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Splitting: A Case of Female Masculinity

Robert J. Stoller
Foreword by Ethel Spector Person
Copyright Date: 1973
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 416
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This classic book is a detailed case study of a woman, otherwise intelligent and apparently sane, who was convinced that she had internally a full set of functioning male sex organs. Dr. Robert Stoller's account of this woman's diagnosis and treatment is illustrated by excerpts from the patient-analyst dialogue during her therapy, providing enough detail to be useful to clinicians in training. Originally published in hardcover in 1973, the book is now available in paperback for the first time."One of the longest, most minutely detailed, and most fascinating case reports in the psychiatric literature. . . . An extremely original contribution to the study of perversion."-Ethel Spector Person, M.D., from the Foreword"One of the great clinical case studies. Splitting demonstrates the power of psychoanalytic reasoning in the twentieth century."-Gilbert Herdt, University of Chicago

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14621-9
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Ethel Spector Person

    SurelySplitting: A Case of Female Masculinity, Stoller’s second book, first published in 1973, is one of the longest, most minutely detailed, and most fascinating case reports in the psychiatric literature. YetSplittingis not one of Stoller’s best known books, probably because its title mistakenly leads one to think that its scope is too narrow, limited only to “female masculinity.” In fact, the substance of the book explores many themes that have only recently burst full force into the therapeutic world. It is hard to believe thatSplittingwas written over twenty years ago, grappling as it does with...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
  5. 1 The First Interview
    (pp. 1-12)

    The patient is, as we say in the medical trade, a white, divorced housewife in her thirties, living in a suburb of Los Angeles with two teen-age sons.

    Mrs. G and I first met fourteen years ago. With a colleague, Dr. Robert Geertsma, I had gone to the County Hospital to film a couple of interviews with typical psychiatric patients, to use for final examinations testing medical students’ skills in clinical evaluation. A list had been prepared of several patients articulate enough and showing their psychopathology clearly enough to serve our purpose. Mrs. G was among them. I spoke to...

  6. 2 Mrs. G’s Penis
    (pp. 13-28)

    S: As far as you know, no woman has a penis.

    G: Yes.

    S: You are not, then, a woman in the same way as other women, or are you?

    G: Of course I am. I feel I have more advantages than most women because ... I don’t know. When a man ... a man who has a penis is a strong and capable individual, and a woman has a different kind of strength and a different kind of capabilities; but I have both. A man always has an advantage because he works and he supports himself, and most women...

  7. 3 Charlie
    (pp. 29-53)

    Charlie was invented when Mrs. G was about four. She originally knew him as “David,” but this I did not learn until long after he had become familiar to me as “Charlie.” He served as an imaginary companion, real far beyond the imagination of children who create such companions.¹ Mrs. G sensed him as constant, ageless, and unchanging; yet he did change with treatment.

    As with many aspects of Mrs. G, editing the material makes our work seem more coherent than it was and foreshortens the stretches of time filled with my incomprehension. My treatment style being what it is,...

  8. 4 Psychopathy
    (pp. 54-68)

    When I first met Mrs. G, she was a psychopath (sociopath, antisocial personality). In our first interview she reported many antisocial acts, performed unfeelingly. The list (probably incomplete—to date there seems no end to revelations of the past) is impressive. Leaving out attempts at murder, there were, by her early twenties: armed robbery (six gas stations, no arrests); car theft (three cars, one arrest); bad-check writing (two arrests); being a subject in pornographic movies (two); innumerable sexual relations with men (including family members); over twenty homosexual affairs; four marriages by age twenty-three; five illegitimate pregnancies (no legitimate); addiction to...

  9. 5 Mothering
    (pp. 69-87)

    The only extended period during which Mrs. G felt intact was in the years she was a psychopath. There were, however, shorter episodes when the pieces fell into place: when she was in jail, or when she was pregnant, and right after delivery. Without question, she was most at peace when she felt purely female. Then there was no criminal impulse, no homosexual desire, and no penis. No wonder she wanted to be always pregnant (and came close to succeeding between the ages of thirteen and twenty). Pregnancy did what her penis could not. Then, against her will, at age...

  10. 6 Chris
    (pp. 88-119)

    During the several years before I began treating Mrs. G, she would stop by my office from time to time to say hello and would also write a letter every month or so to keep me up to date; but I was not really informed about her life, and certainly not paying much attention to its details. I did not think of her as my patient, but rather as a UCLA patient, for whom I had a warm but uncommitted feeling, to be treated by others.

    I cannot recall whether one time when she stopped by she said she was...

  11. 7 Psychosis
    (pp. 120-136)

    It seems nothing was straightforward with Mrs. G, the epitome of this being her favorite paradoxical statement “I am a liar.” When announced at the proper moment, this was guaranteed to confuse; and when one adds to this Mrs. G’s unusual ability to live in reality and fantasy at the same time, one can appreciate how intricate communication with her could be.

    To complicate matters further, Mrs. G could vacillate from moment to moment between secondary and primary process, between warm and direct contact with me and a frightening vagueness, between startling insights and long stretches of affectless “I don’t...

  12. 8 Multiple Personality
    (pp. 137-175)

    I have discussed Mrs. G’s psychosis in some detail partly for us to understand Charlie, who is hardly a typical psychotic hallucination. Nonetheless, he shares enough with familiar mechanisms of hallucination in psychosis to illuminate them. Still, Charlie was soformed. He really felt like a separate person to Mrs. G, and that separate person had many capabilities that she lacked but that one sees in normal people—and many more of these than are reflected in the hallucinations of most psychotics.¹ Whatever his shortcomings, Charlie keenly appreciated reality: not only what was going on in the physical world but...

  13. 9 Murder
    (pp. 176-202)

    Not only could Mrs. G split off pieces of herself but she was equally skilled at splitting off affects from her awareness. For many years she felt nothing in situations that should have caused intense emotions, so that these emotions, cut loose from the appropriate situation for which they were created, would explode into dangerous behavior—murderous and suicidal behavior. And so long as these feelings or their proper connections to the precipitating situation were unconscious, she was a walking bomb. Only when the affects were made conscious and their reasons for arising discovered did she become safer. Before that,...

  14. 10 Suicide
    (pp. 203-223)

    Let us now look at the other side of the coin of murder.

    G: Then there’s the time that I took the sleeping pills. . ... The only reason I didn’t die that time was just dumb luck. I took fifty Nembutal. I had taken the pills and gone to bed and gone to sleep; and the phone rang, and I forgot that I had taken the pills . . . I actually forgot that I had taken them . . . and I got up and I answered the phone. And this guy who I had gone out with quite...

  15. 11 Identity
    (pp. 224-232)

    What shall we say about “identity”? It has become almost too sacred a word to attack these days, for all kinds of unscientific causes have gotten their sanctions from its scientific aura. On the other side, some analysts condemn it because it overflows the supposed precision of words like “ego,”¹ “superego,” and “id.” I am both attracted to and put off by “identity”: attracted because it denotes qualities ofbeing(on which analysts previously did not focus²) and put off by its facileness, corruptibility, and propaganda value (see Leites³). If “identity” is to be scorned, one might want to examine...

  16. 12 Mrs. G’s Father
    (pp. 233-247)

    G: My father was a natural born fuck-up.

    S: Could he have done more with his life? Let’s not even think for the moment about the suicide, which is in you as it was in him. What did he do?

    G: Like going to Korea. He didn’t have to go to Korea; they didn’t want him to go; they wanted him to stay in California and be a recruiting officer. He demanded that they let him go, and he went all the way to Washington, I guess; and they finally let him go, and he got wounded and he got...

  17. 13 Mrs. G’s Mother
    (pp. 248-270)

    G: My mother’s an old woman who wants me to die, and I hate her guts. She never said, “I wish you were dead.” She always said, “I think you’d be better off dead.” She really said that. I felt like I should go home and take fifty sleeping pills and die.

    S: But you didn’t.

    G: Yes, I did. I didn’t die, but I took fifty sleeping pills. Only one time I went to her. And I told her, “Look at me. Look at me, I’m crazy. Help me!” She didn’t know what to do, so she turned the...

  18. 14 Homosexuality
    (pp. 271-301)

    Being a study of a very masculine woman who believed she had a penis, this is, especially, a work on homosexuality. And despite my having fragmented Mrs. G by describing her under various chapter headings, we must try to see her whole and realize that the theme of homosexuality has pervaded all aspects of her life and personality. For instance, her homosexuality and her rage—murderous and suicidal—are inextricable: she tried to murder because of the same conflicts that gave rise to her penis; and she was suicidal because she could not bear to think of herself as homosexual...

  19. 15 Treatment
    (pp. 302-312)

    Can our world afford the luxury of one-to-one psychotherapy these days? I personally believe such treatment, however humane and worthy in the particular case, is wrong to the extent that it deprives many people for the sake of a perhaps fortunate few; it becomes honorable, as Freud observed, if it is used not as treatment alone, but for the study of man. The analyst has an obligation, usually ignored, to convert his therapy into scientific communications with colleagues.

    I must write something about Mrs. G’s treatment if the reader is to be able to judge the data. The rational reasons...

  20. 16 Conclusions
    (pp. 313-323)

    How does Mrs. G help us understand the development of gender identity? Let me briefly review some of my earlier work, inSex and Gender.

    The word “sexuality” covers a wide range of behavior, within which are, among others, two areas: one, biological—the male and female sexes; and one, psychological—masculinity and femininity. For the latter, no word is commonly used, so I have chosen the term “gender identity” to designate it.¹ The word “gender” is not very convenient, for usually it has been synonymous with “sex”; therefore, somewhat uneasily, I have added “identity,” which implies an organization around...

  21. 17 Epilogue: Roots of Evil
    (pp. 324-361)

    That is all I want to say now, but Mrs. G and I are still at work. The quotations that follow are in chronological order, taken from a few months of therapy after this book was written. What I said has been removed, and Mrs. G’s remarks have been run together as if all spoken in a day. They have been selected so as to amplify, clarify, and fill in more clues needed to understand events reported in the text. Although unreal in that they do not indicate the passage of time in treatment or what I said that at...

  22. APPENDIX 1. Mrs. G as Textbook of Psychiatry
    (pp. 362-362)
  23. APPENDIX 2. Physical Illnesses
    (pp. 363-365)
  24. APPENDIX 3. Very Masculine Females
    (pp. 366-375)
  25. APPENDIX 4. Mrs. G’s Dreams
    (pp. 376-378)
  26. Notes and References
    (pp. 379-393)