The Uterus and the Female "Passive-Active"

Adapted excerpt from "Os Órgãos Sexuais Femininos"

Nelson Soucasaux

Nelson Drawing 1993

In Medicine we often find similarities, parallels and curious correspondences between some psychological, anatomical and physiological patterns. As I observed in my book "Os Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo e Arquétipo" ("The Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function, Symbol and Archetype"), our attention must be focused not only on the anatomical, physiological, pathological and psychological aspects of the several organs, systems and parts of the body, but also on their archetypal symbolism. Specifically concerning Gynecology, the study of all archetypes related to women and femininity acquires fundamental importance. One of those archetypes is the one of the woman's predominantly "passive" and "receptive" nature - though I am entirely aware that many women absolutely do not accept this old archetypal view of female nature... Nevertheless, I must remark that the concept of "female passivity" I am talking about is, many times, much more "actively-passive" than actually "passive", since it contains a powerful and strong "active" side ( see Note 1, below *).

After this brief introduction, let us go to the main subject of this article. The uterus is an organ whose contractile physiology reveals quite well not only the "passive", "receptive" side of female nature, but also its "active" or "actively passive" side. Whenever this organ is mostly relaxed, we can say that the uterus behaves according to the basic female "passive-receptive" archetypal pattern. Hence the old symbolic analogy of this organ with a receptacle, a "vessel" intended to receive something inside it. Conversely, on the occasions it has to contract ( during menstruation, orgasm and parturition ), the uterine behaviour reveals the manifestation of the "active" side of the "intrinsically passive-receptive" female nature. Even according to this old archetypal concept of the female predominantly "passive" nature, this nature often exhibits patterns that are much more "actively-passive" than actually "passive". ( For physiological details on the uterine contractility and the several endocrine, biochemical and neurovegetative factors that control it, see my aforementioned book "Os Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo e Arquétipo". )

In basal ( repose ) conditions, along the greatest part of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, the uterus remains mostly relaxed, exhibiting only slight sparse contractions and moderate variations in the tonus of its muscle fibers. Considering the enormous contractile capacity of the myometrium ( the strong uterine muscular layer ), this fact clearly demonstrates how much the uterus, in most circumstances, tends to reveal the aforementioned intrinsically "passive" archetypal pattern of woman's nature. That means that, even being capable of potent contractions, the uterus only makes use of them during menstruation, orgasm and childbirth. Therefore, usually the myometrium only behaves "actively" in very special situations of the uterine physiology.

The menstrual contractions of the uterus ( which can be slight, moderate or intense ) can be regarded as an "active" physiological reaction intended to aid the expelling of the necrotic endometrium together with the menstrual blood. They are mostly triggered by an increased production of prostaglandins in the shrinking and necrotic endometrium. ( The formation of these prostaglandins in the endometrium during the menstrual necrosis of this tissue generates the increase in the uterine contractility typical of this phase of the cycle, giving rise to the menstrual cramps. )

The orgasmic uterine contractions take place simultaneously with the orgasmic contractions of the perineal muscles that surround the vaginal entrance, and seem to be mostly due to a potent nervous stimulation * ( see Note 2 ). During sexual intercourse, both the uterine and perineal contractions perfectly reflect the important "actively-passive" aspect of women's nature. The sexual act is one of the situations in which the female predominantly "passive" nature becomes more evident, due to the elementary fact that, during the intercourse, men penetrate and women are penetrated. In this context, the typical orgasmic contractions of the uterus ( as well as those of the circumvaginal perineal muscles ) can be regarded as an "active" physiological response of women to a situation which, for them, is intrinsically "passive." Thus, here we have a manifestation of the "active" side of the female archetypal "passivity", by means of which women clearly become "actively-passive."

