The Uterus and the Female "Passive-Active"
Dr. Nelson Soucasaux, Brazilian gynecologist
In medicine we often find similarities, parallels and curious correspondences
between some psychological, anatomical and physiological patterns. As I
observed in my book "Os Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma,
Função, Símbolo e Arquétipo" ("The
Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function, Symbol and Archetype"), our
attention must be focused not only on the anatomical, physiological, pathological
and psychological aspects of the several organs, systems and parts of the
body, but also on their archetypal symbolism. Specifically concerning gynecology,
the study of all archetypes related to women and femininity acquires fundamental
importance. One of those archetypes is the that of the woman's predominantly
"passive-receptive" nature - though many women obviously do not
accept this point of view (see Note below).
The uterus is an organ whose contractile physiology reveals quite well
not only the "passive," "receptive" side of female nature,
but also its "active" or "actively passive" side. Whenever
this organ is mostly relaxed, we can say that the uterus behaves according
to the basic female "passive-receptive" archetypal pattern. Hence
the old symbolic analogy of this organ with a receptacle, a "vessel"
intended to receive something inside it. Conversely, on the occasions it
has to contract (during menstruation, orgasm and parturition), the uterine
behaviour reveals the manifestation of the "active" side of the
"intrinsically passive-receptive" female nature. Even according
to this old archetypal concept of the female predominantly "passive"
nature, many times this nature exhibits patterns that are much more "actively-passive"
than actually "passive." (For physiological details on the uterine
contractility and the several endocrine, biochemical and neurovegetative
factors that control it, see my article "Topics
on Uterine Contractility," here at the MUM.)
In basal (repose) conditions, along the greatest part of the menstrual
cycle and pregnancy, the uterus remains mostly relaxed, exhibiting only
slight sparse contractions and moderate variations in the tonus of its muscle
fibers. Considering the enormous contractile capacity of the myometrium
(the strong uterine muscular layer), this fact clearly demonstrates how
much the uterus, in most circumstances, tends to reveal the aforementioned
intrinsically "passive" archetypal pattern of woman's nature.
That means that, even being capable of potent contractions, the uterus only
makes use of them during menstruation, orgasm and childbirth. Therefore,
usually the myometrium only behaves "actively" in very special
situations of the uterine physiology.
The menstrual contractions of the uterus (which can be slight, moderate
or intense) can be regarded as an "active" physiological reaction
intended to aid the expelling of the necrotic endometrium together with
the menstrual blood. They are mostly triggered by an increased production
of prostaglandins in the shrinking and necrotic endometrium.
The orgasmic uterine contractions take place simultaneously with the
orgasmic contractions of the perineal muscles that surround the vaginal
entrance, and seem to be mostly due to a potent nervous stimulation. During
sexual intercourse, both the uterine and perineal contractions perfectly
reflect the important "actively-passive" aspect of women's nature.
The sexual act is one of the situations in which the female predominantly
"passive" nature becomes more evident, due to the elementary fact
that, during the intercourse, men penetrate and women are penetrated. In
this context, the typical orgasmic contractions of the uterus (as well as
those of the circumvaginal perineal muscles) can be regarded as an "active"
physiological response of women to a situation which, for them, is intrinsically
"passive." Thus, here we have a manifestation of the "active"
side of the female archetypal "passivity," by means of which women
clearly become "actively-passive."
The most potent uterine contractions are those of parturition. The enormous
contractile force of the uterus during childbirth only becomes possible
as a result of the equally enormous increase in the myometrial (and obviously
uterine) volume that takes place along pregnancy, as well as of the other
anatomical and physiological features of the uterus at the end of gestation
and the powerful hormonal and biochemical stimuli that trigger parturition.
(The most important hormonal factor responsible for the strong uterine contractions
of labour is oxytocin.) Though they are not voluntarily triggered, these
powerful uterine contractions can be regarded as the way by which women,
after nine months of "passive" submission to the evolution of
pregnancy, "actively" participate in childbirth, putting an end
to the long, strenuous, uncomfortable and physically and psychologically
stressing period of gestation.
From the symbolic standpoint, in whichever circumstances it might be,
the contractile capacity of the uterus perhaps might function, for many
women, as a reaction against the predominantly "passive" and "receptive"
nature of this organ and female nature itself. This fact acquires great
importance in psychosomatic gynecology. Regardless of the fact that, as
we have seen, the uterine contractions are not under voluntary command,
they can be psychosomatically triggered through the neuroendocrine and neurovegetative
Cases of spasmodic pelvic pain can be related to a state of chronic
uterine hypertonicity which almost always causes moderate to intense myometrial
contractions. Some cases of dysmenorrhea may be a psychosomatic manifestation
of conflicts that many women exhibit towards menstruation and female nature.
As I have observed in my book "Novas Perspectivas em Ginecologia"
("New Perspectives in Gynecology"), one more typical aspect of
women's nature seems to be the presence, in variable degrees, of conscious
or unconscious negative attitudes in relation to some of its features.
Note: Here we have to face that complex and
often misunderstood archetypal subject of the mostly "receptive,"
"passive" female nature, in contrast to the "active"
male one. This concept regarding women's psycho-sexual "passivity"
actually is very relative and is due to an intrinsic "receptivity"
of women, who desire to be desired. That attitude, in turn, results from
the strong self-erotic and narcissist component of female sexuality. Nevertheless,
this female archetypal "passivity" includes remarkable "active"
components, by means of which women often become much more "actively-passive."
A typical form of a well-known and very frequent female "actively-passive"
behaviour can be seen whenever a woman assumes complete control of sexual
intercourse. In such circumstances the woman is said to be "actively-passive"
because, though behaving in an "active" way, in the intimacy of
her sexual psychodynamics, her inner attitude often remains basically "passive."
Another obvious manifestation of the "active" side of the female
archetypal "passivity" is emphasized by Julius Evola when he points
out the enormous women's "non-active power and magic," by means
of which they attract and seduce men (Evola, J., "A Metafísica
do Sexo" ("The Metaphysics of Sex"), Edições
Afrodite, Portugal, 1976).
P.S.: I hope feminists reach a deeper understanding of this subject concerning
the archetypal female's predominantly "passive" and "receptive"
nature, as well as its great relativity, and don't get angry with me.
The article above is an adapted excerpt from my book "Os Órgãos
Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo e Arquétipo"
("The Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function, Symbol and Archetype"),
published by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro, 1993. For information on the
book, see page http://www.nelsonginecologia.med.br/orgaos.htm,
from my Web site www.nelsonginecologia.med.br.
Copyright Nelson Soucasaux 1993, 2003
Nelson Soucasaux is a gynecologist dedicated to clinical, preventive
and psychosomatic gynecology. Graduated in 1974 by Faculdade de Medicina
da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he is the author of several
articles published in medical journals and of the books "Novas Perspectivas
em Ginecologia" ("New Perspectives in Gynecology") and "Os
Órgãos Sexuais Femininos: Forma, Função, Símbolo
e Arquétipo" ("The Female Sexual Organs: Shape, Function,
Symbol and Archetype"), published by Imago Editora, Rio de Janeiro,
1990, 1993. He has been working in his private clinic since 1975.
Web site (Portuguese-English): www.nelsonginecologia.med.br