Contemporary discourse seems to provide a choice in the way sexual identities and sexual difference are described and analyzed. On the one hand, much current thinking suggests that sexual identity is fluid—socially constructed and/or performatively enacted. This discourse is often invoked in the act of overcoming an earlier patriarchal era of fixed and naturalized identities. On the other hand, some modern discourses of sexual identity seem to offer a New Age Jungian re-sexualization of the universe—”Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus”—according to which there is an underlying, deeply anchored archetypal identity that provides a kind of safe haven in the contemporary confusion of roles and identities.
In this volume, contributors discuss a third way of thinking about sexual identity and sexual difference—a direction opened by Jacques Lacan. For Lacan, what we all recognize as sexual difference is first and foremost representative of a certain fundamental deadlock inherent in the symbolic order, that is, in language and in the entire realm of culture conceived as a symbol system structured on the model of language. For him, the logical matrix of this deadlock is provided by his own formulas of sexuation. The essays collected here elaborate on different aspects of this deadlock of sexual difference. While some examine the role of semblances in the relation between the sexes or consider sexual identity not as anatomy but still involving an impasse of the real, others discuss the difference between sexuation and identification, the role of symbolic prohibition in the process of the subject’s sexual formation, or the changed role of the father in contemporary society and the impact of this change on sexual difference. Other essays address such topics as the role of beating in sexual fantasies and jouissance in feminine jealousy.
Contributors. Alain Badiou, Elizabeth Bronfen, Darian Leader, Jacques Alain Miller, Genevieve Morel, Renata Salecl, Eric L. Santner, Colette Soler, Paul Verhaeghe, Slavoj Žižek, Alenka Zupančič