Masculinity: Not your daddy’s narrative

The Farm Theater’s College Collaboration:
Three universities commission an early-career playwright to write a play that each school will independently produce throughout the academic year. The faculty, students, and playwright collaborate throughout the year in the development of the text. The Farm Report will chronicle that process.  Playwright Micheline Auger is exploring gender and its effect on behavior.

What do you get when a boy meets a horse? Freud. What do you get with you thrust them together with a driving, penetrating narrative?  Freud’s mythology of masculinity.


I don’t know about you but it’s hard to believe that back in the day (a little over 100 years ago), it was understood and accepted that, psychologically speaking, boys wanted to kill their fathers and fornicate with their mums. Or that girls and women had penis envy. It seemed more likely to me that boys and men would have vag envy because the vajayay was from whence you came! You would not exist without the original mobile home or palace du puss. It seems as plausible (if not more so) that boys and menfolk would envy (psychologically speaking) the ability or, shall I say, power to grow, birth and nurture a human being. Perhaps if Freud was a Frida that would have been the more yielding theory of the day. But maybe if women did envy the penis it had to do with the fact that you couldn’t hold a job, own property, or vote without one. Some say penis envy, some say equality envy.

penis envy

What are the stories we tell ourselves about gender or in this case, masculinity? In Ken Corbett’s book Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinity, Corbett investigates the first psychoanalytic boy called Hans who is brought to him by his father because of his fear of horses (big penises, doy!). The story that Freud tells of masculinity by his analysis of this boy/child is, as Corbett puts it, “heteronormative, homorepudiating, propped by power, taking not needing and left to dominate through the repeated failure of recognizing the other.” This is a story told and passed on by Freud and the boy’s father. Corbett says Hans’ case study is not so much a proof of Freud’s theories as it is a case study on how “masculinity is inherited and cultural norms are enacted.”

“A theory of masculinity that is forged solely through competition with paternal authority, with little regard for the interplay if identifications, desire, and mutual recognition that seek to establish relations with others outside a dynamic of domination is largely a theory of phallic narcissism-qua-masculinity, and not a theory that can reckon with the range of phallic states beyond penetrative desire, or relational configurations beyond besotted adoration or domination.” – Ken Corbett

It’s an imprisoning narrative that overrides the boys “relational horseneeds.” (Relational needs?! What is he? A sissy boy?!)

In recently declassified interviews with the adult Hans (Herbert) and his father and mother, all was not well in the home of this psychoanalytic boy-toy. Herbert’s mother, Olga, had been treated by Freud during her adolescence and was described as being depressive. Apparently Olga had what Freud briefly describes as, “a neurosis as a result of a conflict during her childhood.” What kinda conflict? No biggie kinda stuff like Olga’s father and sister both dying when she was young; another sister attempting suicide; and then her two brothers actually succeeding. As if that wasn’t enough joy for one lifetime, Olga had a miscarriage before Herbert was born.  She might have been kinda bummed, fo’ sho’. Even though Freud wrote that both parents were “among his closest adherents,” it’s revealed that they resented his involvement in their lives. And what about Hans/Herbert? He blames Freud for the break-up of his family (and no doubt there would be some that would blame him Freudfor breaking up the human family but save me from hitting the hyperbolic nail on the head).

What can be gleaned from this little tale of woe? As Public Enemy would say, “don’t believe the hype” when it comes to stories of gender. Sometimes a cigar is just a man with an agenda.


Micheline Auger is a writer, playwright and producer. She received the 2015 New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Original Full-Length Script for her play DonkeyFPP Edit-27-3 Punch which was produced off-Broadway; was voted one of Indie Theater’s 2014 People of the Year and was awarded with the National Theatre Conference’s Paul Green Award by veteran Broadway producer Liz McCann. She is also the creator of Theaterspeak and the event, WRITE OUT FRONT which has put over 200 award-winning and up-and-coming playwrights in the window of the Drama Book Shop writing new plays on view of the public in the Times Square Theater District. WRITE OUT FRONT and has been featured on the front page of the New York Times Saturday Arts Section, WNYC, Time Out NY, and on NY1. She has worked with and produced for the Lilly Awards Foundation and is a proud member of the Actors Studio Playwright/Directors Unit, New York Madness Theater Company and the Dramatist Guild.  @Michelineauger @WriteOutFront