Perversion, Power, and Social Control

Jonathan Dollimore

in Sexual Dissidence

Published in print August 1991 | ISBN: 9780198112259
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670732 | DOI:
Perversion, Power, and Social Control

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This book suggests that the most significant recent theory of perversion derives from one of the most influential critics, Michel Foucault. This chapter considers Foucault's account, after a brief look at deviance theories. In important respects Foucault's analysis of sexual deviance would seem to meet some important objections, at least to the extent that he discovers not the rejuvenative or insightful potential of deviance, but the insidious, manipulative complexities of power, and the paradoxical relationship of deviants. He begins from the fundamental proposition that sexuality is not a stubborn drive or a natural force which civilisation seeks to sublimate, hold in check, or otherwise regulate; it is rather ‘a historical construct’ which enables the operation of power relations. The power that controls sexuality does not primarily work through prohibition, law, or taboo, thereby establishing the boundaries of the permissible.

Keywords: perversion; Michel Foucault; deviance theories; sexual deviance; sexuality; power

Chapter.  3803 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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