Experiencing the Phallus as Extraneous,Or Womens Twofold Oedipus Complex


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include the novel P ossession (Fayard), the essay S ens et N on- S ens de la R eÂvolte (Fayard), andL e temps sensible: P roust et l’expeÂrience litteÂraire(Gallimard), which has been translated into English under the title T im e and S ense.

Experiencing the Phallus as Extraneous, or Women’s Twofold

Oedipus Complex

Julia Kriste va

bisexuality [¼ ] com es to the fore much more clearly in wom en than in men’.

Sigmund Freud, `Female Sexuality’, 1931

The Phallic Kairos

At a time when many practitioners and theorists view psychoanalysis as a transaction of organs and drives, while others make of it a mathematical form ula of the signi® er or a theory of `mind’, or yet again a cognition, it seems necessary to me to uphold that the originality of Freud’s discovery lies in discerning a co - presence between the development of thought and that of sexuality. It is an attentiveness to this twofold expression (thought-sexuality) of speaking-being that form s the very core of the ana-lytical experience and which therefore, far from representing human essence in biolo-gical terms, centers the study of the psychical apparatus, its operations and its blockages, in the bi-univocal dependence of thought-sexuality/sexuality-thought. Such an interaction takes place within language and accordingly, it is in this medium that Freud was to explore that `other scene’, theunco nscious, whose contents (represent-atives of the drive) and logic ( primary process) nevertheless fundamentally diå er from conscious linguistic com munication. In de® ning my psychoanalytical approach and practice as the study of the co-presence between sexuality-and-thought, my aim is not simply to dissociate myself from the two trends currently in favour (the cognitivist and the phantasmatic-organicist approaches). It is also to indicate at the outset of my talk the basis on which the follow ing remarks, concerning female psychical bisexu-ality as viewed from the perspective of the relationship of wom en to the phallus, are founded.

The question to which I shall therefore address myself is that of the relationship of the female subject to the phallus. As a certain `phallic monism’ is constantly drawn to our attention in clinical experience, I would ® rst of all like to present a couple of particularly acute examples of the kind of adherence to the phallus that characterizes certain wom en: an adherence that eå ectively structures them, but at the price of often traumatic suå ering.


Mystery And The Unbearable

Arm elle occupies a high-ranking post in an international organization. M other, wife, mistress and author, she would seem to lack nothing, unless it be a personal satisfac-tion which, she insists, is not of a sexual nature: `I am not frigid’, she speci® es. This dissatisfaction is accompanied by the feeling of being like a little girl whom no-one takes seriously and who never realises her true capacities. Additionally, Arm elle is led to take on all sorts of tasks and chores, even the most tiring and thankless, as though setting herself superhuman goals. A veritable martyr, Arm elle has made for herself a bed of nails upon which to lie and impale the ¯ esh of her back and stom ach. The martyrology of saints that her family background has handed down to her is superimposed here upon the structuraljo uissance, or com plex pleasure, of the Freudian phantasy, `A child is being beaten’: Arm elle is being beaten, Arm elle beats Arm elle, Arm elle pierces Arm elle, `til the blood ¯ ows; her entire body is a phallus-penis ® nding its pleasure in sado-masochism by way of punishment for clitoral pleasure and to avoid recognition as a pierced-castrated body. Arm elle is ® xated at the pivotal point situated b etw een what I term Oedipus-1 and Oedipus-2.1 Her professional success,

her phallicism in the symbolic order, has been acquired at the price of denying her bisexuality: she aspires to be all phallus. Her perverse pleasure is at the expense of the physical and mental exhaustion of thesuperw om an.

Dom inique is characterized by a slender, boyish body and by a way of talking marked by allusion, secrecy and om ission. Her com puter skills do not suæ ciently account for such a discreet manner. It is with diæ culty that I ® nd out that she has sexual relationships with wom en but that the relationship to which she gives most impor-tance is with a man, with whom she adopts a masochistic role. M uch later, Dom inique will reveal that this man is her immediate superior at her place of work and, even later yet, that he is black. Dom inique had greatly admired her brother who was a year older than herself and with whom she had lived a mirror-relationship, as though doubles or twins, before the arrival of a baby-sister, born ® ve years after Dom inique. The idyll lived by Dom inique, in her role as boy-double, came to an end at adoles-cence when her brother was killed by a car. `I don’t believe wom en have sex. When my brother died, it became apparent to me that the area between my legs was smooth, like a plastic doll.’ Without a penis, without a clitoris, without a vagina: Dom inique lives the failure of her psychical bisexuality by oå ering her anus as a hollow ed-out penis to her sadistic partner. Another variant of phallic monism. I shall com e back later to what these examples have show n us of phallicism’s unbear-able nature for wom en. For the moment, I would like to insist upon the universality of the phallic reference which makes its appearance in both sexes, although in a som ewhat diå erent way, well before the phallic phase and the Oedipus com plex that this phase announces. As a result of language, of the paternal function and of the mother’s desire for the father (for her own as well as for that of her child), the trace of the phallus (what Lacan terms `a phallus without incarnation’2) always-already

organizes the subject’s psychosexuality. Primary identi® cation, narcissism, sublima-tion, idealisasublima-tion, the setting-up of the ego-ideal and of the superego are but som e of the well-known stages that mark this organization.


It is necessary to underline the importance of what Freud calls the phallic phase which, structurally, plays the major role in organizing, in both sexes, the co-presence of sexuality-thought of which I have spoken. M any authors have called attention to the particular characteristics that determine the penis’ being cathected (or invested libidinally) by the two sexes and becom ing the phallus, that signi® er of lack ± of lack-in-being, or of desire, and, in consequence, signi® er of the symbolic law. Its visibility and ability of erection, the narcissistic grati® cation and erotogenic sensations that it oå ers, as well as its `detachability’ and, therefore, `severability’: all permit the penis to becom e the mark of diå erence, functioning as the pivot of the binary distinction, 0/1, upon which all meaning is based, and, in this sense, operate as the organic (i.e. real and imaginary) element of our psychosexual com puter. The Greek term K airos (`propitious moment or encounter’3) might well seem a ® tting designation to give to

this eminently subtle and, in this sense, mysterious encounter of meaning and desire that, eå ectuated during the phallic phase ± all in being prepared for in advance ± therein shapes the destiny of the human being qua speaking-cum-desiring being. The sub ject ± whether anatomically male or female ± is form ed by this phallic K airos: such is the revelation that psychoanalysis, long after the Greek mysteries, announces. Our psychical destiny is, essentially, to bear the consequences ± that can aptly be quali® ed as tragic ± of this mystery.

A veiled mystery indeed. For, given its very structure and under the threat of castra-tion, the phallicism of both sexes succumbs to repression and is succeeded by the latency period. Phallic primacy is for this reason the hallmark of `infantile genital organization’: i.e. it is precisely the factor diå erentiatinginfantile genitality from adult genitality, which in principle recognizes the existence of tw osexes.4And yet, phallic

monism ± with its recognition of one sex alone (the penis), of one libido alone (the masculine) and of a sole symbol for the activity of thought (the phallus) ± remains, for the two sexes, a fundamentaldatum of the unco nscious. As such, phallic monism can be understood as an infantile illus ionthat subsists as an unconsciousreality serving to structure the psyche. The transform ation of an illusion into an unconscious reality: is this not a case of an illusion destined to a ® ne future? Indeed, we are confronted here with the basis of what Freud, in one of his later works, would name `the future of an illusion’, inasmuch as every religion truly draws upon the cult of the phallus. This fact that phallic monism is a residue of the infantile phallocentrism conditioning the Oedipus com plex is an aspect of the Freudian theory of sexuality that has received insuæ cient attention. Nor, in a similar manner, has it been suæ ciently grasped that, as a consequence of the repression of this phallicism into the unconscious, the uncon-scious as such is phallic. This means that the unconuncon-scious lacks `genitality’ in the sense of an acknow ledgement of sexual diå erence. Or, to put it more abruptly, there is no unconscious psychical genitality: while one can speak of a biological instinct of procreation and of the advent, at puberty, of a desire for the other sex, nothing in Freudian theory indicates that there exists an unco nscious psy chical representative of the other sex as such.

To these ® rst two aspects of phallic primacy (i.e. its central role in the organization of the unconscious and its character as an infantile illusion), a third must be added. Namely, in the case of male sexual development, the Oedipus com plex, determined


by the phallic Kairos, is subject to a veritable `catastrophe’, which takes the form of the boy’ s turning away from incest and murder and culminates in the institution of conscience and morality, in which Freud saw `a victory of the race over the indi-vidual’.5 Through the mechanisms of de-sexualization and sublimation, the early

object-cathexes are replaced by the agencies of the psychical apparatus (the id, the ego and the superego), andneuro sisalone betrays a `struggle’ on the behalf of the ego against `the demands of the sexual function’. One might well wonder here as to that other form of `struggle’ represented by the subject’s creative use of thought or lan-guage, which, even though show ing a proxim ity to neurosis, or indeed to psychosis, cannot nevertheless be reduced to these. Our examination of bisexuality may perhaps allow us a certain insight into this form of `struggle’ that Freud, for his part, did not query in these terms.

As is well know n, phallic primacy was to be taken up and invested with a particular value by Lacan in his rehabilitation of the function of the father and of language in speaking-being [`parleÃtre’: which can also be translated as the `subject of speech’]. Attributing to the phallus the values of `seeming’ and `evanescence’, Lacan positions it as the locus of lack and source of anxiety, and it is for this very reason that it can function as the primary symbol determining the process of sexual identi® cation. `The man is not without having it, the wom an is without having it.’6 It seems to me

interesting to com pare this form ula with the proposition made by Winnicott con-cerning the maternal element which he speci® es, moreover, as having nothing to do with the drives: the maternal element, he states, simply `is’ (the self is the breast, the breast is the self ) and does not `do’ anything (the breast is a symbol of being, not of doing).7B eing, having, doing: are the distinctions really as clear-cut as this? The remarks

that follow may be understood as both an elaboration and an in¯ ection of these two propositions of Lacan and Winnicott.

The sensible versus the signiŽer. The extraneousn ess of the phallus. The illusory. In girls, the Kairos ± that decisive encounter between the mastery of signs and genital excitation that forges the subject as a speaking-cum-desiring being ± takes a particular form in that it is the clitoris that assumes the phallic function. This function is, simultaneously, real (experienced), imaginary (phantasized in the oscillation of activ-ity-passivity) and symbolic (as regards the cathexis and development of thought-processes). Infantile masturbation and incestuous desire for the mother characterize this ® rst aspect of the Oedipus com plex (that I name O edipus- 1), by which girls ± as much as boys ± are structurally de® ned before they reach O edipus- 2, which causes them to change object, with the father taking the place that was previously the mother’s. However, even in this ® rst structuring of the subject (Oedipus-1) there are diå erences between the phallicism of girls and boys that have perhaps not been suæ ciently remarked.

The attention given to the role played by language in organizing psychical life, how ever judicious it may be, has too often prevented us from appreciating the importance of the role played by sensuo us ± that is, prelinguistic or translinguistic ± experience. And yet, it is precisely the girl’s sensuo usness, so strongly stimulated by the


symbiotic bond with the mother during the pre-Oedipal phase ( phase of primary hom osexuality), that enables her to evaluate as much the diå erent capacities of the boy’ s sexual organ as the excessive narcissistic cathexes of which the boy is the object. Indeed, whatever may be the degree of organic satisfaction and paternal valorisation experienced by the girl ± and nothing, for instance, prevents the girl from being just as satis® ed and valorised as the boy ± her phallicism must be understood as displaying a structural dissociation between the sensible and the signi® er.8For the phallus, in its

capacity as signi® er of lack as well as of the law, is ® gured in the imaginary by the penis and is, therefore, perceived/conceived by the girl as som ething extraneous, and as radically heterogeneous. In other words, inasmuch as the girl’s phallic pleasure ® nds both its real and imaginary `support’ in the clitoris, that more inconspicuous organ, she is, at once,dissociatedfrom the phallus, understood as aprivileged signi® erin that conjunction of Logos/Desire that I have named the phallic Kairos. This is not to say that this conjunction is less marked in girls than it is in boys. On the contrary, girls often display a greater facility in the (symbolic) register of thought. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the girl’s symbolic ± in the sense of intellectual ± facility is at variance with her sensuous experience; how ever much pleasure the girl may experi-ence, she is nevertheless deceived by the fact of perceiving her organ as less visible, less striking and less appreciated. Consequently, the dissociation between the signi® er and the sensuous is accompanied by theb eliefthat the symbolic-phallic order isillus ory. The deception felt by the girl atperceivingherself as disadvantaged (she does not have a conspicuous penis, she is not the phallus) reactivates thehall ucination of past experiences related to the satisfaction and/or frustration characterizing the girl-m other dyad, that moment of M inoan-Mycenaean fusion.9As such, the experiences reactivated in

this manner consist of sensuous experiences that either preceded the acquisition of language or that took place outside of language. This being the case, the discrepancy between what is perceived in the present, under the sway of the phallic Kairos, and the hallucination of past perceptions, entails that the phallic monism that is assigned to the other (the man) that `I am not’ thereby marks the being of the female subject with a negation: `I am not what is’, `I am, nonetheless, if only by sheer force ofno t’. Theextraneousorillus orycharacter of the phallus is perhaps another way of designating this double negation of `nonetheless’ and `not’.

This stated, it is precisely the belief that the phallus, and consequently language and the symbolic order, are illusory, all in being indispensable, that closes the gap between perception and hallucination. By `belief ’, I refer here to the fact that the illus ory nature of the phallus is, both consciously and unconsciously, adhered to by wom en as som ething that is evident, without any need for proof. This quali® cation of `illusory’ (derived from the Latin ludere=`to play’, and henceillude re, `to make fun of ’ or `to mock’ ) refers to the fact that everything the phallus gives the female subject access to (namely: the law, power, and a certain pleasure ± as too, the possibility of their lack) is ultimately, for her,b ut a gam e. It’s not entirely nothing, but it’s not the be-all, either, even were this to be veiled, as the Phallic mysteries claim it to be. But simply, there is som ething else¼ an unde® nable, ineå able som ething else; and as to the phallus, well, by cathecting the phallus, I becom e a subject of language and of the law; which is what I am. So I play the game: I want my part of the action too. But, it is just a game, just a role that `I’ play; a case of play-acting, of make-believe,


which, indeed, for the female-subject, is all the so-called truth of the signi® er or of the subject-of-speech boils down to. In stating this, I do not mean that wom en necessarily have a playful (ludic) attitude to life, although this is the case for som e. However when they are not under an illusion, they are disillusioned; which is to say that the seeming `realism’ of wom en is based on this illusion: wom en are able to keep on going, to do all that needs to be done, b ecaus e they don’ t b elieve in it, they believe it’s an illusion.

There are advantages to this belief in the illusory nature of the phallus. Girls can, for example, cultivate a secret sensuousness that, if furtive at times, nevertheless spares them for the exacting task that boys must confront of making their erotic pleasure coincide with their symbolic perform ance. Such a dissociation between sensuousness and the signi® er can favor girls’ intellectual development, for the two spheres of logical com petency and eroticism are, in being extraneous from one another, kept distinct; and, indeed, the scholastic superiority of young girls is well know n.

