Organ Pleasure

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Organ pleasure is erotic satisfaction linked to any part of the body that becomes an erogenous zone, including internal organs. It rises from the earliest phase of development of infantile sexuality and is marked by independent, autoerotic partial drives in search of sexual satisfaction.

The notion of organ pleasure is part of the framework of infantile sexuality and is intimately linked to the notion of erogenous zones. This notion appeared late in Freud's work, rising out of his theoretical extrapolations on narcissism. In "On Narcissism" (1914c), Freud studied a number of cases of pathology, as well as of normal psychology, to analyze the narcissistic functioning of the ego. In addition to psychosis and physical illness in love life, he took up the subject of hypochondria. In this connection he was led to reconsider the notion of corporeal erotogenicity, which he defined as an activity of a part of the body giving rise to sensations that excite the psychic apparatus sexually. Freud then extended erotogenicity to the level of a general property of all the organs. Thus the notion of organ pleasure was born. At the core of the libidinal economy, modifications of organic erotogenicity lead to corresponding modifications in the ego's libidinal investment.

The notion of organ pleasure is in reality a resumption of the notion of an erogenous zone, which Freud theoretically developed in Three Essays on the Theory ofSexuality (1905d). In the chapter on infantile sexuality, Freud defined an erogenous zone as "a part of the skin or the mucous membrane in which stimuli of a certain sort evoke a feeling of pleasure possessing a particular quality" (p. 183). In infantile sexuality, the sexual goal of all partial drives remains the satisfaction of erogenous zones. This domination of the erogenous zone is tempered only by the first stirrings of pregenital organizations in the development of infantile sexuality. The notion of organ pleasure thus extends the erogenous zone beyond the skin and mucous membranes to all the internal organs, which, from the point of view of the subject's sexuality, are conceived as having the same characteristics.

The notion of organ pleasure reappeared in Freud's "Instincts and their Vicissitudes" (1915c) and in the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, on the development of the libido and the sexual systems (1916-17a [1915-17]).

The notion of organ pleasure results principally from two series of clinical observations. First, it has been linked to infantile sexual activity, such as sucking and anal activity. Second, it has been inferred by interpretation in the course of psychoanalytic treatment of neuroses, particularly hysteria. These psychoanalytic observations have shown that an organ or system of organs can substitute for the genital organs in the search for sexual satisfaction. This led Freud to connect the erogenous zones to the hysteria-generating zones. Later research on hypochondria has confirmed this point of view.

Claude Smadja

See also: Erotogenic zone; Hypochondria; Partial drive; Psychosexual development; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality .


Freud, Sigmund. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.

. (1914c). On narcissism: An introduction. SE, 14: 67-102.

. (1915c). Instincts and their vicissitudes. SE, 14: 109-140.

. (1916-1917a). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. SE, 15-16.

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Organ Pleasure

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