The Erotico-Theoretical Transference Relationship between Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir Revisited with Michèle Le Dœuff

Existenz 11 (1):57-62 (2016)
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Michèle Le Dœuff considers the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir as a paradigmatic case of what she calls an "erotico-theoretical transference" relationship: De Beauvoir devoted herself to Sartre theoretically by adopting his existentialist perspective for the analysis of reality in general and the analysis of women's oppression in particular. The latter is especially strange since Sartre used strongly sexist metaphors and adopted a macho attitude towards women. In her book Hipparchia's Choice, Le Dœuff speaks in this context of "theoretical masculinism." She convincingly shows in this book that Sartre without using images could not have closed his existentialist philosophy: without the feminine drawback he would not have been able to explain why man cannot become god. Sartre not only understands gaining knowledge as a rape of a woman he also fears that the possessed feminine (body) could reverse its position from being dominated to the dominating force by appropriating the masculine through slime. In Being and Nothingness Sartre states that "slime is the revenge of the In-itself. A sickly–sweet, feminine revenge." Despite of the fact that De Beauvoir used Sartre's heterosexist ontology and metaphysics she managed to provide a highly influential depiction of women's condition and offered an original approach to the understanding of selfhood which places woman inside the subject.

Author's Profile

Ruth Burch
University of Warwick


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