Tuesday, 5 October 2010


The word slumming, with all its problematic connotations, likely calls to mind the late-night excursions of white pleasure seekers to the cabarets of Prohibition-era Harlem. But the practice of slumming encompassed a much wider range of urban sexual and racial encounters than this image suggests and also extended well beyond Prohibition.

By the mid-1880s, this once-popular pastime prompted thousands of well-to-do whites to explore a range of urban spaces associated with working-class southern and eastern European immigrants, Chinese immigrants, and blacks. Successive generations of white slummers soon followed in their wake, setting their sights, first, on the tearooms of “free-loving” bohemian artists and radicals, before turning their attention to the jazz cabarets of urban blacks and, finally, to the speakeasies and nightclubs associated with lesbians and gay men. In each case, the aim was simple: to combine amusement with the firsthand investigation of American cities’ changing populations and neighborhoods.

Charting the progression of these nightlife vogues, Slumming examines how this distinctive cultural practice recast the sexual and racial landscape of American urban culture and space. As white middle-class women joined their male counterparts for the first time to partake of commercial leisure, slumming provided a relatively comfortable means of negotiating the shifting contours of public gender relations and the spatial and demographic changes that restructured turn-of-the-century U.S. cities.

Yet slumming accomplished much more than simply creating places where affluent whites could cross preconceived racial and sexual boundaries. By opening spaces where women and men could explore their sexual fantasies outside the social constraints of their own neighborhoods, and where those who engaged in same-sex and cross-racial relationships could publicly express their desires, this popular phenomenon played an extensive role in the proliferation of new sexual and racial identities.

Moreover, I argue that slumming contributed significantly to the emergence and codification of a new twentieth-century hegemonic social order—one that was structured primarily around an increasingly polarized white/black racial axis and a hetero/homo sexual binary that were defined in reciprocal relationship to one another.
Then consider the God's rivals, hear what Claudius
had to put up with. The minute she heard him snoring
his wife - that whore-empress - who dared to prefer the mattress
of a stews to her couch in the Palace, called for her hooded
night-cloak and hastened forth, with a single attendant.
Then, her black hair hidden under an ash-blonde wig,
she'd make straight for her brothel, with its stale, warm coverlets,
and her empty reserved cell. Here, naked, with gilded
nipples, she plied her trade, under the name of 'The Wolf-Girl',
parading the belly that once housed a prince of the blood.
She would greet each client sweetly, demand cash payment,
and absorb all their battering - without ever getting up.
Too soon the brothel-keeper dismissed his girls:
she stayed right till the end, always last to go,
then trailed away sadly, still, with burning, rigid vulva,
exhausted by men, yet a long way from satisfied,
cheeks grimed with lamp-smoke, filthy, carrying home
to her Imperial couch the stink of the whorehouse.

some thoughts about libido and misogyny 

When a woman wants to get a good fucking session, she is a nymphomaniac or why not a Hysteric.
In his book The will to Knowledge, Foucault explains very methodically how the bourgeoisie family structures and demonizes sex and eroticism, creating the definitions borrowed to Psychiatry and Psychology (Freud).
Developing a way of monitoring the sexual outburst of the whole family and specially of their kids.
Controlling and naming with brand new brands and labels man and women homosexuals and lesbian.
Considering any “sexual interest intensity “ an illness, a deformation of the brain.
Been the Nymphomaniac women one of them, interestingly enough, Nymph means what it means..so it would be that a Maniac Nymph was just a sort of muse gone wrong.
But the roots of all this control over woman’s sexuality has a very far deep origin, some how pre-Platonic and had been expanded by the Semitic tribes.
Plato, was in any case a mind of his times and his times where influenced by Christian winds....
And Jesus of Nazareth was a jew trying to reform his own religion we all know how the three monotheistic religions share the fable of Creation, the Tale of Evil Temptress Eve:
The first Woman on earth and the mother responsible of all our pains.
How this can not set up us straight in to Misogyny ?
If it was a Woman the one who was tempted and who could tempt ??


Valeria Messalina
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Valeria Messalina
Empress Consort of the Roman Empire
Predecessor Milonia Caesonia
Successor Agrippina the Younger
Spouse Claudius
Claudia Octavia, Empress of Rome
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus
House Julio-Claudian (by marriage)
gens Valeria (by birth)
Father Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus
Mother Domitia Lepida the Younger
Born 17 A.D. or 20 A.D.
Died 48 A.D. (aged 31 or 28)
Gardens of Lucullus, Rome, Roman Empire
Valeria Messalina,[1] sometimes spelled Messallina, (c. 17/20 – 48) was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Claudius. She was also a paternal cousin of the Emperor Nero, second cousin of the Emperor Caligula, and great-grandniece of the Emperor Augustus. A powerful and influential woman with a reputation for promiscuity, she conspired against her husband and was executed when the plot was discovered.

Messalina was the first daughter and second child of Domitia Lepida the Younger and her first cousin Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus[2][3]. Messalina's father was the son of Marcus Valerius Messala Barbatus Appianus [4], a Claudius Pulcher by birth (son of Appius Claudius Pulcher, consul 38 BC) adopted by Marcus Valerius Messala, cos. suff. 32 BC[5][6]. His mother was Claudia Marcella Minor. Messalina's elder brother, Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, served as consul in AD 58. Her mother was the youngest child of the consul Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and Antonia Major. Domitia Lepida had two siblings: Domitia Lepida the Elder, and Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus. Domitius was the first husband of the future Empress Agrippina the Younger and the biological father of the Emperor Nero, making Nero Messalina's first cousin despite a seventeen year age difference. Messalina's grandmothers Claudia Marcella and Antonia Major were half sisters. Claudia Marcella, Messalina's paternal grandmother, was the daughter of Augustus's sister Octavia the Younger by her marriage to Gaius Claudius Marcellus Minor. Antonia Major, Messalina's maternal grandmother, was the elder daughter of Octavia by her marriage to Mark Antony, and was Claudius's maternal aunt.[edit] Family and early life

Born no later than 12 BC and on the basis of his family distinction, Messalina's father could have expected a consulship by 23. Since he didn't become consul, he most likely died before that date.[7] Her mother then married the consul Faustus Cornelius Sulla Lucullus III, great-grandson of the Roman Dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Faustus and Lepida had a son around AD 22, Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, Messalina's half brother. Faustus was consul in AD 52. Messalina was probably born and raised in Rome. Little is known about her life prior to her marriage to Claudius in AD 38.

Marriage to Claudius

Either in 37 or 38, Messalina married her second cousin Claudius, who was about 48 years old. During the reign of another second cousin of hers, the unstable Emperor Caligula (reigned 37-41), Messalina was very wealthy, an influential figure and a regular at Caligula's court. Claudius was Caligula's paternal uncle and was becoming influential and popular. Claudius probably married her to strengthen ties within the imperial family. Upon marrying Claudius, Messalina became a stepmother to Claudia Antonia, Claudius's daughter through his second marriage to Aelia Paetina.
Messalina bore Claudius two children: a daughter Claudia Octavia (born 39 or 40), who was a future empress, stepsister and first wife to the emperor Nero; and a son, Britannicus (born 41). On January 24, AD 41, Caligula and his family were murdered by a conspiracy led by Cassius Chaerea, and later that day, the Praetorian Guard proclaimed Claudius the new emperor and Messalina the new empress.

Roman Empress

Messalina holding her son Britannicus, Louvre.
Messalina became the most powerful woman in the Roman Empire. Claudius bestowed various honors on her: her birthday was officially celebrated, statues of her were erected in public places and she was given the privilege of occupying the front seats at the theatre along with the Vestal Virgins. The Roman Senate wanted Messalina to have the title of "Augusta"; however, Claudius refused.
In 43, Claudius held a triumphant military parade to celebrate the successful campaign in Britain. Messalina followed his chariot in a covered carriage and behind her marched the generals.
Through her status, she became very influential, however in character was very insecure. Claudius, as an older man, could have died at any moment and Britannicus would have become the new emperor. To improve her own security and ensure the future of her children, Messalina sought to eliminate anyone who was a potential threat to her and her children.
Among those who were loyal to Messalina was consul Lucius Vitellius the Elder. He begged her as a tremendous privilege for him to remove Messalina's shoes.
Due to Claudius' devotion to her, Messalina was able to manipulate him into ordering the exile or execution of various people: the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger; Claudius’ nieces Julia Livilla and Julia; Marcus Vinicius (husband of Julia Livilla); consul Gaius Asinius Pollio II (see Vipsania Agrippina), the elder Poppaea Sabina (mother of Empress Poppaea Sabina, second wife of Nero), consul Decimus Valerius Asiaticus and Polybius. Claudius had the reputation of being easily controlled by his wives and freedmen.
A well known example of Messalina trying to eliminate her rivals was when Agrippina the Younger returned from exile after January 14. Agrippina was a niece to Claudius, a daughter of Claudius’ late brother Germanicus. Messalina realised that Agrippina's son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (the future Nero) was a threat to her son's position and sent assassins to strangle Nero during his siesta. When they approached his couch, they saw what appeared to be a snake near his pillow and fled in terror. The apparent snake was actually a sloughed-off snake skin.


The ancient Roman sources, particularly Tacitus and Suetonius, portray Messalina as insulting, disgraceful, cruel, avaricious, and a foolish nymphomaniac, certainly a result of her inbreeding. Many women of her age and status enjoyed festivities and parties, but the two historians contended that Messalina unwisely combined her zest for meeting people with a sexual appetite.
The oft-repeated tale of Messalina's all-night sex competition with a prostitute comes from Book X of Pliny the Elder's Natural History. Pliny does not name the prostitute, however the Restoration playwright Nathaniel Richards calls her Scylla in The Tragedy of Messalina, Empress of Rome, published in 1640, and Robert Graves in his novel Claudius the God also identified the prostitute as Scylla. According to Pliny, the competition lasted for 24 hours and Messalina won with a score of 25 partners.
Roman sources claim that Messalina used sex to enforce her power and control politicians, that she had a brothel under an assumed name and organised orgies for upper class women and that she participated much in politics and sold her influence to Roman nobles or foreign notables.
Juvenal is also highly critical of her in his Satire VI (first translation by Peter Green and second translation from wikisource):

Then consider the God's rivals, hear what Claudius
had to put up with. The minute she heard him snoring
his wife - that whore-empress - who dared to prefer the mattress
of a stews to her couch in the Palace, called for her hooded
night-cloak and hastened forth, with a single attendant.
Then, her black hair hidden under an ash-blonde wig,
she'd make straight for her brothel, with its stale, warm coverlets,
and her empty reserved cell. Here, naked, with gilded
nipples, she plied her trade, under the name of 'The Wolf-Girl',
parading the belly that once housed a prince of the blood.
She would greet each client sweetly, demand cash payment,
and absorb all their battering - without ever getting up.
Too soon the brothel-keeper dismissed his girls:
she stayed right till the end, always last to go,
then trailed away sadly, still, with burning, rigid vulva,
exhausted by men, yet a long way from satisfied,
cheeks grimed with lamp-smoke, filthy, carrying home
to her Imperial couch the stink of the whorehouse.
Then look at those who rival the Gods, and hear what Claudius
endured. As soon as his wife perceived that her husband was asleep,
this august harlot was shameless enough to prefer a common mat
to the imperial couch. Assuming night-cowl, and attended by a single maid,
she issued forth; then, having concealed her raven locks under a light-coloured peruque,
she took her place in a brothel reeking with long-used coverlets.
Entering an empty cell reserved for herself, she there took her stand, under the feigned name of Lycisca,
her nipples bare and gilded, and exposed to view the womb that bore thee, O nobly-born Britannicus!
Here she graciously received all comers, asking from each his fee;
and when at length the keeper dismissed his girls,
she remained to the very last before closing her cell,
and with passion still raging hot within her went sorrowfully away.
Then exhausted by men but unsatisfied,
with soiled cheeks, and begrimed with the smoke of lamps,
she took back to the imperial pillow all the odours of the stews.

According to the Satire VI by Juvenal, Messalina worked in a brothel under the assumed name Lycisca, or 'The Wolf-Girl'. Etching by Agostino Carracci, late 16th century.

Downfall, death and aftermath

Valeria Messalina and her children, Britannicus and Claudia Octavia

Troy Pageant

During the Secular Games in 47, at the performance of the Troy Pageant, Messalina attended the event with her son, Britannicus. Also present was Agrippina the Younger with her son, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (Nero). Agrippina and Nero received a greater acclamation from the audience than Messalina and Britannicus did. Many people began to show pity and sympathy for Agrippina, due to unfortunate circumstances that occurred in her life. This is probably a first sign of Messalina's declining popularity.

Affair with Gaius Silius

Later that year, Messalina became interested in the attractive Roman Senator Gaius Silius, who was married to the aristocratic woman Junia Silana (sister of Caligula's first wife Junia Claudilla). Messalina and Silius became lovers and Messalina forced Silius to divorce his wife.
Silius realised the danger in which he had put himself. Messalina and Silius plotted to kill the weak emperor and Messalina would make him the new emperor. Silius was childless and wanted to adopt Britannicus.

Plot discovery

While Claudius was in Ostia, inspecting construction work done on the harbor, his freedman Tiberius Claudius Narcissus advised him of Messalina's and Silius’ plot to kill him. Messalina travelled to Ostia with her children hoping to speak to Claudius; however the emperor had left Ostia before she was able to do so. Narcissus had delayed Messalina, preventing her from seeing Claudius.


Claudius ordered the deaths of Messalina and Silius in 48. In Messalina's final hours, she was in the Gardens of Lucullus. Messalina and her mother Domitia Lepida were preparing a petition for Claudius. At the height of Messalina's influence and prosperity, Domitia Lepida and Messalina had argued and became estranged. Apparently overcome by pity, Lepida stayed with her daughter. Lepida's last words to her were ‘Your life is finished. All that remains is to make a decent end’. Messalina was reputedly weeping and moaning.[citation needed]
An officer and a former slave arrived together to witness Messalina's death. The former slave verbally insulted her while the officer stood by in silence. Messalina was offered the choice of killing herself, but was too afraid to do so, so the officer decapitated Messalina. Her dead body was left with her mother. At the time of Messalina's death, Claudius was attending a dinner. When Messalina's death was announced to him, Claudius showed no emotion, but asked for more wine.


In the days after her death, Claudius gave no sign of hatred, anger, distress, satisfaction, or any other human passion. The only ones who mourned for Messalina were her children. The Roman Senate ordered Messalina's name removed from all public or private places and all statues of her removed.
On New Year's Day in 49, Claudius married, as his fourth wife, his niece Agrippina the Younger, who went on to remove from the imperial court anyone she considered loyal to the memory of Messalina. Agrippina's son Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus was adopted by Claudius as his son and heir. He became known as Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus and succeeded Claudius as emperor instead of Messalina's son Britannicus.

In fiction

Carlo Pallavicino's Venetian opera Messalina of 1680 deals with Valeria Messalina.
Messalina was featured prominently in Robert Graves' novels I, Claudius, and Claudius the God. In keeping with the historical views at the time the novels were written (1934–35), Messalina is portrayed as a young teenager at the time of her marriage. She is also credited with all the actions mentioned in the ancient sources. This character was played by Sheila White in the 1976 BBC television adaptation of the two books, and was played by Merle Oberon in Josef von Sternberg's 1937 uncompleted film of I, Claudius.
Besides the adaptation of Graves' work, the character of Messalina has been portrayed many times elsewhere in movies and television films or miniseries. Here are some of the other actresses who have played Messalina:
The French writer Alfred Jarry based his novel Messalina (or The Garden of Priapus in Louis Colman's English translation) on the myths surrounding the subject. She is referred to in his book Le Surmâle (in English the Supermale); these two books are offered as diametrically opposed entities in his 'pataphysical œuvre. The Messalinas of these books are highly fictionalized and subject to Jarry's fanciful and extravagant imagination.
In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, the Forsaken Mesaana is named after Messalina. In Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, Messalina is a guest at Satan's ball. In Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester refers to his first wife as his Indian Messalina. In Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, the protagonist's aunt, who 'first aroused [his] desire for women' is referred to as a Messalina. Mario Puzo's The Last Don revolves around a film called "Messalina" based on the notorious all night exploits of the empress. Chuck Palahniuk's novel Snuff makes numerous references to Messalina's sexual exploits (in particular, the story of her competition with Scylla) as a sort of precedent for the feats attempted by the novel's central character. Messalina is the name given to a Native American orphan by a Presbyterian family before she is taken in by Jacob Vaark in Toni Morrison's 2008 novel A Mercy. She goes by the nickname Lina. In Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, a dog with many pups is named after the Empress. Messalina is also mentioned in Paulo Coelho's book "Eleven Minutes."
Messalina is also briefly mentioned in Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray in Chapter 6 as Lord Henry retorts to Basil's disapproval of Dorian's engagement: "If he wedded Messalina he would be none the less interesting".
In C.S. Lewis's essay Screwtape Proposes a Toast, the lead character, a devil giving a speech at the Tempter's College in Hell, makes reference to the dinner fare of 'Casserole of Adulterers': "To I who have tasted Messalina and Casanova they were nauseating."



Modern society, according to Foucault, "put into operation an entire machinery for producing true discourses concerning sex".

By Roy Hornsby

Michel Foucault's "History of Sexuality" is an undertaking in nullification of the notion that Western society has experienced a repression of sexuality since the seventeenth century. Further to this he dispels the idea that sexuality has not been the subject of open discourse. The purpose of this paper is an attempt to explain, through the reasoning of Foucault, that modern society has implemented the mechanisms necessary for generating true discourses relating to sex.

Foucault raises three doubts in "A Will to Knowledge", volume one of the trilogy "The History of Sexuality". Firstly, is sexual repression an established historical fact? Is what first appears to our view really the accentuation or establishment of a regime of sexual repression beginning in the seventeenth century? Secondly, do the workings of power in our society belong to the category of repression and is power exercised in a general way through prohibition, censorship and denial? His final question asks, does the critical discourse that addresses itself to repression act as a block to the power mechanism that has operated unchallenged to this point or is it in fact a part of the same thing that it denounces and misrepresents by calling it 'repression'? Was there really a rupture between the age of repression and the critical analysis of repression? (Foucault, 1998).

Foucault's doubts about the conception of repression were stimulated by evidence of an emerging proliferation of discourses on sex since the seventeenth century. His analysis begins with an examination of the widely held belief that in the Victorian era, sexual experience and practice were subjected to a power of repression (Smart, 1985). Smart (1985, p.95) cites Foucault as formulating a radically different set of questions;

"Why has sexuality been so widely discussed and what has been said about it? What were the effects of power generated by what was said? What are the links between these discourses, these effects of power, and the pleasures that were invested by them? What knowledge (savoir) was formed as a result of this linkage?"[1]

Foucault initially directed his work on sexuality to questions such as these although there was evidence from the seventeenth century onward of a whole new set of proprietary rules in the domain of sexuality and a growing sense of prohibition, censorship and general silencing of sexual discussion. He argued that there was another tendency that became apparent in the increase of sexual discourse (Smart, 1985). According to Smart (1985, p96), Foucault stated that as the seventeenth century drew to a close;

"there emerged a political, economic and technical incitement to talk about sex. And not so much in the form of a general theory of sexuality as in the form of analysis, stocktaking, classification and specification, of quantitative or causal studies"[2].

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a diversity of discourses on sexuality in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, pedagogy, criminal justice and social work emerged. This occurred as sex became increasingly an object of administration and management through government inquiry. The analysis of population demographics led governments to focus on investigations into birthrate, legitimate and illegitimate births, age of marriage, frequency of sexual relations, fertility and so on. The effect of these analyses was a grid of observations that related to sexual matters. In that manner, sex became confined to the privacy of the home and the procreative couple and at the same time it became an enmeshment of a web of discourses and forms of analysis between the state and individuals (Smart, 1985).

Foucault shatters the illusion that from the Middle Ages onward a prudish Victorian culture did everything that it could to silence sexuality when he claims that sexuality was, in that period, the subject of immense verbosity. He states that the desire to speak about the repressed nature of sex participated in the very structure that it was seeking to decipher (Bristow, 1997). Foucault argues further by suggesting that it is peculiar to modern societies not to consign sex to a shadowy existence but to speak about it ad infinitum whilst at the same time exploiting it as the secret. Foucault states that rather than a prudishness of language or a uniform concern to hide sex, what distinguishes these last three centuries is the proliferation of devices that have been invented for speaking about it, having it spoken about, inducing it to speak of itself, for listening, recording, transcribing and re-distributing what is said about it: a whole network of varying, specific and coercive transpositions into discourse. Rather than censorship, what evolved was a regulated and polymorphous incitement to discourse (Foucault, 1978). Foucault has no patience at all with what is termed the 'repressive hypothesis' as he feels that a society cannot be sexually repressed when there is such an incitement to discourse upon this very belief (Bristow, 1997).

According to Foucault, until Freud, the discourse on sex that scholars and theoreticians engaged in never ceased to hide the thing that they were speaking about and by speaking about it so much, by multiplying it and partitioning it off there was created a screen-discourse, a dispersion avoidance meant to evade the unbearable and too hazardous truth of sex. It began to be spoken about from the rarified and neutral viewpoint of science, a science that refused to speak of sex itself but spoke of aberrations, perversions, exceptional oddities, pathological abatements and morbid aggravations. It stirred up peoples fear as it claimed to tell the truth as it ascribed an imaginary dynasty of evils destined to be passed on for generations (Foucault, 1978).

During the nineteenth century Western civilizations developed a scientia sexualis the goal of which was to produce true discourses on sex. The 'Right to Reconciliation' or the 'confession', the history of which may be traced back to the first centuries of Christianity, was the technique at the centre of this production of truth about sex. Sex has been the central theme of confession from the Christian penance to the psychiatrist's couch. Through the confessional process truth and sex have integrated and knowledge of the subject has evolved (Smart, 1985). Foucault desired to trace the thread through so many centuries that has linked sex and the search to identify the truth for our societies. He said;

"how is it that in a society like ours, sexuality is not simply a means of reproducing the species, the family and the individual? Not simply a means to obtain pleasure and enjoyment? How has sexuality come to be considered the privileged place where our deepest "truth" is read and expressed? For that is the essential fact: Since Christianity, the Western world has never ceased saying: "To know who you are, know what your sexuality is". Sex has always been the forum where both the future of our species and our "truth" as human subjects is decided.
Confession, the examination of the conscience, all the insistence on the important secrets of the flesh, has not been simply a means of prohibiting sex or of repressing it as far as possible from consciousness, but was a means of placing sexuality at the heart of existence and of connecting salvation with the mastery of these obscure movements. In Christian societies, sex has been the central object of examination, surveillance, avowal and transformation into discourse" (Michel Foucault, Politics Philosophy Culture, 1988)[3]

This intersection of the technology of the confession with scientific investigation and discourse has constructed the domain of sexuality within modern societies as being problematic and in need of interpretation. Indeed to construct a knowledge of the individual the object of the investigation has become to uncover the truth of sex and to reveal its assumed hidden secret. Sex became our privileged locus or secret of our being - our truth, and the pursuit is now for the 'truth of sex' and the 'truth in sex' (Smart, 1985).

The confession has spread its effects far and wide; we confess our crimes, our sins, our thoughts and our desires. Whatever is most difficult to tell we offer up for scrutiny with the greatest precision. We confess in public and in private to parents, educators, doctors, loved ones in pleasure and in pain, things that would be impossible to tell anyone else. The confession can be voluntary or wrung from a person by violence or the threat of it. Sex, albeit hidden we are told, has been the privileged theme of confession from the Christian penance to the present day. The transformation of sex into discourse along with the dissemination and reinforcement of heterogeneous sexualities are all linked together with the help of the central element of the confession which compels individuals to express their sexual peculiarity no matter how extreme it may be (Foucault, 1978).

The confession is a ritual of discourse in which the speaking subject is also the subject of the statement and it is also a ritual of power manifested by the presence of another. The other becomes the authority who requires the confession in order to arbitrate upon it. Through the complete expression of an individual secret, truth and sex are joined but it is the truth which serves as the medium for sex and its manifestations. The end result of this ritual produces fundamental changes in the person who expresses it as it exonerates and liberates him with the promise of salvation. It is the bond between the one who speaks and what he is speaking about within the intimacy of discourse that warrants the integrity of the confession. The dominant agency does not reside within the constraint of the person who speaks but rather within the one who listens and says nothing; neither does it reside within the one who knows and answers but within the one who questions and is not supposed to know. The discourse of truth takes effect finally however, from the one from whom it was wrested and not from the one who receives it (Foucault, 1978).

The possibility exists that sexual discourses merely served to provide a foundation for imperatives aimed at the eradication of 'unproductive' forms of sexuality. That perhaps all of the forms of discourse had as their end the cultivation of a vital population, reproduction of labour capacity and the prevailing social relations. Foucault argues that if the discourses were aimed at eliminating fruitless pleasures then they had failed, for by the nineteenth century a multiple implantation of perversions and a dispersion of sexualities had occurred. He suggests that non-conjugal, non-monogamous sexualities were not prohibited or eliminated by the power of the discourse of the confessional but that they were incited and multiplied. As a consequence a proliferation of unorthodox sexualities has eventuated. It is the sanctity accorded to the heterosexual monogamy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that has as its natural consequence the incitement to confession of a multitude of sexual perversions that were deemed as unnatural or abnormal equivalents to the 'regular' sexuality of the 'acceptable' couple (Smart, 1985).

Foucault informs us that historically there have been two main procedures for producing the truth of sex. Societies such as China, Japan, India, Rome and the Arabo-Muslim societies granted to themselves the ars erotica, and from this erotic art, truth is drawn from the pleasure in itself. The practice is understood and experienced while pleasure is not defined in relation to the permitted or the forbidden. Our society has broken with the tradition of ars erotica and bestowed upon itself a scientia sexualis by adapting the ancient procedure of the confession to the rules of scientific discourse. Nearly one hundred and fifty years have gone into the making of the complex machinery for producing true discourses on sex and the enablement of the truth of sex and its pleasures to be embodied in a thing called 'sexuality' (Foucault, 1978).

The immense extortion of the sexual confession came to be constituted in scientific terms in the following ways; a clinical codification of the inducement to speak, the postulate of a general and diffuse causality, the principle of a latency intrinsic to sexuality, the method of interpretation, the medicalisation of the effects of confession (Foucault, 1978, pp 65-67). Foucault has rationalized that contrary to the opinion that the society of the nineteenth century had little dialogue relating to sex, that they did in fact put into operation an entire machinery for producing true discourses about it. To Foucault the censorship and taboos on the mentioning of sexual topics are secondary, or perhaps even complimentary to the explosion of discourses on sexuality (Cousins & Hussain, 1984). This society conceived a new type of pleasure as it endeavoured to create the homogeneous truth concerning sex: pleasure in the truth of pleasure.

[1] Smart is citing a passage from The History of Sexuality, Vol 1, p 11, Hurley, R. (trans). back

[2] Ibid., pp. 23-4 back

[3] Originally published as "Foucault: Non au sexe roi" in Le Nouvel observateur, March 12, 1977, this interview was translated by David J. Parent as "Power and Sex," in Telos 32 (1977), pp. 152-61 back

Bristow, J. 1997, Sexuality, Routledge, Great Britain.

Cousins, M. & Hussain, A., 1984, Michel Foucault, Theoretical Traditions in the Social Sciences, Macmillan Education Ltd., London.

Foucault, M., Levy, B-H. 1988, Michel Foucault, Politics Philosophy Culture, Kritzman, L., ed., Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Inc., New York.

Foucault, M. 1998, The Will to Knowledge, The History of Sexuality Volume 1, Hurley, R., trans., Penguin Books, Great Britain.

Smart, B. 1988, Michel Foucault, Routledge, London.


an abstract:
In a recent work on American media culture and
psychoanalysis called _Enjoy Your Symptom!_ (1992), Slavoj Zizek
asks in the title of one chapter, "Why is woman a symptom of man?"
What he alludes to in this intentionally humorous question is a
proposition within contemporary psychoanalytic theory (and
feminism) that character traits and social roles associated with
women come from what are basically male fantasies. Women, in
other words, did not themselves invent the idea of "femininity";
rather it was invented for them by men. While the definition of
"femininity" changes depending upon historical period and
geographical location, generally the term refers to those talents and
shortcomings which make women "best suited" to perform domestic
labor -- and perhaps renders them incapable of doing anything else.
Clearly, the idea of femininity is ultimately more beneficial to males
than females: it guarantees men freedom from domestic work and
grants them the privileges of public authority.

I find Zizek's question useful because it implies that gender
division is itself a form of "illness" which generates symptoms.
Furthermore, the question reminds us that the fantasy which is
"femininity" tells us more about men than it does about actually
existing women. What I want to contend is that transgender is a
symptom, just as woman is a symptom, of the social disruption
caused by gender division. While "woman" is an ancient and
enduring symptom of gender division, transgender is perhaps the
most historically recent one; it is, as I will argue below, what might
be called a post-feminist symptom generated by the slow withering
away of what we know of today as "woman".

American culture experienced the heyday of the women's
movement just two decades ago, at which time many real women
fought to be appreciated for their professional skills and intellectual
capabilities rather than their beauty and vulnerability. To a certain
extent, the women's movement is changing the roles available to
women in American culture generally. Women have gained more
social power in the past few decades than ever before in history, but
they still have relatively little power when compared to their male
counterparts. Nevertheless, men are aware of the threat women
pose to their jobs and social prestige. It seems to me no surprise,
then, that a post-feminist culture has found out a way to reinvent
the woman as she once was: socially dis-empowered, largely
unemployed and eager to appear physically attractive. And this
woman is just as much man-made as ever--in fact, she is a man who
has simply altered his physical appearance in order to be "female".

When a middle class American slums, she experiences a
heightened sense of her own power and importance on the basis of
her national, ethnic and class identity. But slumming is not about
feeling powerful. It is more precisely a controlled dosage of
impotence -- a temporary identification with the disempowered,
oppressed or underprivileged which allows the slummer to enjoy
slum culture without having to confront the material consequences of
life in the real slums. It should go without saying that the slum
means something very different to someone who was born and grew
up there. Slumming implies *choosing* to live in poverty, and one
can only make this choice if there already exist groups of people and
places where poverty is not a choice, where poverty is *imposed*.

Earlier I discussed how an identity like transgender gets
produced when particular actions and choices are represented in
dominant culture as expressions of a person's "soul". Likewise, the
identity of the slummer suggests that living in poverty is a choice
people can make because they are naturally inclined to a life of
marginalization, disempowerment and material scarcity. To a certain
extent, slummers fantasize that real members of the underclass have
*chosen* their identities too. Their easy downward mobility becomes
"proof" for the ease with which one might become upwardly mobile.
Slumming is therefore the perfect compensatory fantasy for the
middle class in regards to class division. It perpetuates the myth
that class is merely a state of mind. When a middle class person
dresses up in underclass drag, she convinces herself that the line
between economic classes is fake, just a kind of masquerade. Of
course, it is masquerade for the slummer, but rarely is it so for real
underclass people.

Acts of slumming justify the division between the middle class
and the underclass, just as acts of transgendering reinforce gender
inequality. The middle class maintains its privileged position by
inventing an underclass to do its dirty work -- to perform manual
labor, salaried domestic labor and menial service jobs. Man, as I
have already contended, invented woman for much the same reason.
What gender division shares with class division at this point in
history is a structure of domination which is maintained through the
deliberate effacement of the difference between fantasy and reality.
Transgendered people and slummers are two identities generated,
like symptoms, by unresolved class conflict. Both are identities
predicated upon the use of fantasy to cross and even protest social
divisions without actually dismantling the divisions themselves.

However, the transgendered person and the slummer reveal to
us that "forever" is sheer fantasy. Transgendered people and
slummers are historically *specific* forms of identity -- that is, they
could only have come into being contemporary with late capitalism
and post-feminism. One could not have transgender-as-identity
without feminism (or gay rights), which came along only a few years
ago. And one could not go slumming without living in multinational
capitalism, which was invented in this century. Gender division and
class division as we know them have not gone on "forever", nor do
they have to continue into the future. The idea that social division is
"natural" because it has "always" been there is a fantasy people have
at their own expense. It is a fantasy that benefits some powerful
people -- for they can claim that their power has "always" existed --
and leaves the rest of society trapped, immobile and divided.

by: Annalee Newitz BAD SUBJECTS #7, SEPTEMBER 1993

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