Sexual position

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Lacan on Sexual Difference

Following Freud, Lacan also engages with the problem of how the human infant becomes a sexed subject.

For Lacan, masculinity and femininity are not biological essences but symbolic positions, and the assumption of one of these two positions is fundamental to the construction of [[[subjectivity]]; the subject is essentially a sexed subject.

"Man" and "woman" are signifiers that stand for these two subjective positions.[1]

Becoming a Sexed Subject

For both Freud and Lacan, the child is at first ignorant of sexual difference and so cannot take up a sexual position.

It is only when the child discovers sexual difference in the castration complex that he can begin to take up a sexual position.

Both Freud and Lacan see this process of taking up a sexual position as closely connected with the Oedipus complex, but they differ on the precise nature of the connection.

For Freud, the subject's sexual position is determined by the sex of the parent with whom the subject identifies in the Oedipus complex (if the subject identifies with the father, he takes up a masculine position; identification with the mother entails the assumption of a feminine position).

For Lacan, however, the Oedipus complex always involves a symbolic identification with the Father, and hence Oedipus identification cannot determine sexual position.

According to Lacan, then, it is not identification but the subject's relationship with the phallus which determines sexual position.

"Having" or "Not Having" the Phallus

This relationship can either be one of "having" or "not having"; men have the symbolic phallus, and women don't (or, to be more precise, men are "not without having it" [ils ne sont pas sans l'avoir]).

The assumption of a sexual position is fundamental a symbolic act, and the difference between the sexes can only be conceived of on the symbolic plane.[2]

It is insofar as the function of man and woman is symbolized, it is insofar as it's literally uprooted from the domain of the imaginary and situated in the domain of the symbolic, that any normal, completed sexual position is realized.[3]

See Also