On the other hand, how ever, this experiencing of the phallus as extraneous has its reverse side, where, far from rendering things easier, it can, for example, give rise to an acute phallic ambition bordering on the sado-masochistic martyrdom that was highlighted by the clinical examples outlined at the start of this paper. Comprising one aspect of what is named, in too cursory a fashion, feminine masochism, this sado-masochistic phallic com petitiveness can be interpreted as a form of `delirium’ inasmuch as it entails the denial (or disavowal) of the diå erence of the phallus and, thereby, of its illus ory status. Such a disavowal, implying an identi® cation with the phallus as such, amounts to an identi® cation with the phallic position of the man and to the scotomization (or non-re cognition) of the primary pre-Oedipal bond with the mother, often quali® ed as `primary hom osexuality’. In refusing to accept the extraneous position of the phallus and/or her psychical bisexuality, the phallic girl ± who wants to `have it’ too ± show s the fervour of a zealot: becom ing the saint, martyr and militant of a signi® er, she `organizes’ her erotogenic zones in such a way as to deny the illusoriness of the phallus, as though all the better to convince herself that her belief rests upon ® rm foundations. The result of such a quest for equality with male phallicism is exempli® ed in the ® gures of the female paranoiac ± the boss, the business wom an, etc. ± or the virile lesbian: partisans of power in all of its more or less dictatorial form s.

It is evident from what I’ve just said that the belief in the illusory or extraneous character of the phallus seems to me to be an index of female psychical bisexuality. The reason for this follow s from the fact that the dissociation between sensuousness and the signi® er which underpins the illus oriness of the phallus is, as we have seen based on the girl’s persistent attachment to the pre-Oedipal fusion with the mother. This attachment is equally an attachment to the code by which this fusion was given expression: this consists as much of sensory interaction as of prelinguistic phenom ena, such as rhythm s and alliteration, that, preceding the acquisition of signs and syntax, form what I have named the `semiotic modality’. The abandonm ent of this semiotic modality, in favour of linguistic signs, occurs in both girls and boys during the depressive position although, here again, there are probably diå erences between the


sexes that have up to now been insuæ ciently explored. Later on, the phallic structur-ing of the subject will com plement and reinforce language acquisition while at the same time causing, in girls, what can now be characterized as the reactivation of the depressive position and, thereby, an accentuation of the girl’s belief in the illus ory character of the phallus and language.

It follow s from this that the illusory position that wom en attribute to the phallus can favorise the onset of depressive regressions when, in succumbing to the shadowy attraction of the pre-Oedipal object, the girl forsakes the extraneous symbolic order and gives herself up to an ineå able, sullen and suicidal sensuousness. Som e wom en, on the other hand, display a maniacal investment (cathexis) in illusory phallicism, adhering, in this respect, to a veritable logic of exhibition, such as that exempli® ed by the alluring seductress, always immaculately made-up, dressed-up, pretti® ed and provocative. In this ® gure of the female `illusionist’ who is com pletely conscious of the masquerade she employs, we can recognize the `girl-phallus’ of which Fenichel and, subsequently, Lacan were to speak. But all wom en know this ® gure and all of us play on it.

As a ® nal ± and precautionary ± remark concerning the phallus’ illusory character, I would specify that the particular phenom enon that I am describing should be ® rmly understood as a manifestation of female psychical bisexuality and not be confused with the clinical ® gures of `the false self ’ or the `as if personality’, whose aetiology always entails a severe splitting of the psychical activity. I have not spoken of `splitting’ but of `play’, `extraneousness’, and `illusoriness’. Women’s adherence to the illusory character of the phallus does not impede them from functioning in the social order, where they display a certain detached eæ ciency. Is this not what Hegel referred to in speaking of wom en as `the everlasting irony in the life of the com munity’?

The Girl’s Twofold Oedipus Complex

The illusory character of the phallus is how ever but one com ponent of the com plex con® guration of female bisexuality. As is well know n, Freud was to alter his initial conception of the Oedipus com plex in the light of the realization that it was inad-equate to describe the com plexity of the girl’s development. `We have the impression here that what we have said about the Oedipus com plex applies with com plete strictness to the male child only [¼ ]’ .10While certain theorists have been encouraged

by this remark to reject phallic monism and, therefore, the phallic structuring of the female subject, it is obvious that I am not of their opinion. I do how ever propose that the girl’s development be seen to entail a twofold Oedipus com plex, by which I mean that what I have called Oedipus-1 (that structuring of the subject inaugurated by the phallic phase and indispensable for both sexes) must be understood as being com plemented, in the girl’s case, by an Oedipus-2, in the sense of a `re-working’ or repetition of the Oedipal organization that, for this very reason, is open-ended or `interminable’.

The mechanism of this Oedipus-2 can best be grasped by ® rst recalling a certain number of factors. As we have suggested, it is not only under the threat of castration


but also due to the experience of the extraneousness of the phallus that the little girl rejects her clitoral masturbation, renounces it and turns away from both her real phallicism (from the belief `I have the phallus’) and her imaginary phallicism (the belief `Iammasculine potency/impotency). While cultivating her position as a subject of the phallic signi® er (with the particular stamp of otherness and illusoriness that she gives it), the little girl, in this phase of Oedipus-2, change s ob ject. She starts by hating the mother who had previously been the object of her phallic desire but who is now viewed with hostility as responsible for her castration, as well as for the illusion, with all that this implies of deception. Despite this hatred how ever, the girl still identi® es with the mother and, even more, she remains identi® ed with the pre-Oedipal mother with whom she had shared the M inoan-Mycenaean paradise. It’s from this position of an identi® cation that exists in spite of, and beyond, the hatred for the mother that the girl changes object and desires from then on, not the mother, but what the mother desires: namely, the father’s love. M ore precisely, the girl desires that the father make her the gift of his penis/phallus in the form of baby that the girl will have just as if she were¼ the mother. The girl’s phallic aspiration takes therefore a new form and continues during this phase of Oedipus-2, and one can understand that Freud postulated that, in opposition to what happens in the case of the boy where the Oedipus com plex isdem olishedunder the in¯ uence of the castration com plex, the girl’s Oedipus com plex ± what I call Oedipus-2 ± is not only not demolished but in fact only really com mences with the castration com plex. In other words, it is `made possible’ and `led up to’ by the castration com plex.11

The taking-up of this feminine position towards the father is not without its ambiguit-ies. On the one hand, given that it results from an identi® cation with the castrated/ castrating mother, at ® rst abhorred and then accepted, it is accompanied by a `marked lowering of the active sexual impulses’ and `a repression of her previous masculinity’, with the concom itant eå ect that `a considerable portion of her sexual trends in general is permanently injured too’ .12Does this mean that the `illusoriness

is supplanted by a passivation? And yet, parallel to this rise of passive trends (or, in som e cases, to a depression), the desire of having the penis (penis- envy) persists as a variant of phallicism: which proves that active sexual trends are far from having been abolished. This penis-envy can take the form of either a masculine protest, manifested in the wom an’s behaviour or professional pursuits, or, alternatively and more `naturally’, in a desire for a child and motherhood.

It is at this point perhaps that the world as an illusory world for wom en com es to an end and that there opens up the world of real presence.

Representing thereal presenceof the phallus, the child becom es the object of a cathexis on the part of the mother in a way that no sign or symbol ± even if these were phallic ± can be. This was evidently understood by the last religion, Christianity, when it made a child its god and, in this way, de® nitively won wom en over to its cause in spite of their profound tendency to disillusionment, which, indeed, amounts to so strong an incredulity when faced with ideals and disincarnated superegos that Freud was led severely to criticize wom en’s poorly developed sense of morality. The child may therefore be seen to incarnate, in the case of wom en, the ® nal phallic revolt marking that open-ended, and therefore interm inable, phase of Oedipus-2 (`I


want a penis’=real presence) and, in this way, the wom an ® nds in the child another expression of her bisexuality for, quite simply, the child is her penis and thus she does not renounce her masculinity. At the same time, how ever, it is via the child that the wom an acquires the quality of being `other’ than the man: that is, wom an who has given her child, who has em ptied herself of it, separated herself from it. This does not mean that motherhood is lived or perceived as a disequilibrium of the identity or, even less, as an open structure; on the contrary, it is most often lived and perceived as a state of co m pleteness, for which the term of `androgyny’ is ® nally more ® tting than that of `bisexuality’. M oreover, with the incarnation of the symbolic order in the child-phallus, the wom an is presented with the conjunction of her symbolic essence (qua phallic thinking subject) and of her corporeal essence (encom-passing her pre-Oedipal sensuality and the sensual mother-daughter dyad, as well as the reduplication of mother and daughter in the maternal function). For this reason, and given continuation of her bisexuality in the androgyny marking her ever-renewed Oedipus-2, the wom an-mother can be seen as the guardian of both the social order and the continuity of the species.

Women’s character as social beings, remarked upon by Freud, culminates in the ® gure of maternal om nipotence. Today, this ® gure would seem to ® nd a new vigour in its relaying of the function attributed to the mother as the guarantee of the social and biological order. For modern genetics and gynaecology contribute to what may be understood as the mother’s aspiration to repair real presence; abetted by science and technology, the mothering wom an phantasizes that she is capable of doing all that is necessary, and often exhausts herself in her eå orts, to not only bring into existence but equally to improve by means of her child the real presence of the phallus.

And yet, this image of a hypersocial, ultrabiological and avowedly restorative feminin-ity, while not entirely false, seems to me to overlook two sources of fragility. The ® rst consists of the permanence, in wom en, of the structure of illusion/disillusionment as regards each and every signi® er, law or desire. The second concerns the vulnerabil-ity that necessarily characterizes the wom an-mother inasmuch as, in delegating her

real presence to that of her child (to an other), she accordingly relives the terrors of castration or, worse, undergoes a violent crisis of identity each time that her child’s well-being is threatened. In this way, we ® nd once again that what is com monly called feminine sado-masochism is perhaps precisely the experience of the structural extraneousness of the phallus; for these two sources of fragility aå ecting the structur-ing of the female subject are indeed the expression of two form s of this experience and are based respectively on Oedipus-1 (as regards the disillusionment) and on Oedipus-2 (as regards the threat to the wom an’s real presence as delegated to her `other’, the child).

It would indeed seem that when female bisexuality is not securely anchored in the belief in om nipotence, it falls prey to such ordeals of sado-masochism. Which is, of course, but to say that the various ® gures of female bisexuality that we have outlined are to be understood as so many variants of the position of the female subject in relation to phallic monism. It is perhaps the structural diæ culties of this positioning, more than the historical conditions as such ± although these are, of course, an added


factor ± that ® nally explain the tribulations that have been wom en’s lot through-out history.

Thinking back to the phallic adherence demonstrated in the examples of Arm elle and Dom inique evoked at the start of this paper, their suå ering can now be under-stood as a denial of bisexuality in favour of the phantasm of androgynous com pletion. In presenting you with these ¯ ashes of certain striking aspects of the `tribulations of the feminine condition’ , my aim was to highlight that it is only by avoiding such impasses ± which are, alas, only too frequent ± that what we might well call, by way of contrast, the `mystery’ of female bisexuality can be realized. Inasmuch as the experience ± and the `jouissance’, or pleasure ± of bisexuality is properly `transphallic’, in the sense not of being less phallic but of being more-than-phallic, it may be described as `mysterious’, in the strict sense of this term (which derives from the Greek m uo=`hidden’, `enclosed’; from the Sanskritm ukham=`mouth’ , `hole’, `enclos-ure’, which has given in Slavonic languages m uka=`pain’, `mystery’). Rather than wanting to conclude that pain would be the ultimate mystery, what I am suggesting is that, if there is a resolution to feminine masochism, then it may perhaps precisely be by way of the achievement of female bisexuality.

Certainly, as with all instances of success, female psychical bisexuality is a phantasm, or ± if you prefer ± a promised land that we have yet to attain. For not only does it presuppose the positioning of the female subject in the phallic signifying order (Oedipus-1), with all the accompanying pleasures and symbolic grati® cations that this extraneous and illusory order procures, but it requires additionally that, via a reconciliation with primary hom osexuality, a transform ation of castration, of depres-sion and of sexual devalorisation takes place, with a consequent revalorisation of the maternal role and, thereby, of the wom an’s role. And yet this is not all. For, ® nally, it implies a cathexis of the real presence of the phallus-child; this constituting an experience both of achievement and of castration which, while less illusory, still remains som ewhat `estranged’. One can gauge the enormous amount of psychical eå ort required by such a process, which, although never entirely accomplished, explains the strange, disillusioned and yet lively and reliable air that characterizes certain wom en.

Correspondingly, a re-cathecting of orality and anality takes place in wom en by way of a regressive counterbalance to phallic deception. Language can then itself becom e cathected in the oral and anal register as a narcissistic pleasure, in distinction to its cathexis in the register of phallic com petitiveness. It should be noted that this dynamic can lead to a greater importance of `tender’ or `aå ective’ tendencies, in opposition to `phallic-erotic’ tendencies. The discovery of the vagina as an `interiority’ and `unrepresentable volume’, that is `other’ than the phallus, is probably also to be situated on this line of development, with the vagina thereby becom ing that enigmatic `dark continent’ that as much challenges phallic power as it stimulates the imaginary. Consisting of a veritable vortex of adherence and non-adherence to the phallus (the the signi® er, to desire), female bisexuality ± were this indeed to exist ± would be no less, and no more, than an experience of meaning and its gestation, of languageand its erosion, of beingandits concealment. But in other words, I have just named what


is truly at stake in the ¼ aesthetic¼ experience, our contem porary and lucid version of the sacred. In this way, I would like to suggest one way of considering why it is the bisexuality of the Gom orrhean Albertine that Proust, in his search for things past, situates as the focal point of the narrator’ s phantasms. M ight female bisexuality not indeed be the objectpar excellence of literature and art?

At the same time the structural relation that I am indicating between female bisexual-ity and aesthetical experience can also be seen to open up another avenue of explora-tion that I would like to brie¯ y examine by way of conclusion. For it is my convicexplora-tion that female psychical bisexuality allows us to glimpse the psychical mechanism under-pinning atheism, at least inasmuch as we can talk of an atheism that does not entail, on the part of the subject, a militant anti-religious cathexis. This follow s from what we have seen of female psychical bisexuality’s position in relation to phallic monism: for, far from constituting a cult of the phallus, far from going beyond or, even less, falling short of such a cult, this bisexuality, in its very estrangem ent, maintains the illusion as an illusion. Am I positing in this manner the `future of an illusion’? But of course. Whatever one might say, Freud, that inveterate rationalist, was quite right in stating that everyone wants his/her part of illusion, even while obstinately refusing to recognize it for what it is. Women are, how ever, structurally better placed than are men when it com es to exploring the possibilities opened up by illusion. And I am not sure that atheism can ever mean anything else than leaving the Other its place and exploring all its diå erent facets, all its possibilities, and putting these into perspective.

This stated, it is upon the mainspring of such an atheism that I would like to insist one last time. For the psychical eå ort required to produce a subject of speech that no more adheres to the illusion of being than to the being of illusion is extraordinary. Such is the eå ort that is required of that psychically bisexual being that is a wom an. And thereupon, I must acknow ledge that what I have said to you today is perhaps but an illusion.

T ranslated b y L ouise B urchill Notes

1I shall com e back to these terms later on. 6Lacan, L e T ransfert, p.274.

2Jacques Lacan, L e S eÂm inaire, livre V II I: L e T ransfert 7See for exam ple, D.W . Winnicott, H ome is W here

(Paris: Seuil, 1991). W e S tart F rom : E ssay s b y a P sy cho analyst, C. Winnicott

3M ore speci® cally, this term signi® es what com es

(ed.) (Harm ondsworth: Penguin, 1986); and P laying at the right m om ent or touches its goal; that which and R eality (Harm ondsworth: Penguin, 1971 is timely, advantageous, or approp riate; the danger- (1982)), p.95.

ous critical point. In m odern G reek, it m eans 8These rem arks m ay be put into relation with

`time’ or `epoch’. While its etym ology is uncertain, recent discoveries suggesting that the right hem i-it is thought to derive from `encounter’ or `to cut’.

