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Jacques Lacan's Return to Freud: Woman Does Not Exist

The Letter, Issue 5, Autumn 1995, Pages 91 - 107


Paul Verhaeghe

I would like to talk to you this evening about two interesting subjects. The first one is women, which is always very interesting. Maybe it will become clear this evening why women are much more interesting than men, who are as a category, after all is said and done, rather boring. The second subject is sex, which is even more interesting. That's the good news. The bad news is that, following Jacques Lacan, neither of these two exist, which means we have to spend the entire evening talking about the nonexisting... To be more specific, Lacan has said that The Woman, in capitals, that 'The Woman does not exist', in the original French: 'Lμ Fetnme n'existe pas', that's why he writes Th/e with a slash through it; secondly, that The Sexual Relationship does not exist', I1 n'y a pas de rapport sexueV. The second statement is a logical consequence of the first one, which is the most important of the two: if The woman does not exist, there can't be such a thing as THE sexual relationship with THE woman.

Clearly these statements are rather provocative. They are meant to be. It is precisely the kind of statement that gave the name of Lacan the ring of controversy, of incomprehensibility or esoterism. Well, that's my second and most important goal for this evening: explaining why those Lacanian statements are strictly Freudian and how they constitute the essence of Lacan's return to Freud.

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