RELG 271 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Heterosexuality, Social Constructionism, Michel Foucault

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RELG 271: Sexual Ethics January 17, 2017
Constructing and Deconstructing Sexualities
What does it mean to “tell the truth” about sex?
Michel Foucault (1925-1984)
- Saw sexuality as a discourse, and a discourse as a source of power
- Criticize distorted forms of domination
- Who is telling the story?
- Certain things are natural/absolute
- Unchanging individual essence that we can track over time
- Social Constructivism: there is not an historical constant; there are historical specifics
- The history of sexuality is the history of sexual discourses
Telling the Truth about Sex
- Ars Erotica
o Truth drawn from pleasure
o Pleasure considered in relation to itself (not law or utility)
o Knowledge deflected back into sexual practice to amplify its effects
o Relationship of master to discipline
o Receiving information from the master
- Scientia sexualis
o Confession most highly valued techniques for producing truth
o Confessor is also subject of statement
o Agency of domination is in the one who listens, rather than speaks
o Reconstruction
o “…breaking with the tradition of the ars erotica [master to disciple], our society
has equipped itself with a scientia sexualis…”
Key Assumptions of Social Constructionism (Vivian Burr)
- Critical stance
- Historically and culturally specific
- Knowledge of the world is intersubjectively fabricated not objectively observed
- Constructions are bound up with particular power relations
Sexuality and the Cultivation of Humanity
- Education for democratic citizenship
o Problem of unreflective citizen
o Goal of informed (not ignorant) choice
- Social construction
o Learning is socially shaped
o Emotions entail good deal of learning
- Addresses problematic suspicion of sex research
Areas of Social Construction…
- Behavior societies shape norms of bahvior
- Norms
o Norms about sexuality itself that shape experiences (e.g., appetite)
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Document Summary

Saw sexuality as a discourse, and a discourse as a source of power. Unchanging individual essence that we can track over time. Social constructivism: there is not an historical constant; there are historical specifics. The history of sexuality is the history of sexual discourses. Ars erotica: truth drawn from pleasure, pleasure considered in relation to itself (not law or utility, knowledge deflected back into sexual practice to amplify its effects, relationship of master to discipline, receiving information from the master. Knowledge of the world is intersubjectively fabricated not objectively observed. Constructions are bound up with particular power relations. Education for democratic citizenship: problem of unreflective citizen, goal of informed (not ignorant) choice. Social construction: learning is socially shaped, emotions entail good deal of learning. Behavior societies shape norms of bahvior. Norms: norms about sexuality itself that shape experiences (e. g. , appetite) January 17, 2017: norms about evaluations within the category (e. g. , what is desirable in a partner)

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