What is phallocentrism?

Philip Kelley

The phallocentrism is a concept elaborated in 1965 by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), who was recognized for his work on the thought of deconstruction, referring to the study of language and its structure.

The term phallocentrism is the result of the combination of the words phallogocentrism and logocentrism, used by this philosopher to criticize psychoanalytic theory, mainly the Lacanian one..

Phallocentrism refers to the theory that Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), a psychoanalyst physician, developed about female sexuality, according to which the libido or sexual energy present in the unconscious is male..

In this theory, the phallus is the referent of sexuality, that is, it is oriented and revolves around him. It is from the phallus that the differentiation of the sexes between men and women occurs and, through which an asymmetric relationship occurs between them.

Even the existence of the female sex is questioned. Since from the psychoanalytic theory it is concluded that there is only one sex, the male. Being the woman defined as a male without sex, that is, as castrated.

It is the man who possesses the phallus (penis) and the woman who appears as castrated, as one who does not have it and envies it. From there arises social thought, characterized by being the woman inferior to the man and, who must passively submit to his desire. 

Article index

  • 1 Phalocentrism: primacy of the masculine, non-existence of the feminine?
  • 2 Phallocentrism from the female gaze
    • 2.1 Feminism
  • 3 References

Phalocentrism: primacy of the masculine, non-existence of the feminine?

Jacques Derrida's criticism of Lacanian theory is that according to this, the child must enter the world of language to become a speaking subject. What Derrida highlights is that language and society are based on masculine or macho ideals that humiliate and enslave femininity. 

Phallocentrism refers to the existence of a privilege of the masculine over the feminine. These ideals were incorporated into the collective unconscious causing a generalization of the male gender.

This can be seen not only in the language used on a daily basis, but also in the look that society had many years ago, and that to a lesser extent, it currently maintains towards women.

Based on the inequality and domination of women by men, these thoughts have as their central idea the inferiority of the female sex over the male..

From the social point of view, women are viewed in a pejorative way. According to this view, women are less capable of performing the same activities that men can do.

From this perspective, the woman is also seen as an object. A sexual object for men, their primary task being that of satisfying male desire.

In this way, a society based on the subjection of women was created. Little by little, his desires were considered less and less until they disappeared, ceasing to have relevance and limiting himself to having to satisfy man's wishes..

The female desire was then annulled, the woman having to repress her own desires. This caused a restriction in their sexual development, which currently produces effects at the psychic and somatic level..

Phallocentrism from the female gaze

Faced with a sociocultural gaze where the phallus appears as the only culturally valid reference, women began to reveal themselves.

In various parts of the world, faced with a macho culture and society, feminist movements developed. From which, the concept of phallocentrism obtained a negative significance.

This concept referred to a form of power and domination based on inequality between men and women..  

In a society where phallocentric thinking prevails, women are seen not as an independent being other than men, with their own gender, but rather are viewed on the basis of their relationship with men, highlighting the inequality and difference between the two sexes.

In this way, the woman learns to feel, know herself and see herself through the man's gaze, devaluing and despising her own body.


The woman appears with a passive role and hence the dominance of the man over her. Now, there is a sexuality that is not phallocentric, but feminine. Premise that carries feminism as a banner.

This is understood as a cultural, political and social movement whose main objective is to free women from male subjection. Condition to which society itself has subjected it.

This movement questions the violence exercised against women throughout history, the dominance and violence of men over them, demanding equal rights.

From this perspective, phallocentrism has been denounced for affecting female sexuality and the mental integrity of women. It has been seen as one of the cruelest representations of the superiority of masculine power, which excludes women and denies everything that represents the feminine.

These feminist movements have made significant achievements. Among them, women appear with more freedom to choose their training, the lifestyle they want to live or explore and satisfy their own sexuality.

Women have also managed to have a voice and vote, the power to decide, which was previously repressed by the power of men exercised over them. He has even achieved that as his power increases, that of man diminishes.

Feminism seeks, through its cultural practices, to have more representation and produce a change in society. Today there is no doubt that the power conferred on women has been on an increasing scale.

The change of place and function that it has achieved with respect to that phallocentric gaze is still far from equal conditions, since in many parts of the world they still seem to have a more entrenched male gaze.


  1. Antigone: A Genealogy of the Critical Idea of ​​Phallocentrism. (1994).
  2. Armor, E. T. (1999). Deconstruction, Feminist Theology, and the Problem of Difference: Subverting the Race / Gender Divide. University of Chicago Press.
  3. Derlagen, B. (n.d.). Sexual Difference and Female Subjectivity. Retrieved from Academia 
  4. Deutscher, P. (2002). Yielding Gender: Feminism, Deconstruction and the History of Philosophy.
  5. Holland, N. (2010). Feminist Interpretations of Jacques Derrida. Penn State Press.
  6. Koealeski-Wallace, E. (2009). Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory.
  7. Louise Braddick, M. L. (2013). The Academic Face of Psychoanalysis: Papers in Philosophy, the Humanities, and the British Clinical Tradition.
  8. Nash, J. (n.d.). Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Retrieved from psychoanalysis-and-therapy
  9. Oh, J. S. (n.d.). A Study of Kristeva and Irigaray's Critiques on Phallogocentrism:. Retrieved from Cerebration 
  10. Rueda, A. C. (2016). Sex and Nothing: Bridges from Psychoanalysis to Philosophy. Karnac Books.

Yet No Comments