The most potent uterine contractions are those of parturition. The enormous contractile force of the uterus during childbirth only becomes possible as a result of the equally enormous increase in the myometrial ( and obviously uterine ) volume that takes place along pregnancy, as well as of the other anatomical and physiological features of the uterus at the end of gestation and the powerful hormonal and biochemical stimuli that trigger parturition. ( The most important hormonal factor responsible for the strong uterine contractions of labour is oxytocin *. As to this hormone, see Note 3. ) Though they are not voluntarily triggered, these powerful uterine contractions can be regarded as the way by which women, after nine months of "passive" submission to the evolution of pregnancy, "actively" participate in childbirth, putting an end to the long, strenuous, uncomfortable and physically and psychologically stressing period of gestation.

From the symbolic standpoint, in whichever circumstances it might be, the contractile capacity of the uterus perhaps might function, for many women, as a reaction against the predominantly "passive" and "receptive" nature of this organ and female nature itself. This fact acquires great importance in Psychosomatic Gynecology. Regardless of the fact that, as we have seen, the uterine contractions are not under voluntary command, they can be psychosomatically triggered through the neuroendocrine and neurovegetative pathways.

Cases of spasmodic pelvic pain can be related to a state of chronic uterine hypertonicity which almost always causes moderate to intense myometrial contractions. Some cases of dysmenorrhea may be a psychosomatic manifestation of conflicts that many women exhibit towards menstruation and female nature. As I have observed in my book "Novas Perspectivas em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology"), one more typical aspect of women's nature seems to be the presence, in variable degrees, of conscious or unconscious negative attitudes in relation to some of its features.

*Note 1: Here we have to face that complex and often misunderstood archetypal subject of the mostly "receptive," "passive" female nature, in contrast to the "active" male one. This concept regarding women's psycho-sexual "passivity" actually is very relative and is due to an intrinsic "receptivity" of women, who desire to be desired. That attitude, in turn, results from the strong self-erotic and narcissist component of female sexuality. Nevertheless, this female archetypal "passivity" includes remarkable "active" components, by means of which women often become much more "actively-passive." A typical form of a well-known and very frequent female "actively-passive" behaviour can be seen whenever a woman assumes complete control of sexual intercourse. In such circumstances the woman is said to be "actively-passive" because, though behaving in an "active" way, in the intimacy of her sexual psychodynamics, her inner attitude often remains basically "passive." Another obvious manifestation of the "active" side of the female archetypal "passivity" is emphasized by Julius Evola when he points out the enormous women's "non-active power and magic," by means of which they attract and seduce men ( Evola, J. - "A Metafísica do Sexo" ["The Metaphysics of Sex"] - Edições Afrodite, Portugal, 1976 ).

*Note 2 : Specifically regarding the uterine orgasmic contractions, everything seems to indicate that they are mostly triggered and commanded by the vegetative innervation of this organ. These uterine contractions are the acme of the neurogenic myotonic reaction that occur in the female genitals along sexual excitement and, as already said, happen simultaneously with the widely known contractions of the muscles that surround the vaginal entrance.

*Note 3 : Oxytocin has a powerful contractile effect upon the myometrium, being the hormonal factor responsible for the very strong uterine contractions of parturition. Oxytocin production takes place in the hypothalamus and its release is triggered by a reflex neurogenic pathway that starts in nerve endings especially sensitive to pressure located inside the cervical canal and in the nipples. During parturition, it is the strong mechanical stimulation of the endocervix that causes the hypothalamic release of a great quantity of oxytocin, giving rise to increasingly potent uterine contractions.

P.S. : I hope feminists reach a deeper understanding of this subject concerning the archetypal female's predominantly "passive" and "receptive" nature, as well as its great relativity, and don't get angry with me...

Nelson Soucasaux is a gynecologist dedicated to Clinical, Preventive and Psychosomatic Gynecology. Graduated in 1974 by Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, he is the author of several articles published in medical journals and of the books "Novas Perspectivas em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology") and "Os Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo e Arquétipo" ("The Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function, Symbol and Archetype"), published by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro, 1990, 1993.

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