Deployment of Sexuality: A Disciplinary Apparatus Concerning Power

Pages: 12 (4805 words) Published: January 1, 2011
Deployment of Sexuality

What does Michele Foucault mean by deployment of sexuality? Part four of the book on History of Sexuality speaks of the deployment of sexuality (HS 75ff). It is said here that deployment of sexuality is a disciplinary apparatus which concerns power. Many regard this work as a straightforward extension of the genealogical approach of Discipline and Punish to the topic of sexuality. This opus is a multi-volume work on various themes in a study of modern sexuality. His idea is that the various modern bodies of knowledge about sexuality, that is, various “sciences of sexuality”, including psychoanalysis, have an intimate association with the power structures of modern society and so are prime candidates for genealogical analysis. On his account, modern control of sexuality parallels modern control of criminality by making sex, just like crimes, an object of allegedly scientific disciplines, which simultaneously offer knowledge and domination of their objects. However, it becomes apparent that there is a further dimension in the power associated with the sciences of sexuality. Not only is there control exercised by way of others' knowledge of individuals but there is also control by way of individuals' knowledge of themselves. Individuals internalize the norms laid down by the sciences of sexuality and monitor themselves to conform to these norms. Therefore they are controlled both as objects of disciplines and as self-scrutinizing and self-forming subjects.

Foucault opposes with the claim that sex has been repressed and silenced. This is what he calls ‘repressive hypothesis’ - the claim that sex has been consistently repressed, and that we can only achieve political liberation by means of sexual liberation. According to this hypothesis, power has been exercised to repress discussion of sex. This repression on the discourse and knowledge about sex implies a control in power. One is said to be repressing sex when one is told not to talk about it. But Foucault would argue that this repression is itself a form of discourse. We shall see of them more in the following discussions.

Repression of Sex / Repressive Hypothesis
Is there a need for repression? If yes, what would be the best reason for it? What will be the effect of this repression? Repression means to keep quiet, be silent about it, don’t talk about it. Discourse, power, and knowledge are all linked in this hypothesis. On the one hand, those who are in power, the bourgeoisie, control discourse. They are the ones who decide how sex can be spoken about, and by whom, and so they control also the kind of knowledge we have regarding sex. This control over discourse is linked to the maintenance of power of the bourgeois. The bourgeois would want to control and confine sex because it is a dangerous opponent to their work ethic. The desire to control discourse and knowledge about sex is essentially a desire to control power. The repressive hypothesis, in the History of Sexuality, gives a clear account of how sex has been regarded since the 18th century. It explains how discourse on sexuality has been controlled and confined, and how that has been in the interests of the bourgeoisie. However, Foucault is not satisfied with this hypothesis, that is why, he wrote his book on history of sexuality as a form of persuasive attack on it. Here, he does not just argue that the hypothesis is wrong and make counter attack on it but he took a step back, and see for himself where does this hypothesis come from, and why. Again, Foucault recognizes the repressive hypothesis itself as a form of discourse. This produces a framework in which people talk about the ways in which bourgeois society represses their sexual impulses. This repression led to a more discussion about sex and how they are prevented in talking about it. This becomes a mechanism for the people to be aware of what they are told and commanded to and not just follow. People have come to talk about...
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