Oppression/Obsession

Foucault?Logo

OppressionObsessionAccording to Michel Foucault in The History of Sexuality, the analysis and discourse performed in?an attempt?to control and suppress sex are the very forces that?give power to the topic.

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In Religious Practice:
Foucault says that classification of sexual behavior and thought, in order to regulate its restriction, brought about a discourse that never existed prior.?Breaking through the silence and addressing sex could have been a good thing had it been approached differently. Unfortunately, to place judgement on people via Christianity’s religious categories of deviance?produces a dangerous?symptom of this type of discourse. To?oppress and classify?heightens the awareness of deviant behavior, and that awareness gives power to its existence. (Here I?say “deviant” in terms of what the church considers sinful versus virtuous.) We study which behavior is decidedly wrong, bringing it to the forefront of our consciousness. This exposure certainly explains the existance of sexual deviants?sometimes known as priests. (Here I?say “deviants” in terms of those who seek pleasurable behavior at the expense of another.)

As?Practice of a Nation:
Beyond religion, the?state too focuses on sex and categorizes behaviors. Population studies, with effects as imposing as religion,?promote a respectful?family life.?A respectful?family life?produces?a respectful?national citizenship, resulting in economic and political gain. This may be true in a general sense, but there are instances where this ideology?has little relevancy to the state of affairs in America today.?

Erection?ResultsA Silly Scenario?where Foucault? Falls Short:
In his first term as president select, George W. Bush?pushed health coverage for federal workers to include Viagra,?but not birth control.?The?hypothetical outcome of this strange (one could say “idiotic”) thinking?would produce?a population of walking erections pulsing with libidinal energy?in close proximity to?a?population of fertile wombs. I think the bastard’s plan was to send all congressional women home pregnant, requiring that they check their shoes at the door on the way out. But that’s just me.?

This is what happens when church and state get tossed into the blender. Religion and government regulation do not mix in regard to sex. Viagra certainly does nothing to promote?strong family units where they don’t already exist. Foucault’s logic,?as it applies to the state, doesn’t fit this scenario because not all men are married, and not all men are heterosexual. Religiously speaking it fails as well. Bush was promoting an unnatural sexual energy for men, elevating their urges and casting their thoughts into a sinful realm. (Perhaps those who were struck with heart attacks were simply facing the same heavenly punishment homosexuals experienced with AIDS?- NOTE: I say this with the utmost sarcasm.) It’s not like?Bush added a marriage clause to the allowance of distribution. March on ye Christian Soldier…

Mental Health?CriminalIn Favor of Foucault:
To consider social categorization and the implications of the practice, one can move beyond the topic of sex.?

THE CASE: Two years ago, in the New York?Second Circuit Court of Appeals, I heard a case against the NYS Police Department. A person suffering from depression attempted to end?her life but, before?she died, she had a change of heart and called the police.?Because the police were involved, they classified the call under the Mental Hygiene Law as an “arrest.”??Lawyers argued, using the Americans with Disabilities Act, that a systemic?replacement?of “arrest”?with “custody” would better serve without the stigma.

THE INJUSTICE: With the help of medication, the woman has since overcome her depression. Unfortunately, she?has not?overcome the label. When applying for a job, she cannot legally avoid the application question, “Have you ever been arrested?” Appearing in background checks, it has hindered her progress.?The judges were quick to say that?mental health arrests?are different than criminal arrests.?When the judges were asked if, in her shoes, they would be lying to say, “No, I have never been arrested,” they saw the point. Additionally, for her to correct those who assume?her record is?criminal divulges?medical information that, by law, is?supposed to be shielded by doctor/patient confidentiality. I was floored when the defence said on behalf of the State Police?that computer systems would require an inconvenient amount of updating and the programs were not easily adjusted system-wide. The people within the system seemed unwilling to change categorization procedure and were angry over the inconvenience.?

