01 September 2006

A Brief Note on Sexual Politics and Habitus

If the sorts of theories of subject-formation proposed by Foucault and psychoanalysis are accurate, then this entails that sexual identity is not an innate or genetic disposition, but results from the process of individuation we undergo as subjects. As Freud argues early on in Three Essays on Sexuality, we are born polymorphously perverse, without any defined love objects. This entails that those advocating gender therapy for GLBT are closer to the truth (in their assumptions about human sexuality and their recognition of a multitude of desires) than those advocating a genetic position. Moreover, the genetic position is disturbing as it still risks seeing sexual orientations other than heterosexuality as a genetic defect. Why, then, are those advocating gender therapy nonetheless mistaken? It seems to me that the psychoanalytic account sheds light on why something like gender therapy is horrifying. The mistake of those focusing on sexual orientation therapy lies in focusing on the what or objet of desire, rather than the cause of desire. If desire is always attached to a fundamental fantasy and is desire of the Other, then it follows that a destruction of a particular form of desire is equivalent to the ontological consistency of the subject that possesses this desire. What is here targeted is the very being of the subject undergoing this therapy by undermining that subject's entire mode of relating to the Other. No wonder, then, that suicide and depression rates are so high among those who have undergone this sort of therapy, as this therapy effectively demands that the patient renounce the gaze of the Other that functions as their archaic love object, thereby leading to a collapse of their being or to their non-existence. In a related vein, Zizek raises a similar objection pertaining to rape fantasies. If so many women have rape fantasies, why is rape nonetheless experienced as traumatic by women who have these fantasies? Zizek's answer is that this assaults the very kernal of the person's being.

What do others have to say about this issue?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course this process of "individuation" that you mention is strongly shaped/conditioned/determined by "society"--or the fact of social life--the opposite, as it were, of "the individual," hence the notion of the social construction of the individual. The problem, I think, lies in certain groups claiming to be the spokespersons of "society," thus discounting and invalidating all desires or tendencies different from their own--although, of course, within that dominant group itself, there are many different desires.

September 02, 2006 3:53 PM  
Blogger Sinthome said...

Loryanzo, I've struggled with this point as I have a tendency to use "we" when writing, as if everyone could be spoken of or for. But I wonder, is there an alternative? We can "own" all our claims, using first person personal pronouns, yet in using language we are still in the order of the universal or general, such that every claim is implicitly a call for the reader to assent (thereby exercising a sort of symbolic force). Did you have any thoughts on how to escape this difficulty?

September 02, 2006 4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right, sinthome (and I'm sorry for the very delayed reply. My eyes have been hurting for a week now.) The alternative is to have a disclaimer at the begining of the work, such as: "I am not claiming to be universal here," or putting qualifications on our claims, such as "However, there are of course exceptions." But then, it kinda makes the point weaker and makes the author seem to be trying so hard to be "politically correct." I guess the responsibility should rest on the reader, then? Despite having read theories (which do tend to be universal), he should be aware that actual life sometimes departs from thought.

But the main point of my comment really was the imposition of a certain point of view on others. I think that it is totally acceptable for someone to use "we" or claim universality when theorizing or philosophizing--but once we discredit all other viewpoints as wrong, or when we claim that our view is the "norm" that everyone ought to follow--I think that that is where the problem of being a "spokesperson" arises. And Foucault, of course, wouldn't like that too much.

I hope I made sense. Thanks for adding me to yoru blogroll, by the way. I feel such a neophyte in this blogosphere. I definitely wanna meet more people who have the same interest and point of view as me (the town of my university is quite conservative and, well, "naive"), so I'm hoping that through the blog I'll get to meet more theorists, whether they claim to be universal or not.

September 07, 2006 1:28 PM  

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