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Four essays on the decline of virility | Marcelo Barros | Psicoanalista
Four essays on the decline of virility
por Marcelo Barros

No men beyond this point (Sawers, 2015)

During a conversation, a colleague from Brazil mentioned a problem that still calls my attention. He pointed out that the acclaimed women’s vanguardism was worthy of celebration, and he wanted to highlight the fact – according to his own view – men were less and less attracted by Lacanian psychoanalysis. This intervention did not bring about any answers or comments, maybe for the same reason it was asserting. A more distant memory reminds me of a course on the topic of female sexuality given by a distinguished colleague in Buenos Aires. She decided to devote the last class to consider the subject of virility, and very few people turned up to the class. Given such a meagre audience, she emphasized the mistake of considering that men’s sexuality does not raise enquires, and it is what actually happens. Some feminist psychologists expressed a similar concern on social networks, and they concluded that it was a consequence of a male primacy, which makes the “woman” a constant object of study/research, whereas the “man” would never be called into question. They might be correct, though I am more inclined towards the theory of the decline of virility in our culture. If we considered this to be true, it wouldn’t be weird that male depreciation could also come up at the heart of psychoanalysis.

The extinction of masculinity is a ghost which is being drawn in the new symbolic order. This, without a doubt is a daydream, though it can indeed touch something real. It’s worth considering that in 1956, pages 454 and 455 from the Seminar “The psychosis," Lacan mentioned - probably jokingly - the idea of the parthenogenesis and the endless procreation of women to women in the future. Presented as a fake documental, a Canadian comedy back in 2015 depicts a world in which men cease to be born in a nearby future. None of this happens/is true, of course. However, there’s a light or may be not so light tendency towards the disappearance of the man as someone willing to take it upon himself to the requirements of monogamy, parenthood and family support. Should we worry about this withdrawal, which is capturing more and more followers regarding the ethics of the celibate? To love is necessary, and we could also say "It is not good for the man to be alone”. However, doesn’t psychoanalysis itself tell us that there are many ways of loving, of making up a partner?

Nowadays, it is relevant to wonder if leaving the sexual initiative to women is a sign of neurosis. Because in the era of media lynching and under the flag of “every man is a rapist”, we could start to consider that holding an abstinent position could imply more sanity than inhibition. Scarcely a day goes by, when media, moreover if they are “progressive”, reminds us either between lines or with emphatic headlines how despicable men are. A poorly concealed Verneinung tells us that the slogan “death to the male” it only pointing to the patriarchy. However, a recognized feminist leader, Marta Dillon, expressed: “the heterosexual couple is a dangerous element in women’s lives.” The critique of virility, especially of the white (caucasian?) and straight man, is compulsory today for the enlightenment of the progressives. After the fair condemnation against gender violence, which is then followed by the censorship of quite an extensive list of male behaviors, and under a discourse that could be qualified as pure and racist, if it were addressing any other social group. Progressives claim urbi et orbi the Gospel acceptance of the “other,” as long as this “other” is feminist, vegetarian and liberal. Three members of an American University presented a hoax and it was included as a valid paper in a University publication, where they transcribed whole paragraphs by Mein Kampf , where they replaced the word “jew” by “man”. Something must have been happening in the last few years for a writer, a confessed feminist like Doris Lessing, dared to declare that “male humiliation is part of our culture” (Clarín August 16th 2001). Therefore, if “this is part of our culture,” we could not just blame the feminist and leftists preachings.


The full Monty (Cattaneo, 1997)

Only the so-called Infalible Progressives in Argentina, could identify patriarchy and capitalism as the same thing when in fact, they are radically opposite terms. This unfortunate mistake also leaks into Psychoanalysis. We can observe this when we perceive the value of the function of “The Name of the Father” is confused with patriarchal, nostalgic, heteronormative conservative and gay positions.

