SDST 250 Lecture Notes - Sexual Intercourse, Masturbation, Androgyny
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Readings for September 7, 2012
FUCKING WITH THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY
“We ‘Other’ Victorians” (The History of Sexuality, Volume I)
Beginning of the seventeenth century: sexual practices were not “private” (little need of secrecy)
It was a period when bodies “made a display themselves.”
Victorian bourgeoisie: sexuality was confined
Silence became the law (on sex).
Repressions: nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to know hypocrisy of the bourgeois society
“Other Victorians” (as how Steve Marcus call them) (found in the brothels and mental hospitals) prostitutes, clients,
and the pimp, together with the psychiatrists and his hysterics.
Age of repression: seventeenth century
If sex is so rigorously repressed, this is because it is incompatible with a general and intensive work imperative.
If sex is repressed, then the mere fact that one is speaking about it has the appearance of a deliberate transgression.
Civilization that has people offering their ears for hire to listen to all our secrets of sex.
The question is not “Why are we repressed?”
The question is “Why do we say that we are repressed?” “What led us to show that sex is something we hide, to say
that it is something we silence?”
Repression is firmly anchored, having solid roots and reasons, and weighs so heavily on sex.
“The Repressive Hypothesis”
Doubts concerning the “Repressive Hypothesis:”
o Is sexual repression truly an established historical fact? Re: beginning in the Seventeenth century
o Do the workings of power really belong to the category of repression? Power: prohibition, censorship,
and denial are they forms of exercising power?
o Was there really a historical rupture between the age of repression and the critical analysis of
The issue in general is the way in which sex is “put into discourse.
“Polymorphous techniques of power.”
The essential aim is to bring out the “will to knowledge” that serves as both their support and their instrument.
The Repressive Hypothesis (from the History of Sexuality, Volume 1)
The Incitement (to encourage someone to do or feel something unpleasant or violent) to Discourse
o Seventeenth century: beginning of the age of repression bourgeois societies.
o It is quite possible that there was a policing of words
o When and where it is not possible to talk about things became more strictly defined.
o Almost constituted the whole restrictive economy
o At the level of discourses: there was a steady proliferation of discourses concerned with sex
o Evolution of the Catholic pastoral and the sacrament of penance: all the details must be mentioned
o New Pastoral: sex must not be named imprudently, but its aspects, its correlations, and its effects must
be pursued down to their slenderest ramifications.
o Confession: the seventeenth century made it into a rule for everyone. This obligation was decreed for
every good Christian.
o “Not only will you confess to acts contravening the law, but you will seek to transform your desire, your
every desire, into discourse.”
o At the end of the nineteenth century: “My Secret Life” – man whose life was almost totally dedicated to
sexual activity made a scrupulous account of every episode.
o Western man has been drawn for three centuries to the task of telling everything concerning his sex.
o Beginning of the eighteenth century, there emerged a political, economic, and technical incitement to
talk about sex.
o Sex was not something one simply judged; it was a thing one administered. It was in the nature of a
public potential; it called for management procedures; it had to be taken charge of by analytical
o 18th century: sex became a “police” matter
o Innovations of techniques in the 18th century emergence of POPULATION as a n economic and
political problem (as wealth, manpower or labour) --? Birth and death rates, life expectancy, fertility,
state of health, frequency of illnesses, patterns of diet and habitation.
o The future and fortune of a society concerns the manner in which each individual made use of his sex.
o Freedom between children and adults
o Secondary schools of the 18th century: they don’t talk about sex but everything has something to do with
the sexuality of the children.
o Sex education by Basedow and the German philanthropic movement great festival in May 1776
success of the sex education given to students
o 18th or 19th century began to produce discourses on sex.
Medicine via “nervous disorders” psychiatry onanism (masturbation) frustration
“frauds against procreation”
o Modern societies dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret.
The Perverse (strange and not what most people would expect or enjoy) Implantation
o It would be a mistake to see in this proliferation of discourses merely a quantitative phenomenon... as if
the fact of speaking about sex were of itself more important than the forms of imperatives that were
imposed on it by speaking about it.
o Through various discourses: legal sanctions against minor perversions were multiplied; sexual
irregularity was seen as a mental illness; norms for sexual development were defined and all possible
deviations were carefully described; pedagogical controls and medical treatments were organised.
o 19th century: age of multiplication
o Up to the end of 18th century, three major explicit codes governed sexual practices: canonical law, the
Christian pastoral, and civil law all centred on Matrimonial relations.
o On the list of grave sins, there appeared debauchery (extra-marital relations), adultery, rape, spiritual or
carnal incest, but also sodomy (Sexual intercourse involving anal or oral copulation), or mutual “caress.”
