From feminine sexuality to jouissance as such
The Talmud says that when God created woman he didn’t do it from man’s head because he didn’t want him to rule over her. He didn’t create her from his foot because he didn’t want her to become his slave. He created her from his rib so that she would be close to his heart.
Mark Twain in his Diary of Adam and Eve speaks about relationships between men and women and makes Eve ask herself why she loves him. She concludes that, “I think that I love him because he is mine, this is the kind of love that arrived, no one knows where it comes from and can’t be explained”. On the other hand, Adam writes over Eve’s grave: “Wherever she was, that was Eden”.
The distinction between feminine jouissance and masculine jouissance is not the last point about the subject of jouissance, because Lacan continues his theorization. He points out jouissance as a body event which is outside of Oedipus and independent of being a man or a woman. If Lacan is interested in feminine sexuality and its jouissance in his Seminar 20, it’s because feminine jouissance works like an exception to the autistic jouissance, and it allows the opening to the Other. For women, it becomes something that mixes love and jouissance. The next fact pointed out by Jacques-Alain Miller is the generalization of feminine jouissance to become the jouissance as such.
Masculinity and femininity are not biological essences but symbolic positions, and the assumption of one of these two positions is fundamental to the construction of subjectivity. “Man” and “woman” are signifiers that stand for these two subjective positions. Speaking beings can choose the sex and the object of love.
What I want to develop is why Lacan produces this transformation that comes from Seminar 20 throut his very late teaching. Hence I’ll develop different points. Firstly, love and desire in phallic dialectic. Secondly, feminine sexuality articulated to phallus. Thirdly, love and phallic jouissance that Lacan points out in Seminar 20. Later, feminine jouissance and love demand. Finally, the concept of jouissance as such like a generalization of the concept of jouissance.
1. At the gate of hell
There are many different theories in Lacan about love, jouissance and desire, and they are used to explain in different ways the feminine sexuality. The first theory about love accentes the imaginary relation and the reversibility of the narcissistic libido, that goes to the object and comes back as objectal libido. Love is essentially to wish to be loved (imaginary reciprocity). Over this Freudian theory, Lacan constructs his theory about love in Seminar 4, that includes three points: need, demand and love. Here the term of desire isn’t included. Love is a gift that becomes a sign of love.
With the introduction of desire, there are three new concepts: need, demand and desire. When Lacan teaching goes around symbolic register, love becomes symbolic and is defined as “to give what one does not have”. In this way, love is articulated with the phallus and the lack. Demand is principally demand of love. Jacques-Alain Miller says that in imaginary and symbolic register, Lacan points out that there is a relationship. Imaginary relation belongs to the mirror stage, and intersubjectivity relation belongs to the symbolic level of love. The point of rupture is the affirmation that there is no sexual relation, the sexual relation doesn’t exist, in this place there is the gap. On the other hand, the demand of love is a castration demand, because we are asking the other to give us his lack.
Lacan makes a distinction between lover and loved-object, the lover is the one who doesn’t have and doesn’t know what is missing, and the loved one is who has, but doesn’t know what he/she has. There is a gap between the lover and the loved, because they do not complement each other. Love is a signification produced by the love metaphor.
In Seminar 8 Lacan says that when the loved one puts himself/herself as the lover, and he/she gives what he/she does not have, there appears the miracle of love, for example, when Achilles, the loved object, decides to revenge the death of Patroclo, his lover, following Patroclo’s path to his death. His mother, who was a goddess, says that if he goes to war he will die, but if he chooses to stay, he will have a family, sons, daughters, everything. He wanted to kill Hector, he went to Troy and killed him, because he loved Patroclo, and he met his fate. With Alcestes it is the same, she became the incarnation of love because when death came, and looked for the king Admeteo, she decided to die in the place of her husband. This substitution produced the love metaphor, because Achiilles and Alcestes were the loved, and when they decided to give their own life they became lovers, and this substitution between loved and lover produced the miracle of love.
The immediacy of love is defined by Lacan, through the myth he created himself. A hand is reaching another hand, where the other must take it. Love is not just that one goes to the other, love is produced in this movement when one hand reaches the other, there’s somebody on the other side who takes the hand. There is no symmetry because the hand that is going to the other side, is going towards an object, the miracle happens when the hand emerges on the other side. Lacan’s explanation shows that love in this way is not only the gift of love but the object of desire. At the same time, our object of love is our object of desire. We love the object of desire. If someone loves somebody else it’s because he/she finds the object of desire.
