Sally is a 23 year old graduate student looking for a partner. She is sitting alone at a bar feeling helpless and craving attention from a male… any male. She sees an attractive man walk into the bar and is immediately physically attracted to him. This man, Chad, sees Sally sitting alone and walks up to her beginning a conversation with a quintessential pick up line: “I don’t usually do this, but I just had to tell you that you’re beautiful.” Sally cringes at the cheesy nature of his introduction and undeniably knows he has used this line on multiple women, but she can not resist his compliment and charm. They talk for the remainder of the night consuming more than a few drinks and enjoying each other’s company. Then, Chad (who has only been interested in having sex) asks Sally, “Do you want to come over to my apartment?” There are three distinct ways Sally would handle this situation based on contrasting time periods of love and romance: the 19th Century Victorian way, the 20th Century romantic way, or the 21st Century casual way. If Sally were living in the Victorian era, firstly, she would be nowhere near a bar or talking to a male without the supervision of family and secondly, would be appalled at the thought of going home with someone who she was not married to. In the 20th Century, Sally would demand for an official date and after a few, a marriage proposal. In the 21st Century, Sally would undoubtedly go home with Chad and have sex, her reasoning being: he is hot, funny, and she had no matches on Tinder. The evolution of love and sexuality has transformed tremendously over time. Over two centuries, not only has the power of social groups and popular culture influenced love and sex but also the discourse itself. Before candid discussions about sex and a broadened discourse on its presence in society, there was a substantial amount of repression propelled by aristocratic powers and social discourse, especially during the 19th Century Victorian Era. However, according to Freud, the repression of sex in reality fueled its open discussion and broke the secrecy that enabled the precise examination of its existence in context to human life. With the evolution of its discourse to what it is today, sex and love has radically transcended its boundaries over time. The Victorian Era formally began in 1837, when Queen Victoria commenced to reign. At the time, the Bourgeoisie were especially prominent in their influence over society as an upper/middle social class that served to represent the overall public. Their values and morals were instilled amongst the community. Unlike the aristocracy who ruled before, the bourgeoisie attained their wealth through diligent work therefore, they held strong work ethic in high regard and disapproved of frivolous activities such as sex. To the bourgeoisie, sex as a casual and pleasurable affair was a pursuit of disdain and a pointless squander of one’s energy. Because they were in a position of power, the Bourgeoisie coerced their decisions on the discourse of sex, how it was spoken about, and by whom. The information people had about sex was molded and confined at the hands of the upper/middle class in order to preserve the value of one’s work ethic and purge any distractions. Foucault explains his reasoning for emphasizing power and its play on the discourse of sex: “My main concern will be to locate the forms of power, the channels it takes, and the discourses it permeates in order to reach the most tenuous and individual modes of behavior, the paths that give it access to the rare or scarcely perceivable forms of desire, how it penetrates and controls everyday pleasure—all this entailing effects that may be those of refusal, blockage, and invalidation, but also incitement and intensification: in short, the ‘polymorphous techniques of power.'” (Foucault 11). The Bourgeoisie’s determination to suppress the discourse of sex amongst society was more so an inclination to occupy power, yet in reality, their repression of sexuality spread its exposure through the incitement of discourse. During the Victorian era, sex and love were never discussed outside of the confines of two partner’s home. It was not conventional for individuals to have casual sex, especially women for they were generally expected to cherish their virginity until marriage. In fact, when amongst boys, upper and middle class girls were chaperoned in order to supervise their behavior. Women were expected to be extremely coy about their sexuality and if this character were ever to be broken, they would be shamed with much disdain. Foucault hypothesized that this behavior was considered repressive. Due to the Bourgeoisie’s highly judgemental view of sex, any pursuit of energy on pleasure besides hard work was frowned upon. As a result, sexual relations between a husband and wife were treated solely as a private affair. Sex outside the confines of one’s home was not only prohibited, but also repressed. The repression of its open communication contributed to the discourse of shame surrounding sex, which will eventually be rebutted in the 20th and 21st century. Ultimately, Foucault identifies a paradox with sex as the secret individuals are endlessly urged to speak of: “Modern societies … dedicated themselves to speaking of sex ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret” (Foucault 35). The Victorian era, also, highly enforced gender roles where women were not only subjectified as wives, expected to obey and love their husbands without committing adultery, but also objectified for their bodies to be used as instruments for procreation. Sex was simply a means of reproduction. As for men, they had the prerogative to dominate their wives and suffered zero social impairments to their reputation if committing adultery. Not only was there an exacerbated sense of shame thrusted into the discourse of sex amongst Victorian society, but also a heavy double standard in gender being committed. It was not until the 20th Century, when romance was slowly restored and the sexual relations between individuals were openly discussed.Romance in the 20th Century transformed radically compared to that of the 19th century. Sex was no longer a means of procreation but an act of passion, love, and intimacy. As courtships and organized marriages became outmoded, love became the sole reason for marriage. Sex was no longer a topic of coy or shame but a theme that drew thousands of Americans into popular culture. And with the open discussion of sex, the discourse of gender equality propelled itself into the public sphere and thousands of powerful women demanded to be heard and provided with their rights. The 1900s became a time of transformation, not only for love and sex but also for gender equality. As literature exploded across the country in the 1920s, authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf brought romance back to the conservative nature of the relationship between a man and woman. Casual dating in public spaces such as restaurants and cars became a craze as the restrictions between men and women loosened. There were no longer chaperoned dates and a judgemental oversight of family to impede on romantic relationships. The popular culture of music, dancing, literature, and fashion of the time embraced sex. However, the roaring 20s faced its demise as the Great Depression and World War II severed the economic and domestic home front. Individuals, at this time, were more concerned with surviving the economic slump than sparking romance and embarking on a love affair. After these major events in US history took place, marriage became a universal necessity and the emphasis on family dynamics became of vital importance. The white picket fence family became a historical monument and exemplar of the perfect life. A working father and housewife mother became the archetype of the quintessential couple, but also contributed to the gender stereotyping of women in the 1950s. However, as social rules and self-sufficient women began to take initiative in the 1970s, marriage no longer became an obligatory requisite by social standards and divorce rates skyrocketed. Women’s penchant for independence changed the entire social structure of marriages and allowed for gender equality in the domestic space. The individualization of sex in the 20th century allowed for repressed feelings and desires to unshackle from basic as well as social restraints. By tailoring sex to suit the individual’s needs enabled people to have more open sex and obliterated the sense of shame that came with it. Foucault believes that with the open discussion of sex, it serves as a mechanism of power that ties on to the hinges of making truth out of the sexual desires that we have. Applied to the principle of Foucault’s scientia sexualis: “The essential point is that sex was not only a matter of sensation and pleasure, of law and taboo, but also of truth and falsehood, that the truth of sex became something fundamental, useful, or dangerous, precious and formidable: in short, that sex was constituted as a problem of truth” (Foucault 56). During the 20th century was when the repression of sex began to decrease and people opened the conversation on sex to a public scale. However, what began as a liberating time for women eventually altered individual’s perspective on love in the 21st century. Casual sex and the uproar of digital technology obstructed the idea of love making it replaceable and fast. Today, expectations of love have changed dramatically. Via text messaging and social media apps, people of the 21st century express their feelings of desire by sending nudes and unsolicited pictures of their genitalia. Because individuals today excessively rely on technology, it is difficult to curate a real sense of love. The standards of romance have undoubtedly changed with the emergence of apps such as Tinder making it extremely easy to talk to multiple partners at a single time which eradicates the dominance of monogamy in today’s culture. Having “side chicks” or multiple girls under one’s belt is considered a boastful achievement amongst predominantly males. As society appears to value independence and self-determination more than love, individuals are more consumed with living a successful life on their own and tend to overlook the importance of a partner. Today, seeking a partner is mostly based on physical sex and a means of self pleasure rather than all of the compassionate elements that build a meaningful partnership. While casual sex is extremely liberating to do openly and without shame, it has also established a far-reaching gap between two partners as it has taken the value out of sex. Most individuals no longer have a desire for relationships, but yearn solely for sexual satisfaction making it extremely difficult for the major percentage of individuals who long for meaningful relationships not exclusively based on physical acts.With the emergence of phrases like “Netflix and Chill,” the significance of romance has been effectively vandalized. A single phrase like this has bent the simplicity of spending time with one’s crush into a social media fad or sexual innuendo. While there are humorous aspects to the impression technology has made to love and romance, there are also immense amounts of sexual pressure imposed onto such an innocent activity as watching a movie. Apps like Tinder and Bumble have also stripped the romance out of meeting someone organically and bases an entire interaction on the physical