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 [here]

7th December 2018 : To request a copy of any text whose weblink does not work, contact Julia Evans: je.lacanian@icloud.com : For fuller details, see Notice : Availability of texts from LacanianWorks by Julia Evans or here

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

a) 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

b) “the 1915 additions to The Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality “:

Note: This is thought to be

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 : p344 pfl of 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.]

Or, more probably, footnotes Sigmund Freud added in 1915

c) “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

d) “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”

It has not been possible to trace this exact quote. Two conclusions that Sigmund Freud draws in Essay I which approximate are given below.

e) Wolf Man : The History of an Infantile Neurosis : 1914 [published1918b] : Sigmund Freud

Standard Edition: Vol 17 (SE XVII): p3 or Penguin Freud Library (PFL) : Vol 9: p225

Published at Richard G. Klein’s site www.Freud2Lacan.com and available here

f) “… 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

The infantile genital organization: An interpolation into the theory of sexuality : 1923e : Sigmund Freud : Vol 7 pfl : For quote, see below [fi]

Lecture 33 – Femininity : New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis : 1932 (Published 1933) : Sigmund Freud : See quote see below [fii]

g) The Economic Problem of Masochism: 1924 : Sigmund Freud

- Of Anna Freud

h) “In the biography of Anna Freud, edited by E. 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

i) “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 or here

j) a letter from Anna Freud to her father of 9th August 1919 : “But 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.”

- Jacques Lacan

k) “1969 in the course of Seminar XVII, L’Envers de la psychanalyse, the commentary of A Child is Being Beaten,” : Seminar XVII, 21st January 1970 :

Seminar XVII: Psychoanalysis upside down/The reverse side of psychoanalysis: 1969-1970 : from 26th November 1969: Jacques Lacan : Information and availability here : see below for quotation

l) “what concerns feminine sexuality the stakes that the Seminar Encore plays for are to separate S(A) and a”

Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: from 21st November 1972 : Jacques Lacan : Information and availability here

m) “There are phrases which we must give their full weight: ‘desire is the metonymy of the want-to-be’.”

The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power:10th-13th July 1958 : Jacques Lacan : Information and availability here

Quotation (bold is mine):

[d i] Conclusion to Part (A) Inversion : of Section (1) Deviations in Respect of the Sexual Object : of Essay I – The Sexual Aberrations : 1905 : p59 pfl


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 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.

[d ii] Conclusion to the section (3) The Perversions in General : in Essay I – The Sexual Aberrations : 1905 : 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.

[f i] From The Infantile Genital Organization (An Interpolation into the Theory of Sexuality) : 1923 : Sigmund Freud :

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.

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).

[f ii] From Lecture 33 Femininity : 1932 : Sigmund Freud : p146 Vol 2 pfl (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

[k] 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 – materialists 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.

m) From p259 of Alan Sheridan’s translation or p44 of Cormac Gallagher’s : The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power:10th-13th July 1958 : Jacques Lacan

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 [the lack of being – CG] 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


7th December 2018 : To request a copy of any text whose weblink does not work, contact Julia Evans: je.lacanian@icloud.com : For fuller details, see Notice : Availability of texts from LacanianWorks by Julia Evans or here


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

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here