17 de January de 2021

The era and its laws – by Alejandra Antuña

Readings of the contemporary/ Update of the psychoanalytic clinic (translation of the text by Karen Edelsztein) It is a fact…

Readings of the contemporary/

Update of the psychoanalytic clinic

(translation of the text by Karen Edelsztein)

It is a fact that culture, which is nothing more than a particular way of living the drive according to a specific historical moment, with its semblants and the discourses that sustain them, affects the way in which the speaking beings inhabit and distribute themselves in the sexed repartition. No doubt, the ways that sexuality, in its broadest sense, is acquiring are closely related to the social Other.

This is how we can read, for example, in Michel Foucault’s text “ History or the sexuality”, how in the Greco-Roman world the questions related to sexuality were governed by the opposition activity-passivity and by the social order. [1] Or, how from the eighteenth century, with the emergence of various discursive practices, such as medicine, pedagogy, psychiatry, etc., we are faced with a proliferation of sexualities that are different from each other and at the same time specific in their form, in those that Foucault locates in the homosexual, in the masturbating child or in the perverse adult as some of his figures. [2]

I will not dwell here on the complexity and the richness of what Foucault proposed in the three volumes of his History of Sexuality. [3] As he himself warns, it is not about making a history of sexual behaviors or a history of his representations.

In the first volume of that History …, The will to know, he works with the notion of “device”, and in particular what he calls the “device of sexuality”. This notion of device refers to power relations, based on discursive practices that also give raise to the formation of knowledges. We can say that Foucault is warned of that the signifier touches the body of the living beings and also that the discourses involve a modality of jouissance.

What Foucault proposes is that the device of sexuality-of which, according to him, psychoanalysis is not alien-is characterized by a setting in the discourse of sex; sex is interpellated, it is encouraged to speak while it is supposed that through it you access to the truth of the speaker and he comes to postulate in that sense that both sexuality and sex are inventions of the nineteenth century, product of this device, proposing the bodies and the “pleasures” as a point of counterattack to it. [4]

Based on these last statements, sexuality and sex as social constructions, and practices of jouissanceas resistance to these constructions, genre studies have been erected and, later, queer studies in their different versions. Both give sustenance to a policy in which they question the heteronormativity taken as a “natural” fact and where the notion of identity is central, either to deconstruct it or to affirm it according to the cases.

The incidence of these studies and theories in today’s society is undeniable. In our country, the militancy of the social organizations tributary of these speeches led, initially, to the modification of the Civil Code that allowed the equal marriage (2010) and, later, to the sanction of the Law of Gender Identity (2012). Although in other countries there are laws or regulations in relation to these issues, the characteristics of both argentinian laws make them be considered advanced in relation to others in terms of rights related to sexual diversity. [5] Hence the interest that can have for us, psychoanalysts, the approach of them -and in particular, the Gender Identity Law that is the most novel- since they are based on a conception of subjectivity and sexed being , which are those of our civilizational regime, that we can not stop having in our horizon.

The so-called Equal Marriage Law supposes a breaking off of the legal order with the supposed “natural” order and equates unions of the same sex in rights and obligations to heterosexual unions. It deepens then the fact that the family can no longer be thought of as the correlate of the family based on biological ties and also assumes that filiation does not depend on the effective presence of two parents of the opposite sex. What this law enables is a symbolic inscription of those unions and the families that can be constituted from them.

So far, psychoanalysis would have nothing to say. This legislation is in line with what the same psychoanalytic discourse has postulated from its beginnings. S. Freud denatured everything about sexuality, thus removing it from the pathological field, by stating that there is no determined object for the drive and defining the child as “perverse polymorph”. It was followed by J. Lacan with his proposition “there is no sexual relationship”, it means that with respect to sex and sexuality there is no natural or biological program, nor defined in advance, each one of them will have to play their game about it and manage with that hole. On the other hand, Lacan very early denaturalizes the family. In the textThe family complexes in the formation of the individual(1938), shows how the old family institution is replaced by the conjugal family, emphasizing that it is only by a contingency of historical order that the family seems to be based on a “natural order” “and biological. [6]

The problem must be put in another place and it is the way and the use that can be given to the new techniques of reproduction and genetic engineering. It is not, of course, about being against the use of them, but to warn that science with its treatment of the real eliminates the symbolic and filiation can be reduced to a genetic fact. Filiation is an act that belongs entirely to the symbolic register and depends only on the desire of the person who performs it; father and mother can not be defined by the actors involved in reproduction, be it the type that is, the “natural” or the more sophisticated reproductive technique. Éric Laurent points out a paradox at that issue: at a time when the fictional character of family ties is exposed, given the diversity of unions and the possibilities that these technical advances give, right there, in that proliferation of fictions, he observes the support of the belief of a natural dimension of the family, which can be observed in numerous examples. [7]

In one of his courses, Jacques-Alain Miller says that when everything becomes a semblant without any kind of anchoring, it is necessary to define a real somewhere and we could say that today that real is defined by science. [8]

But it is in the Law of Gender Identity that the type of subjectivity that characterizes this period can be observed more clearly. This Law is based on two central points. On the one hand, it establishes gender identity as a right, and this is what makes the novelty and the particularity of argentinian law with respect to other legislations. If the gender identity is a right, it will not be necessary for the registration change of names and sex, nor for the access – which must be guaranteed by the State – to the medical treatments necessary for the reassignment of sex of any previous intermediate instance , it will be enough only with the consent of the subject. This law “depathologizes” the “gender identity”, turning it into a right. On the other hand, the law is based on what it calls the “self-perceived” gender identity, defining it as “the internal and individual experience of the gender as the person feels it, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at the time of the birth, including the personal experience of the body. “[9]

From what we can read in this law, there is an assumption in it – contrary to what the psychoanalytic experience shows us – of a relationship of transparency between the subject, the body and the jouissance, there is no opacity here between these three terms . For psychoanalysis, the body is not the organism and we have a body because it has been constituted from its encounter with the signifier. This is why the relation of the subject to the body is always problematic, since there will be no adaptation between one and the other. Precisely, what some cases of transsexuals show is that what they are looking for with surgical intervention is to keep calm a “hetero” jouissance, in front of which they can not find any other resource to manage with it. [10]

This law is based on the right to the so-called “self-determination” of people: it is about the autonomy of the subject in the choice of his own life and his own body, as proclaimed in the Constitution of the Argentine Nation and the Universal Declaration from the human rights. This then supposes a subject capable of a “free” choice, of how he will be nominated and of his sex. Here we must place another paradox. On the one hand, this law is the product of a demand for recognition of the social Other by the trans community -which has an anti-segregative effect by promoting enrollment in the social Other of this community, it is the positive aspect of this law that we cannot ignore. But, on the other hand, there is a deep rejection of the signifiers coming from the Other. Therefore, what this law shows us, which takes to the extreme the liberal conception of the subject, is nothing more than the rejection of the unconscious that prevails in the subjectivity of the time.

Faced with the treatment of the real of science, the proliferation of semblants and “identities”, product of the lability of identifications, which make sexed distribution and filiation, and the widespread illusion of “freedom” to choose and to realize one’s own lifestyle, the psychoanalyst’s task will be to remember that the properly human field is defined by the effects of the signifier on the living being and being attentive in order to denounce the false solutions that the time offers to seal the consequences which implies: the lack of representations and the lack of adequacy relative to the jouissanceto which each human existence is irremediably confronted.


1-Foucault, M., Historia de la sexualidad II. El uso de los placeres, Siglo Veintiuno, México, 1996.

2-Foucault, M., Historia de la sexualidad I. La voluntad de saber, Siglo Veintiuno, México, 1998.

3-Para un desarrollo de lo que Foucault plantea en su Historia de la sexualidad y cómo va variando el objeto de su investigación a lo largo de los tres tomos puede consultarse Antuña. A., “La sexualidad, de la verdad a la invención”, en Torres, M., Schnitzer, G., Faraoni, J., (comps.), Uniones del mismo sexo. Diferencia, invención y sexuación, Grama ediciones, Bs. As., 2010, también publicado en Revista Enlaces N° 7, julio de 2002.

4-Sobre la conceptualización de la sexualidad en Foucault a partir de la noción de dispositivo, puede consultarse Antuña, A., Schnitzer, G., “M. Foucault. La invención de la sexualidad”, Revista Enlaces N° 3, marzo del 2000.

5-Para un análisis de la Ley de Identidad de Género, sus implicancias y consecuencias, el contexto en que fue sancionada y los debates que suscitó puede consultarse: Álvarez Bayón, P., Antuña, A., Klainer, E., Husni, P., Mozzi, V., Nitzcaner, D., “Primer informe sobre la Ley de Identidad de Género en Argentina”, http://www.wapol.org/es/articulos/Template.asp?intTipoPagina=4&intPublicacion=13&intEdicion=9&intIdiomaPublicacion=1&intArticulo=2753&intIdiomaArticulo=1

También en: Torres, M., Schnitzer, G., Antuña, A., Peidro, S., (comps.), Transformaciones. Ley, diversidad, sexuación, Grama ediciones, Bs. As., 2013.

6-Lacan, J., “Los complejos familiares en la formación del individuo” (1938), Otros escritos, Paidós, Bs. As., 2012.

7-Laurent, É., “Análisis de niños y la pasión familiar”, Revista Enlaces 22, Grama ediciones, Bs. As., Octubre de 2016, p. 105.

8-Miller, J.-A., Piezas sueltas, Paidós, Bs. As., 2013, clase del 1 de junio del 2005, p. 411.

9-Art. 2 de la Ley 26.743.

10-En Álvarez Bayón, P., Antuña, A., Klainer, E., Husni, P., Mozzi, V., Nitzcaner, D., “Travestismo y transexualismo desde la perspectiva del psicoanálisis”, http://www.revistavirtualia.com/articulos/21/observatorio-de-genero-y-biopolitica-de-la-escuela-una/transexualismo-y-travestismo-desde-la-perspectiva-del-psicoanalisis

podrá encontrarse un desarrollo desde la perspectiva del psicoanálisis del transexualismo y el travestismo, así como algunas consideraciones a partir de la casuística.


1-Foucault, M., History of sexuality II. The use of pleasures, Siglo Veintiuno, México, 1996.

2-Foucault, M., History of sexuality I. The will to know, Siglo Veintiuno, México, 1998.

3-For a development of what Foucault raises in his History of sexuality and how the object of his research is varying throughout the three volumes, Antuña can be consulted. A., “Sexuality, from truth to invention”, in Torres, M., Schnitzer, G., Faraoni, J., (comps.), Unions of the same sex. Difference, invention and sexuation, Grama ediciones, Bs. As., 2010, also published in Revista Enlaces N ° 7, July 2002.

4_On the conceptualization of sexuality in Foucault from the notion of device, see Antuña, A., Schnitzer, G., “M. Foucault, The invention of sexuality”, Links Magazine No. 3, March 2000.

5-For an analysis of the Gender Identity Law, its implications and consequences, the context in which it was sanctioned and the debates it raised can be consulted: Álvarez Bayón, P., Antuña, A., Klainer, E., Husni, P. , Mozzi, V., Nitzcaner, D., “First report on the Gender Identity Law in Argentina”, http://www.wapol.org/es/articulos/Template

Also in: Torres, M., Schnitzer, G., Antuña, A., Peidro, S., (comps.), Transformations. Law, diversity, sexuation, Grama editions, Bs. As., 2013.

6-Lacan, J., “Family complexes in the formation of the individual” (1938), Other writings, Paidós, Bs. As., 2012.

7-Laurent, É., “Analysis of children and the family passion”, Revista Enlaces 22, Grama ediciones, Bs. As., October 2016, p. 105

8-Miller, J.-A., Piezas sueltas, Paidós, Bs. As., 2013, class of June 1, 2005, p. 411

9-Art. 2 of Law 26,743.

10-In Álvarez Bayón, P., Antuña, A., Klainer, E., Husni, P., Mozzi, V., Nitzcaner, D., “Transvestism and transsexualism from the perspective of psychoanalysis”, http: //www.revistavirtualia .com / articles/21/ gender and biopolitics observatory or the la Escuela Una/ transsexualism and transvestism from the perspective of psychoanalysis

A development can be found from the perspective of the psychoanalysis of transsexualism and transvestism, as well as some considerations based on casuistry.

in Lettere
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