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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
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(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)

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10th June 2021


Escuela de la Orientación Lacaniana – EOL – Córdoba Section

XXIX Study Days: Other Sex

Translated from the original:

Freudian Impact

Psychoanalysis caused a scandal in its time – as Freud himself acknowledged – by questioning popular opinions on sexuality. Not only did it unequivocally separate sex from genitality and reproduction, but it also stated that the object is what is most variable about a drive. “The object is not necessarily something extraneous: it may equally well be a part of the subject's own body, something fitted to make satisfaction possible.”[1] As Freud stated in his early works, the sexual drive and the sexual object are not welded together. “The sexual drive is in the first instance independent of its object: nor is its origin likely to be due to its object's attractions.” [2]. In fact, Freud did not believe that there was an innate disposition in human beings towards a predetermined object in the sexual bond. From this starting point, it was necessary to explain how someone became fetishist, homosexual, heterosexual, etc.

Based on the prevalence of the father and the logic of the phallus, Freud approached the Other sex by considering that in all speaking beings it [the Other sex] eludes both the logic of the phallus and the paternal incidence. He did so by emphasizing what he called "bisexuality”, which, he says, “comes to the fore much more clearly in women than in men”, even though it concerns both.[3]

However, and here lies the Freudian dilemma, this phallic-castrated logic leaves out that which concerns separation, which involves not only the fantasy and the object a, but also that Other from whom we are radically separated.

Lacanian Impact

Lacan soon focuses his formulations on the fall of patriarchy, which has prevailed in the West for a long time. He asked women analysts about this silent jouissance, rebellious to the Name of the Father, because he considered (and he was speaking to psychoanalysts) that “there is no hope for an Occidentalized. [4]

The “Occidentalized” subject is he who has interpreted the contingency of trauma in the Western way. This happens after Lacan comes back from the East. Now he proposes other ways of interpreting trauma. In fact, he finally breaks away from the Freudian and patriarchal unconscious and moves towards a real unconscious. He ends up attributing to Freud a “prostration before the phallus" and religion.

At the same time, Lacan anticipates the fall of the patriarchal conception and its effects on sexual practices and on the identity each person adopts with regards to gender. A transition from the binary prêt-à-porter gender of the Oedipal structure to the multiplicity of subjective and singular decisions regarding sex. Singularity that differs from the jouissance of today's civilization at a social level. As J.-A. Miller clearly stated recently: “The One is dead, long live the Multiple!” this dynamic, according to Lacan’s logic of the “not-All”, pertains to the feminine position, and prevails everywhere in civilization, at least in ours.

Gender issues “play an important role in the evolution of traditions… they breathe inspiration into the legislation in several countries…they say something very profound about our present day.”[5]

The enigma of feminine jouissance, opaque to meaning, confronted psychoanalysts with the “rejection of femininity", which is woven into its specific entanglements. Thus, when Lacan approaches the issue in the seventies, he draws from Freudian texts what he calls "Freud's saying", including its oscillations, and situates his own saying within the borders of a Real which makes a hole: “There’s no such thing as a sexual relation.” There’s no such thing as a sexual relation, but there is a relation that is sexuated, a signifying relations between parlêtres.

Given that language impacts and leaves its marks on the body, this is no longer about the Freudian "bisexuality", but that the other sex is always the Other, feminine, both for men and women. “Facts of discourse.”[6] They are not founded on biological sex, but on modalities of jouissance. Moving away from Freud, Lacan states that to be oriented by the “not-All phallic”, we need to grasp "the antagonism between jouissance and semblant,[7] and that sex does not define any relationship between speaking beings. In his Seminar XX, Lacan will say: “The Other, in my terminology, can thus only be the Other sex.”[9]

In order to stress the disjunction between jouissance and semblant (phallus, Name of the Father), we need to place the littoral between knowledge and jouissance, between center and absence[10] so there is a chance to take a turn towards the literal: the letter of the sinthome.

Miller, in his Course of 2011[11] stresses the Lacanian “Oneism”, because Lacan overturns binarism by affirming that "the two of them do not merge into One, nor is One founded by the two of them"[12], and highlights the abyss that separates the One from the Other. That Other that does not exist, "a Real of the One-all-alone, there where the relation would be said."[13]

“There is only One,”[14] Lacan compellingly affirms. He will follow this notion in his latest seminars drawing on the nodal nature of the Borromean knot.

The Other of the opposite sex remains the Other, a hole. And it is because of this Real that jouissance “as such” ex-sists. Every analysand knows well enough how each one fills this hole, and he may or may not consent to what there is not and adjust to what there is.

Finally, J.-A. Miller will say that the concept of gender has touched a sensitive aspect of our current culture and its discontents. Moreover, he stresses the value of the master signifier because it names such discontent. However, this concept is constructed – especially by Butler – with the use of a deformed psychoanalytic vocabulary. This is “a misuse of terms borrowed from Lacan and many others.” Thus, we have the challenge of placing what psychoanalysis of the Lacanian Orientation proposes, and the contribution it can make to the current debate in our civilization.

Scientific Committee: Cristina M. de Bocca – Fabián Naparstek – Mariana Gómez

Translated by Veronica Lassa


[1] Freud, S. (1915 [1995]) Instincts and their Vicissitudes. “The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.” Volume XIV. London. The Hogarth Press, p. 122.

[2] Freud, S. (1905 [1920]) Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, “The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.” Volume VII. Second edition. Second reprinting. London. The Hogarth Press, p. 148.

[3] Freud, S. (1927 – 1931). Female Sexuality, “The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.” Volume XXI. London. The Hogarth Press, p. 225.

[4] Lacan, J. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVIII: On a Discourse that Would Not Be a Semblant." Unpublished.

[5] Miller, J.-A. (2021). Ouragan sur le «gender»!

[6] Ibidem, p 135.

[7] Ibidem, p 34.

[8] Lacan, J. …Or Worse: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX (1971-1972). Edited by J.-A. Miller. Translated by A.R. Price. Cambridge: Polity, 2018.

[9] The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: On Feminine Sexuality. The Limits of Love and Knowledge. Encore 1972-1973 (1999), Book XX, New York and London, W. W. NORTON & COMPANY, p. 39.

[10] Lacan, J. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVIII: On a Discourse that Would Not Be a Semblant." Unpublished.

[11] Miller, J.-A. (2014). What is the real? Translated by A. Alvarez. Lacanian Ink 43/44, 14-29.

[12] Lacan, J. …Or Worse: The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XIX (1971-1972). Edited by J.-A. Miller. Translated by A.R. Price. Cambridge: Polity, 2018.

[13] Ibidem.

[14] Ibidem.

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