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.

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