sex, guns, and girls

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Aug 12 14:44:26 PDT 2000

From Rob to Doug:

>Lotsa blokes in Hammett books are tooled up, too. Are they biphallusial or
>summat? And, yeah, a revolver in a front pocket might make an ambiguous
>bulge. So would a pair of rolled socks.
>I mean, what's the point of all this cock-struck speculation? Dicks are
>handy things to take on a picnic, and there the distinct significance of
>these almost incongruous protuberances ends, I reckon. I look at the
>little things hanging off my sons as they scurry noisily from the shower,
>and shiver at the thought they're gonna grow up under the impression that
>they're packin' a lethal weapon with a dodgy safety catch.
>And I've read Butler's allusions to the floating phallus - haven't the
>slightest clue what on earth she thinks the point is, either.

In the first paragraph of yours that I cited above, you are, unbeknownst to yourself, in effect making one of Judith Butler's points: no empirical penis measures up to the symbolic Phallus, and to stuff the gap (= to perform masculinity as defined by the Phallus), each empirical being labeled male (not just drag kings) has to metaphorically create a fantastic bulge with an imaginary pair of rolled socks; however, rolled socks have a way of slipping out of underpants or migrating into an unintended location -- hence the constant threat of performance failure. Those who take the need for a metaphorical bulge literally & cling to empirical guns & other props may be thought of as "fetishists" in a literal sense. We are always already "castrated" (when measured by the impossible standard set by the Phallus) from a post-Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective, and the "we" here also include those of us who visit "Ladies' Rooms." (Neither Butler nor Lacan says where the Phallus, as well as the compulsion to want to measure up to it, comes from; in their analysis, it always already exists. Their theory resists [social as well as biological] history.)

Alternatively, you might think of Butler's theory of identity performance as a postmodern reworking of David Hume's bundle theory (in Hume's work as well, personal identity is theorized as if it were a necessary fiction that masters humanity through imagination, unjustifiable as it may be by any appeal to "reason"). Here, one may develop Roy Bhaskar's criticism that postmodern philosophy in general is dependent upon an unacknowledged Humean empiricist ontology (which reifies perceptions while locating identities as well as causal relations in discourse only).

Taken as a universal & trans-historical paradigm of gender-making, Butler's analysis is unsatisfactory, especially in that her work has seldom addressed changing historical articulations of the modes of production & reproduction (with a possible exception of her essay in reply to Nancy Fraser's critique of her work), to say nothing of addressing it with any degree of theoretical adequacy (most importantly, there is no lens capable of allowing us to see *before* or *after* the Phallus in her theory); but it does capture one ideological aspect of our post-Freudian genders (satirized for instance by Stanley Kubrick -- see _Dr. Strangelove_ or _Full Metal Jacket_).


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