Ovidiu Anemțoaicei – Male Bodies, Masculinities and Sexual Difference: a sketch for an impossible “becoming-man”

In my work I answer, among other things, the question of what it means to think of men, their bodies and subjectivities, if one goes along Luce Irigaray’s radical project of refiguring the relationships between and among men and women for and within a culture of sexual/sexuate difference. I propose a framework that can account for ethical dimensions in men’s lives by drawing on the importance of male bodies and their lived experiences and practices, within the masculine subjective formation processes, and on their potential subversive agency against the patriarchal ordering of the social relations. I argue that a re-imagining of the male embodied lived experiences in terms of sexual/sexuate difference, that is in relation to one’s own specific corporeal subjectivity, on the one hand, and in relation to others’ radically different (incommensurable) bodies and subjectivities, on the other hand, can effect a restructuring of the masculine subject formation in non-violent terms towards women’s bodies and lives.

In Sexes and Genealogies, in the section ‘Body Against Body: In Relation to the Mother’ (pp. 7-21) and in I love to you: Sketch for a Felicity Within History, Luce Irigaray understands both the male imaginary and its symbolic expressions as masking/covering/ negating a) the mother’s body and reproductive power and men’s creation, and b) the mother’s primary nurturing space and relationship to the child, while also showing that (male) language appropriates the female puissance/sexuality/desire. Taking up Luce Irigaray’s critique of the patriarchal cultural order in its philosophical and psychoanalytical instantiations and its dependence on the devaluation of female embodiment and negation of its cultural expressions, I aim at re-imagining the way men experience and represent their own male embodiments and their relationship to female embodiment. Consequently, I conceive of male bodies as male embodiments with special attention to various morphological and bodily locations as possible cultural alternatives to the current phallic representations of hegemonic male bodies. As far as men’s bodies are concerned, there are several dimensions I am taking into account:

  • the re-imagining of the male ways of relating to one’s own sexuate and sexual body: testicularity, anality and male bodily fluids can become figurations of a radically different male imaginary against the current dominating phallic heteronormative representations; however, I consider them insufficient for accounting through the sexual/sexuate difference perspective.
  • the relation to the mother and her body and how this relation can be differently imagined and represented in the symbolic order without repeating the gesture of negating sexual difference the navel, the umbilical cord are such alternative morphological re-imaginings.
  • the implicit transformations in language, as discourses, precisely on the above mentioned re-imagining of the male morphology and the ethical implications of such re-imagining and different symbolization of the relationships between male and female bodies have to be explored. This aspect also leads me to the discussion on the entwined relationship between ontology and ethics via language.

In Sharing the World (pp. IX-XXI) when rethinking transcendence, Luce Irigaray argues that the expression of transcendence demands different modalities for man and for woman and, on the part of man, the issue is the one of ‘acquiring an identity of his own with respect to the first dwelling or environment from which he has received himself, by projecting, into an always future present, the ex-sistence of a possible world of his own’ (opt. cit., p. XIV). Luce Irigaray talks about the need of a threshold as marking the limits of each one’s world and also a recognition of the other as irreducible to one’s own existence. ‘Silence’, ‘mutual listening’, ‘patience’, ‘dwelling in oneself’ and ‘nearness’ are elements building up the so much needed threshold in order to meet with the other, especially the other of the sexual/sexuate difference, and venture upon the paths opened by the space of the meeting.

Finally, my research hints at the need to explore the larger political consequences of imagining a culture based on sexual difference, starting first probably with (re)learning, as male bodies, how to differently ‘hear’ and ‘listen’ to the differently sexuate other; to (re)discover touching; to relate to one’s/other’s body, space and time in different non-violent ways; how not to be always male bodies, in terms of violence for example, toward other’s bodies; to (re)learn how ‘to look’ and how ‘to speak’ to oneself and to the other of sexual difference; and  how to articulate all these particular bodily expressions through language and multiple cultural ways and practices.