Excerpts from Gerald Fogel’s paper “Interiority and Inner Genital Space in Men: What Can be Lost in Castration”

Narratives – Part 4

GeraldFogelIn 1986, twelve years before Gerald I. Fogel, MD, wrote “Interiority and Inner Genital Space in Men: What Can Be Lost in Castration,” he and two colleagues, Frederick Lane and Robert Liebert, edited a collection of articles about male development, entitled The Psychology of Men: Psychoanalytic Perspectives. New thinking about male development was taking shape in part inspired by the work of many, mostly female, analysts who were countering the classical Freudian ideas about female development and arguing for a new understanding about female genital experience.

The excerpts below present Fogel’s ideas about male interiority and the importance of a man’s access to his inner genital space, without which, says Fogel, a man “is castrated, less than whole.”

Comparisons to Women
As in women, oedipal-level and adult male psychic functioning contains powers rooted in the body-mind that are distinct from those we designate as phallic. The author struggles for a comparable word to represent devalued aspects of higher-level development that are primary, “feminine,” essential for psychic mastery, and threatened by loss, i.e., by castration. Defining this aspect of mental life is difficult, but it includes receptivity, groundedness, connectedness to self and others, and tolerance of ambiguity.

An individual’s sexual anatomy is a prime example of a psychologically significant material reality…. But psychic reality—in this instance the experience of one’s body—may nevertheless be the better epistemological ground or “container” for the human mind. For the psyche is an entity which is irreducibly bisexual, representational, and symbolic…capable of continual evolution and change through dialogue, deconstruction, and reconstruction. .. the experience of one’s body-mind or embodied, gendered self and of what one has to lose evolves developmentally.

Interiority in Both Sexes
Phallic aspirations and fears are widely observed in both sexes, where they assume an infinite number of unique forms in each individual, overdetermined and condensed from different developmental levels and from a wide variety of situations, fantasies, and body parts. A substantial recent literature on the psychology of women, however,…show[s] that the developmental evolution of women’s experiences of their bodily selves and bodily integrity are linked to an experience of interiority. Such experiences contribute to full psychosexual genitality, selfhood, and capacities for high-level object relating.

As in women, mature male functioning contains similar powers and potentials—ones that are conceptually distinct from and complementary to those we designate as phallic. I refer not to developmentally less mature aspects, such as preoedipal or narcissistic ones, but to additional powers and potentials that flow from inner genital experience—a genital-oedipal conception and experience of the interior of the triadic self rooted in the body. Since such powers are directly analogous to those described in women, I refer to interiority and inner genitality in men, and to their unified appearance in relation to oedipality and separation-individuation. There is no single term, however, comparable to phallic, to represent those too frequently devalued aspects of oedipal and adult development that are primary, “feminine,” equally ubiquitous and essential for psychic mastery, and also therefore threatened or constrained by symbolic castration.

I will attempt to demonstrate inner genitality in men—the developmental evolution and metaphorical elaboration in psychic and psychosexual life of a man’s inner genital experience. …; it would be most useful if a simple, universally accepted word existed
that referred to a man’s “feminine” half, as phallic does to the “masculine” in both sexes. Definitions may prove difficult, but emancipation and integration of such experiences are required for the development of mature mental organizations and realization of full psychic potential. Castration anxiety arises when any crucial part of mature psychic and psychosexual life is exposed or threatened. Without full access to his higher-level interior and more ambiguous continent, a man is castrated, compromised, less than whole.

Fogel, G. I. (1998). Interiority and inner genital space in men: What else can be lost in castration, Psychoanal. Q., 67:662-697. Excerpts above from pp. 662-664.


Gerald Fogel, MD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst and a Founding Member and former Director of the Oregon Psychoanalytic Institute. He moved to Portland from New York in 1996, where he had been affiliated with the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center for many years. His many publications include three edited books — The Psychology of Men, Perversions and Near-Perversions in Everyday Life, and The Work of Hans Loewald. His papers reflect diverse interests. Those on Loewald and Winnicott are especially relevant, as these thinkers creatively explored the crucial role of psychic or virtual time and space in character development and the connected, lived life, and profoundly influenced Dr. Fogel’s work.

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