Michele Foucault seems to be an obvious lens through which to view?the faculty?readings at the?College of Saint Rose English Symposium. Sex was in the air – everywhere – although the act itself wasn’t specifically taking place (as far as I know).
According to the new pastoral, sex must not be named imprudently, but its aspects, its correlations, and its effects must be pursued down to their slenderest ramifications: a shadow in a daydream, an image too slowly dispelled, a badly exorcised complicity between the body’s mechanics and the mind’ complacency: everything had to be told. (1652)
To determine virtue, deviation from virtue was categorized and discussed ad nauseaum by the 17th century Catholic clergy. Preoccupation in the name of censorship fostered discourse, bringing?deviancy to the forefront of the mind. And now for a fine example…
Captain Dan Nester read his personal essay on foot licking. The story goes like this:?Nester’s ex girlfriend from way back, Anna, confessed to Nester on their third date that a night guard?paid ten bucks to?lick her toes at work.?For years, Nester has been turning this situation over in his head, categorizing the act as fetishism, prostitution, pondering the deviancy, or not. Eventually?he?uses?the technique on?his wife’s?feet as they lay on the couch at opposite ends. He does this to annoy her and it works. At the point where?she kicks him in the?nose and he gushes blood, I laughed so hard that I choked on?a potato chip and had to leave the room. You’ll have to ask him about the rest.
Foucault and Foot Licking
Did Anna feel the need to confess because she felt?”foot licking on the sly” was erotic and thus virtueless? Who knows. One thing is clear. Nester wrote from the perspective of one who is now talking about this fetish in an analytical fashion, categorizing the desire as deviant and yet fascinated by it all the same. The very thing he has been taught to?classify outside of?”normative” is now an obsession. Poor guy.
7 FOOT SEX
Doug Butler read about a 7 foot tall piece of art stored in his house. The story goes like this: The?painting features the larger-than-life image of his artist friend’s self portrait. She is?wearing a sequin bikini standing along side her lover. He’s?wearing?a Speedo. The art doesn’t fit anywhere in his house other than the main living room wall. It resides there for several months. All the while, knowing that he has this depiction of sexuality prominently displayed, the narrator wonders what people will think of him.?Abhorring window treatments, he fills his picture windows with plant life to avoid an arrest?for indecent exposure,?corrupting the?children attending school across the street. His ways of dealing with visitors and their reactions is truly funny stuff.
Foucault and 7 Feet of Sex
Although it isn’t part of our assigned reading, this reminds me of Foucault’s comparison of the Panopticon prison to our social structure. Butler writes from the point of view of a person who is self policed because?he is?never sure who is watching. There could be nobody in his house, or even at his window, and yet the presence of a sexual depiction in art makes him wholly self conscious.
So, as a result of all this Catholic categorization and policing of sex, are we really so sexually repressed as a nation? Has this oppression quieted our discourse or desire? As Foucault says:
Never have there existed more centers of power; never more attention manifested and verbalized; never more circular contacts and linkages; never more sites where the intensity of pleasure and the persistency of power catch hold, only to spread elsewhere.
Some?talk?about how we shouldn’t lick feet for sexual gratification (or otherwise). According to?Dan,?we shouldn’t offer them for the licking either. Others say we shouldn’t display sex in our living rooms. According to Doug,?if?we do,?we should certainly shield our guests from it by drinking tea in the kitchen.??
To apply?Foucault’s theory?to?Doug and Dan, we see that the?sexual premise of their writing claims certain behaviors?must be?repressed. Meanwhile, writing about?various aspects of sexuality?has rallied attention?around their ponderings. This, in turn, has produced a discourse at the symposium, here in my blog, and soon to be in class (and maybe even in those segregated bathrooms in Albertus Hall). Each author has become a center of power, publicly sharing their sex with an audience. How freakin’ weird is THAT! Thanks to Foucault, we now know what?Doug and Dan?are REALLY doing, even if they don’t realize it themselves.
(Am I going to be expelled for this?)