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Thursday, February 27, 2014


Pearl Pallavi Sahu


Literary Criticism and Contemporary Theory

MEL 232

I MA English

24 February, 2014


Class Notes

The Sex which is Not One

The essay, ‘The Sex which is Not One’, was written by Luce Irigaray where she tries eliminating the notion of female sexuality always being conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters.

A person’s sexuality has always been an important aspect and the gender or sexuality has been dependent on the phallus of a person. It has always been considered that the penis is definite because it is visual and has a form while the vagina has no specific form and is indefinite. This causes the concept ‘lack’ for the women. This ‘lack’ causes the ‘penis envy’.

The very absence of the penis in a woman leads to the ‘penis envy’ which shows that the absence of the penis makes the woman realize that she is different from man and that is the reason she tends to long for it.  She tends to get closer to the male members in the family especially the father or husband to cover up for the lack by serving them. She lives with the desire of the male organ in some way or the other. It is after some time that she gets out of the so called Electra complex stage and starts looking outside family relations.

The concept of autoeroticism is the stage when the woman herself ‘touches herself’. The man to derive sexual pleasure from his own body needs external help such as hands or the woman’s body or anything else, while for a woman it just happens consciously but soon becomes an unconscious effort from the woman’s side. According to Irigaray, a woman can derive the pleasure from her own body because of what she calls the lips that are formed by her genitals. Their constant contact gives her a sexual pleasure which she cannot avoid. This is what autoeroticism is. She says that this autoeroticism is disrupted only by the violent break in of the penis into the vagina parting the lips from each other.

She says that in this world, a woman, more than being self-obliging, obliges man. In fact proving the ‘lack’, she accepts to the man giving herself totally in his hands for him to act upon her as he likes. With his presence she gets what is not hers. There is a sense of dependency on him to give him what he desire. But she will never tell him what she wants or in easier terms, she does not know what she wants. The woman longs for the missing organ. Hence, she is considered to be the imperfect man. Man identifies the pleasure with a woman to maternal relations. He associates it with the womb to establish his lost maternal connections and get the secrets of his origin.

The writer says that because she does not have a sexual form, even her language is different from that of man. Her language also is not definite and what she says cannot be made out clearly. Unlike that of man who speaks out straight like his definite sexuality. The sexual imaginary in a woman is more a less the obliging props of a man’s fantasies. Since she does not have a specific sexual organ, she is considered to have none. This puts her as not one nor two but as the other. She is also categorized as the plural because she really does not have to derive pleasure from just her vagina but every part of a woman’s body could let her derive sexual pleasure.

Hence, through the essay, the writer tries to show the other aspects of woman sexuality showing that she is not dependent on masculine norms.



·   Nair, Shyam. "The Sex Which is Not One." 24 02 2014. Lecture.





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