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Kestenberg, J.S. (1980). The Three Faces of Femininity. Psychoanal. Rev., 67(3):313-335.

(1980). Psychoanalytic Review, 67(3):313-335

The Three Faces of Femininity

Judith S. Kestenberg, M.D.

Three typical feminine conflicts are the conflict between motherhood and eroticism,3, 4 the interrelated conflict between motherhood and competitive work (done outside the home) and between feminine eroticism and intellectual or career achievement.13 The dominant feminine themes underlying these conflicts are: (1) fulfillment in motherhood, (2) penis envy, and (3) the Oedipal attraction to the father.

It has been universally accepted that these themes are chronologically ordered in the sequence: child-wish, penis-wish, and the wish for penetration by the father.5, 13, 38 According to Freud,10 the first wish for the child was anal in origin and did not represent maternality but rather was a sign of identification with the active mother. The true wish for a child was the result of a transformation of penis envy into a compromise formation, that is getting a baby in lieu of a penis. Freud dismissed all reports of vaginal sensations in childhood and maintained that the clitoris was the girl's leading zone until the vagina was awakened at menarche. My own data indicate that inner-genital tensions gain dominance after the passing of the pregenital phases and come to a peak in a pre-Oedipal phase before phallic impulses submerge them in the phallic phase.19, 20, 24, 27 Searching for a better definition of femininity, most recent authors do not deviate from Freud's original phase chronology (oral, anal, and phallic) but postulate a feminine-Oedipal phase whose erotogenic zone is not specified.38, 39 Some authors speak of “primary femininity39, 40 without linking this inborn trait to the girl's primary sex organs.

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