Phallogocentrism and its Gynaecological Deconstruction
Artefact 3: Phallic Tenderness | Article 9 of 12
Photo by Laker.
In the ninth of twelve essays, Stephen Alexander explores the role of the phallus in Lawrence’s writing and subsequent implications for the feminine.
It would seem pointless to deny that Lawrence’s work is inherently phallogocentric; i.e. founded upon the metaphysical belief that the phallus is the central organising element of the world and its meaning. And yet, strangely, because Lawrence writes with the hand of a woman, his texts frequently perform their own deconstruction and allow for the feminine to emerge within them, thereby making it impossible for readers to ever determine their truth with any degree of certitude. Indeed, one might even suggest that far from phallic in nature, Lawrence’s philosophy is ultimately gynaecological in character and that he really isn’t the prick that so many readers take him to be.
Thus it is, for example, that Lawrence’s work challenges the way that ‘male’ reason has been privileged over ‘female’ emotion or feeling and produces a body of work which seeks to reinstate the feminine whilst subverting the masculine. His writing may contain sexist and even violently misogynistic ideas, but it also celebrates woman as a metaphor for life conceived in terms of difference and becoming.
If Lawrence constantly bangs on about the phallus, so too does he speak of cunt-awareness and posit the vagina as something with its own beauty and truth – a move that has tremendous philosophical implications, because, as indicated above, Western metaphysics is founded upon the notion of truth as something that can clearly be identified and which is fixed; truth is erected and remains firm like the male sex organ, it isn’t hidden, mysterious, ever-changing, and prone to leakage. Truth is a presence – a something – unlike the vagina which is an absence, a void.
Traditional male anxiety before the latter – which Lawrence shares in but also seeks to overcome – is precisely a terror of nothingness; only the phallus seems to offer a level of security within male-dominated culture, beyond which lies “an ocean of loss” [Nick Land].
Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation, (Routledge, 1992).