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NLS Messager 669

TOWARDS GENEVA 8
VIIIth Congress of the NLS "Daughter, mother, woman in the 21st Century" 26 to 27 June 2010 Geneva

Logic and semblants of the feminine position


"There is no sexual relationship that can be written". This is the Lacanian point of departure for the text that Marie-Hlne Brousse has kindly sent us a month before the Congress that will reunite us in Geneva on the 26 and 27 June. It declines the logic of the absence of the sexual relation between men and women on the basis of Seminar 18 and isolates three female solutions for "making the sexual link" there where there is no relation: the three Rs: ruse, ravage, ravishing. This working paper will help us to better identify these elements in the texts of the Congress. Lacan indicated this in a slightly different way in a passage from Seminar XX (p 88): There is, according to analytic discourse, an animal that happens to be endowed with the ability to speak and who, because he inhabits the signifier is thus a subject of it. Henceforth, everything is played out for him at the level of fantasy, but a fantasy that can be perfectly disarticulated in a way that accounts for the following that he know a lot more about things that he thinks when he acts. Ruse, ravage and ravishing are thus semblants as Marie-Hlne Brousse indicates. But a question insists : how to maintain a feminine position when the fantasy itself is inconsistent? We will have some elements of a response at the Congress. Between now and the 26 June we will be circulating each week a reference text that will allow us to refine our approach so that the discussion will be fruitful. Dont forget to register online, as this will facilitate the work of the Organizing Committee. PGG

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FEMININE KNOW-HOW WITH RELATIONSHIP THE THREE Rs: RUSE, RAVAGE, RAVISHING Marie Hlne Brousse
I am going to quickly establish the coordinates at the heart of which will be situated the development that I hope to make concerning some feminine solutions to the sexual rapport which I will call know-how. Lacans affirmation There is no sexual relation that can be written, an affirmation which serves as the foundation of the analytic discourse, had at the time he enunciated it the effect of a bomb. It was scandalous. Yet, and in conformity with the logical demonstration that Lacan then made of it, it is verified today in the contemporary masters discourse, which again he had anticipated. I will not develop this point, that the multiplication of the modes of sexual jouissance not correlated to the difference man/woman and the Oedipal norm are verified in the psychopathology of love life today. The belief in a sexual relation between men and women required the univocity of the Name of the Father, even if since Freud, who had already remarked on it, the analytic clinic of speaking beings pulls in the opposite direction. Thus today the idea that there is no sexual relation between men and women has almost become evident, not that this means the formula is better understood. An opposition, even an alternative, is necessary here between relation and link. If the relation can be written, then the link, that is to say the discourse, is no longer necessary. If the relation cannot be written then, quoting Lacan in Seminar 18, Dun discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, it is thus within a discourse that male and female beings, natural beings if one can say such a thing, have to prove themselves [se faire valoir] as such.[1][1] This opposition between relation and link is declined according to others: writing and language, letter and speech. In so far as it cannot be written in the form of a relation in mathematical or even logical language, the sexual is the object of a saying. It even constitutes, as impossible signification, the foundation of all meaning, or meaning for all occasions [sens tout faire] of the masters discourse, which is to say also the unconscious that it saturates.

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Because, as Lacan says in the same Seminar[1] [2], sexual need is not measurable, what follows from this non-determination is the impossibility of inscribing a relation. On the other hand, if it is not possible to write it as a function, it is possible to enunciate it.[1] [3] Language does not account for the sexual as a relation and because of this very fact it produces the sexuated dimension as an ensemble of fictions. It is thus at the level of statements, of enunciation, of speech and its uses, that the sexuated organises discourse. The other side of the formula There is no sexual relation is thus there is a link which is sexuated. The feminine subjective solutions that we are going to envisage situate themselves in a discourse and as such pertain to the semblant and fiction. They constitute a know-how which, deploying itself in the universe of the discourse of the unconscious, aim at and designate from the social link, an emptiness constituted by the missing relation.

