In the sixth lesson of the Seminar Identification,[1] Lacan starts his elaboration on the difference between the proper name and the common name. Unlike Stuart Mill and Sir Alan Gardiner, he identifies the specificity of the name on the side of writing: there is an affinity between the proper name and the mark, the sign.

At the same time, he addresses a crucial issue, what is Nameless[2] in the structure. The neurotic – he says – sustains himself on the strong ego, “so strong, one might say, that its proper name is an inconvenience for it, since the neurotic is really Nameless.”[3] It is important to bear in mind that this is the logic of clinical structures that tends to identify the common trait, unlike the clinic that aims to grasp the singularity.

“His proper name is an inconvenience for him”, does not leave him in peace. This highlights the absence of subjective determination, the difficulty in concluding and making decisions. The opposite of certainty.

Ultimately, “the neurotic is Nameless” defines the subject on this side of analysis and consequently indicates that the proper name is on the side of singularity. Lacan, by defining the neurotic as a Nameless, shows at the same time the orientation of an analysis.

After all, what “is an inconvenience” is out of the ordinary, the effect of singularity, just what the neurotic tends to erase, while claiming it. Only at the end of analysis, the subject does without the complaint of “small differences”, since it has become the “absolute difference”.

The “Nameless” takes different forms depending on the analysands. It can take the form of a question: how can you be sure you are a woman or a man? How to make sure this is the right choice? How to be sure that this is what I want?  It is a search for identity which only a name that is not fictional, but the name of what remains irreducible at the end of an analysis, can put an end to.

Therefore, the “Nameless” is the effect of the signifying oscillation that is at play before the real reveals to the subject his cipher, his proper name.

The guarantee cannot come from the Other, it comes only from the act. Even the guarantee concerning sex comes from the act. Here comes the dimension of what Lacan designates as the choice of sex in terms of authorization. He will say in 1974 that “the sexed being is only authorised by him/herself.”[4] It should be noted that the sexual act is a real that is not written in being. The only certainty regarding sexual identity comes from the fact that a subject becomes responsible for his jouissance. The sexuated being is the drive montage, the myth fabricated by a subject to shape and structure jouissance. It is the way in which sexuality is ordered in the unconscious. To what does not exist, a mode of suppletion responds which translates into a generated certainty.

In Television, Lacan points out that, although we cannot do without the myth that serves to cover over the real of the structure, it does not guarantee the decision. We read, in fact, that “even if the memories of familial repression weren’t true, they would have to be invented, and that certainly happens. That’s what myth is, the attempt to give an epic form to what is operative through the structure. The sexual impasse [impasse] exudes the fictions that rationalize the impossible within which it originates. I don’t say they are imagined, like Freud, I read in them the invitation to the real that underwrites them.”[5]

There is a real at the base, common to every speaking-being [parlêtre], but in addition there is a relationship to such real, specific to each subject, related to the myth produced to name the real of sex. The real justifies the place of myth also in the analytic experience. The myth is a fiction that serves as a cover for the real.

But how is sex a real? It is a real, not only because its experience is always different from how one imagines it, but also because it is not possible to inscribe the experience once and for all, since it always involves an unpredictable dimension. The sexual act is always contingent.

Lacan’s “there is no sexual relation,”[6] deduced from Freud’s saying, indicates that in the encounter with jouissance there is a real that is not written. Therefore, the question is the singular answer given by each subject to this “there is no sexual relation.” This answer will be the saying of the sex of each speaking-being. What is at stake in analysis is to identify the saying of sex, as real of sex.



Translated by Valentina Lucia La Rosa

Reviewed by Jeff Erbe and Florencia F.C. Shanahan


Text originally published as part of the preparatory works towards the 18th Conference of the SLP, “The Real of Sex”, to be held on 29-30 May 2021.

[1] J. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book IX. Identification (1961-1962), unpublished.

[2]Sans nom”, literally “without a name”.

[3] J. Lacan, The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious, in Écrits. A selection, Routledge, London 2001, p. 247.

[4] J. Lacan, The Seminar. Book XXI, Les non-dupes errent, lesson of 9th April 1974, unpublished.

[5] J. Lacan, Television: a challenge to the establishment, W. W. Norton & Company, New York 1990, p. 30.

[6] J. Lacan, L’étourdit (1972), unpublished.