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Greenacre, P. (1950). Special Problems of Early Female Sexual Development. Psychoanal. St. Child, 5:122-138.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5:122-138

Special Problems of Early Female Sexual Development

Phyllis Greenacre, M.D.

The sexual development of women is complicated by the presence of two main zones of erotogenic pleasure—the clitoris and the vagina. The most generally accepted theory of development of sexuality in women, as stated by Freud is substantially as follows: the two sexes develop in much the same way until the onset of the phallic phase. At this time the girl behaves like a little boy in discovering the pleasurable sensations from her clitoris and associates its excitation with ideas of intercourse. At this stage the clitoris is the center of the girl's masturbatory activity, the vagina remaining undiscovered to both sexes. It would thus seem that the children of both sexes are at this point little boys—the girl being the littler boy, considered from the angle of body sensations. With the change to a feminine orientation under the influence of the penis envy, the girl repudiates her mother and renounces clitoris masturbation, becomes more passive and turns to the father with the oedipal wish for a child, a state which may persist well into adult life or be only partially dissipated. Freud believed that the failure to make this feminine identification and the development of the masculinity complex in its place was largely due to constitutional factors: the possession of a greater degree of activity, such as is usually characteristic of the male. He believed further that there was, strictly speaking, no feminine libido, in so far as the female function was essentially passive from a teleological point of view and that Nature's aims (of reproduction) being possibly achieved through the aggressiveness of the male with little or no co-operation from the female, the masculine function is, from a teleological angle, more important and the female function correspondingly less differentiated (3).

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