Enjoying Women: Sex, Psychoanalysis, and the Political
246 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2016
Date Written: July 15, 2003
The enjoyment of women, both in the sense of object and subject, is a powerful political and cultural construct. My doctoral dissertation, submitted to Oxford University in 2003, explores the fantasy of women's sexual enjoyment in philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, and popular culture. If offers a sustained critical engagement with the work of thinkers such as Slavoj Žižek, Otto Weininger, and Jacques Lacan, as well as the art and literature of Michel Houellebecq, Michael Haneke, and David Lynch. It investigates how the fantasy of feminine enjoyment manifests itself in Western intellectual and popular culture, and analyzes the ethical and political consequences this fantasy has on the real-life perception of and response to sexual violence. While not attempting to assess or present the “truth” of female enjoyment, this work exposes how the “enjoying woman” fantasy is itself an ideological fantasy that structures the hegemonic field of Western liberalism, bringing it perilously close to its self-avowed opposite, Islamic fundamentalism. Žižek's Marxist-Lacanian syncretism is valuable to feminist theory and to ethical theory more broadly because it politicizes the violent enjoyment of racism and other prejudices; however, Žižek’s theory disappointingly fails to assist in the politicization of sexual violence because of its reliance on the Lacanian fantasy of the enjoying woman. The field of Western liberal hegemonic ideology is not characterized only or primarily by capitalism but also by the depoliticization of sexual violence. The fantasy of the enjoying woman attempts to place “jouissance féminine” beyond or outside this field, and in so doing guarantees the perpetuation of that field. This work is an attempt to expose the violence and resignation that structures the fantasy of feminine enjoyment, and an attempt to re-politicize sexual violence by breaking with the theoretical and cultural coordinates of its ideological field.
Keywords: philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, Slavoj Zizek, Jacques Lacan, David Lynch, Michel Houellebecq, Otto Weininger, Islamophobia, Islamic fundamentalism, Marxism, jouissance
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