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capitalism and the discontent of sexuation

20 August 2015 - psychanalyse

An Australian company that designs men’s lingerie said they had to expand online to keep up with rising demand. HommeMystere designs sexy, tailor made male undergarments that feel and look like women’s lingerie, designed to fit the shape of the male body. Despite many people thinking the designs are meant to cater for gay men, a survey revealed over 90% of customers who responded were in heterosexual relationships. Apparently, it is a response to men’s wish to know what it feels like to wear lingerie, and possibly experience what women feel when wearing lingerie.

This is a good opportunity to elaborate on Freud’s concept of Penisneid, which he situated as coming from women, although Little Hans was not indifferent to that issue.

The Lacanian clinic shows that it is not exclusive to either sex. There is Penisneid from men towards other men, as well as vaginaneid from men towards women. It can be called jouissance-envy, or the imaginary belief that an object or a capability possessed by an other may procure a better jouissance than mine. There is thus also parturition envy, given the ability of women to endure the amount of pain involved in child birth.

The early Freudian clinic was well aware of this, as Felix Boehm shows (The Femininity Complex in Men, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 11:444-469, 1930). Some excerpts:

“…when men are always finding fault with women, it is because they are angry that they cannot themselves be women as well.”

This is an other way of saying that someone you disparage is not exactly neutral to your libido.

“I would note here that many male patients can describe in phantasy how pleasant it would be to be a woman and have intercourse as a woman—this is so even when feminine tendencies do not play any special part in their life.”

“The distaste felt by many men for everything feminine arises out of the repression of the wish to be a woman. Thus some men detest a broad pelvis, large buttocks or hanging breasts, because these are feminine attributes. Behind the hatred of the peculiarly feminine characteristics of women there lies the wish to possess these characteristics oneself and this, in turn, conceals envy of the larger penis which women are imagined to possess.”

Nota to my fellow gay men: now you know why you insist so much for “straight-acting” as a characteristic for a potential boyfriend, in a nice bit of identification with the uncastrated mum, that unforgettable Other.

“The male is first of all a little girl, then, when little by little he has mastered his castration-anxiety, he becomes a man and late in life becomes once more a woman.”

“But even in the prime of life a man’s unconscious wishes to be a woman never quite cease; we all know men who hasten from one success to another and seem to have attained to full male genitality and yet are as difficult to deal with as any prima donna.”

While the male body has a cut-off point, the female body has access to something more, what Lacan called a supplementary jouissance. In Steinbeck’s own words, through the Mother character in The Grapes of Wrath:

“Man, he lives in jerks—baby born an’ a man dies, an’ that’s a jerk—gets a farm an’ loses his farm, an’ that’s a jerk. Woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that.”

That’s more opportunity for envy. That particular envy may well be the nexus of all men envies.
And if you think those remarks are dated, have a look at this.

Coincidence: this was published when I was writing this item, in August 2015. I particularly like “I get jealous when my gf goes alone to the gym. All I can think about is how many guys are trying to get at her”. Yeah, you wish, Mister!!!

Let’s call this the discontent of sexuation. Neither sex is truly content with their sexuation: no forthcoming answers as to why that particular body, why that particular object choice, why that particular position of loving. On top of which, 1+1 remains 1+1, not a 1. Capitalism, politicians and other tricksters are always very quick at seizing on such discontents: buy my product, your discontent will go away for ever, you will obtain a full satisfaction, and you will not lack the lack. By the same token, you will not know the experience of making psychical efforts to find something else, somewhere else, thus missing the metonymic train.

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