Deployment of Sexuality
What does Michele Foucault mean by deployment of sexuality? Part four of the book on History of Sexuality speaks of the deployment of sexuality (HS 75ff). It is said here that deployment of sexuality is a disciplinary apparatus which concerns power. Many regard this work as a straightforward extension of the genealogical approach of Discipline and Punish to the topic of sexuality. This opus is a multi-volume work on various themes in a study of modern sexuality.
His idea is that the various modern bodies of knowledge about sexuality, that is, various “sciences of sexuality”, including psychoanalysis, have an intimate association with the power structures of modern society and so are prime candidates for genealogical analysis. On his account, modern control of sexuality parallels modern control of criminality by making sex, just like crimes, an object of allegedly scientific disciplines, which simultaneously offer knowledge and domination of their objects. However, it becomes apparent that there is a further dimension in the power associated with the sciences of sexuality.
Not only is there control exercised by way of others’ knowledge of individuals but there is also control by way of individuals’ knowledge of themselves. Individuals internalize the norms laid down by the sciences of
According to this hypothesis, power has been exercised to repress discussion of sex. This repression on the discourse and knowledge about sex implies a control in power. One is said to be repressing sex when one is told not to talk about it. But Foucault would argue that this repression is itself a form of discourse. We shall see of them more in the following discussions. Repression of Sex / Repressive Hypothesis Is there a need for repression? If yes, what would be the best reason for it? What will be the effect of this repression? Repression means to keep quiet, be silent about it, don’t talk about it.
Discourse, power, and knowledge are all linked in this hypothesis. On the one hand, those who are in power, the bourgeoisie, control discourse. They are the ones who decide how sex can be spoken about, and by whom, and so they control also the kind of knowledge we have regarding sex. This control over discourse is linked to the maintenance of power of the bourgeois. The bourgeois would want to control and confine sex because it is a dangerous opponent to their work ethic. The desire to control discourse and knowledge about sex is essentially a desire to control power.
The repressive hypothesis, in the History of Sexuality, gives a clear account of how sex has been regarded since the 18th century. It explains how discourse on sexuality has been controlled and confined, and how that has been in the interests of the bourgeoisie. However, Foucault is not satisfied with this hypothesis, that is why, he wrote his book on history of sexuality as a form of persuasive attack on it. Here, he does not just argue that the hypothesis is wrong and make counter attack on it but he took a step back, and see for himself where does this hypothesis come from, and why.
Again, Foucault recognizes the repressive hypothesis itself as a form of discourse. This produces a framework in which people talk about the ways in which bourgeois society represses their sexual impulses. This repression led to a more discussion about sex and how they are prevented in talking about it. This becomes a mechanism for the people to be aware of what they are told and commanded to and not just follow. People have come to talk about their need to break free from this repression, to talk freely about sex and to enjoy sex, as a part of a larger political rebellion against the bourgeois society.
Repression was part of the class struggle. The people’s question of why there is such a repression is for Foucault a discourse that shows a deeper will, a will to a certain kind of knowledge and a certain kind of power. The repressive hypothesis states that the relationship between power and sex is one of repression, that is, power is exercised to keep sex under wraps, not spoken about, and not thought about. But later in the discussion of Foucault, especially on the part two of the chapter one of HS, he tries to convince us of the contrary, that is, power has been exercised to bring sex ncreasingly into discourse, into wider and more analytic focus. We should take note that Foucault did not deny some of the basic facts that inspire the repressive hypothesis. He agrees that there has been a stronger effort to control sex and that sex has become increasingly something to be ashamed of. He agrees too that this free and easy attitude was suppressed, and that it was a result of the controlling power of the rising bourgeoisie. Foucault opposes not in the whole thing – repressive hypothesis – but on how and why this open sexuality was suppressed. The repressive hypothesis sees only the silencing of an earlier form of discourse.
Foucault sees this silencing as being a necessary result of a growing “will to knowledge” regarding sex. Because of this growing will to knowledge about sex, the conception and regard to sex changed. This change in meaning is a direct result in the changing relationship between power and sex. Sex has become more an object of knowledge. Sex ceases to be something we can laugh about and pursue with reckless passion and becomes something we must approach with calm and control. It ceases to be the domain of the simple-minded and the passionate, and becomes the domain of the social scientist and jurist.
