RELG 271 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Psychopathology, Blic

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21 Oct 2015

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Sexual Ethics - Deconstructing Sex
Sexuality, Knowledge, and Power:
Michal Foucault (1925-1984)
-French philosopher, social critic, major intellectual influence in humanities and social
-Sexuality as discourse, discourse as a form of power
-Foucault’s analysis of surveillance and control in modernity: bureaucracies, prisons,
hospitals, educational systems, asylums, police, and professional military
-Behaviours and ideas surrounding sexuality are influenced
-Sexuality becoming monitored and controlled
-A way of speaking about something
-Classification/categories that structure our understanding of the world
-Organized, institutionalized language of sexuality
-A form of power
-Defines what can/cannot be said
-Discourse is not just about out manner of speech, choice of words, or conversation, but
rather it affects how we structure society, how we define relationships, and how we
experience something physically
-Economic Discourse that defines public discussions about education is not just about
using economic language; it is about the future we envision for our world (not pricing
necessities such as education)
-Economic discourse shapes everything we do today
-Foucault argues that medical discourse is dominant – not to say that we shouldn’t study
sexuality medically, however his concern is that the medical industry has invaded to such
a profound degree that we cannot have a serious discussion about it
-You cannot discuss sexual pleasure unless it is from a medical perspective – he believes
it should be a private discussion
-Foucault was interested with why this discourse is so dominant that we cannot escape it
– why we cannot discuss it as something we enjoy – it has to lead to something defined as
a health issue
-Has sexuality become subject to the similar patterns of methodical investigation,
surveillance, and control?
-19th century sexual discourse: public health discourse, sexual dangers, perversion, focus
on ‘science of sex, not pleasure
-Homosexuality was considered a mental illness until 1972 – it only became accepted in
certain Western countries once medical institutions approved
-If we were to discover in today’s society that homosexuality was a disease, would people
believe it because it was proven by science?
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