Daniel Roy accomplished a tour de force by organising successive advances, since Freud up to Lacan, on this theme of “sexual difference”.He drew the picture as it emerges today in the Lacanian Orientation deployed by Jacques-Alain Miller with the help of the blurry concept of jouissance as a compass. He did so by introducing in his approach the important changes that took place in the discourse of the master and its other side, the analytic discourse. He showed us how Lacan, so sensitive to the changes in modernity, manages to anticipate movements in the discourse of the master even before they appear, thereby demonstrating the predictive power of psychoanalysis when the clinic allies itself with logic and topology. I was therefore free to begin to introduce some additional lines of research for the next two years.
The Difference: Power of the Binary
Sexual or not, big or small, the difference is one of the fundamentals of the linguistic order. It operates because it is first of all an operation for separating and linking at the same time. It constitutes pairs that allow, either metonymically or metaphorically, an ordering of signifiers, words, concepts, images, sounds. When one reads Jacques-Alain Miller one comes to realize the power of this difference, and the power, therefore, of binaries to put order into the symbolic. This is how the social bond operates and all human affairs boil down to this.
The discourse indeed extends the operationality of the difference to the social order, firstly to the family, but more generally to all the institutional structures: the living/the dead, the rich/the poor, the oppressed/the oppressors, the good guys/the bad guys, and, last but not least, men/women.
But the difference is also a mode of satisfaction that produces jouissance as much by asserting itself, because each parlêtre enjoys its difference, as by effacing itself. It is then the jouissance of uniformity [mêmeté], that of the “us” against “them”, the fraternity that Lacan has shown is at the root of racism.Uniformity [mêmeté] is also the foundation of machismo. From the differential order, we slide towards the segregative order. There is no segregation that does not hook itself to a difference attributed to modes of enjoyment. The difference, which founds the symbolic order and feeds imaginary satisfactions, has real effects.
The sexual difference, classically binary, is experiencing an unprecedented upheaval. A certain number of movements of opinion try to wrench it away from the binary S1-S2 in order to pluralize it – LGBT – or to erase it: a refusal of gender or a demand for the neuter. One of the trends of the time is to privilege the inclusive or– either a, or b, or both – over the exclusive or – or a, or b, not both. But binary forces correlative to these emancipatory movements are also deployed, in reaction, by a conservative movement that asserts itself as contrain the political life of the world: Bolsonaro, Trump, and the rise of religions and sects. In France we have seen this movement manifest itself against the so-called “marriage for all,” returning to representations of the traditional sexual difference within patriarchy.
All of Lacan’s teaching deals with the question of sexual difference in speaking beings, and it does so not on the basis of nature but on that of language and the subject. This radical change in point of view differentiates the phallus from the penis and, therefore, the signifier from the organ, and culminates in Seminar 20, Encore. Moving from the subject to the speaking body, the difference ceases to be organized by the binary order and gives way to a non-binary opposition between the All, including all the speaking beings of whatever gender, and the not-all, which precisely no longer allows the binary difference to hold together.
But not so fast! Let’s start from the clinic of the child, who is still often born within the traditional family structure. Daniel Roy finishes his text with this comment made by Jacques-Alain Miller during his speech at the first Study Day of the Institute of the Child: “It belongs to the Institute of the Child to restore the place of the child’s knowledge, that is, what children know.” I orient myself by this recommendation, which here gives the genitive its revolutionary meaning in the proper sense and, consequently, gives the Institute of the Child its power. Not what we – the psys, the adults – know about children, but what we learn from the mouths of children. This is the psychoanalytic revolution operated by Freud with the hysterics. Throughout his trajectory, Lacan applied this formula of extraction of knowledge by the analytical clinic to the letter.
Changes in Kinship Structures – or the Second Death of Laius
An analysand, during a session, says what has just happened to him. One Sunday morning, he was in bed with his wife, in the intimacy of their room, talking in a relaxed way, when their youngest son came in and stood at the foot of the bed and said: “You! You will have a surprise!” The boy then went back to his own room. Then he came back with his plastic sword and, without saying a word, struck the duvet as hard as he could just where his father’s genitals were. A modern version of Oedipus, foundation of the Freudian psychical structure and of psychoanalysis. Big surprise for Laius – even when he’s in analysis!
Let us add another element: in the early 1980s, the analyst working with those who were not yet called nursery school teachers and who had brought drawings of their young students as working papers, noticed that “man “and “woman” were not the words used by these young children to designate the difference between the sexes – today we would say genders – because language, if we pay it the precise attention that is required in the practice of psychoanalysis, is unconscious knowledge. The difference that appeared was between “father” and “mother”: there were dads and mums, not men and women.
