Penis Envy: Reality or Myth?

penis envy

It is hard to find a person who doesn’t know Sigmund Freud. Whenever you study psychoanalysis, you will have to mention his works. Well, many of his works are controversial. As you know, Sigmund Freud was a controversial figure in psychology. 

Similarly, his theory about penis envy is still a highly debatable and controversial topic. Some believe it is a myth while others support this theory. But, what is the reality? What exactly is penis envy? Many people don’t about it but it is something that you should know. 

Sigmund Freud was always very intrigued by human sexuality. He tried to find a link between the physical need for sex and mental desire. So, in this article, let’s discuss his highly controversial theory of penis envy and see whether he was right or wrong. 

Understanding the Concept of Penis Envy

Before we get deeper into this theory, let’s first simply understand what penis envy is. According to Freud, one of the reasons why women turn to men for heterosexual activity is because of their penis envy. It means young girls feel envious of men because they don’t have a penis. 

Sometimes such young girls will blame their mothers and think that because of their mothers, they don’t have a penis. These girls will also get closer to their father trying to emulate their mother for sexual needs. When they don’t get that favor from their father, they turn to other men. 

In this way, they get into heterosexual activity. It is just the way a girl who has penis envy gets to enjoy a penis. Freud thought that penis envy is also a stage in the development of children, especially, female children. But, this theory is not devoid of criticisms which we shall learn later. 

Origin of Penis Envy Theory

Now you have a better understanding of the penis envy theory. But, where did this theory comes from? As you already know, Sigmund Freud propounded this theory way back around 1908. It was part of his psychosexual development theory. Freud thought that penis envy was a very important phase in the development of women. It was necessary for women’s sexuality and gender identity. 

As per Freud, the phallic stage is such a period in the life of a female child where she becomes internally obsessed about not having a penis. This obsession turns into resentment towards their mother because they blame their mothers as the reason why they don’t have a penis. But, they don’t distance themselves from their mothers because they don’t want to be deprived of their mothers’ love. 

So, girls become closer to their mothers because they want to copy their mothers to get closer to their fathers. It is what Carl Jung propounded as ‘Electra Complex’. He wanted to give a counter-theory to Freud’s ‘Oedipus Complex’ and so, Freud naturally disagreed with this term given by Jung. Freud thought that the analysis of psychosexual development of both sexes is different. 

How Penis Envy Happens

You need to know how penis envy happens to understand Freud’s theory better. It starts when a girl starts to feel envious because she does not have a penis. That is why girls are closer to their father and do not feel that closeness with their mother because girls want to have a penis. Also, they feel sexually attracted to their fathers. At this point, because of penis envy, girls accept heterosexuality. 

According to Freud, the desire to have a male child for a woman is also due to penis envy because if she gives birth to a male child, she will think she owns a penis Carl Jung also said that many girls overcome this stage but some also return to it at a later stage of their lives only to feel sexually attracted towards the parent again. 

Is It Possible for Anyone to Experience Penis Envy?

You will be thinking can anyone have this type of experience? Is this even possible? Well, according to Freud, penis envy is possible and especially for girls around 3 to 6 years. However, modern psychoanalysts take this concept of penis envy and mold it into a more social issue. 

As you know, the struggle for women’s rights is still a prevalent topic in our society. Women are fighting to have equal rights to men. They want equality. So, what modern psychoanalysts propound is that anyone who does not have a penis will have penis envy because they are envious of the rights and privileges of the people with a penis. 

What to Do If You Have Penis Envy?

Now, while reading this article, you might start feeling that you also have penis envy. It is not unnatural to think like that because your mind will make you feel like that. But, you need to remember one very important thing. 

The idea of penis envy is very rarely utilized in modern psychoanalysis. So, if you think you also have penis envy, then you should stop overthinking about it. However, here is one exercise you can do. Observe closely whether your focus is fixed at a particular part of your body or you feel ashamed of your sexuality. If anything like that is happening in your mind naturally, then you should look to talk to a counselor. With therapy, you will start feeling better again. 

Can There Be Any Long-Term Effect of Penis Envy?

As this is a theory of Sigmund Freud, it is important to learn what his view was about the long-term consequences of penis envy. He thought that those who suffer from penis envy will adopt the perfect female characteristics so that the person could get into heterosexual activities with the other gender with a penis. Also, he believed that this was why girls are attracted to boys and we have heterosexual relationships dominating society. 

Freud also stated that some fail to have overcome penis envy. As a result, they just avoid sexual activities because that will be the way they will not be reminded of their penis envy. Freud’s idea of penis envy is not devoid of flaws but there is one thing you have to be careful about. If you are obsessed with any one of your body parts, then it can create psychological problems like Body Dysmorphic Disorder. So, before things get bad, you should talk to your doctor. 

Criticisms of Penis Envy Theory

Fred had to face a lot of criticisms because of his penis envy theory. Psychoanalysts of the present day also reject this ideal of penis envy the way Freud has propounded due to the lack of practical evidence. Those criticizing the theory say that Freud has a narrow view of sexual development. By saying that girls need a penis to understand their femininity is a very vague assumption. Some even rejected the theory by stating it misogynistic and sexist. 

Also, critics pointed out that Freud ignored various factors for the development of feminine identity in women such as exploring her own self. He only focused on anatomical and sexual development and thus, this theory is unacceptable to those critics. 

Look, Freud thought that a girl can only explore her true feminine identity through a masculine eye. Meanwhile, one of his biggest critics, Karen Horney gave womb envy theory as the counter to Freud’s penis envy. She stated that men also feel envious towards women because they cannot give birth to children and breastfeed them. So, yes, penis envy has been a highly criticized and controversial theory of Sigmund Freud. 

Significance of Penis Envy Theory in the Modern Scenario

It is important to understand the significance of this theory of penis envy in our modern world and what its implications are. Well, the first thing you would have to know is that the theory is completely ‘outdated’ according to many psychologists of the present era. 

The reason for that is its dependency on one gender to another. Freud thought that it was important to have the parent of the opposite sex for a child to grow properly. But, in this modern world, we have seen single mothers raising their girl child properly. 

Apart from that, as per research, gender identity is adaptable around the age of 3. So, Freud’s concept of penis envy is baseless for modern psychologists. However, one can interpret this theory according to its implications on society.  

You cannot forget the female movements going around in every society for the equal rights of males and females. So, if you can interpret this theory in the backdrop by taking this social issue. You can say that females envy men not because men have a penis, it is because men enjoy more rights and privileges than women. 

Final Words

Finally, the theory of penis envy is highly criticized since its publication by Freud. But, you cannot say that certain sections of this theory do not apply to the modern world. For example, if you look at this theory from the perspective of a transgender, you will realize that some parts of this theory cannot be neglected. However, these are only certain sections and they highly depend on the perceiver.

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