Re: Terminology issues -- "sexuality"

Hello, all,

What good and provocative company I am in.

On 2/10/98 I wrote:

"Now, it would be nice to think of myself as having somehow escaped
modernity?s clutches, that somehow, I never think "of" my sexuality, or the
sexuality of others, as if it was something apart from myself, as if, that is
to say, I never thought "of" sexuality at all. Nice in the sense of never
having to worry about it, of it not being an issue of being human - but the
fact is, that ain?t so.

"Human Sexuality is not merely - if at all, any longer - a submerged aspect of
human being - of what is it to "be human", simply (as it is, I imagine, of
what cow sexuality is for cows, simply) - but an emerged and problematized

"We (those who labor in the grip of modernity), that is to say, not merely
"think" it, in the sense of our going about our various sexual practices, we
"think about" it", so, it has finally - if slowly - occurred to me that what
would, therefore, be surprising, indeed, is I not I that I think this, but if
I didn?t. "

Replying to my post, Mark, writes:

"While the above comments seek to foreground the ways in which one cannot
escape the being/having of sexuality as an identity in contemporary discourse,
they still make use of the word "sexuality" as if it had a transhistorical
referent ("Human sexuality is not merely...any

Mark then quotes Foucault, saying:

"Now, it is precisely this idea of sex *in itself* that we cannot accept
without examination. Is "sex" really the anchorage point that supports the
manifestations of sexuality, or is it not rather a complex idea that was
formed inside the deployment of sexuality?(152)"


"Sexuality must not be thought of as a kind of natural given which
power tries to hold in check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge
tries gradually to uncover. It is the name that can be given to a
historical construct...a great surface network...[.]"(105)

Mark then adds:

"Thus, in order to hold onto the implication of the above quotes, the idea of
"sexuality" as a deployment, a historical-discursive construct, I would
suggest refraining from speaking of "sexuality" as itself a fact of which one
may be conscious or not. "Sexuality," then, is a product of
"modernity," rather than a given against which "modernity"'s presence or
emergence can be charted."

I think Mark is correct in his caution against speaking of sexuality as if it
had a "transhistorical referent", if by this he means some prediscursive,
"natural" given , and if my careless words and/or my bovine imagery imply that
I think it does, I should say I do not.

On the other hand, I do not think modernity "invented" sexuality, and I see no
particular value in entertaining the idea, even momentarilly.

What "modernity" (understood here as a multi-discursive process having, with
respect to sexuality, roots in the early 13th Century) did was to reconvene an
always more than ever unselfconscious "sexuality", ie. a static sexuality of
which little beyond the terms and grammars of the moral/religious discourse
was utterable (a "submerged" (but existent), somnolent sexuality) - into an
always more than ever self-conscious sexuality, ie. a sexuality of which a
variety of discourses and, therefore, a panopoly of terms and grammars,
inevitably raised its voice ("emerged" sexuality from its slumber).

That?s what I think, anyway.


Partial thread listing: