On Freud, Twitter and cunnilingus

There are many celebrated examples of people who see the world from a phallocentric perspective, or, to use the less staid feminist terminology, think like a dick.

Twitter abounds with these, to the extent that we even have a name for them: trolls. Twitter’s chief executive recently admitted (and this is verbatim) that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls”.

So currently, happy trolls have many ways of expressing their essential trollness, but the most obvious is that they always, and only, see the world from their own perspective.

A classic example of this kind of tumescent myopia, from before the days of social media, is Freud’s case study of “Dora”. Freud treated Dora in 1900, for a condition he diagnosed as hysteria. A column can’t do justice to the immense amount of commentary that has flowed from the publication of this case study, and neither can a well-intentioned amateur, so I’ll just give you the bare bones and crave your indulgence.

Dora (a pseudonym) was a young woman who suffered from various “hysterical” symptoms, partly as a result of being sexually propositioned by Herr K, a lodger in her parents’ house.


These symptoms included a nervous cough, and (this one will become a relevant irony when we encounter trolls later) aphonia, or loss of voice.

Herr K’s wife, usefully called Frau K in Freud’s study, is involved in a sexual relationship with Dora’s impotent father. Okay, tangled web, etcetera – if you’re interested in the case’s details, look it up. The relevant point for us is Freud’s reconstruction of fantasies Dora has about the sexual relations of her father and Frau K, and feminist reinterpretations of that fantasy.

Crudely put (in both senses of the word), Freud believes Dora’s cough and loss of voice stem from the fact that she has imagined sex between her impotent father and Frau K.

Astounding blind spot
And for Freud, the fact that Dora’s father is unable to achieve penetration means he and his mistress have had to resort to oral sex. Dora, therefore, must be imagining fellatio. More enlightened readers, following in the footsteps of Lacan, will immediately spot the astounding blind spot displayed by Freud.

It’s pretty obvious that the oral sex in question must have been cunnilingus, rather than fellatio, and performed by Dora’s impotent father on Frau K, rather than the obverse.

But Freud’s 19th-century perspective, based as it is on the primacy of the phallus, means that the idea of a Freudian slipping in of the tongue is unthinkable.

I’ve oversimplified this, leaving out, for example, Freud’s inability to think of sexuality as anything but heterosexual. The basic premise is made, though: if you’re mired in one way of thinking, you cannot conceive of anything outside your hermetic little ego-driven world.

I’ve noticed this same inability in the trolls that get blocked on Twitter by the users they delight in stalking. Many of them brag about their cleverness in circumventing the blocking, as if it was anything more complicated than just searching on a person’s Twitter handle.

They gloat about the fact that they can still read the tweets of people who think they’ve blocked them, and take great delight in retweeting the tweets of the people they’re stalking.

They band together in little #circlejerks to taunt the absent stalkee. Their thought processes, inasmuch as they have them, are something like: “They think they’ve hidden away from us, the fools: little do they know we can still read everything they tweet, because we are technological geniuses who have figured out what the little search icon on Twitter means.”

Analogous with Freud’s analysis of Dora, the trolls’ understanding of the world is circumscribed by the fact that they’re total dicks. In the same way that Freud was unable to conceive oral sex being anything but fellatio, these blocked trolls, incredibly, haven’t realised that we don’t block them so that they can’t read our tweets: we block them so that we don’t have to read their inane drivel.

Endless loop
The blocked trolls of Twitter have such overweening egos that they defy Heraclitus’s maxim: these trolls can actually step into the same Twitterstream twice, as it runs in an endless loop under the bridge that they’re pointlessly guarding, and that no one actually wants to cross. Literally – and I’m using the word literally here – the trolls of Twitter are incapable of appreciating the essential nullity of their virtual world.

As a troll’s entire reason for existence is predicated on preying on people, that troll will naturally think that the being of the person he is stalking is concentrated on not becoming prey.

It’s a miracle of self-fellatio of which Freud would have been proud. The main reason you don’t feed the troll is because that’s what their evil and mean appetites thrive on.

But the reason you block them is because the world they live in is so unutterably boring. To quote the Dora of Hélène Cixous’s play: “When one can no longer speak, one is dead.” Similarly, when you cannot hear your blocked troll anymore, that troll is also dead.

Chris Roper is the editor in chief of the Mail & Guardian. He has 29 229 Twitter followers and has only ever had to block five of them. Follow him @chrisroper

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