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Notes On 'This Sex Which Is Not One' Irigaray Notes

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Irigaray, Luce, This Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY, 1985 (6th printing, 1996) Themes Criticisms of psychoanalysis; sociocultural issues: Psychoanalysis does not question, or far too little, its own historical determinants and enmeshment in discourse. Freud advises caution, especially re: the determining social factors that partially conceal what feminine sexuality might be. Still, these appeals for caution don't keep Freud from neglecting the analysis of determining socio-economic and cultural factors. He himself is enmeshed in a power structure. Justifies male aggression and female passivity in terms of anatomical-physiological imperatives. 'Penis envy' translates woman's resentment and jealousy at being deprived of the advantages reserved for men ('autonomy' 'power' etc) but also expresses resentment at having been largely excluded from political, social and cultural responsibilities. Considering existing systems: Women are deprived of the worth of their sex - no one is supposed to know who's deprived them or why, and 'nature' is held accountable. 'But that order is indeed the one that lays down the law today. To fail to recognize this would be as naive as to let it continue to rule without questioning the conditions that make its domination possible.' In order for a woman to reach the place where she takes pleasure as a woman, analysis of systems of oppression brought to bear upon her is necessary. What role has been marked off for her in the organisation of property, the philosophical systems, the religious mythologies that have dominated the West for centuries?
Reversal is not progress: It's still a binary and thus still within patriarchal parameters. Where pleasure is concerned, the master is not necessarily well served. Thus, to reverse the relation - especially in the economy of sexuality - does not seem desirable. What's important is to disconcert the staging of representation according to exclusively 'masculine' parameters. Not replacing, but disrupting and modifying. No good to redistribute power but leave structure intact. Reversal would still be caught up in the economy of the same. Women may "dream" of a phallic "seizure of power" and it may sometimes be accomplished marginally, but for society as a whole such a reversal is impossible. Reversal constitutes an attempt to duplicate the exclusion of what exceeds representation: the other, woman. Putting woman in the position of 'masculine subject.' Not a matter of reversing but hierarchization. There may be a compelling need for women to remain among themselves; especially as a political tactic. But danger of reversal: phallic power closes itself in on a circle. Psychoanalytic Theory: For Freud, the first phases of sexual development unfold in the same way for boys and girls. Freud noted the aggressive impulses of the girl and her 'incredible phallic activity'. For 'femininity' to arise, a much greater repression of these instincts will be required; especially the transformation of sexual 'activity' into 'passivity.' 'Freud has little to say about the effects of the repression for/by women of this infantile sexual energy.' Specificity of the Feminine Castration Complex: Freud states that, if the castration complex marks the decline of the Oedipus complex of the boy, the reverse is true for the girl, who sees that her clitoris is unworthy. Continuing penis envy. Enters into desire for father. She needn't fear the loss of an organ that she does not have, and only repeated frustrations from her father will lead her belatedly and often incompletely to deflect her desire away from him. The development of a little girl into a normal woman requires transformations that are much more complex than those required in the more linear development of male sexuality. Indeed, 'penis envy', as a desire, is overly 'active' and so still has to give way to 'passive' receptivity. Clitoris has to give way to vagina: girl has to change not only her sexual object but also her erogenous zone. Move towards passivity 'is indispensable.' Freud saw the female's larger amount of narcissism, physical vanity etc as 'concealment of genital deficiency.' This seems to belong for Freud to the 'normal' evolution of femininity. Freud: 'more constraint...applied to the libido when it is pressed into the service of the feminine function'. The accomplishment of the aim of biology has been entrusted to the aggressiveness of men, independent of women's consent. The idea that frigidity might be the effect of such a conception - violent, violating - of sexual relations does not appear in Freud's analyses. Re: masochism, Freud states that 'the suppression of women's aggressiveness which is prescribed for them constitutionally and imposed on them socially favours the development of powerful

