Sex, Violence and Crime: Foucault and the Man Question

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Foucault, , p. An attempt can be made to free ourselves both from the power of imposition and from the contingency of its historical formation, of the thinking systems that are familiar to us, that seem evident to us and that constitute part of our perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. Subsequently, there is a need to work together with individuals involved in such a practice not only to modify institutions and their practices but also to re-develop the ways of thinking.

For Foucault , p. However, importantly, Foucault b, p. By means of this theoretical framework, he could individualise the two economies of power with their respective normalisations, p. In the 18th century, hermaphroditism and homosexuality were illegal because they were against nature. That is, they were an attack against the regular functioning of the natural sphere, attacks that could by sanctioned by law. Homosexuals were classified as dangerous social types and sent to prison. Subsequently, by the late s, psychiatrists started analysing homosexuality from the medical perspective, p.

Sexual behaviour or practice was not analysed. However, the individual in his or her unique nature was studied.

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It was thought that the pathological sphere could be discovered and known, and therefore, homosexuals were imprisoned in asylums or attempts were made to "heal" them. Previously, homosexuals were considered to be libertines or a social threat. Thus, the sentences, which could be extremely severe, p. From this period, a relation was established between homosexuals and the insane. Both groups were viewed as being ill in terms of their sexual instinct Foucault, , p. The psychological, psychiatric, medical category of homosexuality was constituted the day it was characterised - the famous article by Westphal on the 'contrary sexual sensations' can be taken as a date of birth -not because of the type of sexual relations but because of a certain sexual sensitivity, a given way of inverting in oneself the masculine and feminine roles.

Homosexuality became one of the figures of sexuality when it was downgraded from the practice of sodomy to a type of interior androgyny, of hermaphroditism of the soul. Whereas the sodomite was a deviant, the homosexual was now a species. Power was exercised when homosexuality became the object of medical study, that is, when it became an injury, a dysfunction or a symptom located in the depths of the organism or apparent on the skin surface or in behavioural signs.

Foucault a, pp. In sum, in Western societies, an "experience" 2 was forming by which individuals started to recogni se themselves as subjects of "sexuality", open to highly diverse dominions of knowledge and articulated by a set of rules and restrictions. Discussing sexuality included analysing the three axes that formed its constituent parts, p.

Foucault's research enabled him to conclude that by using a strategy that involved speaking about progress in human knowledge, the dilemma of science and ideology was avoided. That is, in the way that he analysed power relations and their technologies, the alternative of power conceived as domination or denounced as a farce was avoided. When doctors invented a society of normality, codes cease to govern society and were replaced by "the permanent distinction between what is normal and abnormal, and the perpetual task of restoring the system of normality" Foucault, , p.

According to Foucault , p. This new medical morality results from the physician's control and knowledge in attributing and regulating such situations.

Sex, Violence and Crime: Foucault and the 'Man' Question

Individuals who are half-beasts, Siamese twins and hermaphrodites represent human monsters not only because they are exceptions from the form of the species but also because of the commotion they cause in legal standards marriage laws, baptism, rules of succession. The human monster combines the impossible with the prohibited Foucault, , pp. The "abnormality" of certain individuals addressed by institutions, discourses and knowledge also originates in their legal-natural exceptionality. A general theory of "degeneration" is constructed that serves as a social and moral justification of the identification, classification and intervention techniques used on "abnormals" Foucault, , p.

A complex institutional web is reorganised within the boundaries of medicine and law to serve as a mechanism for "helping" the "abnormals" and as an instrument of "defence" for society Foucault, , p.

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Power is normalised through an interconnected network of law, medicine, the police and psychiatric institutions. Medicine and the law interact in the sense that the law is granted the right to intervene in the lives of individuals because of what these individuals are by nature, on the basis of their constitution and on the basis of their personality traits being considered pathological, not because of behaviours that affect society Foucault, , p.

In his historical search for facts that can be considered milestones, Foucault , p. He found that sexual activities and pleasure were problematized through practices based on an "aesthetics of existence". Thus, he distinguished two historical moments, p. In the former moment, knowing yourself meant that there is a correspondence between what one says and what one does. In the second moment, caring for yourself meant having the best possible relation with yourself. In both moments, the Greek schools of thought sought and taught, in addition to science, a practical way of governing one's conduct.

Their objective was to teach students a set of practices through which a subject could establish a relation of vigilance, protection and cultivation of one's actions. These practices represented useful ways of governing one's conduct. However, in the Hellenic moment, not only were individuals taught to care for themselves but also the creation of an emotional community was promoted in friendship networks, which lasted a lifetime.

Care of oneself was more than just an individualistic exercise. It also involved caring for others through a healthy diet. Thus, they concluded that these excesses should be avoided. Therefore, from a moral perspective, what was valued was for an individual to know and control him- or herself. Humans should have the freedom and power to master their pleasures and subject them to logos.

The individual should know him- or herself to practice virtue and master desires. In sum, in classical Greek thought, moral reflection on sexual behaviour did not seek to justify prohibitions but to stylise liberty.

This type of liberty was that liberty exercised by a "free" man, who was capable and prudent in knowing, as one should, the measure and the moment. Foucault found a, pp. The age difference and a certain distinction between positions was subject to particularly intensive moral concern, to such a degree that it was surrounded by values, imperatives, requirements, rules, advice and appeals, which were numerous, elaborate and unique.

