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We live in a gendered society in which individuals are generally categorised according to their sex either male or female Individuals also are identified or identify themselves by their sexual orientation ie heterosexual or homosexual How are differences between men and women and variations within these groups to be understood What part does culture and society play in shaping an individual These are questions that the Viennese founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud attempted to answer throughout his long career in the late 19th and early 20th centuries He contends that all human beings start out their life as innately bisexual but through the process of becoming members of society need to suppress aspects of this disposition to comply with cultural perceptions of masculinity or femininity He attempts in his extensive research and theories on infantile sexuality to trace the course of gender identification and to describe the many processes that the child must navigate in order to arrive at an adult sexual identity The Oedipus complex is central to this process It is used to explain the structure of the psychical apparatus as well as the aetiology of psychic disorders The purpose of this essay is to analyse the applicability of the Oedipus complex in understanding sexual difference As already stated Freud posits the innate bisexuality of all human beings and notes that due to this disposition men and women rarely if ever achieve the idealised pure states of masculinity or femininity but rather combine aspects of both in a complex mixture allowing for endless variations of sexual identity within society Freud 1977 pg 342 It is during the Oedipal phase of development that the child must for the first time repress aspects of its bisexual nature in order to comply with cultural expectation as represented by the father who becomes a metaphor for culture and authority The Oedipus complex is contemporaneous with the phallic phase of infantile sexual development but has its origins in
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