Carolyn J. Dean

in The Frail Social Body

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780520219953
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923485 | DOI:

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In an old interview, Michel Foucault said that we were now interested in the marquis de Sade's “pornographic” work because it prefigures the more recent historical “dissociation of the ego” in which sexuality comes to signify the dissolution of the social body, the “orgiastic” nature of contemporary sexual pleasures. This book asks how sexual deviance became associated with the violation of the social body in the context of France's liberal democracy under pressure. It shows how during the interwar period, the commensurability of metaphorical bodily violation and “deviant” sexuality radically transformed the construction of the sexual drive itself: after the war the sexual drive was no longer opposed to culture (or domesticated by it), but itself an expression of highly civilized human beings. The book uses production of fantasies about pornography and homosexuality to reveal one part of the process by which, at a particular historical moment, the “born” body does or does not become a rights-bearing citizen. It seeks to understand how violence to the social body is imagined at a specific time and place.

Keywords: France; pornography; homosexuality; social body; sexual pleasures; violence; sexual deviance; sexual drive; fantasies; liberal democracy

Chapter.  3869 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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