Bodies, Sexualities and Identities: Accepting Changes, Reflecting Minds, Redefining Self – Literature review Example

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The paper "Bodies, Sexualities and Identities: Accepting Changes, Reflecting Minds, Redefining Self"  is an outstanding example of a literature review on philosophy. ‘ Deployments of power are directly connected to the body – to bodies, functions, physiological processes, sensations, and pleasures; far from the body having to be effaced, what is needed is to make it visible through an analysis in which the biological and the historical are not consecutive to one another … but are bound together in an increasingly complex fashion in accordance with the development of the modern technologies of power that take life as their objective. ’ (Foucault 1978: 151-2)   Michel Foucault is one of the philosophers who have redefined western thought in terms of bodies and sexualities.

Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir are feminists who have continued in the quest for identities, challenging the ways in which social constructs like gender and identity define the perspectives of individuals and society. This essay shall discuss the relationship between power, gender, sex, sexualities and constructs of identities as posited by Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir. It will argue that even in this post-modern era of individualisation, gender and sexualities as identities are still powerful; young people of the next generation constantly strive to reinforce their gender identities positively replaying gender stereotypes or through the constant negative, repudiation of ‘ abject identities’ / deviant behaviour (Pascoe 2005, pp.

332-3). They render gender as fluid and transferable; therefore, there is a need to constantly reaffirm their gender identities. Repudiating abject identities thus become an essential part of retaining gender identities, as seen in the exchange of terms like ‘ gay’ , ‘ faggot’ Pascoe (2005, pp.

332-3) and ‘ slut’ among teenage groups (Ratter and Riccioli 2009, p. 2). However, at least some sections of society will challenge the concepts of the gendered nature of sex and are openly redefining individual identities as in the case of study of “ the Princess Boy” (http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=Dfkb0kdo0sQ). And, in this aspect, Foucault’ s posit of delinking sexed bodies from gender constructs appear relevant.   Bio-power, Gender, Sex and Bodies Foucault (1977, p. 194), held that, rather than being something ‘ natural’ , both the human body and sexuality are cultural constructs. He goes far beyond examining sexualities and bodies in the context of gender and traces their genealogy to the power transition from pre-modern times to the present from monarchy to governing states.

In pre-modern times, power was controlled by monarchs. However, in modern societies, power is controlled by governments that have to resort to different modes of administering surveillance, to promote growth and support life. This transition gave rise to, what he calls, ‘ bio-power’ - a power structure that consisted of two poles (Foucault 1976, p. 140 cited in Armstrong 2005, p. 1). One pole dealt with effective governance of the subjects and conserved life processes of the society, including birth, death and health, intimate relationships and so on.

Simultaneously, the other pole - a ‘ disciplinary power’ , dealt with the human body as objects to be manipulated and trained (Foucault 1980: 151), like for example, military force.   This enabled human bodies to be scrutinized, disciplined, regulated and exercised under constant surveillance by oneself as also by the governing bodies. According to Foucault (Foucault 1980: 52), an individual is not merely an individual created by power, nor is the individual negatively repressed by the governing forces; rather, the individual is modified by power and power is modified by the knowledge of the individual.

Individual behaviour comes under scrutiny as instruments for studying ‘ deviant’ behaviour, or ‘ delinquency’ (Foucault, 1975: 277) as those requiring corrective measures, by the governing power. This is where sex, sexual behaviour and human bodies attain relevance, since sex and sexualities of human bodies became tools of power-control or ‘ regulatory power’ , to be brought under surveillance and discipline in case of ‘ deviance’ (Armstrong, 2005 p. 1).


Armstrong, Aurelia 2005, “Foucault and Feminism” in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Website updated 2005. Accessed 19/05/2012.

Boys will be Girls 20/20, 2011, Available online Accessed 19/05/2012

Butler, Judith, 1999, Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge. p. 43.

de Beauvoir, Simone, 1949, “Introduction - Women as the Other” in The Second Sex Online version accessed 19/05/2012


Foucault, M., 1975, Discipline and Punish: The birth of the Prison. translated by Alan Sheridan (1977). New York. Pantheon Books.

Foucault, M., 1976, The History of Sexuality Vol 1 p.140.

Foucault, M., 1977, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. A. Sheridan, Harmondsworth: Peregrine. p. 194 - 277.

Foucault, M., 1980, ‘Body/Power’ and ‘Truth and Power’ in C. Gordon (ed.) Michel Foucault: Power/Knowledge, U.K.: Harvester. pp. 50-151.

Foucault, M., 1978, The History of Sexuality, translated by R. Hurley, Penguin Books. pp. 1-155.

Life & Style, 2010, “Why is Angelina turning Shiloh into a boy?” Issue dated Thursday, March 4, 2010. Online version. Accessed 19/05/2012.

Pascoe, C. J, 2005, “Dude, You’re a Fag’: Adolescent Masculinity and the Fag Discourse” in Sexualities. Sage Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA, and New Delhi)

Vol 8(3). pp. 329–346.

Ratter, Emilie and Riccioli, Cassie 2009, “If I Am a Slut, Then What is He? A Developmental Analysis of the Sexual Double Standard” in Journal of Undergraduate Research XII (2009). pp. 1-6.

Romolini, Jennifer, 2010, “Shiloh Jolie-Pitt's new haircut: A tale of creepy gender politics and a whole lot of fear” Online magazine accessed on 19/05/2012.


Santrock, J.W., 2008, Life-Span Development, 10, 439-445. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

“The Princess Boy”, 2011, Online clip accessed on 19/05/2012.

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