I have been a wee bit wary of my lit professor since the first week of summer classes, when he falsely asserted that everyone was allowed to vote in ancient Athens (except that the womenfolk weren’t!). Unfortunately, there was another awkward moment in one of last week’s classes when we were discussing the play Electra. Professor X brought up the Electra complex, as well as the Oedipus complex and the lecture went something like this (and one sentence is taken verbatim):
The Oedipus complex is basically fiction, because boys and men never really desire their mothers. The Electra complex, on the other hand, is more concrete. Women have a natural affinity for older men that is transferred onto their fathers and uncles and grandfathers. “Uncles are particularly vulnerable to these attentions.” You know how it is, with girls always climbing into their uncles’ and father’s laps and such.
No, I’m not making this up. If only I was. Did I mention this is a literature course and not a psychology course? We cover Electra and Oedipus in terms of their dramatic contexts, not their modern psychological ones. But that’s still enough to give my professor license to talk about the “vulnerable” uncles who have to contend with the attention of girls. It’s more than a little infuriating to have to listen to that, because it carries an implication — conscious or not — that if those poor vulnerable male family members somehow act indecently towards their nieces/daughters/granddaughters, it’s just because the little minxes were sending out invitations. Not to mention the assumption that all women like older men.
He also said that the Electra complex is more plausible because all mothers and daughters have difficult relationships. Mass generalizations masquerading as education? I give that a failing grade.