In contemplating what childbirth has meant and means to psychoanalysis, the topic of female exhibitionism must be explored. Traditional views of female body pleasure have precluded the concept of masochism. Masochism was especially championed by Helen Deutsch and seems to be the only way in classical drive theory to think about the possibility of female pleasure in the act of childbearing and giving birth. “It has recently been discovered that female masochism is a pathological variant in pleasure seeking, but analysts today lend towards examining such topics from angles that are not body-based, such as the object relational aspect of the pre-oedipal era, as in the wounded infantile narcissism.”
“A linkage between childbirth and masochism is largely ignored, and therefore the original meaning has not been worked through to the point of rejection.”
In regards psychoanalysis of females, the state of pregnancy can be viewed as “delivering of the goods.” It has been observed by some female psychoanalysists that when it comes to female-to-female competition topics regarding pregnancy and aspects of delivering the child are scrutinized most efficiently. Women view other women who can deliver rather quickly as possessing a type of “athletic prowess.” This athletic prowess is also seen as and extension of her possessing the added ability of exceptional fertility and this is scrutinized with regard to number of children she has delivered. Her exceptional fertility is viewed as a form of powerful sexuality, and thus, her ability to turn men on can exult her to the level of “goddess” and thus she is perceived as “Best Mommy and Wife.” Woman viewing the female presences as divine, that is, her numinosity, is at the very heart of a females perceived possessed spirituality which is that divine spirit presiding over her unconscious state of awareness. I am not only woman. I am sexual healer. I am muse. I am nurse. I am doctor. I am, thus, attendant to your very needs. It does not necessarily have to be factual that she actually is the “Best Mommy and Wife” only that these elements are perceived by other woman in labeling her worthy.
There was a case study involving a highly successful female professional executive. This woman was an Advertising Executive who gave PowerPoint presentations to try and “sell” her companies product. She would become sexually aroused during these presentations, exuding sexual energy and would fantasies about the sexual act of intercourse. At times, it would be so intense she would have to go into the bathroom to masturbate. She was very successful. She would win men over with her sexualized nature and that would eventually lead to sex and, at the same time, “winning” the contract.
This female executive would speak of her own daughter and her similar coloring to her father. She touched on the idea that this child was in fantasy like a child of her oedipal longings that proved to her that she was at “the head of her class,” triumphing over mother and sisters. She came to an insight that her divorced husband and the other males were only “boys” because none of them could measure to dad. Being daddy’s girl had been greatly prized, but it was mother’s body that had been the richest source of envy and admiration and mystery for these girls who shared in this family. The 101%, the grade to beat, the clinched deal, and the big pay-off. The measure of success was to be as filled with the power that mother had, the power to get a male sexually interested and so to secure the best prize of all, one’s own baby. Each business “presentation” this female executive gave to her audience of men, was therefore a vehicle to show her wares, to compete unconsciously with her mother’s body especially in it procreative state. Her psyche had the fluidity of an artist in her ability to regress, fantasize, play out a past superimposed on a present, and still utilize the interconnections between the past and the present. Her animated past revealed a psychic reality that propelled a sublimated and adaptive present tense.
She recalled many different times of being called up to the podium to give a “PowerPoint” presentation. The phallic reference of the podium titillated her, but the associative tilt was to her own female “power point,” the vulva, clitoris, and opening to the vagina, her “cunt,” “hot spot,” or “hot point” as she felt free to convey in intimate conversations with trusted women. She reported a fantasy of taking off her panties, lying down, opening her legs, and feeling erotic as she imagined showing her vulva, and as she said, “pink, pouting, slightly open, and damp” to the male onlookers for whom she was showing off. The fantasy would occur when she was excited by clients “to attract their advertising business.”
There were pangs of the forbidden sometimes as she confessed that she would go afterwards to a nearby restroom to masturbate. In this fantasy, her excitement would culminate with the image of the head of a baby coming through her widely stretched perineum, to be followed by the rest of its slithery form. The sexual excitement that accumulated as she progressed in “floor show” seemed to “demand” this masturbatory action outlet. Needless to say she was a high producing advertising sales lady.
