Female psychopathic personality traits

10 Traits of a Female Psychopath

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Published: February 9, 2022 Updated: October 13, 2022

Published: 02/09/2022 Updated: 10/13/2022

Most psychopaths are portrayed as violent, dangerous criminals who lack the ability to feel empathy or remorse, but female psychopaths often don’t fit this profile. Female psychopaths are less physically violent, commit fewer crimes, and also show different traits than male psychopaths.1,2,3. Women psychopaths can be harder to detect because they are more emotional, social, and display fewer antisocial traits than men.2,3

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What is a Psychopath?

A psychopath is a term used to describe someone who has a very severe form of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). People with ASPD have social and emotional deficits that limit their ability to experience emotions or feel true empathy or remorse for their actions. Because of these deficits, psychopaths are more likely to become violent and abusive, and are considered some of the most dangerous people in society.4,5

Male and female psychopaths share certain antisocial traits like a lack of empathy and remorse and a pattern of violating other people’s rights.4,5 Still, men and women psychopaths are different in the way they victimize others, with women using less violent methods of aggression.1 Female psychopath traits and symptoms can also vary, and can include more impulsivity, irritability, and social interest.2,3,6

Below are 10 signs that can help you spot a female psychopath.

1. They Develop Relationships With Their Victims

One of the traits of a female psychopath is the tendency to form relationships with the people they victimize. While male psychopaths usually target strangers, females are much more likely to victimize people they know.2

Some female psychopaths use flirtation or sex to lure in people with money or power and then lie, con, or manipulate these people into giving them things.6 This tendency shows the cold-hearted nature of the female psychopath, who won’t feel bad about hurting or using others, even those closest to her.

2. They Use Indirect Forms of Aggression

Female psychopaths are just as aggressive as males, but they just use different, less direct forms of aggression.1 While male psychopaths are prone to physical aggression, female psychopaths use relational aggression like gossipping, excluding people, or forming alliances against someone.1,3

Some may even threaten to self-harm in order to manipulate other people, or they may lash out at people when they’re upset, name-calling or becoming verbally abusive. 1,6

3. They Play the Victim Card

One of the unique traits of female psychopaths is their tendency to present themselves as a victim in order to get attention, pity, or to emotionally manipulate others to get what they want.1,3 Female psychopaths may use the victim card or play the “damsel in distress” to pull at the heartstrings of people who are empathetic, caring, or generous.

In some cases, female psychopaths paint themselves as victims to avoid getting in trouble or being held accountable for their actions. This is another form of manipulation and deceit that is more common in female psychopaths than males.1,3

4. They Can’t Hold in Their Anger for Long

Male psychopaths can be calm, cool, and calculated, but female psychopaths have a much harder time controlling anger.1,2,3 They are more irritable and prone to angry outbursts.1,3 Unlike a normal (non-psychopathic) person, most psychopathic females feel relieved after they lash out, instead of feeling guilty.

Female psychopaths sometimes even feel entitled to their angry and aggressive responses, placing the blame on the other person.1 Their tendency to act on their pent-up anger and impulses is one of the reasons why female psychopaths have a harder time functioning, and experience more social impairment than men.3

5. They Use Deceptive Tactics to Get What They Want

While male psychopaths are more violent and direct in taking what they want from people, female psychopaths tend to rely more on deception. For example, it’s much more common for female psychopaths to be arrested for fraud or extortion, rather than for physical or sexual assault (unlike male psychopaths).6

These kinds of crimes highlight the deceptive and cunning nature of the female psychopath, who may come up with elaborate cover stories and lies to con or manipulate people.2,3,6

6. They Want Acceptance, but Sabotage Relationships

Typically, people who have antisocial personality disorder develop strategic relationships to get things they want, and not because they have a desire for connection or acceptance. Psychopath females are often more social and some even have a true desire to be accepted by people.2,3

The problem is that because they tend to also be cruel and impulsive, they are unable to maintain healthy, lasting relationships. Instead, they are more likely to sabotage their relationships by victimizing those closest to them.3

One form of relational aggression that’s common among female psychopaths (and also a sign of a sociopath) is the tendency to use personal information about other people against them. Female psychopaths may use secret or personal information about other people against them as leverage to bribe, manipulate or control them.

