There is a common misconception of psychoanalysis that claims that it reduces all psychological problems to one particular schema that inevitably returns “sexual repression” in some variation, like a magic 8-ball’s answer to everything. This is an response I’ve heard to my writing on fascism and “masculine anxiety,” ostensibly to refute that there is any connection between the two at all. I am not an analyst so I have no grounds or reason to defend the practice itself, but it is nonetheless worth addressing because my work is generally informed by Freud, Lacan, and others.
Usually this is intended to resist an “uncovering” of some obvious surface aspect in “manosphere” or other far-right phenomena. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a licensed psychoanalyst to see that a general group like “fitcels” bodybuilds to compensate for a perceived weakness, wish to make their flesh literal armor, that they’re terrified of women, and so on. In fact these sorts of points are more often than not openly admitted by their members. It should go without saying that this sort of truth—about a collective—is well outside the range of psychoanalysis. The truth of these observations are so mundane as to be banal.
It is the obviousness and banality of the truth that makes it unspeakable. And so the members of these online fandoms must mediate their relationship to it with an ironic distance. The leaders see themselves as characters, Roosh is a performance, BAP is a performance (undoubtedly they themselves know that most of their followers are idiots). Irony mediates everything these days because there is such an abundance of noise that the various channels need to be distinguished from each other. It feels almost impossible to have an unironic position on the internet.
The ironic position in these far-right/manosphere contexts means that, in short, since they talk about sex they can’t be sexually repressed in any sense. With the BAP fandom, the overt and excessive homoeroticism specifically defends them against the accusation that there is anything “gay” or “weak” about them, since they are supposedly aware of their fixation on male bodies, the “Dominated by Doug” text, and all the other artful parts of that whole hyper-erotic fascist mythos.
The misconception implies that since we now live in a permissive society—sex is promoted everywhere you look: at the cinema, at the theatre, at the Super Bowl, on TV and in newspapers, in songs and on beaches, in podcasts and Twitch streams, in our cars sitting in traffic, in schools, and even in churches—people are supposedly less anxious about problems linked to the sexual sphere. The taboos have fallen, they say, and people are no longer afraid of sex.
Lacan called the idea that sex is invading all aspects of life “an advertising phenomenon”—and we know it probably applies now even more than back then. And it’s clear that even in a so-called permissive society people never fail to find a way to be immiserate themselves over their sexuality. You can teach teenagers how to use condoms and practice safe sex and they’ll still turn into incel spree killers (although that shouldn’t necessarily dissuade us from doing so).
It is interesting how many of my critics (from the Right) who take issue with the connection between a new fascism and masculine anxiety seem to implicitly accept the unmistakably “boomer” ideologeme that removing the public taboo of sex will completely undercut all the “old” problems and anxieties. In other words, that free love will liberate us from the authoritarianism of the nuclear family. Many of these people talk openly about sex and engage in a kind of discourse that could be described as pornographic—always at least figuratively (Elliot Rodger), sometimes also literally (BAP). It doesn’t matter whether they come down as “pro-sex” or “anti-sex” at the end of it all, because either way they are compulsively, fearfully fixating on it.
Whatever the case, people (people-qua-“subject” and not people-qua-“multitude”) are going to continue to find ways to be alienated from their own bodies, no matter how advanced our collective social-engineering mechanisms become. People are going to find new ways to have anxiety, and they’re going to find new ways to talk about it.
But they will always talk about it. And that’s why we haven’t even come close to the limit of Freud.
One thought on “Stop Calling Me a Psychoanalyst”
“People are going to find new ways to have anxiety, and they’re going to find new ways to talk about it.”
This seems an interesting phenomenon in-of-itself, no? The consistent self-deprecation which our species repeatedly puts itself through–be it by the maintenance of stress and anxiety concerning sex in a sexually permissive society, a second round of global obliteration after a preliminary bout, voting (I use the term loosely) Caesarists into office–elicits the question: why?
Rationality devastates as does irrationality–the bloody 20th century is as much the result of Enlightenment reason as it is Romantic sentiment. Tools meant to rejuvenate, tools that aimed to pump the future full of hope and prosperity, and what is their outcome? Another failure. Beckett fail, fail again, and fail better. Consistently I see failure, but rarely improvement. The 21st century may be the bleakest humanity has ever seen. For all our progress, we’re still fools. Murderous in our folly, too.
Why? For what? What have we to lose by love and learning? How many crucifixes, how many martyrs, how many little Christs must come and be rent and torn by this world until we’ve been exhausted of our barbarity? I look back, and I weep–I look forward, and I tremble. And in some sense, I suppose that’s all there is to do. Weep and tremble. In the present there is laughter, and there can only be laughter, laughter and contemplation. There’s nothing else to be done other than to die, I think.