I find this example of classification as a?limitation of language?more pertinent than Foucault’s use of Jouy (see below).?There is no question of this woman’s innocence,?and yet?the consequences of her label have effected the rest of her life.

THE OUTCOME: This woman and many people like her are now persecuted by the law that is supposed to protect. The panel of 3 judges believed that?”arrest”?was a term worthy of examination. They deliberated for several weeks. Although they agreed that?”arrest” isn’t applicable, their verdicts contradicted each of the others in the areas of how and why. Because there was no consensus on the issue, this woman suffers the same plight she did?prior to?arguing her case. In my estimation, these judges?saw the case as nothing more than an intellectual and philosophical exercise, without consideration of the?impact they had on living, breathing people. The system failed and the judges were…

Villiage?IdiotSpeaking of Idiots:
Foucault’s example of Jouy,?the simple man from Lapcourt (Is he making this up?), is one of?mimicry.?Jouy exchanges spare change for caresses from a young girl?, a practice?he’s seen?take place?in the village square.?Foucault says that to categorize his?motivation as “deviant” is wrong while the behavior itself is not. If Jouy doesn’t have the sense God gave a?puppet –> to adhere to the rules of society, condemning him for having desire does seem unfair.?

This leads to a more serious question of Foucault’s thinking. Are caresses simply caresses, or is Foucault falling into the trap of code-speak. One can imagine what a game of “curdled milk” entails and yet Foucault labels it?”petty” (1656). I don’t see this as inconsequential. In fact, it makes me not like Foucault. In the acceptance of this?behavior as the basis for his theory, is?Foucault implicating the girl for?being?an “alert” child (1657) and for selling her wares? (I can speak in code too, Foucault.) It certainly sounds like it. Foucault seems more concerned in the label and study of the man while the village game of curdled milk is discarded. There is something very wrong with this line of classification too.

 

Comments

  1. I agree with your interpretation of Foucault’s thinking patterns. He is trying to balance a fine line while making his point with Jouy. Furthermore, the focus of this behavior is magnified in light of the novel we just finished. The act itself overshadows the relevance of his argument, and renders us jaw-dropped that he passes it by.

    You said “To oppress and classify heightens the awareness of deviant behavior, and that awareness gives power to its existence” to which I completely and whole heartedly agree. I find it funny actually. The fire that religion was trying to blow out actually spread because it wasn’t being suffocated correctly. Stop, drop and roll baby. I think that Christianity reigns in the United States. Why is it that our censorship of sex is greater than that of European nations? Why are we prudish? Is it because of the Puritans and their lingering cause to reform the Church of England? What is the dominant culture in any of today?s societies in regards to sex? I tend to think that we Americans are the craziest, most amoral group of individuals on the planet. It’s interesting that we are and we aren’t (deviants) with regards to the comparison of our nature and what is considered to all as natural.

    I hope that some of what I said makes sense. Sometimes I have a problem with that- making sense.

  2. I have to say I love the stalin perfume bottle, that is great. Anyway, I agree with the idea that you cannot place judgement on people via a religous ideology here, becuase as we know there are many religions with many different ideas of what is “okay” and what is “not,” and to place judgemtn using a sole one, then things will get very hairy (for lack of a better word) very quickly. Also your idea about the girl and the game of “curdled milk” is something I did not think about until now but I have to agree there also. He seems to be avoiding talking of it in any real sense, which is him fitting into the mold he is talking about. Good job – nick

  3. Kim, I have to say, I always enjoy reading your posts!! I love how they are always so creative and unique! I wish I knew how to put pics up, I’ve tried and I just can seem to get them to post. I totally agree with you on the whole Viagra and birth control thing. I too think that it is completely ridiculous. I mean come on, Viagra, like you said “walking erections” compared to 14 and 15 year olds getting pregnant from not having birth control is crazy to me!! I think that it’s Bush and his “crew” that truly need to check themselves. I mean really, what is our world coming to nowadays? Geeze!! Anyway, great post once again!!

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