Society and Sexuality in Waiting for the Barbarians and The History of Sexuality

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Society and Sexuality in Waiting for the Barbarians, and The History of Sexuality

Within our modern minds reside two very different ways in which we deal with the subject of sexuality. The conceptual framework of modern society, to some extent, has developed out of past notions about the body. We can see that springing from our historical roots, issues concerning sexuality have been dealt with through mutual feelings of desire and disgust.

The relationship between these two opposed feelings arises from a dual sense of our awareness of our sexuality. One direction we are pointed in, is to view anything sexual in content, as socially digressive. The other crosses to the opposite extreme. Sexuality is something which is talked about constantly, but usually not openly. We are also, in some ways, drawn by our sexuality to feel desire for our "other side"--the side which we do not show to many other people. Both of the poles represent aspects of a spectrum on which all of us lie, at once drawn to both extremes. The fact that we fall somewhere on that scale in the first place, points to another reason outside the reaches of the immediate family. The situation we are placed in as individuals of modernity, is an arena of pre-constructed rules and regulations regarding our sexuality. The doctrine of sex in our world has been determined by the actions and thoughts of past generations. We build upon their conceptual machinery to generate our own meaning within the world. The duality between desire and disgust, in relation to sexuality, is something which has been passed down to us through generations of social learning.

In his book, The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault presents evidence pointing to the connection between...

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...nterest in the subject as a hidden part of human existence. The double mechanism of distancing one’s self and the desire to personally experience something, serves to formulate the ways in which we view our sexuality. Through the creation of this binary relationship, we as a society, have been taught that there are parts of ourselves which are off limits in normal discussion. To go past those lines is to travel in realms which hint of "perversion" or of experiencing an "alternate lifestyle". This societal creation tells us that some parts of our personality are ones which we should not explore, though we might be driven to. It is because of those drives, which exist in all of us, that we are forced to come to terms with ourselves, and what it means to be a part of our society.

Works Cited:

Coetzee, J.M. 1980 Waiting for the Barbarians Harmondsworth, Penguin.
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