Slavoj Žižek on Why You’re Never Really Alone With Your Sexual Partner

Slavoj Žižek draws from examples in literature, film, and advertising to explain a phenomenon in which no sexual liaison is complete without a third element — an intruder, something like a fantasy.

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Slavoj Žižek: I like this new wave of feminine crime fiction writers who are feminists, but not in the stupid, politically correct way. That feminism isn’t authentic feminism, you know. They don’t have this patronizing attitude like, you know, women should always be passive victims and so on and so on. But even maybe now I’ll say something for that maybe I’m not very popular here. Even better than how she call Gillian Flynn or what is an Irish girl called Tana French. A series of crime fiction taking place in Dublin with more or less the same spirit, the same attitude. A kind of a, if I have to invent some stupid title, a kind of a dark neo-feminist crime thrillers. But no, of the movie that I recently saw, there is a problem. Often a movie attracts me — not attracts me, but gets me to think intellectually. But I don’t really like it as a movie. For example, the one, Her with Joaquin Phoenix. In the film at the end he is the hero together with the girl. I think she’s called Amy. But they are both abandoned by their machines. The big enigma here is, and this is what always attracted me. And this is I think what my mentor in theory, French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, insisted in his crazy theories there is no sexual relationship. Which means we are never alone, me and my partner. There has to be a third element, a fantasy scene, an intruder. It’s only through that mediation of a third element here, in Her they’re operating systems, that sex functions. And then I started to think about other variations of this, like for example, a perfect very intelligently made 20 years old British publicity for beer which is about wonderful ironic repetition of an old fairy tale motif you know. A young girl walks by a stream, sees a frog and, of course, that’s what you do in fairy tales. She picks up and kisses the frog and the frog turns into a prince, charming young man.

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But then the publicity goes on. The charming young man looks at her, kisses her and she turns into a can of beer, you know. That’s what really he wanted, you know. And then I found here in the States a similar, but inverted version. It’s pretty disgusting incidentally publicity for a Taco Bell publicity for something called quesarito, which is quesadilla and burrito — combination of the two. And it’s presented in such an obscene way that if you combine the two it’s really like a penis enwrapped by a vagina. But how is the publicity spot done here? A young guy and a girl seated during lunch break at the table and one has quesadilla, the other burrito. And they look at each other and then you see each person’s dream. Boy looks at her and imagines the future. They start to talk. They get married, have children. Then she looks at him, approaches him in her dream and takes his piece of burrito or whatever, wraps it up so that she gets a kind of a bisexual completing, and just makes a sign and he disappears. It’s similar to that one beer, but what I think is the enigma behind all this is why do we never get just a couple. Why it always have to be some intruder. And the best Hollywood version of this — I ask all the viewers who are watching this now to download — you can download it for free. It’s an American classic movie, Preston Sturges’ Lady Eve where you have the ultimate marriage proposal scene. You have Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck and a horse standing behind them and the horse’s head is always intruding and so on and so on. That’s the mystery of sex. It’s never two. You always need something, an imagined gaze, an element intruding and so on and so on.

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Slavoj Žižek draws from examples in literature, film, and advertising to explain a phenomenon in which no sexual liaison is complete without a third element — an intruder, something like a fantasy. He also dishes out on topics including feminist crime fiction, 20-year-old British beer commercials, and the Taco Bell Quesarito.

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