MODULE 11 – Lecture
Objectives of this module
To gain a better understand contrasting views of sexuality
Understanding current policy and practice surrounding sexuality through Foucault
analysis of power and control

Question to consider
Do you believe what is ‘desirable’
and/or beautiful sexually is determined
biologically or culturally?

Views about sexuality

Essentialist View
• Modern essentialism consists of a
belief that certain phenomena are
natural, inevitable, and biologically
determined. Argues there is a core
of natural sexuality (varying in
incidence and power as a result of
historical factors) that is basically
unchanging in biological and
psychological essence.


Constructionist View
• Social constructionism rests on the
belief that reality is socially
constructed and emphasises
language as an important means by
which we interpret experience.
Assumes that the body and its
desires do alter in profound ways
according to the social and moral
rules which seek to govern them.

Homosexuality: legal status around the world
In the news…
“Indonesian anti-gay law created because ‘homosexuality is a disease’”
…. “I hope the plan can materialise as soon as possible because [the rise of LGBT
activities] is alarming”
“… worried because homosexuality was an “infectious disease and against religious
“We’re being consistent in our efforts to eradicate LGBT (behaviour) because it’s
very destructive ……. thousands of people were having “deviant sex” in the region”
Since then, police have raided nightclubs, saunas, hair salons, hotels and even
private homes in pursuit of LGBT people.
Gay people have been publicly flogged in Aceh under the province’s Islamic legal

In the news…
In the news…
Aussie transgender athlete banned from
women’s league
Question to consider: How can we
relate this issue to the discourse and
policing of sexuality?

Homosexuality is a crime in Iran:
punishable by death penalty
“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals”
Homosexuality is against the law in
the Islamic Republic of Iran
Sharia, the Islamic legal system,
condemns homosexuality as a crime
worthy of death
threatens gay individuals with lashes
and the death penalty
Case Study Example
Hassan Afshar was a 19-year-old
when he was sentenced to death for
having homosexual sex.
He was hanged in Arak’s Prison in
Markazi Province on 18 July 2016
He had no access to a lawyer and the
judiciary rushed through the
investigation and prosecution,
convicting and sentencing him to
death within two months of his arrest

Iran’s gay mullah forced to flee the
Hate killings in Australia
The NSW Police Gay and
Lesbian Unit found 24 cases of
‘hate killings’ between 1988 and
1994 in which the catalyst for
the fatal violence was the sexual
orientation of the victim.
R v Dunn (NSW SC): Verdict in
April 1995 – Claim by 20 year
old male of self-defence and
homosexual panic, in what was
described by police as a
gruesome murder in an isolated
cycleway. Crown offered
evidence that defendant had
gone “poofter bashing” when he
encountered his victim.
R v Triffit (Tas SC): Defendant
who pleaded guilty to bashing
victim outside public toilet in
June 1994. Defendant alleged
that victim “was perving on
him”. Judge found that accused
“not generally hostile towards
homosexuals” and that he
exhibited contrition for his


How one is
defines who is
and is not
can also be
and this is
discourse and
is intimately
tied to
Discourses are
not neutral,
but are often
shaped by
people with
the power and
knowledge to
define that
governs the
way we talk
The way we
see any issue
is often
shaped by the
language we
use to
describe the

Power & Discourse
1960s onwards:
From homosexual, to gay and lesbian –
identity politics movements on the basis of
identification with ‘master-discourses’
Challenged the dominant (institutionalised)
meanings that applied to the category
Homosexuality is understood to be the
deviation from the heterosexual norm

Foucault and Sexuality
WTF: What the Foucault
Sexuality as a deviant act
According to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith…
“Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them
on the same level as marriage would mean not only the
approval of deviant behaviour…but would also obscure
basic values which belong to the common inheritance of
Homosexuality was/is perceived in some societies to be
acts against the natural moral law.

History of sexuality
The key link between sexuality and society is the need to regulate sexuality in the
interests of social order.
Prior to late 19th century:
People engaged in sexual acts and behaviours, but were not understood to have
distinct sexual identities
‘Sexuality’ emerged as a discrete attribute of human experience in 19th century
European thought
Rise of professional discourses regulating personal conduct and behaviour
Emergence of specific forms of sexual deviance.
Foucault’s historical analysis of
sexuality as deviance
Sinfulness of acts of sodomy is replaced with the `homosexual’ as a wholly distinct
deviant person
Creation of the homosexual as a category of deviant person, was the precursor to
moral panics and legal campaigns directed at homosexuals
Paradoxically, this creation of a deviant category, by increased study, regulation and
‘treatment’ and legal punishment, served to create a new awareness of difference
and then of the possibilities of resistance towards the deviant label that emerged in
gay and lesbian subcultures and the gay and lesbian movement.

Foucault on sexuality and bio-power
Surveillance and
regulation of large
groups of people
in society
Medical control
over women’s
Regulation of
children’s sexuality
Regulation of
procreative sex
among malefemale couples
Definition and
discipline of
perversion (esp.

Criticisms of Foucault
Critics have challenged Foucault’s assumption that the writings of elite theorists
influenced the way ordinary people lived their lives.
People thought of sexuality and sexual orientation as a sort of primary identity long
before the nineteenth century.
Critics have challenged the idea that ancient or medieval societies mainly organized
sexuality around good and bad acts while modern ones do so on the basis of
Research has undermined the idea that coherent systems or models of sexual
behaviour and identity succeed each other chronological sequence.

Policing and surveillance of sexuality
Cancelling the NSW Safe Schools
Anti same sex marriage
Laws against same sex adoption
Anti-homosexuality laws
Medicalisation of childbirth
Under-policing LGBT Communities:
Police Non-response and Victim
Over-policing LGBT Communities:
Police Non-response and Victim

Sexuality in the Criminal Justice
Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) continue
to experience both blatant and subtle forms of discrimination in everyday life
These individuals experience discrimination at the extreme end of the spectrum,
often becoming the victim of hate crimes as a result of their LGBT identity
This increases the likelihood that many will, at some point, come into contact with
the criminal justice system.
LGBT individuals who become involved in the criminal justice system due to their
participation in criminal activity may also experience discrimination in legal
processes or in the prison system

Degree of violence and discrimination
experienced in Australia
70% of those surveyed
had experienced physical
abuse, threats of violence
or verbal abuse in a public
36% of women and 39%
of men reported being
threatened with violence;
11% of women and 20%
of men reported being
12% of women and 18%
of men reported being
harassed by the police,
including 6% of men and
2% of women who
reported being physically
assaulted by the police.

Barriers to accessing support services
An inability by support services/practitioners to view intimate partner violence outside of a
heterosexual framework;
An assumption that intimate partner violence is mutual in LGBTIQ relationships;
Insensitivity to and/or lack of awareness of the specific needs/issues of the LGBTIQ
Discrimination, or fear of discrimination,
particularly from police and the criminal
justice system;

The belief that sexuality is a fundamentally social, and therefore historical structure
lies at the heart of sexual history.
It challenges the traditional view that the erotic is a natural phenomenon to which
society has to react.
Historians have increasingly come to emphasise the ways in which what has been
seen as a biological truth is shaped by culture into a complex unity of plural and
diverse identities, subjectivities, beliefs, behaviour, ideologies and erotic practices. It
is a historical not a natural unity.
While debates remain between the essentialist and the constructionist views of
sexuality, and new challenges from queer theory, social constructionist scholarship
on human sexuality has provided the intellectual foundation for the history of