sphere plays a greater role in the exerc ise of

4Sigm und Freud, `The Infantile G enital

language in wom en than in m en. In being m ore Organization’, (1923), T he P elican F reud L ib rary,

lateralised, m en’ s brains would therefore treat vol. 7, Jam es Strachey (trans.) (Harm ondsworth:

language in a m ore logical m anner, as though Penguin, 1977).

dealing with a logical system , whereas, given that

5Sigm und Freud, `Som e Psychical Consequences

the right hem isphere is m ore implicated in percep-of the Anatom ical Distinction Between the Sexes’ ,

tion-sensation, language-use in wom en would be (1925), T he P elican L ib rary, vol. 7, Jam es Strachey

(trans.) (Harm ondsworth: Penguin, 1977), p.341. m ore assoc iated with sensuousness. It is necessary


how ever to interpret such data with the greatest P elican F reud L ib rary, vol. 7, Jam es Strachey (trans.) circum spection, given not only the interconnection (Harm ondsworth: Penguin, 1977), p.372. of neurones but the fact that biological discoveries 10Freud, `Fem ale Sexuality’, p.375.

are alw ays open to revision. 11Freud, `Som e Psychical Consequences’, p.341.

9Sigm und Freud, `Fem ale Sexuality’, (1931), T he 12Freud, `Fem ale Sexuality’, p.387.

Q & A

T oril M oi ( D uke U niversity)

T he q uestion is a very simple one. I have listened to this talk, and read the text as w ell. I know that a q uestion that m any w om en w ill w ant to ask im mediately after listening to this is this: w hat w ould y ou say to w om en w ho do no t w ant to experience m aternity, or do no t or canno t have children? Y our talk sounds as if y ou are say ing there has to b e the phy sical, psy cho lo gical and pheno menolo gical experience of m aternity for any w om an to get the chance of even acq uiring this m arvellous full sense of b isexuality . I s that the case or no t?

J ulia K risteva

I wanted to ® ll in a void in feminist theory around maternity. I will respond to this provocation by ® rstly situating my reply. Since the moment of Simone de Beauvoir and her circle, there has been an insistence on the necessity of wom en to claim their sexual freedom , which often involved a refusal of motherhood. During this time, medical techniques developed in contraception and abortion to guarantee the inde-pendence of wom en through the control of their fertility. This trend, how ever, sus-pended many critical issues. For instance, we were unable to rethink the working norms of civilisation and culture around motherhood, for it seemed as if the pleasures and desires as well as the social regulations ® gured by the concept of the mother in the hom e ± la m eÁre au foy er± were null and without future signi® cance. For this reason, the vast majority of wom en were unm oved by the feminist movement. On the other hand, as an analyst, I have com e across many wom en who were involved in the wom en’s movement, who in their late thirties, began to use medical advances such as arti® cial insemination, to have a baby, rediscovering the profound desire of femin-inity for a child.

This revealed to me that although we have a dom inant discourse on rights, we have no discourse on the necessity for the human race to guarantee its transmission, on reproduction. Thus we have a discourse on rights, but no discourse on history. I am currently thinking about a question posed by Hannah Arendt in her work stemming from her thesis on St. Augustine which appeared in her posthumous book theL ife of the M ind. The argument is not a central theme, but like a ® ligree that plays through her thinking. What is the meaning of life, that is to say, what is life? At present, in our societies, we no longer have organised form s of value form ed for us by com munism or a dom inant ideology. Our ruling value is life. Is that, how ever,


life as life ± that would be an idealism ± or is life, som ething which must have meaning given to it? There are two means to give life a meaning. The ® rst route, as I have been suggesting, lies in the opening up of permanent interrogation, of maintaining critical thought, that continues to question the impasses of living. The second route is to give life. Why give life? Who gives life?

How is it possible to correlate the claim for rights and the experience of jo uissancein the promulgation of life? In this second orientation of the question of the value and meaning of life, the role of wom en is of extraordinary signi® cance. I shall talk about this through the body of the mother ± why, I shall shortly explain. The maternal body is in a position to transform the violence of eroticism ± which in the process of sexual liberation wom en now know for themselves ± into tenderness. The maternal body is the frontier for that translation that permits a human being to live, to not becom e psychotic, to not die of solitude, but to live. This gives to wom en an enormous role, namely the destiny of humanity is in the hands of wom en. This is com plex. Women must, at the same time, claim the freedom to experience their own eroticism, while aæ rm ing themselves in the phallic com petitiveness I have just outlined, while guaranteeing the future of the species. This must be stated frankly and with the greatest of seriousness for it is a matter of such gravity. The wom en’s movement has an enormous responsibility, which until this moment, has largely been avoided, except for one or two groups which have tried to address it, that is, to know how wom en can secure the future of humanity without sacri® cing themselves. This involves a dialectic which we have to think through that we have yet to discover. It is in this broad philosophical perspective that I am trying to re¯ ect upon the question of maternity. It is a fundamental logic that we must pursue and, unless we manage it, we will simply be dragged along by roboticisation of reproduction and end up as breeding machines, making babies like a cat its litter.

