Repression and Power in Sexuality

These readings have brought up many questions for me. I have a lot of little ones leading to a few big ones, but in general, I’d say take you pick, and we’ll see where the conversation leads us.


First, I’d like to examine sex as “intercourse”:

Foucault examines the relationship between sex and power/oppression, saying that now (which is to say, in the mid twentieth century) people were beginning to talk about sex in the context of rising up from oppression, as if it were a political cause.

I’m wondering to what extent we may have moved past this. To what extent is our perspective about sex and sexuality and our willingness to talk about it rebellious? To what extent do we still carry Victorian taboos? Since our generation is (for the most part) the children of the sexual revolution, are we still being rebellious when we have an open attitude about sex? Can sex be seen in an economic/political sense at all or, as Foucault suggests, must we look more to the “felicity” which is a part of its character? Do you suscribe to the “repressive hypothesis” in examining the history of sex, and, to what extent?

All of this is leading me to what I see as the big question: How do our changing attitudes about sex affect the way we read and write? What insight can it give us for literary interpretation? How might literature (or should literature) use what we know about sex to change common perspective?

Secondly, what about sex as “gender”?

Those of you who are men and reading this, to what extent do you notice gender stereotypes in which the woman is subordinate to the man in literature?  To those of you who are women, same question. What disparity, if any, do you anticipate?

While there is an “essential” difference between man and woman in a physical sense, do you believe there are certain non-physical qualities (character traits, etc.) that actually are much more representative of one gender than another. If this is the case, is literature simply presenting characters who represent the real world? Should authors strive to upset preconceived gender notions? Is that approach a more realistic reflection? To what extent is realistic reflection desirable? Where does authorial intent come into play, when the same work can be read as oppressing women pointing to the folly of a society which subjugates women?

Which brings me to my main question: How does our knowledge of gender roles affect the way we read and right? How might literature be a means of change? Should it be?


Finally, can we ever reach a point of understanding where questions of sex and gender are moot?

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