Saturday, December 1, 2012

Freud and Penis Envy



(The following item started off as a short explanation of Freudian beliefs about penis envy as an introduction to a little bit of humour. It ended up longer than first intended in that the notes on Freud are of interest on their own). 

Sigmund Freud (or the “Freud Dude”, as he is referred to in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, where it is pronounced [as memory serves] as “Frood Dude”) had some pretty weird ideas, even if he is known as The Father of Psychoanalysis. 


Speaking of Freud as a father, there is a previous post in Bytes about the phrase “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” supposedly spoken by him. Read it at: 

One of the crazy ideas that the Freud Dude had is known as penis envy. 

Some comments: 
  • In Freudian psychoanalysis, females during their psychosexual development come to the realisation that they do not have a penis. This realisation is seen as a defining moment in the development of gender and sexual identity for females. 
  • This psychoanalytic theory further holds that females are initially traumatised by the lack of a penis, having feelings of inferiority and psychic conflict. The female wants to be a boy because boys have one and she doesn’t. She blames her mother and becomes closer to her father. These feelings will eventually inspire her development of an Oedipal Complex. (Boys also develop Oedipal Complexes but for different reasons.  The Oedipal Complex is more common in males.  An Oedipal Complex refers to a child subconsciously sexually desiring the parent of the opposite gender). 
  • The penis envy of the female will eventually be replaced by the desire for a child but, according to Freud, unlike males, females never emerge from the psychological mess of penis envy, Oedipal Complex and the trauma of recognising that she is no more than a castrated male. 
  • For Freud there was a parallel reaction to penis envy in males when they realise that girls do not have a penis, resulting in males having castration anxiety. 
  • In Freudian terms, the psyche of each one of us is made up of three elements: the id, the superego and the ego. The id is pure wants, pure instinct, the drives and wants that each of us have; to be fed when hungry, to be warm when cold, to have sex when aroused. The superego is the ethical component of the personality, providing the moral standards by which people operate. It is learned behaviour and punishes for misbehaviour by feelings of conscience. It is the superego that enables us to be part of society. Whereas the id is pure instinct and wants immediate gratification, the superego requires restraint, moderation and postponement of gratification, if necessary. The conflict between the id and the superego produces the ego, what Freud defined as a set of psychic functions such as judgement, tolerance, reality-testing, control, planning, defence, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory. In summary, Freud’s model of the psyche, postulates the id as the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the superego as the critical and moralising part and the ego as the organised, realistic part. 
  • To return to the penis envy aspect, it was Freud’s belief that boys emerged from their Oedipal complex because they identified with their rival and forbidding fathers, giving them a much better superego. Girls did not build up superegos of the same quality, with the result being a series of feminine characteristics: the woman "displays a lesser sense of justice, a lesser inclination to submit herself to the great necessities of life," "she more often allows herself to be guided in her decisions by tender and hostile sentiments." 
Needless to say, Freud saw the universe as phallocentric and could only conceive of women in negative terms. 

Perhaps the whole issue would have been a lot simpler for the Feud Dude, and he may well have revised his ideas, if he had heard the following, humour I mentioned in the opening paragraph: 

A little boy and a little girl are comparing what is inside their knickers. When the little girl realises that she doesn’t have what the boy has, he begins to taunt her. She becomes distraught and runs home. A little while later she comes back, skipping and no longer upset. She says to the boy “I told my mum what you said and she said not to worry, that with one of these I can get as many of those as I want when I’m older.”


It was pointed out to me that yesterday's Funny Friday did not contain a Corn Corner item.  Here is one to make up for that omission:



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