chapter  Nine
Revisiting the riddle of sex: an intersubjective view of masculinity and femininity
ByJessica Benjamin
Pages 27

Freud's notion of sexual pleasure and pain emphasized how people seek mastery over tension; he conceived of a one-person economy in which pain is defined as too much tension. Without the outside other, the originally helpless self cannot process internal tension or external stimulation. Without the mother's containment of pain and excitement, the baby cannot self-regulate. Laplanche helped to shape contemporary discussion of excess by emphasizing the general over-stimulation and mystery attendant on the adult's transmission of the sexual in the "enigmatic message". If sexuality provides an alternative register for processing tension and managing excess, when it functions in lieu of the outside other or substitutes for communicative and symbolic processes, this can only work by dint of a split in the self. The regulation of tension in the monadic economy takes place through bodily discharge of tension — sometimes compulsively as for Isabelle.