In case you haven’t heard of the name, Sigmund Freud is what Martha Stewart is to cooking, Michael Jordan is to basketball, Dick Clark is to New Years (RIP!), and Steve Jobs is to Apple (RIP!)
He’s the big guy; the one that usually comes to mind when you think about father of psychology, first psychologist, grand theorist, tell me about your mother, and, yes, of course, the ideas of sex.
A little background info: Freud grew and wrote during the Victorian Vienna in the mid to late 1850s and was very much influenced by Darwin, in the idea that humans are highly motivated to pursue instant gratification in the same way animals do.
He championed the idea of the id (your impulses- I WANT BROWNIES!), ego (your morale- NO, THEY’RE NOT GOOD FOR YOU), and superego (a combination of rules learned throughout life- I CAN HAVE ONE BROWNIE BECAUSE MODERATION IS KEY IN MAINTAINING A HEALTHY DIET).
He also believed all humans passed through certain stages of life (oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital), and that abnormalities occurring in any of the stages would result in future mental disorders/problems.
Now, the phallic stage is the one most people want to know about. According to Freudian thought, in this stage, which occurs between ages 3-5, boys undergo the oedipal conflict, meaning they “grow attached to their mothers.” He grows envious and hostile towards his father. Of course, the child knows that he cannot compete with his father to gain his mother’s affection, and so he realizes he must learn “how to be a man,” so one day he can have a mommy all of his own (his wife). Hence, this is why so many little boys are VERY gender-conscious and will instantly tell you if you are playing with a “girl-toy” or if that is a “girl-color.”
Girls apparently undergo the same process, in a phenomena knows as the electra conflict. Little girls are attached to their mothers, and their father is often affectionate with them (unlike with boys, when they are usually more aggressive). Girl grows attached to both parents.
Here’s where penis envy comes in: At one point, every little girl realizes she doesn’t have a thingie, and according to Freud, this provokes intense distress and jealousy. The little girl believes this catastrophe is somehow her mother’s fault, because she left her unable to handle the real world in an equal fashion to men. She believes she is deficient and inferior for her lack of penis. The girl believes she has already been castrated, and that if she becomes “sexually” involved with her father, she will face punishment that is somehow WORSE than such castration. Therefore, the girl identifies and starts imitating her mother, thinking this will attract a “daddy of her own” (her husband). Girls also become very gender-conscious at this age: many of them like to play house, take care or pretend to take care of babies, help cook, etc.
Many contemporary psychologists and researchers heavily criticize Freud for his “anti-feminism” ideals and “boxed” thinking. Whether his theories hold any truth or not, one cannot argue that this man revolutionized the way we think about sex, our bodies, and early childhood development.