These two clinical vignettes lead me to consider that the speech of the master changed. On the one hand, gender has taken precedence over sex; on the other hand, as Lacan repeatedly points out, father and patriarchy have experienced a certain decline in societies now uniformly and globally organized by the capitalist economy, subjugating the name to the object. At the legal level, for example, the law has replaced “father” and “mother” with “parent,” and the notion of “parenthood” has changed the distribution of authority in the family – not to mention the “rights of the child.”
“Parenthood”, as well as marriage “for all”, shows a change in the structures of kinship and thus family ties. We have moved to a universal that can be expressed by the formula “for any parent”, of whatever sex or gender. What new knowledge arises in the child who is confronted with these mutations?
In the Era of an Iron Social Order, Where Does Sexual Difference Lie?
In “Television”, Lacan affirmed in 1973 that “the familial order is nothing but the translation of the fact that the Father is not the progenitor, and that the Mother remains the contaminator of woman for man’s offspring;” is this still the case? Do the children of 2021 still cover the man with Father and the woman with Mother? As Lacan anticipates it in Seminar 21, “Les non dupes errent”, using “the Borromean knot as an algorithm”, “the strict social order” has replaced the patriarchal family order. Farewell father and mother, hello parenting: castration has been displaced. The phallic function is paradoxically submitted, on the side of identifications, either to the organ – imaginary identification – or to gender – new versions of the nomination, which has become self-nomination. The only thing that remains stable is the difference itself as a function engendered by language, and therefore the real of choice which is the minimal definition of castration.
It remains for the child to become the foundation and no longer the effect of the family, to choose its place in a difference that has become pluralised. Which one to choose? How does the child do it? Am I a bi-man or bi-woman? A female to male, male to female trans or a cis? Hetero male or hetero female, a homo? … etc.
Two remarks. The first on this point of language, because, in the end, there is only that which is not subjected to a choice: today, the accepted formulation is no longer transsexual, but transgender. “Trans” marks the being of speech and not the lack of being, which is the consequence of the grip of language on the body as it speaks. Second point: Lacan’s thesis that minorities are responsible for mutations of the modes of enjoying of the parlêtres is validated. The term ‘heterosexuality’ arose in language after ‘homosexuality’, and ‘cisgender’ after ‘transgender’. The child as a ‘polymorphic pervert’ is therefore quite the inventor.
Entanglements of the Phallus and Singular Satisfactions
Henceforth, it is not easy to use the term “phallic function”. The sexual difference has been, since Freud, in a more or less happy way, approached from the term of phallus, when it is not simply reduced to the anatomy of the male, that is to say to the penis. In this case, it is based on a foreclosure of the anatomy of the female. Ernest Jones and others struggle from these premises. Pierre Naveau devoted an important study to this period of analytic theory.
Jacques-Alain Miller’s 2008-2009 course entitled “Things of finesse in psychoanalysis” rigorously puts things in order. He concretizes the expression of Lacan in the Écrits: “The heteroclite castration complex”, a term he prefers, at this period of his teaching, to the classical term of Oedipus complex. The phallus is a “meta-signifier” that refers pell-mell to the “vital flow”, to an “imaginary signifier”, a “symbolic signifier”, a signified, a meaning, a sacrifice, a symbol, a sign, an organ, and so on. As Miller notes, “the libidinal world that Lacan created, he turned it around a signifier: the phallus. It spoke for everyone. And how! It is all the more telling that this signifier is imaginary.” The phallus speaks to everyone and gives the psychoanalysts the shivers. From the point of view of clinical work, it is at best the exploitation of the principle of misunderstanding, which is foundational to speech, and, at worst, a veil of ignorance. This is why Miller reduces the heteroclite nature of this meta-signifier to a value: the value “minus,” which limits jouissance and thus makes desire possible. This is clearly the reason why Lacan opted for “castration complex” rather than “Oedipus complex.”
The so-called complexes and the phallus with a heteroclite definition were and are the occasion of slippages and prejudices at work in the passé and even reactionary positions of Freudian, post-Freudian and even Lacanian psychoanalysis. Lacan has always guarded against such slips in the discourse of the master, unlike some of his students, such as Françoise Dolto. Thus, he has always differentiated the subject from the individual and the ego. He dehumanized the father by reducing him to the name – the Name-of-the-Father – and in assimilating him to the metaphorical function, and he has dehumanised the mother in reducing her to desire. He never fails to recall that this operation, which touched the basis of the symbolic in psychoanalysis, was one of the reasons for his excommunication by the analytic world of the time, and the reason why he never returned to this Seminar entitled “Names-of-the-Father”, interrupted by PIPAAD and its “air of heritage”.
