The Oedipus complex!?


Well-Known Member
Aug 22, 2006
Thanks to Hokeshel in the thread "Flaming witch hunts", I was reminded of a very important and interesting discussion that is often suppressed due to gender politics and just the fact we never get around to it.

Nowadays, there is this phenomenon that guys are expected to conform to heteronormative standards, whilst girls much less so. This is not at all a new phenomenon. The roots of the study of such can be traced back to Sigmund Freud, in fact, and hence the title of this post.

Freud, in his psychoanalytic habit, observed the more bisexual tendencies in females than males, and suggested that this was an inherent property of being female. The Oedipus complex was one of his initial theories in an attempt to explain why- essentially a transfer of the psyche having gendered identity implications.

Now, in the world of psychiatry, psychoanalysis, while not entirely discarded, has been acknowledged as possessing very little analytical power and is thus not really used. Interestingly, it is still used as an attempt to slot the gender-skew of the prevalence of paraphilias into some kind of paradigm, which leads me to ask whether there is indeed some kind of related neurobiological theory that could be elicited here. But this is more a question of science and the philosophy of mind.

Here, I'm more interested in looking for your take on the topic of female as opposed to male sexuality (by which I mean anything sexual), social perceptions and behaviors, as due to my background (going to an all boys school for 6 years), I cannot help but feel that there are huge gaps in my awareness that should not simply be attributed to my being a biological male.

Well i think as a baby you are nurtured by a female. This female (mom) pretty much has complete control on the product they create for the first few years. So depending on the experience they bring that baby. Loving, or some twisted sexual experience ei mom saw my first woody and slapped it and i masturbated later. It all stems from infancy and how you were raised and what you got out of the mom experience.

Most people with sexual perversions can trace it back to the initial caregiver in the early years (usually a mom). So i wouldnt be surprised that females having to relate to a woman role model early on could either grow to "love" or hate that figure.
That's basically a rehash of parts of the Oedipal model. I see it as having merits to explain much of the interplay of behavior and attitudes within the self, but not so much in terms of predispositions and predilections. Reason it makes some sense is that it's fairly analogous to the modern model of fetal-neonatal-child development- which basically points to a dynamic, plastic interaction of factors- environmental, behavioral and biological factors.

But the interesting part is the gendered interactions- we think of the typical primary caregiver in our early days as the mother, and proceed from there. I think that the main reason for much of the perceptions of the aetiology of atypical gender presentations stems from the normative cultural gender roles that we presume and practice. The aforementioned model also implies that it is not so important who or what the parent is so much as there is a relationship between parent and child, and that the environment in which the child is raised is conducive to development (and this can mean alot of things).
Where to begin? When did you begin developing your sexuality? I believe we are born with predisposed tendencies but, the formation of our beliefs and how we will act on them starts at birth and continues through to the day we die.
For example, someone may be born gay but, the way he feels about his sexuality and his view on others' sexuality as well as how he will act upon his feelings is shaped by what he learns and by his personality.
What was going on in your life when you were developing your sexuality? While I believe that we begin this in infancy, clearly, adolescence has probably the biggest effect. When you think about how you were expressing or repressing your sexuality at that time, does it have a correlation to your sexuality now? If are a heterosexual female and had access to hardcore lesbian pornography so, that is what you masturbated to doesn't that make you attracted to lesbian pornography as an adult although you may not desire to act upon it? It would not change your sexual orientation but, it may definately effect your sexual acts. I use this as an example because I know several heterosexual women who experienced this. One of them had sex with a woman once and found it very offputting and said it "just felt wrong". But, she loves her lesbian porn! Thnik of how much porn is directed at males compared to females. Doesn't that just feed into the patriarchal society in which we live? Doesn't that shape how men and women may differ sexually? I focus on pornography because of the general differences between male and female stimlation. Men are stimulated mainly visually. Women usually by emotions but, if visual stimulation is what they have available and they lack emotional stimulation, then they are going to shape their sexuality around visual stimulation but it will be in conflict with their inborn desires.
A man's sexuality is developed by pornography, it being more acceptable for men to have sex at an earlier age and more frequently, and society's push to keep men from expressing themselves emotionally unless it is with aggression. In opposition, we have the woman who, while developing her sexuality has to either accept what is directed toward men or she is repressed because she is probably not getting her emotional stinulation. She is also expected to be the weaker sex and she is expected to express her emotions without aggression. Lets add to that the damage that has already been done to society, the rampant sexual abuse of our children which effects girls far more often than boys and the fact that society is not as sympathetic to boys who are abused.That makes for very different sexual perceptions and behaviors.
Finally, our society has been changing so much over the years, blending the ideas of gender expectations. There is still a difference but, more and more men and women have more similar experiences. Women and men's sexuality is much more compatible now than 100 years ago but, there are still differences caused by our environment's effect on our inborn tendencies.
I would agree with all of that (I wouldn't expect otherwise, since you're the one with the psych experience!) I think it sums up most of the fundamental understanding we have of sexual behavior with regard to orientation, and I was hoping to be able to elicit some more detail:

Men are stimulated mainly visually. Women usually by emotions

I find this a particularly convenient generalisation- and would think it actually related somewhat to neurobiological differences between the sexes (chromosomally and hormonally derived). The main difficulty seems to be navigating the definitions and their parameters even within the description of sex (as opposed to gender): We say that there is a difference between the male and female sexes but of course there are many many things to consider as it is a complex process with many steps and many factors that inevitably lead to a broad variety of combinations in each person. Thus when we describe "male" and "female" attributes, what we really mean (if the scientific model is accurate) is "attributes more associated with XY/XX people."

The funny part is that so many people are quite sensitive to the topic and so my classmates go around assuming that other people do not have anywhere near an adequate understanding of the relationship between sex and gender, that this in itself made initial discussion very difficult!

Anyway, back to the example at hand, I would say yes this would be not so much the actual driving force of the sexual response but it'd be what mediates it. A psychological medicine model would claim that the main sexual response is driven by fantasy- or rather, what goes on in the mind. That's why porn is such a big topic to look at- because not only is it highly prevalent and accessed by a large portion of the population, but it's also varied and people don't really derive pleasure from the porn itself so much as what it translates to mentally in each individual.

I don't suppose that one can really go much further, though, as it is such a complex issue and would really just require us to take it apart and look at each context. As cultural phenomenons go, all I can really that since it is a dynamic process shaped and experienced by passing generations, I'd hope that somehow we'll continue to not only look towards the actuality of our natures, but also spread the awareness of such, so that we might be able to be more honest with ourselves.