traits of a person. The entire foundation of meeting someone via tinder is deciding whether the individual to swipe left or right on is attractive. This eradicates the possibility of growing attracted to a person’s personality or through conversation making the entire rationale of the application based on shallow qualities. This builds on the idea that these applications are predominantly used to satisfy sexual desires and allows strangers to meet and hook-up with no strings attached. This does not dismiss the thousands of relationships that have developed and flourished due to dating apps, but rather emphasizes the dominant means of usage that society has manipulated into its practice. In the midst of all our current digital rage, society has over-sexualized and de-romanticized love. Compared to the Victorian Era, the sexual repression that Foucault addresses has been completely eradicated from the foundation of today’s culture. As sex is more openly discussed, it gives revolutionary importance to the discourse of sexuality. Foucault found that the open discussion of sex is both resistant and of uttermost importance to the individualized liberation of our society. Today’s discourse on sexuality has completely changed in comparison to that of the Victorian era in that it shapes the way that we view sex, preaching while simultaneously promising a better and more liberated way of life. However, we have saturated sex and sexuality with such importance that we now distinguish it as the answer to legitimizing who and what we are, similar to the way that past generations used astrology and metaphysics. We have become so infatuated in the deployment of sexuality that we base the wellbeing of humanity’s liberation on thriving eroticism. Foucault insists that the paradox of this idea that sex holds the key to our liberation is the materialization of the power of discourse that is employed on us. If we were to resist this power, we should not concentrate only on sexuality but the body and its physical pleasures that sexuality attempts to appropriate. For example, breasts are a prominent feature on the bodies of women and they are the vessels to which mothers feed their newborn babies. However, breasts have been hypersexualized by the discourse of sexuality as features of physical attractiveness. The powers of discourse have appropriated the female anatomy and manipulated it into a sexual construct. The current discourse on love and sex today deploys the oversexualization of its existence. Society see things from a sexual point of view rather than simply seeing. As 20 some old college students in New York City, a majority of the NYU student population has had their fair share of bar makeouts, tinder dates, and casual sex. However, with NYU’s main objective to instill individualization and independence in its students, it can be rather difficult to find romantic partners, especially when it comes to serious relationships. As students tend to be more driven in their selfish desires (sexually and mentally), we lose the need to settle down and find someone not only to have sex with but love. At least from my perspective, it has been hard to weed through the herds of testosterone-filled NYU boys, who are only looking to get in your pants, and find that one genuine guy who is not just looking at the size of your breasts. Not to over generalize, but it is rather difficult for heterosexual girls at NYU to find boys of that nature. It may be the digital generation and the growingly staggering difficulty to find partners in today’s society but as Foucault hypothesized, the openness of sex in our generation has liberated us but has also impacted our social sphere in that sex has legitimized who and what we are. To put it into perspective, the most popular way to meet someone romantically is via the digital app, Tinder, and the entire basis of this application is rooted in sexual desire and physicality. This summarizes the over-sexualization of this generation as well as the growing difficulty in avoiding the shallow standards of dating perpetuated onto our public sphere. The distinctions of love and sex between the Victorian Era, 20th Century, and today’s 21st century is baffling. Two centuries ago, the Bourgeoisie would be flabbergasted at the non-repressed oversexualization of today’s discourse on sex; while one century ago, the 20th century romantics would be shocked at the lack of love and marriage present. The Victorian Era was a time of repression when the open discussion of sex was forbidden outside the confines of one’s home, while the 20th century trail blazed an outburst of all these suppressed feelings of sexual desire influencing the art and literature of the time. From then on, the 20th century opened the door to the acceptance of casual sex and its open discourse in the 21st Century. Foucault argues that the original censorship of sexuality in the Victorian Era allowed for the complexification of discourse and its resulting acceptance. Therefore, if it were not for the repression and secrecy of sex, the discourse would have never been exposed and built upon. Only by breaking the secrecy of its existence precisely allowed for the examination of sex. Today, digital media and independence may have built society’s partial detachment from love but this can change in a matter of years. The oversexualization of the public perspective has tainted the perception of love in today’s generation, but that is not to say that we are not growing and building upon the current discourse. As Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil), the ancient poet of the Augustan Period, once said: “Omnia vincit amor. Love conquers all.”
All Research Proposal
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