Reading AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHEL FOUCAULT
152 / TEWS
POWER AND SEX:
AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHEL FOUCAULT* Interviewed by Bernard-Henri Levy. Originally published in Le Nouvelle Observateur, March 12, 1977.
In an age of embodiment and multimodality trend in education, it is fun to find again the flesh at the centre, where it belongs primarily: the sex.
Foucault explains “I have been given the image of a melancholic historian of prohibitions and repressive power”, positioning himself “to revive the will to know the source of the power exerted upon sex”.
The freedom to be able to re-read events and themes such as that of sexuality is a recent observation. The influence of West politics and thinking on how we think about sexuality is even more recent. A liberation of thought still in progress, not realized and changing, but oriented towards truth.
“The entire problem is to grasp the positive mechanism which, producing sexuality in this or that fashion, results in misery.”
The author also considers that the objective of the censorship of sexuality is not to create misery of sexuality, as capitalism does not find an immediate necessity to make workers’ misery. Still, the raison d’être of capitalism produces such suffering. In the same way, the system of control over the power over adolescent sexuality, for example, compromises free sexuality.
“The objective was not to forbid, but to use childhood sexuality, suddenly become important and mysterious, as a network of power over children”.
Discourses on sexuality open up multiple, often oriented directions “to use this sexuality as the starting point in an attempt to colonize them and to cross beyond it toward other affirmations”.
My relationship with the issue is complicated, leading to self-censorship/immaturity/confusion. But my personal thinking is not the only mine, but it is an echo of a historical thinking system that goes beyond me — nurtured by book, film, discourses, roles and plays.
I like when the author says that instead of all this control, power, malaise and misery over sexuality, we could “rather inventing other forms of pleasures, of relationships, coexistences, attachments, loves, intensities”. To make a “channelling “of desire, of thought, of the flesh towards a sweet liberation, which opens towards understanding and not from the need to react to taboo, castration, and repression.
Sex is represented in the collective as the universal secret, the locus communis, monotonous and monochromatic islands of only one possible sexuality.
We need to question a polyform relationship with things, people and the body.
« The politics of truth » it is a territory that is difficult to access for us lazy mind: it is surprising how the willing to don’t engage in critical thinking is paradoxically already acted on one’s skin, with the pleasure that one allows or forbids to him/herself.
The body becomes a diaphragm between the individual and the collective, where personal pleasure is linked with the collective questioning:
“The relations of power are perhaps among the best-hidden things in the social body.”
The individual/collective side of the body reminds me the Body “Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body” (M.D. van der Kolk, Bessel A), which opens the reflection on childhood trauma — often of a sexual nature — which becomes neurological, hidden in the body. The trauma is then expressed in multiple forms, sometimes very different from the actual situation. An individual body, which is entangled with the social system, with a “score” of pleasure or pain impressed that conditions future behaviour, well-being or malaise.
“When we turn to individuals, to finding power nowhere except in mind (under the form of representation, acceptance, or interiorization)”.
The keyword the author suggests is “to allow”: new strategies, new relationships and bonds. To abandon the need to belong to the right side of sexuality “on the side of madness, children, delinquency, sex”, transcending the good and the bad and starting on a working ground.
The philosophy suggests a broader perspective where include the own personal history of sexuality, from the simple act to swipe in a social dating application, or enjoying a soft porn movie in the private room. The beauty to engage with thinkers they are interested in to opening path and lines of force, incessantly on the move. Thinkers that invite the readers to follow them, also if they don’t know exactly where they are heading or nor what they will think tomorrow.