The Psychology of Transvestism : 31st July 1929 (Oxford) : Otto Fenichel

by Julia Evans on July 31, 1929

Read at the Eleventh International Psycho-Analytical Congress, Oxford, on 31st July 1929

Published International Journal of Psychoanalysis (IJPA), vol 11, 1930, p211-226

Available at /authors a-z or authors by date (1929)

Cited by Jacques Lacan

Para 7 : Seminar IV : 6th February 1957 : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here  : The authors who are – despite their apparent clarity – very bad theorists, such as Fenichel, but who nonetheless have analytic experience, have indeed noticed this. If you read articles in which the theoretical effort ends in desperate failure, like some of Fenichel’s articles, you will sometimes find clinical gems, and even a sense or a hint at an order of facts that must be grouped together. They are grouped together with a sort of flair which the analyst fortunately gets from his experience, around a selected theme or branch of the analytic articulation of the fundamental relations of the imaginary.

Para 52 : Seminar IV : 23rd February 1957 : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here : what is essential is that, let us take for example transvestism – the article by Otto Fenichel in the introduction to the International journal [1] – the subject calls into question his phallus in transvestism.  

probably p213 of Fenichel : The transvestist, who is akin to both these types of pervert, seems to be the one to whom both formulæ simultaneously apply: he has not been able to give up his belief in the phallic nature of women and, in addition, he has identified himself with the woman with the penis. Identification with the woman, as a substitute for, or side by side with, love for her, is so plain in the manifest clinical picture that Ellis, as we shall hear presently, regarded it as the essence of transvestism.10 But the woman with whom the transvestist identifies himself is conceived of by him as phallic, and this is the essential feature in the situation—a feature which, since it is unconscious, could not have been discovered but for psycho-analysis.

In the act of transvestism both object-love and identification are present, the forms in which each manifests itself being modified by the castration-complex and the patient’s obstinate retention of his belief in the woman’s possession of the phallus.

Note : a group who presented in Oxford is given near the end of this text. I think this is one of the group of authors.

Sigmund Freud quotes this paper

[p3537] in part II of Female Sexuality, 1931b, SE XXI p221-243, Quote from SEXXI  p242,  : Fenichel (1930) rightly emphasizes the difficulty of recognizing in the material produced in an analysis what parts of it represent the unchanged content of the pre-Oedipus phase and what parts have been distorted by regression (or in other ways). He does not accept Jeanne Lampl-de Groot’s assertion of the little girl’s active attitude in the phallic phase. He also rejects the ‘displacement backwards’ of the Oedipus complex proposed by Melanie Klein (1928)[See Early Stages of the Œdipus conflict : 3rd September 1927 Innsbruck [1928] : Melanie Kleinor here], who places its beginnings as early as the commencement of the second year of life. This dating of it, which would also necessarily imply a modification of our view of all the rest of the child’s development, does not in fact correspond to what we learn from the analyses of adults, and it is especially incompatible with my findings as to the long duration of the girl’s pre-Oedipus attachment to her mother. A means of softening this contradiction is afforded by the reflection that we are not as yet able to distinguish in this field between what is rigidly fixed by biological laws and what is open to movement and change under the influence of accidental experience. The effect of seduction has long been familiar to us and in just the same way other factors – such as the date at which the child’s brothers and sisters are born or the time when it discovers the difference between the sexes, or again its direct observations of sexual intercourse or its parents’ behaviour in encouraging or repelling it – may hasten the child’s sexual development and bring it to maturity.

Some writers are inclined to reduce the importance of the child’s first and most original libidinal impulses in favour of later developmental processes, so that – to put this view in its most extreme form – the only role left to the former is merely to indicate certain paths, while the intensities which flow along those paths are supplied by later regressions and reaction- formations. Thus, for instance, Karin Horney (1926)[See The Flight from Womanhood: The Masculinity-Complex in Women, as Viewed by Men and by Women : 1926 : Karen Horney or here ] is of the opinion that we greatly over-estimate the girl’s primary penis-envy and that the strength of the masculine trend which she develops later is to be attributed to a secondary penis-envy which is used to fend off her feminine impulses and, in particular, her feminine attachment to her father. This does not tally with my impressions. Certain as is the occurrence of later reinforcements through regression and reaction- formation, and difficult as it is to estimate the relative strength of the confluent libidinal components, I nevertheless think that we should not overlook the fact that the first libidinal impulses have an intensity of their own which is superior to any that come later and which may indeed be termed incommensurable. It is undoubtedly true that there is an antithesis between the attachment to the father and the masculinity complex; it is the general antithesis that exists between activity and passivity, masculinity and femininity. But this gives us no right to assume that only one of them is primary and that the other owes its strength merely to the force of defence. And if the defence against femininity is so energetic, from what other source can it draw its strength than from the masculine trend which found its first expression in the child’s penis-envy and therefore deserves to be named after it?

Availability of references

P211 Footnote 8 Freud: ‘Fetishism’, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (IJP), v9, P225 (trans Joan Rivière) : SE XXI,   See at here (trans James Strachey)

P212 Footnote 9 & 10 Cf., for instance, ‘Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, ‘ Ges. Sch., Bd. V, S. 18, footnote. : It has not been possible to locate this references exactly so 3 alternatives follow : 

From Sigmund Freud: Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: 1905d : SE VII p123-245 : See at here  :  

– Footnote 2 SE VII p154-155 GWp65 : Essay I The Sexual Aberrations, (A) Anatomical Extensions, Unsuitable substitutes for the sexual object – fetishism : The situation only becomes pathological when the longing for the fetish passes beyond the point of being merely a necessary condition attached to the sexual object and actually takes the place of the normal aim, an, further, when the fetish becomes detached from a particular individual and becomes the sale sexual object. These are, indeed, the general conditions under which mere variations of the sexual instinct pass over into pathological aberrations.

Binet (1888) was the first to maintain (what has since been confirmed by a quantity of evidence) that the choice of a fetish is an after-effect of some sexual impression, received as a rule in early childhood. … This derivation is particularly obvious in cases where there is merely a fetishistic condition attached to the sexual object. We shall come across the importance of early sexual impressions again in another connection [See SE VII p242]  Footnote 2

Footnote 2 added 1920 : Deeper-going psycho-analytic research has raised a just criticism of Binet’s assertion. All the observations dealing with this point have recorded a first meeting with the fetish at which it already aroused sexual interest without there being anything in the accompanying circumstances to explain the fact.  Moreover, all of these ‘early’ sexual impressions relate to a time after the age of five or six, whereas psycho-analysis makes it doubtful whether fresh pathological fixations can occur so late as this. The true explanation if the behind recollections of the fetish’s appearance there lies a submerged and forgotten phase of sexual development. The fetish, like a ‘screen-memory’, represents this phase and is thus a remnant and precipitate of it. The fact that this early infantile phase turns in the direction of fetishism, as well as the choice of the fetish itself, are constitutionally determined. [end Footnote 2]

[SE VII p155] In other cases the replacement of the object by a fetish is determined by a symbolic connection of thought, of which the person concerned is usually not conscious. It is not always possible to trace the course of these connections with certainty. … None the less even symbolism such as this is not always unrelated to sexual experiences in childhood. Footnote 2, SE VII p155

Footnote 2 added 1910 : Psycho-analysis has cleared up one of the remaining gaps in our understanding of fetishism. It has shown the importance, as regards the choice of a fetish, of a coprophilic pleasure in smelling which has disappeared owing to repression. Both the foot and the hair are objects with a strong smell which have been exalted into fetishes after the olfactory sensation has become unpleasurable and been abandoned. …Another factor that helps towards explaining the fetishistic  preference for the foot is to be found among the sexual theories of children (see below p195): the foot represents a woman’s penis, the absence of which is deeply felt.  [added 1915:] In a number of cases of foot-fetishism it has been possible to show that the scopophilic instinct, seeking to reach its object (originally the genitals) from underneath, was brought to a halt its pathway by prohibition and repression. For that reason it became attached to a fetish in the form of a foot or shoe, the female genitals (in accordance with the expectations of childhood) being imagined as male ones. –[The importance of the repression of pleasure in smell had been indicated by Freud …. And discussed it at considerable length in two long footnotes to Chapter IV of Civilization and its Discontents (1930a). The topic of fetishism was further considered in Freud’s paper on that subject (1927e) and again still later in a posthumously published fragment on the splitting of the ego (1940a [1938]).]

– SE VII P157 Essay I The Sexual Aberrations, (B) Fixations of Preliminary Sexual Aims, Touching and Looking, On the other hand, this pleasure in looking [scopophilia] becomes a perversion (a) if it is restricted exclusively to the genitals, of (b) if it is connected with the overriding of disgust (as in the case of voyeurs or people who look on at excretory functions), or (c) if, instead of being preparatory to the normal sexual aim, it supplants it. This last is markedly true of exhibitionists, who, if I may trust the findings of several analyses, exhibit their own genitals in order to obtain a reciprocal view of the genitals of the other person. [Footnote 2]

In the perversions which are directed towards looking and being looked at, we come across a very remarkable characteristic with which we shall be still more intensely concerned in the aberration that we shall consider next : in these perversions the sexual aim occurs in two forms, an active and a passive one.

The force which opposes scopophilia, but which may be overridden by it (in a manner parallel to what we have previously seen in the case of disgust), is shame. [see SE VII p195]

Footnote 2 – added in 1920 : Under analysis, these perversions – and indeed most others – reveal a surprising variety of motives and determinants. The compulsion to exhibit, for instance, is also closely dependent on the castration complex : it is a means of constantly insisting upon the integrity of the subject’s own (male) genitals and it reiterates his infantile satisfaction at the absence of a penis in those of women. 

– SE VII P195, Essay II Infantile Sexuality, (5) The Sexual Researches of Childhood, The riddle of the Sphinx : On the contrary, the existence of two sexes does not begin with arouse any difficulties or doubts in children. It is self-evident to a male child that a genital like his own is to be attributed to everyone he knows, and he cannot make its absence tally with his picture of these other people.

Castration Complex and Penis Envy

This conviction is energetically maintained by boys, is obstinately defended against the contradictions which soon result from observation, and is only abandoned after severe internal struggles (the castration complex). The substitutes for this penis which they feel is missing in women play a great part in determining the form taken by many perversions. [Footnote 2]

The assumption that all human beings have the same (male) form of genital is the first of the many remarkable and momentous sexual theories of children. …

Little girls do not resort to denial of this kind when they see boys’ genitals are formed differently from their own. They are ready to recognize them immediately and are overcome by envy for the penis – an envy culminating in the wish, which is so important in its consequences, to be boys themselves.

Foonote 2 added in 1920 : We are justified in speaking of a castration complex in women as well. Both male and female children form a theory that women no less than men originally had a penis, but that they have lost it by castration. The conviction which is finally reached by males that women have no penis often leads them to an enduringly low opinion of the other sex.

– Footnote 1 SE VII p223 Essay III Transformations of Puberty (5) The Finding of an Object : A child’s intercourse with anyone responsible for his care affords him an unending source of sexual excitation and satisfaction from his erotogenic zones. This is especially so since the person in charge of him, who, after all, is as a rule his mother, herself regards him with feelings that are derived from her own sexual life: she strokes him kisses him, rocks him and quite clearly treats him as a substitute for a complete sexual object. Footnote 1, Anyone who considers this ‘sacrilegious’ may be recommended to read Havelock Ellis’s views [1913, 18] on the relation between the mother and child, which agree almost completely with mine.

P215 Footnote 11 Freud, ‘The History of an Infantile Neurosis, ‘ Collected Papers, Vol. III.

From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The ‘Wolf Man’): 1914 [published 1918b] : Sigmund Freud : See From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The ‘Wolf Man’) : 1914 : Sigmund Freud  or here   [(SE XVII): p3 or Penguin Freud Library (PFL) : Vol 9: p225 : Published and available here 

P223  Footnote 14  Alexander, Psycho-analyse der Gesamtpersönlichkeit, VII Vorlesung.

NOTES : The psychoanalysis of the total personality : the application of Freud’s theory of the ego to the neuroses / by Franz Alexander ; authorized English translation by Bernard Glueck and Bertram D. Lewin ; with a prefatory note by A. A. Brill.  Uniform Title

Psychoanalyse der Gesamtpersönlichkeit. English  Author  Alexander, Franz, 22 January 1891- 8 March 1964 Published  College Park, Md. : McGrath Pub. Co., 1970, c1930.

From  :  Summary

“In elaborating upon the relations of the id, ego and super-ego to the neuroses and the psychoses, Professor Freud came to the very significant conclusion that the neurosis represents a conflict between the ego and the id (the instinctive needs); the psychosis between the ego and the outer world; and the narcissistic neurosis a struggle between the ego and super-ego. The differentiation of the mental apparatus into an id, ego and super-ego thus resulted in a clearer understanding of the dynamic relations within the mind. For in the same work Professor Freud saw fit to revise his views of the instincts. Hitherto when one spoke of the instincts one always thought of hunger and love but, hand in hand with the elaborations of the ego theories, Professor Freud distinguished two classes of instincts, one of which is the erotic or sexual instinct and the other the death instinct, the representation of which is sadism. The former or life instinct comprises not only the uninhibited sexual instinct and the impulses of a sublimated or aim-inhibited nature derived from it, but also the self-preservation instincts, which also belong to the ego. The latter or the death instinct has for its task the reduction of organic matter to the inorganic state. To continue further with these fascinating theories and problems of the various ego organizations and the life and death instincts as manifested in the neuroses and psychoses would lead us into fields that belong to the author. Numerous papers have been written in the effort to further elucidate some of the problems stimulated by Professor Freud, but none in my opinion has accomplished the task as well as Dr. Alexander in the present volume. The very title of the book shows the author’s ambitious undertaking. Like many of us, Dr. Alexander must have been fired with enthusiasm on reading the “Ego and the Id” but unlike most of us he felt bold enough to apply these theories to a mass of interesting material. And yet Dr. Alexander makes very modest claims; in the introduction to this volume he tells us that his contribution to Professor Freud’s problem of the neuroses consists in only one point, namely, in the general significance of the neurotic mechanism of self-punishment–the neurotic suffering–for the formation of the symptom. The reader will find that this was a task of great magnitude, excellently performed. “The Psychoanalysis of the Total Personality” offers a clear presentation of the development of the ego, its role in the neuroses and psychoses, and of the basic instincts of the neuroses and perversions. The author has the capacity for presenting difficult and intricate problems in a very lucid and simple way so that the book will be read with benefit and interest not only by psychoanalysts but also by jurists and intelligent laymen. A friendly relation with the author and a thorough understanding of the spirit of his work enabled Drs. Glueck and Lewin to make an excellent English edition of this volume”–Foreword.

P225, Footnote 21 : ‘Zur Genese der Perversionen,’ Internationale Zeitschrift für Psycho-analyse, Bd. IX, S. 172.1923 (published directly after Sigmund Freud’s The Infantile Genital Organisation) : See : Translated by Ruth B. Goldberg as Sachs, H. (1986) On the Genesis of Perversions. Psychoanal. Q., 55:477-488 : Jacques Lacan quotes this in Seminar IV, location to be found.  See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here

P225 Footnote 22 Freud, ‘The Passing of the Œdipus Complex,’ Collected Papers, Vol. II.

Probably The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex : 1924d : Sigmund Freud, SE XIX p173-179 :  Published at see here, Quote SEXIX p178 : The essential. difference thus comes about that the girl accepts castration as an accomplished fact, whereas the boy fears the possibility of its occurrence. 

Related texts

Read before the Tenth International Psycho-Analytical Congress Innsbruck, September  1927

The early development of female sexuality : 1st September 1927 (Innsbruck) : Ernest Jones or here : International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (IJPA) : vol viii : 1927 : p 459-472 : Quoted by Jacques Lacan in Seminar IV: 5th December 1956 : Paragraph 10 of Seminar IV : 9th January 1957 : 

Early Stages of the Œdipus conflict : 3rd September 1927 Innsbruck [1928] : Melanie Klein See here : International Journal of Psycho-Analysis : Vol 9 : 1928 : p167 : Quoted by Jacques Lacan in Seminar IV : 28th November 1957, Paragraph 12 of Seminar IV : 9th January 1957, Probably Paragraph 24 of Seminar IV : 30th January 1957, Paragraph 25 : Seminar IV : 30th January 1957

Sachs, Hans. (1929) One of the Motive Factors in the formation of the Super-Ego in Women : International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (IJP) : v10 : p39 : Probably quoted in Seminar IV – to be located : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here 

Read at the Eleventh International Psycho-Analytical Congress, Oxford, July 1929.

The Significance of Masochism in Mental Life of Women : 27th July 1929 Oxford [1930] : Helene Deutsch or here  : International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (IJP) : v11 : p 48-60 : Quoted by Jacques Lacan in Seminar IV : 28th November 1957, Seminar IV : 9th January 1957 : p3 of Earl’s Court Collectives’ translation

Otto Fenichel – this paper

Grades of Ego-Differentiation : 27th July 1929 (Oxford) published 1930 : Edward Glover & here : International Journal of Psycho-Analysis : v11: p1-11 : 1930 : Quoted by Jacques Lacan in Seminar IV : 21st November 1956 

Certain aspects of Sublimation and Delusion: Oxford, 31st July 1929 (published 1930): Ella Sharpe  or here : International Journal of Psycho-analysis (IJP) : 1930 : v11 p12 :  Quoted by Jacques Lacan in Seminar VII : 20th January 1960 P p107 of Dennis Porter’s translation, Seminar VII : 10th February 1960 : p139 of Dennis Porter’s translation

Fetishism in Statu Nascendi : July 1929 (Oxford) : Alexander Sandor Lorand or here   

 The importance of symbol-formation in the development of the ego : July 1929 (Oxford) : Melanie Klein  or here


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