Sharper than the illustrated opinion, an English comedy that came out when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, portrayed like nobody else, the neoliberalism hostility against the male, embodied in the factory worker, rough, with little instruction, and used to operating the drill and the hammer. Beyond describing a period of the British history, the film showed how the free market culture brings the existence of virility into question. What place would be suitable to host this in the new symbolic order of the XXI Century, in the era of artificial intelligence, virtuality and, above all, given the financial speculation?

We might not have sufficiently thought through what Lacan affirms on The Reverse of psychoanalysis, page 135, when he says that modernity “does not give an important role” to this man who “works to feed his little family”. The father who complies with the role of the male provider is a slave. And the truth is that this slave is not granted much credit, and he is also considered a despot. He is the villain of the movie. Many psychoanalysts agree with this, even when Lacan, on page 105 of the seminar mentioned above, had said that “the relationship between the father and the master is far too distant”. At its best, he is described as an imbecile. Camille Paglia wasn’t wrong at all when she wrote in the New York Times on June 26, 2010, that he, the father, is nothing but an accessory piece of the family machinery, commanded by the mother. What remains of the father once he has lost the job and can´t fulfill his role of being the provider, which is still demanded and even with more ferocity than ever?

In 1998, the book Achieving Our Country by Richard Rorty, criticized the American Cultural left. Clever progressives when dealing with the destruction of the thought structures, though worthless when addressing and providing solutions. Rorty thinks they forgot the rural and factory worker, the blue collars, they resent the undergrads, the ones who are set aside by the adjustment policies but also by the post-modern intelligentsia. Sometimes, it seems like human rights are reserved to women and the minorities. They are not for the rough and tough villagers usually judgmental and chauvinistic, who haven’t got rid of words as “nigger” or “sissy”. And the truth is that women´s problems are not solved and neither are those of the minorities. Anyhow, the philosopher’s prophecy announced that the social sector omitted by the Cultural left and the Political establishment wouldn’t put up with this discrimination much longer. One day, they would take revenge voting an authoritarian, politically incorrect and fascist man. The prophecy is fulfilled.


Once were warriors (Tamahori, 1994)

The capitalist discourse produces toxic waste that threatens life in the planet. An example of this, is fascism. Globalization, which deprives the subject of the use of a narrative that allows him the possibility of historicizing, leads to the fanatic reaction of despair. Martin Buber says that modernity leaves youth with a desperate longing for community, and this need is easily satisfied within “illusion communities”.

We are also challenged by another toxicity, the increasing violence against the woman, which doesn’t seem to have decreased given the fall of the Patriarchal structures. Despite the huge visibility of the subject, this scourge has not diminished at all, and women´s thirst for justice doesn't find its oasis. And very specially if they are poor or they lack fame. Foucault has warned that the society of control would be defined by the supremacy of the rule over the Law. Rights replace Justice in such a way that modernity becomes the thorough realization of the apothegm summun ius, summa iniuia. The public protests and the media lynchings replace the Law that is fainting. In Argentina, more than half of the murdered women, one dead woman every day, had previously reported their murderers to the police. The main reason is the disgusting chauvinism of the Argentine´s society. The Kafkanian bureaucracy of the system also plays its part. “The due process guarantees” has virtues as well as disadvantages. While some people complain that criminals “go into jail through a door and leave through another,” we have to say that the same thing happens with the female offenders.

This offender holds a narcissist omnipotence that disregards Law. And he doesn’t need to be a powerful man to be blinded by the illusion of impunity. This is about a type of virility which is not regulated by the Name of Father. But aggressive men proliferate in social strata punished by unemployment, alienation, and the absence of community ties. They are the rubble of the masculinity destroyed by capitalist discourse. A New Zealander film showed the prototype of this domestic tyrant under the figure of a loser, as thunderous as useless, totally unable to say “no” to pleasure, incapable of providing and protecting, but above all, incapable of accompanying his wife and children. This father, according to Lacan, does not deserve either respect nor love. Political correctness cannot make out how connected this incapacity for love is with a similar incapacity for war. Jean Paulhan considered these were two things of interest for a man, just like Sartre in Cahiers sur la drôle de guerre. It is not about nationalist violence, but a fundamental metaphor of discipline and the spirit required to support the real. The removal of cultural identities, the symbolic abandonment/neglect, the fall of the tales which could host pleasure that parasitizes the man, lead to a homogenization which is formidable as well narcotic. It produces a subjectivity opposite to that of an” applied warrior,” and the masculinity falls down into a mnesic limbo, similar to the one still affecting the ex Malvinas’ soldiers.

