Psychocriticism & “pure subjects:” Women as capable of deceit, manipulation and genius; Or on how urine unites?

Subjectivity is a process of negation, violence and entry into the Symbolic. The linguistic realm, beginning with no, not, but, yet etc, complexifies baby-being into speaking-being. Baby-being is wholly narcissistic, unable to commit to a universal project alien to itself. Babies do not plan the future, temporalise themselves, etc. As the child begins to learn not yet, or delayed gratifications, and knows the adult cannot know its thoughts, it carves out an interiority. A subjective interiority is more than affectivity; alterity, difference, time-knowledge and cognition haunt the subject after the introduction of subjectivity. Jacques Lacan postulated that a baby begins to disjoint into a subject upon seeing itself in the mirror, and noting its reflection (composed) does not match its experience (incapable). A tension between the composed and the incapable haunts the subject for the entirety of its life. Generating subjectivity via language requires an alterity from oneself, a disjoint, a complexity and time-knowledge.

Gendered subjectivity, or subjectivity as gendered, is ubiquitous. Thinking of a subject without a gender is nearly (although not entirely) impossible. Affectivity’s body, the corpus, sublates itself via speaking, reading and writing into the Symbolic register. ‘Thinking’ becomes- or is- a “thinking in words.” Necessary Symbolic violence registers the subject into relations with Others-as-entities; levelling narcissistic pleasure principles, the subject is met ethically, not just affectively, with sexuality. Classically sexual upsurges cannot simply be met with gratifications; ergo subjects subject themselves in and to alienation. Alienating work becomes intimate personhood. Sexuality is related to relating; it is a relation. Involving Others, sexuality is a priori connected to gender; the materiality of language pervades and provides the materiality of relations. Hyper-individualised consumerist subjectivity under capitalism lends itself towards a privatisation of sexuality. Note marriages to oneself.

Mikhail Bakhtin, writes in The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, 

“The process of separating out and detaching individual life-sequences from the whole reaches its highest point when financial relations develop in slaveholding society, and under capitalism. Here the individual sequence takes on its specific private character and what is held in common becomes maximally abstract.
The ancient motifs that had passed into the individual life-narratives here undergo a specific kind of degeneration. Food, drink, copulation and so forth lose their ancient “pathos” (their link, their unity with the laboring life of the social whole); they become a petty private matter; they seem to exhaust all their significance within the boundaries of individual life.”

Deciphering subjective, sexual and gender ciphers and the worlds they generate, obscure, make obsolete or destroy is not the central thesis of this essay. However, it is crucial to note that sexuality is a link, along with language, to the Other. Sexuality exists with gender; gendering provides (most) subjects with referents, metonyms and frameworks for engaging in sexuality. Heterosexuality is currently the dominant referent. Implying a copulation between a “man” and a “woman,” the heterosexual matrix places its nexus at the very real opening of two urethras. Urine unites. Abjectivity and sexuality congeal with gendered apparatuses.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, in  Truth and Method, writes

“In the independent existence that work gives the thing, working consciousness finds itself again as an independent consciousness. Work is restrained desire. In forming the object—that is, in being selflessly active and concerned with a universal—working consciousness raises itself above the immediacy of its existence to universality; or, as Hegel puts it, by forming the thing it forms itself. What he means is that in acquiring a “capacity,” a skill, man gains the sense of himself. What seemed denied him in the selflessness of serving, inasmuch as he subjected himself to a frame of mind that was alien to him, becomes part of him inasmuch as he is working consciousness. As such he finds in himself his own frame of mind, and it is quite right to say of work that it forms. The self-awareness of working consciousness contains all the elements that make up practical Bildung: the distancing from the immediacy of desire, of personal need and private interest, and the exacting demand of a universal.”

Restraining desire demands “acquiring a ‘capacity’, a skill … [whereby one] subjected himself [or themselves] to a frame of mind that was alien to him.” Mind comes to the alien via traversing that which is universal, and this focused actuation is what “raises itself above the immediacy of its existence.” Irregardless of where the subject sits within frames of gendered matrices, these basic principles apply. Alien becomes intimate. Appropriation of not yet, but and no is obligatory to operating. Without interaction within the Symbolic, and intimacy – even abstracted via the universality of work – with Others, the subject becomes inert to itself and Others. Sketching a brief outline of subjectivity is essential for critiquing tropes about gender; for like consciousness being consciousness of something, subjectivity is a subjectivity of gender. Even if the subject identifies without a gender, this is in opposition to gender. To be ‘agendered’ is to a gender. Revolutionary upsurges compel paradigms to alter. Queer and feminist theories have deconstructed and reified gender, showing its great efficacy, utility and intimacy with being. Transgendered persons state an intimacy with their gender; this runs contrary Judith Butler’s post-Derridean, post-Foucauldian ‘strategies without subjects’ anti-essentialism. For how does the transgendered subject know their gender is x, y or z, when their body, all social conventions, relations, etc. state otherwise? The only recourse for fashionable anti-essentialist gender theorists would be to state a problem in the matrices of the Symbolic, completely disavowing the primordial or fundamental possibility of gender to the transgendered subject. In the same way, dubious notions surrounding women have found currency and purchase in academia’s liberal intellectual bastions.
Conservative notions of “woman” as a “pure subject” are a double bind for queer and feminist thought. Simultaneously rejected and deployed in theoretical circles, this particular patriarchal conceptual framework mystifies “woman.” Permeating the Symbolic, from academia, news media and daily vernacular, sentences like “women and children” lump “woman” into the entity/signifier of “child;” creating a woman as child, patrician ideology perniciously perpetuates the figure of woman as “pure subject.” Woman/child hybridity denies abilities, agency and reflective subjectivity. Bizarrely re-articulated and fully endorsed by many contemporary feminists, implicit theoretical categories of “woman as pure subject” negate her ability for creative manipulation, deceit, etc. Therefore, legally regressive statements such as “I always believe the (woman) victim” (without evidence, etc) in cases of sexual and physical violence (or fraud) paradoxically denies deep subjectivity, the ability for creative manipulation and deceit to women — all essential for genius. Struggling against the multiple ways patriarchy contours gendered spatial and temporal existence requires rejecting this “pure subject;” the simple reflective-of-truth, mere mirror woman. Acknowledging the complexity of women, queer-feminism could remain an open rhizome, not a univocal project denying women the ability to look into the mirror, not just be the mirror.


(little girl looking in mirror | by Christina Lusk)

Flushing out the connection between women and children is important because the figure of “the mother,” all too dominate, perpetuates nuclear family identifications and other patrician fantasies placing enormous psychical and physical burden on women whilst negating parental units outside the heterosexual dyadic matrix, especially communal arrangements. Paterfamilias runs all too deeply within the conservative identity politics posing as queer-feminist theory, a vogue theoretical framework in “Western” universities, historical bastions of elitism. Posing as rebelling or dissidents, these university spaces, “safe spaces,” have no relation to the world around them, nor do many of the subjects there have any real intention of revolutionary upsurges (there are exceptions), as careerist climbing requires acceptance of the “mirror woman.” No revolutionary thought is complete without a complex woman, and a theoretical-juridical discourse to match! Urine unites. Abjectivity and sexuality congeal with gendered apparatuses. What is alien, abject and disavowed must become central to the political-linguistic struggle, for it is central to existence itself. The litany of women engaging in creative manipulations, far outside papa’s boundaries, cannot be listed here. Yet, the case of Chantelle Johnson provides some interesting material for analysis. A 19 year old girl dressing as a 13 year old boy to have sexual relations with 12 and 13 year old girls, is in fact, without moralising, an interesting phenomena. These ‘marginal’ phenomena are really at the centre of our culture:

Chantelle Johnson, of Middlesbrough … convinced another girl to send pictures of herself in her underwear by posing as a second boy called ‘Nathan’. Mr Cleasby [prosecuting] said that she first befriended the girl online with the fake teenage boy persona. He added: ‘After a short while Nathan/Chantelle started private messaging the girl and the conversation began to have a sexual undertone, with the defendant persuading the girl to to send pictures of herself dressed in underwear. The pictures were sent as the girl believed she was in a relationship with a boy of the same age.’ The third victim was 12 when she was contacted online by ‘Drew’ late in 2015. Mr Cleasby said Johnson flattered her and arranged for a date. He said: ‘The girl would be excited about the prospect of a date and would spend time doing her make-up and hair and selecting clothes.’ However, on these occasions Drew would not turn up and Johnson made herself available to the heartbroken girl as a shoulder to cry on … Johnson backed up her false male personas with a host of other characters, posing online as Drew’s father and other family members. In one elaborate hoax to gain sympathy and trust from two of her victims, she said Drew’s younger sister had died and even wore black clothes when she met them, claiming to have been at her funeral.” (Telegraph)

Cases like this demonstrate the intellectually flaccid, if not completely lazy, notion of “always believing the (woman) victim.” Notably, and something I mentioned at my trial to demonstrate bias — whilst I never made the accusation of rape, sexual assault formed a part of my legal defence, “In neither England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland can a female be legally charged with ‘rape’. (she must be instead charged with other offenses such as Sexual Assault, or Assault by Penetration).” Judge John Plumstead, along with a ‘jury of my peers’ sided, in an incredibly complex case, with the “pure subject.”

Judge John Plumstead, who will sentence Cochran on September 2 [2016], said he believed the 29-year-old may have a ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ and ordered psychiatric assessments.

He said: ‘His degree seems to have been a pretty generalist one, he’s talked himself into thinking that by reading Jean Paul Sartre and Heidegger he can form a basis to give therapy to others. That’s delusional.’

The judge continued: ‘This man could have very substantially reduced the trouble he was in if he’d had the ability to face up to it.

If he’d said ‘I’m a bit of a freak, I’m not very happy in my life, I wish I hadn’t done this’, I would have been looking at ways to be sympathetic. I’m afraid I’m not.’ (HamHigh)

Within narcissism’s complex array is the mere mirror person, where proto-subjectivity is between seeing oneself as (composed) reflection and corporeally (incapable) and developing a “self-awareness of working consciousness contain[ing] all the elements that make up practical Bildung: the distancing from the immediacy of desire, of personal need and private interest, and the exacting demand of a universal.” Appropriating the environ, objects and entities for entirely privatised gains, the crypto-subject cannot place itself as the Other. A child they remain. To lump women as “pure subjects” is to place them into the realm of the narcissistic demands of pre-sublimated infanthood. Juridical apparatuses acting to displace agency from “the victim” in my case, resulted in receipt of a 36 month sentence. In point of fact, I was inappropriately sexually touched, I could see the jury – the white men especially – smirking as I stated this, and I knew it was over. I am not proud of how I mishandled this situation, and I admit culpability to the charge of stealing — of which I was found guilty and served my time (and more) for. Yes, I did take her cards, etc. to leave a very hostile situation; I know what happened, and what happened was a mess created by both subjects. 

In conclusion, patriarchal signifiers emanating from conservative traditionalists and the liberal intelligentsia couple “women and children.” Unfortunately these univocal patriarchal parameters restrict women via patrician protection and deny agency to women by placing them in the same category as the ‘innocent’ child. Utilising the woman/child entity, deploying futural possibilities tied to motherhood, even dubiously, the complex, creative and potentially deceptive woman also can ground her subjectivity in the woman/child entity.  Cases abound of the chthonic woman, a complex figure on the ground of being arising to heal, kill, fight, protect and cure; what is needed, theoretically and practically, as with my case, is a nuanced understanding of how the past interpentrates the present, creates demands via the Symbolic (language), and makes messes for women, men and non/other-gendered subjects. A psychocritical evaluation of the “pure woman” is necessary to unleash creative fissures. And, yes, I’m a bit of freak. 

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