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Castration anxiety

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Castration anxiety is an idea put forth by Sigmund Freud in his writings on the Oedipus complex; it posits a deep-seated fear or anxiety in boys and men said to originate during the genital stage of sexual development. It asserts that boys, when seeing a girl's genitalia, will falsely assume that the girl had her penis removed, probably as punishment for some misbehavior. The boy then becomes anxious lest the same happen to him.

It is worth noting that in some cultures, notably 19th century Europe, it was not unheard of for parents to threaten their misbehaving sons with castration, or to otherwise threaten their genitals, a phenomenon Freud documents several times. This may help to explain Freud's reasoning regarding castration anxiety's role in human development.

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