Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality is a monograph by Sigmund Freud which codified one of his personal theories. The three essays deal with aberrant sexual desire, sexual desire in childhood and its shaping of adult sexual life, and the maturation of sexuality into a genital-focused force in adolescence. The three essays comprise a comprehensive approach to mapping and tracking the blooming of human sexuality in Freud's outdated clinical model.
Freud's book covered three main areas: sexual perversions; childhood sexuality; and puberty.
Freud began his first essay, on "The Sexual Aberrations", by distinguishing between the sexual object and the sexual aim — noting that deviations from the norm could occur with respect to both. The sexual object is therein defined as a desired object, and the sexual aim as what acts are desired with said object.
Discussing the choice of children and animals as sex objects— pedophilia and bestiality — he notes that most people would prefer to limit these perversions to the insane "on aesthetic grounds" but that they exist in normal people also. He also explores deviations of sexual aims, as in the tendency to linger over preparatory sexual aspects such as lookingand touching.
Turning to neurotics, Freud emphasised that "in them tendencies to every kind of perversion can be shown to exist as unconscious forces...neurosis is, as it were, the negative of perversion". Freud also makes the point that people who are behaviorally abnormal are always sexually abnormal in his experience but that many people who are normal behaviorally otherwise are sexually abnormal also.
Freud concluded that "a disposition to perversions is an original and universal disposition of the human sexual instinct and that...this postulated constitution, containing the germs of all the perversions, will only be demonstrable in children “.
His second essay, on "Infantile Sexuality", argues that children have sexual urges, from which adult sexuality only gradually emerges via psychosexual development.
Looking at children, Freud identified many forms of infantile sexual emotions, including thumb sucking, autoeroticism, and sibling rivalry.
In his third essay, "The Transformations of Puberty" Freud formalised the distinction between the 'fore-pleasures' of infantile sexuality and the 'end-pleasure' of sexual intercourse.
He also demonstrated how the adolescent years consolidate sexual identity under the dominance of the genitals.
Freud sought to link to his theory of the unconscious put forward in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) and his work on hysteria by positing sexuality as the driving force of both neuroses (through repression) and perversion.
In its final version, the "Three Essays" also included the concepts of penis envy, castration anxiety, and the Oedipus complex.