Guiding Remarks for a Congress on Feminine Sexuality : 1958 [Presented in Amsterdam, 5th September 1960] : Jacques Lacan

by Julia Evans on January 1, 1958

Published in ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne:  Feminine Sexuality’

Edited by Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose

Macmillan: 1982

Availability of Editors’ Preface, Bibliography, etc : Commentaries & Information from ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’ : 1982 : Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose or here

1) Jacqueline Rose’s translation : Available at at  /lacan

2) Bruce Fink’s translation : Availability given Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

In French:

1) La Psychanalyse : 1964 : Vol 7

2)  Écrits : 1966

3) Published by École Lacanienne de la Psychanalyse (here) & available here or 1960-09-05 : Propos directifs pour un Congrès sur la sexualité féminine (9p)


Introduction – I to ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’: 1982 : Juliet Mitchell or here

Introduction – II to ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’: 1982: Jacqueline Rose or here

Feminine Positions of Being : 1993 : Éric Laurent or here

Background Reading : Introduction to Female Sexuality – The early psychoanalytic controversies : 1999 : Russell Grigg, Dominique Hecq & Craig Smith  or here


From Introductory remarks to ‘Guiding Remarks for a Congress on Feminine Sexuality’ : 1958 : Jacques Lacan’ :

p86 of  Feminine Sexuality, Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne : 1982 : Edited by Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose. : Published by Macmillan[i] :

Quote : ‘Guiding Remarks for a Congress on Feminine Sexuality’ takes up points of controversy on the specific issue of feminine sexuality, as it appears in clinical practice. It is, therefore, a complement to ‘The Meaning of the Phallus’ [See The Meaning (or Signification) of the Phallus (Munich): 9th May 1958 : Jacques Lacan (Availability here )]. . It was written in the same year, 1958, two years before a Colloquium on feminine sexuality, organised by the Société française de psychanalyse, which took place at the Municipal University of Amsterdam in September 1960.

The article appeared in 1964 in a special issue (no 7) of La Psychanalyse (the journal of the Society) on the question of feminine sexuality. The issue included, together with the papers from the congress, articles by Helene Deutsch (1925), Ernest Jones (1927, 1933) and from Joan Rivière (1929) which had formed a central part of the earlier psychoanalytic debate on femininity in the 1920s and 1930s. …

The Psychology of Women in Relation to the Functions of Reproduction : April 1924 [1925] (Salzburg) : Helene Deutsch  or  here

See The early development of female sexuality : 1st September 1927 (Innsbruck) : Ernest Jones or here

The Phallic Phase : given in Wiesbaden on 4th September 1932 [1933] : Ernest Jones : Information here

Womanliness as a masquerade : 1929 : Joan Rivière  : Information here

Also relevant Early Female Sexuality : 24th April 1935 : Ernest Jones or here

[i] Both Introductions are available : see Commentaries & Information from ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’ : 1982 : Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose or here . This article by Joan Riviere is referred to by both – see p 15 & p43

References by Jacques Lacan to Sigmund Freud or Ernest Jones:

Note: The Meaning (or Signification) of the Phallus (Munich): 9th May 1958 : Jacques Lacan (Availability here ) was written at about the same time.

[p728,3 in French edition.] P89 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : The obscurity concerning the vaginal organ : Apart from the famous ‘lease-hold’ of rectal dependency on which Lou Andreas-Salomé took a personal stand, they have generally kept to metaphors whose pitch of idealism indicates nothing deserving preference over what the first comer might offer us by way of less intentional poetry.

Footnote : See Lou Andreas-Salomé’s “ ‘Anal’ und ‘Sexual’ “ in Imago 4 (1916) : p249.

Sigmund Freud mentions this in SE Vol VII, p187 (See [i] below), and SE XXII, p101.  (See [ii] below)

The vagina here supposedly borrows, rents, or leases its sensitivity from the anus.

[p728,9 in French] p90 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : It is representation (Vorstellung in the sense in which Freud uses the term to signal something repressed), the representation of feminine sexuality, whether repressed or not, which conditions how it comes into play, and it is the displaced offshoots of this representation (in which the therapist’s doctrine can find itself implicated) which decide the outcome of its tendencies, however naturally roughed out one may take such tendencies to be.