If, as Miller does, we reduce the phallus to the minus sign, to this common value which allows the speaking bodies to enter into commerce and exchange, how are we to approach sexual difference, if not by the singularity of modes of enjoyment? At a time when the status of the child in the family has changed, where the child has become the foundation rather than a product, how does the child approach the lack, this “minus”, the inevitable consequence of language on the body and the link of discourse? How does the child speak about the choice of his or her singular mode of enjoyment?
Mutant or Hybrid? Infantile Sexual Theories
Two other clinical vignettes show the power of knowledge invented by children. A little girl, from the age of two, had impressed her family by the fact that, to assert her femininity, she demanded to put several dresses on top of each other, in the logic of making herself the fetish, and received as a gift for her six birthday a small notebook with a padlock – Diary of a Princess – a capitalist takeover of the fairy tale. A year or two later, the object, abandoned, fell into the hands of a curious adult. Some drawings, but, written on pages and pages, the following sentence: “Prince Charming is a cretin.” Damn! I didn’t know, but I should have. It is obvious. He only serves to wake the Sleeping Beauty. This is reminiscent of the film Kill Bill by Tarentino, in which the name of the heroine is scrambled on the soundtrack: while she is asleep in a deep coma, after being hit in the head by a bullet fired by the man she loves, her “favours” are monetised by the nursing staff. One day, the sleeping beauty suddenly wakes up and makes a transformation to this capitalist version of Prince Charming, a cretin as I later understood. These tales, these myths, what structures do they reflect?
In Seminar 19, Lacan begins developing his formulas of sexuation, and, in Chapter 7, which Jacques-Alain Miller titled “The Vanished Partner”, he affirms, in speaking of his exchanges, or rather his refusal to exchange, with Simone de Beauvoir about the title she had chosen – The Second Sex – that “there is no second sex.”He defines sexuality as a function: “The function called sexuality is defined, to the extent that we know anything about it – we do know a bit about it, if only from experience – by the fact that the sexes are twain […] From the moment language starts functioning, there is no second sex. Or, to put it differently, concerning what is called heterosexuality, the word heteros, which is the term that in Greek is used to say other, is in the position – for the relation that in the speaking being is called sexual – of emptying itself of its Being. This emptiness which it offers to speech is precisely what I call the locus of the Other, namely the locus in which the effects of the said speech are inscribed.” So two or not two? Is the law of difference, which is the law of articulation S1-S2, still valid?
This same little girl, talking to her brother, sprung this on him one day: “You know, there are not only boys and girls.” The brother is surprised. “There are also ‘girlboys’, and ‘boygirls’. Me, I am a ‘girlboy’.” The brother replied, dryly, that it was out of the question for him to be classed as ‘boygirl’. The dialogue was at an end. There is no relation between the sexes, even if one multiplies the cases and tries to enlarge the categories. Why? I have an idea. It is not, it seems, in a reiteration of the formula “The woman does not exist” that we have to seek it out, because it is clear that “The man does not exist.” No one escapes the fact that, as soon as we begin to talk about sexual difference, we are led by discourse to speak in universal terms: ‘the’ men, ‘the’ women, and ‘the’ others. In short, we do not exit the universal, characterised by the lying truth and meaning, alas the most common, which is to say dominant. In and through language, sexuality passes via the pathways of speech and any speaker finds themselves in the table of sexuation, which appears in Seminar 20, Encore, with its two formulas of sexuation on the side of the man: there exists an x such that not phi of xand for all x, phi of x.
To characterize the effects of sexual difference on speech and language, we can use the model of the black hole as defined by astrophysicists in the context of the theory of relativity. Everything that enters the interior of the black hole – all information, all material – is assimilated to the black hole, which is characterized by only three elements: its mass, its speed of rotation, and its electric charge. All the objects that fall into it become inaccessible. As soon as one enters into the field of sexual difference, everything that defines the singularity of the modes of enjoyment and subjective positions becomes inaccessible. The man/woman binary neutralizes all other differences and makes the speaking bodies inaccessible in the contingency and non-universality of their organization. The so-called feminine side, highlighted by Lacan, is an attempt to make accessible what is not accessible to the man, governed by the regime of the one of exception, and the all of the universal. On the feminine side, sexual difference becomes totally “asymmetrical”. The feminine is thinkable only if we exclude any idea of complementarity, inclusion or even contradiction.
Admittedly, sexual difference can only be formulated in the field of identification and fantasy. To be gendered is only possible on the side of the logic of the all and of the phallic exception. “Man, the male, the virile […] is a creation of discourse.”Let’s add, The woman is one also, as a function of Phi, understood as a measure of value. In passing, we can generalize the formula The woman does not exist for the Man. Sex is the effect of a saying. What words today do children choose to say their affiliation? Do they have new sexual theories?
The Difference Is (a)Sexuated: Differences Linked to Contingency
Sexual difference on the side of jouissance is related to the objects plus-de-jouir, or object a. This diversifies it in the function of dominance of this or that object, a dominance whose origin is due to contingent marks in the history of the subject, but which, precisely, in being dominance and fixation, engenders a repetition and thus a necessity.
These objects have one element in common, which psychoanalysis has traced since Freud. They are linked to the orifices of the body, to the passage apprehended first as a passage from the inside to the outside of the body. Objects allow the imaginary to become again a surface with an edge.
The consequence is that, linked to the orifices of one’s own body, sexuality is essentially autoerotic, even if these objects are placed in the Other. We can read the current rise in the social link of discourse where jouissance of one body is submitted to stricter conditions by another body, while, at the same time, the traditional ban on masturbation has disappeared. Fantasy, motor of autoeroticism, yes; act, no. Does the spread of porn, the empire of the image on social networks, modify – and if yes, how – children’s approach to sexuality? Does greater puritanism, combined with greater crudeness of images and liberation of words, bring about a modification of the subject’s relation to his or her (a)sexuality? Are children today polymorphously perverse or, rather, puritanical?
In 1978, Seminar 26, “Topology and time,” Lacan, speaks of the possibility of a third sex, on the basis of his choice of the “generalized Borromean”: “There is no sexual relation, it is what I stated because there is an Imaginary, a Symbolic and a Real, that’s what I did not dare to say […] What makes up for the sexual relation,” he continues, “is that people make love. There is an explanation for this: the possibility of a third sex.” Enigmatic, making it difficult for himself, he returns to say that “this third sex does not survive in the presence of the other two,” which concern forcing and domination. It is therefore only about love.
Does love make fun of sexual difference? Is it, as with hatred, the place of the possible where it ceases to be written, where it abolishes itself in absolute difference? Does it, in the field of love, cease to be, and dual, and classificatory, therefore segregative? What can children teach us about love as access to the third sex?
Text established by Hervé Damase with Frédérique Bouvet, read by the author.
Translated by Janet Haney and John Haney
 Lacan J., Seminar 19, …Or worse (1971-2), ed. J.-A. Miller, transl. A.R. Price, Cambridge, Polity, 2018, p. 211.
 Cf. Du mariage et des psychanalystes, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller and Bernard-Henri Lévy, Paris, Navarin/Le Champ freudien, La règle du jeu, 2013. See also Psychoanalytical Notebooks No. 29, Sexual Orientation, London Society of the NLS, February 2015.
 Miller J.-A., “Le savoir de l’enfant”, Peurs d’enfants, Paris, Navarin, Nouvelle collection La petite Girafe No. 2, 2011, p. 18
 Lacan, J., “Television” transl. D. Hollier, R. Krauss, A. Michelson, in Television/A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. J. Copjec, London/New York, Norton, 1990, p. 30.
 Lacan, J., Seminar 21, Les non dupes errent, lesson of 19 March 1974, unpublished.
 Jones, E., “The Early Development of Female Sexuality” (1927), International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 8, pp. 468-9; “The Phallic Phase,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 14, pp. 1-33.
 Naveau, P., “The quarrel of the phallus: 1920-1935”, thesis realized under the direction of Jacques-Alain Miller in 1988 at the Department of Psychoanalysis of the University Paris 8, unpublished.
 Miller, J.-A., “The Lacanian Orientation: choses de finesse en psychanalyse,” teaching given as part of the Department of Psychoanalysis of the University Paris 8, 1 April 2009, unpublished.
 Lacan, J., “Subversion of the subject and dialectic of the desire in the Freudian unconscious”, Écrits, London/New York, Norton, 2006, p. 696.
 Miller, J.-A.,” The Lacanian Orientation, Things of finesse … “, op. cit.
 Lacan’s acronym is SAMCDA: society of mutual assistance against analytic discourse, translated by D. Hollier, R. Krauss, A. Michelson as PIPAAD (Professional Insurance Plan Against Analytic Discourse), “Television”, op. cit., p. 29.
 Lacan, J., Seminar 19, … Or worse, op. cit. p. 80.
 Lacan, J. Seminar 20, Encore, On Feminine Sexuality, The Limits of Love and Knowledge (1972-3), ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, transl. Bruce Fink, New York/London Norton, 1998, p. 78 et seq: the phallic universe is supported by an element that is excluded from being subjected to the function of castration.
 Lacan, J., Seminar 12, “Critical Problems for Psychoanalysis,” lesson of 16 June 1965, unpublished.
 Lacan, J., Seminar 17, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (1969-70), ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, transl. Russell Grigg, New York/London, Norton, 2007, p. f62.
 Lacan, J., Seminar 26, “Topology and time”, lessons of 19 December 1978 and 16 January 1979, unpublished.