Womb and vagina envy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In Feminist psychology the terms womb envy and vagina envy denote the unexpressed anxiety that some men feel in natural envy of the biological functions of women (pregnancy, parturition, breast feeding) — emotions which impel their social subordination of women, and to drive themselves to succeed in perpetuating their names via material legacies. Each term is analogous to the concept of female penis envy, derived from the theory of psychosexual development, presented in Freudian psychology.

Womb envy denotes the envy men feel towards a woman’s primary role in nurturing and sustaining life. In coining the term, the Neo-Freudian psychiatrist Karen Horney (1885–1952) proposed that men experience womb envy more powerfully than women experience penis envy, because “men need to disparage women more than women need to disparage men”. As a psychoanalyst, Horney considered womb envy a cultural, psychosocial tendency, like the concept of penis envy, rather than an innate male psychological trait.

Furthermore, in Eve's Seed: Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History (2000), historian Robert S. McElvaine extended Horney’s argument that womb envy is a powerful, elementary factor in the psychological insecurity suffered by many men. He coined the term Non-Menstrual Syndrome (NMS), denoting a man’s insecurity before the biologic and reproductive powers of woman; thus, womb envy impels men to define their identities in opposition to women. Hence, men who are envious of women’s reproductive power insist that a “real man” must be “not-a-woman”, thus they seek to socially dominate women — what they may or may not do in life — as psychological compensation for what men cannot do biologically.

Vagina envy denotes the envy men feel towards women for having a vagina. In Psychoanalysis and Male Sexuality (1966), Hendrik Ruitenbeek relates vagina envy to men’s desire to be able to give birth and to urinate (higher flow rate) and to masturbate in ways physically different from those available to men, and that such psychological envy might produce misogyny in neurotic men. Moreover, in Vagina Envy in Men (1993), the physician Harold Tarpley elucidates the theoretic differences among the constructs of vagina envy, womb envy, breast envy, and parturition envy, emotions wherein men suffer envy — “a grudging desire for another's excellence or advantage” — of women’s female biologic capabilities of pregnancy, parturition, breast feeding, and of the social-role freedom to physically nurture children.

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