Sexual relationship

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French: rapport sexuel
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Jacques Lacan[edit | edit source]

There is No Relation Between the Sexes[edit | edit source]

Lacan first proposes his famous formula: il n'y a pas de rapport sexuel in 1970,<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 1969-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991: 134</ref> and takes it up again in his seminar of 1972-3.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 17</ref>

This formula is usually translated into English as "There is no such thing as a sexual relationship", which is misleading since Lacan is certainly not denying that people have sex!

The formula might be better rendered "There is no relation between the sexes", thus emphasizing that it is not primarily the act of sexual intercourse that Lacan is referring to but the question of the relation between the masculine sexual position and the feminine sexual position.

Sexual Difference[edit | edit source]

The formula thus condenses a number of points in Lacan's approach to the question of sexual difference:

Other of Langage[edit | edit source]

1. There is no direct, unmediated relation between the male and female sexual position, because the Other of language stands between them as a third party.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 64</ref>

"Between male and female human beings there is no such thing as an instinctive relationship' because all sexuality is marked by the signifier."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. (l975b) "Conférence à Genève sur le symptôme." Les Block-Notes de la psychanalyse. Brussels.</ref>

One consequence of this is that it is not possible to define perversion by reference to a supposedly natural form of the sexual relationship (as Freud did).

Heterosexuality is thus not natural but normative.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 223</ref>

Asymmetry[edit | edit source]

2. There is no reciprocity or symmetry between the male and female sexual positions because the symbolic order is fundamentally asymmetrical; there is no corresponding signifier which could signify Woman in the same way that the male sex is symbolized.

There is only one signifier, the phallus, which governs the relations between the sexes.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 289</ref>

There is thus no symbol for a symmetrical sexual relationship: "the sexual relationship cannot be written."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 35</ref>

Love[edit | edit source]

3. Relations between men and women can never be harmonious; "The most naked rivalry between men and women is eternal."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p. 263</ref>

Love is no more than an illusion designed to make up for the absence of harmonious relations between the sexes (whether presented in mythical terms, as in Plato's Symposium, or in psychoanalytic terms, as in Balint's concept of genital love).

Drives[edit | edit source]

4. The sexual drives are directed not towards a "whole person" but towards part-objects.

There is therefore no such thing as a sexual relationship between two subjects, only between a subject and a (partial) object.

For the man, the object a occupies the place of the missing partner, which produces the matheme of fantasy (SOa); in other words, the Woman does not exist for the man as a real subject, but only as a fantasy object, the cause of his desire.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 58</ref>

Woman and Mother[edit | edit source]

5. Woman cannot function sexually qua Woman but only qua mother; "Woman begins to function in the sexual relationship only as mother."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p. 36</ref>

Sex and Meaning[edit | edit source]

6. As something rooted in the real, sex is opposed to meaning; and "sex, in opposing itself to sense, is also, by definition, opposed to relation, to communication."<ref>Copjec, Joan. 1994: 21</ref>

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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