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adult; but as soon as we leave them for the region of what we may usefully call the courting phase (using this term not in the narrow sense of a specific social custom, but in the biological sense, as covering all the phenomena of the preliminary stages of sex attraction), we find ourselves already very far from pure impulse, and at the point where the question of innate and acquired' differences arises. We already have here what we described as tertiary sex differences, which are not so much the direct spontaneous expression of the essential metabolisms of male and female, as of the interplay of these with the self-consciousness of sex. Moreover, we are not here dealing with the sexual trends alone, but with complex psychical formations in which the ego-ideal is a considerable determining element. The whole ground is so complex and obscure that I shall not attempt to cover it, but will content myself with a brief reference to some of the factors entering into female modesty, as illustrative of the difficulty of disentangling inherent differences between male and female from conscious and unconscious sophistications.
We cannot doubt that there is an organic element in female modesty, that in so far as it is what we may call a relative sex inertia, a passive waiting for stimulation by the active approach of the male, it is a secondary sex character, and is intimately bound up with the profound cycle of the reproductive processes in the female, contrasted with the biological freedom of the male. And even where modesty passes over into actual coyness, into a withdrawal at the first signs of pursuit by the male, it may still be regarded as a simple secondary sex character, because of its obvious biological values, serving to heighten the excitement and efficiency of the male in the sexual act. These aspects of modesty in the human female are shared with infra-human creatures, and we must regard them as direct expressions of innate sex difference.
This organic core of sexual inertia and reticence is liable, however, in the human female, to undergo various degrees of reinforcement and exaggeration, until, as we know, it may even reach to an entire unawareness of sexual desire and an entire ignorance of the facts of intercourse and reproduction, in otherwise highly informed women. But, apart from such pathological exaggeration, a more normal modesty and reticence still appears, on psycho-analytic evidence, to be in part an expression of what we have called the self-consciousness of sex, acting through the familiar 'castration-complex.' The shame of having no penis, of bearing only the wound which is itself a sign of having been despoiled of the phallus, and of enduring the menstrual flow, which is in turn for unconscious fantasy a confirmation of the wound theory
of the female genitalia, this shame is a powerful element in female modesty. It receives further reinforcement from the disgust arising from the proximity of the excretory apertures to the sexual centre, a disgust attaching itself also to the menstrual flow, which commonly tends to be thought of as an excretion. This disgust is, of course, itself a reaction barrier to primitive excretory and 'perverse' interests, the strength of which reaction is the outcome of human self-awareness. Since, however, the excretory processes occur in the same relation to the organs of sexual pleasure in men, this cannot be the differentiating element in female modesty, save that there is the additional source of disgust in the menstrual flow in women. The main differentiating factor would undoubtedly appear to be the castration shame. And in the castration shame the ego trends, or at least the libidinous components of the ego, are inextricably interwoven with the more strictly sexual elements. The pride of possession and the pride of power on the male side, envy and chagrin at the supposed loss of these on the female side, are unmistakeably egoistic trends, and indeed, from one point of view, the castration-complex might well be said to be an expression of the instinct of self-preservation. The prototypes of castration, the loss of faeces and deprivation of the nipple, undoubtedly have both libidinous and egoistic values, and the genitalia themselves must lie at the very heart of the bodily and social self. I shall presently raise more fully the question of the relation of the sex impulse in male and female to the ego trends, and at the moment am only concerned to point out the egoistic elements in female modesty, which will have some bearing on that further discussion.
Turning now to infantile sexuality, it would not appear that the normal differences in reaction between male and female are here so marked. In the pregenital phases, oral and anal conditions would appear to be the same in boy and girl. The one important difference is with regard to urination. The differences in structure must from the beginning carry with them corresponding differences in organic sensation, characteristic of each type of urinary experience; and we have ample evidence of the great personal significance assumed by the process of urination as soon as visual attention and comparison can be directed to it. Urination, in its characteristic form in the two sexes, is of importance not only because of its direct libidinous value, and its direct organic contribution to the primitive ego, but also because of its role in infantile fantasies of love and power. Moreover, it introduces a difference in the earliest phase of genital sexuality, since the genital zone and the urethral
coincide in the male, whilst in the female they are relatively distinct. Apart from the urethral elements, however, the earliest phase of genital sexuality would seem to be little differentiated as between boy and girl, since the main genital centre in the girl child is the clitoris, the homologue of the penis, rather than the vagina, its complement. The girl child under four or five years of age is not noticeably less positive, active, sadistic and exhibitionistic than her brother, and knows little of the modesty and passivity of the normal adult woman. She is, in fact, characterised by what we may call the clitoral attitude. There are, of course, individual variations here as elsewhere; but there is no marked group difference in the nature and direction of the sexual impulse in the earliest years. There is, indeed, no very great divergence as regards activity and passivity before the onset of adolescence, but the first hint of difference occurs during the first great period of object-love, from two to seven years. This would appear to be in part organically conditioned, since recent physiological research has shown that there is a period of activity of the interstitial glands of the reproductive organs during these years, which is later followed by a phase of quiescence, until the time of full ripening in adolescence. This organic stimulus must bring with it the first predisposition to the characteristic sex attitude of male and female; and probably also conditions the psychological tension of interest in the problems of sexual relations and the facts of birth, which we know is characteristic of the period. Then comes the first action of what we have called the self-consciousness of sex, and the pride of possession and power in the male child is set over against the envy and sense of loss in the female. The evolution of female modesty appears to begin here, a process which is not complete until the chief centre of sexual excitability has passed over from the clitoris to the vagina, carrying with it the appropriate change in mental attitude.
The normal passivity and reticence of the adult woman is thus seen as a goal to be reached by normal development, rather than as a condition inevitably given in the primary fact of femaleness. Indeed, we know that it is a condition which a not inconsiderable portion of women fail to reach, who remain in the clitoral attitude of the girl child, and are anaesthetic to vaginal stimulation. Yet although characteristic femininity is not irrevocably given in the female constitution, but is rather the end result of a long process of development involving the interplay of many complex factors, we cannot doubt that there is an organic predisposition to it, a tendency to the organisation of those factors under the dominance of the primary condition of femaleness.
If this account of the history of differentiation in the nature and direction of the sexual impulse is sound, it would almost appear as if that differentiation were chiefly on the female side, as if in the course of development the female had to turn aside at various points from the more or less straight line normally kept by the male, from infancy to maturity. There is certainly a good deal of evidence that the sexual history of the female is in some respects more complex than that of the male; and this, I think, will be still more clear with regard to the relation of the sexual impulse to the ego trends, which we may now take up.
(b) We may put the problem in this way-how far are the activity and passivity of the sexual impulse in male and female necessarily characteristic of the mental life as a whole, in each? Does the deep and pervasive physiological and psychological differentiation of sex go down to the very roots of the ego? Is the female ego essentially different from the male? Is it penetrated with the passivity characteristic of the female sex impulse? This is a view which common observation would make foolish, and one which, so far as I am aware, has not been explicitly held by any serious writer, although there have been many whose mode of statement of sex differences has verged, perhaps unintentionally, towards this. I might instance Mr Walter Heape, and to a less degree Professors Thomson and Geddes, and even Havelock Ellis. Thomson and Geddes, as is well known, hold that in a profound biological sense, maleness is activity, and femaleness is passivity. Starting from the striking difference in the size and motility and physiological characteristics of the sperm and the ovum, interpreted in the light of the evolution of sex from unicellular organisms onwards, they base their theory of the essential nature of sex on a primary and fundamental differentiation, towards katabolism in the male and anabolism in the female. It would be of great interest in our present connection to attempt to bring this widely accepted view into relation with Freud's recent reflections on the katabolic death instincts. It would lead us to the conception of the male as the representative of the individual, of the soma, which dies; and of the female as the representative of the life of the race, of the immortal germ plasm. It is tempting to develop this, but to do so would lead us off the main path of this note, which is to unravel the concrete psychological problem of the detailed development of male and female-or, rather, to suggest the directions in which this may be possible. It is clear that the generalisation just suggested, or even the emphasis which Thomson and Geddes place on male activity and female
passivity, can only have any truth so long as it is stated in the form of an abstract tendency; it becomes ludicrous if pressed too far, and is methodologically unsound if it is allowed to obscure the contradictory elements, and to draw us from the detailed study of the concrete facts. It is, I think, certain that the full psychological truth is much richer and more complex than has yet been made clear, owing to the preoccupation of those who have theorised about the problem of sex differences with this generalisation as to the activity of the male and the passivity of the female. We have, in our final statement, to account for the anomalies of development, and to find room for the fact to which we have already referred, the fact of the range and smooth gradation of sex differences as actually observed, which we are quite unable to do if we over-simplify our problem from the start by the lure of this great generalisation.
I would suggest that the real psychological situation is something as follows: The ego trends, whether in male or female, are inherently and always, in themselves, positive, active and katabolic. In the male however, they harmonise in nature and direction with the sex impulse; whereas in the female they are in essential and perpetual conflict with the latter. (I am, of course, here speaking of conflict, not in the general sense in which the sex impulses as such are in conflict with the ego trends as such; but in a special sense relating only to the character of activity and passivity of the sex trends in male and female.) It is not that the female ego is inherently and from the first permeated by sex characteristics, nor indeed that the male ego is so; but rather that the essential characteristics of the ego are in the one case reinforced, in the other strongly modified and limited. And, as we have already seen in our discussion of female modesty, this reinforcement in the one. case and limitation in the other is partly a physiological process, due to the direct action of the endocrine secretions, at various periods of normal development, on the general somatic and nervous tissues; and partly also a psychological process, moving in the paths familiar to us as psycho-analysts. Hence the possibility of the anomalies which occur, of the masculinoid woman and the feminoid man, and of all the more normal range of individual differences to which we have already referred. If the feminine ego were inherently and from the start feminine, there clearly could not be any conflict between the demands of the individual life and biological destiny, in the female. There would be no need for an 'ideal' of femininity or modesty, no question of what are desirable qualities in a woman, or suitable occupations and recreations for her.