The highly sexually excited orgasmic fantasies about giving birth are not uncommon in female psychoanalytic studies. The contents at times contain pleasurable components of fantasizing about anticipated relief after a widly exciting orgiastic explosive birth, the yield of a tantalizing prior build-up of tension of “will it, will it not happen? Now? No!….Yes…..yes!” Classic psychoanalysis suggest that anal fantasy is more closely related to these birthing scenarios than male phallic fantasy, as in the childhood fantasy of the rectally passing of great “gifts,” sometimes for onlookers such as mother, husband, midwife, or obstetrician. Such fantasies are woven into active female body autoeroticism, analogous perhaps to male masturbatory fantasies of pleasurable explosion in orgasm. In this particular case study the woman didn’t possess any tonalities of co-existing loss, or the anxiety about being inadequate or a fraud that have come to be associated with the vulva “damage” ideas that characterize true phallic castration fantasies and penis envy.
In this case study, the woman recalled being thrillingly sexually stimulated by the examining fingers of her obstetrician while she was in the lithotomic position during prenatal examinations. Her associations led to all kinds of feelings and sensations about giving birth; the “show” beforehand in the bursting of the waters, the stretching, pushing and “crowning” of the head. And, her main memories in this regard would return to her mother and other women’s “crowning glories,” their babies.
It’s important to note that this female executive lost her little brother at a very early age. She was 12 years old when he was struck by a car and killed. I personally found a connection to this case and found it rather interesting because there can be an association made between this particular case study and my own personal timeline of life events when I had been rejected by a boy in early adolescence and the lost my nephew in a tragic car accident when I was 35. My nephew was nineteen when he passed away. I had helped to care for him during his infancy and to whom his mother provided me a positive female pregnant body experience. This event was supposed to be responsible for my “sexualized behavior” and had something to do with a wish “to repair the broken family” again through the “giving of gifts” namely a baby. This was simply not the case because the reasons for my regression laid in the “rejection” and “cutting off” or “castration” by family members who were in control over my nephews hospital visitations and death bed ritual. It may have appeared as if my thoughts were incestuous but, in fact, it was not my nephews actual death that caused the resurfacing of the “cutting off” and “rejection” that I felt. It was the isolation I felt from certain family members who sought to keep me away from my family during my nephews death bed ritual. This proved to fuel and drive my hysteria which took the form of aerobic dance for five hours a day. I made an associations between the “showing off at the podium of her wares” of particular interest because in this particular psychoanalytic case, it was perceived as a form of “sexualized behavior,” one that is compared to an erotic dancer. The after math of excessive exercise was inevitable weight loss. Some people in my family perceived my weight loss as a way of “showing of my wares” for the audience of men. In my opinion, from a psychoanalytic standpoint, this demonstrates a maladaptive response in certain individuals, one that touches on their own deep rooted psychological fears and anxieties of the expressed female body transformation. It demonstrated and suggests a maladaptive response in early childhood development and has further implications for the establishment of mutual associations, especially when one goes from that of androgynous child state to “sexualized object.” This transformation can represent the licentious libidinal desires of female procreative form and the competitive aspect in attracting the opposite sex which can generate fear and anxieties among individual group members and peers. This rejection of the sexualized female body form, proved to me that certain family members may share in similar personality traits which my illicit a form of sexual anxiety or castrating fears of one’s own importance or ability during times of “body transformation,” of others, in particular the adolescent’s new budding form or other female transformations that take place like plastic surgeries and weight loss.
In conclusion, the compound effect of the tragic loss of life through catastrophic event can reveal some of the most vehement underlying disturbances lurking in the unconscious psychic mind of all those involved. We can learn from them and discover for ourselves who we truly are, only of course, if one is willing to peer into the dark recesses of psychoanalytic study and pull back the curtain.
“What lies behind your curtain? Are you willing to peer inside?”