This turn, from the escabeau to the marketplace, was prefigured by Lacan in his conceptualization of the lathouse in Seminar XVII.2 In 1970, Lacan rightly placed these tiny little objects a where they once were behind every window, but where there was a behind every window there is the ubiquity of the on the screen in the 21st century. The effects of this movement from behind every window to on the screen, produced by the combinatory of the discourse of Capitalism and Science, are as ubiquitously displayed as the screens they appear upon. Here we can propose the signifier online shopping as that which can best serve as a point of reduction to situate the phenomena.
Principally, online shopping, which we can take in its verb and noun form collapsed as one, in its diverse manifestations — from Amazon to Tinder — acts to consumerize not only the object of desire, but the subject itself in its alleged free agency of contractual relations. We can call this subject turned object of online shopping, the online shopper. The contract of the online shopper; governed by rules of engagement, consent and rights of return, offer the exchange of desire for the protection against the par hasard, and against contingency as such, from which there is of course no guarantee of defense. To cite two figures of centuries past, now faced with extinction by online shopping, we have the flâneur and the gay cruiser, a close relation, whose modes of subjectivity are unitedly determined in their seeking out of the taciturn turned sparked engagement, à la an encounter.
To return to pornography as readymade. The implications for the 21st century masturbator — particularly those born into the masturbatory age proper, the age of online shopping — are more profound than the addition of speed, sound, resolution, or readiness to the pornographic image, already a substitution for dreaming with eyes closed, already a substitution for a body in its flesh and blood. More profound is the degree to which the 21st century masturbator must leave one eyes open to click, scan, type, and refine one’s search options to locate a precise dream, exact, readymade and ready dreamt. In this phenomena, we can see the desire of the online shopper that is to substitute the stuff of fantasy, the bricolage, for the readymade object in its anti-Duchampian de-sublimation.
Outside of the clinic, and within it, the signifier of porn addiction has proliferated. As with other addictions of the market place, support groups tied to an identification with the object have emerged. There the discourse is one of renunciation with its corresponding terms, such as flatlining for withdrawal, to indicate the retraction of the libido and the corresponding detumescene of the male organ without the support of the on the screen. Moreover, we have the pills, always the pills. Perhaps, what psychoanalysis can offer the 21st century masturbator, the online shopper, the porn addict, is the construction of the age-old fantasy, in its two-fold conjugating function as screen (l’écran) of, and window (la fenêtre) onto the real, in the place of the readymade of the marketplace? Indeed, we believe it can.
1 Miller, J-A. (2015). “The unconscious and the speaking body.” Trans. A.R. Price, Hurly Burly, 12: p. 121.
2 Lacan, J. (2007). The seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVII, The other side of psychoanalysis, (1969- 1970).
J.A. Miller, Ed. R. Grigg, Trans. New York, N.Y: W. W. Norton & Company. pg.121: And these tiny objects little a that you will encounter when you leave, there on the footpath at the corner of every street, behind every window, in this abundance of objects designed to create your desire, insofar as it is now science that governs it — think of them as lathouses.