Feminine Positions of Being : June 1993 : Éric Laurent

by Julia Evans on June 1, 1993

Translated by Richard Klein


– p33-58 of Psychoanalytical Notebooks : Issue 5 – Fantasy and Castration : 2001

– p222-242 of ‘The Later Lacan: An introduction’: Eds Véronique Voruz & Bogdan Wolf: SUNY press: 2007

– Part of the Bibliography for New Lacanian School’s Congress [www.amp-nls.org] in Geneva : Daughter, Mother, Woman in the 21st Century : 26th & 27th June 2010 : Circulated on 4th September 2009

Available at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net /éric laurent

Originally published:

Laurent, E.: Positions féminines de l’être : Revue de La Cause Freudienne : n° 24 : Paris, Navarin Seuil : jun. 1993 : pp. 107-113


Freud and the clinic of perversions

Genesis of perversions and the Oedipus Complex

A Child is Being Beaten — a story of disorientation

What has never existed does not cease to be written

The mysteries of the second phase of the fantasy

Perverse metaphor

The extension of the fantasy into the subject’s life

The question of feminine masochism

The being of the woman

The concept of privation: from having to being

Confront castration or unload oneself of having

Feminine madness and masculine fetishism: two styles of love


Sigmund Freud

Given at the end of the text in the published version:

– A Child is Being Beaten : 1919 : S. Freud : trans. J. Strachey, SE: XVII, PFL Vol 10.

Published with English & German shown at Richard G. Klein’s site   http://www.freud2lacan.com  & available here|

– S. Freud, The Economic Problem of Masochism, 1924, trans. J. Strachey, SE: XIX, PFL Vol 11.


Julia Evans’ notes & references

Note : page numbers are references to Laurent’s text, in the version with Julia Evans’ editing & footnotes

Note 2 : Two texts frequently referenced are

– Sigmund Freud : Group Psychology & the Analysis of the Ego : 1921, SEXVIII p69-143 : You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published at Richard G. Klein’s site www.Freud2Lacan.com : available here

– A Child is Being Beaten : 1919 : S. Freud : trans. J. Strachey, SE: XVII, PFL Vol 10.

Published with English & German shown at Richard G. Klein’s site   http://www.freud2lacan.com  & available here

– p1 ‘A Child is Being Beaten” is a date in the psychoanalytic clinic of perversions’ : See above

– p1 ‘the 1915 additions to The Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’  :

This refers to footnotes Sigmund Freud added in 1915 to ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality : 1905d : Sigmund Freud’, SE VII p123-245

See also, Lecture 20 – The Sexual Life of Human Beings & Lecture 21 – The Development of the Libido : 1916 – 1917 : published in Part III. General Theory of the Neuroses – 1917 in Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis : 1915 – 1917 : Sigmund Freud : Vol 1 PFL :

James Strachey’s Footnote : SE VII p303, p344 pfl, Lecture 20 : Freud’s principal work on this subject was his ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’ : 1905d, to which he made a large number of additions and corrections in a succession of editions over the subsequent twenty years. The material in this and the following lecture is mainly derived from that work.

: Probably, though also consult the following two footnotes,quotation (bold is JE’s) : a) Conclusion to Part (A) Inversion : of Section (1) Deviations in Respect of the Sexual Object : of Essay I – The Sexual Aberrations: SE VII p146-148 [note the quotation below spans across 3 pages due to the footnotes], p59 pfl : CONCLUSION

It will be seen that we are not in a position to base a satisfactory explanation of the origin of inversion upon the material at present before us. Nevertheless our investigation has put us in possession of a piece of knowledge which may turn out to be of greater importance to us than the solution of that problem. It has been brought to our notice that we have been in the habit of regarding the connection between the sexual instinct and the sexual object as more intimate than it in fact is. Experience of the cases that are considered abnormal has shown us that in them the sexual instinct and the sexual object are merely soldered together – a fact which we have been in danger of overlooking in consequence of the uniformity of the normal picture, where the object appears to form part and parcel of the instinct.We are thus warned to loosen the bond that exists in our thoughts between instinct [JE drive] and object. It seems probable that the sexual instinct is in the first instance independent of its object; nor is its origin likely to be due to its object’s attractions.

b) Conclusion to the section (3) The Perversions in General : in Essay I – The Sexual Aberrations : SE VII p162, p76 pfl


Our study of the perversions has shown us that the sexual instinct has to struggle against certain mental forces which act as resistances, and of which shame and disgust are the most prominent. It is permissible to suppose that these forces play a part in restraining that instinct within the limits that are regarded as normal; and if they develop in the individual before the sexual instinct has reached its full strength, it is no doubt they that will determine the course of its development.

In the second place we have found that some of the perversions which we have examined are only made intelligible if we assume the convergence of several motive forces. If such perversions admit of analysis, that is, if they can be taken to pieces, then they must be of a composite nature. This gives us a hint that perhaps the sexual instinct itself may be no simple thing, but put together from components which have come apart again in the perversions. If this is so, the clinical observation of these abnormalities will have drawn our attention to amalgamations which have been lost to view in the uniform behaviour of normal people. 

– p1 Freud follows in his own way the psychiatric trend in at first deriving perversions from different partial drives.

See Essay I – The Sexual Aberrations :Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: 1905d : Sigmund Freud : SE VII p135-171: pfl Vol 7 p45 Footnote 1 : The information in this first essay is derived from the well-known writings of Krafft-Ebing …, SE VII p135, pfl Vol 7 p54 : According to Krafft-Ebing (1895,5] ….

– p1 ‘the particularity of man, in the sense of human subject, indicates that there is in him no representation of a unified sexual tendency — ‘die ganze Sexualstrebung’; ganze, that is, unique: the sexual tendency has no unique representation’

Essay I – The Sexual Aberrations :Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: 1905d : Sigmund Freud : Section (1) Deviations in respect of the sexual object, Part  (A) Inversion, 3 Sexual object of inverts : SE VII p145-146: [P1184-1185]  : [Added 1915:] Psycho-analytic research is most decidedly opposed to any attempt at separating off homosexuals from the rest of mankind as a group of a special character. By studying sexual excitations other than those that are manifestly displayed, it has found that all human beings are capable of making a homosexual object-choice and have in fact made one in their unconscious. Indeed, libidinal attachments to persons of the same sex play no less a part as factors in normal mental life, and a greater part as a motive force for illness, than do similar attachments to the opposite sex. On the contrary, psycho-analysis considers that a choice of an object independently of its sex – freedom to range equally over male and female objects – as it is found in childhood, in primitive states of society and early periods of history, is the original basis from which, as a result of restriction in one direction or the other, both the normal and the inverted types develop. Thus from the point of view of psycho-analysis the exclusive sexual interest felt by men for women is also a problem that needs elucidating and is not a self-evident fact based upon an attraction that is ultimately of a chemical nature. A person’s final sexual attitude is not decided until after puberty and is the result of a number of factors, not all of which are yet known; some are of a constitutional nature but others are accidental.

& from The Ego & the Id (‘Das Ich und das Es’): 1920 [1923]: Sigmund Freud : SE XIX p12-63 : Published by Richard G. Klein at www.Freud2Lacan.com and available here : Part III The ego and super-ego (ego ideal) : SE XIX p31 : [P3101] : The whole subject, however, is so complicated that it will be necessary to go into it in greater detail. The intricacy of the problem is due to two factors: the triangular character of the Oedipus situation and the constitutional bisexuality of each individual.

– p1 : ‘Freud is subverting its order by presenting the impossibility of a unique instinct. Nevertheless, he maintains until 1915 that these drive stages, this infantile drive organisation, is not elaborated around a constructed object-choice and therefore not articulated within the Oedipus complex as he established it as the drama of the structure of object-choice.’ : See Essay I – The Sexual Aberrations :Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality: 1905d : Sigmund Freud : Section (B) Fixations of preliminary sexual aims : SE VII p155 : pfl Vol 7 p68 Footnote 1 :[p1193]  : [Added 1915:] In a number of cases of foot-fetishism it has been possible to show that the scopophilic instinct, seeking to reach its object (originally the genitals) from underneath, was brought to a halt in its pathway by prohibition and repression. For that reason it became attached to a fetish in the form of a foot or shoe, the female genitals (in accordance with the expectations of childhood/children) being imagined as male ones.

P1 : It will be the analysis of the ‘Wolf Man’ that is going to convince Freud of the existence of infantile stages of drive organisation, on being astonished that the Wolf Man’s disorders of appetite are linked to an oral stage of sexual organisation.

– p1 ‘Wolf Man’ : The History of an Infantile Neurosis : 1914 [published1918b] : Sigmund Freud : SE XVII : p3 or PFL Vol 9 p225 : Published at Richard G. Klein’s site www.Freud2Lacan.com and available here

– p1 : ‘Freud of the existence of infantile stages of drive organisation, on being astonished that the Wolf Man’s disorders of appetite are linked to an oral stage of sexual organisation.’ : SE XVII p74 – : We shall be prepared to hear that during his later illness he suffered from disturbances of his intestinal function which were very obstinate, though various circumstances caused them to fluctuate in intensity. When he came under my treatment he had become accustomed to enemas, which were given him by an attendant; spontaneous evacuations did not occur for months at a time, unless a sudden excitement from some particular direction intervened, as a result of which normal activity of the bowels might set in for a few days. His principal subject of [p75] complaint was that for him the world was hidden in a veil, or that he was cut off from the world by a veil. This veil was tom only at one moment-when, after an enema, the contents of the bowel left the intestinal canal; and he then felt well and normal again.

The colleague to whom I referred the patient for a report upon his intestinal condition was perspicacious enough to explain it as being a functional one, or even psychically deter- mined, and to abstain from any active medicinal treatment. Moreover, neither this nor dieting were of any use. During the years of analytic treatment there was no spontaneous motion- apart from the sudden influences that I have mentioned. The patient allowed himself to be convinced that if the intractable organ received more intensive treatment things would only be made worse, and contented himself with bringing on an evacuation once or twice a week by means of an enema or a purgative.

In discussing these intestinal troubles I have given more space to the patient’s later illness than has been my plan else- where in this work, which is concerned with his infantile neurosis. I have done so for two reasons: first, because the intestinal symptoms were in point of fact carried forward from the infantile neurosis into the later one with little alteration, and secondly, because they played a principal part in the conclusion of the treatment.

– p1 : ‘What is a novelty for him is that this stage, this oral drive, concerns the father, the little boy does not think about the father with his penis, he thinks about the father with the oral drive.’ : SE XVII p106 (probably) : The first that we hear ·of it is in the disturbance of his appetite [p. 98]; for, taking other observations into account, I am inclined, though with due reservations, to regard that as a result of some process in the sphere of sexuality. I have been driven to regard as the earliest recognizable sexual organization the so-called ‘cannibalistic’ or ‘oral’ phase, during which the original attachment of sexual excitation to the nutritional instinct still dominates the scene.1 It is not to be expected that we should come upon direct manifestations of this phase, but only upon indications of it where disturbances have been set up. Impairment of the nutritional instinct (though this can of course have other causes) draws our attention to a failure on the part of the organism to master its sexual excitation. In this phase the sexual aim could only be cannibalism-devouring; it makes its appearance with our present patient through regression from a higher stage, in the form of fear of’ being eaten by the wolf’. We were, indeed, obliged to translate this into a fear of being copulated with by his father. It is well known that there is a neurosis in girls which occurs at a much later age, at the time of puberty or soon afterwards, and which expresses aversion to sexuality by means of anorexia. This neurosis will have to be brought into relation with the oral phase of sexual life.

– p2 : ‘In his text on identification it will lead Freud to establish a primordial, cannibalistic identification with the father.’ : Sigmund Freud : Group Psychology & the Analysis of the Ego : 1921, SEXVIII p69-143 : You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published at Richard G. Klein’s site www.Freud2Lacan.com : available here : Chapter VII Identification :  SE XVIII p105 : … and an identification with his father which takes him as his model. The two subsist side by side for a time without any mutual influence or interference. In consequence of the irresistible advance towards a unification of mental life, they come together at last; and the normal Oedipus complex originates from their confluence. The little boy notices that his father stands in his way with his mother. His identification with his father then takes on a hostile colouring and becomes identical with the wish to replace his father in regard to his mother as well. Identification, in fact, is ambivalent from the very first; it can turn into an expression of tenderness as easily as into a wish for someone’s removal. It behaves like a derivative of the first, oral phase of the organization of the libido, in which the object that we long for and prize is assimilated by eating and is in that way annihilated as such. The cannibal, as we know, has remained at this standpoint; he has a devouring affection for his enemies and only devours people of whom he is fond. [Footnote : See my Three Essays (1905d) SE VII p198] :

Probably Essay II Infantile Sexuality, Section [6] The phases of development of the sexual organization – Pregenital Organization : SEVII p198, pfl V7 p116-117 : We shall give the name of ‘pregenital’ to organizations of sexual life in which the genital zones have not yet taken over their predominant part. We have hitherto identified two such organizations, which almost seem as though they were harking back to early animal forms of life.

The first of these is the oralor, as it might be called, cannibalistic pregenital sexual organization. Here sexual activity has not yet been separated from the ingestion of food; nor are opposite currents within the activity differentiated. The  object  of both activities is the same; the sexual aimconsists in the incorporationof the object – the prototype of a process which, in the form of  identification, is later to play such an important psychological part. A relic of this constructed phase of organization, which is forced upon our notice by pathology, may be seen in thumb-sucking, in which the sexual activity, detached from the nutritive activity, has substituted for the extraneous object one situated in the subject’s own body.

A second pregenital phase is that of the sadistic-analorganization. Here the opposition between two currents, which runs through all sexual life, is already developed: they cannot yet, however, be described as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, but only as ‘active’ and ‘passive’. The activityis put into operation by the instinct for mastery through the agency of the somatic musculature; the organ which, ore than any other, represents the passivesexual aim is the erotogenic mucous membrane of the anus. Both of these currents have objects, which, however, are not identical. Alongside these, other component instincts operate in an auto-erotic manner. In this phase, therefore, sexual polarity and an extraneous object are already observable. But organization and subordination to the reproductive function are still absent.

– p2 ‘Childhood perversion …..’   ‘A child is being beaten’ a contribution to the study of the origin of sexual perversions: 1919 : Sigmund Freud : Available as above : p192 of SE XVII: From James Strachey’s translation : ‘A perversion in childhood, as is well known, may become the basis for the construction of a perversion having a similar sense and persisting throughout life, one which consumes the subject’s whole sexual life. On the other hand the perversion may be broken off and remain in the background of a normal sexual development, from which, however, it continues to withdraw a certain amount of energy.’

– p2 ‘It’s the perverse trait that’s preserved. A little further on: “It would of course be important … based on the Oedipus complex.”’ : p192 of SE XVII: From James Strachey’s translation : ‘It would naturally be important to know whether the origin of infantile perversions from the Oedipus complex can be asserted as a general principle. While this cannot be decided without further investigation, it does not seem impossible.’

– p2 ‘Freud doesn’t think that it is established, he thinks that it has to be demonstrated: “If the perversions can universally … acquires a new confirmation.”’ : p193 of SE XVII: From James Strachey’s translation : ‘If, however, the derivation of perversions from the Oedipus complex can be generally established, our estimate of its importance will have gained added strength. For in our opinion the Oedipus complex is the actual nucleus of neuroses, and the infantile sexuality which culminates in this complex is the true determinant of neuroses. What remains of the complex in the unconscious represents the disposition to the later development of neuroses in the adult.’

-p2 towards the fifth part of A Child is Being Beaten … ‘This phantasy representation … from taking this decision : p179 of SE XVII : From James Strachey’s translation : ‘It is surprising how often people who seek analytic treatment for hysteria or an obsessional neurosis confess to having indulged in the phantasy: ‘A child is being beaten.’ Very probably there are still more frequent instances of it among the far greater number of people who have not been obliged to come to analysis by manifest illness.’

– p2 a worldly author had a great success, Sacher-Masoch, for his considerations of flagellation. : From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_von_Sacher-Masoch,  Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (27 January 1836 – 9 March 1895) was an Austrian nobleman, writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name, invented by his contemporary, the Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Masoch did not approve of this use of his name.

– p2  ‘Freud shows ‘the child entangled in the excitations of its parental complex’,’ : SE XVII p186 : translated by James Strachey : IV  If the analysis is carried through the early period to which the beating-phantasies are referred and from which they are recollected, it shows us the child involved in the agitations of its parental complex.

– p2 ‘“The first phase of the whipping fantasy in the girl must belong to the early period of childhood. There is something in these fantasies which quite remarkably remains impossible to determine, as if the thing were indifferent. The lean reply that on gets from these patients at the time of the first communication, ‘a child is being beaten’, appears justified for this fantasy.”

: SE XVII p184 of James Strachey’s translation :

The first phase of beating-phantasies among girls, then, must belong to a very early period of childhood. Some features remain curiously indefinite, as though they were a matter of indifference. The scanty information given by the patients in their first statement, ‘a child is being beaten’, seems to be justified in respect to this phase.

– p2 ‘in the first phase one has ‘a child is being beaten’ and what remains, the agent, remains undetermined. On the other hand, the object, one is sure that it is not the one who is speaking, [is] the subject.’ : SE XVII p185 James Strachey’s translation : The actual identity of the person who does the beating remains obscure at first. Only this much can be established: it is not a child but an adult. Later on this indeterminate grown-up person becomes recognizable clearly and unambiguously as the (girl’s) father. & SE XVII, p199  of James Strachey’s translation : In the case of the girl the phantasy has a preliminary stage (the first phase), in which the beating bears no special significance and is performed upon a person who is viewed with jealous hatred.

– p3 ‘“… But something else is surely determinable, each time in the same sense. … It’s an undetermined grown up person who can subsequently be recognised clearly as being the father…” : SE XVII p184-185 James Strachey’s translation : The first phase of beating-phantasies among girls, then, must belong to a very early period of childhood. Some features remain • curiously indefinite, as though they were a matter of indifference. The scanty information given by the patients in their first statement, ‘a child is being beaten’, seems to be justified in respect to this phase. But another of their features can be established with certainty, and to the same effect in every case. The child being beaten is never the one producing the phantasy, but is invariably another child, most often a brother or a sister if there is any. Since this other child may be a boy or a girl. there is no constant relation between the sex of the child producing the phantasy and that of the child being beaten. The phantasy, then, is certainly not masochistic. It would be tempting to call it sadistic, but one cannot neglect the fact that the child producing the phantasy is never doing the beating herself. The actual identity of the person who does the beating remains obscure at first. Only this much can be established: it is not a child but an adult. Later on this indeterminate grown-up person becomes recognizable clearly and unambiguously as the (girl’s) father.

– p3  ‘“the person who is doing the beating stays the same…, but the child who is being beaten has become an other child, which is the very child who is the author of the fantasy…” : SE XVII p185 James Strachey’s translation : ‘Profound transformations have taken place between this first phase and the next. It is true that the person beating remains the same (that is, the father); but the child who is beaten has been changed into another one and is now invariably the child producing the phantasy. The phantasy is accompanied by a high degree of pleasure, and has now acquired a significant content, with the origin of which we shall be concerned later. Now, therefore, the wording runs: ‘I am being beaten by my father.’ It is of an unmistakably masochistic character.

– p3 ‘“I am being beaten by my father. It has without a doubt a masochistic character. … its contents have never become conscious. It’s a construction of the analysis but is nonetheless a necessity.”’ :  SE XVII p185 James Strachey’s translation : Now, therefore, the wording runs: ‘I am being beaten by my father.’ It is of an unmistakably masochistic character.  This second phase is the most important and the most momentous of all. But we may say of it in a certain sense that it has never had a real existence. It is never remembered, it has never succeeded in becoming conscious. It is a construction of analysis, but it is no less a necessity on that account.

– p3 ‘“The person doing the beating is never that of the father, … one now has to do for the most part with several children.”’ : SE XVII p185-186 James Strachey’s translation : The third phase once more resembles the first. It has the wording which is familiar to us from the patient’s statement. The person beating is never the father, but is either left undetermined just as in the first phase, or turns in a characteristic way into a representative of the father, such as a teacher. The figure of the child who is producing the beating-phantasy no longer itself appears in it. In reply to pressing enquiries the patients only declare: ‘I am probably looking on.’ Instead of the one child that is being beaten, there are now a number of children present as a rule.

– p4 ‘Alphonse Allais “The masked ball where the Canoe and the Mask have to meet, and it’s not him, not her”. : Probably, ‘Umberto Eco, for instance, has analysed a weird brief story by Alphonse Allais in which Raoul and Marguerite, a happily but quarrelling married couple, each gets an anonymous note saying that the other will appear at a masked ball, the wife disguised as a ‘pirogue congolaise’  [Congolese canoe] and the husband as a ‘templier fin de siècle’ [end of century templar {knight?}] meet. The reader’s presuppositions have of course been played upon to lead them to expect the obvious confrontation. But when each tears off the other’s disguise, ‘Lui, ce n’était pas Raoul./Elle, ce n’était pas Marguerite’. Any conceivable explanation the reader may work out for this situation is then contradicted by the statement that they both learnt their lesson from it and never quarrelled again. (Eco 1978)

– p4 ‘It’s not the subject but a mob and that explosion which is characteristic of a narcissistic mechanism in Freudian logic: everywhere the mob collects there are eruptions of the subject’s ego.’ : Probably Sigmund Freud : Group Psychology & the Analysis of the Ego : 1921, SEXVIII p69-143 : You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published at Richard G. Klein’s site www.Freud2Lacan.com : available here : Chapter X The Group and the Primal Horde :  SE XVIII p123-124 : Further reflection will show us in what respect this statement requires correction. Individual psychology must, on the contrary, be just as old as group psychology, for from the first there were two kinds of psychologies, that of the individual members of the group and that of the father, chief, or leader. The members of the group were subject to ties just as we see them to-day, but the father of the primal horde was free. His intellectual acts were strong and independent even in isolation, and his will needed no reinforcement from others. Consistency leads us to assume that his ego had few libidinal ties; he loved no one but himself, or other people only in so far as they served his

needs. To objects his ego gave away no more than was barely necessary.

He, at the very beginning of the history of mankind, was the ‘superman’ whom Nietzsche only expected from the future. Even to-day the members of a group stand in need of the illusion that they are equally and justly loved by their leader; but the leader himself need love no one else, he may be of a masterful nature, absolutely narcissistic, self-confident and in- dependent. We know that love puts a check upon narcissism, and it would be possible to show how, by operating in this way, it became a factor of civilization.


Chapter VI Further problems, SE XVIII p102 : When this hostility is directed against people who are other- wise loved we describe it as ambivalence of feeling; and we explain the fact, in what is probably far too rational a manner, by means of the numerous occasions for conflicts of interest which arise precisely in such intimate relations. In the undisguised antipathies and aversions which people feel towards strangers with whom they have to do we may recognize the expression of self-love-of narcissism. This self-love works for the preservation of the individual, and behaves as though the occurrence of any divergence from his own particular lines of development involved a criticism of them and a demand for their alteration. We do not know why such sensitiveness should have been directed to just these details of differentiation; but it is unmistakable that in this whole connection men give evidence of a readiness for hatred, an aggressiveness, the source of which is unknown, and to which one is tempted to ascribe an elementary character.

But when a group is formed the whole of this intolerance vanishes, temporarily or permanently, within the group. So long as a group formation persists or so far as it extends, individuals in the group behave as though they were uniform, tolerate the peculiarities of its other members, equate themselves with them, and have no feeling of aversion towards them. Such

a limitation of narcissism can, according to our theoretical views, only be produced by one factor, a libidinal tie with other people. Love for oneself knows only one barrier-love for others, love for objects. The question will at once be raised whether community of interest in itself, without any addition of libido, must not necessarily lead to the toleration of other people and to considerateness for them. This objection may be met by the reply that nevertheless no lasting limitation of narcissism is effected in this way, since this tolerance does not persist longer than the immediate advantage gained from the other people’s collaboration. … p103 If therefore in groups narcissistic self-love is subject to limitations which do not operate outside them, that is cogent evidence that the essence of a group formation consists in new kinds of libidinal ties among the members of the group.

– p4 ‘like Irma’s injection, for instance. There’s Irma who enters the room; Freud goes up to her and examines her throat; then there’s the crowd which fills up the room and Freud analyses that this entry — what Lacan calls the entry of the clowns — this entry of all the vacillating identifications of various grandees who are populating that room, eruptions of his own ego which are dispersed like light by a Newtonian prism through Irma’s throat.’ : Information & availability The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud  or here : Chapter II Analysis of a specimen dream, SE IV p107 of James Strachey’s translation : Dream of July 23rd-24th, 1895 – A large hall – numerous guests, whom we were receiving. -Among them was Irma. I at once took her on one side, … I took her to the window and looked down her throat, … I at once called in Dr. M., … My friend Otto was now standing beside her as well, and my friend Leopold …. From p108 is Freud’s analysis of this dream.

– p4 ‘— what Lacan calls the entry of the clowns — ‘ : Seminar II : 16thMarch 1955 : p155-156 of Sylvana Tomaselli’s translation : Information & notes Seminar II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: 1954-1955: begins 17th November 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here : Is it really a question of the regression of the ego at the moment when Freud avoids waking up? What we see is that, from this point on, it’s no longer a question of Freud. He calls professor M. to his aid because he can’t make head or tail of it. This won’t get him a better one, a better head or tail. 5 [Footnote 5 The untranslatable pun in French is between ‘perdre son latin’ (‘no longer understand anything’) and ‘en donner un meilleur, de latin’ (roughly, ‘be given a better one, of Latin’). ]

Doctor M., the circle’s dominant figure, as he calls him – I haven’t identified who it is – is an entirely respectable character in the everyday life of practice. He has certainly never done Freud a great deal of harm, but he doesn’t always agree with him, and Freud isn’t the sort of man to accept that easily.

There’s also Otto and his chum Leopold, who goes one better than his chum Otto. This gives him considerable merit in Freud’s eyes, and he compares the two of them to Inspector Bräsig and his friend Karl. Inspector Bräsig is a sly one, but he’s always wrong. because he fails to take a close look at things. His chum Karl, always at his side, notices them, and all the inspector has to do is follow him.

With this trio of clowns, we see a rambling dialogue built up around little Irma, closer in fact to a game of interrupted conversations, and even to the well­ known dialogue of the deaf.

All this is extremely rich and I am just summarising. Then the associations which show us the real meaning of the dream appear.

– p4 for in the little girl’s fantasy there are always, says Freud, boys, there are lots of boys. In the great majority of cases in the fantasies of girls there are boys who are beaten without being known individually. : SE XVII p186 of James Strachey’s translation : Most frequently it is boys who are being beaten (in girls’ phantasies), but none of them is personally known to the subject. The situation of being beaten, which was originally simple and monotonous, may go through the most complicated alterations and elaborations; and punishments and humiliations of another kind may be substituted for the beating itself : But the essential characteristic which distinguishes even the simplest phantasies of this phase from those of the first, and which establishes the connection with the intermediate phase, is this: the phantasy now has strong and unambiguous sexual excitement attached to it, and so provides a means for masturbatory satisfaction. But this is precisely what is puzzling. By what path has the phantasy of strange and unknown boys being beaten (a phantasy which has by this time become sadistic) found its way into the permanent possession of the little girl’s libidinal trends?

Nor can we conceal from ourselves that the interrelations and sequence of the three phases of the beating-phantasy, as well as all its other peculiarities, have so far remained quite unintelligible.

– p4 : “The fantasy of the phase of incestuous love indicated: he (the father) only loves me and not the other child since he is beating the latter. The sense of guilt cannot find a worse punishment than the reversal of this triumph: ‘No, he doesn’t love you, he is beating you’. The fantasy of the second phase — to be beaten oneself by the father — becomes the direct expression of the sense of guilt…”  : SE XVII p189 of James Strachey’s translation : The phantasy of the period of incestuous love had said: ‘He (my father) loves only me, and not the other child, for he is beating it.’ The sense of guilt can discover no punishment more severe than the reversal of this triumph: ‘No, he does not love you, for he is beating you.’ In this way the phantasy of the second phase, that of being beaten by her father, is a direct expression of the girl’s sense of guilt, to which her love for her father has now succumbed. The phantasy, therefore, has become masochistic. So far as I know, this is always so; a sense of guilt is invariably the factor that transforms sadism into masochism.

– p4 ‘Kafka with his punishment machine’ : “In the Penal Colony” (“In der Strafkolonie”) (also translated as “In the Penal Settlement”) is a short story by Franz Kafka written in German in October 1914, revised in November 1918, and first published in October 1919.

– p4 ‘Freud says that the second phase does not exist in so far as conscience and guilt are always disguised, not seen except by their effects.: SE XVII p189-190 of James Strachey’s translation : This second phase-the child’s phantasy of being itself beaten by its father-remains unconscious as a rule, probably · in consequence of the intensity of the repression. I cannot explain why nevertheless in one of my six cases, that of a male, it was consciously remembered. This man, now grown up, had preserved the fact clearly in his memory that he used to employ the idea of being beaten by his mother for the purpose of masturbation, though to be sure he soon substituted for his own mother the mothers of his school-fellows or other women who in some way resembled her. It must not be forgotten that when a boy’s incestuous phantasy is transformed into the corresponding masochistic one, one more reversal has to take place than in the case of a girl, namely the substitution of passivity for activity; and this additional degree of distortion may save the phantasy from having to remain unconscious as a result of repression. In this way the sense of guilt would be satisfied by regression instead of by repression. In the female cases the sense of guilt, in itself perhaps more exacting, could be appeased only by a combination of the two.

– p4 ‘“would become a direct expression… It has become masochistic; to my knowledge it’s always like that, each time conscience and guilt are the factors that transform sadism into masochism. But that is certainly not the entire content of masochism. Conscience and guilt cannot remain of the terrain all alone; love must play its part as well.”’ : SE XVII p189 of James Strachey’s translation : In this way the phantasy of the second phase, that of being beaten by her father, is a direct expression of the girl’s sense of guilt, to which her love for her father has now succumbed. The phantasy, therefore, has be- come masochistic. So far as I know, this is always so; a sense of guilt is invariably the factor that transforms sadism into masochism. But this is certainly not the whole content of masochism. The sense of guilt cannot have won the field alone; a share must also fall to the love-impulse.

– p5 That makes the pervert, according to Lacan, a crusader, a soldier, who has a mission : Probably a reference to Seminar IV, which has yet to be translated.  See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here. If you know better, let Julia Evans know.

– p5 : The fantasy of the second phase — to be beaten oneself by the father — remains generally un-conscious, apparently due to the intensity of the repression. I am not able to say why in one of my six cases (a man) it was nevertheless consciously remembered. This man who is now an adult has retained a very clear memory of the fact that he used to use the representation ‘being beaten by the mother’ for masturbatory purposes.” : SE XVII p189 of James Strachey’s translations : see footnote above p4 or footnote xxviii

– p5 … ‘Freud has not yet established, which he will do in two phases, 1923 and 1932, the total dissymmetry between the boy and the girl,’ :

Probably for 1923,

The infantile genital organization (An interpolation into the theory of sexuality) : 1923e : Sigmund Freud : SE XIX, Vol 7 pfl :

SE XIX p144, p310 of Vol 7 pfl : But it seems to me that the significance of the castration complex can only be rightly appreciated if its origin in the phase of phallic primacy is also taken into account.

SE XIX, p.145, P312 of Vol 7 pfl : It is not unimportant to bear in mind what transformations are undergone, during the sexual development of childhood, by the polarity of sex with which we are familiar. A first antithesis is introduced with the choice of object, which, of course, presupposes a subject and an object. At the stage of the pregenital sadistic-anal organization, there is as yet no question of male and female; the antithesis between active and passive is the dominant one. [1] At the following stage of infantile genital organization, which we now know about, maleness exists, but not femaleness. The antithesis here is between having a male genital and being castrated. It is not until development has reached its completion at puberty that the sexual polarity coincides with male and female. Maleness combines subject, activity and possession of the penis; femaleness takes over object and passivity.

[1] A passage added in 1915 to Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d).

& for 1932

Lecture 33 – Femininity : New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis: 1932 (Published 1933) : Sigmund Freud : p146 Vol 2 pfl, SEXX p113 (Bold added)

To-day’s lecture, too, should have no place in an introduction; but it may serve to give you an example of a detailed piece of analytic work, and I can say two things to recommend it. It brings forward nothing but observed facts, almost without any speculative additions, and it deals with a subject which has a claim on your interest second almost to no other. Throughout history people have knocked their heads against the riddle of the nature of femininity –

Häupter in Hieroglyphenmützen,

Häupter in Turban und schwarzem Barett,

Perückenhäupter und tausend andre

Arme, schwitzende Menschenhäupter. . . .

[ Heads in hieroglyphic bonnets,

Heads in turbans and black birettas,

Heads in wigs and thousand other

Wretched, sweating heads of humans….

(Heine, Nordsee, Second Cycle, VII, ‘Fragen’)]

Nor will you have escaped worrying over this problem – those of you who are men; to those of you who are women this will not apply – you are yourselves the problem. When you meet a human being, the first distinction you make is ‘male or female?’ and you are accustomed to make the distinction with unhesitating certainty. Anatomical science shares your certainty at one point and not much further. The male sexual product, the spermatozoon, and its vehicle are male; the ovum and the organism that harbours it are female. In both sexes organs have been formed which serve exclusively for the sexual functions; they were probably developed from the same disposition into two different forms. Besides this, in both sexes the other organs, the bodily shapes and tissues, show the influence of the individual’s sex, but this is inconstant and its amount variable; these are what are known as the secondary sexual characters. Science next tells you something that runs counter to your expectations and is probably calculated to confuse your feelings. It draws your attention to the fact that portions of the male sexual apparatus also appear in women’s bodies, though in an atrophied state, and vice versa in the alternative case. It regards their occurrence as indications of bisexuality [*], as though an individual is not a man or a woman but always both – merely a certain amount more the one than the other. You will then be asked to make yourselves familiar with the idea that the proportion in which masculine and feminine are mixed in an individual is subject to quite considerable fluctuations. Since, however, apart from the very rarest cases, only one kind of sexual product – ova or semen – is nevertheless present in one person, you are bound to have doubts as to the decisive significance of those elements and must conclude that what constitutes masculinity or femininity is an unknown characteristic which anatomy cannot lay hold of.

Can psychology do so perhaps? We are accustomed to employ ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ as mental qualities as well, and have in the same way transferred the notion of bisexuality to mental life. Thus we speak of a person, whether male or female, as behaving in a masculine way in one connection and in a feminine way in another. But you will soon perceive that this is only giving way to anatomy or to convention. You cannot give the concepts of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ any new connotation. The distinction is not a psychological one; when you say ‘masculine’, you usually mean ‘active’, and when you say ‘feminine’, you usually mean ‘passive’. Now it is true that a relation of the kind exists. The male sex-cell is actively mobile and searches out the female one, and the latter, the ovum, is immobile and waits passively. This behaviour of the elementary sexual organisms is indeed a model for the conduct of sexual individuals during intercourse. The male pursues the female for the purpose of sexual union, seizes hold of her and penetrates into her. But by this you have precisely reduced the characteristic of masculinity to the factor of aggressiveness so far as psychology is concerned. You may well doubt whether you have gained any real advantage from this when you reflect that in some classes of animals the females are the stronger and more aggressive and the male is active only in the single act of sexual union. This is so, for instance, with the spiders. Even the functions of rearing and caring for the young, which strike us as feminine par excellence, are not invariably attached to the female sex in animals. In quite high species we find that the sexes share the task of caring for the young between them or even that the male alone devotes himself to it. Even in the sphere of human sexual life you soon see how inadequate it is to make masculine behaviour coincide with activity and feminine with passivity. A mother is active in every sense towards her child; the act of lactation itself may equally be described as the mother suckling the baby or as her being sucked by it. The further you go from the narrow sexual sphere the more obvious will the ‘error of superimposition’ become. Women can display great activity in various directions, men are not able to live in company with their own kind unless they develop a large amount of passive adaptability. If you now tell me that these facts go to prove precisely that both men and women are bisexual in the psychological sense, I shall conclude that you have decided in your own minds to make ‘active’ coincide with ‘masculine’ and ‘passive’ with ‘feminine’. But I advise you against it. It seems to me to serve no useful purpose and adds nothing to our knowledge.

