is an idea put forth by Sigmund Freud
in his writings on the Oedipus complex
; it posits a deep-seated fear or anxiety
in boys and men said to originate during the phallic stage
of sexual development
. It asserts that small boys, when seeing a female's genitalia
, will falsely assume that the girl had her penis
chopped off, probably as punishment for some misbehavior. The boy then becomes anxious lest the same happen to him.
Castration anxiety literally means the fear that one's testicles will be chopped off, but more profoundly it may symbolize the child's fear that he will, like Oedipus, lose his power (and his love object as well — i.e., his mother).