Gaze’s Possession

I recently read “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” by Laura Mulvey, a critique to mainstream films about the role of feminine characters. In this text she coins the paradox of phallocentrism, namely the male phallus coming to existence through the women’s lack of it. In other words, the women`s lack of a penis/phallus awakens in men the complex of castration. Men have then two options to scape from this anxiety: fetishistic scopophilia, which implies turning the female image into something pleasurable by objectifying it, and; vouyerism, subjecting the female image into a narrative through elements of sadism. Through the first the man delights through the screen image; through the second his gaze coincides with that of the main male character: “the woman as the object of both” [Mulvey, 66]. By falling in love to the male character, the female erotic character is subjected to him; and as both the gaze of the male character and that of the male spectator are the same, the male spectator possesses the female character through this gaze identification.

But times are others. More and more women are getting hired and more and more men are becoming housekeepers. In societies like Germany the labour rate among women is higher than that among men. Their chancellor is a woman, compared by many to Margaret Thatcher, who by the times of Mulvey’s essay was rising towards The Iron Lady.  In some sense, women have -or at least are- (symbolically) castrating men. These women and men are today’s cinema audiences. The question not only lies on whether men truly possess the female character thought gaze identification with the main character, but whether women audiences feel the same (indirectly in possession of the female character); whether they feel possessed by themselves (which could play in both senses, reaffirming control over themselves, or diminishing it), possessed by the male audience and possessed by the main character’s gaze; or whether they feel frustration.

Women as audience are an independent variable that is not taken into account by the text. Maybe there are not many main female characters, nor strong as the male main character, but women are part of the public that feeds the filming industry. Contrary to what I would expect, I found women like being submitted during sex (just take a look at Tumblr), but also to maintain some degree of dominance, and I also know more women who have had -or at least are open to try- sexuality (sexualised) experiences with other girls, meaning that at least that they are more prone to admit it than guys having the same kind of experiences with other guys. Can these be explained by indirectly dominating the female character through the males character’s gaze, and parallely being dominated by both women and men through the males character’s gaze?

As women they cannot feel the anxiety of castration. Maybe that is in some sense why the author leaves them aside throughout the sext. But in the real symbolic world, more and more women are possessing a phallus. Lacan once stated that women can also possess it.

By Ulises Bobadilla y Jiménez

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