For example, they might threaten to expose information about a previous affair or substance use problem their boss had unless they agree to pay them more. Some will also gossip or spread rumors or lies about other people who they want to discredit, which is another form of relational aggression.1,8

8. They Get Other People to Do Their Dirty Work

A female psychopath is better at forming strategic relationships to get people to do things for them, especially their “dirty work” they don’t want to do. While they aren’t usually physically violent, female psychopaths engaged in crime often have male counterparts who “handle” the violent aspects of their crimes.6 They may also con or convince other people to commit other illegal or immoral acts on their behalf, often so they can declare innocence later or have a scapegoat later on.

9. They Are Emotionally Unstable

Another common trait of a female psychopath is emotional instability. While male psychopaths often have a restricted range of emotions which makes them cool and detached, females with this disorder may not show this trait.2,3,4 Research shows women psychopaths are more likely to struggle with depressive symptoms and mood problems, and also more likely to struggle with anger and jealousy than males. 2,3

10. They Are Good at Pretending

Psychopaths and sociopaths both can use superficial charm or charisma to lure people close to them, but women may be better at this than men. For example, male psychopaths tend to display more narcissism but female psychopaths often seem friendly, charming, and even passive at first.1,2

The deceptive tactics used by a female psychopath makes them harder to detect, and more successful at forming relationships.7 Unfortunately, they will often end up using, abusing, or taking advantage of those who they end up getting close to.3

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Differences Between Psychopathy in Men & Women

Most research shows that men are three to five times more likely to become psychopaths than women. 2,3,7 However, some experts believe that the gender disparity isn’t actually this large, and note that signs of a psychopath female are different and harder to detect.2,3 For example, female psychopaths are less likely to be physically violent and also more social and emotional, which contradicts the classic portrayal of a psychopath.1,3

Some of the main differences between male and female psychopaths are:1,3,6,7,8

  • Male psychopaths use physical aggression or behavioral aggression while females use indirect or relational aggression
  • Male psychopaths commit more crimes than female psychopaths, and specifically more violent crimes than females
  • Male psychopaths show less interest in forming relationships or being liked and accepted than female psychopaths
  • Male psychopaths are more likely to be cold, detached, and unemotional, and female psychopaths are more emotional, dramatic, irritable, and impulsive
  • Male psychopaths show earlier antisocial traits and behaviors (before the age of 10) than females do (usually in their teens)

How to Deal with a Female Psychopath

Psychopaths have the most severe form of antisocial personality disorder, and are dangerous because they lack the ability to feel empathy or remorse. 4,5 While female psychopaths tend to be less physically violent, they are still dangerous people who are very likely to lie, steal, cheat, and manipulate other people.

Female psychopaths are more likely to develop relationships with people before they victimize them, making them even more of a threat to those who allow them into their lives.1,3,7

For these reasons, it’s recommended to cut ties with a female who shows signs of being a psychopath. When this isn’t possible, limiting interactions, setting boundaries, and keeping your distance from them is recommended. Those who have had relationships with a sociopath or a female psychopath may also benefit from seeing a therapist, especially if they’ve been victimized. Using an online therapist directory is a good starting place because it allows people to narrow their search and choose a therapist with a specific speciality in APSD.

Final Thoughts

Psychopaths are considered some of the most dangerous people in society because they lack empathy and remorse, making them highly likely to victimize other people. 1,3,4 Female psychopaths aren’t common, but this may partly be because their antisocial traits and tendencies are different and harder to spot.1,3,7 Being able to spot the signs of psychopathic traits in women can help people avoid letting these dangerous individuals into their lives.

Additional Resources

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For Further Reading

  • The Aftermath is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information, resources, and support for victims of psychopaths, including articles, podcasts, support forums for survivors, and workshops.
  • Psychopath Free is one of the most popular books on healing from psychopathic abuse, but also has become an online forum for survivors of psychopathic abuse to share their stories and find recovery resources.
  • Psychopath Victims website has many articles and resources for those wanting to learn more about psychopathy

8 sources

Choosing Therapy strives to provide our readers with mental health content that is accurate and actionable. We have high standards for what can be cited within our articles. Acceptable sources include government agencies, universities and colleges, scholarly journals, industry and professional associations, and other high-integrity sources of mental health journalism. Learn more by reviewing our full editorial policy.

  • Smith, J. M., Gacono, C. B., & Cunliffe, T. B. (2020). Female psychopathy and aggression: A study with incarcerated women and Rorschach aggression scores. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 29(8), 936-952. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2020-27820-001

  • Cunliffe, T. B., Gacono, C. B., Smith, J. M., Kivisto, A. J., Meloy, J. R., & Taylor, E. E. (2016). Assessing psychopathy in women. In C. B. Gacono (Ed.), The clinical and forensic assessment of psychopathy: A practitioner’s guide (pp. 167–190). Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

  • Alegria, A. A., Blanco, C., Petry, N. M., Skodol, A. E., Liu, S. M., Grant, B., & Hasin, D. (2013). Sex differences in antisocial personality disorder: results from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4(3), 214. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3767421/

  • Johnson, S. A. (2019). Understanding the violent personality: Antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy, & sociopathy explored. Forensic Research & Criminology International Journal, 7(2), 76-88. https://medcrave.com/index.php?/articles/det/18894/Understanding-the-violent-personality-antisocial-personality-disorder-psychopathy-amp-sociopathy-explored

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Am Psychiatric Assoc, 21.

  • Wynn, R., Høiseth, M. H., & Pettersen, G. (2012). Psychopathy in women: theoretical and clinical perspectives. International journal of women’s health, 4, 257–263. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S25518

  • Verona, E., & Vitale, J. (2018). Psychopathy in women: Assessment, manifestations, and etiology. In C. J. Patrick (Ed.), Handbook of psychopathy (pp. 509–528). The Guilford Press.

  • Odgers, C. L., & Moretti, M. M. (2002). Aggressive and antisocial girls: Research update and challenges. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 1(2), 103-119.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241727756_Aggressive_and_Antisocial_Girls_Research_Update_and_Challenges

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Understanding the Mind of a Female Psychopath

Source: Merlin Lightpainting/Pexels

Psychopaths both fascinate and frighten us, particularly the female psychopath because many people believe that a female cannot be one. Few understand the way she thinks, since it seems to defy human nature. Her psychopathic personality and behavior are bizarrely paradoxical.1 On the one hand, she may be a convincing liar, while on the other hand, she may be blatantly frank, to the point of being cruel. She could look a person square in the face and say something deliberately hurtful and then walk away thrilled at the offense. She may sound sympathetic and sincere while offering advice and assistance – only to change her mind at a moment’s notice, providing a poor excuse with no help. She may be industrious at getting what she wants, while the most important tasks are left undone.

Exhilaration and contempt

The female psychopath experiences exhilaration, a contemptuous delight, at deceiving other people. She is astute at sizing up a person and knows exactly which buttons to press to create misery while scoring points for herself. Her own children are not exempt from these tactics. She does this in a calm and cool manner that is second nature to her. The female psychopath intentionally hurts or disappoints others, leaving her exhilarated by her success and feeling superior. The exhilaration is short-lived. Afterward, she thinks how stupid the other person must be to have fallen for her scheme.

Pathological self-focus

Fundamentally, the female psychopath feels she is inadequate or compromised. To compensate, she seeks to be the center of attention. She uses gatherings to garner attention for herself, milking every bit for her personal advantage. She uses people to serve her own selfish desires and preys on them. She wanders through life, selecting who she will use for what purpose and then schemes how to exploit them. “Friends” are to be used.

