22 de January de 2020

WOMEN IN PSYCHOANALYSIS – 49th Study-Days of the ECF

Argument Translated by Janet Haney and John Haney Incomparable Analysts, analysands, protagonists of analysands’ stories… In psychoanalysis, there are women!…


Translated by Janet Haney and John Haney


Analysts, analysands, protagonists of analysands’ stories… In psychoanalysis, there are women! They have a particular affinity with this science of love, sexuality, desire and jouissance. An analysis is oriented towards femininity for those who seek how to say-well the jouissance that encumbers them. Freud, the first to have taken into consideration the truths of hysterical women, found that the “rejection of femininity” was the stumbling block of an analysis, another name for the “bedrock” of castration.[1]This rock is the last bastion that resists the effects of the cure.

Advancing closer to the wall that encloses man in the phallic logic, Freud wanted to lend an ear to the other side, to the dark continent.[2] Except that, behind this wall, no essence of The woman is grasped. That’s what Lacan summed up in a single formula: The woman does not exist. This formula, which was considered scandalous, reveals the place behind the wall to be void of meaning and essence, resistant to universal statements – “they are all… this or that.”

Women are not “all”. More precisely, each one is not-all, but a unique and incomparable version that comes to live in the empty place of The woman. They add up in an open series of singular elements that tends towards infinity. If the question “What does a woman want?” remained intact for Freud, it is because there is no answer concerning the desire of a woman that could be true for each one.

Unsayable, experienced

Displacing the question from desire to jouissance, Lacan invites us to approach femininity beyond the phallic limit. Feminine jouissance is experienced from time to time, he says, but it is impossible to put into words.[3] By forcing it into words, by putting woman into words, one defames her.[4] He had, however, explicitly requested women analysts to speak about the experience of that inexpressible something; he was banking on a “saying-well” without which psychoanalysis has no reason to exist. Even though feminine jouissance cannot be said, its experience as body event can be testified to.

This supplementary jouissance is what, in a woman, is not really concerned with the threat of castration, and is therefore marked by infinity.[5] A woman can take refuge on the side of “the phallic having” in order to border the unlimited of this jouissance and thus wear the costume of ownership. However, she can meet a loving partner who embodies a relay and makes her “Other for herself, as she is for him.”[6] Then there will open up for her an infinite love addressed not to an object of love, but to an absolute otherness with respect to this object. From this Other beyond the partner, a woman will expect what she does not have, a word or a sign, giving this love an erotomaniac tinge. Because feminine eroticism does not go without love. Many incidents of feminine love can be read from the address to this Other that Lacan calls the castrated lover.[7] For a woman, a man can be the cause of a ravage, an affliction, an unhindered jouissance: sacrifice and absolute gift, identification with the ‘object nothing’, a plunge into the abyss of eternal waiting, unlimited rage and revenge to make a hole in the all-man.

Fascinations, misogynies

On the side of the man, feminine jouissance as experienced but not being able to be put into words, is unbearable up to the point of torment: woman is considered as a captivating mystery and the relation to the feminine can be declined in multiple aspects ranging from fascination to hate. The little boy, marked by the discovery that his mother is a woman, seeks to reduce this infinite enjoyment to the contours of the fetish object. He can become the maladroit who thinks “that to have two [women] does the trick,”[8] the fundamentalist insisting that women conceal themselves, the Hamlet who is predestined to make the passage to the act, the deaf man who hears in the demand for love the sign of a certain frigidity, the fool translating this unspeakable, this inconsistency, as masochism, aberration or caprice.

Our world is becoming more and more feminized, but it is also masculinized, as evidenced by the rise to the zenith of the fetishistic and pornographic object. Ordinary misogyny sometimes passes to the act. The violent hatred unleashed against women can be inflamed by the totalitarian will to succeed in bending the resistance of the feminine not-all to the universal all. Today, the response of women can no longer wait, and the limitlessness of the feminine position sometimes translates into an unprecedented power to act and to fight.


The very last teaching of Lacan, as Jacques-Alain Miller transmits it to us, extends the not-all singularity of feminine jouissance to the parlêtre as such, that is, to all bodies parasitized by language. The distinction between the side of the man and the side of the woman is not erased for all that. For if feminine jouissance is also found on the man’s side, “it is hidden under the sabre-rattling of phallic jouissance.”[9] A priori, men have a more rigid attachment to the pre-established structures of the Other, while women move more easily in the liquid world of the Other that does not exist. This unmediated relationship to the experience of jouissance in its singularity makes women more inclined and accommodating to the creation -without the father if necessary- of flexible, improvised and invented sinthomatic solutions.[10] It is in this respect that women in psychoanalysis can be more able to embody a compass for the world of the future that we have described as after-Oedipus.[11]

If the 49th Study Days of the École de la Cause freudienne aim at speaking-well about women in psychoanalysis, they also bet on demonstrating that psychoanalytic research on femininity offers a relevant reading of the malaise in civilization. We hope that they allow the extraction of new knowledge. But you will have to be there to experience it.

Gil Caroz, Director of J49

with Caroline Leduc and Omaïra Meseguer, Co-directors


[1] Sigmund Freud, “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” (1937), SE Vol 23, p. 252.

[2] Cf. Sigmund Freud, “The Question of Lay Analysis” (1925) SE Vol 20, p. 212.

[3] Cf. Jacques Lacan, Seminar 20, Encore (1972-3), edited by Jacques-Alain Miller, transl. Bruce Fink, London/NY, Norton, 1998, p. 74.

[4] Ibid., p. 85. [TN: Bruce Fink notes that dit-femme and diffâme are homonyms in French; the latter also contains âme, ‘soul’.]

[5] Cf. Jacques Lacan, “Guiding Remarks for a Convention on Female Sexuality”, Écrits. The First Complete Edition in English, transl. Bruce Fink, 2006, p. 617.

[6] Ibid., p. 616.

[7] Cf. ibid., p. 617. [TN: To account for woman’s “duplicity” regarding men, Lacan distinguishes between “l’homme châtré” and “l’homme castré”, a distinction that is not possible to render in English.]

[8] “That by having two women he makes her whole” [TN]. Jacques Lacan, “L’étourdit”, Autres écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 469.

[9]Jacques-Alain Miller, “L’orientation lacanienne. L’Être et l’Un”, delivered at the Department of Psychoanalysis, University of Paris VIII, lesson of 23 March 2011, unpublished.

[10] Cf. Lacan J., “Television”, in Television, ed. Joan Copjec, transl. Jeffrey Mehlman, New York, Norton, 1990, p. 40.

[11] Expression forged by Jacques-Alain Miller for the title of the PIPOL 6 Congress (2013), “After Oedipus Women are Conjugated in the Future”


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