masochistic impulses...diverted inwards. Thus, masochism, as people say, is truly feminine'. Whatever Freud wrote on the development of women, the topic remained quite enigmatic - a 'dark continent' - to him. Girl's early active desire (and suppression thereof): Ovum's not passive. Jones distinguishes castration from aphanisis, which would represent the complete and permanent disappearance of all sexual pleasure. Fear of 'aphanisis', following upon the radical frustration of her Oedipal desires, is what induces the girl to renounce her femininity in order to identify herself with the sex that eludes her pleasure. Precocious femininity in the so-called 'pregenital' stages. 'Penis envy' in the girl is secondary, and often defensive, with respect to a specifically feminine desire to enjoy the penis. Deutsch emphasises masochism: 'I want to be castrated' takes over from unrealisable phallic desires. Lacan, however, argues that an inadequate differentiation of the registers of the real, imaginary and symbolic leads psychoanalysts to reduce the symbolic dimension - the real issue in castration - to a frustration of the oral type. Importance of phallus. Looking / Touching: The woman is to be the beautiful object of contemplation (as in Lacan's reference to St. Theresa). A predominance of the visual, and of the discrimination and individualization of form, is especially foreign to female eroticism. Commodification/Relations Among Women: Why are men not objects of exchange? The economy in place within our societies requires women to lend themselves to alienation in consumption and to exchanges in which they don't participate, and that men be exempt from being used and circulated like commodities. Women's reproductive use value (productive of children and labor force) and constitution as exchange value underwrite the symbolic order: women's serve as fetish-objects, and as the manifestation and the circulation of the power of the Phallus. Commodities among themselves are not equal, nor alike, nor different. They only become so when they're compared by and for man. Commodity is disinvested of its body and reclothed in a form that makes it suitable for exchange among men. As mother, woman remains on the side of (re)productive nature and, because of this, man can never fully transcend his relation to the 'natural.' But this relationship has to be denied so that relations among men may prevail. This means that mothers (that is, reproductive instruments), must be private property. The virginal woman, on the other hand, is pure exchange value. Once deflowered, woman's relegated to the status of use value; to her entrapment in private property. Mother, virgin, prostitute: these are the social roles imposed on women. The characteristics of 'feminine sexuality' derive from them. Neither as mother nor as virgin nor as prostitute has woman any right to her own pleasure. Just as a commodity has no mirror it can use to reflect itself, so woman serves as reflection - as image of and for man - but lacks specific qualities of her own. Just as commodities can't make exchanges among themselves without the intervention of a subject that measures them against a standard, so it is with women. Just as a commodity finds the expression of its value in an equivalent that necessarily remains external to it, so woman derives her prices from her relation to the male sex. Woman exists only as an occasion for transference between man and his fellow man; indeed between man and himself. But what if these 'commodities' refused to go on the 'market'? What if they maintained 'another' kind of commerce among themselves? Without accounts and without end? Use and exchange would be indistinguishable and pleasure would not entail possession. Freud: Penis envy leads her the girl turn against her mother (who she blames and sees as equally castrated). In Freud's account, the daughter has to turn away from the mother, 'hate' her, in order to enter into the Oedipus complex. Pre-Oedipal Phase: Freud reexamines the girl's fixation on her mother, ultimately stating that this phase is more important for the girl. However, he focuses on certain aspects that might be qualified as negative or problematic eg the girl's numerous grievances against the mother (such as premature weaning and, especially, the fact of having been born a girl) result in ambivalence in the girl's attachment to her mother. The woman's tendency toward activity is also seen as an attempt to rid herself of her need for her mother. Women have always been put in a position of mutual rivalry. Klein refuses to assimilate clitoral masturbation to masculine activity. Vaginal excitement occurs earlier, but fantasies of incorporation of the father's penis and the destruction of the mother-rival that accompany it lead the girl to be anxious about countermeasures on her mother's part, for there's the risk that the revenge-seeking mother might deprive her of her internal sexual organs. In any event, the girl does not wait for the 'castration complex' to turn toward her father. For Klein, the 'Oedipus complex' is at work in pregenital drives. So, not only does weaning from the 'good breast' lead to hostility toward her mother, this is aggravated by the fact that the

