When talking about sex and sexual expression, the issue often comes back to human sexuality and sex as a social construct rather than its only biological sense. There have been various works written discussing human sexuality, and in this post I will be looking at few of the theories and arguments developed in these works.
The French philosopher Foucault was less interested in the history of human sexuality, rather in the way people think of themselves in sexual terms. In his work “The history of sexuality” he discusses the various discourses concerning sex. He draws the contrast how during Victorian times there existed a repressed sense of sexuality, where people were encouraged to talk about sex only within the context of marriage. Later the links between the productivity of society and population were drawn, changing the society’s approaches to sexuality. Later in the book he also seeks to find the reason for the western urge to find the “truth” in sex, as well as he defines the relationship between sex and power. In his arguments, Foucault underlines the connections between sex and politics, economy and cultural changes in the society.
Anthony Giddens approaches sexual discourses in his book “The transformation of intimacy”, arguing that sex is both a construct of and influence on the modern society. He focuses on the modern society, showing its influence on changing the relationships between sex, love, gender and intimacy. What was once considered private, has now been brought into the public discussion, changing the shape of human interactions. He uses the term “plastic sexuality” to refer to sex that is free from procreation, more as a trait of personality, therefore linked to “the self”. For Giddens, it is clear that sexuality is a social construct, functioning within the discourse of power.
In his academic paper “Feminism, pornography and law”, Eric Hoffman discusses the role of feminists in the discourse of sexual expression, evaluating the feminist argument insisting on legal regulations of sexually explicit material, and considering if it should be used to justify the regulations by the state. He also contrasts the conservative and liberal arguments and articulates and evaluates the legal proposals constructed by the feminist perspective. In his paper, he underlines that some regulations have been made in response to the feminist critics, however it hasn’t particularly left anyone fully satisfied.
Hereby we can see that the discussion about the display of sexuality in texts and images has many different angles of approach, and it has been discussed, but without an apparent solution to satisfy all society. Fighters for freedom of speech will continue fighting against government restrictions, while the others will keep on developing legal arguments for our sexual expression to be limited. However, sexuality is a social concept that is highly linked with power, and these power systems are rooted in history, making them really hard to change.