Remember that Jones, in his lecture to the Viennese society which seems to have scorched the earth for any contribution since, already came up with nothing other than a pure and simple rallying to Kleinian concepts in the perfect crudity with which their author presents them: by which I mean Melanie Klein’s persistent failure to acknowledge that the Oedipal fantasies which she locates in the maternal body originate from the reality presupposed by the Name of the Father.

Footnote : See Ernest Jones, “Early Female Sexuality”.  Details given Early Female Sexuality : 24th April 1935 : Ernest Jones or here or The early development of female sexuality : 1st September 1927 (Innsbruck) : Ernest Jones or here

[[p729,2 in French] p90 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : When one thinks that this is all Jones manages to produce out of his grand design to resolve Freud’s paradox, which sets up the woman in primary ignorance of her sex (although this is at least tempered by the informed admission of our ignorance)- a design which is so inspired in Jones by his prejudice for dominance by the natural that he is happy to sanction it with a quotation from Genesis- then it is none too clear what has been gained.

Footnote : Jones’ quote from Genesis, “In the beginning … male and female He created them”, is the last line of his paper, “The Phallic Phase”, p484 of reference given above : available The Phallic Phase : given in Wiesbaden on 4th September 1932 [1933] : Ernest Jones or here  & also relevant Notes on Seminar VII : 11th May 1960 : p227 : the fable of Adam and Eve by Julia Evans on 10th April 2014 or here  (See [iii] below)

[p730,5 in French] p91 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : 4. At all events, we arrive at the question of structure, which was introduced by Freud’s approach: which means that the relation of privation or lack-in-being symbolised by the phallus, is established by derivation from the lack-in-having engendered by- any particular or global frustration of demand. It is on the basis of this substitution, [p730 line 5 begins here] which in the last analysis the clitoris puts in its place before succumbing to the competition, that the field of desire precipitates its new objects (with the child to come at the fore), as it picks up the sexual metaphor into which all other needs had already entered.

Footnote : See Josine Müller, “A contribution to the Problem of Libidinal Development of the Genital Phase in Girls,” IJPA (International Journal of Psychoanalysis), Vol XIII (1932), p361-358. [See Introduction to Female Sexuality – The early psychoanalytic controversies : 1999 : Russell Grigg, Dominique Hecq & Craig Smith  or here  for availability]  Compare with Ernest Jones : The Phallic Phase : p456 [see The Phallic Phase : given in Wiesbaden on 4th September 1932 [1933] : Ernest Jones or here]  (See [iv] below) : See above for reference details : available here and Karen Horney, “The Dread of Women”, IJPA (International Journal of Psychoanalysis), Vol XIII (1932) : p348-360 : Availability The Dread of Women: Observations on a Specific Difference in the Dread felt by Men and Women Respectively for the Opposite Sex : 1932 : Karen Horney  or here

[p731,3 in French] p92 of Jacqueline Rose translation :  Even given what masochistic perversion owes to masculine invention, is it safe to conclude that the masochism of the woman : is a fantasy of the desire of the man?

3. Either way, the claim that fantasies of breaking bodily frontiers can be deduced from an organic constant, for which the rupture of the ovular membrane would be the prototype, can be denounced as irresponsible idiocy. Such a crude analogy reveals only too well the distance from Freud’s way of thinking in this area when he elucidated the taboo of virginity.

Footnote: See The Taboo of Virginity (Contributions to the Psychology of Love III) : 1917 (1918a) : Sigmund Freud : SE XI : p193-208. Also p261 – 284 of Penguin Freud Library : Vol 7 – On Sexuality

[p731,9 in French] p93 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation :

VIII Frigidity and the subjective structure

1. However widespread frigidity may be – and it is virtually generic if one takes into account its transitory form – it presupposes the whole unconscious structure which determines neurosis, even if it appears outside the web of the symptoms. This accounts on the one hand for its inaccessibility to any somatic treatment, and, on the other hand, for the normal failure of the good offices of the most wished-for of partners.

Footnote : Further, please note The Taboo of Virginity : 1917 (1918a) : Sigmund Freud : SE XI : p201 (pfl p174) (See [v] below): quote : “…the cheerless phenomenon of permanent and obstinate frigidity which no tender efforts on the part of the husband can overcome.”

[p733,3 in French] p94 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : 3. If we start with the man so as to measure the reciprocal position of the sexes, it is clear that the ‘phallus-girls’ of Fenichel’s admirable if tentative equation, proliferate on a Venusberg way beyond the ‘You are my wife’ through which the man constitutes his partner, which confirms that what surfaces in the unconscious of the subject is the desire of the Other, that is, the phallus desired by the Mother.

Footnote : Venusberg is the magical mountain abode of Venus, with certain brothel-like characteristics, which figure prominently in Wagner’s opera, ‘Tannäuser’. Freud refers to it in his ‘Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis’ : SE XVI p321.  (See [vi] below)

See Otto Fenichel’s article, “The Symbolic Equation : Girl = Phallus”, in Collected Papers of Otto Fenichel : NY: W W Norton, 1954). : Contact Julia Evans for a copy.

On “You are my wife”, see further Écrits 1966, p298 (See [vii] below) and Seminar III (See [viii] below). The end of the paragraph could, alternatively (Bruce Fink’s translation), read: “what re-emerges in the subject’s unconscious is what the Other desires, that is, the phallus that was desired by the Mother.”

[p733,4 of French] p94 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : This opens up the question of whether the real penis, in that it actually belongs to her sexual partner, commits the woman to an attachment without duplicity, granted the resolving of her incestuous desire whose course would in this argument be seen as natural. Taking this problem as settled, it can be posed the other way round. (Bruce Fink’s translation of this last sentence : One would be approaching the problem from the wrong angle were one to consider it to be resolved. )

Footnote (Bruce Fink): Lacan seems to be suggesting that a man is duplicitous (he has a wife or partner but keeps looking for the phallus – as the object desired by his mother as Other – in a proliferating series of girls who embody the phallus for him), whereas a woman is not duplicitous, apart from the persistence in her of an incestuous desire.

[p734,9 of French] p96 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : In the inaugural lecture of his series on the early development of feminine sexuality, Jones starts with his unusual experience of homosexuality in the woman, taking a line which he might have done better to sustain. He makes the desire of the subject branch off in the choice imposed on her between the incestuous object, in this case the father, and her own sex. The resulting clarification would be greater if it did not stop short at the too convenient prop of identification.

Footnote: Jones’ 1927 article can be found in Papers on Psycho-Analysis, p438-51. [The early development of female sexuality : 1927 : p 459-472 : Available The early development of female sexuality : 1st September 1927 (Innsbruck) : Ernest Jones or here  . This is the first published version.]

[p735,2 of French] p96 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : A better equipped observation would surely bring out that what is involved is more a taking up of the object : what might be called a challenge taken up. (Brue Fink’s translation & footnote : Better armed observation would show, it seems, that what is at stake is, instead, a sublation [relève] of the object: one might say a challenge that is accepted [défi relevé].

Footnote : Relève, translated as sublation, also means replacing, changing, or relaying. Se donner les gants, translated as making a virtue, also evokes jeter le gant, to defy or challenge (throw down the gauntlet), and relever le gant, to accept the challenge or combat.

See “The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality : 1920 : Sigmund Freud” The Psychogenesis of a case of Homosexuality in a Woman: 1920: Sigmund Freud or here or published at from here   : SEXVIII p147-172 (See [ix] below), especially p153 ( Note : this probably should be p133), where Freud says, “She was probably making a virtue of necessity when she kept insisting on the purity of her love…”  (See [x] below)

Lacan comments on the case at length in Seminar IV, chapters 6, 7, and 8. : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here  for translations

[p735,3 of French] p96 – 97 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : A better equipped observation would surely bring out that what is involved is more a taking up of the object : what might be called a challenge taken up. Freud’s chief case, inexhaustible as always, makes it clear that this challenge is set off by a demand for love thwarted in the real and that it stops at nothing short of taking on the airs of a courtly love.

In that such a love prides itself more than any other on being the love which gives what it does not have, so it is precisely in this that the homosexual woman excels in relation to what is lacking to her.

Strictly speaking, it is not the incestuous object that the latter chooses at the price of her own sex; what she will not accept is that this object only assumes its sex at the price of castration.

Footnote : Love as “giving what you do not have” is a major theme in Seminar VIII


Comments on Love as “giving what you do not have”

From Seminar IV : 23rd January 1957

See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here

Para 28  : I indicated that, in accordance with the hysterical structure, the hysteric is someone who loves by proxy: you can see this in a host of observations of hysterics. The hysteric is someone whose object is homosexual, and who approaches this homosexual object by way of identification with someone of the opposite sex.

Para 32 :   In other words, this situation rests on the distinction that I made with regard to primitive frustration, with regard to what can be established in the mother-child relation – that is, the distinction that the object belongs to the subject only after her being stripped of it. It is only after this frustration that her desire subsists, and this frustration only has a meaning insofar as the object subsists after the frustration has occurred. The situation rests on the differentiation that is made in the mother’s intervention at this point – that is, in another register, whether she gives or does not give and whether this giving is or is not a sign of love. Here the father is made to be the one who gives this missing object symbolically. But he does not give it, because he does not have it. The phallic deficiency of the father is what traverses the whole observation as an absolutely fundamental and constitutive ingredient of the situation.

From notes to p96-97 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation of ‘Guiding Remarks’

Love as “giving what you do not have” is also referred to in the Notes to p96-97 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation, Guiding Remarks for a Congress on Feminine Sexuality : 1958 [Presented in Amsterdam, 5th September 1960] : Jacques Lacan See notes here

Love as “giving what you do not have” is a major theme in Seminar VIII

Information and Notes Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here

See p46 & 121 of Bruce Fink’s translation :

Seminar VIII : 23rd November 1960 : p26 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : The second thing that I wanted to say – as you will see – that we rediscover at every moment, which will serve us as a guide, is that love is to give what one does not have. This you will also see arriving at one of the essential hinges of what we will have to encounter in our commentary.

Seminar VIII : 18th January 1961 : p105-106 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : But the good thing about feasts is precisely that at them there happen things which upset the ordinary order and that Poros falls asleep. He falls asleep because he is drunk, which is what allows Aporia to make herself pregnant by him, namely to have

this offspring which is called Love and whose date of conception coincides then with the birth-date of Aphrodite. This indeed is why it is explained to us that Love will always have some obscure relationship with beauty, which is what is in question in the whole development of Diotima, and it is because Aphrodite is a beautiful goddess.

Here then the matter is clearly put. The fact is that on the one hand it is the masculine which is desirable and that, it is the feminine which is active, this at least is how things happen at the moment of the birth of Love and, when one formulates “love is giving what one does not have”, believe me, I am not the one who is telling you this in connection with this text in order to produce one of my hobby horses, it is quite evident that this is what is in question here because the poor Penia, by definition, by structure has properly speaking nothing to give, except her constitutive lack, aporia. And what allows me to tell you that I am not forcing things here, is that if you refer to number 202a of the text of the Symposium you will find the expression “to give what one does not have” literally written there in the form of the development which starting from there Diotima is going to give to the function of love, namely: aneu tou echein logon dounai – it fits exactly, in connection with the discourse, the formula “to give what one does not have” – it is a question here of giving a discourse, a valid explanation, without having it. It is a question of the moment when, in her development, Diotima is going to be led to say what love belongs to. Well, love belongs to a zone, to a form of affair, a form of thing, a form of pragma, a form of praxis which is at the same level, of the same quality as doxa, namely the following which exists, namely that there are discourses, ways of behaving, opinions – this is the translation that we give to the term doxa – which are true without the subject being able to know it.


[p735,9 in French] (I am confused about to what exactly this page reference refers.) Probably the correct quote: p97 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : Far from its being the case that the passivity of the act corresponds to this desire, feminine sexuality appears as the effort of a jouissance wrapped in its own contiguity (for which all circumcision might represent the symbolic rupture) to be realised in the envy of desire, which castration releases him its signifier in the phallus.

Could it be this privileging of the signifier that Freud is getting at when he suggests that there is perhaps only one libido and that it is marked with the male sign? Should some chemical configuration confirm this further, why not see this as the exalting conjunction of the molecular dissymetry employed by the living construction, with the lack concerted in the subject through language, so that the holders of desire and the claimants of sex (the partiality of the term being still the same here) work against each other as rivals?

Footnote : See SE XXII, p11; (See [xi] below). For further information Écrits 1966, p695 (See [xii] below) & p851 (See [xiii] below)


