Love is substantiated by an ignorance of hatred — Işık Barış Fidaner

For me, Žižek’s most baffling thesis is this one:

Heterosexual love of man is homosexual, sustained by the fantasy that the woman is a man dressed up as a woman. (Incontinence of the Void)

When interpreted literally, this seems to imply that a man’s heterosexual love for a woman does not exist at all, because he must be fantasizing that she has a penis. Now, following Žižek’s Lacanian premises, I accept that there is a certain inherent impossibility to achieving a sexual relationship between the two sexes, but this does not falsify the possibility of a true love between them. So why would a man be unable to love a woman as a woman? Why would there be a need to fantasize that she has a non-existing penis?

Žižek means this thesis literally: He gives examples from movies where the man unknowingly loves a transvestite and he is shocked to encounter the penis he had already been supposedly fantasizing about. But I tend to interpret this thesis figuratively: What the lover is supposed to fantasize about is not a literal penis, but a Phallus.

In Lacan’s schema from Encore (page 90), the Phallus is located between the Imaginary and the Real. This locus clearly distinguishes the Phallus from the phallic signifier which would instead be Symbolic [1].


Phallus is about the frustration of a failure in the Realization of an Imagined Thing (in both senses: ‘failure to realize’ and ‘failure due to realization’), whereas the phallic signifier is an (also failed) attempt to symbolize this reality of the Phallus. As for Lacan’s three fundamental passions: Phallus stands for the reality of hatred associated with this frustration, whereas love and ignorance relate the Phallus to the phallic signifier; love is associated with the truth of S(Ⱥ), and ignorance is associated with the semblance of objet a [2].

Now remember Žižek’s other thesis that “Feminine masquerade conceals nothing but the void”. This void refers to the truth of S(Ⱥ). This means that while the man fantasizes about the reality of a Phallus that belongs to the woman, in truth the woman has nothing but the void. This means that the ultimate truth is a lack in the Other.

I find this thesis implausible. It’s also inconsistent with Lacan’s schema above, where the blind spot of the symbolic order is occupied by the Phallus, not the lack in the Other. This is why Žižek modified this schema in Absolute Recoil: He replaced S(Ⱥ) with the empty subject and the Phallus with S(Ⱥ) because he wanted the lack in the Other to occupy the blind spot of the symbolic order [3].

If we invert this thesis based on Lacan’s schema, we get a more plausible version: The man’s heterosexual love is directed to the void as the truth of S(Ⱥ), whereas in reality there is a Phallus behind the woman’s masquerade, and the man has an indirect relation to this Phallus via the ignorance of objet a [4]. Therefore, what is behind the feminine masquerade is the reality of the Phallus, not the truth of the void. The void is instead a feminine lure.

Heterosexual love succeeds insofar as the man ignores the (hateful) reality of the Phallus and surrenders to the (love-inducing) void as the feminine truth. Žižek’s thesis about heterosexual love being homosexual has a baffling force because it reminds the man of the Phallus he has been ignoring to be able to love the woman.

This also makes sense with respect to Žižek’s comments about the necessity of exchanging insults between friends and then ignoring them: Love is substantiated by an ignorance of hatred.

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 Paradox of the Phallus”

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

[3] See “The Void, The Hole Void, Nothing But The Void”

[4] It is crucial to point out that this Phallus behind the woman’s masquerade does not belong to her. Blaming the woman for the contradiction that she was forced to embody is a deep fallacy that leads to femicides.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s