Deconstruction and Sex

Jean-Luc Nancy deconstructs sex. What does deconstruction tell us about sex other than psychoanalysis? Nancy took up the thinking of sex at a time of ‘me too’ movement in Europe and the scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church ( somewhere around 2018). He thinks deconstruction can enable us to think sex. For Jacques Derrida, deconstruction is a passage. It is about movement of that which has come to pass. Hence, we may ask: Is what come to pass in sex is similar to what comes to pass in deconstruction? This also may means what remains to be said of deconstruction is potentially what is happening to sex in our times. What comes to pass with sex is troubling. It troubles every aspect of our live. Sex has social, political, religious, gendered, ideological etc., layers. We cannot isolate sex from our being-in-the-world. This is why Nancy coins the term sexistense. He wishes that our thought touches the messiness of life. Hence, he wants to raise the question of sex philosophically.

Nancy says that sex and deconstruction are experiences of chasm through which we are always touching something without quite knowing what the things is and there is no ground or bottom to thing (as a thing presents itself differently every time to and in the world) that we are experiencing or thinking. This also constitutes the difference between psychoanalysis (which has always tried to unravel the secrets of sex) and deconstruction. Deconstruction enables us to pass to thought and enter its depths without fixing its bottom or foundation. This is why deconstruction does not end. It keeps questioning limits. It keeps interrogating the binary structure of ‘either/ or’ of our thinking that keep things in oppositional relations. It demonstrates that things have always been undoing the binary structure that holds them in opposition. Despite this oppositional structure, things have always transversed the limits imposed upon them. This is why deconstruction is an infinite task.

Nancy makes a provocative statement when he says, ‘a deconstruction is always a penetration’. He is certainly eluding to the sexual experiences but at the same time reduces sexual experiences as simply penetration of one by the other. The idea of penetration is always already present in sex and when it is linked to deconstruction it becomes definitely evocative. He of course, is deliberately provocative while he is talking of entering into the depths of ideas without fixing their bottom or foundation. Nancy says to penetrate is to insert oneself where there are openings, intervals and interstices. To smash a stone is not penetration but to insert a fine tool between distinct minerals is penetration. There is a paradox when it comes to deconstruction. One can penetrate only the impenetrable. It goes inside the depths of thoughts and opens them to light. Thus, deconstruction opens us what is kept under interdiction. It gives voice to what is forbidden to say. It enables us to say the unsayable. It comes closer to what is said and unsaid between lovers. It opens the state of a sense of ‘not-having-done-with’. It produces a sense of unfinished business. Hence, we return to the text again and again to mine other sense than the previous one. In fact, Derrida teaches that everything deconstructs its. He says things auto-deconstruct. This is why Derrida did not want the term deconstruction to become a fetish.

The deconstruction of the sex deconstruct sex. Sex is complex and polysemous (multiple meanings) . Hence, the term deconstruction when put alongside the term sex, it opens the its polysemy. In other words , sex as a term opens up all the layers of meaning and ways of being that are entrenched into it. It puts the word and reality of sex in all its senses and its full obscenity under erasure. Its meaning can no longer be fixed. It meaning is then in play with all its other senses, all its determinations , all its instances, all its relations with the other, etcetera. None of this is fixed or assigned a place. Deconstruction, therefore, puts sex in a perpetual movement of displacements and replacements. This is why deconstruction opens the play of sex. It opens the significatory play of sex. Nancy says that it is because of this instability that we seem to regulate sex with taboos, rules and prescriptions. It gives us a sense of it being unifiable and manageable.

The dynamism of instability of sex or its play cannot be fixed. It remains in the mode of play. To indicate that this play does not have a fixed destination, Nancy may have coined the term sexistence. It is the primacy of existence that will led to the flowering of shape that sex will take from time to time. There is no one singular kind of sex. Sex complexly organizes our society. From time to time sex has changed as our society changed. Nancy says in the West in recent time, sex changed as we moved from familial capitalism to syndicate or entrepreneurial capitalism. Thus, deconstructing sex, we are enabled to locate its changing dynamics in our society and understand how we differently manage it across time. Perhaps, this deconstruction might deconstructs our deceptive or even masculinist responses to sex in our days . It may give us eyes to see ourselves and our society in its truth and nakedness. It may free us from ‘animalizing’ sex . This does not mean that animal sex is evil. It only says that humans who sexually animalize themselves choose to abuse both animals and themselves.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao