funny times

Meditation on separation and sex as a possibility of thinking


Paule Pérez is a philosopher and psychoanalyst; she brings here her point of view on current events and information processing. It is true that "news" is not always news. Repetitions, repressions, reversals, formations of the Unconscious, unexpected transmissions, denials abound, as well as distortions, deafness, blindness or dizziness. Sometimes it is enough to barely change the angle of view or to focus on one word rather than another, for the field to widen, to deepen... 
So many small differences, which enlighten us differently.

Since the Freudian moment, one can no longer evade the question of social injunction and prohibition, which have been secular in matters relating to sexuality, desire and its expression. However, the contemporary visibility of people denouncing, via the gender studiesThe traditional, or even functional, division of the sexes, resulting from phallocentrism, or the claim of those who advocate an alternative performativity in sexual plurality, via the "queer" movements, decisively place us in front of the unimpeachable and the real.

As we are reminded... Noëlle Combet [1] : "Judith Butler has made the difference in Gender Disorder when she wants to show that cultural signs are performative because they impose sexual norms on us essentially through a selection and constant repetition of signs borrowed from the semiotic field. »… « Sex is posited as a biological datum, while gender is seen as a cultural one. »… « In this gender duality, sex too would be an object of the socio-historical norms that are particularly revealed by semiotic reflection. »

Beyond the contemporary trivialization of homosexuality, the multiple, unheard of intermediate and hybrid behaviors now require from us an empathic elasticity. This is true. But above all, it seems to me, a conceptual flexibility. And this, below the psychological, social, aesthetic, moral and political registers: inevitably, the plural, even unheard of, character of these behaviours, gives rise in its wake to a seizure - what Noëlle Combet calls an "expropriation". This overwhelming character also encourages, it seems to me, a logical elaboration, so much so that it challenges our capacity to think. That's what I'm trying to do here.

First of all, I have tried to argue that one can certainly accept the vagueness and possibility of contradiction and blurring between gender and sex in the same individual (perceiving oneself as "woman born in a man's body", or the reciprocal, to take only the inaugural figure of the critical movement), and even that these blurring can be affirmed as possible, plausible and acceptable, both on the psychic-mental and the social-political levels. Indeed, this is not inadmissible.

But there's a precondition. It is a question of carrying out and identifying two movements of the mind: on the one hand, that of the distinction itself, in the abstract. On the other hand, that of the distinction in gender, that is: masculine vs. feminine. For to be able to think that one does not belong to the gender of one's sex, one must have thought about the difference between genders. This makes it inevitable to clarify the terminology of sex in relation to gender. This is the first movement in my work that might seem, to a reader in a hurry, somewhat critical of the proponents of the gender studies or the queer.

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But in a second movement, I am trying to identify how this development provides elements that will enable those who are in favour of gender studies to go even further in their own direction. And this in two ways:

- On the one hand, in the sense that I generalize the idea that the operation of difference, distinction, separation, can be posed as a necessary premise for the genesis of the mind and fundamental (even necessary) for the possibility of thinking. And that precisely, in the elementary distinctions in the small child, that of gender is fundamental, by the fact that having perceived very early on the distinction between him and not him, but that concomitantly he perceives between what is like him and what is not like him. The child makes the link with what is like him and the distinction between what is not like him. The distinction of gender as it is inscribed in language [2], in which the child is immersed, does it not precede the distinction between the sexes, which will occur when the child actually sees the anatomical difference between the sexes? [3] ? It is therefore a question of asking this: if the elementary form of "thinking" consists at the same time in linking and distinguishing, separating and discerning, then the fundamental distinction made by the child, between identity and otherness, infers or is equivalent to his discovery of the difference of genders, which is first, and then to that of the sexes, which is second. Hypothesis that leads me to refer to the etymology of the word sex, which, much more than the anatomical, organic or functional designation, indicates the notion of cut, as in sexion, section [4]. Either the division or sexuation of humanity into two genders, and secondarily by the anatomo-physiolological sex, which is reduced to a kind of gender metonymy.

- I am therefore allowed to posit that gender is not only a social or cultural "category", a major argument of gender studies, but that it is indeed a category of the mind, an anthropological referent allowing us to think about difference, operating universally. And yet this referent has long been unthought of as such. For this reason, it can be instituted as a repressed or even a closed element in the history of thought.

I mean, I'm trying to figure out that if the distinction [5] is a fundamental operation, it allows us to suppose that thinking would take place in the duel or multiple, in the middle and from which it has to unfold, and not in the well identified, delimited unit.

Thus, by extension, contravening the ordination of numbers, we would be justified in saying that the 2 would precede the 1 in the formation of thought, just as the 1 did, historically, precede the 0.

And also that duality is still to be questioned, in that it can "develop". In this respect, to go towards the three, the ternary, the triangular, or even, in the case where duality is posed as a polarisation, to go towards spectrality, which would represent an infinite number of possible thirds between the two opposite poles.

My initial reluctance, then my propensity for "why not? "and finally my strong desire to understand what, here, constitutes an important turning point on something related to the "human condition" and a way of questioning the movements of the mind - led me to what took the form of this meditation.

A primordial separation: Genesis as the possibility of the idea of distinction

The operation of distinction, separation or discernment, can indeed be assumed as an event or advent internal to the foundation of "thinking", as an induced effect or abstract figuration, analogous, equivalent, even specular, to that of the discovery of the non-fusion with the mother (or of who takes its place), of the distance between self and other. It would also be like the "imprint" in the sense that a trace draws the contours and the memory of a form, or like a "revelation" in the photographic sense.

The primordial metaphor of separation-distinction, which I call here as a propositional statement for me, I borrow from Genesis. I consider this book axiomatically as a narrative of a conception of the creation of universes. But also as a first description that makes a trace, that strikes, that is basically a common feature of the so-called founding texts. [6]. So that some might see it, as in poetic embryogenesis, the formation of the mind or its figuration, in a narrative with a phylogenetic function of thought: a narrative in which we would see thought being constituted as such at the cost and after a certain number of operations.

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Why would it be impossible to place the phenomenon, or even the epiphany of "thinking" (what, how, by what?), in the subjective experience, both on the side of the principle of identity and its non-contradiction with the excluded third party, and on the side of the manifestation of distinction. In such a case, the latter can only be envisaged as an operation of passage, and cannot be conceived without "intentionality", inducing the notion of meaning (what, what meaning, for what?). From this point of view, ontological, logical and psychological registers are intertwined. In the perspective of the division implied by the fact that "the question" has appeared - i.e. that man has begun to question and to question himself - the mind becomes something that seeks to "understand" itself, but necessarily and therefore cannot do so in its entirety.

It reads: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was desolation and chaos, and darkness covered the face of the deep, and the breath of God was upon the face of the waters.. Creation is presented at the beginning, as a set made up of material and immaterial, with two elements, sky (immaterial) and earth (material), and two elements designated by indeterminate, undefined, immaterial qualifiers or attributes, characterizing the earth (material), which was "only solitude and chaos", translated from tohu-bohu, which could also be considered as "empty" and "vague". It is a question of an obscure "abyss" (covered with darkness, another immaterial element), that is to say a hollow, a deep abyss but also divisive (as we say that there is an abyss between such and such) and the only element (principle?) that can be named is itself diffuse it is the divine "breath" [that] "hovered on the surface of the waters" in which some commentators wanted to see the notion of energy or information.

Is the abyss an "there is" a "yesch", or an "ayin [7] "Nothingness, nothing," "black hole," empty? The "breath" raises the same question: is it a "there", an "emptiness" or a "nothingness"? Couldn't we say: one or the other of the two, either the abyss as something and the breath as emptiness, or the other way around, depending on whether we assign attributes or potentialities to them?
God said, "Let there be light, and there was light". The other stated element is the phenomenon of the appearance, emanation or creation of light. The result, and on this point I would like to insist, is a founding separation associated with an explicit nomination. "God considered the light to be good, and he distinguished between light and darkness. God called [8] the light by day, and the darkness he called night". What comes as a surprise is that the notion of identifiable unity comes after the notion of separation and individuation, which, implying separation "between", is a sign that the given (the data) is composed of several elements. With today's words, it seems to be "already complex".

"It was evening, it was morning, - one day. "What some have translated: "day one. "The numeration-enumeration (conception of the appearance of the number and the sequence of numbers, the 1 taken in the ordinal and cardinal sense) and the notion of beginning, therefore of time taken both in its function of date and of potential duration, if they are concomitant, intervene after, they are, also, after the appointment.

Then comes a series of separations. "God said, 'Let there be a space in the midst of the waters, and let it form a barrier between them. And God made the space and separated the waters below from the waters above, and it remained so. God called that space heaven. And the evening was made, the morning was made - the second day. Separating various aspects of matter, waters, earth, waters, sky (this is air, let's mention in passing this "physical" operation of transformation of the liquid, that is to say, perhaps already its evaporation), separating the bottom from the top, as before the light from the darkness, what could be more fundamental to form the capacity to think, even before being able to conceptualize.

And it is after the continuation of the much commented separations of Genesis, that the notion of "one" comes.

Gender precedes sex, need for a separating principle in order to think

Thus, for example, where Aristotelian Logic lays its foundation through the principle of identity, Genesis establishes the principle of separation (between duel, multiple or diverse) and distinction. What I wish to expose here is a question that recurs to me: does dialectic precede identity? Or: can we think of a pre-dialectic moment? Does identity (and thus, to a certain extent, individuation) arise from what is not (in the absolute), or from what is not (in the relative, which also implies, in passing, elaborating the massive question of negation), or from an undifferentiated whole from which it would emerge? Can we continue to say that it constitutes in all cases the starting point of all thought?

This by incidence also questions me on the side of Psychoanalysis, on the possible complexity of the first signifier, "S1", which in French could be written "Essaim". [9] "This bar would thus inscribe the dividu of the individual.... "The subject is the one who is the founder, the one who is repressed, as proposed by Lacan, by the bar of division of the Subject, which radically cuts it off from that something by assigning it to remain instead of its unconscious.

For a child the formation of the notion of the other as another can be primary, for example if we prioritize the thread of reading the expression "che vuoi", "what do you (me) want? "envisaged as a paranoid foundation, with undoubtedly primordial hatred. But for another child, is it inconceivable to consider that the formation of the other as another "gender" can be first, since we would prioritize the thread of reading "I need" (this other), considered as a hysterical foundation, supported by a feeling of lack, with perhaps love as primordial? This will remain as a hypothesis but also as an enigma. The child experiences the other when his gaze no longer captures the other in indistinction as a simple extension of himself - and when little by little he is no longer in fusion (confusion). This is what will melt into its development the events making the necessary "cut" to think and become or remain psychically operative.

However, this can be envisaged through experiments that can be assumed to be of two types, and this randomly, on a case-by-case basis. I explore this: that the fact of seeing that there is another or the other, it can come to him as much in an asexual way as in a sexual way: by the distinction that his mother is not him or her, but also for a boy by the early symbolic experience that his mother (or such and such a woman) is not "like" him, not in a biological or anatomical difference, but rather by the fact that he hears words in masculine and feminine, and for the girl that her father (or such and such a man) is not "like" her. In fact, "there is" masculine and "there is" feminine: "gender" can therefore be seen as the first operation of... "sexuation" in the child.

Sex is therefore still at this stage, as a logical operator of separation, equivalent to gender. In this reasoning, the apprehension of gender would precede the awareness of sex as an "organ" or as a biological fact, which would only be its embodied modality once the child has had the opportunity to "see the anatomy" of the sex other than his or her own, a more "random" experience in the history of the little subject. In the most elementary sense of this perception of difference, the noun "sex" acts as an operator that separates humanity between the masculine or (it is an exclusive "or", vs.) feminine genders. And it is worth recalling that etymologically, sex is "section", cut. The emergence of the notion of the other would be formed in the double possibility of appearing subjectively in two ways and not just one: the other as not me and the other as not like me (by gender). This makes the necessary "cut" demonstrating that there is the other: the section, or sexion, semantically envisaged, in the strict observance of the linguistic principle that, because of their "memory" in a language, "words never forget their path...". [10]".

Below or beyond the social: gender as a repressed category of the mind

Sexuation, of gender or anatomy, in an undifferentiated way as far as enunciation is concerned, can be considered as equivalent to the event of the advent of the other, the other of either of the two, coupled with the other of oneself in itself, it is a "sharp", "cutting" separator operator. [11]. Net separator as the zero is for numbers (positive, negative) or for the chronos, establishing the possibility of the "negative", as "before J.-C.", establishing the advent of the Christian era as the zero of History.

Through distinction and separation there is apprehension of both couple zero - one and couple one - two. And it is precisely because sexuation has this function that hybrids, trans-, hermaphrodites, disturb or are disturbed. For by a phenomenon where the crest becomes an edge, they blur the ability to think this distinction and defeat the discernment and the ability of the mind to maintain its own function to understand itself sufficiently at least to remain in function. The principle of separation is indispensable to the very act of thinking both as appreciation (of duality itself) and discernment (between terms).[12].

It is therefore permissible to say that only after having posed something of this kind, can a theory of gender as a social category or category be deployed to think about the social.

More daringly, it is here that I then pose the genre as a category of the mind itself, in the same way that "space and time" are for Kant or "the person" for Marcel Mauss. That is, not only as a "social" category (men, women, in the community) but as a category of the mind for thinking - and speaking. Over the centuries this category has been "neutralized" in every sense of the word by the authors. Gender is indeed the absence of Logic, the repressed or the forclosed, and generally speaking, of the history of thought.

The border issue again...

There might also be some thought to be given to the comparison between the peak separation operated by the "sexué" as a "sexion" (admittedly a late anatomical repetition, but above all), which is logical for thinking, and the work of the Hebrew prayer of the havdala (separation, distinction) when the latter separates by the word, in its enunciation by the assembled, which is symbolic: it is said and reiterated that the Sabbath, the sacred day, is over and that we pass to the profane days, we verbalize the transition by saying this text, and this re-citation "forms" a border. What makes the separation as a cut and crest line, through the words pronounced, becomes a border line: it is in this very "bandwidth", which is both necessarily separating and extensive, that we find ourselves today in order to think about the notions of "borders".

But frontier is not irrelevant, and to return by another way to the neutralization mentioned above, I am not convinced of the relevance of the idea presented as emergent, which consists in "neutralizing" words, especially when speaking of "parents", in an undifferentiated way. It would be a misjudgment of the capacity of the unconscious (from childhood onwards) to assign (even paradoxically) roles to each person, even in the apparently most traditional couples, and the clinic shows to what extent the subject makes himself the author of surprising formations, their apparent unreasonableness precisely accounting for a (different) rationality for psychoanalysts who would like to pay attention to it.

"Hystoricizing" the issue of sex without discipline?

Nor am I convinced of the reduction of "sexuality" to its historicization. Admittedly, there was no formalized theory in ancient times, which may have led some to say that the "homosexuality question" did not exist. But this does not necessarily mean that a meta-doxa on sexuality did not exist at the time. If representations precede theories or rationalizations (isn't a theory linked to an imaginary?), these are not necessarily expressed or translated in the discourse and productions of a time. This is far from being the case. The absence of a doxa can also be an indication of an underlying or even insinuated representation that is not yet conscious. Pointing out the absence of a doxa can be an honourable job for a historian, but it can also be an undertaking of anachronistic recovery in reverse.

