Stages of Infantile Sexuality

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The characteristics of infantile sexual life which we have
hitherto emphasized are the facts that it is essentially auto-
erotic (i.e. that it finds its object in the infant's own body) and
that its individual component instincts are upon the whole dis-
connected and independent of one another in their search for

pleasure. The final outcome of sexual development lies in what
is known as the normal sexual life of the adult, in which the
pursuit of pleasure comes under the sway of the reproductive
function and in which the component instincts, under the
primacy of a single erotogenic zone, form a firm organization
directed towards a sexual aim attached to some extraneous

sexual object.


The study, with the help of psycho-analysis,
of the inhibitions and disturbances of this pro-
cess of development enables us to recognize
abortive beginnings and preliminary stages of a firm organiza-
tion of the component instincts such as this‹preliminary stages
which themselves constitute a sexual régime of a sort. These
phases of sexual organization are normally passed throug
smoothly, without giving more than a hint of their exist-

ence. It is only in pathological cases that they become active
and recognizable to superficial observation.

    We shall give the name of 'pregenital' to organizations of

sexual life in which the genital zones have not yet taken over
their predominant part. We have hitherto identified two such
organizations, which almost seem as though they were harking
back to early animal forms of life.

    The first of these is the oral or, as it might be called, cannibal-

lstlc pregenital sexual organization. Here sexual activity has
not yet been separated from the ingestion of food; nor are
opposite currents within the activity differentiated. The object
of both activities is the same; the sexual aim consists in the in-
corporation of the object‹the prototype of a process which, in
the form of identification, is later to play such an important
psychological part. A relic of this constructed phase of organiza-

tion, which is forced upon our notice by pathology, may be seen
in thumb-sucking, in which the sexual activity, detached from
the nutritive activity, has substituted for the extraneous object
one situated in the subject's own body.

    A second pregenital phase is that of the sadistic-anal organiza-

tion. Here the opposition between two currents, which runs
through all sexual life, is already developed: they cannot yet,
however, be described as 'masculine' and 'feminine', but only

as 'active' and 'passive'. The activity is put into operation by the
instinct for mastery through the agency of the somatic muscula-
ture; the organ which, more than any other, represents the
passivc sexual aim is the erotogenic mucous membrane of the
anus. Both of these currents have objects, which, however, are
not identical. Alongside these, other component instincts oper-
ate in an auto-erotic manner. In this phase, therefore, sexual
polarity and an extraneous object are already observable. But

organization and subordination to the reproductive function
are still absent.

197-199 Standard Edition from Three Essays on Sexuality