Seduction theory

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The term 'seduction theory' is not used by Freud but is commonly employed to describe his first theory of the origins of neurosis, which holds that all neuroses can be traced back to represses memories of sexual traumas experienced in early childhood. In his earliest papers, Freud variously describes these 'infantile sexual scenes' as 'rape', 'assault', 'aggression', and 'seduction'. Throughout his long correspondence with his associate Wilhelm Fliess, Freud discusses the viability of his seduction theory and eventually comes to suspect that it implies an improbably high incidence of sexual abuse and of incest on the part of fathers. The theory is finally abandoned in favor of the thesis that what appear to be memories of 'seduction' are in fact fantasies related to the Oedipus complex and that they are an expression of the child's unconscious desire to seduce its father. Freud does not, however, deny that the sexual abuse of children takes place, and remarks in one of his last publications that it is 'common enough'.