Q., 2:476-488.

(1933). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2:476-488

Motherhood and Sexuality

Helene Deutsch

Sexual inhibition, in men and women alike, to the best of our knowledge takes its origin in the castration complex and the Oedipus complex. As we use the term here, "sexual inhibition" designates a state of blocking in the obtainment of sexual gratification: a partial or complete inability to love, unaccompanied however by neurotic symptoms. The inhibition has many forms and degrees of intensity. It may present itself as a total inability to gratify the sexual impulse, an inability even to feel any conscious sexual urgency or longing; or the inhibition may be less severe, so that there may be response and gratification, but this only under certain restrictive conditions, as for example in many men who require an inferiority of some sort in the object of their sexual wishes.

To discuss the various forms of sexual frigidity in women would take us beyond the limits set for this report. In general it may be said that the unconscious determinants of frigidity correspond to those of impotence in men. Frigidity, like impotence, also originates in the development of the castration complex and the Oedipus complex. Its most frequent cause is a protest against the assumption of the passive feminine rôle—in other words, the masculinity complex.

I am inclined to ascribe the widespread distribution of frigidity to the masochistic elements in the female libido. Fear of masochistic gratification, and the possibility of obtaining sublimated gratification from motherhood, often deflect female sexuality from normal forms of gratification.

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