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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Luce Irigaray  

2010-04-02 12:18:20|  分类: 女性主义 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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http://www.colorado.edu/English/courses/ENGL2012Klages/Irigaray.html

The phallogocentric system generates many binary oppositions; one of which is:

penis/vagina/nothing/clitoris/labia

In this binary, the penis is privileged over both zero and multiples. So the opposite of the penis is many different things - this might be a moment of deconstruction. There is excess on the right side of the binary, what are the implications of this excess as opposed to the lack that is seen in the Freudian paradigm? This is what the French Feminists are interested in --Cixoius and Irigaray want to turn the idea of lack into an idea of excess and challenge the binary opposition that is evident in the phallogocentric system of language. The French Feminists say that women don't fit into a binary opposition, they are more, they are in excess of the left side of the opposition. There is more to woman than lack or nothingness. When culture privileges the left side of the binary, the penis, we subordinate multiplicity, this type of privileging does away with multiples, which includes the female body, the feminine gender and female sexuality. These things are subordinated in favor of the perceived oneness of the male body, the masculine gender and male sexuality. Phallogocentrism sets up simple binary oppositions which are not satisfying to the French Feminists, they want to challenge phallogocentrism and explore the possibilities of a system that is not set up on these simple binary oppositions, they want to explore what the notion of excess could mean to not only female gender and sexuality, but male sexuality as well, Irigaray, also, wants to explore how this notion of excess could impact our thinking about heterosexuality and homosexuality.

The French Feminists believe that gender differences have an impact on sexuality and that if you use the penis as a metaphor for not only gender but sexuality as well; it figures sexuality as a oneness rather than a multiplicity because there is one sexual organ, the penis, there is one source of sexual pleasure, the penis, there is one notion of sexual desire, that of masculine desire.

In Freudian paradigm, female sexuality is viewed and defined in relation to or in opposition to male sexuality. Irigaray states that female sexuality always refers back to male sexuality in a patriarchal culture. --- Her first sentence in the article, pg. 99 --- "Female sexuality has always been theorized within masculine parameters." Female sexuality is therefore dependent for its existence on male sexuality. Irigaray asks, where is female sexuality located if female sexuality always relates back to the penis? Irigaray also points out that in the Freudian model, female sexuality is always coded in terms of reproduction, that the notions of female sexuality are caught up in reproduction and that reproduction is also linked to female pleasure and desire.

In her article, "This Sex Which is Not One," Irigaray questions the assumption that female sexuality is dependent upon male sexuality. She asks and attempts to answer, such questions as, Where is female sexuality located if it always refers back to the penis? Where does female pleasure reside? What is female desire and what does it look like, if it looks like anything at all? And why does Freud insist that the penis is the only true sex organ?

Irigaray says that in this phallogocentric model, the kind of sexuality that gets privileged is one based on looking because the one sexual organ, the penis, is visible. So the Freudian model of sexuality, which privileges the penis, is based on the visual; it is scopophilic.

They (girls) notice the penis of a brother or playmate, strikingly visible and of large proportions, at once recognize it as the superior counterpart of their own small and inconspicuous organ, and from that time forward fall a victim to envy for the penis. (Sexuality and the Psychology of Love, "Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes", pg.177.)

Male sexuality is based on having a penis, which is privileged because it can be seen; it is visible (and larger); therefore, it is superior. In contrast, a woman's sexual organ(s) cannot be seen; therefore it is inferior and becomes equated with having nothing. In other words, male sexuality is based on having a penis, female sexuality is based on having nothing. This system sets up the simple binary opposition of penis/nothing.

According to Freud, since women have nothing, women are always trying to get a penis for themselves in order to fill the lack: " A little girl . . . makes her judgment and her decision in a flash. She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it" (Ibid, pg. 177). Freud theorizes that women do one or a combination of the following three things in order to fulfill the desire to have a penis:

1. She will try to acquire the penis for herself by having a baby, especially a male baby.

But now the girl's libido slips into a new position by means - there is no other way of putting it - of the equation "penis=child." She gives up her wish for a penis and puts in place of it a wish for a child (Ibid, p. 180-81).

This desire has its roots in the Oedipus Complex, when the female child yearns to have a baby by her father to make up for her lack of a penis. This "wish" is repressed and redirected to having a baby with a man other than her father.

2. She will find or attempt to find a husband who is like her father, whom she believes is capable of giving it (the penis) to her. In fact, Freud believes that in certain cases newly married women "wish to castrate the young husband and keep his penis" (Ibid, p.72).

3. She will try to procure the masculine rights and privileges that the penis represents:

The hope of someday obtaining a penis in spite of everything and so of becoming like a man may persist to an incredibly late age and may become a motive for the strangest and otherwise unaccountable actions. Or again, a process may set in which might be described as a "denial," ....Thus a girl may refuse to accept the fact of being castrated, may harden herself in the conviction that she does possess a penis and may subsequently be compelled to behave as though she were a man. (Ibid, pg. 178)

According to Freud, if a woman acts like a man, i.e., rational, logic, etc, she is in essence denying the `fact of her castration' and is neurotic.

Therefore, according to Irigaray's reading of Freud, in the Freudian paradigm, female desire is always the desire for a penis to fill the lack or nothingness. Male desire, on the other hand, is to get back to the mother's body, to have sexual relations with his mother as is evidenced in the Oedipus complex. The result is that male and female desire look different; the female attempts to fill her desire by getting a penis, and the male attempts to fill his desire by having sex with a female other than his mother.

This explains sexual desire, but Irigaray sees a difference between female desire and female pleasure. The female desire to get a penis doesn't address female pleasure. According to Freud, female pleasure, as opposed to female desire, can be found, first and foremost, in reproduction. A woman's sexual pleasure is closely linked with her reproductive capabilities; it is only through sex as a reproductive act and the subsequent childbirth and child rearing that a women is able to gain pleasure from sexual intercourse, since a child is a penis substitute. Irigaray wants to talk about female sexual desire without the maternal instinct, she wants to divorce female pleasure from a woman's reproductive capacities. There is no relation between sexuality and reproduction for men --- it can and is separated, but for women, in the Freudian model there seems to be no such separation.

There is also another component of female pleasure, according to Freud, and that is the pleasure a women gains from being an (sexual) object of male desire. Based on this, he says that 1. women's pleasure is always masochistic, it comes from being a sexual object, from being looked at and desired by men -- and 2. Women get pleasure by giving a man pleasure; pleasure, for a women comes from the emotional connection and relationship of pleasing a man. Irigaray question this notion of maschocistic pleasure by pointing out that women in the sexual imaginary of Western culture have always been a male fantasy, hence maschocism is something forced on women by culture, not a quality inherent within them. Thus, women don't define their own sexuality, desire, or pleasure. Irigaray states that historically female desire has been located in male desire, thus a woman's pleasure does not reside in the woman herself. In other words, men gain pleasure from sexual intercourse and women gain pleasure from emotional connection and relationship and by being a beautiful object for a man's viewing pleasure.

Irigaray states that the Freudian notion of sexuality constructs a certain binary opposition:

...the opposition "virile" clitoral activity/"feminine" vaginal passivity which Freud--and many others--claims are alternative behaviors or steps in the process of becoming a sexually normal woman, seems prescribed more by the practice of masculine sexuality than by anything else. (Pg. 99)

In other words, the practice of masculine sexuality requires that a woman gain pleasure from vaginal intercourse, which is viewed as feminine and passive, rather than clitoral manipulation, which is viewed as masculine and active, since it is through vaginal intercourse that men are able to have an orgasm and thus gain their own pleasure. In this paradigm, women must be passive (enjoy vaginal intercourse only) in order to be thought of as a normal, non-incentous, reproductive, heterosexual, adult; one who is feminine and the object of the masculine subject. Female sexual pleasure and/or orgasm, for the woman herself, is strikingly absent in the Freudian notion of sexuality.

Irigaray posits female pleasure as auto-erotic; a female is always touching herself:

A women "touches herself" constantly without anyone being able to forbid her do so, for her sex is composed of two lips which embrace continually. Thus, with herself she is already two - but not divisible into ones - which stimulate each other. (p. 100)

This auto-eroticism does not necessarily lead to orgasm, it is pleasure in and of itself, and does not require an instrument. Male pleasure, on the other hand, does require some type of instrument in order to stimulate the penis, be it a hand, a visual or visual fantasy which necessitates language, or the 'hole' of the woman; he must have something to masturbate with. Irigaray contrasts this auto-erotic female pleasure to the Freudian notion of the active male sexuality /passive female sexuality. She contends that a woman contains a multiplicity of desires "before any distinction between activity and passivity is possible." (p. 100)

Irigaray perceives female language patterns as developing out of this pleasurable auto-erotic self-touching of a woman's sexual organs. A woman constantly retouches herself in conversation:

one must listen to her differently in order to hear an "other meaning" which is constantly in the process of weaving itself, at the same time ceaselessly embracing words and yet casting them off to avoid becoming fixed, immobilized.(p. 103)

In contrast to the masculine construct of language, which is rational, linear and privileged by the patriarchal culture, a woman's language is filled with ebb and flow, multiple beginnings, and multiple paths. Virginia Woolf is an example of an author who used the construct of feminine language. Her characters experience continual interruptions of their consciousness; the conversations in their own minds are in a continual state of doubling back upon themselves and weaving patterns of memories together with currently happening events.