Later, in Seminar 10, Lacan postulates that love is the mediation between jouissance and desire, because only love allows us to reach desire. There is an antinomy between autoerotic jouissance, where the subject is alone, and the desire that makes the relation with the Other. Love is a mediation between jouissance and desire because it allows the object to become an agalma. Love produces the veils we need to make jouissance become object of desire. At the same time, Lacan says that we can’t forget that Dante’s passion leaves him at the gates of hell.
2. The temptation of desire
When Paris must choose between the three goddesses, Aphrodite was chosen as the goddess of beauty, because she promised to give him the most beautiful woman, Helen, this is the beginning of the Troian war. The dream of being the most beautiful is connected to feminine masquerade and also has a particular relation with love. The post-Freudian Carl Abraham worked on this dream. He postulates three times in the constitution of the dream. First, “she wants to be a man”, that expresses the girl’s masculinity complex. Later, at the second time, “she wants to be the only woman”, that means the only woman in her relationship with her father and in her demand of love directed him. At the third time this dream becomes that “like woman she wants to be the unique” and be exceptional. Eric Laurent, in his article called The clinic of not all says that the idea of being unique may be present in different ways, being the only one for a man, the only one loved, the only one who understands him, the only one who helps him, who knows exactly what he needs. So, there are different ways to become the only one. This is a false position of exception because every woman is unique. There is not a universal which can construct “the woman” and name all the women. This position of being unique is not only for a man but everyone is unique in his/her loneliness, in his/her own subject position, in his/her singularity. We can find a way of being in the world with others, from our singularity.
For women, in feminine position, love and desire have the same object. They can’t separate love and desire like men do, between the object of love and the object of desire. In a masculine position, a woman has the same male condition of love.
Lacan explains that there is a different desire dialectic in men and women. This produces different convergences and divergences between object of love and object of desire. He examines this point, through being and lack of the dialectic of the being, with certain mobility of desire, that turns around lack and its dialectic. The being that produces desire finds its charm in libido invested in him. In this theory, the phallus is the signifier of desire. Women are used to staing in the position of “seems to be” the phallus, the masquerade, or reach the phallus through maternity, or through relationships with men.
In love, women have an erotomaniac position, that pushes them, to the ideal Incubus which is the dead father or the castrated lover. For her, the point is not only about how to love, but also how to be loved. Lacan points out that if a woman pretends to be loved and desired it is because she isn’t the phallus and she doesn’t have it. A woman doesn’t have the phallus, so she tries to obtain it through the metaphor of love. The freedom she has with the semblant allows her, to produce different masquerades, to obtain the love for wich she is searching. In this way she becomes the only one for a man and directs her demand of love to him. She shows herself as “not all” in front of the Other. By being desired she assumes the object’s position, and receives the phallus through love, by this, she gets the phallus that she lacks, and she satisfies her desire.
But not all is the phallus for women. There is a jouissance through masquerade that exceeds the phallus. Women’s jouissance is not only a phallic jouissance, there exists another kind of jouissance which belongs to her alone.
In Seminar 10 Lacan takes Eve’s creation myth, and explains how she was born by one of Adam’s ribs. He says that one of Adam’s ribs was taken from him, but we don’t know which rib; on the other hand, he has all his ribs. It’s clear that this ribs’s myth is precisely the point of lost object. For men, women are made by their lost object. In this way, we have in the Lacan’s theory the displacement from the phallus to the womens position as an object. When men take her as an object, they are more connected to the drive and also make the Other the object little a. In this way they reveal that the object little a is the partner’s real nature.
Lacan asks himself why does Eve want the apple offered to Adam? He says that the Other’s desire is what she wants. Women are tempted by tempting. This produces an opening to the Other of love. They are related to the Other’s desire which makes them more dependent in the relation with the partner and with the demand of love. This is the source of anguish.
Eve is more dependent in her drive demand, because jouissance isn’t located, so the love demand is stronger. The Other’s presence is more involved, so love demand is presence demand. She obtains satisfaction through love signs. Love is produced by words, not only through demand. This is the reason why women are expecting love words. Men’s silence can be experienced as lack of love. The loss of love, and specially loss of love words, is equivalent to castration. In this way, love and jouissance in women are inseparable.
