Gabriella Romani on Irigaray, "Sex Which is Not One"

In her article, "This sex which is not one", Luce Irigaray defies Freud's and Lacan's analyses of sexual relations and proposes a female sexuality which is self-referential and disconnected from "masculine parameters" of sexual conceptualization.

She rejects Freud's and Lacan's theories of sexuality, because they are constructed "within the dominant phallic economy"(p.24). For Irigaray, Freud procedure becomes emblematic of a patriarchal order where female sexuality is concieved as a 'lack' and, therefore, a nonexistent entity. Irigaray's rejection of Freud and Lacan implies a rejection of any referentiality between the sexes. As she puts it, "man's desire and women's are strangers to each other" (p.27). Transposed on a political level, this would mean that the notion of equality is, for Irigary, impracticable, because man and woman are simply too different and uncomparable. Thus, "exploitation of women is based upon sexual difference and can only be resolved through sexual difference" (in 'Equal or Different?').

Irigaray's definition of female sexuality and sexual pleasure is centered exclusively on the female body, which is concieved not as one sexual organ, but as a plurality of them (p.28). The female body, she argues, cannot be reduces to one sexual organ, because this would only reaffirm the male logic of the "primacy of the phallus" (p.31). Important in this regard is Irigaray's concept of the 'other', meant as the capacity to create an alternative definition of the feminine (pp.28-29), which defies the one created by patriarchy. It is in the realm of this 'otherness', situated sexually in the female body, that the alternative has to be found. In Irigaray's conceptions, the appropriation of a real female space requires the exclusion of man. Thus, heterosexuality as well as motherhood are rejected as a "masochistic prostitution of the (female) body to a desire that is not her own" (p.25).

Unlike Laura Malvey, Luce Irigaray does not believe that "we can begin to make a break for examining patriarchy with the tools it provides" (Laura Malvey p.15), but she does not seem to exclude completely the male cultural tradition, since she refers to a Marxist analysis in her interpretation of women oppression.

Finally, Luce Irigaray's formulation for an alternative female society, while presenting a very insightful critique of the traditional sexual relations, it is by definition one of narrow scope, both rethorically and politically. It ultimately appeals only to a specific segment of a specific gender. It does not speak to those women, and for that matter to those men as well, concerned with inequality and who happen to be heterosexual.

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