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The Super-Ego And Enjoyment

The Letter, Issue 27, Spring 2003, Pages 90 - 112


David Cluxton


According to a new report one in four men under the age of forty have lost their libido and low testosterone levels are to blame.[1] The 'classic' symptoms of this debilitating condition are loss of energy, drive and potency, which have the knock-on effect of ruining sexual relationships and can even affect jobs if men lose their competitive edge. The blame for this testosterone crisis is levelled at modem-living in the guise of excessive stress, binge drinking and even pollution. The proposed solutions? TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) or Viagra. Despite indicating that the main sign of 'low testosterone' is depression, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence the aetiology and treatment of this 'condition' forecloses upon any psychical component or involvement whatsoever but would sooner blame 'tight underpants.'

Whether modern-living is now more stressful or libidinal levels now lower than they were in the past is a question that is open to debate. What seems certainly to have changed, however, is the manner of response taken to such issues nowadays. The inherent assumption of the above study and its subsequent reporting in a daily newspaper is that this 'new problem' should surprise and perhaps even shock us. For living in such a liberated and permissive society we should be amazed to find so many not enjoying. We are inclined to think that in having unburdened ourselves of the excessive prohibitions and taboos against sexual enjoyment that characterised Freud's era, that we now have it easy, that there is no longer anything to obstruct us and that there are no more excuses. So when men are found to be impotent the scientific wisdom is that it must be the result of some physical malady; for what possible psychical reason could there be for not enjoying in the absence of sexual prohibition? Hence what we find in this study is an account of aetiology and treatment that is pitched at the level of the Real of the body, man's potency and sexual enjoyment is an issue purely related to physical mechanics. What such biologico-medico jargon disregards is precisely the dimension of the phallus, its knowledge therefore is cast as pure S2, knowledge that lacks any reference to the master signifier, Si. In the absence of law, as carried by Freud's super-ego, which prohibits and restricts sexual enjoyment we now find in its place an order of neutered scientific knowledge administering our enjoyment. It seems to me, therefore, that this scientific knowledge as illustrated by the above report is symptomatic of the very thing that it aims to explain, the insufficiency of paternal symbolic authority in the administration of enjoyment.

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