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Women's Studies 2160A/B Lecture Notes - Heterosexuality, Daniel Defoe, Michel Foucault

Women's Studies
Course Code
Women's Studies 2160A/B
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LECTURE 1: Marriage, space and intimacy in the early modern period
- there is one institution that is very old and tat has always been connected
with intimacy: marriage
- some aspect of marriage have remained the same, some have change over
- marriage has existed in all culture since adam and eve, its an ancient culture
What is marriage?
- its both private and public
- 1. In involves a legal or religious contract between two people, until recently
the opposite sex
- 2. Historically it has privileged heterosexuality
- 3. Marriage legitimizes and legalizes sexual intercourse: it is the one thing
that gives us the right to have sex( the private becomes public)
- 4. marriage is a public recognition of a private act
- 5. Marriage is only indirectly linked to procreation; only in exceptional cases
have marriages been annulled if there are no children, marriages are
annulled in royalty
Why does Marriage exist?
- it is the public aspect of intimacy that makes marriage
- 1. It ensures control over sexuality, and the privileging of certain kinds of
pair bonds: marriage is away of approving a legitimacy of two people, a
public declaration of a private act
- 2. it enables social control over race, class and gender: not anyone can get
married with anyone
- 3. It confirms the performance of proper gender roles: its connected to a
social network, it is a right of passage, there is a private investment in order
to be recognized in a public way
- 4. Historically it has ensured the subjection of women to men: it has a way or
controlling the weaker sex, it has had a connection with dominance and
power, because of its public character
- 5. It enables governments to monitor its citizens: the government is able to
know more about your private life
Other important points:
- those who are married are perceived to be GOOD CITIZENS: they do this so
they can place you and know where you are, also to breed families, ensure
stability, conformity
- what is it about the power of marriage that so many people want yet divorce
rate is so high?
- Married couples tend to be economically supported by governments
- In early marriages (17th century to early 20th century) the family was seen as
a reflection of the state: the father was the king and his wife and children
were his subjects, most societies in europe were made of kings and queens,
marriage was based on that system
- Early marriages were not about intimacy and love, it was more about power
and wealthy alliances: who you married mattered, you kept your status up
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- Marriage ensures the norms of any given society: marriage appears natural,
it’s a normality, ritual, the effect of these norms are, once we know we are
functioning in a normal system its hard to function out of it. You want to
participate or you feel odd
Michel Foucault on marriage:
- he wrote a book about the history of sexuality, specifically interested in
marriage, he thought how marriage was looked at by so many other people,
church, psychologists… the point he made was, even though marriage was
private it was always being monitored by society
Marriage and Normative Values:
- norms shape who and how we desire, what’s allowed and what’s not allowed
- we think we are free, but we are already fashioned ex. If you graduate with a
degree you will marry someone with a degree
- if we marry someone of a different ethnicity it was wrong : marriage law
- intimacy is shaped by what any given society considers normal
- at the same time, norms are not stable, or they would never change: over
time they do change, it’s a long process
- Foucault: on the other hand, norms exist in a dialectical relationship t a
multiplicity of social forces
- Normas are not absolute
- They can reshape themselves into different paradigms
- On the other hand, norms have an endless capacity for assimilation, for
absorbing transgressive behavior, and for domesticating it : ex. Rap culture
used to be questioned but now is normal
Why is it important to think about EARLY MODERN MARRIAGES?
- because what we think of as the normal or natural conditions changes
- looking at marriage helps us to understand how intamcy itslf is socially
- marriage in the seventeenth century is not the same as today: back then it
was more about obedience, therefore everything about it was different
- E.Foyster: marital violence, women had to becomes the role of subjection and
obedience to her husband. Marriage is also a benefit to the third parties, to
the benefit of offspring and to the moral order of civil society: it was about
being apart of the larger society, it was about fitting in, belonging
Advice Literature on Marriage
- from 1650- 1750, there was an unprecedented amount of advice from
- in the 1600’s the husband was king, the moon is the wife, sun is husband, the
brighter light. It was natural for the husband to be in charge, be protective of
the wife.
- The wife is passive, and should reflect everything of her husband, not to be
herself but to be as her husband wants her to be
- A women wrote in response to the male quotes: women were fighting back,
they didn’t like how the institution was, they wanted to redefine
The ideology of Marriage in 1600s:
- husband and wife are fundamentally unequal
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