[i] Probably Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality : 1905 : Sigmund Freud,  SE VII p123-245 : Published at see here : Essay II Infantile Sexuality : Section 4 Masturbatory Sexual Manifestations : p104 of Penguin Freud Library, Vol 7, On Sexuality : Further, the whole significance of the anal zone is reflected in the fact that few neurotics are to be found without their special scatorlogical practices, ceremonies, and so on, which they carefully keep secret. Footnote added in 1920 : Lou Andreas-Salomé (1916) in a paper which has given us a very much deeper understanding of the significance of anal eroticism, has shown how the history of the first prohibition which a child comes across – the prohibition against getting pleasure from anal activity and its products – has a decisive effect on his whole development. This must be the first occasion on which the infant has a glimpse of an environment hostile to his instinctual impulses, on which he learns to separate his own entity from this alien one and on which he carries out the first ‘repression’ of his possibilities for pleasure. From that time on, what is ‘anal’ remains the symbol of everything that is to be repudiated and excluded from life. The clear-cut distinction between anal and genital processes which is later insisted upon is contradicted by the close anatomical and functional analogies and relations which hold between them. The genital apparatus remains the neighbour of the cloaca, and actually [to quote Lou Andreas-Salomé] ‘in the case of women is only taken from it on lease’.

[ii] From New Introductory Lectures : 1932 [1933] : Sigmund Freud : Vol 2 of Penguin Freud Library : Lecture 32 – Anxiety and Instinctual Life : p134 [p3609] Nor must you forget that I have only been able to give you very incomplete information. I may hurriedly add, perhaps, that interest in the vagina, which awakens later, is also essentially of anal-erotic origin. This is not to be wondered at, for the vagina itself, to borrow an apt phrase from Lou Andreas-Salomé, is ‘taken on lease’ from the rectum: in the life of homosexuals, who have failed to accomplish some part of normal sexual development, the vagina is once more represented by it. In dreams a locality often appears which was earlier a simple room but is now divided into two by a wall, or the other way round. This always means the relation of the vagina to the bowel.

[iii] The Phallic Phase : 1932 : Ernest Jones : p484 – last paragraph [See The Phallic Phase : given in Wiesbaden on 4th September 1932 [1933] : Ernest Jones : Information here]  : Lastly I think we should do well to remind ourselves of a piece of wisdom whose source is more ancient than Plato: ‘In the beginning . . . male and female created He them.’ 

[iv] P456 of Ernest Jones : The Phallic Phase : 1932 : Probably refers to : I cannot resist comparing this supposed ignorance of the vagina with the current ethnological myth that savages are ignorant of the connection between coitus and fertilisation. In both cases they know, but do not know that they know. In other words, there is knowledge, but it is unconscious knowledge-revealed in countless symbolic ways. The conscious ignorance is like the ‘innocence’ of young women-which still persists even in these enlightened days ; it is merely unsanctioned or dreaded knowledge, and it therefore remains unconscious.

[v] From The Taboo of Virginity (Contributions to the Psychology of Love III) : 1917 (1918a) : Sigmund Freud : p274 pfl [p2868] There is an unbroken series from these cases of mere initial frigidity which soon vanishes, up to the cheerless phenomenon of permanent and obstinate frigidity which no tender efforts on the part of the husband can overcome. I believe this frigidity in women is not yet sufficiently understood and, except for those cases which must be blamed on the man’s insufficient potency, calls for elucidation, possibly through allied phenomena.

[vi] From Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis : 1915-1917 [1916-1917]: Lecture 21 – The Development of the Libido and the Sexual Organisations : p363 of pfl Volume 1: [p2639] But if the existence of sexual perversions is such a decisive argument in this question, why has it not long since had its effect and settled the matter? I really cannot say. I think it is connected with the fact that these sexual perversions are subject to a quite special ban, which has even affected theory and has stood in the way of the scientific consideration of them. It is as though no one could forget that they are not only something disgusting but also something monstrous and dangerous – as though people felt them as seductive, and had at bottom to fight down a secret envy of those who were enjoying them. One is reminded of the admission made by the condemnatory Landgraf in the famous Tannhäuser parody:

‘ Im Venusberg vergass er Ehr und Pflicht!

– Merkwürdig, unser einem passiert

so etwas nicht.’1

[1 [‘The Venusberg made him forget Honour and Duty thus!

Strange how these things don’t happen

To people such as us.’]1 by Nestroy (See below for further reference)

In reality perverts are poor wretches, rather, who have to pay extremely dear for their hard-won satisfaction.

What makes the activity of perverts so unmistakably sexual in spite of all the strangeness of its objects and aims is the fact that as a rule an act of perverse satisfaction nevertheless ends in complete orgasm and voidance of the genital products.

Note: Sigmund Freud refers to Johann Nestroy’s plays on at least 8 occasions. Johann Nestory (1801 – 1862) was famous in Vienna for his comedies and farces.

[vii] From The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan : Information here :

… This means that the message remains frozen in its function as a relay of action, from which no subject detaches it as a symbol of communication itself.

