Infantile Bisexuality and the 'Complete Oedipal Complex': Freudian Views on Heterosexuality and Homosexuality

By Heenen-Wolff, Susann | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Infantile Bisexuality and the 'Complete Oedipal Complex': Freudian Views on Heterosexuality and Homosexuality


Heenen-Wolff, Susann, International Journal of Psychoanalysis


In the psychoanalytical discussion of what is 'mature' sexuality we speak of the 'genital' stage and the 'resolution' of the oedipal complex in the form of identification with the parent of the same sex and a heterosexually-directed object choice. A close reading of Freud's texts about sexuality shows that such a normative view cannot be corroborated by his viewpoint. He suggests that infantile sexuality is bisexually orientated, the final object choice due to repression of either homosexual or heterosexual desires. As Freud puts it, genital heterosexuality occurs out of necessity for procreation. In order to enrich the present psychoanalytical discussion about homosexuality and bisexuality the author returns to Freud's theories in this context.

Keywords: bisexuality, homosexuality, the 'complete oedipal complex', psychopathology

Introduction

Peter Fonagy, in the book, Identity, Gender and Sexuality, published by the International Psychoanalytical Association, looks backwards to an ongoing evolution in psychoanalysis in the past: ''It is as if there is no space for sexuality within psychoanalysis. We no longer consider it fundamental in all cases or even relevant to current theorization'' (Fonagy, 2009, p. 1). And he adds: ''Psychosexuality is nowadays more frequently considered as disguising other, non-sexual, self- and object-related conflicts than the other way around'' (ibid.).

As Fonagy writes, it is obvious that the subject of sexuality and sexual conflicts occupies a smaller place in contemporary psychoanalytic writings than in Freud's day. The so-called scandal of hysteria, with its intrapsychic conflict between sexual desire and the superego's interdiction, has been supplanted in metapsychological and clinical work by the problem of the analysand's lack of ability to symbolize and 'mentalize'. In this context, attention is especially given to the earliest of object-relations in which - apparently - sexuality does not yet play a role. Moreover, ''It is obvious that we are unable to observe directly what is presented to our examination from the couch, of the elements or expressions of sexuality and destructiveness'' (Green, 1996, p. 832). In the same vein, Gilbert Diatkine remarks that without doubt: ''Many narratives of the cure made by authors claiming in principle to be representatives of Freudian metapsychology might not include any allusion to the drives or to unconscious sexual fantasy'' (Diatkine, 1996, p. 145).

The metapsychology of psychosexuality is a model used to understand clinical phenomena whose understanding by other models was not previously possible. According to drive theory and the concept of après-coup, situations that were not first experienced sexually will inevitably be sexualized après-coup (in a 'deferred action'), in the wake of new experiences - at the latest, during puberty. And the analytic process itself makes possible, neither more nor less, setting off effects après-coup. When considered literally, according to Freudian metapsychology it is unthinkable that non-sexual elements can be found in the unconscious.

However, the reference to drive theory, infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex as its culminating point seems to have become rarer, and this is so in favour of problematics of symbolization. Thus the configuration formerly called 'oedipal' has become 'triangulation' or the 'analytic third'; metapsychological notions in which the implicit psychosexual reference has disappeared have become commonplace. Most major contemporary work treats limit cases and their incapacity - challenging psychoanalysis - to fantasize, to recognize the whole-object and to place itself within an oedipal triangulation. Nevertheless, one may ask the question: Does this making relative of the oedipal 'order' and classic neurosis necessarily justify the disappearance of psychosexual concepts from psychoanalysis?

Attachment theories, with their interests in the relational interactions between mother and child have widely gained in influence in psychoanalysis and have contributed to making the idea of a previous sexualizing of experience lose ground (the extreme example being Dornes, 2006), since it is not observable given that it intervenes après-coup. …

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