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 18 century: sex became a “police” matter
o Innovations of techniques in the 18 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 18 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 18 or 19 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 19 century: age of multiplication
o Up to the end of 18 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 18 and 19 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