Beyond the Sexual “Relationship” — Işık Barış Fidaner

The three elements in Lacan’s triangular schema (Encore page 90) are the S(Ⱥ), the objet a, and the Phallus [1]. The central element among these three is the Phallus, because it’s located at the blind spot of the symbolic order, between the Imaginary and the Real [2]:


The Phallus on the top-right side is the point of contradiction where the subject always gets frustrated because this is where what (s)he imagines gets to realize or not [3]. This frustration is inevitable because it is often the case that the realization of the imagined Thing is even worse than its non-realization. This is why the Phallus also becomes the center of hatred [4]. This is bad news for women, because the present gender regime compels women to embody this contradiction of the Phallus by trapping them in the imaginations of men [5]. As Deleuze said once, “If you are trapped in the dream of the other, you are fucked.”

The same gender regime compels men to get authorized by the symbolic order. This authorization takes place by producing the phallic signifier (S1) in relation to the Phallus: In order to produce the Master-Signifier S1, the other two elements S(Ⱥ) and objet a must be combined. Let’s call this operation ‘de-separation’ because it’s the inverse of the real separation [6]. So how does this combination take place?

When the woman embodies the Phallus, the frustrating existence of the Phallus is not attractive by itself. To be able to attract the man, she must take on the appearance of a love-inducing truth, and she achieves this by assuming the discernment of the lack in the Other, S(Ⱥ). In the extreme case, she appears to embody the Universality as “the lack in every particular” (McGowan) [7]. But this attraction is still merely an imaginary effect, and the love is not yet realized.

The truth of her love gets to realize only when the man responds to her via his language; in other words, when her love gets to be supported by the semblances that embody the man’s ignorance. This operation of ‘de-separation’ establishes a magical correlation between the truth of their love and the semblances of their ignorance, thereby concealing the reality of their frustration. The truth of their love becomes ‘meaningful’, and the semblances of their ignorance ‘make sense’, and the S(Ⱥ) and the objet a are combined to establish the Master-Signifier S1. The couple constitutes an authority-body complex [8].

The fetishistic effect of the phallic signifier S1 functions to conceal the Phallus as the locus of frustration and hatred. This is called a “relationship”: It lets the woman gain ‘meaning’ (truth value) by attaching herself to the man’s ‘sense-making’ (semblance value); and it lets the man ‘prove’ himself as a Master-Signifier by relying on the ‘evidence’ of the woman that is supposed to refute the other Master-Signifiers [9].

They can go beyond the fetishistic effect of S1 by ceasing to dodge the Phallus and instead traversing it. The whole triangle of S(Ⱥ), objet a, and the Phallus make up the symptom. The traversal of the Phallus is at the same time the traversal of the symptom. When the symptom is traversed, the magical correlation between truth and semblances is broken, and instead of the ‘meaning’ of truth that ‘makes sense’ via the semblances, we get the signification of the true truth [10].

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 “The Rock of Reality, The Paper of Truth, The Scissors of Semblances”

[2] See “Love is substantiated by an ignorance of hatred”

[3] See “The Contradiction About Contradiction”

[4] See “The Paradox of the Phallus”

[5] See “The Traversal of the Phallus”

[6] Here is Žižek’s description of separation: “in Master-Signifier, objet a is coalesced with the signifying function, it is the mysterious je ne sais quoi which confers on the Master-Signifier its aura, while S1 changes into S(Ⱥ) when objet a is subtracted from the signifying space, i.e., when S1 and objet a are separated — through this separation, S1 appears in all its impotence and misery, as a mere filler of the lack.” (Sex and the Failed Absolute) I call this ‘real separation’, see “Symbolic Separation and Real Separation”

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

[8] See “The Coronavirus Crisis”

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

[10] See “The meaningless signification of the true truth”

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