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Heinz Kohut has a view of sexualization that differs from Freud's. In fact, he sees it not so much as a defensive structure, but rather as the indication of a structural deficit. From the point of view of the drives, this deficit appears as an insufficient neutralization. From the point of view of the Selfobject [SIC], one might say that there is a lack of a necessary relation with another source of responsiveness. There is another idea involved, too: it is possible to attenuate or to dissipate sexualization by establishing a Selfobject transference. Independently of the theoretical perspective, sexualization becomes, in practice, an activity that imbues the whole personality and contributes, in an episodic or regular way, to the maintenance of psychological equilibrium. It procures pleasure and helps to obliterate painful feelings. It can also help to stem regression and enable the establishment of a relation that, while it may appear infantile, still helps to develop the Self 's cohesion. Given all the psychological gains that it implies, it often resists analytical intervention without the elaboration and working-through of a Selfobject transference.

The way the diverse forms of sexualization are considered consists in translating behavior into a narrative that represents individual psychodynamics. Thus the exhibitionist or the pedophile is expressing a specific psychological configuration that can be read as a manifest content. This is most probably an exaggerated simplification, since many forms of sexualization are more a matter of fortuitous circumstances, or even of biology, than of psychological meaning. Sexualization is essentially perpetuated by vertical splitting. Any treatment of difficulties involving sexualization needs to study this particular structural problem.

Arnold Goldberg

See also: Self-object; Splitting, vertical and horizontal.


Goldberg, Arnold. (1995). The problem of perversion.(p.29-45, 64-79). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Kohut, Heinz. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

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