The form in which language expresses itself in and of itself defines subjectivity. Language says: “You will go here, and when you see this, you turn off there.” In other words, it refers to discourse about the other [discours de l’autre]. It is enveloped as such in the highest function of speech, inasmuch as speech commits its author by investing its addressee with a new reality, as for example, when a subject seals his fate as a married man by saying “You are my wife”.

Indeed, this is the essential form from which all human speech derives more than the form at which it arrives.

Hence the paradox that one of my most acute auditors believed to be an objection to my position when I first began to make my views known on analysis as dialectic; he formulated it as follows: “Human language would then constitute a kind of communication in which the sender receives his own message back from the receiver in an inverted form.” I could but adopt this objector’s formulation, recognizing in it the stamp of my own thinking; for I maintain that speech always subjectively includes its own reply, that “Thou wouldst not seek Me, if thou hadst not found Me” simply validates the same truth, and that this is why, in the paranoiac refusal of recognition, it is in the form of a negative verbalization that the unavowable feeling eventually emerges in a persecutory “interpretation”.

Thus when you congratulate yourself for having met someone who speaks the same language as you, you do not mean that you encounter each other in the discourse of everyman, but that you are united to that person by a particular way of speaking.

The antimony immanent in the relations between speech and language thus becomes clear. The more functional language becomes, the less suited it is to speech, and when it becomes overly characteristic of me alone, it loses its function as language

[viii] Wife is mentioned several times in Seminar III, but not the phrase “You are my wife”. The page numbers refer to the version given Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan or here.

P46 : 30th November 1955 : Perhaps what I have said to you this morning will give you some indication that we can rephrase the question differently. I love him – is this a message, an utterance, a testimony, the brute recognition of a fact in its neutralized state?

Take things in terms of a message. In the first case, It’s she that loves him, the subject gets another to carry his message. This alienation surely places us on the level of the little other – the ego speaks through the intermediary of the alter ego, which has meanwhile changed sex. We shall restrict ourselves to observing the inverted alienation. In delusions of jealousy, this identification with the other with a reversal of the sign of sexualization is in the foreground.

On the other hand, by analyzing the structure this way, you see that it isn’t, in any case, a question of projection in the sense in which it can be integrated into a mechanism of neurosis. This projection consists in effect of imputing one’s own infidelities to the other – when one is jealous of one’s wife, it’s because one has a few little peccadilloes of one’s own to reproach oneself with. The same mechanism can’t be invoked in the delusion of jealousy, probably psychotic, such as it’s presented either in Freud’s case or in the register into which I myself have just tried to insert it, where it’s the person you are identified with through an inverted alienation, namely your own wife, that you make the messenger of your feelings concerning, not even another man, but, as the clinic shows, a more or less indefinite number of men. The properly paranoid delusion of jealousy is repeatable indefinitely, it re-emerges at every turning point of experience and may implicate fairly well any subject who appears on the horizon, and even ones that don’t.

Now, It’s not him that I love, it’s her. This is another type of alienation, no longer inverted, but diverted. The other addressed in erotomania is very special, since the subject doesn’t have any concrete relations with him, so much (p47) so that it has been possible to speak in terms of a mystical bond or platonic love. He is very often a distant object with whom the subject is happy to communicate in writing, without even knowing whether what’s written will get to its destination. The least that can be said is that there is diverted alienation of the message. The accompanying depersonalization of the other is apparent in that heroic perseverance through every trial, as the erotomaniacs will themselves say. The erotomaniacal delusion is addressed to such a neutralized other that he is inflated to the very dimensions of the world, since the universal interest attached to the adventure, as de Clerambault [See  Psychoses of passion : 1921 : Gaétan Gatian de Clérambault or here] used to say, is an essential part of it.

In the third case we are dealing with something much closer to negation. It’s a converted alienation, in that love has become hatred. The profound deterioration of the entire system of the other, its reduction ratio, the extensive nature of interpretations about the world, shows you here the properly imaginary disturbance at its maximum extension.

Other references to ‘wife’ on p75, 89, 102, 158, 230, 280, 292.

[x] p378 of pfl, Vol 9 – Case Histories II : p131 of SE : I had made the prognosis partly dependent on how far the girl had got in the satisfaction of her passion. The information I gleaned during the analysis seemed favourable in this respect. With none of the objects of her passion had the patient enjoyed anything beyond a few kisses and embraces; her genital chastity, if one may-use such a phrase, had remained intact, As for the demi-mondaine who had aroused the girl’s most recent and by far her strongest, emotions, she had always treated her coldly and had never allowed any greater favour than the kissing of her hand. Probably the girl was making a virtue of necessity when she kept insisting on the purity of her love and her physical repulsion against the idea of sexual intercourse. But perhaps she was not altogether wrong when she boasted of her wonderful beloved that, although of noble birth and forced into her present position only by adverse family circumstances, she had preserved, even in such a situation, a great deal of dignity. For the lady used to recommend the girl, every time they met to withdraw her affection from herself and from women in general, and she had persistently rejected the girl’s advances up to the time of the attempted suicide

[xi] I have been unable to find the exact reference, for this. Vol XXII is the New Introductory Lectures. P11 would seem to indicate an early part of the book. I have been unable to find anything which appears to me to overlap with the quote from Lacan in Lecture 29 – Revision of the Theory of Dreams, pfl Vol 2. However, Lecture 33 – Femininity 1932 (published 1933), SE XXII p112-135 Published , download here , p165 of pfl Vol 2, gives: [p3630] It is not my intention to pursue the further behaviour of femininity through puberty to the period of maturity. Our knowledge, moreover, would be insufficient for the purpose. But I will bring a few features together in what follows. Taking its prehistory as a starting-point, I will only emphasize here that the development of femininity remains exposed to disturbance by the residual phenomena of the early masculine period. Regressions to the fixations of the pre-Oedipus phases very frequently occur; in the course of some women’s lives there is a repeated alternation between periods in which masculinity or femininity gains the upper hand. Some portion of what we men call ‘the enigma of women’ may perhaps be derived from this expression of bisexuality in women’s lives. But another question seems to have become ripe for judgement in the course of these researches. We have called the motive force of sexual life ‘the libido’. Sexual life is dominated by the polarity of masculine-feminine; thus the notion suggests itself of considering the relation of the libido to this antithesis. It would not be surprising if it were to turn out that each sexuality had its own special libido appropriated to it, so that one sort of libido would pursue the aims of a masculine sexual life and another sort those of a feminine one. But nothing of the kind is true. There is only one libido, which serves both the masculine and the feminine sexual functions. To it itself we cannot assign any sex; if, following the conventional equation of activity and masculinity, we are inclined to describe it as masculine, we must not forget that it also covers trends with a passive aim. Nevertheless the juxtaposition ‘feminine libido’ is without any justification. Furthermore, it is our impression that more constraint has been applied to the libido when it is pressed into the service of the feminine function, and that – to speak teleologically – Nature takes less careful account of its demands than in the case of masculinity. And the reason for this may lie – thinking once again teleologically – in the fact that the accomplishment of the aim of biology has been entrusted to the aggressiveness of men and has been made to some extent independent of women’s consent.

[xii]  The Meaning (or Signification) of the Phallus (Munich): 9th May 1958 : Jacques Lacan (Availability here ) : Quote from towards the end (p84 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation) :

These ideals gain new strength from the demand which it is in their power to satisfy, which is always the demand for love, with its complement of reducing desire to demand.

Paradoxical as this formulation might seem, I would say that it is in order to be the phallus, that is to say, the signifier of the desire of the Other, that the woman will reject an essential part of her femininity, notably all its attributes through masquerade. It is for what she is not that she expects to be desired as well as loved. But she finds the signifier of her own desire in the body of the one to whom she addresses her demand for love. Certainly we should not forget that the organ actually invested with this signifying function takes on the value of a fetish. But for the woman the results is still a convergence onto the same object of an experience of love which as such (cf. above) ideally deprives her of that which it gives, and a desire which finds in that same experience its signifier. Which is shy it can be observed that the lack of satisfaction proper to sexual need, in other words, frigidity, is relatively well tolerated in women, whereas the ‘Verdrängung’ inherent to desire is lesser in her case than in the case of the man.

In men, on the other hand, the dialectic of demand and desire gives rise to effects, whose exact point of connection Freud situated with a sureness which we must once again admire, under the rubric of a specific depreciation (Erniedrigung) of love.

