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Horney, K. (1935). The Problem of Feminine Masochism. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(3):241-257.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Review, 22(3):241-257

Original Articles

The Problem of Feminine Masochism

Karen Horney, M.D.

Interest in the problem of feminine masochism extends far beyond the merely medical and psychological spheres, for, to students of the Western culture at least, it touches on the very roots for evaluating woman in her cultural definition. The facts appear to be that in our cultural areas, masochistic phenomena are more frequent in woman than in man. Two ways of approaching an explanation of this observation have appeared. By one, there is an attempt to discover if masochistic trends are inherent in, or akin to, the very essence of female nature. By the other, one undertakes to evaluate the weight of social conditionings in the genesis of any sex-limited peculiarities in the distribution of masochistic trends.

In psychoanalytic literature—taking the views of Rado and Deutsch as representative in this connection—the problem has been tackled only from the viewpoint of regarding feminine masochism as one psychic consequence of anatomical sex differences. Psychoanalysis thus has lent its scientific tools to support the theory of a given kinship between masochism and female biology. The possibility of social conditioning has as yet not been considered from the psychoanalytical side.

The task of this paper is to contribute to the efforts of determining the weight of biological and cultural factors in this problem; to review carefully the validity of the psychoanalytical data given in this direction; and to raise the question whether psychoanalytical knowledge can be utilized for an investigation of a possible connection with social conditionings.

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