The Strange Mix of Erotic Pleasure & Painful Rejection

I’m looking at what Judith Feher-Gurewich calls Lacan’s logic of perversion. There’s no judgement attached to the word, but it refers to more than what he considered ‘symptomatology’ – like sadism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, etc. These are the outward manifestations of an interior and alternate architecture of desire.

behind the ego’s back, at the level of the unconscious, those very signifiers of the desire of the Other, calling up those moments of cuts from the jouissance of the other, continue to circulate. They attract into their web traces, words, smells, tastes, homophonic connections, metaphors, metonymies: anything related to similar ambiguous experiences evoking this strange mix of erotic pleasure and painful rejection.“(p. 191)

I’m not reading this as a psychoanalyst. I’m looking at it as a rich garden from which to harvest different shades of the human experience of eroticism.

I’ve noticed a curious sort of pragmatic emotional coldness that accompanies the heady eroticism of the perversion in some of the people I have encountered who would be considered ‘perverts’ by Lacan. This has always fascinated and puzzled me. There seems to be an essential loneliness and trappedness in their pursuit of pleasure.

Feher-Gurewich says that perversion rejects the common fantasies that others put in place to salve terror of the other’s voracious jouissance. And so we (we, because I’m pretty sure that by Lacan’s definitions, I’m definitely a pervert.) build alternative, elaborate and often seemingly non-sexually related structures in order to interface with desire.

“The pervert is forced to discover other alternatives to fend off the threat of the jouissance of the Other. What the pervert must deal with is the fact that the lack in the Other cannot find signifiers to symbolize its meaning, even if these symbols are purely imaginary.” (p. 201)

To me, this inability to find signifiers (symbols, language) puts me in mind of Bataille and Foucault’s idea of the way language becomes unstable at the brink of transgression and the ecstasy that lies beyond it. As a writer, this place of instability calls to me and challenges me.

From the outside, I think people see the indulgence in the acts that are the symptoms of perversion as a wholly joyful thing, but they aren’t. They are both intensely pleasurable and also a sort of ordeal of revisiting the place of some essential betrayal or rejection over and over again.

“They are therefore forced to repeat over and over again a scenario that protects them against the terror of the jouissance of the other that is equated with the “real” reality of the mother’s lack.”

At a gut level, I don’t buy the Oedipal origins as Freud and Lacan both do, to pinpoint the moment of ‘castration.’ I think this acknowledgement of the fact that the child lacks something that the carer will abandon them to find elsewhere, is not necessarily specific to a parental role, per se. So for the most part, in my writing, like to look past origins, and into strategies of contemporary desires in my characters.



Feher-Gurewich, J. A Lacanian Approach to the Logic of Perversion, The Cambridge Companion to Lacan. (Rabate, J-M, ed ) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation