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Unhappy Jouissance
by Amanda Goya

Amanda GoyaIn the absence of a natural law that regulates the relation between the sexes, it is quite by chance that each speaking being bumps into a bit of the real, the fruit of a singular shock between lalangue and the body. Sexual identifications, in the epoch of the father, seemed to have a more stable basis by which to treat this real without law, with the procession of symptoms proper to it. But since science and capitalism have united their efforts to promote this new cogito which directs us today, I buy, therefore I am, the treatment of the real of jouissance without law is revisited by new and surprising semblants at the moment when the disorder of the real invades sexuation.

Does this disorder, in which we can conceive that there exist more than two sexes in speaking beings, offer us a future? In the Seminar … ou pire, Lacan is categorical. He says: "Sex, that this be real, makes not for the slightest doubt. And its very structure, it is the duel, the number two. Howsoever one thinks about it, of it there is only two, the men, the women. […] What is at stake when it concerns sex is the other sex, even when one prefers the same sex to the other."[1] He then softens this assertion by recognizing that this bipartition remains the slightest bit ungraspable.

Do we subscribe today to this partition of the formulae of sexuation[2] that Lacan elaborated in the 70s?

Jacques-Alain Miller, in his conference presenting the theme of the next WAP Congress, considers that the writing of the formulae with which Lacan sought to seize the impasses of sexuality in a frame of mathematical logic ordered around the phallic function "was a heroic attempt to make psychoanalysis into a science of the real".[3] But this attempt to return jouissance to the "minor difference"[4] does not seem to accord with the explosion of sexuation that is announced for the 21st century.

A tower of Babel envelopes this disorder. Several theories of gender bring sexual identity back to culture, and some, like Judith Butler, even speak of an "auto designation of sex"[5]. The common denominator of these nominalist theories is the ignoring of the real dimension of sex and the semblant character of all that can, in a contingent manner, surround and cover up this real.

The gay movement, more and more important, affirms itself in an identity of communitarian jouissance while queer theory, on the contrary, claims the right to difference, to the invention of one's own sexuality. These are only two examples.

Meanwhile, the disorder of the real in sexuation increases through the effect of the capitalist discourse that, in order to supplete for the hole of sexual rapport that does not exist, forecloses castration, necessary to love.

An example: Japan. It is a country where East and West merge, where Oshima in the 70s made the film In the Realm of the Senses (L'empire des sens [Fr.], Ai no Korīda [Jap.]). Japan now holds the world record for sexual abstinence. The Japanese National Institute of Sexology has invented the term 'sexless' to designate couples who have almost no sex life any more. They account for 60% to 70% of couples over the last forty years. It seems that the excuse: "… I am tired" is the argument most often used by the Japanese. Tonari no Shinshitsu (The Bedroom Next Door),[6] a best-selling book by a Japanese psychologist, evokes the hell of the couples who do not have sexual relations. The corollary of this voluntary abstinence is that sex is everywhere, so much so that the sex industry accounts for 1% of the Japanese GDP (twenty million euros).

A documentary by Pierre Caule, L'empire des sans,[7] recounts the sexual misery in Japan. One sees there the importance of the 'videobox', a sort of hive made up of small individual cabins where men rush to satisfy their auto-erotism with devices envisaged for this purpose, competitors of the female sex that augment male pleasure, while porn flicks run on the screen. A man, on being questioned, said that it is easier and more pleasant for a man to frequent this place than to sleep with a real woman while wondering if she enjoyed. The other alternative is that of 'loveldolls', magnificent puppets made to suit all tastes and resembling reality in a striking way. With these, sex is made simpler, more convenient and more profitable, because it is not necessary to give them presents. But, for those who are the most solitary or have the most modest incomes, there are some places where, for ten euros an hour, you can caress cats and others where a young girl gives you a soft and delicate ear massage. And for those who would like to play baby, there are places where a young girl in disguise plays the part of mommy.

What we call the 'conjugal rout' is so large, that Japan is among the last countries in the world in terms of its birth rate. If it continues thus, in 2050, the country will have lost thirty-five million inhabitants.

Nor do they lack 'sexshops' for female pleasure that offer more than eight thousand sex objects and manuals of erotic techniques. A feminist on being questioned said that "Today, young people do not want to make love and men do not make any effort to allure women". Information circulates but for women that turns to hell.

Can one speak about a crisis of the virile position? Of a consequence of the decline of the Name-of-the-Father? Of the supremacy of the imaginary phallus? Of the generalized autism of jouissance? Of the decline of love? Everything seems to indicate that the Japanese have been seized by an unhappy jouissance. The women do not cease to be depressed, and the men to be imprisoned in the monotony of "the jouissance of the idiot"[8], according to the expression of Lacan.

And the youth? Half of those who are between twenty and thirty are not interested in love affairs. They are attentive to their image, their hairstyle and their clothing. It is the 'I love me' generation, which rejects the couple and children.

Are consumer objects responsible for extinguishing the desire of the Japanese, as of so many erratic beings of this sordid hypermodernity? Is this the vociferation of the imperative of jouissance that the capitalist superego imposes? The surprise comes from the voice off that concludes the documentary as follows: "In Japan, there is sex, but there are no relations". Excellent! The world is more and more Lacanian!

Against the current of this generalized unhappiness, analytic discourse advances in a direction that permits the subjects to be oriented in the structure, until they reach, if they pursue this track, what Lacan calls, in paraphrasing Nietzsche: "the gay sçavoir",[9] thus, making possible another relation with the body that, in the mode that in music is called the allegro, counterpoints the unhappy jouissance of our epoch.

Translated by Samya Seth

  1. Lacan, Jacques, Le Séminaire, livre xix, … ou pire, Paris, Seuil, 2011, pp. 154-155.
  2. Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar Book XX, Encore, transl. by Bruce Fink, Norton & Co., New York/London, 1998, p. 78.
  3. Miller, Jacques. - Alain, "The Real in the 21st Century", transl. by Roger Litten in Hurly Burly, Issue 9, May 2013, p. 205.
  4. Lacan, Jacques, Le Séminaire, livre xix, … ou pire, op. cit., p. 11.
  5. Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York/London, Routledge, 1990.
  6. Futamatsu, Mayumi, Tonari No Shinshitsu, not translated into English.
  7. An equivoque on the title of Oshima's film L'empire des sens.
  8. Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar Book XX, Encore, op. cit., p. 81.
  9. Lacan, Jacques, Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, transl. by Dennis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson, Ed. Joan Copjec, New York/London, W.W. Norton & Co., 1990, p. 22.