In Seminar 10 Lacan begins his examination on feminine sexuality. He says that women are superior in the domain of jouissance, because the link they have to desire, is not that strong as male’s. The relation between the negativization of the phallus and the castration complex, is necessary in men but not in women. They have a closer relationship with the Other’s desire because women want to be desired. This relation doesn’t pass through phallic limits.
Men are slaves of the semblant, and the semblant is related to the phallus. As long as feminine jouissance is “not all”, they don’t allow being caught by semblant, and they are closer to the real. Lacan talks about the superiority of feminine sexuality. In Seminar 17 he talks about a jouissance that belongs to her, trying to awake man’s desire. He says that like the flower, she submerges its roots in the same jouissance.
3. Love and jouissance
Lacan, in Seminar 20, makes the distinction between love and jouissance: jouissance stays in antinomy with the Other. If jouissance just involves our own body, the relation with the Other becomes a problem. Love is something that is aiming towards the being. This kind of love, is love in register of the real; it stays in the place of the no sexual relation. Instead of the no sexual relation, we have love, that aims to the subject. The sign of the subject, his emergency, allows us to produce desire; this desire is the beginning of love.
When we address to the Other loved, we can find the object little a in the Other, which is the object cause of desire. Lacan says that this is the partner’s true nature. The desire is not the desire of the Other but it’s the desire of object little a, the real partner which we find in the Other.
The phallic jouissance is autistic, also called the “idiot’s jouissance”, that cuts the relation with the Other. In the autistic level of drive, there is no Other. Keeping this in mind, how can we start a relationship with the partner? When men and women have their own jouissance they stay alone. Men stay alone with their phallic jouissance and when women enjoy, Lacan says that they have the loneliness as partner, she stays alone with her supplementary jouissance. Only love allows relationship with the Other, in this point Lacan studies love in drive’s real level.
Lacan wonders how we can make a link with the Other if jouissance makes people solitary. He says that in women there is a direct relation between jouissance and the Other. Men reduce the Other to object little a, because their jouissance is perversely oriented. It’s the perverse condition of love, it is the fetishistic way of love. In women, love is crazy and enigmatic because of their erotomaniac way of love. Their jouissance is an exception to autistic jouissance, because feminine jouissance produces an opening to the Other. It’s an exception that mixes jouissance with love. It’s a jouissance relative to the no sexual relation. So, this is why love demands in women are linked to her way to enjoy. And women are not all about phallic jouissance.
The phallus produces a link between bodies, but it becomes an obstacle, because men enjoy with their organ, not with the women’s bodies. There is a sexual failure. Sexuality makes a gap, nobody manages well because there is no relation with the Other, there is only a relation with an object. At the same time, there is a Super Ego to push him to the jouissance. Over and over, encore, is repeated this impossibility. So, the jouissance of the Other’s body is just promoted by infinitude. The phallus jouissance it is finite, it is just the jouissance of the organ, it is circumscribed, and intends in vain to reach the Other, who incarnates the woman for himself and for herself too.
Lacan uses the Zenon’s myth about the race between Achilles and the turtle to explain that between two points there are infinite points, so nobody wins the race. Because Achilles is so fast, he gives the turtle an advantage start, so between Achilles and the turtle, the turtle is always one step ahead. When Achilles reaches the turtle, the turtle has already made an another step. He cannot reach the turtle. With this example Lacan explains that it is impossible for a man to reach a woman. He stays with his phallic jouissance and he cannot reach the woman in her feminine jouissance beyond the phallus.
Love is the relationship between two unconscious knowledges. We love the Other’s unconscious, his/her way of speaking, his/her style. The recognition of this unconscious knowledge is produced by the signs, punctuated enigmatically, of how every speaking being is affected by the unconscious. This produces the contingency of the meeting in couples, with the partner, with their symptoms. We find in the other the signs of their exile of the sexual relation. Then, the illusion of a never ending love appears. This begins with contingency, and later becomes the idea that this would last forever. There is a passage from contingency to necessity. This is the suspension point of love, the idea that it will never stop and this becomes the destiny and drama of love. In this way, Lacan speaks about courage in front of the fatal fate.
As speaking beings, the sexual relation doesn’t exist. The Other’s jouissance thought as a body, is always inadequate. Despite that in the level of sexuality we are separated from the Other, we can establish a relation with the Other through discourses, social bonds, and through love. The discourse produces rules and typified relations with the Other.
Jacques-Alain Miller in The partner-symptom says this access to the Other is different in males and females. Males accede through jouissance, it’s the jouissance of their own bodies. But females accede through love, they have a relation with words, they are always asking the Other to speak and they are waiting for the love words coming from the Other. So, the loss of the object of love can be experienced as castration.
What is the relationship between the demand of love in women and the feminine supplementary jouissance? The demand of love in women is addressed first towards the father and makes him exist. This demand is linked with the jouissance, so it produces the automatic insistence of love demand. This explains why no answer is able to satiate her demand of love, that is mixed with jouissance, without limits. So, the jouissance concerns the automatic function of love demand without bounds. Feminine position produces an articulation with jouissance beyond having. Women obtain their jouissance by love demand because love is knotted with jouissance.
In Seminar 23 Lacan says that a woman can be a symptom of a man, but for women, a man can be an affliction worse than a symptom, even a ravage. When love demand is directed to the Other, and it exceeds the phallic limit, it may come back later as excessive love. Love in men is relative to the phallus, they have a limit. Women are connected to the not-all. This love demand, is connected with the “without limits” from jouissance. When women lose limits in love demand, they come to a dark side which is confused with so called “feminine masochism”. Ravage can be the other face of love, Miller says.
4. Jouissance as such
The style of jouissance of one subject is always connected to the very first jouissance event, which has a traumatic value. Firstly, Lacan examines jouissance with the concept of prohibition and the concept of the Oedipus Complex. Jouissance is connected to the phallus. Here the main point is the Other’s desire. Later, he points out, when jouissance is impossible of being negativized, that is the jouissance of the Other. If jouissance is positivized,then there is a body through which we can enjoy. Jouissance as a body event, is the opposite of prohibition. Jouissance is not articulated to law’s desire but to the Other of contingency or random, the Other of traumatism, is not taken in dialectic but in fixation.
When Lacan goes beyond prohibition issues, he can find feminine jouissance. Thus, he goes beyond Freud’s development, beyond Penisneid due to its negative function. This special jouissance reserved for women is not taken in the opposition system between interdiction and its jouissance retrieval of Hegelian Aufhebung.
First, Lacan makes an opposition between female and male sexuality. Later he generalizes this jouissance until made it like jouissance as such, not oedipicus. This jouissance is reduced to a body event.
Lacan isolates in this women’s jouissance, a fraction of jouissance that is not able to be prohibited, symbolized, we cannot talk about it, and it has an affinity with infinity. It’s the jouissance outside the signifier and castration.
Lacan, in his late teaching, analyzes beyond Oedipus but not just in women. We can find later the unknown jouissance in men. This kind of jouissance concerns every speaking being. It’s a jouissance opaque to the meaning.
So, Lacan begins to develop the concept of sinthome. The sinthome is opaque to sense and this jouissance is a generalized jouissance for women and men. It’s a pure repetition.
Lacan says that there is One, there is not a sexual relation, and there is a body.
Jacques-Alain Miller in his last course The One alone develops the idea that there is One of the iteration. There is a reduction of the symbolic to One real that is repeated again and again. The sexual relation doesn’t exist, so there is One but not two. There’s only One which is repeated in iteration. Miller says, that there is no relation but there is a body. There are not two bodies, doesn’t matter if they are men or women. It’s the relation between the One and the body. The correlation of this One alone is this jouissance opaque to sense which concerns the register of the real, it concerns enjoying substance relative to the body. This body can’t be defined through image from mirror stage, not even through shape, but it’s a body through which one can jouir. It’s a body that enjoys by itself. It’s not the body of sexual relation. It’s a body that concerns existence level.
The inscription of the One alone concerns the unforgettable jouissance. When it’s written, a cycle of repetitions begins, but doesn’t add anything nor teaches anything. This repetition of jouissance is not the addition but the addiction because this experience doesn’t add anything and usually produces complaints. The addiction only keeps a relation with the S1 alone without a relation with the S2, representative of knowledge. There is a “self jouissance” of the body without a connection to S2. This jouissance comes in random ways, by contingency, and later it’s experienced as necessary, retroactively.
There is real register without law. It’s the pure iteration of the One of jouissance that Lacan names sinthome as a body event outside the sense’s order. In analytic experience we try to seize jouissance it through meaning.
The door Lacan opens in Seminar 20 with the feminine jouissance allows him to introduce the concept of sinthome as the singular jouissance of each speaking being that supposes a jouissance of the body beyond a woman or a man.
New York, july 2015