* James Strachey’s footnote :  Bisexuality was discussed by Freud in his ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’ : 1905d

– p6 “In two of my four cases of women a smart superstructure of day dreams … The hero of these stories was regularly beaten by the father, punished later, humiliated, etc.” : SE XVII p190 of James Strachey’s translation : In two of my four female cases an elaborate superstructure of day-dreams, which was of great significance for the life of the person concerned, had grown up over the masochistic beating-phantasy. The function of this superstructure was to make possible a feeling of satisfied excitation, even though the masturbatory act was abstained from. In one of these cases the content-being beaten by the father-was allowed to venture again into consciousness, so long as the subject’s own ego was made unrecognizable by a thin disguise. The hero of these stories was invariably beaten (or later only punished, humiliated, etc.) by his [JE her] father.

I repeat, however, that as a rule the phantasy remains unconscious, and can only be reconstructed in the course of the analysis.

– p6 ‘In the third phase what is manifest, ‘a child is being beaten’, it’s always ‘a boy who is beaten’,’ : SE XVII p191 We find here for the first time, too, something like a constancy of sex in the persons who play a part in the phantasy. The children who are being beaten are almost invariably boys, in the phantasies of boys just as much as in those of girls.

– p6 “This trait is not explained in an intelligible way by any rivalry between the sexes,   …  and thereafter only want to be boys.”  : SE p191 This characteristic is naturally not to be explained by any rivalry between the sexes, as otherwise of course in the phantasies of boys it would be girls who would be being beaten; and it has nothing to do with the sex of the child who was hated in the first phase. But it points to a complication in the case of girls. When they tum away from their incestuous love for their father, with its genital significance, they easily abandon their feminine role. They spur their ‘masculinity complex’ (Van Ophuijsen, 1917) into activity, and from that time forward only want to be boys.

– p6 “That’s why the whipping boys … until after many years in a secondary role.” : SE XVII p191 For that reason the whipping-boys who represent them are boys too. In both the cases of day-dreaming -one of which almost rose to the level of a work of art-the heroes were always young men; indeed women used not to come into these creations at all, and only made their first appearance after many years, and then in minor parts.

– p6 In the biography of Anna Freud, edited by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, there is an entire passage on the analysis of Anna Freud. : See Being Analysed – Chapter 3 of Anna Freud – a biography : 1988 : Elisabeth Young-Bruehl Availability here

– p6 Anna Freud herself. In her article on Punishment Fantasies and Day Dreams,  … : See The Relation of Beating-Phantasies to a Day-Dream : 31st May 1922 : Anna Freud: Information here

– p7 – a letter from Anna Freud to her father  of  9th August 1919 : Note, she also, in August 1919, about five months after her father finished his essay “A Child Is Being Beaten,’ told him by letter that she had written down for the first time what she called “the great childhood story’,” which may have been the medieval tale of Egon referred to in her poem.

– p8  ‘“… we have to realise that the principle of Nirvana which comes under the jurisdiction of the death drive … The conclusion of these considerations is that one cannot do without designating the pleasure principle as the guardian of life.” : Beyond the Pleasure Principle : 1920g : Sigmund Freud,  SE XVIII p1-64 : Probably p55-56 of James Strachey’s translation : This tallies well with the hypothesis that the life process of the individual leads for internal reasons to an abolition of chemical tensions that is to say, to death, whereas union with the living substance of a different individual increases those tensions, introducing what may be described as fresh ‘vital differences’ which must of course be one or more optima. The dominating tendency of mental life, and perhaps of nervous life in general, is the effort to reduce, to keep constant or to remove internal tension due to stimuli (the ‘Nirvana principle’, to borrow a term from Barbara Low [1920, p73]) – a tendency which finds expression in the pleasure principle; [Footnote 1 The whole topic is further considered I ‘The Economic Problem of Masochism’ (1924c)]] and our recognition of that fact is one of our strongest reasons for believing in the existence of death instincts [JE drive].


The Economic Problem ofMasochism : 1924 : Sigmund Freud,  trans. James Strachey, SE: XIX p160, PFL Vol 11. P414-415 However this may be, we must perceive that the Nirvana principle, belonging as it does to the death instinct [JE drive], has undergone a modification in living organisms through which it has become the pleasure principle ; and we shall henceforward avoid regarding the two principles as one. It is not difficult, if we care to follow up this line of thought, to guess what power was the source of the modification. It can only be the life instinct [JE drive], the libido, which has thus, alongside of the death instinct, seized upon a share in the regulation of the processes of life. In this way we obtain a small but interesting set of connections. The Nivana principle expresses the trend of the death instinct [JE drive] ; the pleasure principle represents the demands of the libido ; and the modification of the latter principle, the reality principle, represents the influence of the external world.

None of these three principles is actually put out of action by another. As a rule they are able to tolerate one another, although conflicts are bound to arise occasionally from the fact of the differing aims that are set for each – in one case a quantitive reduction of the load of the stimulus, in another a qualitative charactersitic of the stimulus, and, lastly [in the third case], a postponement of the discharge of the stimulus and a temporary acquiescenece in the unpleasure due to tension.

The conclusion to be drawn from these considerations is that the description of the pleasure principle as the watchman over our life cannot be rejected.

– p8 “… If one has the chance to study cases in which masochistic fantasies are particularly richly developed, one easily discovers that they place the person in a characteristic feminine position and signify being castrated, undergoing coitus or delivery. It’s for that reason that I named a potiori feminine masochism that form of masochism of which so many elements go back to infantile life.”: See The Economic Problem ofMasochism : 1924 : Sigmund Freud,  trans. James Strachey, SEXIX p162, PFL Vol 11. P416-417 : But if one has an opportunity of studying cases in which the masochistic phantaies have been especially richly elaborated, one quickly discovers that they place the subject in a characteristically female situation ; they signify, that is, being castrated, or copulated with, or giving birth to a baby. For this reason I have called this form of masochism, a potiorias it were [i.e. on the basis of its extreme examples], the feminine form, although many of its features point to infantile life.