Irigaray questions the privileging of the visual over the non-visual. She points to the visual construct of the Freudian position as being the reason the penis is exalted, it can be seen and this in turn leads to the privileging of the male body. She seems to be alluding to the fact that Freud simply articulated and named a system that has been operating in Western Civilization for centuries. For example, she states that: "...in Greek statuary this nothing to be seen must be excluded, rejected from such a scene of representation. Woman's sexual organs are simply absent from this scene: they are masked and her slit is sewn up." (p.101). The penis comes to symbolize the epitome of the masculine, which connotes strength, reason, sanity, etc. The objectification of women is also based on the visual, she is relegated to a passive role as she strives to be a beautiful object for men's viewing pleasure. Due to this privileging of the male body, the male is seen as the active subject while the female becomes the passive object.

The privileging of the visual affects language, also, in that the majority of things that can be represented with language are things in the shape of the phallus (phallomorphic), things that are longer than they are wide. There is not a single (one) word that describes the female sexual organ, they are many, hence the female organ can't be represented in a phallogocentric system that of necessity privileges the phallomorphic. The phallomorphic is seen as one, which sets up a binary opposition of phallomorphic/things that are not one. This system does not like anything that is not one, so the number one is privileged over zero or multiples. However, a women is "neither one nor two...And her sex organ, which is not a sex organ, is counted as no sex organ." ( p.101).

Irigaray poses the question, what does the idea of multiplicity do to the phallomorphic system that Western civilization, and more recently Freud, exalts? The Freudian paradigm of sexuality is phallomorphic in that male sexuality is based on having a penis, a single sex organ, while female sexuality is based on having nothing or zero. Yet, Freud himself separates the female sexual organs into at least two parts, the clitoris, which he views as a little penis and the vagina, which is simply a hole that the penis goes into in order to facilitate ejaculation. So the binary opposition becomes one of penis/nothing, clitoris, vagina. Therefore the binary explodes, the signifiers on the right side are in excess of the signifier on the left side. It is at this point that we experience a moment of deconstruction, the system has exploded due to the multiplicity and plurality within it.

Irigaray theorizes that another system is needed, a system that will privilege the feminine as much as the masculine and will be based on the multiplicity of female sexuality: "A women has sex organs just about everywhere." (p. 103). The system she imagines will be constructed on the notion of more than one, a system that would include multiple erogenous zones, and where pleasure would be diffuse and plural. This system would liberate heterosexuality for both female and male.

Irigaray states that true heterosexuality is impossible within the Freudian system because a male's desire is to reunite with the mother's body and the female's desire is to obtain a penis. Sexuality is indirect, the man and woman are not relating to each other directly but are responding to unmet childhood needs. They relate to each other in the roles of mother and father or look to the partner to fulfill and resolve the Oedipal complex. Thus, the couple continually miss each other under the phallogocentric Freudian system. Irigary believes that sexuality should be reconfigured so that women and men can directly relate to each other, without the intervention of reproduction and/or a child. This reconfiguration would be based on the diffuse nature of female sexuality that is present everywhere in a woman's body, not confined to a singe male sex organ. Such a system not only might liberate female sexuality but male sexuality as well, in that it might destroy the idea that male sexuality is located in only one place (the penis), and thus liberate men to explore their own sexuality in all its facets.

Irigary presents the notion that female eroticism is not based on the visual, the precept of looking, the male `gaze', all of which are predicated on the phallogocentric system, but rather on touch. Touch requires closeness or nearness while vision is distancing. All relations that privilege sight privilege distance between subject and object, and therefore true connection is impossible in a system that privileges vision.

A system based on female sexuality would counter vision with touch, it would lessen the distance between people. There would be no clear boundaries between self and other or subject and object; rather a female centered system, which would privilege multiplicity and plurality, would lead to connection; a flowing and blending of the boundaries that separate people, not only in the sexual realm but in daily life. This blurring of boundaries, Irigarary says, might ultimately lead to the blurring of ownership.

According to Irigary, once the notion of vision is upset the entire phallogocentric system will crumble. This upset will call into question who owns what and more specifically, who owns female sexuality. In a phallogocentric system, female sexuality is a commodity and the female is a product within the system. Once the system is upset might not a women own herself and her sexuality?, or would there rather be a multiplicity and plurality of ownership?, or would it call into question the entire concept of ownership?

In conclusion, Irigary uses Freud's theory of sexuality to point out the limitations that are imposed on female sexuality by such a paradigm. She challenges the reader to rethink the notions of sexuality and asks one to expand or discard the preconceived notions of what sexuality means in a phallogocentric culture. She envisions a sexuality and a system based on excess and plurality, one in which females and males relate to one another directly; a sexuality and system that is limitless in scope, fluid in practice, ever-changing and ever-expanding.

Brenda Harmon

10-25-96

 

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