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Ghany, J. (2011). Conflicts in Female Sexuality and Romantic Intimacy. Psychoanal. Rev., 98(3):325-349.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Review, 98(3):325-349

Conflicts in Female Sexuality and Romantic Intimacy

Jamie Ghany, Ph.D.

This paper will examine conflicts in female sexuality and approaches to attachment with the aim of offering insights into the psychological defenses that women employ against romantic intimacy. Central to this discussion is the idea that a girl who is allowed to develop plasticity of identifications with her parents and of love object choice is more likely to have healthy sexuality, and a greater capacity for romantic intimacy, than a girl who is not allowed to do so. I will be focused primarily on female sexual development within the context of a heterosexual relationship between the child's parents, with reflections on possible differences in the case of lesbian parents, highlighting the subtleties inherent in sexuality, gender identity, and desire.1 It is my intention to explore this topic from a nonessentialist position, with the “heterosexual” and the “lesbian” couple being considered theoretically, as opposed to that which exists in reality. In psychoanalysis, adult erotic attachment has typically been explored through the lens of the preoedipal and oedipal stages of development, the resurfacing of preoedipal conflicts being associated with more enduring patterns of behavior (Axis II diagnoses) and oedipal conflicts with neurosis (Kernberg, 1967). I will present and discuss five types of defenses around intimacy which are rooted in preoedipal and oedipal conflicts, with an underlying assumption that in neurosis there can be regressions to oedipal and preoedipal styles of relating. The paper will be organized into three sections. I (1) consider definitions of female sexuality, gender identity, and romantic intimacy, (2) summarize the relevant literature on preoedipal and oedipal stages, and (3) propose five defenses against intimacy that may manifest themselves in adult erotic attachment.2

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