In “The Laugh of the Medusa”, Helene Cixous writes about the power of women writing and how they must do so to assert themselves. She makes comparisons between writing and masturbation, and she speaks of the desire to write in an almost sexualized manner: “This practice [of imagination]…in particular as concerns masturbation, is prolonged or accompanied by a production of forms…I wished that that woman would write and proclaim this unique empire so that other women…might exclaim: I, too, overflow; my desire have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst” (876). Cixous speaks of expression the way one would speak of erotic passion: she writes of overflowing desires, of outbursts, of feeling a shameful sickness for having these “funny” desires stirring inside of her.
Later, Cixous elaborates on this thought to say that writing itself is sexualized: “It will usually be said, thus disposing of a sexual difference,: either that all writing, to the extent that it materializes, is feminine; or, inversely—but it comes to the same thing—that the act of writing is equivalent to masculine masturbation (and so the woman who writes cuts herself out a paper penis); or that writing is bisexual, hence neuter, which again does away with differentiation” (883). But must writing be sexual at all? Calling it bisexual doesn’t “do away with differentiation,” as Cixous says, it just means it’s equally sexualized. Also, I’m curious as to why Cixous says that writing is equivalent to masculine masturbation, but the feminine equivalent is simply that writing is feminine. Perhaps I’m picking apart her words too closely, but I don’t understand why, is this is what she’s saying, it’s only considered masturbation in regards to men but not women. How is it that the woman who writes “cut herself out a paper penis”? This angers me because it should not be the case—writing, and any from of expression, should not be so (masculinely) sexualized that doing so is, in a sense, giving oneself a penis.
Perhaps this is why Cixous keeps urging women to write throughout her text, to take this art back from men: “Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven’t written…because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great—that is, for “great men”; and it’s ‘silly’.” (876). Cixous has this same sense of urgency and passion running throughout the text, pointing out how women not only have the right to write as much as men do, but that they should (also, on a side note, I find it interesting that writing used to be a male art, yet now it’s very feminized).