Ruse and silence A few years ago I came to work on a passage in Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in which he compared a feminine and masculine way of dealing with the law and prohibition. I will not take this example again but will develop another which comes from observation. Two children of the same age, between three and four, a girl and a boy, are spending the holidays with other children. There are a lot of toys in the house where they live. Constant disputes and rivalries which are causing fights over these objects led the adults in charge of them to lay down a rule: The toys in the house are for all the children. You notice the structure of the type for all situating the sentence on the side of the universal. The little boy is in a room absorbed in playing with a toy. The little girl arrives, looks, takes the toy away from him and responds to his cries with The toys are for all the children! Then she leaves with her loot. What has she done? Underneath the sentence that she repeats, a universal law, she brings out another dimension, one that is not enunciated. She short circuits the for all which does not exist, with an act that is the sign of a child, existence of the singular, here the singularity of a desire marked with the competition for the object that Lacan analyses in such a limpid way in the Seminar Langoisse. I will call this solution ruse because the act in no way challenges universal law as such, rather it leans on the formulation of this very law, and yet it unveils it as fiction while

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re-introducing into it a dimension that this law ignores. In the example taken from the Emile text, it is by introducing a blank into the chain of oral demand in the guise of silence that the subject displaces onto the Other the charge of explicating the demand, a demand he had himself forbidden the subject from formulating. Thus the ruse implies first a knowledge of lack and its acceptance, second, a use of speech erasing the singular position of the subject which remains unspoken, third a handling of the defect in the Other of law and language. It supposes a familiarity with the function of castration in the relation with the object. These solutions are old and bear the mark of the hysterical discourse. To quote Lacan: These are the consequences, in the position of the woman, of this: it is only on the basis of her being a woman that she can institute herself in what is un-writeable about not being one, that is to say what is a gaping remainder of what is at stake in the sexual relation. Thus this happens, so legible in the so precious function of hysterics: that they are the ones who tell the truth about what is at stake in the sexual relation... As for playing the everyman [touthomme] she is just as capable as the everyman himself, that is, through the imagination.[1][4] The problem is that playing the everyman no longer necessarily interests her much, nor imagination, when what she is looking for is a real that is not a semblant at the fault of the symbolic. Let us return to our little girl. At the age of identification with the Princess and the domination of sweet pink into which she had entered precociously, her belief in phallic attributes had sometimes led her to put on three dresses one on top of the other. When she started school her parents, respecting this orientation, had given her a diary with a key presented as the diary of a princess, her confidant. Some years later it was left abandoned, disaffected, in a cupboard. I was curious and had a look at it. It had long lost its key. Not much was written in it but one sentence returned page after page, a sentence written in different, jubilant lettering styles: Prince Charming is a cretin. I must say that it struck me! Certainly it is a secret, it is not meant to be shouted from the rooftops, as I am doing before you. But I am tempted to see it as a modification of the hysterical position. Reading the little text that Jacques-Alain Miller wrote recently on Sarah Palin, I see here the same movement of lifting the veil on castration and a challenging of the at least one, in brief, a relation to the phallic function without the belief in the exception to that function.

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Two clinical references will allow me to go a bit further with this solution by the ruse. A patient comes to see me because the relation with her husband has been deteriorating for some time, which makes her suffer a lot because she loves this man. I will keep to the essentials: as they were moving house some old letters of hers were found in a trunk which had been, for years, at the head of the conjugal bed. Among these letters some were from a former, short-term lover, from before their marriage. She had forgotten they existed, just as she had forgotten the name of the man. But the husband took it badly, reproaching her in particular for having made him sleep for years with, he said not without exaggeration, these letters under his bed. What does she say? She understands neither his anger, whose effects she is suffering from on their relationship, nor her own act, an act that she is beginning to perceive as a formation of the unconscious. She had forgotten them, certainly. They did not mean much to her, these fairly insipid letters, but why keep them then? And in this place, where after all they werent really hidden? A trophy, this was the first signifier that came to her. A revenge would be the second, evoking the fact that at the beginning of their relationship her husband was far from faithful to her. Finally, if this forgotten lover had one characteristic, it was his anonymity at the time of their first sexual encounter, an anonymity she associated with the unprecedented pleasure she had experienced. We cant but think of the purloined letter, which Lacan returned to once more in this same passage in the Seminar 18.[1][5] I quote: it is not nothing to foreground the letter in a certain relation of the woman with that which, of the written law, is inscribed in the context where the thing is placed, because she is, as Queen, the image of the woman joined to the King. Something is improperly symbolised here, and typically around the relationship as sexual. It is in this context that the fact that a letter be addressed to her acquires the value that I give it, that of a sign. Lacan quotes himself: For this sign the letter is clearly that of the woman, because she brings out her very being therein by founding it outside the law, which ever contains her due to the effect of origins in a position as signifier, nay, as fetish.(Ecrits: 2006, p.22). The letter thus arises out of an act of revolt, a revolt against her status as signifier or as fetish in the context of the law. But here there is more than the letter, sign of her revolt and of her being beyond the law. There is the fact

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that it is she, and not a third party, who hides the letter by putting it in this particular place. It is thus she who underlines the deficiency in the sexual relation, yet promoted by marriage. Through the letter she placed there, she grounds the instated, legalised sexual relation on a sign that undermines it, that shows its value as fiction and in this way disengages her being from it. Who is in the shadow that the letter casts on her marriage? Her husband of course, who thereby took on a supplementary value for her because he was feminised, but also herself since she had forgotten it: a recuperation of femininity for herself as well as a consequence. Here is another clinical element: In her analysis this woman, highly respectful of the patrilinear transmission of the name to children, this woman for whom, she said, it was unthinkable that her children not carry the patronymic name of their father, of the father she had chosen for them, realised that in the choice of first names negotiated with the father, one letter of her own first name was transmitted. The symbolic order, the nomination of the father, is respected but curiously, another filiation comes in, parallel, silent, unclaimed. How can we not relate this invisible nomination to the refusal to take part in the means of production, or of reproduction, without this refusal amounting in the least to a challenge to the cornerstone that the name of the father is. This is not a desire outside the law, but a desire in spite of the law. A last clinical example will allow me to go from the clinic of the ruse to that of ravage. The characteristic of the ruse is that it holds the sexuated together as discourse of the unconscious and as its point of verification, which, as Lacan says is devoted to grasping where the fiction ends, and what stops it.[1] [6] It brings this verification, forgetting, the secret, the silence, the letter and writing into play. It implies a certain irony applied to the discourse of the unconscious, ie to the master-signifier, which it is careful not to contest or to manhandle.

Ravage and abuse This woman is in a tormented, painful relationship with a man who was to remain the central man of her life. She would wait many years before telling him that this child who is theirs and whom he cherishes more than anything is not his: a soft version of Medea

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combining ruse here the child is the silent objection and ravage, the ravage of her choice of this particular man. It concludes with a clear attack on the symbolic link through which transmission and reproduction are regulated. Unlike the ruse solution, the choice of ravage attacks the phallic value of the object for the subject, and functions by dissociating objects a from their phallic value. So it is a mortification of the phallus, in which the superegoic imperative of jouissance wins over desire and its cause. In a way, this imperative comes to occupy the place of the ego Ideal. This is why ravage brings the subject back to a fault in the narcissistic investment of the image of the body, a fault in the ideal ego connected not to the ego Ideal and the Name of the Father, but directly to the superego, in short circuit. Ravage is in this sense a sort of push to the woman, injurious of the symbolic order and thus of desire, which can no longer circulate there. It is the massacre of the living body by the word without recourse to the phallic cut effected by nomination. We know that Lacan made of ravage a feminine solution to what is not saturated by discourse of the real of sex. But the link to a man then takes on the colour of this real. Ravage is the relation a woman produces with a man through the consummated sacrifice of the phallic third, herself sometimes. But, being the object to be sacrificed makes it all the more necessary: this method of making the feminine ex-sist eternalises the sacrifice of the phallus. I will not say any more today on this subject, which has often been treated by different colleagues and of which I have already given some clinical elements elsewhere.

