written by Tiffany McFadden
In my reading of Luce Irigaray’s From This Sex Which Is Not One (1977), I realized that there is much that I did not know about the male and female body and how it relates to the society we live in. Irigaray makes a strong case that in order for the woman to change her social status in society she must begin by taking “a long detour by way of the analysis of the various systems of oppression”. Irigaray gives her reader some starting points in order to begin this analyzing process such as examining the discourse on women and or exploring a woman’s understanding of her own body.
Irigaray makes it clear from the beginning that “the female sexuality has always been conceptualized on the basis of masculine parameters.” It is concepts such as a woman’s “lot is that of lack and atrophy and penis envy” where she should begin to analyze in order to understand this difference in value between man’s sex organ and woman’s sex organ(s). It was pertinent for me to do a little research in order to have a better understanding of Irigaray’s argument and to comprehend such words as “penis-clitoris” or “erogenous zones”. In my research, I found that the male sex organ (the penis) and the female sex organ (the clitoris) are homologous. This means that the two sex organs are similar in structure and evolutionary origin, but not necessarily in function or value.
According to Irigaray, “the penis …the only sexual organ of recognized value” takes more of a precedence over the vagina that “is valued for the lodging it offers the male organ when the forbidden hand has to find a replacement for pleasure giving”. In “a society that privileges phallomorphism”, man’s sex organ is superior to the woman’s sex organ that is considered “a nothing to show for itself”; a form that “lacks a form of its own.” I believe that Irigaray is trying to make an argument that the difference in value of the two sex organs derives from a difference between the forms of man’s penis and woman’s vagina. As a woman, what I took from Irigaray’s argument is that all that occurs in Western culture is created and arranged for the continuity of patriarchy.