GENDER AND SEXUALITY
Research Interests: Gender Studies
MY REACTION AND RECOMMENDATION
This short article is interesting and raises many questions though it does not provide answers.
First, Jacques Lacan. He states very heavily that at a certain young age the child will go through the mirror stage when he/she understands the image of him/herself in the mirror is him or her and thus is no longer undifferentiated from others.
Second, Lacan’s Phallus. The author uses the term penis, luckily. Because Lacan said that even women have a phallus. The phallus is the virtual image of the subject’s developing Ego as captured in what it will be, what he or she wishes it to be, etc., in the future. A person can regret not reaching it. Or a person can endeavor to reach it and become what he/she virtually desires to become.
Third, Lacan’s square of the subjet’s personality clearly states the Other as the depositary of authority, be it the father (or the mother in mono-parental families with the mother as the sole parent), the school system, society at large, the law, violence in the street or in the family, etc.
But there is some fuzziness in terms. Sex is NOT two possibilities. The Germans recognize that at birth a child can be Male, Female or Indeterminate. There are thus three sexes at birth even if the third sex will evolve later on either towards male genitalia or towards female genitalia, or what does exist, hermaphrodite genitalia.
But as for gender, the author does not capture the real core of the concept. Gender is the way a subject sees him/herself and the way a subject decides to transform his/her genitalia in order to be in conformity with the way he/she sees him/herself. You then come to a tremendous variety of genders: male-straight; male-gay; female-straight; female-lesbian; transvestite male-female or female-male and this one can be added to the first four; trans-sexual male-female or female-male and these can also be added onto all the others; not to mention all the bisexual options. Gender has to take into account the history of a subject. Imagine a transsexual originally male and now female who was a gay male and is now a straight female who likes dressing like a man to attract women in order to have the thrill of a lesbian adventure. And there is nothing new about that. George Sand was not a transsexual but she sure was a transvestite who dressed like a man and smoked cigars in a time when women could not and should not smoke at all.
You are not obliged to read a work of literature through the sexual or genital magnifying glass. You are not obliged to study Walt Whitman from a homoerotic point of view. But yet if you study the concept of the mother in Leaves of Grass you come to the idea that he only reconstructed a concept of the father when Lincoln was assassinated. Before, his poetry is mostly fatherless though it is full of himself as a male and full of other males but they are no father figures, only attractive males carrying the concept of manly friendship or love that was typical in those days of the West and its conquest mainly performed by men. And cowboys used to be only men and are still vastly mostly men.
I just wonder what the author would do with Emily Dickenson who is obsessed with a fly flying around her. Is the fly a male or a female symbol? And in Emily Dickinson, there is a father figure, a concept of the father. Is it because she has been in a way or another “invaded” by her father as a woman herself? Do we speak of incest and rape? Desired incest or suffered incest? Etc.
I have lately been working on some western myths having to do with this subject (check NE RIEN RENIER TOUT RÉÉCRIRE https://www.academia.edu/37692693/NE_RIEN_RENIER_TOUT_R%C3%89%C3%89CRIRE): the famous couples of lovers. The best-known couples are heterosexual. BUT. Pyramus and Thisbe, with a tyrannical father on one side, a meddling mother on the other side, and a dictatorial king on both sides. And they both kill themselves? Pyramus with his own dagger: homo-gay self-sacrifice. Thisbe impales herself on that penis-substitute covered with Pyramus’ blood and this is definitely a heterosexual self-sacrifice after pulling the penis-like dagger out of Pyramus’ flesh.
Then play on such symbols with Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, and so many other cases in drama, opera, films, etc. And yet you also have famous gay couples who were, on the side of the dominant male, bisexual (a case I did not envisage when listing the various types of gender): Alexander and his lover; Pylades and Orestes, one dying onto the dead corpse of the other and both regenerating into two intertwined apple trees. Achilles and Patroclus for another famous couple. And what about Abel and Cain, Cain killing his brother with a sword or something like that, and anyway killing is another way to have some sexual and erotic satisfaction with someone you hate and refuse to love though you desire his love. You find such couples in all civilizations with particularly couples of twin brothers, real twins or false twins, real brothers or half-brothers, etc. The twins in the Maya tradition. The twins in all northern American Indian traditions. The twins in the Quran and in old Egyptian traditions. The two brothers more generally. Note the Christian tradition has minimized the pair of two brothers Jesus and James by minimizing James: making him the Minor with a fake doppelganger said to be the Major far away in Santiago di Compostela, and by erasing from the New Testament James’ vicious ordeal on the savage and hateful decision of the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem and the barbaric execution of his death sentence. And what about the double sexual definition of two of the three Hindu major gods, Shiva and Vishnu? There is no end there, not to speak of Krishna going around raping women to make his divine love jealous. The sexual dimension of things is not typically western.
Moreover, Homo Sapiens in his burial rites is the Hominin who developed the burial of couples (man and woman), and the empathy that kept a boy alive till his teenage though he was handicapped and unable to provide for his needs himself. He had been fed soft food all his life, etc. And he was buried along with another teenager of about the same age. It is not difficult to understand that one of the two boys was taking care of the other and this relationship was recognized and celebrated in their burial procedure. How did the two managed to die at the same time is a mystery because no one has so far tried to explore the details of this ritualized relationship. The concept of the sexual or sexualized couple, straight or gay or lesbian or whatever, is a Homo Sapiens invention and in many civilizations, gay males and gay couples are respected and even at times sacralized as having special powers. And there has been so much lying on these old prehistoric periods. It has been proved that 75% of the hands painted in the 40,000-year-old cave paintings are women’s handprints and yet some go on pretending the 3 to 1 proportion is insignificant and they go on pretending the prehistoric “shamans” of these times were men and they still have not devised the term “shawoman.”
And yet sex is not love even if healthy sex has to be based on love, but a great proportion of sex, even marital sex is not based on love at all.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU