Re: Foucault, Freud and Sex--why the secret?

Gerold Firl (
29 Nov 1994 15:03:25 -0800

In article <3atisr$> (Elizabeth C Dunn) writes:

>I asked, "why is sex the big secret?" Warren told me to reread the part
>obout the Oedipus complex. I did---I still don't get it. can anybody

At certain times, in certain places, oedipal conflict has probably been an
important part of the "family romance" which helps to construct the way
individuals in that time and place develop their particular sexuality. But
I don't think the oedipus complex is of universal significance in the human
dynamic between individual drives and their social organisation/channeling.
It just doesn't loom very large in many human cultures.

>I said that Freud sees repressed sexual desire as the root of neurosis.

Actually, I think he says that repressed aggression as well as sexual
desires is the root of neuroses. If you want a more complete view of the
freudian analysis, read _civilisation and its discontents_, published
around 1930. Here freud addresses the very questions you bring up, and does
an excellent job of it. He understands completely that there is a human
cost to the repression of these powerful instincts. He also recognises the
social benefits, and weighs the one against the other.

>I argue that Freud never goes on to critque the repressed society in
>which he lived.

No, he did. But he also saw the flip-side, the costs of lifting that
repression. Look around you to see the consequences of human cultures which
lose their discipline.

>Finally, Warren tells me that in theory, one could not substitute
>something else for the central place of sex in our society. I had asked
>why we make such secrets, and such a monumental place in our culture and
>society for sex.

Is this really such a mystery? Our bodies are put-together in such a way
that the most intense experience of pleasure which humans are capable of
having results from sexual stimulation. But I still don't know what you
mean by "secret". Sex is private, rather than public, but I'm not convinced
that it is secret. Can you explain?

>Why not eating? (Can you imagine people huddling
>furtively in Times Square, gnawing on turkey legs?)

dietary restrictions, such as the pork taboo, are used in the service of
social organisation. If a tribe has a unique dietary custom, it helps in
the maintainence of cultural unity and identity. If the neighbors eat pigs,
and we don't, we have a concrete example of not only our distinctive
identity, but our superiority as well. This is useful. It gives a culture
cohesion. It strengthens a culture as it competes with neighboring
cultures. Sexual taboos are used slightly differently, but again, they
can strengthen a culture, whether by preventing over-population or by
sublimating sexual energy into creative acheivement.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf