The Masochian woman is a figure who stages what is at stake for women when desire and the law come together. This requires an examination of the conflict that exists between the idea that women’s masochism is the fantasy of men and the truth about who wields power in the masochistic theatre. Thus, the inquiry into women’s masochism means following Jacques Lacan’s conception of women’s masochism in Anxiety, which describes it as holding a “completely different meaning, a fairly ironic meaning, and a completely different scope” from the pervert’s masochism or moral masochism (Lacan, 2016, p.190). Beginning with a critical analysis of Freud and Lacan’s theories on masochism, I will decipher what feminine masochism is and why we are usually only presented with cases where the man exhibits this type of masochistic desire. In order to reach a full understanding of this different and ironic meaning for women’s masochism, it is important to examine the connection between the gaze and masochism to comprehend the way in which the fantasy of the Other is an essential mechanism in the design of the masochistic theatre. However, connecting these two perversions as both belonging on the passive side of the erotic register, as Lacan does in “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis”, does not go far enough, and it must be understood that masochism itself is inherently reliant on the gaze as an essential part of the masochistic theatre, and allows it to function as a fantasy. Thus, for masochism to exist in women, even if it is ironic, Lacan proposes that the fantasy imagined by the Other, or the male fantasy, is what is enacted. This leads to the question of what role anxiety plays in the male fantasy. Lacan believes the masoch- ist’s aim is the anxiety of the Other. If woman is enacting a male fantasy, and one which causes anxiety in the face of the Other’s desire, and man sustains his jouissance through his own anxi- ety, what is this anxiety? I believe Deleuze provides the answer to this question in his own discussion of the three women figures in Masoch’s work. It is the figure of the Grecian wom- an, who “believes in the independence of women and in the fleeting nature of love; for her the sexes are equal” (Deleuze, 1967, p.47), that is the cause of anxiety for man. For Aphrodite, equality between men and women is the “crucial moment at which she gains dominance over man, for ‘man trembles as soon as woman becomes his equal’” (47-48). In Écrits, Lacan reminds us of Freud’s advice “not to reduce the supplement of the feminine with respect to the masculine tothe complement of the passive with respect to the active” (2005, p. 615). In representing what Lacan calls the ‘absolute Other’ the Masochian woman is able to wield the power of law through her control of the masochistic mise en scène.
Komorowski, J. (2021). The masochian woman: A fantasy of male desire?. Middle Voices, 1 (1). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/middle_voices/vol1/iss1/3