What has Lady Gaga got to do with the future of queer theory, gender theory and the phallus? We argue that the first 2 minutes and 13 seconds of the uncut version of “Telephone” engineers a fascinating play with the enduring fantasies and fictions of an absent/present or constructed phallus. In several interviews Gaga evades questions as to whether she possesses a penis (she has told Jonathan Ross that she has a “really big donkey dick”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG_Jm3NhujY) and in this video clip her genital region is continually suggestive of phallic plentitude while simultaneously deflating that imagined female phallic presence.
Gaga’s phallicity creates a space for re-thinking the phallus beyond or alongside both the dominant psychoanalytic and gender/queer theoretical positions. For Lacanian psychoanalysts there is a seemingly ineffaceable slippage between the fleshy penis and the phallus as universal signifier. Queer theory draws on this account and unsurprizingly tends to emphasize the infinite repeatability of the failure to collapse the distinction between penis and phallus. Both sets of accounts make the mistake of anthropomorphizing the phallus, materializing it, even re-transcendentalizing it as master signifier. Gaga’s tele-dildonics promises something different.In this clip, her girlboner is what Butler calls a “transferable phantasm”, since it never returns to the gendered body as origin. Gaga’s phallic queerings particularly reterritorialize the female body as the phallus metonymically slides from crotch, to anus, to breasts, and to other objects, including the telephone she suggestively slips out of a fellow inmate’s jeans. “I told you she didn’t have a dick”, the ambiguously female guards tell us but Gaga’s blurred crotch offers no such certainties as to whether she has or is the phallus.
The very plasticity of Gaga’s “dick” depends both on a displaceability (we can read the phallus off other body parts) and a demystification (we cannot be sure that any particular body part actually symbolizes the phallus). Gaga’s expropriable phallus plays with theoretical fictions which Butler would agree are useful ones. On the one hand her slippery tele-member confounds the penis-phallus distinction without materializing a tangible phallus. Gaga’s cock is one we just can’t get our hands on. On the other hand, Gaga’s forcefully reiterated deprivileging of the phallus is an equally dissatisfying de/revisualisation of her (phoney) dick. And this is precisely because the female phallus is no/thing, and can never be seen.
Gaga’s phallicity, or, the felicity of her phallic recirculations and visual vacillations, is that the phallus is not real, is merely an idealization, but that it is still really useful. It is not so much a question of whether Gaga has a dick, but rather what she does with it.