A psychoanalytic reading of Catharine MacKinnon’s Toward a Feminist Theory of the State brings into focus her overwhelmingly queer-negative investment in sexuality. This essay considers select parts of her book to argue that MacKinnon ends up repeating what she claims to end: the sadomasochistic blur of sexuality and violence. In effect, she sets up an s/m scene of and for feminism. The self-flagellating reading pleasures of MacKinnon unsettle the relation between her dismissal of lesbian sadomasochism and her own s/m textuality. This is not to say that her argument is flawed; on the contrary, the operations of her textuality only intensify her stakes, thereby implicating feminism right alongside patriarchal cultures in the deadly life of pleasure. The unique value of MacKinnon’s feminism is to be located not in its foreclosures of sexual pleasure and consent, but in her anguish that pleasure persists in an oblique relation to anything that forecloses it.
Toward an S/M Theory of MacKinnon
samia vasa is a doctoral candidate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Emory University. Her doctoral research project, tentatively titled “Repeating the Unreadable: Sexual Violence, Radical Feminism, and Psychoanalysis,” conducts psychoanalytic, literary, and queer-negative readings of Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, and the Gujarat riots of 2002.
Samia Vasa; Toward an S/M Theory of MacKinnon. differences 1 May 2019; 30 (1): 100–118. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-7481274
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