Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 420–438 | Cite as

The castration of Colonel Williams: Gender, horror, and a nation of hysterics

Original Article


In 2013, Russell Williams, a colonel in the Canadian military, pled guilty to eighty-eight violent charges, including two charges of sexual assault and two charges of first-degree murder. Drawing on narratives of (trans)gender anxiety popularized by horror films, the media built an explanatory framework which fixated upon Williams’ fetishistic cross-dressing. This article interrogates the site where fantasies of absolute sexed difference coincide with fantasies about military phallicism in the national psyche. Drawing on Lacan’s paternal metaphor, I argue that gender operates as a symptom, assuaging the anxiety that arises when a nation is confronted with the fallibility of sex binaries and phallic authority. The symbolic castration of Colonel Williams provides a case study of how the quest for a phallic master has cultivated a nation of hysterics.


Lacan transgender horror castration hysteria 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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