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Freudian Dictionary

A further characteristic of the sexuality of early childhood is that the female organ as yet plays no part in it-the child has not yet discovered it. All the accent falls on the male organ, and all interest is concentrated on whether it is present or not.[1]

If we penetrate deeply into the neuroses of women, we not infrequently meet with the repressed wish to possess a penis. We call this infantile wish "penis-envy" and include it within the castration complex....[2]

We ascribe a castration-complex to the female sex as well as to the male. That complex has not the same content in girls as in boys. The castration-complex in the girl, as well, is started by the sight of the genital organs of the other sex. She immediately notices the difference, and-it must be admitted-its significance. She feels herself at a great disadvantage, and often declares that she would "like to have something like that too," and falls a victim to penis-envy, which leaves ineradicable traces on her development and character-formation, and, even in the most favorable instances, is not overcome without a great expenditure of mental energy. That the girl recognizes the fact that she lacks a penis, does not mean that she accepts its absence lightly. On the contrary, she clings for a long time to the desire to get something like it, and believes in that possibility for an extraordinary number of years; and even at a time when her knowledge of reality has long since led her to abandon the fulfilment of this desire as being quite unattainable, analysis proves that it still persists in the unconscious, and retains a considerable charge of energy .... The discovery of her castration is a turning-point in the life of the girl. Three lines of development diverge from it; one leads to sexual inhibition or to neurosis, the second to a modification of character in the sense of masculinity complex, and the third to normal femininity .... At first the girl looks on her castration as a personal misfortune, and only gradually extends it to other females, and eventually to her mother.[3]

The small girl feels sensitive over tbe lack of a sex organ equal to the boy's, and holds herself to be inferior on that account; and that this "penis-envy" gives rise to a whole series of characteristic feminine reactions.[4]

The girl holds her mother responsible for her lack of a penis, and never forgives her for that deficiency. [5]


The wish with which the girl turns to her father is, no doubt, ultimately the wish for the penis, which her mother has refused her and which she now expects from her father. The feminine situation is, however, only established when the wish for the penis is replaced by the wish for a child -the child taking the place of the penis, in accordance with the old symbolic equation .... Her happiness is great indeed when this desire for a child one day finds real fulfilment; but especially is this so if the child is a little boy who brings the longed-for penis with him.[6]