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Transcript
Sexuality and Power in
Modern Societies
•Theories about the individualization of
sexuality in modern societies
•Critique of Foucault’s Discourse Analysis
•Anthony Giddens on Plastic Sexuality
1
Foucault on sexuality
• In his “History of Sexuality” Michel Foucault criticized the
“repressive hypothesis” about sexuality which assumes that
civilization contains spontaneous sexuality. Modernity, as a civilizing
process, brings discipline in social relations, therefore – control of
inner drives; to be effective this control has to be internalized in the
form of self-control; Control is the exercise of power.
• Power is a constraining force with respect to sexuality. Modern
institutions (hospitals, the school, etc.) become constraining forces
of human sexuality and create “docile bodies”. These institutions
drive sex “underground”, it becomes a secret obsession but is still
controlled (Compare with Freud).
• Yet developments in the 2nd half of the 20th century did not support
this hypothesis. A. Kinsey showed in the 1940s that sexual pleasure
is a wide-ranging experience of American men and women and that
what we call today sexual diversity was not focused in the
behaviours of a handful of individuals but a set of practices that
increase in popularity.
2
Foucault’s “liberated hypothesis” about
sexuality
•
In his later work on sexuality Foucault comes to realize that power is also a
mobilizing phenomenon and those who are subject to disciplinary power are not
necessarily docile in their reactions to it. Sex is a powerful generator of social
reconstruction, especially in the relations of power.
•
Power is now seen as an instrument for the production of pleasure. He now
sees sexuality in modern societies as a central, dense point of emotional
transfer for relations of power. Modern societies tend to become preoccupied
with sex, so sex is not driven underground by modern civilization.
•
In the 19-early 20th centuries sex and power become intertwined in several
ways: - sex becomes a widely discussed “secret”;
–
sexual behaviors are rationalized and interpreted in terms of the
organization of indvidual mental and physical development (e.g.
masturbation);
– the forms of aberrant/peripheral sexuality (“perversions”) are seen as
implanted in the body, not the personality type – thus they are
acknowledged as real and some – redefined as negative – but also arbitrary
social isolation of gays leads to consolidation and mobilization of
“peripheral sexualities” thus redefining modern modes of conduct. (Ex.: the
poetry and erotic prose of Anais Nin sexuality and homosexuality are
experienced in exclusively terms of one’s journey to one’s own
3
individuality!)
Foucault’s “liberated hypothesis” (Cont.)
•
•
•
•
Sex becomes the focal point of a modern confessional (the “flesh” against a modern
individualistic preoccupation with sexual desire);
Sexology - a science about modern sexuality emerges; Sexuality itself appears as a
concept in the 19th century. The concept is also a social construct: it is interpreted
through the lens of the existing power structures in society.
These two developments create a discourse around sex: Sex acquires new
individualistic meanings and becomes a personal story, a narrative. It also becomes a
socially-significant story, a social narrative – through several contexts in which power
becomes intertwined with knowledge. For ex., female sexual pleasure is recognized,
analytically dissected through the concept of “hysteria”, and immediately contained;
so is child sexuality – medical doctors predict that childhood masturbation is bad for
the mental and psychological development of children. Sex-for-pleasure in marriage
is also recognized but has to be a “disciplined pursuit of pleasure”…
Foucault argues that the emergence of sex as a central point of discourse in modern
society impacts a whole range of social institutions and takes the form of “anatomopolitics of the human body” – a whole host of technologies of bodily management
aimed at both constraining/regulating and optimising/empowering the capacities of
the human body.
4
Critique of Foucault’s theory
• The only moving forces according to Foucault’s theory are power,
discourse, and the body/sex.
• Sex is overrated at the expense of gender – where is the role of the
common family person – man and woman?
• Sex is seen as a widely-ranging dicourse in Victorian times (a
secret, but a common secret – open for discussion). But sex
discource was jnot widely available to the common man and even
less – to the common woman (illiteracy)…so discourse is an elitist
mechanism for the social construction of modern sexuality…and de
facto – a form of censorship…Male-authored medical texts…Elitist
discourse ignores the issue of gender inequality altogether…
• But what may be more widely-inclusive mechanisms…? In addition
to discourse there are other social forms of interaction leading to the
social construction of modern sexuality as we know it: F. does not
analyze the connections of sex with romantic love/marriage. What is
the role of adultery?
5
Anthony Giddens theory of Plastic
Sexuality
• Giddens follows a non-elitist, socio-logic line of explanation by
looking at long-term trends:
• The emergence of romantic love in Victorian times and the social
diffusion of the bourgeois practice of “romancing”/courting in all
social groups;
• The marital bond gradually acquires exclusivity and primacy over
other kinship ties, incl. parent-children bondsquire;
• The “home” becomes separated from the “working place” and
acquires a meaning of exclusivity as a “safe heaven”;
• Practices/movements about family planning emerge long before the
pill (1921); Sex gradually becomes differentiated and disconnected
from procreation – this liberates women’s sexuality;
• Sexuality comes to be seen as a “property” of the individual;
• As a result  “plastic sexuality” evolves as a gender-liberated and
sexually-diverse set of practices and meanings.
6
The 20th century: Institutional reflexivity
about sexual liberation
•
•
•
•
•
Is the modern social re-construction of sex and love relationships only a topdown process as Foucault argues?
Giddens argument: there are also powerful changes through grassroots
practices and lay meanings of sexuality.
Instead of Foucault’s thesis of the “power-knowledge” intrusive
implementation of new definitions of sex into social organisation, Giddens
proposes the concept of “institutional reflexivity” as an on-going process.
Reflexivity New terms/definitions, introduced in social relations to
describe them in terms of their socially-valid aspects, also become
meaningful and are used routinely as building blocks of the frames of action
which individuals or social groups adopt;
Institutional These definitions tend to become also basic structuring
elements of social activity in modern organized settings through the
elaboration of routines and procedures and the emergence of
bureaucracies.
7
The expansion of institutional refxlexivity
about sexuality in the 20th century
•
•
•
•
•
•
Institutional reflexivity is a modern process itself: related to geographical
mobility, mass media, Internet, and the ICT revolution which accelerates
this process even further
Continual reflexive incorporation of ever faster expanding knowledge;
ICT disrupts the coupling of knowledge with power  democratization
becomes a distinctive characteristic of institutional reflexivity  the more
connected we are in non-hierarchical networks the more we know about
diverse practices – the more the grassroots meanings become more
influential in the public domain of discourse about sexuality;
Public debates and the use of standards of inclusiveness help to neutralize
moral oppositions to sexual diversity;
The role of therapy and counselling, incl. psychoanalysis.
Institutional reflexivity on the level of ordinary, everyday sexual practices is
accelerating  the mix of knowledge, institutional (e.g. legal) sanctions and
public opinion now can happen in a matter of days or months.
8
The decline of perversion
•
•
•
•
In 1905 Freud was the first to argue that sexual traits associated with
perversions were not restricted to small categories of abnormal people but
were common to the sexuality of everyone  it is inappropriate to use the
term “perversion”;
Havelock Ellis substituted this term with “sexual deviation”;
During the sexual revolution homosexual movements were successful in
recoining the “deviation” concept into a concept of sexual
pluralism/diversity: the decline of perversion is the result of a successful
battle over rights and freedoms of self-expression through sex;
In post-modern times we have moved one step further: not only social life
itself, but what used to be considered as “nature” becomes dominated by
socially organized systems and constructs. Ex.: the socialization of
reproduction (method for artificial conception and even birth) logically leads
to a future where heterosexuality is likely to loose its status of standard and
to become just one among many sexual tastes/practices…
9