Female anatomy and hysterical duality


This article attempts to add another layer to our understanding of the phenomenon of hysterical duality. The author postulates that hysterical duality can be explained based on the dual-aspect model of feminine sexuality, which exhibits two initially contradictory paths: one derived from primary vaginal sensations and the other from clitoral pleasure. At first, these two paths create a fundamental split between representations of internal space, containment and motherhood and representations related to auto-eroticism and the effacement of the Other’s presence and needs. The author argues that this manifest contradiction makes the attainment of integration in feminine development an intricate and protracted process, which involves an act of inversion. This inversion entails a post-Oedipal disavowal of primary vaginal sexuality, pending its rediscovery through the encounter with the Other. Hysteria is thus viewed as the result of a failure to perform this inversion and an inability to extract oneself from the position of a “Vaginal Girl”, who defines herself through the desire of the other. This pathological course of development leaves the hysteric’s sexuality in a split state and traps her in the duality of clitoral pleasure versus penetration, which unconsciously represents humiliation and exploitation.

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I would like to thank Dr. Josef Triest for his contribution to this paper.

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Correspondence to Aya Zaidel.

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Aya Zaidel MA, clinical psychologist in Jerusalem; Member, Tel-Aviv Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Israel.

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Zaidel, A. Female anatomy and hysterical duality. Am J Psychoanal 79, 40–68 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-019-09180-8

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  • hysteria
  • hysterical duality
  • female sexuality
  • female sexual development