In other words, to say that antiquity had no "politics" or sexual theory may as well remind us that the banning of homosexuality came after Christianization, but also that there was simply no established discipline to deal with the issue. And perhaps this sheds light on another day, without in any way diminishing it, as I announced at the beginning of this work, on the position of those who study the semiological approach to gender in the discourse of science and social, genderation, social and cultural studies?
If, for example, some wish to emphasize that Sigmund Freud's theory could only emerge in bourgeois and capitalist Vienna (which is not a revelation), the fact remains that Freud "captured" something fundamental and timeless, namely, in the hollow of the theory of repression, the correlation in the development of the child of sexuality and the possibility of thought. Even, from their unbreakable knot, as soon as the child discovers that there are two sexes, but above all as soon as he discovers that there are two genders, that is to say one other than his own: a "pascomme" that would make him "pastout" - or even more dramatically a "pascomme" that would come from what he had to, in a perhaps tragic renunciation, admit and endorse that he will forever be "pastout".

Induced effects of a hypermodern dialectic, ternary, hyphenation, spectrality, etc.

It is all the more important to be able to make the cut, as the subject evolves in the tangle of ambivalences, in this tension where the other manifests randomly in itself, with these curiously "specular" effects that make our "images" move and anamorphosis, in what is called modernity. And this in all its modalities, be it its hyper-technological components, its migratory dramas and the multiple forms of its exiles.

Dialectic brings with it the figures of contradiction and dialogue, whether we consider it in logic, psychoanalysis, topology, economics, politics...and other registers, fields or disciplines of our activities and productions. They will be carried out in various ways: negation, opposition, division, superposition, slippage, paradox, knotting, disjunction, conjunction, ambiguity, duality, chimeras, ambivalence, reversals, etc. Each of these modalities has been studied here and there for its own sake; their elaboration often evolves towards a resolution in the ternary option, notably by the invitation of a triangulating element, such as a salutary contribution from third parties as legislator or arbitrator. But not always. This leads us to continue working on the figures of duality.

Before concluding, I would like to emphasize that these dual figures particularly catch my attention when they are written with an expression bearing a "hyphen" in its center. This "dia-bolic" typographical sign, so distinctive in bringing together, indicates precisely the union-disunion. Some expressions can illustrate this: Judeo-Christian, Freudo-Lacanian, Marxist-Leninist... So many double formulations which express at the same time the indissoluble "historical" or "logical" link and an irreducible opposition! The question becomes dramatic when faced with two terms linked by a hyphen, when they designate elements coming from the same starting point, which have diverged to the point of becoming opposites or enemies. From the same source, the two terms irrevocably present common elements and radical distinctions. This is a particular and specific form of the work of negation, the implications of which perhaps remain to be explored.

Solubility or insolubility of duality? Let us also consider the possibility of polarization. So the idea of two poles, with a spectrum of positions in between (the famous "shades of grey" in popular parlance between black and white). And this constitutes a spectral range between the poles. This, in a dialectical construction, could found a ternary as an interstitial or introjected third. An arbiter or a law within...Isn't this a certain way of seeing and living the Marran experience? And yet, in order to be able to give ourselves spectrality as a vanishing line among others, we still had to go through sexion and the perspective of sex and gender, as another of the fundamentals of thought in order not to fall into confusion. Nuance, diversity, indistinctness or blur, are best deployed in their richness when they have first made us look at the side of distinction. P. P.

Paule Pérez, Philosopher, Psychoanalyst 

1] -, n°5
2] - Are there many languages where the male-female couple does not exist?
3] - usually discovered later and chronologically random according to the children.
[4] - or: sect.
5] - Again, like the link, but in this work I have placed the emphasis on distinction.
6] - In this age of globalization, I invite specialists in non-Western thought to tell us how this is expressed in their respective melting pots of thought.
7] - This Hebrew word also means eye and source (cf. an "eye" in the architectural sense).
8] - I am the one who underlines. It is through the word that creation (of light and of the rest) is made effective.
9] - The swarm is a group of individuals who group together to separate, assemble to separate and go elsewhere to found a new colony.
10] - Cf. the work of Michel Bakhtine.
11] - Isn't it during this period that the child begins to be able to discover the most elementary distinctions or "sexuations": inside outside, yes no, there not there, silence noise, hot cold, details that we can ask the specialists to corroborate).
12] - In this case, then, the notion of lack is similar. When Plato evokes the myth where each one wanders painfully in search of his half of the other sex to re-form the androgynous unity, we can see its mark or metaphor.

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