Foucault: Power and Sexuality

Foucault gets down to historicizing our sex life:

"At the beginning of the seventeenth century a certain frankness was still common, it would seem. Sexual practices had little need of secrecy; words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment; one had a tolerant familiarity with the illicit. Codes regulating the coarse, the obscene, and the indecent were quite lax compared to those of the nineteenth century. It was a time of direct gestures, shameless discourse, and open trasgressions, when anatomies were shown and intermingled at will, and knowing children hung about amid the laughter of adults: it was a period when bodies "made a display of themselves." But twilight soon fell upon this bright day, followed by the monotonous nights of the Victorian bourgeoisie. Sexuality was carefully confined; it moved into the home."

The History of Sexuality is Foucault's last effort to disclose how power has been shaping sexual identity and behavior in western civilization over the last centuries.

With established fields of knowledge in modern science such as psychology and medicine - singular sexual acts turned into an "identity", as an essential component of man's subjectivity.

In what circumstances sexuality comes to play such a major yet sensitive role?

How come sexual behavior add up to identity which defines us?

Why is a person's sexual preferences considered to be more fundamental than her culinary ones?

A copy of The History of Sexuality is available to download from the Files section of this group.

Suggested Reading: Part 1 - We "Other Victorians" (pp. 3 - 13). The chapter serves both as an introduction and a summary for Foucault's endeavor.

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  • Jeryl

    "Data on porn use demonstrate what sexual repression looks like"

    "According to credit card receipts from a national provider of adult entertainment, eight of the top ten pornography-consuming states went Republican in the 2008 election. And the trend goes beyond voting. For example, states where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage" bought more [pornography] subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. The same difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behavior."

    December 17, 2012

    • Jeryl

      "Subscriptions are slightly more prevalent in states that have enacted conservative legislation on sexuality. In the 27 states where “defense of marriage” amendments have been adopted (making same-sex marriage, and/or civil unions unconstitutional), subscriptions to this adult entertainment service are weakly more prevalent than in other states. In such states, there were 0.2 more subscribers to this adult web site per thousand broadband households, 11 percent more than in other states."
      "subscriptions are also more prevalent in states where surveys indicate conservative positions on religion, gender roles, and sexuality. In states where more people agree that “Even today miracles are performed by the power of God” and “I never doubt the existence of God,” there are more subscriptions to this service."  


      December 18, 2012

  • Jeryl

    "To extreme social conservatives of the far right, the word “prude” is not an insult — it’s a badge of honor. “Prudes,” they would argue, should be upheld as exemplary role models because a sexually repressive society is also a society with fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer sexually transmitted diseases. But not only do the facts not bear that out, they also demonstrate that the exact opposite is true. Countries that embrace many of the things social conservatives detest (comprehensive sex education, pro-gay legislation, nude or topless beaches, legal or decriminalized prostitution, adult entertainment) tend to be countries that have less sexual dysfunction than the United States, not more...there is a strong correlation between social conservatism and higher rates of teen pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases."

    December 17, 2012

  • Howard P.

    It was a stimulating far ranging discussion.

    December 16, 2012

  • Jeryl

    “Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they were not, no one would perform them.”

    ― Gore Vidal, Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings

    December 3, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    This will be fascinating! Wish I could attend, but I'll be out of the city.

    November 27, 2012

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