24 de January de 2021

The Discordance Between the Sexes in the Light of Psychoanalysis

XVIII Study Days of the ELP – 23rd and 24th November 2019 – Palau de la Musica, Valencia Translated by…


XVIII Study Days of the ELP – 23rd and 24th November 2019 – Palau de la Musica, Valencia

Translated by Roger Litten

ARGUMENT

 

Etymologically, discordance refers to sentimental dissension, hearts that are in disaccord, in conflict. It is a word that accommodates itself to the immense variety of complications proper to the relation between the sexes for those who inhabit language. In contrast to other sexuated living beings, those who inhabit language do not have a natural programme that would indicate in a certain and definitive manner the object that corresponds to them. On the other hand, neither is the real of their anatomy sufficient to conclude about the sex that each one might end up attributing to themselves.

Of course it is on the basis of anatomy that boys and girls are identified at birth, but as Lacan says “sexuated beings are authorised only by themselves”[1], that is, the classification of the Other does not prevent them choosing, but even when they accept to align themselves with one of these signifiers nothing implies that they will take as partner someone from the opposite category.

In the absence of instinctual determination, speaking beings resort to language to organise their sexuality. Freud thus conceived the phallus – fruit of the cooperation between the imaginary of the difference between bodies and the symbolic of the paternal law – as the operator that orders the real of sex and orients the choice of partner: men aspiring to use theirs like the father – but submitted to the fear of losing it in an imaginary or symbolic sense – and women wanting to obtain one by right – but with envy and resentment on account of their supposed inferiority. Any prior real remained forever lost.

In this way the man would incline towards the woman and the woman towards the man, but exclusively due to the relation that each maintains with the phallus, which is declined between having it and being it, with the support of semblants to construct a seeming to present to the world. From this phallic angle there is no sexual relation but instead a relation to the phallus.

Nonetheless, Freud already perceived that the woman escaped in part from this logic of the phallus; she had something mysterious about her, something that fluctuated between disturbing and malign.

In reality, his intuition took up something that comes to us from the origin of time: whether in the Olympus of the gods, where Eris cast the apple of discord into the world, triggering the Trojan war, or in the terrestrial paradise where Eve bit into the apple, tempting Adam to breach the law that God had instituted with speech, pushed by a jouissance beyond the signifier.

Reprising the Freudian intuition and renouncing it in favour of the symbolic, Lacan formulated that there is an indomitable real that cannot be grasped with the signifier and that satisfies the body. With the added particularity that this jouissance is always and exclusively of one’s own body, as a result of which it too entails no pairing between two, it does not cause a relation between two. In consequence, it is also from this perspective that we stumble upon the sexual non-relation, the non-complement between the sexes.

If this jouissance of the body is more accessible to the woman it is because being less phallic she is closer to the real, while the man is, in general, bloated by the phallus, submitted to it. The not-all phallic that femininity implies is presented as disturbing for the power of the symbolic, for the phallic power that the man supposedly has in being the possessor of the organ of copulation. The rejection of femininity, in all its manifestations – violence, depreciation, subjugation, annulment, degradation – thus turns out to be, simply, the rejection of the real. The discordance is ready to be served.

From this point of view, the relation of the couple with respect to the encounter of bodies consists in each of them approaching their partner as means of jouissance, that is, putting them in the place of the symptom. And we are well aware that relations with one’s own symptom are neither peaceful nor necessarily pleasant.

Fortunately, there is the recourse of love, to which Lacan attributed the dignified function of being supplement to the relation that does not exist. Because making love transcends procreation and coupling, and above all, purports to transcend autistic jouissance. With love, two bodies can see themselves led to overcome the contingency of an occasional encounter in order to believe themselves necessary to each other.

Lacan asked whether the speaking being was like this on account of what happens with sexuality or whether, on the contrary, whether this is what happens with sexuality because he is a speaking being. He never gave an answer to this question. He left us with the paradox involved in inhabiting language: it permits a margin of manoeuvre much greater than that available to other living beings but at the same time introduces a relational complexity without parallel. We parlêtres are in this sense a unique species.

What can one expect from an analysis in regards to all this? A psychoanalysis is the experience in which a speaking being can elaborate, isolate and make legible the writing of the mode of jouissance that prevails for him, thus opening up a certain degree of liberty.

It can also facilitate the access to a new love – different from the narcissistic and absolute love that leads discordance to take the form of ravage, of sacrifice or of homicide – an unprecedented love that takes lack and difference into account.

The XVIII Study Days of the ELP will treat these and other questions on the basis of the psychoanalytic clinic as symptoms of our civilisation.

——————————

[1] Lacan, J., Seminaire XXI, Les non-dupes errant, Lesson of 4th April, 1974, unpublished.

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