mother represents the forbidding of the oral satisfaction of Oedipal desires. For Klein, the first form of the girl's desire for a penis is the desire to introject the father's. Thus, this is not 'penis envy' but the expression, as early as the oral phase, of feminine desires for the intromission of the penis. Such Oedipal precocity has dangers: the father's penis can both satisfy and destroy. Also, given that the penis has already been introjected by the mother and the girl would take possession of it, the girl experiences a ertain aggressiveness toward the mother. But she also possesses fears re: mother's revenge. She thus adopts a 'masculine' position in reaction to the frustration and dangers of her Oedipal desires. This masculinity is therefore quite secondary and conceals incestuous fantasies to take the mother's place and have the father's child. A long history has put all women in the same sexual, social and cultural condition: whatever inequalities may exist among women, they all undergo the same oppression. It's important for women to be able to join together. Making each woman 'conscious' of the fact that what she's felt in her personal experience is a condition shared by all women. The Female and the Unconscious: 'We might wonder whether certain properties attributed to the unconscious may not, in part, be ascribed to the female sex, which is censured by the logic of consciousness.' Woman / The Feminine: Irigaray uses the term 'woman' in such a way as to mark its ambiguity. What remains the most completely prohibited to woman is that she should express her own sexual pleasure. Her desire is often interpreted, and feared, as insatiable hunger. Irigaray sees excess as what makes sexual relation possible; not a reversal of phallic power. Is not laughter the first form of liberation? When women want to escape from exploitation, they don't merely destroy a few 'prejudices'; they disrupt dominant values. Irigaray does not want to be associated with any group that purports to determine the 'truth' of the feminine. The most important thing is to expose the struggles appropriate for each woman. If you find yourselves attracted by something other than what their laws, rules and rituals prescribe, realize that - perhaps - you have come across your 'nature.' One/None/Two/Multiplicity: Patriarchy is structured around the one; that is, the phallus. Woman's sexual organ represents the horror of nothing to see: a "hole" in its scoptophilic lens. It's evident in Greek statuary that this nothing-to-see has to be excluded. Woman's genitals are absent, masked, sewn back up. Value is granted to the only definable form, yet women's sexuality is neither 'one' nor 'none' - for one thing, her genitalia consists of 2 lips that contribute to her unique auto-eroticism, in a way in which what is touched can't be distinguished from what touches (though the one of form divides that contact of those lips). But woman is neither one nor two: 'She resists all adequate definition.' What women desire is nothing and everything. Her words are inaudible for whoever listens with ready-made grids. Women have many erogenous zones (not just 2 lips) and their pleasure is fluid and multiple. Multiplicity is different to polymorphous perversion in which the erogenous zones would lie waiting to be regrouped under the primacy of the phallus. Polymorphous perversity brings multiplicity back to the economy of sameness. Freud: 'in the beginning, the little girl is a little boy.' The masculine serves 'from the beginning' as the model for what's described and prescribed of the girl's desire. In the description of polymorphous perversity, there's very little question of the pleasure that may accrue from "fluids." Yet the pleasure of the fluid subsists, in women, far beyond the so-called oral stage: it's what is flowing within her, outside her, and among women. Polymorphous perversity is still prescribed and 'normalized' by masculine models. But her sexuality is plural: she does not have to choose between clitoral activity and vaginal passivity, for she has sex organs more or less everywhere. The geography of her pleasure is far more diversified, complex and subtle. 'I am going to make an effort - for one cannot simply leap outside that discourse - to situate myself at its borders and to move continuously from the inside to the outside.' 'What is...?' is the question to which the feminine does not allow itself to submit. Yet this is suppressed by patriarchal society. Women are divided up according to the best interests of the other - contrary to their own multiplicity. No effort spared to prevent woman from touching herself. Consequences of suppression of female multiplicity and pleasure: Woman is left either not having a 'self' or having a multitude of 'selves' appropriated by 'them'. What happens if the mirror provides nothing to see?
