The Psychology of Sexual Orientation, Behavior, and Identity: A Handbook

By Louis Diamant; Richard D. McAnulty | Go to book overview

primary libidinal object. The father remains as the prototype for all later object choice and serves as the nucleus around which such defensive mechanisms as narcissistic identification operate ( Corbett 1993). Thus, a boy may identify with his paternal oedipal object, retain a solidly masculine sexual identity, and still be stably homosexual in orientation. Other recent work focuses on the boy's shame and guilt as consequences of the father's rejection of his sexual strivings for him ( Isay 1989, pp. 32-46). Implicit in this is the focus on homophobia, in both social and familial settings, as an important determinant of later homosexual neurotic inhibition ( Isay 1989, pp. 67-81). In this work, there is no attempt to "cure" homosexuality or to convert it to heterosexuality through uncovering developmental dynamics. Instead, the goal becomes to lift neurotic inhibition and to encourage the full experience of intimacy and freedom from guilt and anxiety. Normative patterns of development and identity formation are more varied here than in traditional formulations, and they encompass a wide range of models of masculinity that include a complex interplay of sexual activity and passivity ( Corbett 1993). As I have already suggested, it is not yet clear what stance psychoanalysis will take toward biological research: whether it will reject it as essentially antianalytic or assimilate it. It is important, however, to think carefully about what essential relation the two disciplines have to each other, at least with respect to the subject of homosexuality. Both seek to explain its origins, but each answers the question in ways that have radically different implications, ramifications, and significance. Biology attempts to explain through what biochemical mechanisms a homosexual orientation came to be. Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, attempts to understand the experience of being homosexual--what it means to be homosexual and how it affects other aspects of life. Its ultimate terms, then, are not physical processes but individual meanings ( Schafer 1983). To this end, it can learn from and use scientific findings but it is not made obsolete by them. 2


NOTES
1.
This essay surveys only the psychoanalytic theory of male homosexuality, partly because the subject of female homosexuality has not occupied as prominent a place in psychoanalytic thinking as its male equivalent. Why this should be so, or why male homosexuality has been such an important subject, is an extremely interesting question, but it cannot be discussed here. Freud published an account of a lesbian patient ( Freud 1920), but only a few analysts addressed the topic after him (e.g., Thompson 1947). So, in a certain sense, there has been no psychoanalytic theory of female homosexuality until recent times. What little attention psychoanalysis has devoted to lesbianism maintains that it is essentially a different condition or set of conditions from male homosexuality. It emphasizes the girl's preoedipal attachment to the mother and the later attempt to maintain a merged identity with the lesbian partner. Recently, lesbianism is beginning to receive the attention it deserves. Readers who wish to acquaint themselves with it might begin with O'Connor and Ryan ( 1993), Elise ( 1986), Burch ( 1993), and McDougall ( 1986).

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