This Sex Which Is Not One
In her essay ‘This Sex Which Is Not One’, Luce Irigaray critiques the masculine notion of a woman’s sexuality and proposes a female sexuality which is self-referential and disconnected from "masculine parameters".
From the early ages, a person’s sexuality has been defined by the presence of the phallus. The penis is a visual object and the vagina is not. Hence it is considered as a ‘lack’, which gives birth to the concept of an imperfect man. The lack of penis in a woman creates an envy known as the ‘penis envy’. A woman’s affection towards her mother declines because she blames her for the lack of a penis. To full fill her ‘lack’, she searches outside herself. This envy is the result of her affection towards her husband and father. Her desire for the penis is later achieved by giving birth to a boy child.
Talking about autoeroticism, Irigaray says that for a man to pleasure himself, he “needs an instrument: his hand, a woman’s body, language.” But for woman, “she touches herself in and of herself without any need for mediation.” “Woman ‘touches herself’ all the time,” Irigaray writes, “and moreover no one can forbid her to do so, for her genitals are formed of two lips in continuous contact”. By virtue of the biological constitution of her genitals, in other words, woman has a radically different pleasure/sexuality from man. Her autoeroticism according to Irigaray, “is disrupted by a violent break-in: the brutal separation of the two lips by a violating penis”. This, Irigaray continues, “distracts and deflects the woman from self-caressing from her “own pleasure,” which disappears in this intrusion, “the encounter with the totally other.”
Next she talks about Western sexuality that has been laid down by man. It is based on the erection of the penis, the “thickness” of that “form,” the layering of its volume, its expansion and contraction and even the spacing of the moments in which it produces itself as form. She condemns man’s sexual imagery of woman as just a sexual object. A man’s desire of penetration into a woman’s vagina has two main reasons: to relive thoughts of his past about the mystery of the womb from where he entered this world; and also to establish his lost maternal connection. The penetration makes a woman submissive towards man. Also, she finds pleasure in being used as an object for sex.
Unlike Laura Mulvey, Luce Irigaray does not believe that "we can begin to make a break for examining patriarchy with the tools it provides," but she does not seem to exclude completely the male cultural tradition.
Notes created by Reginald Valsalan (1324108)
Notes taken on 24-2-1014