reflections on “The History of Sexuality: An Introduction”


We have arrived at the point where we expect our intelligibility to come from what was for many years thought of as madness; the plenitude of our body from what was long considered its stigma and likened to a wound; our identity from what was perceived as an obscure and nameless urge…. The Faustian pact, whose temptation has been instilled in us by the development of sexuality, is now as follows: to exchange life in its entirety for sex itself, for the truth and sovereignty of sex….When a long while ago the West discovered love, it bestowed on it a value high enough to make death acceptable; nowadays it is sex that claims this equivalence, the highest of all…. [T]he irony of this deployment is in having us believe that our “liberation” is in the balance (156, 9).
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, vol. 1 trans. Robert Hurley (Vintage Books, 1990).

There was a point in my life when the above would have made no sense to me – The idea of sexuality being so tied to identity that we were willing to die for it. Things have changed. I didn’t consider being a heterosexual female a characterizing feature of who i was… the mechanism by which this changes is both frightening and surreal. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing at either the personal or the societal level.

I came to the realization on the subway this evening, after a day of intense debate in the common room and watching an unattractive classmate check her makeup in a compact mirror a grand total of twelve times during the course of a three hour class that what i am looking for is “fun.” Not companionship, not love. Fun. I COULD make this “deeper” and more appropriate by couching it in a Freudian conception of “play.” I don’t think i’m that deep. I’m vain, childish and selfish.

Thanks Foucault.


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