Puberty: when desire asserts

The voice that changes, the forms that are drawn, sensual or virile. Boy? Girl? In this upset period of puberty, how does the adolescent affirm his sexual identity? And how does he choose to go, or not, to the other sex?

Anne-Laure Gannac

"That's it, you're a man, my son!" Eclats of joy around the hero of the bar mitzvah. At 13, Samuel has just heard his father confirm what his body has meant to him for some time: he is a man. "If the period of puberty is determining in the affirmation of sexual identity, it is first because of the physical upheavals ", explains the child psychiatrist Stéphane Clerget.

Release of sex hormones, development of the genitals: the body of the adolescent imposes on him his sexual identity with evidence. Thus, the infantile fantasy - and the unconscious fantasy - that it could belong to the other sex, or both sexes. Which, reminds the doctor, can be lived more or less well: "In teenage girls, anorexia is sometimes a way to signify that they refuse this female body which imposes itself on them."

The transformation of the teen is also cerebral: he becomes able to analyze his own desire. This is not the case in children. If, at age 4, Paul told anyone who would listen to him that he had two lovers, "Celine and Matthew", from the height of his 14 years, he can now distinguish his lust-laden inclinations and his friendly tastes. Now he knows it, he feels it: it's not Céline and Matthieu that he loves, but Carine. "As soon as I saw her, at the beginning of the school year, I flashed. felt that way before! "

A rebirth of desire

First emotions, first desires?" The teenager is tempted to believe that his desire - with his sexual preferences - is born at this moment of his life because of the physical effects that it produces on him, answers Stéphane Clerget, but this desire was there long before, without it being aware of it. " In its excitability, in its desire to be in the presence of the other sex or the same ...

One does not become homo or hetero at puberty: "The sexual preference has already been largely implemented during first years, and especially in the Oedipal phase, but only after a time of bracketing this desire during the so-called latency period (between 7 and 12 years old), during adolescence, a revival of this stage operates, which accompanies the flashback of the impulses. "

Remains that this reviviscence gives the opportunity to confirm his sexual preferences already fixed, or on the contrary to modify them. This will depend on many factors, including family and social influence.Martin, 15, says, "My parents are always shouting at me:" We only see your friends, but your girlfriends, then? "It swells me! What if I did not have a girlfriend ?!"

The weight of those around

As Stéphane Clerget explains, "because he is no longer regarded as a child but as a potential lover, the teen is encouraged to adhere to the model of man or of a woman that one socially imposes on him to follow ". Which, according to him, explains that the great majority of teens say themselves and are heterosexual, without all being intimately convinced. "Today, the more a boy goes to the girls, the more he is a man" . " According to the child psychiatrist, this recent societal trend largely influences the choice of teens.

"Tenderness between boys is much less well experienced than it was recently, there is a fear of desire between them, so it is the law of all or nothing: we go right away. to "serious things" rather than allow yourself to test your desire a little, without it being necessarily irreversible. " Or, on the contrary, we repress his desire, and sometimes badly, at the risk of adopting homophobic behavior or seeing his desire reappear later, more violently ...

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