The psychopathic female is sane

Psychopaths are not mentally incompetent. They are classified as sane and are free from any mental disease.2 Brain imaging shows that most psychopaths do not have brain damage, just brain differences.3 The amygdala, the brain structure associated with emotion, is smaller than in a normal brain. Conversely, imaging studies of people who are compassionate, prosocial, and empathetic have oversized amygdalas – the opposite of the psychopathic brain.4

What makes these people what they are? The answer is “no one knows.”5 Psychopathy is said to be a disorder, a deficit, a defect: Something is missing. Since she is completely rational, she knows what she does. Not only that, but research has shown her behavior "is the result of choice, freely exercised.” 6

The emptiness of the female psychopath

What is locked inside? Many have heard a female psychopath say, “I feel empty.” The feeling is connected with a poor self-image, but its expression is often fleeting and transitory. I have personally witnessed this in my own family. In one case, my psychopathic female relative actually blurted this aloud to herself. She sounded truly upset as if frustrated when she said it. A moment later, like flipping a switch, she began a telephone conversation full of laughter and animation. I witnessed this and similar episodes countless times.

If you want to feel sorry for the female psychopath, don’t. She projects a facade that is glib and convincing, thereby concealing her predatory and calculating plans. She will undercut you in a moment, whether verbally, emotionally, psychologically or physically. Who is she? She may appear wonderful from a distance. Up close, you might capture a glimpse of her devious manner. But if you get too close, it may be too late.

Facebook image: romeovip_md/Shutterstock


1. Yochelson, Samuel & Samenow, Stanton E. (1989). The Criminal Personality, Volume I: A Profile for Change, Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc. 95-96.

2. Cleckley, Hervey. (1988). The Mask of Sanity, 5th Edition, https://cassiopaea.org/cass/sanity_1.PdF. 369.

3. Kiehl, Kent (neuroscientist and psychopathy researcher). Email to Winifred Rule. 04 October 2021.

4. Dahl, Melissa, (2014). Who Would Donate a Kidney to a Stranger? An 'Anti-Psychopath. ' New York Magazine, http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/09/who-would-donate-a-kidney-to-a-str….

5. Kandel, Eric., MD, (Columbia University neuroscientist and Nobel-prize winner). Email to Tom Karski. 21 June 2012.

6. Hare, Robert D. Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us (New York: The Guilford Press, 1990) 22.

Smith, Jason M., Gacono, Carl B. & Cunliffe, Ted B. (2021). Understanding Female Offenders: Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior, Assessment, and Treatment. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.

Female psychopathy - symptoms and types

Female psychopathy - symptoms and types

Given the emotionality inherent in many of the fair sex, the manifestations of which can be both positive and negative, men believe that most ladies are psychopaths. This opinion arises due to the fact that a woman and a man are radically different emotionally, because those moments that are laid down by nature for the female half of humanity are perceived by the representatives of the stronger sex in the wrong way. However, various behavioral anomalies are indeed common in the modern world, and one of the borderline mental disorders is psychopathy. Knowing the main signs of this disease, any man will be able to better understand his companion and provide her with the necessary support.

General definition of psychopathy

Personality disorder, which is commonly called "psychopathy", is a persistent anomaly of character, due to which it is rather difficult for a person to live due to the inability to adapt in society. Usually a person who is prone to such an ailment does not allow himself or other people to live in peace. However, it is worth remembering that psychopathy is not a disease, but is interpreted as a combination of peculiar character traits and outlook on the world. This condition is observed in a person throughout life, often interfering with establishing social contacts. All this is due to the fact that psychopathy is manifested by pointed character traits and is even divided into several types, each of which makes its own adjustments to the life of someone who has this disorder, and also interferes with people around them. Despite the fact that representatives of both sexes are susceptible to psychopathy, quite often it is women who show a greater propensity for such an ailment.

List of the main types of psychopathy in women

Experts in the field of psychology have identified several variants of manifestations of psychopathic disorder in the beautiful half of humanity. Each individual type has its own nuances, shaping the psychological state of the lady and influencing her daily mood, way of thinking.

- Paranoid - a woman is characterized by increased egoism, willfulness, the ability to go to the goal at any cost. Possessing vindictiveness, it is difficult for such ladies to get along in a team, and the presence of vindictiveness repels others from them. A man living next to such a companion constantly has to suffer from her uncontrollable jealousy, often groundless.

- Hysterical - guided by emotions, the lady tries to attract the attention and approval of others, making attempts at manipulation. Capriciousness accompanies such ladies all their lives, and tearfulness in public is quite common.

