History 2185 Lecture Notes - Michel Foucault, Unbridled, Married People

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31 Jan 2013
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Sept, 24, 2012
Theories of Sexuality
Emergence:
-People thought it wasn’t something that was possible to study because it was a fixed entity that never changes
but now we know it changes for many reasons like our own perceptions, likes and dislikes, regarding sex and
sexuality change over our lifetime
-The study began in the 60’s-70’s because of other social movements of the time and the emergence of new
disciplines (people on the margins wanted their opinions voiced and their histories researched)
-Studying this allowed people to understand their present and to predict their future and new groups were able to
politicize their issues and individual problems that resulted from society)
Michel Foucault:
-Was a French philosopher who wrote a multi-volume book called “The History of Sexuality” in the 70’s and this is
seen as the real start into the issue
-He was the first to talk about it as its own discipline and he argued that modern sexuality was shaped in the late
19th century (this is now seen as incorrect because it was shaped much before)
-He argued that much of sex and sexuality was dictated by larger bodies of knowledge or discourses about sex (ex:
information from the church or medical community) and that what we know is not just from our own experience
-In the 70’s this was a new idea and in the 19th century the church was dying in place of medical advice (20th
century was more focused on psychological advice)
-He said the discourses in the 17th century originated in Europe but we know that attitudes were shaped in ancient
times so the 17th century is too late
-He said our belief that the people of the Victorian era were sexually repressed is false because the silence
indicated not repression but obsession and that the people were forced into silence to control this
-By telling people not to talk about sex they were talking about sex constantly
-Believed there was a connection between sexuality, knowledge, and power of the discourses about sex and the
attitudes produced helped to control all aspects of an individual’s sexuality
-Because the church dictated the sex people had they had great power but today the biggest influence is the media
and we behave according to what is says is acceptable
-Because these institutions are controlled by men there is little history to be found concerning women
Theories and Themes:
1. Sex and sexuality are hard to define and can describe actions, feelings, pleasure, confusion, and more
-Sex can be something you are, something you have, an action, etc
-Sexuality can be a biological identity or a social identity
-Sex incorporates all of the body and this makes it confusing
-Sex and gender are not interchangeable because sex is your biology (male or female) and gender is the social
construction of masculine and feminine
-Gendered behaviour ideally matches sex and it’s unnatural how we are gendered from the moment we are born
2. Traditionally sex refers to a biological or innate identity
3. Sexuality is not solely a biological or universal identity and it changes over time and one’s lifespan
4. Sex and sexuality are social and historical constructions shaped by other institutions
-These socialization agents teach what is normal, moral, and acceptable behaviour in terms of gender and sexuality
-It raises the question whether it needs control or whether we should be able to be free and do as we please
-Adriene Rich coined the term “compulsory heterosexuality” and was a feminist in the 70’s
-Rich said we live in a controlled culture that encourages this and we are taught this is the only normal way
because it leads to procreation and you were flawed if you could not
-Those that do not conform to compulsory heterosexuality are penalized by society and the government
encourages it by giving benefits for married people with children
5. Definitions of sex and sexuality changes over time, place, and culture
-Sex and sexuality are mediated by race, class, age, marriage status, etc
-What is acceptable in one situation or time of life is not in another
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