This week for Arts One we read Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality.
Now I have not completely finished the book, therefore I have not yet formed a strong opinion on the overall text. But it definitely was not what I was expecting.
I went into this novel with no clue what would be inside. We recently read Freud and Fanon, who had quite a bit to say on the subject of sexuality. What would Foucault bring to the table?
So far I have had many mixed feelings about the text, and a lot of them stem from my uncertainty of what Foucault’s stance was on many of the issues brought forward. Christina talked about this in her lecture, which made it easier to understand. Foucault poses the questions, but not the answers (how frustrating!).
One part that really interested me was the portions where Foucault spoke of various sexualities. He speaks of “zoophiles and zooerasts, Rohleder’s auto-monosexualists”, as well as “mixoscopophiles, gynecomasts, presbyophiles, sexoesthetic inverts, and dyspareunist women” (43). Later on he goes on a broader spectrum, speaking of “(sexualities of the infant or child), those which become fixated on particular tastes or practices (the sexuality of the invert, the gerontophile, the fetishist)” (47) and many more.
What threw me on these passages is that many of these preferences were unheard of for me, especially under these terms. I don’t seem to be the only one. A quick google search into some of the terms led me to other Foucault readers who have made educated guesses to what some of these sexualities mean. These terms seem to be very much out there only due to Foucault himself.
Another thing that threw me was that many of these sexual acts were not under the umbrella term of “fetishes”. Fetishes had its very own category, which made me wonder what Foucault considers a fetish. And, looking at this from a larger perspective, how are some of these actions considered a sexuality? Something like dyspareunia, which in modern day is often called S & M or BDSM, is not considered a fetish. But in our current society, at least in my opinion, most see it as a fetish. I don’t see BDSM as a sexuality, per se. But, as was discussed in the lecture, Foucault’s ideas of a sexuality are extremely broad.
I questions where Foucault draws the line on what is a fetish, and what is a sexuality. Could fetishes be sexualities? Could sexualities be fetishes? Did he go by any sort of scale or compass in making these distinctions?
Overall, I find Foucault quite confusing. Christina warned us he is, but this is not the confusion I was expecting. The language of the novel, although tricky, is maneuverable. The real confusion comes from the very idea Foucault is trying to explain: sexuality.