The Dread of Women: Observations on a Specific Difference in the Dread felt by Men and Women Respectively for the Opposite Sex : 1932 : Karen Horney

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1932


– Karen Horney, “The Dread of Women”, IJPA (International Journal of Psychoanalysis), Vol XIII (1932) : p348-360

– P241-252 of Introduction to Female Sexuality – The early psychoanalytic controversies : 1999 : Russell Grigg, Dominique Hecq & Craig Smith  (See here), Karnac Press 1999

For availability see  /authors a-z or authors by date

Quoted in footnote to Guiding Remarks for a Congress on Feminine Sexuality : 1958 [Presented in Amsterdam, 5th September 1960] : Jacques Lacan or here  p91 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation

References to Sigmund Freud

4. Sigmund Freud (1918a), ‘The Taboo of Virginity’, SE 11 : 193-208 : Quote Horney p243, As Freud shows in ‘The Taboo of Virginity’, (4) it is the husband in particular who dreads this act. In this work Freud too objectifies this anxiety, contenting himself with a reference to the castration-impulses which do actually occur in women  NOTE : Freud presented “The Taboo of Virginity” to the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society on December 12, 1917. He published it in 1918 as the third of three essays entitled “Contributions to the Psychology of Love” (Beiträge zur Psychologie des Liebeslebens), the first two of which were revisions of his earlier papers, “A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men” (1910h) and “On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love” (1912d).

6 Sigmund Freud (1927e), ‘Fetishism’ SE 2l:149-5 : Quote Horney p244 : Male homosexuality has for its basis, in common indeed with all the other perversions, the desire to escape from the female genital, or to deny its very existence. Freud has shown that this is a fundamental trait in fetishism, in particular; he believes it, however, to be based not on anxiety, but on a feeling of abhorrence due to the absence of the penis in women. : Published at , download here 

10 Sigmund Freud (l923e),’The Infantile Genital Organization’, SE 19 : 141-5. : Quote Horney p246 : Hence it would be better to describe the period of infantile genital organization as the ‘phallic phase’. (10) The many recorded remarks of boys at that period of life leave no doubt of the correctness of the observations on which Freud’s theory is based. But if we look more closely at the essential characteristics of this phase, we cannot help asking whether his description really sums up infantile genitality as such, in its specific manifestation, or applies only to a relatively later phase of it. Freud states that it is characteristic that the boy’s interest is concentrated in a markedly narcissistic manner on his own penis: ‘The driving force which this male portion of his body will generate later at puberty expresses itself in childhood essentially as an impulsion to inquire into things – as sexual curiosity’. A very important part is played by questions as to the existence and size of the phallus in other living beings. 

11 Sigmund Freud (1931b), ‘Female Sexuality’, SE 2l : 281. : Quote Horney p247 : In an article on female sexuality (11) Freud has pointed out the most obvious of these factors: it is the mother who first forbids instinctual activities, because it is she who tends the child in its babyhood. : Published at download here   

17 Sigmund Freud (1931b), ‘Female Sexuality’, SE 21 223-43. : Quote Horney p250, Once we realize that masculine castration-anxiety is very largely the ego’s response to the wish to be a woman, we shall not altogether share Freud’s conviction that bisexuality manifests itself more clearly in the female than in the male. (17) : Published at download here   

18 Sigmund Freud (1923e) ‘The Infantile Genital Organization: an Interpolation into the Theory of Sexuality’, SE19:141-5. : Quote Horney p250 : A feature of the phallic phase which Freud emphasizes shows up with special clearness the narcissistic scar left by the little boy’s relation with his mother: ‘He behaves as if he had a dim idea that this member might be and should be larger’. (18)

19 Sigmund Freud (1912d) ‘On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love SE l1:179-90. : Quote Horney p251 : Another way of averting the soreness of the narcissistic scar is by adopting the attitude described by Freud as the propensity to debase the love – object.

20 This does not detract from the importance of the other forces which drive men to prostitutes and which have been described by Sigmund Freud in his ‘Contributions to the Psychology of Love’, SE 11, and by Felix Boehm in his ‘Beiträge zur Psychologie der Homosexualitat’, Internationol Zeeitschrift Psychanalyse, 6 (1920) and 8 (1922) : Quote Horney p251 : If a man does not desire any woman who is his equal or even his superior – may it not be that he is protecting his threatened self-regard in accordance with that most useful principle of ‘sour grapes’? From the demands in the sexual, ethical or intellectual sphere: one can feel oneself the superior. (20)

Other References

8 Felix Boehm,’Beihtge zur Psychologieder Homosexualitet’, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychanalyse, 11(1925) ; Melanie Klein, ‘Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict’, above, ‘The Importance of Symbol-Formation in the Development of the Ego’, in her Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Work (New York: Macmillan, 1975), 219-32,and ‘Infantile Anxiety Situations Reflected in a Work of Art and in the Creative Impulse’, Love, Guilt and Reparation 210-8  :  See Early Stages of the Œdipus conflict : 3rd September 1927 Innsbruck [1928] : Melanie Klein or here & Infantile Anxiety-Situations Reflected in a Work of Art and in the Creative Impulse : 1929 : Melanie Klein or here  : Quote Horney p245, 

No doubt the dread of the vagina often conceals itself behind the dread of the father, which is also present; or, in the language of the unconscious, behind the dread of the penis in the woman’s vagina. (8)

12 Cf. the work of Melanie Klein, quoted above, to which I think insufficient attention has been paid. : Quote Horney p247-248 : Secondly, the child evidently experiences sadistic impulses against its mother’s body (12), presumably connected with the rage evoked by her prohibitions, and according to the talion principle this anger has left behind a residue of anxiety. Finally-and this is perhaps the principal point-the specific fate of the genital impulses itself constitutes another such factor

15 I would refer here also to the points I raised in a paper entitled ‘The Distrust between the Sexes’ (1930). See Karen Horney, Feminine Sexuality (London: Routledge, l967, 107-18.)

16 Cf. Felix Boehm, ‘The Femininity-Complex in Men’, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis  l1 (1930) : 444-6 : See The Femininity-Complex in Men : 12th November, 1929 [1930] : Felix Boehm or here : Quote Horney p248, The boy, on the other hand, feels or instinctively judges that his penis is much too small for his mother’s genital and reacts with the dread of his own inadequacy, of being rejected and derided. Thus he experiences anxiety which is located in quite a different quarter from the girl’s: his original dread of women is not castration – anxiety at all, but a reaction to the menace to his self-respect.

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 Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, London


Other texts

Of the clinic here 

Use of power here 

Some Lacanian History here 

Topology here

Lacanian Transmission  here

By Karen Horney here  

By Sigmund Freud here 

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here 

By Jacques Lacan here 

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here 

 By Julia Evans here