Katrine Zeuthen Sexuality between fantasy and reality abstract

Sexuality between Phantasy and Reality – Abstract by Katrine Zeuthen
The title “Representing the Un-Representable” could also be the title of Freud’s longstanding examination, discussion, and theory development of how sexuality and sexual trauma comes – or does not come – into expression. In his Studies on Hysteria Freud showed how sexual seduction of a not yet sexually mature individual could lead to hysterical symptoms expressed through the body as gestures communicating a strange detachedness from the psyche thus mirroring a lack of psychical integration. He concluded that “hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences” – of a reality that was out of reach and escaping a psyche with no capacity or structure for representing the event.
Soon after his discovery Freud began to examine how the hysterical symptoms could be understood differently if they were not causally connected with memories of factual childhood abuse. These examinations led Freud to the theory of a sexuality coming from within – an infantile sexuality not yet grounded in the body as a genital and goal directed sexuality. And thus Freud’s groundbreaking Three essays on Sexuality were born.
Present societal as well as academic discussions of what infantile sexuality is, how it expresses itself, and how it can be understood and protected, seem to hold on to Freud’s original scientific ambition from Studies on Hysteria of uncovering a causal relationship showing that child sexual abuse expresses itself through bodily symptoms in a significant way that can be attributed to a specific starting point thus proving what really happened.
As its theoretical starting point my presentation will take Freud’s abandonment of the theory of seduction, Laplanche’s theory of generalized seduction and the sexual, Stein’s definition of sexuality as being enigmatic, poignant and excessive, supplemented by Botella and Botella’s understanding of mental states without representations.
Subsequently cases from my clinical work with children with sexual trauma are analyzed, and the bodily expressions’ connection to the children’s inner as well as to their outside world are discussed. The aim it to show how the body expresses that which cannot be represented, symbolized and integrated in the psyche exactly because the original experience cannot be situated as coming either from inside the body or from the outside. It is concluded that it would be just as wrong to understand these expressions as exclusively representing a sexuality imposed from the outside as to understand them solely as formations of fantasy.
Finally it is suggested that we support the development of infantile sexuality in the best possible way not by observing the child but rather by listening, and by listening to the child with the same openness with which it expresses itself. And this is not enough; we must also listen to our own ways of listening. Thus the adult is also responsible as regards those aspects of the child’s development that are not directly accessible through observations of the child but which awaken something in the adult’s own unconscious; because infantile sexuality is never silent.
Katrine Zeuthen is Associalte Professor at The Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and a Candidate Member of The Danish Psychoanalytic Society. She is specialized in the relationship between child sexuality, sexual abuse and trauma, and in her clinical as well as theoretical work she focusses on how we can implement psychoanalytical thinking and praxis when working with cases of child sexual trauma, a focus that is sought after by professionals
ranging from police investigators to child psychiatrists and nurses, all dealing with the unpleasant insecurity these cases seem to hold.