The crude discourse on sex has not been prohibited because it is wrong, but because it must make way for a new form of discourse. As sex becomes increasingly an object of knowledge, the people who control this knowledge become increasingly important. The people who exercise this control are generally those who are tied to the governing institutions of society, the bourgeoisie. For example, Foucault shows how sex became an important object of study because governments became increasingly interested in the vital statistics of their populations. Foucault has given us an example of a villager who pays girls to have sex with him.
This instance is a superb example of this stance. The villager’s form of discourse, his commerce with young girls, was seen as shameful, but it was not simply silenced, but it was replaced with a technical discourse, where he was studied, examined, and analyzed so that his behavior could be understood and classified. Here, in this case, it seems that the authority has more interest in controlling the discourse itself not of the ethics or immorality of the villager. Thus, we can say that it was not that sexual acts were not to be talked about but they are to talk about it if needed in a discreet and sanctioned manner.
In one of the chapter of this H. S. the multiplicity of discourses on sex is presented. There are demographic studies, medical studies, psychiatric studies, criminal codes, school codes, and so on. These different discourses arose for different reasons, so it would be difficult to assign them all to a single “cause. ” The repressive hypothesis wants to associate the change in discourse regarding sex with the rising bourgeoisie’s need to increase productivity, but the multiplicity of discourses contradicts this aspect of that hypothesis.
There is no efficient fundamental explanation that can place this change in discourse within a wider historical framework. The will to knowledge that drives the rationalization of sex cannot be reduced to economic causes. All these things come about as consequences of different fears. Repressive hypothesis comes out because of the fear of the bourgeoisie that they will lose control of the people and that their productivity will be put in question. In reaction to this hypothesis, another discourse comes out as a mechanism to counter attack this hypothesis.
The more they prohibit talking about sex, the more people are urged to know about it. It is really true that when someone keeps a secret, sooner or later it will also come out. The more you keep it, the more that it will come to the open. The repressive hypothesis sees sex as something that has historically been repressed. Powerful people have declared that sex is something that we cannot talk about, that we cannot think about, that cannot exist except for the purpose of reproduction. Foucault calls this the “repressive” hypothesis because it interprets the relation between power and sex as always being one of repression.
Connected to the repressive hypothesis is that of desire. Desire is not a threat to repressive hypothesis but it sees it as part of repressive power. Desire implies a lack. People only desire things that they don’t have. If we were able to realize all our sexual impulses, there would be no such thing as sexual desire. Desire, then, only exists because there also exists a repressive power that keeps us from realizing our impulses. Power is not something that holds our desires down but it is also responsible for creating our desires.
Foucault argues that power is something both inside and outside us and our reactions to it is part of a larger dynamic of power relations. On Sexuality Chapter three of part four of History of Sexuality (103ff), Foucault discussed about sexuality. According to him sexuality isn’t a “thing” that is repressed by power, or that must be discovered through careful investigation. Sexuality is a social construct that channels a variety of different power relations. Thus, it follows that sexual identities are not natures but our constructs.
Our concept of sexuality is built by the strategies that make use of it. It serves as a system that joins together pleasure and physical sensations, the incitement to discourse, the formation of specialized knowledge, and political controls and resistance. Foucault identifies four centers that have related power and knowledge to sex, they are the following: First, the “hysterization of women’s bodies”, it has led us to think that the female body is highly sexual and an object of medical knowledge. Furthermore, female body was considered too as a center for reproduction.
Second, the “pedagogization of children’s sex” – it considers children as highly sexual creatures, and views this sexuality as something dangerous that needs to be monitored and controlled. Third, the “socialization of procreative behavior” sees reproduction and therefore sex as a matter of public importance, and disapproves of non- procreative sex. Fourth, the “psychiatrization of perverse pleasure” is the result of studying sex as a medical and psychiatric phenomenon. It highlights deviations from normal sexual behavior and identifies them as illnesses or sickness that need cure and healing.
