Lacanian Review Online: Queer by Definition

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LRO 161
15th June 2019

Three Questions About the Feminine 
Miquel Bassols


1- As you make clear in your book, the feminine as a radical alterity, as an Other enjoyment that would not be phallic, is not only a matter of women. The feminine is without gender. It describes the feminine as the very navel of the speaking being, the place of the unrepresentable real that marks the internal exile. Why do you think there is an association between that Other enjoyment and women that insists in our saying?

If we start from the Freudian hypothesis – or rather observation – according to which in the unconscious there is no representation, no inscription of the difference between the sexes, then it is necessary to ask how the unconscious deals with the difference that we establish between the masculine and the feminine. The Freudian answer formalized by Lacan in the first part of his teaching is simple. The difference is: either phallus or castration. It is a binary difference, 1/0, inherent in the very structure of language. From this perspective, guided by the logic of the signifier, the difference is a fact of discourse. There may thus be women who assume a phallic position, from the masculine side of sexuation, and there may be men who assume a non-phallic position, from the feminine side of sexuation. At this juncture, and in contrast to what Freud himself could sustain at a certain point, anatomy is not destiny. Lacan corrects Freud on this point: there is no other destiny than that each subject is constructed in language, on the basis of their relation to the unconscious structured as a language. This would seem to be a world well ordered by the signifier, by the binary logic based on the difference: those who are on one side and those who are on the other. The other would be other for the one, and the one would be other for the other. In this way we would reduplicate the anatomical difference man/woman in a difference based on discourse, masculine/feminine, according to a reciprocity that does not need to be symmetrical.

But the speaking being is not only a fact of discourse. There is also the enjoyment of the body. The body is ultimately the Other par excellence for each speaking being. What female enjoyment makes present is that there is no possible reciprocity, that there is no Other of the Other, and that when the Other becomes Other for itself, the enjoyment of the body is impossible to reconvert into the One of the signifier. When it comes to enjoyment there is no possible reciprocity, much less symmetry. And there each woman, one by one, makes present this irreducible alterity of enjoyment. Without it being able to be said of "all women", or of "Woman" as such, the singularity of feminine enjoyment in each one goes beyond the binary logic of phallus/castration. And language, each language, bears the irreversible mark of this "not-all".

2- In Analysis Terminable and Interminable Freud develops the concept of rejection of femininity, which you take up in your book. Would this be what is at stake for the man who exercises violence against a woman?

That is the hypothesis. The alterity of feminine enjoyment, an alterity also for each woman, is what for Freud is rejected in each speaking being. This is what the famous rock of castration at the end of analysis signifies for him. The Freudian term "Ablehnung", rejection, has also been translated as "disavowal". Each subject would thus disavow their feminine part, the feminine part of jouissance that insists beyond the logic of the phallus and castration, up to the point of rejecting it with segregation and violence. This is also the "I do not want to know anything about it" that insists in each speaking being and in the different forms of segregation that exist in our world.

3- In the section entitled "Radical Alterity of the One All Alone" you indicate two ways of approaching the feminine. The feminine as an S2 or the feminine as an S1 all alone. Two logics for thinking about the feminine. If we consider feminism as a semblant traversed by phallic logic, could we say that it moves away from the feminine to the degree that it advances?

There are diverse feminisms. We could distinguish them according to these two ways of approaching the feminine. Either taking the feminine in its difference with the masculine, as Other for the One, or taking the feminine as Other for itself. Take the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, evoked by Lacan at the beginning of his Seminar Encore on the subject of female enjoyment. From the perspective of Achilles, who advances according to the phallic logic one step after the other in a space ordered in binary mode, S1 -> S2, the tortoise is unattainable, he will only meet up with it at infinity. This is also Zeno's paradox, the impossibility of giving an account of the real of jouissance in the space ordered by, counted by the natural numbers: 1, 2, 3, …n. It turns out that between 1 and 2 there are already a lot of more intervals, an infinity of real numbers impossible to cover with the so-called natural numbers. The infinity in which Achilles could meet up with the tortoise Briseida is in fact already in each step that Achilles takes, between one step and another, in each interval of the space that he covers. Even if he were to hop on one leg. From this side, the phallic side, with each step we advance we do indeed move further away from the alterity of female enjoyment. This is the paradox that we find in many developments of the theory of gender founded on difference.

But Lacan points out something else: the tortoise Briseida is also a tortoise for itself, it is also Other for itself. And this is where the possibility of another logic for approaching the feminine opens up, beyond phallic logic. The logic of difference no longer functions in the space that the tortoise Briseida covers. It is the space of the One all alone, without Other. Instead of difference, we can draw on other concepts, other terms. In French we can make use of the term "écart", which the philosopher Philippe Julien has recently underlined. An "écart" is a deviation, something that twists, in the manner of "queer", and which does not function according to difference with another term. The enjoyment of the One all alone is "queer" by definition. Every form of jouissance taken in its singularity is, in fact, a "queer" enjoyment, twisted in relation to the phallic norm. This not on account of its signifying difference, but rather on account of its very singularity. Studying these forms of "queer" enjoyment is the challenge that each singular study of the feminine must confront.


Interview published in "Feminismos Variaciones Controversias" – Colección Orientación Lacaniana, Grama, Buenos Aires 2018. Available on-line in Spanish:

Translated by Roger Litten
Issue # 7 of The Lacanian Review
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