“One day I couldn’t leave my home, the city, the country, the planet was infested by virus causing respiratory problems and obligated the governments to take measures. The citizens stayed home. Everybody had to follow strict rules to contain the pandemic… and toilet papers were gone.”

The statement above sounds like a persecutory nightmare. The world experiencing a confinement due to an alien object that causes a disease and eventually death. Strangely, it appears a connection between this persecutory other, the virus, and an anal object, toilet paper.

In his Three Essays on Sexuality Freud alludes to the anal phase and the libido attached to feces associated with the discovery of the sphincter organ. The child holds or expels the object, causing anxiety or joy to the family. Freud compares the anal object to a gift that the child can give or keep from his caregivers, later associated with money and financial possession[1].

In the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global stock market crashed, many investors sold their positions in stocks, investing in gold, another signifier associated with the anal object. The global economy collapsed. Along with this financial panic, many companies didn’t know which procedure to take and had to follow governmental restrictive rules by closing industries, offices, commerce and employees were working from home. On the other hand, scientists didn’t know how to face the invisible enemy. Subjects experienced a lack of control, once that in normal conditions scientific community possess knowledge and plays by giving or withholding it.

My question: what toilet paper, one of the most searched products in the shops during the pandemic, had to do with the lack of control to deal with the Corona virus?

Lacan mentions that the proximity of an object without the disguise of the symbolic causes anguish[2]. In his Seminar The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Lacan states “The anal level is the locus of the metaphor – one object for another, give the feces in place of the phallus. This shows you why the anal drive is the domain of oblativity, of the gift. Where one is caught short, where one cannot, as a result of the lack, give what is to be given, one can always give something else. That is why, in his morality, man is inscribed at the anal level. And this is especially true of the materialist.”[3]

Amazon is charging $60 to deliver toilet paper. In supermarkets around the world, consumers are fighting to acquire toilet rolls. Take-away restaurants are giving them as a marketing strategy. Even if the scientific community informed that the corona virus doesn’t cause any major symptoms related to  subjects’ bowel movement, there was a collective fantasy regarding the urge to consume toilet paper, showing that the proximity of this real object needed to be ‘partially’ replaced with an anal one.

We can see the contradiction of neo-liberalism. Globalized societies can provide the fastest speed internet systems, all kinds of products from cars to vacuums acquired with a click or two, online services including virtual medical appointments and online academic classes, but struggled to provide one basic product, toilet paper, right where knowledge lacks.



[1] Strachey, J. (1953). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. VII (1901-1905): A Case of Hysteria, Three Essays on Sexuality and Other Works. The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, London.

[2] Lacan J., Seminar X, Anxiety, Ed. J-A Miller, Transl. A. Price, Polity Press, 2016.

[3] Lacan J., Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, edited by J-A Miller. Transl. A. Sheridan. W. W. Norton & Company, N.Y., London.