Women's Corporeal Consciousness and Experience

Selected topic from "Novas Perspectivas em Ginecologia"

Nelson Soucasaux

Nelson Drawing 1977

I believe it is valid to consider women as possessing a much greater capacity of experiencing their own bodies than men do. This means the existence, in the female sex, of a highly developed corporeal consciousness, with a greater and stronger mind-body interaction. This fact is of great importance in gynecologic practice, because it predisposes women to an intense projection of psychological conflicts on their sexual organs and correlated areas. From the psycho-sexual point of view, it also accounts for the very accentuated self-erotic and narcissistic feature of female sexuality, resulting on the fact that many women have, to a considerable extent, their own bodies as sexual objects for themselves. This gives rise, in the female sex, to a kind of eroticism endowed with a somewhat "centripetal" nature, of which women themselves are the "center."

As a consequence of several specific aspects of female nature, there is a highly developed psycho-physical and corporeal self-perception. The typical women's narcissism in relation to their bodies, the great concern of the most feminine women with their personal aesthetics ( which by far exceeds the corresponding care existing in men ), the enormous effort with which they beautify themselves - all of this clearly demonstrates women's strong liaison with their bodily nature. Nevertheless, even before this, various physiological features of the female sex ( among them the direct and indirect consequences of the cyclical actions of the ovarian hormones ) oblige women to pay great attention to several events that occur in their organisms.

For different reasons of physiological order, they have to be constantly attentive to the intimacy of their bodies and to their sexuality. The signs and sensations that precede menstruation ( from the usual slight premenstrual symptoms to the intense and severe premenstrual syndrome ), the very peculiar and unique experience of the menstrual bleeding ( with or without uterine cramps ), the genital secretions, the psychological changes related to the phases of the cycle, the complexity of the female sexual response, the awareness that, since in active sexual life, a pregnancy can occur - which creates a constant worry to avoid undesired gestations -, all of this produces a strong link between women and their bodies. When they become pregnant, this is one more condition of intense corporeal and organic experience.

There is a great amount of libido in the female body because a lot of sensations specifically related to sexuality are constantly produced in it. Because of this, the woman's body becomes an easy "target" for the somatizations of many female emotional and psychological problems. As a result, physiological symptoms can be intensified and many dysfunctions and disorders can appear. It is obvious that when somebody concentrates great attention on specific parts or functions of the body, not only does the aptitude to perceive the sensations originating there increase, but also some capacity of subconsciously interfering in these functions can be acquired. If worries and neurotic fixations related to them appear, various disturbances can occur through the psychosomatic pathways, creating a vicious cycle.

Women direct a greater part of their libido to their own bodies than men do and, as we have seen, there are important physiological reasons for this. I want to make it clear that I use the concept of libido in the sense proposed by C.G. Jung, concerning the whole psychical energy, and not in the Freudian sense, that considers the libido as exclusively sexual. In order to avoid conceptual misunderstandings, whenever I speak about the intense corporeal experience characteristic of women, it is essential to understand that all of the experiences regarded as "corporeal" are, in reality, psychological experiences related to the body. All of the human experience is always psychological, because, from the phenomenological point of view, all of it occurs in the realm of the mind.

Therefore, I believe that women have a much more intense psychological experience of their own bodies than men do because they centralize a great amount of their mental energy ( libido ) to the attention directed at the diverse aspects of their physical constitution. From the psychological and philosophical points of view, the evident narcissistic and even self-erotic features typical of most women, allied to other characteristics of their sexuality, allow us to consider women as being and possessing what we could call the "erotic body" by nature. In the female body there are also much more erogenous zones than in the male one and, in a way, we can say that, to a great extent, almost all of the woman's body functions as a sexual organ.

On this subject it is pertinent to observe that, in women, the physical sense that seems to be more important for arousing the sexual desire is touch - differently from men, whose desire is mostly stimulated by sight. In symbolic terms, Julius Evola, in his book "The Metaphysics of Sex" speaks about the deep symbolic meaning of the anatomic fact that ". . . while the sexual organs in men are something circumscribed, separated and almost as something added from the exterior to the rest of the body, these organs are found in women in profundity, in the innermost part of their bodies" ( Evola, J. - "A Metafísica do Sexo", Edições Afrodite, Portugal, 1976 ). Though this being a symbolic observation, we cannot deny the great importance of symbolism to the human mind. The superb works of C.G. Jung clearly demonstrate the enormous psychological value of the symbols.

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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