To move back to the question about wom en who do not want to becom e mothers, let me emphasise that once again my de® nition of a particular position, a borderline situation in which the violence of eroticism is transmuted through tenderness into sensitivity and language. In psychoanalytical groups in France at the moment, we are discussing this situation, where it is not the actual maternal function that is in question, but other social functions, such as that of the analyst, where a similar process takes place. As we know , Lacan de® ned the analyst as `the subject-supposed-to know ’, thus identifying the analyst with the paternal function of the Law. But there is also a maternal function in analysis, namely the translation of eroticism into tenderness. There can be no eå ective interpretation if the analyst cannot assist in this translation, this sublimation. Thus alongside the paternal function, there is also a maternal function of transmutation. Every wom an will not be able to, or desire to enter into this maternal function for herself. But there are many social roles in which this attitude towards the other may be enacted on the edge where the sado-masochism that characterises the phallic com petitiveness of the technocratic society is muted by generosity, by the favour of the self extended towards the other, as in the mother’s experience of the child. This position as mediator is possible for the `professor’ ± the university teacher. We do not always achieve this, but optimally this is the ideal. Som e aspects of social work perform this function of translation, as Proust de® ned the work of writing, where art translates the passions into signs. This process has


been com pared to giving birth and becom ing a mother. But I want to go beyond a purely metaphorical level to try and show how such positions are not merely identi® ed with a biological maternity underpinning a position towards the other.

Q uestion

I am sy m pathetic w ith y our position. B ut I w ant to turn it on its head, so to speak. I f w om en have acce ss to this b isexuality in a w ay that the m asculi ne co nstruction of identity does no t, how is female b isexuality as y ou say the sub ject par excellence of art, if m ost artists have b een m ale?

K risteva

I suggest that this role of transposition and translation has been captured more often than not and contained within maternity. The destiny of the species has monopolised wom en within the translation that is maternity. But with the technical developments around birth control, abortion and arti® cially assisted childbearing, and with the concurrent development of ideas about liberation and autonom y, wom en may at last permit themselves both processes; both the translation that is involved in maternity itself, and the translation that takes place through artistic language. With the advent of the second millennium, there may be a new possibility that wom en may arrive at integrating both these functions. But we should consider with care, at the same time, the enormous overload that such a double role involves. We cannot minimise the profound diæ culties and great eå orts involved in the realisation and accomplishment of such a resolution.

T he q uestioner replied, further stressing the co ntradiction b etw een w om en’ s supposed acce ss to the b isexuality that engenders creativity and their default as artists.

Because of the concrete social constraints on wom en, they have not in the past generally had access to the same freedom s as men. They have been more systematic-ally con® ned to their role within maternity or de¯ ected into mystical paths. With the transform ations at the social level of control over fertility and increased social rights, wom en may more generally experience what men have enjoyed. With regard to artists who are men, they have had access to both their masculinity and to either a hom osexuality or a bisexuality that is active or sublimated.

Q uestion

G iven that w om an’ s desire seem s to b e co ordinated to an ob ject that perhaps participates m ore fully in the real than that of the m ale sub ject, if I have interpreted y our paper co rrectly, I w as w ondering if y ou co uld speak ab out how that then structures the w om an as an ethical sub ject, and speci® call y in relation to the other in such co n® gurations of expatriation, exile and the like.

K risteva

First of all, I want to stress there are many ® gures of femininity and I do not think that there is one single femininity. The content of this particular relation to the real presence of the child, in the optimal case, is this attitude I call generosity but also that of irony, which has entreated the social structure towards itself. One sees this in the case of wom en in politics ± although M rs. Thatcher may be an exception ± who seem more and more able to achieve success while bringing to bear this attitude of irony towards the com munity which permits a wider attention towards the other,


and less toughness in social life. But this is very provisional and ephemeral because we also note that those who approach politics with this ethical perspective of more gentleness and com passion towards the other are often rapidly ejected from it or sacri® ced. This ethical approach which wom en introduce, which appears to involve a broader recognition of the strangeness or foreignness of the other, is a light within contem porary political life, and those who take this route encounter many obstacles and ® nd themselves marginalised. Speaking of my own world, in the university and in psychoanalysis as well as politics in general, one sees the ones who succeed are those who are often most phallicised and those extending the luminosity of this ethical position are pushed to the margins.

Q uestion

I w ould like to know if y ou also m ake the co nnection I see b etw een y our interest in ethical responsibility and y our interest in violence. A t the very b eginning of the session, w e w ere discussing this. T here is a need to acce pt violence rather than to m itigate violence. C an w e think these tw o things together? K risteva

Yes we must. But I do not want to be misinterpreted as calling for the reclamation of a sentimental femininity or femininity as sensibility. I am talking about feminine beings who have not yet been ± with the possible exception of one or two cases such as M adame de SeÂvigny or Georges Sand. There may have been a tiny minority but never has the majority of wom en taken part in this double strategy. On the one hand, there is what I call the phallic position in which violence is confronted. On the social plane, wom en reclaim an identity through struggle. And on the level of a still phallic jo uissance, this position involves an exploration of even sadomasochism in sexuality and in the sexual relation to the other. At the same time, the counter position involves what I call the ® ltering of feeling into sublimation. Thus again at the level of the social, this involves safekeeping the dimension of tenderness. Perhaps an image, that of the black and white keys of the piano allows us to imagine the new objective at which many wom en will aim in trying to conjoin the double position, to dialecticise its oppositions. This novelty is not the old opposition of the militant feminist virago who terri® es men in the war of the sexes and the mother in the hom e dedicated to raising her children. It is the possibility of existing simultaneously on diå erent levels, and orchestrating the diverse notes of the keyboard that will deliver to us the new bi-cephalic and bi-sexual being.





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