The Paradox of the Phallus — Işık Barış Fidaner

The existence of space-time seems to imply that the opposite of the spatial is the temporal. This is not the case.

The true opposite of the spatial is the combinatorial [1]. The combinatorial is reached through the lack in the spatial [2]. For desire, the lack in the spatial is a void of dissatisfaction that still expects to be filled up and made whole (genitally for Eros); whereas for drive, there is a hole instead of lack, a gap that is satisfying agape [3]. The lack of desire presents the space an openness as opposed to the closeness that its absence would imply, whereas the gap of drive turns the openness of desire into a paradoxical closure and absense [4].

So where does time come from? Time is a synthesis that is produced when the combinatorial fills the desirous opening of the spatial. This is what happens in a narration. A narration synthesizes a temporality by sequentially combining elements on the basis of a desire. A masculine narrative is one that combines the elements in a realism that presents the real priority of a phallic signifier [5]; this is how a man gets authorized [6]. A feminine narrative is one that disperses the elements in a field of authenticity and leaves the true possibility of their combination to the afterwards [7]; this is how a woman gets to embody [8].

What is embodied is always a conflict between the imaginary and the real. The word ‘Phallus’ designates this contradiction that is the source of all hatred [9]. People get frustrated always because the imaginary is not the real, and what soothes them is always the power of an illusion that what is imagined ‘has’, ‘had’, or ‘will have’ a reality.

The gender regime allots the contradictory role of embodying the Phallus to the women. The role it allots to the men, in turn, is the recurrent invention of the phallic signifier. The phallic signifier is a special symbol that is supposed to capture the Phallus in language and realize the imagination. Needless to say, it always fails to do so. But this does not stop men from repeatedly ‘proving’ themselves, i.e. from authorizing themselves symbolically via the realism of a phallic signifier and women from repeatedly being a true ‘evidence’ to that phallic signifier’s faltering, i.e. from embodying the eternal contradiction of the Phallus [10].

The phallic signifier always has to disavow the contradiction of the Phallus because the man can love the imaginary embodiment only insofar as he can ignore the real embodiment. This is the paradox of the Phallus: The woman can attract a man’s love only insofar as she can embody a hatred that will deserve the man’s ignorance. The desires of the two sexes are entangled through this paradox at the heart of language.

The space opened by the desire for the Phallus, after a number of frustrations, is eventually driven to the ‘traversal of the phantasy’ that is the revelation of the paradox of the Phallus. This is a strange closure, because instead of filling the spatial void, the revelation of the real combinations drops the imaginary space altogether. The traversal of desires lead to a real will that is no longer a mere intention [11]. This is real authorization [12].

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “Spatial and Combinatorial”

[2] See “The Möbius Strip is an Island”

[3] “Following Jacques-Alain Miller, a distinction has to be introduced here between lack and hole: lack is spatial, designating a void within a space, while hole is more radical, it designates the point at which this spatial order itself breaks down (as in the ‘black hole’ in physics). That is the difference between desire and drive: desire is grounded in its constitutive lack, while drive circulates around a hole, a gap in the order of being.” (Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View) My word-play with “agape” comes from Jamieson Webster’s dream in The Life and Death of Psychoanalysis.

[4] This is not a typo.

[5] See “Masculine and Feminine: Truth, Reality and Semblances”

[6] Of course I’m not defending the gender regime that assigns authorization to males. Women can also get authorized. See “The Traversal of the Phallus”

[7] This latency of signification turns women into an enigma and mystery that sets men’s desire in motion. But this also associates women with sacrifice, death and entropy for men. See “Always Afterwards: Entropy and Sacrifice”, “The Crisis of Authorization in Dark”, “Knowledge-at-work is an Effort with Real Engagement”, “Entropy: Deleuze’s Symptom, Lacan’s Key”

[8] So what does the woman embody? In the last analysis, she embodies the conflict about sex. Of course, men can also embody this conflict, albeit conflictually. See “The Conflict About Sex”

[9] See “The Contradiction About Contradiction”

[10] See “Proof is masculine, evidence is feminine”

[11] See “Desire to Repair and Desire to Decompose”

[12] See “Symbolic Authorization of Fetishes and Real Authorization of Symptoms”


  1. An interesting piece of writing, thank you Barış. I wonder how you came to this interesting conclusion: “The woman can attract a man’s love only insofar as she can embody a hatred that will deserve the man’s ignorance” Why man reserves his love only for a woman who can hate? Would her hatred make a wise man want to seek ignorance or only call upon the fool men who have been all along ignorant. What is the connection of her hatred to ignorance?
    Thank you


    • Embodying a hatred does not mean that the hatred belongs to her. There is a contradiction inherent to the embodiment (imaginary x real). The woman’s position does not allow her to abandon or contain this contradiction. This is why she is often blamed for the contradiction she was forced to embody and this leads to femicides.


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