Archive: 08 October 2006

On Freud and Lacan:

Throughout most of this week's reading, Freud appears to explore several binary aspects of sexuality. For example, he states that “the sexuality of psycho-neurotics has remained at, or been carried back to, an infantile stage”, and that thumb-sucking can lead to masturbation in his attempt to dispel the idea that children are not sexually curious beings. This idea is further emphasised by his use of Darwinian language in stating that “infantile amnesia...turns everyone's childhood into something like a prehistoric epoch”. Rather than there being a divide between an asexual stage and a sexual stage, which develops at puberty, Freud proposes that the development of sexuality is more of an evolutionary process that begins at birth, that “sexual impulses are already present in the new-born child”. According to Freud, such evolution may even override social constructions that are put into place, for example through schooling, to make us feel ashamed of our sexual impulses. He seems to suggest that, rather than being opposite forces, nature is furthered by nurture, as “education will not be trespassing beyond its appropriate domain if it limits itself to following the lines which have already been laid down organically and to impressing them somewhat more clearly and deeply”. What results is a volcano effect at puberty.

Freud continues to display notions of Difference or Otherness through the gender divide. The castration complex suggests that woman is a non-man, as the penis is “missing in women”, resulting in a penis-envy and the desire to be male themselves. This sort of difference does not only divide the two sexes, but suggests that one is superior, or rather more normal, than the other. (It would also be entirely logical to suggest also that men are just women with an extra attachment). This with/without difference is directly proportional to the “'active' and 'passive'” binary in sexual activity, having previously stated that “mastery is destined to make a masculine sexual activity”. There is a often a perception that the person who performs the sexual act is the powerful/masculine/phallic “giver” and the one who is subject to it is the feminine/weak “receiver” or orifice. Freud goes on to argue that sexuality belongs to the masculine (p135-6), no matter which sex displays it. Unlike the boy who becomes a man, in becoming a woman, a girl must repress her “masculine sexuality”, later referred to as a “childish sexuality”, something that invariably leads to hysteria. What results here is the deconstruction of two binaries (child-adult; man-woman) and the creation of one super-binary (adult (and potentially insane)-woman and child-sexual man)*.

* I think this is what Freud is getting at – it's often quite unclear whether or not he is insulting women.

As I began reading "The Mirror Stage", I was unable to read the essay in terms of Sexual Difference, until I reached the middle of page 3: "it is a necessary condition for the maturation of the gonad of the female pigeon that it should see another member of its species". This reminded me of Birgitta's story earlier in the week, where a naked boy and girl saw each other for the first time. Through seeing an image of oneself, the subject is able to place him/herself in the world. It acts as a confirmation of who that being is. Homeopmorphic and heteromorphic identification allows for the subject to be distinguished through a process of "I am nothing like X, I am just like Y; therefore X and Y are opposites". Mimicry is then put into play, as the subject endeavours to use X and Y as models for their own identity. Seeking outside confirmation would be a symptom of "paranoiac" behaviour according to Lacan.

As "I" is brought into relation with "everything else", a "paranoic alientation" ensues, and according to Miss Freud, it would seem that the alienation of the self in the social sphere is what leads to a hysterisation.(I think!)

At the end of the mirror stage, the realization of this dialectic leads to the externalisation of desire, and by consequence, what we want is regulated by the social sphere, as our alienated selves is in "dynamic opposition [with] the sexual libido".

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