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Holtzman, D. Kulish, N. (2003). A Brief Communication on Defloration. Psychoanal Q., 72(2):477-482.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 72(2):477-482

A Brief Communication on Defloration

Deanna Holtzman, Ph.D. and Nancy Kulish, Ph.D.

The subject of a woman's defloration and its meaning as an important life event have been little studied in psychoanalytic literature. Thus, it was with great interest that we read “Flaubert's Madame Bovary: A Study in Envy and Revenge,” by Arlow and Baudry (2002), in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly. Leaning heavily on Freud's (1918) formulations in “The Taboo of Virginity,” Arlow and Baudry contend that Madame's Bovary's rage toward her husband and her destructive behavior, including a ruinous affair, can be largely explained by a need for revenge against him for her defloration. In his essay, Freud suggested that women might suffer a narcissistic injury from the “destruction” of the hymen, unconsciously perceived as an unforgivable castration. Freud's dramatic example of a woman's revenge against her deflowerer is the biblical Judith, whose castrating, murderous rage incites her to cut off Holofernes' head.

Arlow and Baudry, two males writing about a male novelist's characterization of Emma Bovary, validate our findings on attitudes of men toward a woman's defloration (Holtzman and Kulish 1996, 1997). In extensive research, based on clinical material from psychoanalyses of men and women, cross-cultural studies of attitudes and practices concerning the loss of virginity, fairy tales and myths, and literature written by males and females on the topic of defloration, we concluded that defloration is dynamically different for males and females.

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