Penis Envy is a phrase thrown out casually and as a joke, but most people do not realize that it is actually a serious psychological penis disorder developed by the famous Sigmund Freud. Commonly confused with the idea that males are jealous of each other's penis size, penis envy actually refers to females.
Freud's Concept of Penis Envy
Starting in 1908, Sigmund Freud began working with the concept of penis envy. According to Freud, penis envy refers to the way in which a female reacts to the fact that she does not have a penis as she is developing. Around the age of three to five years old, girls begin to distance themselves from their mothers and attach themselves emotionally to their fathers. This distancing occurs, supposedly, because young girls are attracted to their mothers – the Oedipal complex – and find that because they do not have a penis, they cannot have a relationship with their mother. This creates a lack of power that is frustrating to the young girl.
It is at this point, Freud argues, that girls realize that they do not have a penis and begin to blame their mother. In society, penis envy can be used as an anti-feminist remark, inferring that women want to be the same as men or who want to be considered equal to men. Additionally, it can be used as a derogatory remark towards women who portray outwardly signs of masculinity, insinuating that they only thing they are missing is a penis to "seal the deal."
Criticisms of the Penis Envy Theory
For obvious reasons, there is much criticism that exists today about Freud's theories on penis envy. Famous psychoanalysists, such as Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget, have often argued against Freud's theories to the point that most discredit what Freud proposed. However, while most disregard what Freud says about penis envy, his theory is still taught today for its historical importance.
Clearly, feminists have had serious problems with penis envy, and they have even gone so far as to coin their own term – womb envy. Most feminists agree that the idea of penis envy is misogynistic and not based in fact.
Beyond Freud: Today's Penis Envy
However, traditionally in society, penis envy has become a common way to describe a man's fear about his own penis size. Society has attached a social stigma to small penises via television shows and movies, resulting in a constant fear among men that their penis is not big enough or good enough to pleasure a woman sexually. Historically, it is thought that women prefer well-endowed men to men with small penises, resulting in penis envy that is perpetuated by the pornography industry.
As a result of the latter definition for penis envy, many companies have decided to capitalize on this psychological disorder by creating devices that supposedly increase penis size, such as penis pumps, penile implants, and penis enlargement pills, to help a man overcome his penis envy.