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Karen Horney is not alone in positing a "real self" and in regarding healthy growth as a process of actualizing this self and unhealthy development as a process of becoming alienated from it. Her ideas have something in common with the developmental, self, and object relations approach articulated by James Masterson in , where he observes that "after all, in our daily toil with our patients, our work revolves around a person with a self, not a collection of objects and an ego" (1985, p. 5). Horney's real self bears some resemblance to Kohut's "nuclear self" (1977, 1984) and even more to Winnicott's "true self" (1965). According to Winnicott, as a result of inadequate nurturing "something that could have become the individual becomes hidden away . . . protected from further impingement" by a "false self" that develops reactively and supersedes "the true impulsive self which might under more favorable circumstances have been gathering strength" (1987, p. 61). This sounds like Horney, as does much of Alice Miller's discussion of the loss of and search for the true self in childhood (1981, 1983) and R. D. Laing's account of ontological insecurity and the development of a false-self system in response to it (1965). I am not suggesting an exact equivalence of ideas, since in most cases there are theoretical differences that are too complex to be specified here.
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Well, I am 40, and mine is the last female generation to experience that sense of sexual confidence and security in what we had to offer. Our younger sisters had to compete with video porn in the eighties and nineties, when intercourse was not hot enough. Now you have to offer—or flirtatiously suggest—the lesbian scene, the ejaculate-in-the-face scene. Being naked is not enough; you have to be buff, be tan with no tan lines, have the surgically hoisted breasts and the Brazilian bikini wax—just like porn stars. (In my gym, the 40-year-old women have adult pubic hair; the twentysomethings have all been trimmed and styled.) Pornography is addictive; the baseline gets ratcheted up. By the new millennium, a vagina—which, by the way, used to have a pretty high “exchange value,” as Marxist economists would say—wasn’t enough; it barely registered on the thrill scale. All mainstream porn—and certainly the Internet—made routine use of all available female orifices.