Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Revolting Body

Egon Schiele (1890-1918) - Self-Portrait Masturbating, 1911

'The restrictions on masturbation hardly start in Europe until the eighteenth century. Suddenly, a panic-theme appears: an appalling sickness develops in the Western world. Children masturbate. Via the medium of families, though not at their initiative, a system of control of sexuality, an objectivisation of sexuality allied to corporal persecution, is established over the bodies of children. But sexuality, through thus becoming an object of analysis and concern, surveillance and control, engenders at the same time and intensification of each individual's desire, for, in and over his body.

The body thus became the issue of a conflict between parents and children, the child and the instances of control. The revolt of the sexual body is the reverse effect of this encroachment. What is the response on the side of power? An economic (and perhaps also ideological) exploitation of eroticisation, from sun-tan products to pornographic films. Responding precisely to the revolt of the body, we find a new mode of investment which presents itself no longer in the form of control by repression but that of control by stimulation. 'Get undressed - be slim, good-looking, tanned!' For each move by the adversary, there is an answering one by the other.'

From Body/Power, an interview with Michel Foucault.

'Have adults forgotten how they themselves were incited and aroused by sex impulses as children? Have they forgotten how the frightful passion burned and tortured them while they were still children? I have not forgotten, for I suffered excruciatingly from it.'

Egon Schiele