o They condemned homosexuality, infidelity, marriage without parental consent, bestiality (Sexual
intercourse between a person and an animal), and hermaphrodites.
o Two modifications between 18th and 19th century: centrifugal (away from the centre) movement with
respect to heterosexual monogamy; sexuality of children, mad men and women, and criminals, and the
sensuality of those who did not like the opposite sex went under scrutiny
o The point to consider is not the level of indulgence or the quantity of repression, but the form of power
that was exercised.
o Power involved four operations quite different from simple prohibitions:
1.) Ancient prohibitions of consanguine marriage or the condemnation of adultery:
Combatting children’s onanism
Power advanced, multiplied its relays and its effects, while its target expanded,
subdivided, and branched out, penetrating further into reality at the same pace.
In appearance, we are dealing with a barrier system but in fact, all around the child,
indefinite lines of penetration were disposed.
2.) This new persecution of the peripheral sexualities entailed an incorporation of perversions
and a new specification of individuals.
Sodomy was a category of forbidden acts (according to canonical codes)
Homosexuality (Westphal’s article of 1870 on “contrary sexual sensations” can stand as
its date of birth)
Homosexuality – appeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed
from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny. “Hermaphrodism of
Power did not aim to suppress but to give It an analytical, visible, and permanent
3.) This form of power demanded constant, attentive, and curious presences for its exercises
Perpetual spirals of power and pleasure
4.) Those devices of sexual saturation
The modern society has attempted to reduce sexuality to the couple (heterosexual and
19th century family: a monogamous and conjugal cell; a network of pleasures and
19th century bourgeois society was a society of blatant and fragmented perversion.
The manifold sexualities form the correlate of exact procedures of power.
These polymorphous conducts were actually extracted from people’s bodies and from their pleasures.
The implantation of perversion is an effect of isolation, intensifications, and consolidation of peripheral sexualities.
We must therefore abandon the hypothesis.
"THE REPRESSIVE HYPOTHESIS": the idea that western society suppressed sexuality from the 17th to the mid-20th century;
he argues that this hypothesis is an illusion, and that in actuality, discourse on sexuality proliferated during this period. He
goes on to argue that at this time, experts began to examine sexuality in a scientific manner, classifying different types of
sexuality and encouraging people to confess their sexual feelings and actions, all in the desire to learn the "truth" of sex.
Preface to The History of Sexuality, Volume II
Foucault’s object was to analyse sexuality as a historically singular form of experience.
Effort to treat sexuality as the correlation of a domain of knowledge, a type of normativity, and a mode of relation
to the self.
Sexuality as an experience, which conjoins field of study (connaisance), a collection of rules, a mode of relation
between the individual and himself, (which enables him to recognise himself as a sexual subject amid others).
History of thought thought having individuals as subjects of learning thought is the very form of action
o Principle of Irreducibility of Thought: There is no experience which is not a way of thinking, and which
cannot be analysed from the point of view of the history of thought.
o Principle of Singularity: thought has a historicity which is proper to it; there are events of thought;
historicity as complex relations with economic, social, and political order.
o Principle of the History of thought as Critical Activity: An awareness that criticism does not mark out
impassable boundaries or describe closed systems; it brings to light transformable singularities.
“The History of Systems of Thought”:
o Philosophy: how thought could have a history
o History: must be asked to produce the various forms of thought in whatever concrete forms they may
o Formation of the domain of recognitions (connaisances)
o Organisation of normative system built on a whole technical, administrative, juridical, and medical
apparatus whose purpose was to isolate and take custody of the insane
o The definition of a relation to oneself and to others as possible subject of madness
Second axis: relation to rules will be explored using the examples of punitive practices techniques for
governing individuals and guiding their conduct
Third axis: modality of relation to the self
September 7, 2012
Salt ‘n pepa : let’s talk about sex
o Talk about sex even if it’s censored.
o The song was produced in early 1990’s
Same sex marriage was not resolved in California. Students started the campaign called “NO H8” Campaign.
We other" victorians (the history of sexuality, volume i) Beginning of the seventeenth century: sexual practices were not private (little need of secrecy) Repressions: nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to know hypocrisy of the bourgeois society. Other victorians (as how steve marcus call them) (found in the brothels and mental hospitals) prostitutes, clients, It was a period when bodies made a display themselves. and the pimp, together with the psychiatrists and his hysterics. If sex is so rigorously repressed, this is because it is incompatible with a general and intensive work imperative. If sex is repressed, then the mere fact that one is speaking about it has the appearance of a deliberate transgression. Civilization that has people offering their ears for hire to listen to all our secrets of sex. The question is not why are we repressed? .