Foucault makes it clear that these four centers do not “repress” sexuality, that is, the concept of sexuality does not exist except as it is framed by these discourses. Foucault distinguishes between what he calls the “deployment of alliance” and the “deployment of sexuality. ” (HS 106) Deployment of alliance is a system of kinship ties that exists in almost every culture. It consists of a number of spoken or unspoken rules regarding marriage, family ties, ancestry and so on. While deployment of sexuality is far less regulatory and far more dappled.
While the deployment of alliance essentially works to maintain the stable structure of society, the deployment of sexuality provides an ever-changing structure that allows us to interpret a range of phenomena in their relation to sex and pleasure. Foucault suggests that the deployment of sexuality evolved from the deployment of alliance, as the earlier emphasis on what sorts of relations were permitted was replaced by an emphasis on what sort of sensations were permitted. All four strategic centers deal with family relations. Foucault said that the family does not repress sexuality, but nurtures it.
The deployment of alliance focuses specifically on family relations, so it is in the family that the deployment of alliance and the deployment of sexuality have the most contact. Foucault suggests that the deployment of alliance maintains some control over family relations and thus on the deployment of sexuality by means of the taboo it places on incest. The system of alliance, in trying to regulate this new sexual intensification of family relations, brought in the advice of doctors, priests, and educators. This attempt at regulation only helped to spread the discourse on sexuality all the more.
Characterizations of sexuality share a perception of sexuality as a thing that exists, in some sort of way, in the world. Regardless of who we are, how we think, or what we talk about, our sexuality would still take a form similar to the one it takes now. We perceive our sexuality as something we can discover or not discover, but that is not deeply affected by our discovery of it. We think of sexuality in the same way that we might think about consciousness: it is not a material “thing,” but it is an aspect of who we are, and has an existence independent of how we talk about it. SN) Sexuality, according to Foucault does not exist in us in the way our consciousness exists in us. Rather it is a construct that has grown out of certain kinds of discourse. In this sense, it is a system that helps us gain a particular perspective on an issue. Particularly, Foucault identifies sexuality as a multi-faceted boundary that connects a number of ideas about pleasure and physical sensation to knowledge, discourse, and politics. Sexuality is not as much a concept as a means of linking concepts. Sexuality is the means that these concepts have been drawn together.
The growing importance of sexuality in our society reflects the fact that we have found more and more concepts that we can connect through sexuality. The “deployment of sexuality” is the way that we use sexuality to join different concepts. It is closely related to the “deployment of alliance,” which is the way that alliances have been used to make connections within a society. All societies involve alliances at the context of family. Foucault takes as examples the way property or names get passed down through families or the kinds of protocol that exist between different family relations.
Sexuality first appeared when the emphasis on what was taboo changed (this is due to confession) from the relations that exist between people to the kinds of physical sensations that were forbidden. Adultery, for instance, became sinful, not because it violates marital union, but because it involves an illicit form of pleasure. The focus shifted from human relationships to the human body and the kinds of sensations and pleasures that were permissible and impermissible. This shift in focus has allowed discourse on sex to permeate society to think deeper about it.
Hysterization of Women’s Bodies (HS 104) This is a kind of deployment of sexuality wherein we see how women’s bodies are considered to be a manipulative object of production. Hysterization, as we shown above, is a threefold process whereby the female body was analyzed, qualified and disqualified, as if a product being analyzed if it can pass the quality control or not. Hysterization comes from the root word hysteria which means an emotionally unstable state brought about by a traumatic experience.
Considering women to be hysteric is to put them under a power which is stable and fluent – contradictory to their traits. Here, we see how power works. It can be seen in the relation between the one above and the one below. This deployment considers or regards the female body as a center for reproduction as if a factory that used to produce goods for economy. Being a center for reproduction is to be under a control. Just like in a factory – a place of production – wherein there is a manager who takes good care of the whole processes that it may not fail.
In this deployment, it is possible that women can be told and controlled with regard to ‘production’ or the giving birth. Women’s bodies, since they become objects for medical studies, they can be controlled. Doctors who are males can control these women simply by prescriptions. They will surely follow since the doctor declared women to be sick. In the kit of reading materials given to us by Fr. Luis David, SJ, a chapter on the sexual politics of sickness, it is said that feminism is a disease. Women’s bodies are dirty since a dark red blood flows out from them.