Ravishing and what cannot be said. This term was also clarified some time ago by Jacques-Alain Miller and E. Laurent during a conversation with the Clinical Sections as well as in an article by D. Laurent. It seems to me justified to make of it a third feminine solution at the level of the sexuated link, that is to say, of discourse. What cannot be said is what is mystical, says Lacan in Seminar 18.[1][7] The ravishing solution responds to the point of impossibility in what is said. Lacans reference is to the work of Marguerite Duras, but we can bring his developments on mysticism in Encore into the same register. In 2006 in Rome Jacques-Alain Miller gave a conference on one of Lacans analysands, Sister Marie of the Trinity. LNA published an unknown letter from Lacan to Marie of the Trinity and Kristell Jeannot is carrying out research work on

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some of her available writings. In his letter, Lacan evokes this link and underlines that the aim of analytic work is not to free her from it but to discover what made it, at a given time, so pathogenic, in order to allow her to be completely free to satisfy herself from then on. The analysis only intervenes to elucidate what disturbed the functioning of this link, disturbed the solution through ravishing. This disturbance was located by Lacan in the vow of obedience, which raised the themes of dependency. It is not certain that the solution through ravishing pertains entirely to the order of the unconscious since it touches the not-all and does not therefore pertain to the universalising pourtouthomme. At the same time it does not necessarily lean on the phallic value of the objet a, a materialisation of the failure of the relation that makes the link work. Following Lacan in Encore, we can therefore have a differential clinic of ravishing, a feminine modality declined in neurosis, psychosis or perversion. To speak of ravishing in general is insufficient because there are ravishings, and that of Lol is not the same as that of Saint Theresa. The common core of the different modalities of ravishing is no doubt that, while ruse and ravage are situated in the field of speech, ravishing is orientated towards what cannot be said of the Woman, towards the limits encountered by discourse itself at this point. Writing seems to be an associated element which is essential to this solution, but that which seeks to write itself is the unspeakable encounter and its traces, not the relation. Ruse and ravage: what cannot be written can be spoken in the form of a discourse that makes the sexuated link. Ravishing: what of the feminine cannot be spoken in terms of a pourtout, an emptiness of the body, seeks to write itself. The emptiness that inscribes itself is not of the order of relation, arising rather out of an attempt at soldering.[1] [8] Of what order is this writing then? A love letter [lettre dmour] replies Lacan in Encore. He says there: It is indubitable that the symbolic is the basis of what was made into God.[1] [9] Would ravishing then be the choice of making a body for oneself with the symbolic, disappearing by soldering oneself to it? In this case, this elucidates the fact that any principle of authority, in raising the question of dependency or obedience, brings the law back where there can only be love. To conclude with a more contemporary reference, and because I think the ravishing solution can function in diverse structures, I will mention a short episode in the last Tarantino film, Death Proof. This is the episode of the game which

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two of the characters call ships mast. This game consists in one of the feminine characters throwing herself onto the bonnet of a car driven at full speed. Not any old car: the mythical car of a cult film whose title allows an interpretation of the experience that the character of Tarantinos film seeks to reproduce. The title is Vanishing Point. In relation to Hitchcocks title A Lady Vanishes, it is not about the disappearance of a woman as in a magic trick, the disappearance of a cumbersome object. It is the search for the point where the subject vanishes in the ecstasy of the body. It is a contemporary version of ravishing, not without the phallic function but outside the law. Ruse and silence, ravage and destruction with abuse, ravishing and corporal emptiness of the order of the unsayable; these three solutions try to bring into the field of discourse, despite the sexual law, what is heterogeneous with it.

Translated by Heather Chamberlain

[1][1] J. Lacan, Seminar 18, Dun discours qui ne serait pas du semblant, p.146. [1][2] Idem, p.131. [1][3] Idem, p.132. [1][4] Idem, p.143. [1][5] Idem, pp.132 and 133. [1][6] Idem, p.133. [1][7] Idem, p.27. [1][8] J. Lacan, Autres crits, p.191. [1][9] J. Lacan, Seminar 20, Encore, p.83.