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History 2181A/B Study Guide - Comprehensive Final Exam Guide - Victorian Morality, Michel Foucault, Homosexuality


Department
History
Course Code
HIS 2181A/B
Professor
Monda Halpern
Study Guide
Final

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History 2181A/B

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SEPTEMBER 17 - Introduction: Theories of Sexuality
-the study of the history of sex and sexuality did not always exist, it began recently mostly in the
late 1960s and early 1970s
-why? the second wave feminism movement of the 1960s and 1970s
-the first wave happened at the end of the 19th etur ad as foused o oe’s suffrage
-part of this was investigating why women were still suffering from oppression and were still
not seen as equal; women in academia thought they must study to understand the reason
-so, women started to investigate the history of women -and they found very little
-emergence of the birth control pill (she believes this is the single most important
invention for women in the history of the world)
-initially the pill was intended for married women because people did not assume
unmarried women had sex
-the pill ended up being for everyone helped with reproductive rights and freedoms
-why? because most historians were white men and they were writing about white men
-so they wanted to find and write about a rich history of women, part of this was the history of
sex and sexuality, which was not being discussed
-why was it not being discussed? historians previously were writing about what they thought
was important i.e. government, politics, warfare
-they did not see everyday life important, they did not think sex was a history, just something
you did
-this haged after the oe’s rights oeet, ga oeet, histor of differet ultures,
all of this gave more focus to the history of sex
-Michel Foucault: a philosopher in France and was the first man to theorize that sex and
sexuality had a history -he rote The Histor of “eualit -multiple volumes -1970s
-the first time that sex was talked about as having a history
-focused on the history of the Victorian period/the 19th century
-oe of the failigs: he did’t reall talk aout se ad seualit as haig a histor efore the
19th century
-he argued that sex and sexuality are shaped and were shaped in the Victorian period by
discourses of sex (i.e. bodies of knowledge about sex)
-these discourses were created by different agents of society (i.e. one by the Church, one by the
medical profession and the psychiatric profession, one that is legislative, one by the monarchy,
families themselves, the education system, popular culture and the media) all of these agents
of society influence each other
-so Foucault came up with the revolutionary idea that our ideas of sex and sexuality are shaped
by these discourses and agents mentioned above
-his key points said sex had a history and that our idea of sex was influenced by discourses
-another key idea of his was that we tend to think of sex in the 19th century as something that
was repressed -he says that this was a bit of a myth
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-in the 19th century there was a great deal of prescriptive literature (the How to books i.e.
prescribing how to behave), especially directed to women, written mostly by women but also
by clergy all regarding to look, act, attract a man, raise a home
-ith this presriptie literature as a lot of ho to’s aout se, ostl aout ho to please
men
-in 19th century it could be prudish in public, but behind closed people were obsessed about sex
-his idea was that Victorians really were quite obsessed about sex even though our
uderstadig o is that the ere’t
-another argument of Foucault is that there is a direct correlation between sex/sexuality,
knowledge (& discourses), and power
-that those institutions that produce knowledge about sex are the institutions that hold the
power in any given society
-ex. the Church for most of human history was one of the major producers of knowledge about
sex -this reflected the power that they had and perpetuated that power even more
-if you have the power to produce the knowledge, you have the power to control the thoughts
and behaviours of people
-boils down to regulation -regulating their self-identity, their attitudes, their behaviour
-any of these institutions that created discourses are not just producing the knowledge, they
are also in control of how people think behave and act -and then regulate how people go
through their lives in terms of sexuality
-the study of the history of sex and sexuality has come a long way since the 1970s and Foucault
-some of these ideas are mentioned below
1 sex and sexuality are difficult to define
-it can describe actions, a feeling, desire, pleasure, confusion, pain, can mean many different
things to many different people, something that you are (male, female, etc.), it can be one
action, many actions, it can incorporate the genitals but also brain and really every part of the
body -sex and sexuality are not a rigid binary (just being male and female) it may include more
eon the continuum -no binary of normal or abnormal (heterosexual or homosexual, feminine
or masculine) no longer understood as a binary -public vs. private, submissive vs. dominant -sex
and sexuality is a wide spectrum of identities, behaviours, and feelings -intersectionality and
those in transition allow us to understand that those binaries are no longer acceptable
-we generally understand the difference of sex (linked to biology) and gender (as referring more
to the social construction of being feminine or masculine) mean two different things
2 sexuality is not necessarily a natural entity
-we tend to think of sex in terms of our identity as natural -the idea that across all places and all
times that sex is the same and natural
-what sexual historians understand that there is very little natural about it, it is a historical and
social construction that changes over time and place and cultures
-as Foucault said the way we behave sexually is shaped by discourses (like religion, education,
medical)
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