Comments on reports of an early overlap of female biology & sexuation

by Bruno de Florence on January 17, 2013

These 2 presentations were made at our cartel session on 17 January 2013. Present were Julia Evans, Jo Rostron and Marcos Abel (as a guest).


Towards the end of Steinbeck novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (published in 1939, awarded Literature Nobel Prize in 1962), Steinbeck has the character of the mother say:

“No, it ain’t,” Ma smiled. “It ain’t, Pa. An’ that’s one more thing a woman knows. I noticed that. Man, he lives in jerks—baby born an’ a man dies, an’ that’s a jerk—gets a farm an’ loses his farm, an’ that’s a jerk. Woman, it’s all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that. We ain’t gonna die out. People is goin’ on—changin’ a little, maybe, but goin’ right on.”

The film version (USA, 1940, Director John Ford) ends on this monologue.

I consider this an astute observation on the difference between male and female sexuation on one hand, and the difference in the sexual response when those bodies are taken at the biological level. For the male body, it is in a discrete domain (jerk) since there is a cut­off point, and sexual libido is also for the most part concentrated in the genital organs. For the female body it is in a continuous domain (river, goes right on), and sexual libido is more diffuse and longer lasting. No wonder then that a sexual link cannot transform an heteros into a togetherness, and that any semblance of continuity can only be realised in the symbolic, when for instance a heterosexual woman accepts to be her male heterosexual companion’s bearer of arms, at the inevitable cost of finding herself fetishized.

Does that mean that male homosexuals are better off? Maybe not. They will both will experience the cut­off or jerk point, and neither will be able to offer any kind of continuity to the other. To which another difficulty has to be taken into account, in that both will experience the anxiety of the Little Death. They will both vacillate, and neither can support the other. If this very vacillation cannot find expression in the symbolic, it will act directly onto the real of the male homosexual body. For instance: the gym muscled gay male body, the “straight­acting” look, the incessant quest for more sexual encounters, the use of so­called recreational drugs for supposedly stronger and more lasting erections, and even the use of penis­sheaths for acquiring a bigger penis size. Another palliative is to offer one’s body as an object of total jouissance to the sex partner, as the-­one (man) who can satisfy all (men), in which the offerer abdicates the responsibility of finding an impossible solution to an imperative (Enjoy!) disguise as a right to enjoy. In seminar 10 (Anxiety, 5 June 1963), Lacan seems to suggest that male castration anxiety is more about the uncertainty of surviving the Little Death. To this, I would add that for the male heterosexual, the fact of having taken daddy’s place may also come into play. After all, daddy might not be too pleased at having been displaced, since sexual activity by the son means the beginning of the waning of his power.


An investigation by the British popular daily The Daily Mail, published in October 2012, outlines an earlier onset of puberty (in the West) of both girls and boys, sometimes in subjects as young as 6 years old. The facts outlined seem to be confirmed by comments from readers, which I have kept in the  PDF version of the article.

This phenomenon raises several questions:

-Should Freudian­Lacanian psychoanalysis revisit the category of the latency period? (Freud, Three Essays On The Theory Of Sexuality, 1905).

-If these female subjects feel like “grown up women” at the apparition of their first menstruations, what of their capacity at negotiating a position in the merry­go­round of dating, sex and love?

-What of the contribution of the mother’s jouissance to these early onsets of puberty?

-What of the medical and medico­ethical issues surrounding a possible pregnancy at the age of 8?

-If this readiness at reproduction is accompanied by a concomitant readiness for sexual activity, something upon which the article remains silent, what of the subject Ego’s capacity at mastering this onset of sexual libido, most especially if their legal status, that is one of their symbolics, is still that of “child”?