This is another threat to women’s stance in the society. In this article, a statement goes : ‘the way this type of woman was expected to live predisposed her to sickness, and sickness in turn predisposed her to continue to live as she was expected to. The delicate affluent lady, who was completely dependent on her husband, set the sexual romanticist ideal of femininity for women of all classes. ’ It seems that women are brought to this world already sick and it is the sickness that they have that lets them live. And being completely dependent on her husband is to be under its power.
This shows how power works even in a couple. Femininity is a disease, said the title of an article. This article is somehow discriminating. Female is considered as invalid, incapable of anything because she is sick. This is the theory which guided the doctor’s practice from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century – that woman’s normal state was to be sick. This theory is precisely not based on empirical observation but as a physiological fact. This leads to the medicalization of women’s bodies. Medicine had discovered that female functions were inherently pathological.
Menstruation becomes the source of alarm to male’s imagination, the evidence and explanation for their being sick and hysteric. Thus, menstruation for women became a threat for their whole life. Not to experience it is also an abnormality and so a sickness. Women have no way out in this case for they are seen and placed in a structure as part of their beings. For women to be natural and normal is to be sick and hysteric. Another phenomenon that is attached to women is the childbirth. This is part of the campaigns of doctors against midwives.
Finally, a phenomenon of menopausal period on women. Menopausal is considered as the terminal illness of women which they await. A woman’s death in the woman. This shows that woman is only a woman because of his fertility and ability to give birth to a child, and if he is not capable of this anymore, then it is the start of his death as a woman. Take note that this is not the real sense of death – this is not the death in one’s life but the death of femininity. If women try to be civilized and refined, they are still considered as ill. Why? Women are normal if they are abnormal.
Civility is only for men, thus having this trait is to be abnormal for women. Reduction of women’s being is very wide-range during the 18th century and the century after. Women are reduced to a functionality of the ovaries. Woman’s mind, body, and soul are placed into the thrall off her all-powerful reproductive organs. Uterus is the controlling organ in the female body according to Dr. F. Hollick. According to the psychology of the ovary, woman’s entire personality was directed by the ovaries, and any abnormalities from irritability to insanity, could be traced to some ovarian disease.
Female sexuality is not concerned here. It was seen as unwomanly and possibly even detrimental to the supreme function of reproduction. A woman physician said that women embrace their husbands without a particle of desire. Thus, without desire is to have no power at all. To desire something is to have that capacity and ability to reach the object of desire. So, women’s body, though sick, is just a mere toy for husbands to play. In the sixteenth century, it is much worst, there had been a brief fad of clitoridectomy or the removal of clitoris.
Women are not allowed to have some or experience arousal. Removal of the clitoris, the physicians believed, is necessary in cases of nymphomania, intractable masturbation, or the unnatural growth of that organ. It is very obvious that the female reproductive organs were the source of disease and thus the target of treatment. Carrol Smith-Rosenberg wrote that doctors recommended suffocating hysterical women until their fits stopped, beating them across the face and body with wet towels, and embarrassing them in front of family and friends.
For Dr. F. C. Skeley, ridicule to a woman of sensitive mind, is a powerful weapon… but there is not an emotion equal to fear and the threat of personal chastisement… They will listen to the voice of the authority. The more women became hysterical, the more doctors became punitive toward the disease of women and at the same time, they began to see the disease everywhere themselves until they were diagnosing every independent act by a women, especially a women’s right action, as hysterical.
With hysteria, society had assigned affluent women to a life of confinement and inactivity, and medicine had justified this assignment by describing women as innately sick. In the epidemic of hysteria, women were both accepting their inherent sickness and finding a way to rebel against an intolerable social role. If such things happen until now or if this still happens in some areas of the world, all the time, the possibility of resistance will really come into the open. Considered to be an object is not right especially if one is to be reated like a specimen for study and observation. Declaring the femininity as a disease is indeed a great absurdity for women. This act is a silent repression caused by male doctors. These doctors did not think of their mothers as women too. The present time would show effects of women’s resistances to the power of the other sex. Sickness, having become a way of life, became a way of resistance, and medical treatment, which had always had strong overtones of force and coercion, revealed itself as frankly and brutally repressive.
