Psychoanalysis has shown us that the parlêtre’s life is based on the disharmony which exists between the sexes, on the impossibility of complementary enjoyments since in fact we make love with our unconscious. This is the idea condensed in the Lacanian aphorism: there is no sexual rapport. But certainly, a little movement of the body can turn precisely into a discreet or an indiscreet sign of the opposite, of the idea that there is sexual rapport.

In Israel, the army is one of the places where men and women find themselves together in different functions, and so considerable parts of the religious population exempt themselves from military service. Over the years there has been a slow process of introducing religiosity within the army. Generally, we are witnessing a process of increasing fundamentalism in our society. This process has recently been termed in Jewish in the grammatical form of an action: “hadata”, meaning “making religious”, something like “religionization”.

Recently, during a training practice of a paratrooper unit, all the soldiers – all religious except for their female instructor – turned their backs on her the moment she began giving them instructions. The soldiers had obtained their commanding officer’s approval for this back-turning as a way of creating the separation between men and women required by their religious beliefs. Before long there was a barrage of criticism of the soldiers for disrespecting their instructor and of the commanding officer for allowing them to behave in this derogatory manner. This is but one of many examples of religion’s intrusion into different areas of life: army, schools, universities, society at large, etc.

I found this interesting. Firstly, according to a religious rule, a woman’s voice has a strong and seductive power that can “hypnotize” men and tempt them to sin, so they are forbidden to listen to her. The Hebrew Halacha [Book of Rules] literally states: “A voice in a woman – pudenda.” This rule relates particularly to a woman’s singing. The illusion created by a movement of the body (e.g. the men turning their backs on their instructor) seems to be a way of eluding the female voice, while at the same time creating a barrier between the sexes. This event introduces a sort of rupture of the universal rule – the rule being “All are under…the same law”, which establishes a common ground, a common joy – and creates two closed sets: the man-set and the woman-set, which are complementary sets. Paradoxically, the partition turns into ‘there is sexual rapport’. It seems to me that this small sign (turning of backs) closes the man-set by putting the woman’s voice in the place of the exception and the forbidden object. This creates a sort of fraternity which introduces segregation in the army.

Psychoanalysis seeks absolute difference, namely that which determines each subject’s sexuality, his or her mode of drive satisfaction. The separation of the sexes on religious grounds instead relates to procreative sexuality, an obedience to the biological programme even though voice, hair, or even a simple touch possess an erotic power. Those rules turn all women – a female instructor, teacher, women in the street, etc. – into the Mother. Lacan says that there is no sexual rapport, unless it is incestuous or murderous[1] and shows that this is precisely what Freud put forward: that the Oedipus myth points out that the only person one wants to sleep with is one’s mother, and as for the father, one kills him. It seems that, like Oedipus, religious people can never know for sure who it is they approach.


[1] Lacan J. The Seminar, Book XXIV, L’insu que sait de l’une-bévue s’aile à mourre, lesson of 15/03/1977.

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