Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Irigaray and Sexual Morality I

Joost van Loon explores the implications of Irigaray's conceptualization of sexual morality.

It is through the female body that Luce Irigaray wants to conceptualise sexual morality as more than an inscription of patriarchal discourse. Using the example of Antigone, she contrasts a paternal concept of law as grounded in the authority of the state with a maternal concept of law which is highly attuned to ‘natural rights’, that is, in communion with the primordial being of ‘the soil’ and kinship-lineages (Irigaray, 1991: 199). Following a theme that she already set out in her earlier works, she contrasts the violent singularity of ‘phallogocentrism’ with the multiplicity of the feminine, as ‘the sex that is not one’ (1987). On this basis, she discusses heterosexual intercourse in terms of a violation, which objectifies the female body as a commodity within the dual structure of the law of the father and the logic of capital.

Whether or not one agrees with the implicit ‘essentialism’ of her account of ‘sex’, it does adequately describe the impossible situation many women find themselves in, in contemporary patriarchal capitalism, as far as maintaining an in-dividual, integral notion of self as subject. The point she stresses is that as soon as a woman enter into a sexual relationship with men in terms of the masculine form of engagement (i.e. objectification), there is an implicit violation of integrity, even if this takes place with her full consent. This leads her to consider virginity as a domain of struggle, rather than an ‘overrated virtue’ constructed by patriarchy (as liberal feminists prefer to see it). She therefore advocates ‘the right to virginity’ (1991: 209).


Irigaray, L. (1987) This Sex which is not One
Irigaray, L. (1991) ‘The Necessity for Sexuate Rights’ in Witford (ed.) The Irigaray Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 198-203

No comments:

Post a Comment