Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sex and the Society

People are obsessive about not being obsessive about sex. Individuals in society try to be open minded, but society both represses and promotes sex. Allan says that sex in society today has become known today as the insidious power within, sex has become a “truth to discover and a thing to control (p 540). The public discourse in society inflicts a kind of moral consciousness on individuals’ perceptions of their “selves” in terms ranging from sexually pure to promiscuous. Sex has become objectified, something to be observed, analyzed, and profited from. Capitalism has objectified sex in order to exploit it economically. The more society represses sex, the more deviant behavior is expressed unnaturally and exploited. Pornography, sex shops, and strip clubs profit from the exploitation of sex. But sex is also exploited to sell many goods thus promoting sex unnecessarily in society, exacerbating an already exaggerated and unhealthy obsession with sex. Society is even sexualizing objects to make a perverse profit. Cars are designed to look “sexy” and some individuals have reported experiencing feelings of love & attraction for objects like cars. Do you think that sex is over emphasized in today’s society? How big a part does sex play in your everyday life. How is society influenced by the media’s portrayal of sex in popular culture?
Michel Foucault uses the example of the Panopticon, an architectural design for prisons which allows constant surveillance of prisoners by unseen guards, to describe how society has come to fear surveillance and thus sanction them lest they be punished by unseen forces. It is a metaphor for how the threat of knowledge on the part of unseen forces exerts power over those being observed, otherwise understood to be society as a whole (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008).

I remember when my father handed me the novel 1984 by George Orwell, he told me that “when a government controls the language, they control the governed.” Throughout my reading of Foucault, I kept remembering what my father told me and then subsequent knowledge I gained from reading the text he had loaned me. In the novel, the Ministry of Truth falsifies historical events and ultimately creates "newspeak" which suits the totalitarian regime in which the story is set. They control the knowledge of the populous in order to keep them under control. For me it exemplifies Foucault’s theory of power/knowledge quite well.

What other examples in our culture, including pop culture, lends credit to Foucaults theory of power as knowledge?

Abstraction Based Reality

There are a few questions that develop in reading these theorists though. Baudrillard argues that cultures and languages were once grounded in reality, but there are aspects that seem to develop more abstractly. These things, religion, spirituality, and philosophies, are critically important, to the point that Durkheim deems religion as something distinctly human. How can these abstractions be argued to have meaning rooted in actuality more in the past than they do now, when they have been abstractions throughout their existence?

Surveillance in the future

Foucault’s Discipline and Punishment, disuccess the observations ofeighteenth century France: “…this uncesasing information had to be documented in a series of reports and registers…what was registered in this way were forms of behavior, attitides, possibilities, suspicious-a permanent account of individual’s behavior” (Applerouth , 2008, p. 661). Think about the ways we as individuals abide by these ideas, for example police reports, what are other examples of these kinds of individual records the government or society has of individuals? In the country that we live in, do you think social security numbers assign to citizens are a way to maintain power over the individual? While at the same time instill fear in citizens by making them a number and thus easier to manipulate? If not do you think this is or something similar is possible in the future?

Discourse and subjects

According to Foucault, the use of discourse to communicate forces an individual to make judgements that subjectify and objectify themselves. For instance, I am a student at UTEP. By entering into discourse about where I go to campus, I limit my explanation of myself. I may want to describe myself as partly a student, partly a researcher, and that some of my learning takes place within and outside of school. However, in order to enter into the discourse of school attendance, based on the methods already existing within society to describe school attendance, by stating "I am a student at UTEP" I give myself a set position and qualities, qualities that I may not agree with completely. Furthermore, as I continue to use that position, I may find my mindset shifting to eventually represent that position completely within myself, even if I did not agree with it originally.

What are some concepts about yourself that you believe you cannot express properly by taking a position as it exists within modern language and culture? What are some concepts you believe have changed based on your own use of a specific position?