Conference review
"Symptom and Sexuation"
dictated by Graciela Brodsky January 28, 2002 at ICF BARCELONA

Rosalba Zaidel

Translated from Spanish by Gabriela van den Hoven - Penny Georgiou


XII International Encounter of the Freudian Field



Graciela Brodsky considered the clinic of sexuation, the way in which psychoanalysis can intervene in the contemporary debate on Sexuality. At the same time she made reference to the research work on the aforementioned theme in view of the next International Encounter of the AMP made by the Clinical Section in Buenos Aires.

She referred to the work of Anne Faust Sterling, the Biologist and geneticist from the U.S.A, who proposes that in the future we will have a new series of sexes, which will be defined by the DNA without taking into consideration any of the external features that characterise a man or a woman. Therefore, it will be wrong to pretend to ground children's sexual education on their external morphology. They should be allowed to choose their sexual definition instead.

On the other hand Psychoanalysis, beyond the biological determinations, is concerned with what is called in Lacan’s terms "Assumption" or "subjective implication". Two clinical cases were mentioned to illustrate it.  One of the cases was published in the media and the other one was a clinical supervision.

1) Maria Patinyo, Olympic Athlete who was struck out by an analysis of DNA. that determined that she was not a woman. She said, "I, am a woman".

2) Sergio is a 7 years old boy in analysis, who is adamant: he says, "I want to be a girl" Not taking into consideration the analyst's interpretation of his mother’s desire. Whereas there is certainty in the first one, there is hope in the latter. It is not about "assuming oneself" or "Coming out" as it was voiced from the U.S.A as a psychological "transformation of the self" but rather about what was named by Lacan as sexuation, which is on the one hand to inscribe oneself in relation to the phallic signifier and on the other hand something that concerns the body. Thus signifying is the encounter of the body with the phallic signifier. An encounter that operates in two levels: first of all it makes it possible for the observable difference to be signified. The presence or absence of the external secondary and primary characteristics which is defined by the prevalent phallic image that makes it possible to name the body in as much as it is sexuated. Secondly, there is an effect of phallic signification (to have or not to have) as a consequence of which to be a man or to be a woman means something even though we might not know what.


PHI       -phi

Body    i(a)

Their phallic signifier captures the body in its image in as much as it limits the jouissance that inhabits it.

PHI              Phallic jouissance


In Lacan’s teaching of the 50s, Seminar IV, the man inscribes himself in the phallic jouissance through identification. However, it will be different in the case of a women. Only when she recognises that the man has got the penis will the phallic jouissance be inscribed. In the case of little Hans we can see that he knows of the emblems of masculinity, nevertheless his object choice (though heterosexual) shows that he identifies to his mother’s desire.  As his mother he desires the phallus- he does not identify himself with the phallus. If he did he would had been in the place of a fetish.

Acceptances or rejections are also subjective positions in relation to the phallic signifier. In "A preliminary question toSŲ" J. Lacan says that a child could decide to reject the paternal imposture. Thus he goes beyond the field of identification proposing that sexuality, the liaison of the subject with the phallus, implies a choice.     We can say that it is at this stage of the theory that we can find the elaboration on the theme in the U.S.A with the theory of gender. This is a way to think sexuation only through the concept of identification but knowing nothing of what gives support to such identification.

In the 70s, Seminar XX, Seminar "Au pire", men and women differ from each other in as much as they are speaking beings. The work in sexuation implies the recognition of the Other as different, which implies that the subject would assume its own sexuality through the acceptance of the Other sex as different and beyond the sexual anatomical differences described by Freud.

Such is the confrontation with a singular relationship to castration, a different position regarding desire, a different style in love, another jouissance which is not of the complete one.

The enunciation "I do not know what I am" is the symptom as an effect of sexuality when the acknowledgement of sex occurs not in oneself but in the Other.

In the second part of her presentation G.Brodsky concentrated on the theme of jealousy, questioning the idea that it is a symptom. She spoke of an essential dissymmetry of the different positions of feminine or masculine in it and at the same time mentioned an unexpected complement. In the case of men’s jealousy, we found that what is primary in them is certainty, within the theories of the passion for ignorance, and biting the body in a very special manner. She quoted Freud of 1922, who recommended not to contradict a jealous man, it would be better to encourage them to develop their theory. Freud understood jealousy as a projection or as unconscious homosexuality, in the grammar of love that deviated from the Oedipus complex.

Lacan in " Guidelines ideas for a CongressSŲ" 1958, What explains male jealousy is the divergence of love -between the dead father and a castrated lover- in a woman. In the 70s male jealousy is explained by the sexuation formula as the divergence located at this stage in the feminine jouissance. She does not know of the "Other jouissance" the excess of the unconscious. Thus is the fundamental disencounter with the man who does not want to know anything for horror of castration. Solitude.

However, Freud and Lacan regard feminine jealousy as crucial. Freud in 1925, considers that they spring from the "penisneid" which is in the feminine nature. The true woman, therefore, is the one that manages to separate from her mother and orientates herself towards the father.

For Lacan in seminar IV, there is a logic that distributes sexual position: the man will be the one that accepted the condition to have the phallus but not being it. On the contrary she will be the phallus with the condition that she does not have it. Man's desire gives her the sign of what she is. However, if she does not receive the tribute of man desire, if she neither has it not is the phallus, she will slip out into a crevice open to the passage to the act or to the acting out.

In the 70s Lacan will say that the essential in feminine jealousy is the recognition of her unique statute beyond the fact that her jouissance exceeds the phallic jouissance.

Forcing symmetry we could suppose that the degradation of the erotic life marks jealousy in the case of a woman. On the contrary, they derive for a man enough much as for a woman from his/her own feminine sexuality. What feeds the symptom is how to recognise what inhabits the Other.