The regulation of this type of relation was based on the belief that a free adult man must not only consider his freedom and power but must also perceive how freedom can be exercised under the other's dominion, to which one submits oneself, and in the true love that is offered. Regarding Greek and Roman medicine, Foucault found , pp. The sexual regime was not a major concern of the physicians as long as the sexual act was not affected by problems suffered by the body and there was no risk of causing illness, in which case some physicians recommended fidelity, austerity and abstinence.

The sexual act seems to have been considered for a long time now as dangerous, difficult to master and costly; the exact measure of its possible practice and insertion into a careful regime has been required for a long time. Plato, Isocrates, Aristotle, each in his own way and for various reasons, recommended at least certain measures of marital fidelity. And love of boys could be attributed the highest possible value, but also, abstinence was recommended so that the spiritual value expected from one could be maintained. That is, in the two historical moments, sexual relations are a pleasure that is not condemned and the practices of freedom include a range of specific relations, p.

In his account of the third historical moment, which Foucault termed the "ascetic-monastic" moment of the fourth and fifth centuries A. Instead, it became a way of controlling desires because the primary enemy is the person him- or herself. Thus, life came to be understood as a constant struggle between good and evil, between God and the devil.


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In an interview with Bernard Henry-Levy, Foucault , pp. In Christian societies, sex has been the object of testing, vigilance, confession and imposed silence. For Foucault , the political, ethical, social and philosophical problem of our times is not the task of freeing the individual from the state but freeing ourselves from the imposing state and the type of individualisation that is linked to the state.

This effort involves the resistance to any form of government and opposition to "true" forms of knowledge or subjectivity and other theoretical discourses or ways of relating to oneself. Through the rejection of this type of individualisation, which has been imposed on us for centuries, we can develop new types of subjectivity Foucault, , p.

In addition, we should adopt a critical attitude that is directed towards not only social structures of domination but also the way in which these structures have been implanted in human behaviour, e. We should adopt power strategies, which are only exercised on free subjects to the extent to which they are free because slaves are not free subjects but dominated and excluded. Free subjects are the individual or collective subjects that command a range of possible modes of conduct, reactions and types of behaviour Foucault, , p.

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Foucault proposes practices of freedom, such as the striving of a free individual to develop, transform and access a certain type of being. Such practices represent the liberty of self-intervention that is required to produce qualitative changes and establish different power relations based on "desubjugation". The practice of freedom in subjects is based on a gradual rejection of dominant techniques to forge more adequate techniques. Here, ethics is understood as an ethics in which the game of truth is played out in social relations with minimum domination.

This ethics is not viewed from a legal perspective of individual rights or from the perspective of the individual as a subject of rights but from the perspective of the interplay of relations of freedom. In this interview, in answer to the question of whether a liberation process was necessary, Foucault stated that liberation is occasionally the political or historical condition for practices of freedom to exist. If we consider, for example, sexuality, it is true that a number of liberations have been necessary in relation to the power of the male, that it has been necessary to free ourselves from an oppressive morality that concerns both heterosexuality and homosexuality; however, this liberation does not allow for the emergence of a complete and contented sexuality in which the subject has finally achieved a complete and satisfactory relation.

Liberation opens the way for new power relations, which must be controlled through practices of freedom. For Foucault, the problem with sexuality is defining the sexual practices that can be established by individuals in their freedom and in relation to others, p. To construct practices of freedom, it is necessary to open power relations to the games of freedom through a process in which valid and acceptable forms of existence can be defined in a society.

That is, it is necessary to oppose discursive practices in which the truth of subjects can be stated as a theory of sexuality that is no longer valid and proceed to practices of truthfully stating that the subject is in conditions and is capable of speaking about him- or herself to another person who listens to him or her and urges him or her to speak Foucault, a. Homosexuality should be expressed by a homosexual. Homosexuals should speak, which constitutes a counter-discourse of true knowledge with the subject and not anonymous knowledge without the subject.

Only in this way, can the freedom of another person be understood and accepted because it is of his or her own being, constitutes itself and is constituted by others as a subject who emits a truthful discourse.

Sex, Violence and Crime: Foucault and the 'Man' Question - Adrian Howe - Google Books

Thus, we can articulate individual freedom with the possibilities of social behaviour defined in conjunction with others, which provides effectiveness and authenticity to the democratic game. Currently, there are forms of resistance, or cross-sectional struggles, that are not limited to a country, which seek to suppress the effect of the power to control bodies, health and the life and death of the population and which question the most immediate institutions of power, e.

These forms of resistance oppose secrets, deformation and the mystical representations imposed on individuals. In addition, they reject scientific and administrative inquiry that determines who one is Foucault, , p. While claiming their right to be different, the individuals who adopt these forms of resistance attack what separates them, what breaks their bonds with others and what undermines community life.

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Simultaneously, they emphasise everything that makes individuals truly individuals. The homosexual must be able to disengage from this socio-cultural system that imposes exclusion and rejection on homosexuals. He or she should stop feeling guilty or abnormal and accept, care for and master him- or herself while making decisions independently and telling the truth about him- or herself to others.

To care for oneself is to care for telling the truth, which requires courage and, above all, care from the world and others and which calls for the adoption of a 'true life' as a permanent criticism of the world.

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