Violence against women is maybe the main and most dramatic result of what Freud describes as “psychological misery of the masses”. Is the surfacing/emergence of the children´s horde, the little “majesties” who may early learn to insult and beat their mothers.
They are the gang, the mob, the rapists whose joy is the woman`s harassment. Because they are absolutely incapable of committing parricide. These, who “once were warriors” are today’s sexual criminals, domestic bastards, cruel and devious parasites. On the other opposite end, we find a type of man, that is limited in number, though certainly increasing, who is as far from violence as he is from parenthood and also far from the challenge of confronting a woman or a son. He is someone who “does not want war”. “A conscientious objector”.


Falling Down (Schumacher, 1993)

“Madness is female,” we are told. Pusillanimity and moderation would be typical manly. This is not a joke, it is the “Lacanian catechism”. It is true that the limit of the castration is a male concern, but it is also true that someone has to be limited before coming out of the limit. But as it is the measured man who might become boundless, the timorous might eventually have his own day of rage, when he can’t take it anymore. Because he is fed up with swallowing the resentment porridge that the demands of the market and patriarchal society stuff him with. The evil –mâle- which has been sent to exile, always returns and usually in the worst way. We must watch the furious demonstrations against the G20 in Hamburg or the Parisian streets, consumed by a yellow fire. One must stay in Buenos Aires during December to see the effect of the critical mass produced by the mix of heat and neoliberalism. Even when the right-wing media ignore them, or the left ones affirm the claim is just feminine, the eyewitness will see those men who reappear on the social stage like revenants. They have been invisible to all those beautiful souls, now looking with perplexity and horror the emergence of the authoritarianism, which have the popular support. And they are these men the recipient of the reproaches and claims. To become aware of how much they are despised by the whole political spectrum, we could try a Wikipedia entry for “machismo,” and we will find out that the agent of this plague, the culprit is the father of the family. He, who supports his family with his job. We still expect he complies with his obligations of monogamy and parenthood in a society that, as Lacan says, does not recognize him a great role. Despite being the “villain of the film” or the “clown”.

An Argentine writer, Liria Evangelista, says that language is a haunted house. It is full of ghosts, living dead, echoes, ancestors. Political correctness nowadays demands “inclusion,” under the compulsive avoidance of the masculine plural, even the gender difference. This search for a perfect language has guided all the utopian puritans, all the male-midwife’s nightmares. They want a sterilized house, free from spirits. A decaf language, without ghosts, without history, without wounds, without differences. Nothing that could remind us of the abominable presence of sex and death. Because if there is something that stands out is that which the inclusive language excludes: The Ghost. That ghost who travels back again across Europe and the rest of The western world. The progressive conventions are vane at the moment of truth, which is in fact, the Freudian truth. We believed that by pushing him to the edges, the “macho” had died. We didn’t notice his patient metamorphosis into a bold ant. We thought that the Father was a foggy memory, who had passed into oblivion. But Freud teaches us - the ones still willing to listen to him - this fall and this oversight are the essence of the father. How can he fulfill his tragic destiny if he doesn’t fall? He is a victim, says Freud. The father, this villain, he is a victim? Isn’t the woman the archetype of a victim? Suddenly, we overlook that the totemic animal is a victim. It is the proof of a bloody sacrifice which is the foundation of social order. Nowadays, we don`t want to know anything about the violent roots of law, even if we can’t hide the smell of blood any longer. The Father is the real victim. Moreover, he is a victim seeking revenge.

Translation: Marina Esborraz


Marcelo Barros | Psicoanalista