If it is the case that the man manages to satisfy his demand for love in his relationship to the woman to the extent that the signifier of the phallus constitutes her precisely as giving in love what she does not have – conversely, his own desire for the phallus will throw up its signifier in the form of a persistent divergence towards ‘another woman’ who can signify this phallus under various guises, whether as a virgin or a prostitute. The result is a centrifugal tendency of the genital drive in the sexual life of the man which makes impotence much harder for him to bear, at the same time as the ‘Verdrängung’ inherent to desire is greater.

We should not, however, think that the type of infidelity which then appears to be constitutive of the masculine function is exclusive to the man. For if one looks more closely, the same redoubling is to be found in the woman, except that in her case, the Other of love as such, that is to say, the Other as deprived of that which he gives, is hard to perceive in the withdrawal where-by it is substituted for the being of the man whose attributes she cherishes.

One might add here that masculine homosexuality, in accordance with the phallic mark which constitutes desire, is constituted on its axis, whereas the orientation of feminine homo-sexuality, as observation shows, follows from a disappointment which reinforces the side of the demand for love. These remarks should be qualified by going back to the function of the mask inasmuch as this function dominates the identifications through which refusals of love are resolved.

The fact that femininity takes refuge in this mask, because of the Verdrängung inherent to the phallic mark of desire, has the strange consequence that, in the human being, virile display itself appears as feminine.

Correlatively, one can glimpse the reason for a feature which has never been elucidated and which again gives a measure of the depth of Freud’s intuition: namely, why he advances the view that there is only one libido, his text clearly indicating that he conceives of it as masculine in nature. The function of the signifier here touches on its most profound relation: by way of which the Ancients embodied in it both Νοũζ [Nous, sense] and the Λογòζ [Logos, reason].

Availability given 1) ‘Introduction I’ by Juliet Mitchell & ‘Introduction II’ by Jacqueline Rose or here  or 2) Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

[xiii] On Freud’s “Trieb” and the Psychoanalyst’s Desire : Rome : 7th to 12th January 1964 : Jacques Lacan : p851 in French edition, p722 of Bruce Fink’s translation – availability given Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here :

The drive, as it is constructed by Freud on the basis of the experience of the unconscious, prohibits psychologizing thought from resorting to “instinct,” with which it masks its ignorance by assuming the existence of morals in nature.

It can never be often enough repeated, given the obstinacy of psychologists who, as a group and per se, are in the service of technocratic exploitation, that the drive – the Freudian drive – has nothing to do with instinct (none of Freud’s expressions allows for confusion here).

Libido is not sexual instinct. Its reduction, when taken to an extreme, to male desire, indicated by Freud, should suffice to alert us to this fact.

Libido, in Freud’s work, is an energy that can be subjected to a kind of quantification which is all the easier to introduce in theory as it is useless, since only certain quanta of constancy are recognized therein.

Its sexual colouring, so categorically maintained by Freud as its most central feature, is the colour of emptiness: suspended in the light of a gap.

This gap is the gap desire encounters at the limits imposed upon it by the principle ironically referred to as the “pleasure principle,” the latter being relegated to a reality which, indeed, is but the field of praxis here.

The following quote also interests me. From p723, ibid :

If the fear of castration is at the crux of sexual normalization, let us not forget that, since it no doubt bears upon the transgression it prohibits in the Oedipus complex, it nevertheless seeks to bring about obedience thereto in it, by stopping its slippage in a homosexual direction.

Thus it is, rather, the assumption of castration that creates the lack on the basis of which desire is instituted. Desire is desire for desire, the Other’s desire, as I have said, in other words, subjected to the Law.

(It is the fact that a woman must go through the same dialectic, whereas nothing seems to oblige her to do so – she must lose what she does not have – which tips us off, allowing us to articulate that it is the phallus by default that constitutes the amount of symbolic debt: a debit account when one has it, a disputed credit when one does not.)


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Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, London


Related texts

The Meaning (or Signification) of the Phallus (Munich): 9th May 1958 : Jacques Lacan  or here

Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here

Introduction – I to ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’: 1982 : Juliet Mitchell or here

Introduction – II to ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’: 1982: Jacqueline Rose or here

Commentaries & Information from ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’ : 1982 : Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose or here

Feminine Positions of Being : 1993 : Éric Laurent or here

Introduction to Female Sexuality – The early psychoanalytic controversies : 1999 : Russell Grigg, Dominique Hecq & Craig Smith  or here


Other texts

Of the clinic here

Use of power here

Some Lacanian History here

Topology here

Lacanian Transmission here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

By Juliet Mitchell here

By Jacqueline Rose here

By Julia Evans  here