No sex, for example? So it is with the girl. And when Lacan says that in the constituent effects of the mirror

image the sex of one's like(ness) does not matter, is not this a way of stressing that the feminine sex will be excluded from it? And that it is a sexualized, or unsexualized, male body that will determine the Gestalt?
Women are alienated from themselves, their pleasure and their desire - they have lost touch with themselves and become paralysed in representations and notions of lack and passivity, as well as male admiration and 'love'. Women do not know (or no longer know) what they want: they are imported into another economy where they are completely unable to find themselves - just so long as the male will 'take' her as his 'object'. It's possible that the woman may find pleasure in this role, but it is 'masochistic prostitution'. Must her multiplicity be understood as shards? The exclusion of a female imaginary certainly puts woman in the position of experiencing herself only fragmentarily in the margins of a dominant ideology as waste or excess: 'what is left of a mirror invested by the (masculine) "subject" to reflect himself, to copy himself. Woman's desire may be recovered only in secret, in hiding, with anxiety and guilt.' But if the female imaginary could bring itself into play otherwise than as scraps, would this represent itself as one universe? No. By closing herself off, she renounces the pleasure she gets from the nonsuture of her lips. If, as a woman who is also in public, you have the audacity to say something about your desire, the result is scandal and repression. Labelling of woman as abnormal, even pathological, if her utterances are unintelligible according to the code in force. Dalto stresses the need for the mother to be recognised as 'woman' by the father in order for the girl to feel her feminine sex has value. Where women's gestures are paralysed or form part of the masquerade, they are often difficult to "read" (except for what resists or subsists "beyond", in suffering but also laughter). This requires that woman maintain in her own body the material substratum of the object of desire but that she herself never have access to desire; hence her drives are without any possible representatives or representations. The symbolic system that cuts women in 2 is in no way appropriate to them. No longer in the natural order but not yet in the social order that they nonetheless maintain, women are the symptom of the exploitation of individuals by a society that remunerates them only partially, or even not at all. Unless subordination to a system that oppresses you should be considered compensation? Is her pleasure even at issue? That she has multiple orgasms does not mean she takes pleasure in her pleasure. Those orgasms are necessary as a demonstration of masculine power. The techniques for pleasure applied in porn have hardly been suited for women's pleasure. The exaggerated importance of penis seize, violence and rape etc all perhaps bring woman forcibly to sexual pleasure, but what sort of pleasure is it?
Masquerade / Mimesis: 'femininity' is a role, an image, imposed by male systems of representation. In this masquerade, the woman loses herself by playing on her femininity. This masquerade requires an effort for which she's not compensated, unless her pleasure comes simply from being chosen as an object of consumption. Psychoanalysts say that masquerading corresponds to woman's desire. Wrong. Masquerade is what women do in order to recuperate some element of desire; to participate in man's desire but at the price of renouncing their own. They are there as objects for sexual enjoyment, not as those who enjoy. Masquerade is what Freud calls "femininity": the belief that it's necessary to become a woman, whereas a man is a man from the outset and has only to effect his being-a-man. The female Oedipus complex is woman's entry into a system that isn't hers. To play with mimesis (assuming the female role deliberately) is, for a woman, to try to recover the place of her exploitation by discourse, without allowing herself to be simply reduced to it. It's to convert a form of subordination into affirmation. It makes visible, by an effect of playful repetition, what was supposed to remain invisible. 'That "elsewhere" of feminine pleasure can be found only at the price of crossing back through the mirror that subtends all speculation. For this pleasure is not simply situated in a process of reflection or mimesis, nor on one side of this process or the other...Instead, it refers all these categories and ruptures back to the necessities of the self-representation of phallic desire in discourse. A playful crossing, and an unsettling one, which would allow woman to rediscover the place of her "self-affection."' 'In a first phase, there is perhaps only one path: mimicry. But the mimetic role itself is complex, for it presupposes that one can copy anything at all, anyone at all, can receive all impressions, without appropriating them to oneself, and without adding any. That is, can be nothing but a possibility that the philosopher may exploit for (self-) reflection.' In Plato, there are two mimeses: production, which would lie more in the realm of music, and imitation, specularization, adequation, and reproduction. It is the second form that is privileged throughout the history of philosophy. Yet it's on the basis of the first form that the possibility of a woman's writing may come about.

Female 'specificity' rather than sameness (or 'equality'): Freud does not see 2 sexes whose differences are articulated in intercourse and in the imaginary and symbolic processes that regulate the workings of a society and culture. For women to be 'equal' is to be 'like them' and, thus, not women. We need to think in terms of female 'specificity'. But women are obviously not to be expected to renounce equality in the sphere of civil rights. How can the double demand - equality and difference - be articulated?
Nearness, Mutuality, Relating to the Other: Woman always remains several but kept from dispersion because the other is already within her and is autoerotically familiar to her. Which is not to say that she appropriates the other for herself. Ownership and property are quite foreign to the feminine; at least sexually. But not nearness. This consequently makes all discrimination of identity, and thus all forms of property, impossible. What a feminine syntax might be is not simple nor easy to state, because in that "syntax" there would no longer be subject or object, nor proper meanings, proper names. Instead, it would involve proximity but in such an extreme form that it would preclude any distinction of identities and therefore any establishment of ownership. Speaking (as) woman wouldn't be to speak about women or men but would 'among other things, permit women to speak to men'. I love you: neither you nor I severed. Neither one nor two. White and red at once, we give birth to all the colors. Strange way couples are divided up, the other the image of the one so that any move toward the other means turning back to one's own mirage. A (scarcely) living mirror, she/it is frozen, mute. Exhausting labor of copying, miming: no exuberance or turbulence, otherwise you'll smash the mirror. You/I: we are always several at once. And how could one dominate the other? One can't be distinguished from the other, which does not mean they're indistinct. We haven't been taught, nor allowed, to express multiplicity. You try to conform to an alien order and come back divided into red and white, black and white. The 'truth' turns us to statues. Yet we're women from the start: we don't have to be turned into women by them. It's not that we have a territory of our own, but their fatherland imprisons us in enclosed spaces where we can't keep living as ourselves. No surface holds, but no abyss either. Depth is not a chasm: our depth is in our body, our alltouching itself whereby inside/outside, above/below etc are intermingled. Our horizon will never stop expanding: we're always open. Our bodies are nourished by our mutual pleasure. Between us, one is not the 'real' and the other her imitation. We relate to one another without simulacrum. No need to fashion a mirror image to be "doubled". Prior to any representation, we're 2. You'll always have the touching beauty of a first time if you aren't congealed in reproductions. Day and night are mingled in our gazes, our bodies. If we divide light from night, we cut ourselves into 2. Mirror Motif: The mirror paralyses the commodity. 'As for the priority of symmetry, it co-relates with that of the flat mirror - which may be used for the self-reflection of the masculine subject in language, for its constitution as subject of discourse. Now woman, starting with this flat mirror alone, can only come into being as the inverted other of the masculine subject (his alter ego), or again as lack. Thus in the advent of a "feminine" desire, this flat mirror cannot be privileged and symmetry cannot function as it does in the logic and discourse of a masculine subject.' Relations among subjects have always had recourse to the flat mirror. What "other" has been reduced by it to the hard-to-represent function of the negative? Thus it was necessary both to reexamine the domination of the specular over history and also - since the specular is one of the irreducible dimensions of the speaking animal - to put into place a mode of specularization that allows for the relation of woman to "herself" and to her like. Which presupposes a curved mirror, but also one that is folded back on itself, with its impossible reappropriation "on the inside" of the mind, of thought, of subjectivity. Intervention disturbs the staging of representation according to too-exclusively masculine parameters.