– p8 “feminine masochism rests entirely on what we have described as primary erogenous masochism, pleasure in pain”.:See The Economic Problem of Masochism : 1924 : Sigmund Freud,  trans. James Strachey, SEXIX p162, PFL Vol 11.  P417 : This feminine masochism which we have been describing is entirely based on the primary, erotogenic masochism, on pleasure in pain. This cannot be explained without taking our discussion very far back.

– p9 :1969 in the course of Seminar XVII, L’Envers de la psychanalyse, the commentary of A Child is Being Beaten, : Seminar XVII, 21stJanuary 1970 :

Seminar XVII: Psychoanalysis upside down/The reverse side of psychoanalysis: 1969-1970 : from 26th November 1969: Jacques Lacan: Information and availability here : Possibly Seminar XVII : 21st January 1970: p V 14 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : www.LacaninIreland.com:

Over against this use of propositions, shall we not, before leaving, present the following – ‘A child is being beaten’. This indeed is a proposition that constitutes the whole of this phantasy. Can we attribute to it anything whatsoever that can be described in terms of true or false? This case, which exemplifies what cannot be eliminated from any definition of the proposition, allows us to grasp that if this proposition has the effect of being sustained by a subject, no doubt, it is by a subject as Freud immediately analyses it, divided by enjoyment. Divided, I mean that just as much the one who states it, this child that wird, vertu, verdit, verdoie, because of being beaten, geschlagen– let us play around a little bit more- this child who grows green, is beaten, jokes (verdit, battu badine), virtue, these are the misfortunes of vers-tu, namely, the one who is hittlng him, and who is not named, however the sentence is stated. The you are beating me is this half of the subject whose formula creates its link to enjoyment. To be sure, he does receive his own message in an inverted form – that means here, his own enjoyment in the form of the enjoyment of the Other. This indeed is what is at stake when the phantasy finds itself, in the first place, linking the image of the father to another child- It is the fact that the father enjoys beating him that here puts the stress on meaning and also on this truth, which is a half – because moreover, the one who is identified to the other half, to the subject of the child, was not this child, unless, as Freud says, one reconstitutes the intermediary stage-  never in any way substantiated by memory – where in effect it is himself. It is he who from this sentence creates the support of his phantasy, who is the beaten child.

Thus we are led back in fact to the fact that a body can be faceless (sans figure). The father, or the other, whoever he may be, who here plays the

role, guarantees the function, provides the locus of enjoyment, is not even named. A faceless God, make no mistake. He nevertheless cannot be grasped except as body. What has a body and does not exist? Answer – the big Other. If we believe in this big Other, he has a body that cannot be eliminated from the substance of the one who said I am what I am, which is a quite different form of tautology. This is why [pV 15]  before leaving you I will allow myself to put forward something which is so striking in the story that, in truth, it is astonishing that it has not been sufficiently emphasised, or indeed not at all – rnaterialists are the only authentic believers. Experience has proved it – I am talking about the time of the most recent historical eruption of materialism in the I8th  Century. Their God is matter. Well then, why not? This holds up better than all the other ways of grounding him.  Only for us that is not enough, precisely because we have logical needs, if you will allow me to use this term. Because we are beings born from surplus enjoying, the (12) result of the use of language.

When I say the use of language, I do not mean that we use it. It is we who are used by it. Language uses us, and that is how it enjoys itself. That is why the only chance of God’s existence, is that He – with a capital H- enjoys, it is that He is enjoyment.

– p9 ‘what concerns feminine sexuality the stakes that the Seminar Encoreplays for are to separate S(A) and a ‘ : See  Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: from 21st November 1972 : Jacques Lacan: Information and availability here  https://lacanianworks.net/?p=222

– p9 ‘Lacan tried to translate it as ‘what is refused’’: Probably Seminar III : 16thNovember 1955 : Information & availability Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan or here || https://lacanianworks.net/?p=657  :  p13 of Russell Grigg’s translation : The relation that Freud establishes between this phenomenon and this very special knowing nothing of the thing, even in the sense of the repressed expressed in this text translates as this – what is refused in the symbolic order re-emerges in the real.

There is a close relation between, on the one hand, negation and the reappearance in the purely intellectual order of what has not been integrated by the subject and, on the other, Verwerfung and hallucination, that is, the reappearance in the real of what the subject has refused. Here we have a range, a series, of relations.

– p10 ‘phrases which we must give their full weight: ‘desire is the metonymy of the want-to-be’.’ : Probably The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power:10th-13th July 1958 : Jacques Lacan : See here : p44 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : The truth of this appearance is that desire is the metonymy of the lack of being. [manque à l’être]

From  p259 of Alan Sheridan’s translation :Let us observe for the moment that if the desire is signified as unsatisfied, it does so through the signifier: caviar, qua signifier, symbolizes the desire as inaccessible, but, as soon as it slips as desire into the caviar, the desire for caviar becomes its metonymy – rendered necessary by the want-to-be in which it is situated.

Metonymy is, as I have shown you, the effect made possible by the fact that there is no signification that does not refer to another signification and in which their common denominator is produced, namely the little meaning (frequently confused with the insignificant), the little meaning, [Cormac Gallagher’s translation, www.LacaninIreland.com: namely the bit of sense (frequently confused with the non-significant) the bit of sense,] I say,

that proves to lie at the basis of the desire, and lends it that element of perversion that it would be tempting to find in this case of hysteria.

The truth of this appearance is that the desire is the metonymy of the want-to-be. [the lack-of-being – CG]

Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

Note : If links to any required text do not work, check www.LacanianWorksExchange.net. If a particular text or book remains absent, contact Julia Evans.

Further texts

Of the clinic here

Lacanian Transmission here

Some Lacanian History here

Topology here

From LW working groups here

By Éric Laurent here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

By Julia Evans here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here