- Schizoid - being excessively immersed in her own inner world, the representative of the weaker sex is cold towards people, preferring to avoid frequent communication.

- Psychasthenic - the presence of many complexes makes the lady as sensitive as possible to criticism from the side, who regularly engages in self-digging. Often such ladies are over-executive only in order to please others in an attempt to avoid bad words addressed to them in connection with a strange character.

- Asthenic - a variation of dependent personality disorder, in which a woman is strongly devoted to people important to her. However, she has low working capacity, quick fatigue, and the inability to solve problems on her own makes it very difficult to build a successful life.

- Excitable - outbursts of rage can occur on occasion and in its absence, and intransigence makes ladies unpleasant for others.

- Unstable - the tendency to live for today, not thinking about the consequences, causes a lot of trouble, which you cannot solve on your own.

Having knowledge about the varieties of psychopathy in the female sex, you can protect yourself from many surprises, and even relatively successfully settle your life with your second half.

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‹‹Sexual psychopathy››

A person whose sexual development has taken place quite normally reveals the physical and mental characteristics characteristic of the sex to which he belongs. These sexual features are divided into primary (sex glands and reproductive organs) and secondary; the latter are physical and mental. They develop only during the period of maturity and the appearance of the function of the gonads. There are rare cases of both premature development of sexual activity and delayed development. They are always observed under any abnormal conditions, and especially in people weighed down by neuropathic heredity.

Secondary sexual characteristics are characteristic of both sexes and give specific types, male and female. The higher the anthropological development of a race, the more pronounced is this differentiation of types; on the contrary, at a low stage of development, these differences between the male and female types are hardly noticeable.

The most important somatic secondary sexual features are noted on the skull, skeleton, especially on the pelvis, general type of face, hair growth, voice, breasts, hips, etc. Important mental features are: sex consciousness (consciousness of the difference in the sexual identity of a man and a woman ), the corresponding sexual desire and a whole series of special character traits, mental phenomena, inclinations, etc. , developing on the basis of the consciousness of one's sex.

This differentiation of the sexes and the formation of sexual types is, apparently, the result of an infinitely long series of intermediate stages of evolution. In any case, the main type was bisexuality, as is now observed in lower animals and in humans in the first embryonic months of development. The present type - unisexuality, i.e., the development of the physical and mental sexual features characteristic of this type - in all probability corresponds to the development of certain gonads. Observations show that the male or female type may not be pure, that is, the so-called secondary sexual characteristics of the female type appear in men, and vice versa. I have met men with a penchant for women's activities (needlework, toilets, etc.), women with a penchant for masculine sports (without the influence of education), and in both cases there is a greater ability for these activities and at that at the same time, a complete incapacity for the usual activities of their sex. This includes men with female voices, women with a low, rough voice and a corresponding structure of the larynx, with a narrow pelvis, with a beard, with atrophic breasts, up to the so-called masculinism (in women) or feminism (in men).

Of great scientific interest is the phenomenon of gynecomastia, i.e., the development of breasts in men with a delay in the development of the testicles by the period of manhood. Even Galen noted and described this phenomenon, and he also gave it a name. Laurent 1 dedicated a valuable monograph to gynecomastia in 1894.

With gynecomastia, the members are very tender during the period of manhood, the face is smooth, the testicles are undeveloped. Such a person is deprived of the so-called secondary sexual characteristics, the sexual attraction to a woman is very weak; he represents either a man who has stopped developing, or an underdeveloped woman. It is noteworthy that gynecomastia occurs only in degenerate families, and it must be considered as an anatomical and functional phenomenon of degeneration. Persons affected by gynecomastia lag behind both mentally and morally. Castration in adults does not lead to gynecomastia. The development of breast tissue is noted here only in exceptional cases, but the nipple is able to become excited and tense, like in a woman. Very rarely there is a release of milk. With involution, the breasts also disappear. In most cases, such faces also have feminine features - a high, gentle voice, female-type pubic hair, delicate skin, a wide pelvis. The potency is weak, but directed at persons of the opposite sex, slight lustfulness. Undoubtedly, here, due to a developmental disorder, the sexual characteristics of a man are replaced by female ones, and as a result of this replacement, the development of certain physical characteristics takes place in a perverted form. In this case, a wide variety of combinations are possible.

