Carnal Knowledge

Ovid tells the story of Jupiter, mellowed by deep draughts of nectar, teasing Juno: “Of course, you women get far more pleasure out of love than men do.”

Juno denies that this is true and the opinion of Tiresias is sought in settling the matter, since he has experienced love both as a man and a woman. He confirms what Jupiter has said, whereupon Juno becomes very indignant and condemns the judge to eternal blindness – which Jupiter, unable to reverse, modifies by granting Tiresias the power to know the future.

What would seem to be the mystery at the centre of this story is Juno’s indignation at the disclosure of Tiresias – hard for us to understand as heirs to “liberation” and the incitement to discourse, rather than silence on sex.

I too want to suggest something of the unspeakable of feminine desire, to allege that Oedipus is not the end of the story, however useful such an ending may be in ensuring that subjects are put in their places and the order of the familial preserved.

The space which has to be traversed – that of language, desire, the body and knowledge – is that same risky terrain where Tiresias, the seer, came to a state of knowledge in blindness.