Chapter Summaries (with page numbers) 'The Looking Glass, from the Other Side' 17: 'on this side of the screen of their projections, on this plane of their representations, I can't live. I'm stuck, paralysed by all those images, words, fantasies. Frozen. Transfixed, including by their admiration, their praises, what they call their "love." Listen to them all talking about Alice: my mother, Eugene, Lucien, Gladys...You've heard them dividing me up, in their own best interests. So either I don't have any "self," or else I have a multitude of "selves" appropriated by them, for them, according to their needs or desires. Yet this last one is not saying what he wants - of me. I'm completely lost. In fact, I've always been lost, but I didn't feel it before. I was busy conforming to their wishes.' 'This Sex Which is Not One' 23: Female sexuality has always been conceptualised on the basis of masculine parameters. Women's erogenous zones never amount to anything but a clitoris-sex that's not comparable to the noble phallic organ, or a hole - a non-sex. Nothing to say of woman's pleasure - just lack. Penis is the only sexual organ recognised as of value, thus woman's seen to attempt to appropriate it by every means for herself. 24: Woman lives her own desire only as the expectation that she may at last come to possess an equivalent of the male organ. Yet this is in the phallic economy - foreign to her own pleasure. Autoeroticism different for the sexes: man needs an instrument in order to touch himself (eg his hand) and this requires activity. Yet the woman touches herself without any need for mediation, and before there's any way to distinguish activity from passivity. She "touches herself" all the time, and no one can forbid her to do so, for her genitals are formed of 2 lips in continuous contact. Thus, within herself, she's already 2 - but not divisible into one(s) - that caress each other. 25: Re: Western sexuality, one finds imperatives governed by man's relation to his mother: the desire to penetrate, appropriate the mystery of the womb, the secret of his origin. Desire to revive a very old relationship (intrauterine but also prehistoric) to the maternal. Woman, in this sexual imaginary, is a more or less obliging prop for man's fantasies. That she may find pleasure in that role is possible, but such pleasure is 'a masochistic prostitution of her body to a desire that is not her own'. Not knowing what she wants, so long as he will 'take' her as his 'object'. Thus she won't say what she herself wants; 'moreover, she does not know, or no longer knows, what she wants.' As Freud admits, the beginnings of a girl's sexual life are so 'obscure' and 'faded' that one would have to dig very deep to discover beneath the traces of this civilisation the vestiges of a more archaic civilisation that might give some clue to woman's sexuality. That civilisation would have a different language; 'woman's desire has doubtless been submerged by the logic that has dominated the West since the time of the Greeks.' 'Within this logic, the predominance of the visual, and of the discrimination and individualization of form, is particularly for(26)eign to female eroticism. Woman takes pleasure more from touching than from looking, and her entry into a dominant scopic economy signifies, again, her consignment to passivity; she is to be the beautiful object of contemplation. While her body finds itself thus eroticized, and called to a double movement of exhibition of chaste retreat in order to stimulate the drives of the "subject," her sexual organ represents the horror of nothing to see. A defect in this systematics of representation and desire. A "hole" in its scoptophilic lens. It is already evident in Greek statuary that this nothing-to-see has to be excluded, rejected, from such a scene of representation. Woman's genitals are simply absent, masked, sewn back up inside their "crack."' If woman takes pleasure from the incompleteness of form that allows her organ to touch itself over and over, that pleasure's denied by a civilisation that privileges phallomorphism. Value granted to the only definable form. The one of form (of the individual, of the male sex organ, of the proper name) supplants, while separating and dividing, that contact of at least two (lips) which keep women in touch with herself in a way in which what is touch can't be distinguished from what touches. Whence the mystery that woman represents. She's neither one nor two. 'She resists all adequate definition.' Her sex organ is counted as none: the negative/reverse of the penis. (27) Maternity fills the gaps in a repressed female sexuality. Perhaps man and woman no longer caress each other except through that mediation between them that the child - preferably the boy - represents? Man, identified with the son, rediscovers the pleasure of maternal fondling; woman touches herself again by caressing that part of her body: her baby-penis-clitoris. Man's desire and woman's are strangers to each other. (28) Her sexuality is plural. Does not have to choose between clitoral activity and vaginal passivity. Each contribute to woman's pleasure, among other caresses. 'woman has sex organs more or less

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