A very interesting and important question is what is the basis for the development of an individual into a certain sexual, male or female, type with all its features.

Attempts have been made to find a solution to this problem in the way of development of the gonads, which, as is known, begins even in uterine life and, apparently, is a decisive moment in the determination of sex, and in a bisexual embryo everything that is related to the other sex atrophies, and everything develops that corresponds to certain sex glands, the so-called primary features; then all this remains in a latent state until the period of manhood, when the so-called secondary sexual characteristics develop.

That the gonads are important for sex, no one will deny, but they are not decisive; this is evident from the fact that the most important secondary sexual characteristics (sex awareness, fascination with the mental and physical properties of persons of the other sex, the desire for sexual intercourse with persons of the other sex) may already be in conflict with the sex of a given person at the very beginning of sexual development (see below). about sexual excitability to persons of the opposite sex), on the other hand, we have observations of gynecologists (Hegar - Nothnagels Pathologie, XX, 1. P. 371), which indicate that 1) despite the congenital defect and rudimentary development of the ovaries, the female type can be quite pronounced, 2) the existence of independence of female sexual characteristics from the ovaries is proved by incidental hermaphroditism and therefore the old position that "only after the development of the ovaries can the female sex be established" is incorrect. “Gender-defining moment. unknown." Therefore, it should be considered as a criterion for determining sex, rather than the characteristics of the gonads, but the consciousness of sex and sexual desire.

From this point of view, attention should be paid to the central regions of those parts of the nervous system that serve the sexual functions; they, corresponding to the original bisexual state of the fetus, can create intermediate steps between the pure types of man and woman in cases where there are obstacles to the development of one sex, most often on the basis of hereditary degeneration.

Modern science has very little actual data on the mutual influence of various parts of the reproductive apparatus during their development. We are still only approaching the definition of the influence that the removal or atrophy of the sex glands has on the development and on the whole character of sexual life. This influence undoubtedly exists, but its extent must depend on whether the disappearance of the sex glands occurred before or after the period of manhood, and one must also take into account the fact that the emergence of mental sexual characteristics may precede physical sexual development. Evidence suggests that with the death of the sex glands before the onset of adulthood, the development of physical and mental sexual characteristics can be reduced to complete asexuality. This applies not only to men and women, but also to pets.

Things are different after of this biological phase. Here, one or another physical and mental sexual characteristics characteristic of a given sex are constantly noted, but their development is delayed. It does not matter, as a result of which the gonads died (from an illness, from an operation), the sex of the individual in whom the glands died is also indifferent; the only important thing is that the development of secondary sexual characteristics has begun, for this development is in obvious dependence on the central regions. How far sexual development extends in these cases depends on the disposition and degree of development of these central factors; the direction in which it goes is due to the biological energy of these naturally bisexual centers.

If the previous development was directed to the other sex, but was not particularly strong, then this causes only a slight damage to sexual life, but if the Initial natural attraction, strong in itself, has not yet resulted in a certain form of attraction to a certain sex, then there may appear sexual characteristics of the opposite sex, and under certain conditions, sexual perversion may occur. For the most part, however, the matter is limited to the development of partial features of the other sex.

Quite similar phenomena can be noted in cases where the death of the sex glands occurred after a period of manhood, even after a long period of time. So, in many "bearded" women after death, the absence of ovaries was not ascertained. Similarly, in female pheasants with feathers and the voice of males, reborn ovaries were found.

It is also known that in many women after menopause, a beard begins to grow and the voice becomes rougher. With an early onset of menopause, but with still significant vital energy, a perversion of the sexual feeling may even develop; these cases, examples of which are given below (observation 135), deserve attention from the point of view of a psychiatrist.

Similarly, observations on eunuchs indicate the need to distinguish whether castration occurred before or after the period of manhood. In the latter case, sexual life took place, and there is both sexual feeling and sexual desire, although the physical and mental sexual characteristics of the male type are almost completely atrophied until the advent of feminism.

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