We can expect that within these women they are somehow repressing some sort of knowledge that can produce a big bang. Their knowledge will be used in order to dignified themselves and try to stand out and no longer cry for equality, rather they will act on it by showing their strength. Some of these repressions that come out into the open are their ability to do the work that before males can only do, like driving a jeepney, a doctor in big hospitals, a president of the country and the like. Nowadays, women are of strong personalities and have more knowledge compared to other men.
This is not to fight against the gender where I am in, but I am simply stating a fact of the present. More and more women now are coming out from their caves. Gone are the days for them when they follow the doctor’s passive, sickly model of femininity. Now they began to have a voice; they carry out activist roles for themselves and show to these men that we are like you too, normal and belonging to the spectacle of persons. In the instances given, one could say that repression has both advantages and disadvantages.
It serves both as a blockage to potentialities and as an ignition for them to fire up. We could somehow say that repression is a blessing in disguise, for, in some way if not in many ways, it serves us. Deployment of sexuality in a form of repression is possible. Just like thumb tacks that needs to be pushed with force in order that it may serve a purpose. Summary and Conclusion: We have known that Foucault interprets sexuality as a social construction that has largely been used to bring the human body under tighter political control.
We have come to see our sexuality as something buried deep within us, and as manifesting itself in all aspects of our life. This is the result of a long history that has associated sexuality with the need to confess, and has seen sex as a valuable social commodity. It has a sense of power. For Foucault, power is not simply a repressive, law-like force that controls and prohibits. For him, power is productive as well as repressive. For example, in a factory, without the power of workers and the power of the manager, who operate inside this factory, nothing can be produced.
But if power is too much then it can cause repression and thus a big trouble between the workers and the proprietor. Power does not just come from those in authority: it manifests itself in many different ways and from many different points at once. This is necessary to happen, otherwise then it will produce nothing but hates. Power should come not just from the main source but it should flow through the cables of production. Power directs the transmission of knowledge and discourses and shapes our concepts and self-image.
Discourse is the context and manner in which words and ideas are exchanged. The significance of an idea largely depends on the context in which the idea is being discussed and what other ideas it is being related to. This wider context is what Foucault means when he talks about “discourse. ” The repressive hypothesis is the argument that power has repressed sex for the past three hundred years. Since the rise of the bourgeoisie, sex has been condemned as a waste of energy. As a result, it has been repressed, silenced, and confined to reproductive purposes.
According to this hypothesis, we can achieve political liberation and sexual liberation simultaneously if we free ourselves from this repression by talking openly about sex, and enjoying it more frequently. Foucault finds this hypothesis to be deeply flawed. That is why, he proposed other deployments of sexuality. The ‘deployment of sexuality’ is a great social machinery that links up sexual practices with identities, through the categorizations of the medical institution. It is the apparatus that creates sex as the truth of our being, what must be searched out, understood, and, above all, confessed to others.
The ‘deployment of sexuality’ operates through institutions (medicine and the family), through legal systems (penal codes classifying legal and illegal sexual behaviors), through cultural practices and interactions (media, schools, and social activities), and through social theories psychoanalysis). Deployment of sexuality should be just. It should consider the welfare of the whole community. To avoid class struggles, avoid repression that can cause it. But if the solution given is not for betterment then repress it. What is needed here is a sense of balance and equilibrium. Power should be practiced and used in the best and proper way.
It should not be discriminating. To avoid discrimination, we should consider and treat others as persons rather than object of competition, object of evaluation and object for demeaning dignities. One is to treat the Other as a person, who has a personal life and is unique. It should be humane but strict. It should be cold but hot. Paradox is needed in order to attain balance. Neutrality is necessary. Even among siblings, we can see conflicts when the attention given by parents is not equal. Power is tempting in every way as it is everywhere. Power is in our selves, in authorities, in government structures and even in words.
Power effects, that is why, we are invited to be extra careful when possessing power because we do not know if the effect or consequence of the use of it will be good or worst. Finally, resistance to a blind power is necessary for it is dangerous and repression of power is also necessary when circumstances require. Deploy power in accordance with the proper norm dictated by conscience.
Sources: Foucault, Michele. History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. A Kit of Reading Materials, courtesy of Rev. Fr. Luis David, SJ http://www. wikipedia. com