Masculinity Complex (Penis Envy) and Birth or End of Human Life (Womb Envy)

Sigmund Freud conceptualized penis envy in his psychosexual stages of development. It is apparent in the Electra complex experienced by girls in the phallic stage. According to him, girls experience penis envy that is they become anxious on realisation that they do not have a penis. They desire the father and view the mother as a competition for the father’s attention, recognition, and affection. They resent the mother for not providing them with a penis. It is important for this to be resolved to build a healthy personality and develop relationships.

Karen Horney, the neo-Freudian psychiatrist, strongly criticised penis envy and instead proposed womb envy. She denoted that men envy women for their biological ability to childbirth. She believed that men experience womb envy more powerfully than women experience penis envy. Men feel it more strongly because they want to live up to the male stereotype of having power and dominance over others. Male envy women’s role in nurturing life, pregnancy, motherhood, which leads them to claim their superiority in other fields. She countered penis envy by saying that men experience envy because of their inability to give birth. She pointed out that women felt inferior because of the lack of freedom and social status enjoyed by men, not because of the lack of penis.

In today’s times, the concept of penis envy does not hold validity. Freud’s theory is challenged for being dogmatic and showing females in an inferior light. Some people believe that men want to control women’s bodies because of womb envy. These concepts hold little relevance in current times.