A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis

By Sigmund Freud | Go to book overview

TWENTIETH LECTURE

GENERAL THEORY OF THE NEUROSES

The Sexual Life of Man

ONE might think we could take for granted what we are to understand by the term "sexual." Of course, the sexual is the indecent, which we must not talk about.

I have been told that the pupils of a famous psychiatrist once took the trouble to convince their teacher that the symptoms of hysteria very frequently represent sexual matters. With this intention they took him to the bedside of a woman suffering from hysteria, whose attacks were unmistakable imitations of the act of delivery. He, however, threw aside their suggestion with the remark, "a delivery is nothing sexual." Assuredly, a delivery need not under all circumstances be indecent.

I see that you take it amiss that I jest about such serious matters. But this is not altogether a jest. In all seriousness, it is not altogether easy to define the concept "sexual." Perhaps the only accurate definition would be everything that is connected with the difference between the two sexes; but this you may find too general and too colorless. If you emphasize the sexual act as the central factor, you might say that everything is sexual which seeks to obtain sensual excitement from the body and especially from the sexual organs of the opposite sex, and which aims toward the union of the genitals and the performance of the sexual act. But then you are really very close to the comparison of sexual and indecent, and the act of delivery is not sexual. But if you think of the function of reproduction as the nucleus of sexuality you are in danger of excluding a number of things that do not aim at reproduction but are certainly sexual, such as onanism or even kissing. But we are prepared to realize that attempts at definition always lead to difficulties; let us give up the attempt to achieve the unusual in our particular case. We may suspect that in the development of the concept "sexual" something occurred which resulted in

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