Project-Freud, Oedipus and castration.

Written notes:-

The OCA guide

  • How we see is related to how we see ourselves and others
  • How do we see ourselves with respect to our sex (male/female?)
  • Freud has been influential to this study.
  • He thought as children we develop with a desire and jealousy for the opposite and same sex parent respectively.
  • He called this the Oedipus complex
  • It is usually thought of metaphorical- not actual.
  • The complex is responsible for anxiety.
  • When children become aware of the genital differences between the sexes, they need to resolve the idea. In males, they believe that the female is missing the genitals through the action of their female parent. This may lead to misogyny.
  • Jacques Lacan updated many of Freuds theories., amongst those were

-‘the name of the father’ how the father regulates male/ female relations in society

-the phallus’- the relationship between mum and child is triangulated by a ‘phallus’. This is what the mum actually wants, so the child tries to be this in any way possible. The father intervenes, so the child is thwarted.


Text:  The dissolution of the oedipal complex by Sigmund Freud.


  • The oedipal complex is the most important stage of early sexual development.
  • It then goes through repression, and next latency.
  • This destruction occurs via the disappointment of… new babies, people etc… so the child’s love for the opposite sex parent is thwarted. (ultimately also the child will never ‘have a baby with its parent}


  • Another view is that the phase must die out , and how it happens is not of interest. It is reasonable to be interested in both views.
  • The genital phase accompanies the oedipal phase, and the genitals dominate this phase- but it’s the male phallus only- no female equivalent.
  • During the genital phase the child manipulates his genitals.
  • The repression occurs via the parent’s viewing/commenting on this as bad, usually the mother.


  • (Usually ) mothers may say that the boy will have his penis removed (or his hand).
  • Sometimes its not genital manipulation , but bed wetting (a similar ’ emission’) which is the behaviour.
  • Freud believes that the ultimate cause of the end of the genital phase is the threat of castration.
  • These Children have previously suffered loss of ‘body parts’ – eg. the withdrawal of the breast, and evacuation of the bowel, but these are not thought relevant.
  • Initially the child does not believe the threat, but when he sees the female genitals he does believe the threat.


  • At this point the masturbating is not the whole of his sexual life
  • He is also in the oedipus complex
  • This can be
  1. active (to usurp the father)
  2. passive (to replace the mother)

 (why is one passive the other active ???………..)

  •  The child sees in this complex the loss of his penis- (as punishment in 1, or as a precondition in 2,)
  • The conflict of the penis interest, and the oedipal threat means the Oedipus complex is ended (his ego renounces it)


  • The child has saved its penis, but no longer needs it- the oedipal love has been replaced by affection.
  • This is a destruction of the oedipal complex. If it is simply repressed it can emerge later in pathogenic ways.
  • So threat of castration causes the destruction of the oedipal complex.
  • But how does this transpire in girls???- it’s less clear


  • The destruction of the female oedipal complex is also thought to involve/genital/castration complex…..
  • Initially the girl believes that boys have a bigger penis (than her clitoris), and that her’s must have been removed.
  • Ie. Girls accept castration and boys are scared of it.
  • Or…… she will get a bigger one in future….leading to the ‘masculinity complex’
  • NB She does not seem to think other girls’ penises have been removed
  • The girls does not stop the genital phase through ‘fear’, but through social attitudes to her genital manipulation
  • The girls complex is much simpler than the boys- usually just taking the mum s place or adopting a feminine attitude to the father


  • The ‘taking away’ of the girl’s penis is channelled into a desire for a baby….
  • The girls Oedipus complex ends through an unrequited desire to have a baby with her father
  • Thus the female child wants both a penis and a child in later life………..
  • Because the oedipal complex in women is less ‘sadistic’, it makes her sexual role more ‘affectionate’ than men.
  • Freud suggests that the relationships between 1. Oedipal complex 2. Castration threat. 3. Development of super ego (?????) 4. Latency phase, as described here are the usual ones, but other variations exist- and will be important for the ‘bearing’ of the individual (behaviour/thinking ??)
  • He also accepts that the science is not exact !!!




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