Elements of sexuality are present from birth. " It rather seems to us that the child brings into the world germs of sensual activity and that even while taking nourishment it at the same time also enjoys a sexual gratification which it then seeks to again procure for itself through the familiar activity of thumb-sucking." "This manifestation does not yet know any sexual object, it is auto-erotic and its sexual aim is under the control of an erogenous zone."l Thumb-sucking is but one example of pleasurable excitation observed in infancy. Almost any part of the skin or exposed mucous membrane may serve as an erogenous zone, especially the anal and genital regions: "Children utilizing the erogenous sensitiveness of the anal zone can be recognized by their holding back of fecal masses until through accumulation there result violent muscular contractions."
1 This and other quotations in the section devoted to the sexual theory are from S. Freud. Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory. English translation by A. A. Brill.
When the genital region plays the part of an erogenous zone infantile onanism develops, consisting of rubbing with the hands or closure of the thighs - the latter especially in little girls. It should be. noted that the genital region plays no such part here as it is destined for in adult life, but merely on a par with other infantile erogenous zones.
Around the fifth year of life sets in a period of sexual latency. The infantile tendencies are gradually repressed through the development of such psychic forces as loathing, shame, and moral or aesthetic sense, partly in the process of bringing up and partly by constitutional determination. In this period the sexual energy is not lost but diverted toward other aims by a process which has been termed sublimation.
In later childhood sexual activity is very apt to return either in the form of masturbation or a pollution-like process. "Most of the so-called bladder disturbances of this period are of a sexual nature; whenever the enuresis nocturna does not represent an epileptic attack it corresponds to a pollution."
"It is instructive to know that under the influence of seduction the child may become polymorphous-perverse and may be misled into all sorts of transgressions. This goes to show that it carries along the adaptation for them in its disposition."
At puberty, as all know, a radical transformation takes place. (1) The primacy of the genital zones over other erogenous zones is established. (2) A new phase of sexual pleasure appears, constituting the chief sexual aim - the end-pleasure, accompanied by relief of tension; this being added to the fore-pleasure, which gives rise to tension. It is to be borne in mind that the latter alone characterizes infantile sexuality and that normally it persists in but rudimentary form in adult life. (3) In girls a shifting takes place of the leading zone of erogenous excitability from the clitoris to the vagina, accompanied, in the psychic sphere, by a new wave of repression which concerns clitoris sexuality.
The developmental changes described above affect the sexual aim. Other changes take place simultaneously, affecting the sexual object. "While the very incipient sexual gratifications are still connected with the taking of nourishment, the sexual impulse has a sexual object outside its own body, in the mother's breast. This object it loses later, perhaps at the very time when it becomes possible for the child to form a general picture of the person to whom the organ granting him the gratification belongs."
"Throughout the latency period the child learns to love other persons who assist it in its helplessness and gratify its wants; all this follows the model and is a continuation of the child's infantile relations to his wet nurse."
"The intercourse between the child and its foster parents is for the former an inexhaustible source of sexual excitation and gratification of erogenous zones, especially since the parents - or as a rule the mother - supplies the child with feelings which originate from her own sexual life; she pats it, kisses it, and rocks it, plainly taking it as a substitute for a full-valued sexual object."
At puberty a more or less definite separation from the sexual object of childhood normally takes place, largely through the operation of the incest barrier of the prevailing morality. " The observance of this barrier is above all a demand of cultural society which must guard against the absorption by the family of those interests which it needs for the production of higher social units. Society, therefore, uses every means to loosen those family ties in every individual, especially in the boy, which are authoritative in childhood only."
This change and the final finding of the proper sexual object is accomplished gradually. "It is a distinct echo of this phase of development that the first serious love of the young man is often for a mature woman and that of the girl for an older man equipped with authority."
Irregularities of sex development occur as a result partly of variations in innate tendency and partly of environmental influences and happenings. "Every step on this long road of development may become a point of fixation." The fore-pleasure of infantile sexuality may persist in one form or another and take the place of the normal adult sexual aim. Many sexual perversions "merely represent a lingering at a preparatory act of the sexual process."
When such infantile tendencies, persisting in adult life, become inhibited through repression, their energy is diverted either into psychoneurotic symptoms, or, by sublimation, into artistic, social, and intellectual activities.
As regards the sexual object, too, "Many persons are detained at every station in the course of development through which the individual must pass; and accordingly there are persons who never overcome the parental authority and never, or very imperfectly, withdraw their affection from their parents. They are mostly girls, who, to the delight of their parents, retain their full infantile love far beyond puberty, and it is instructive to find that in their married life these girls are incapable of fulfilling their duties to their husbands. They make cold wives and remain sexually anaesthetic. This shows that the apparently non-sexual love for the parents and the sexual love are nourished from the same source, i.e., that the first merely corresponds to an infantile fixation of the libido."