Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is a Sex Pervert?

About a week and a half ago I watched WOODY ALLEN's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask (1972). This film is centered around frequently asked questions about SEX and there is an ensuing short story or skit for each inquiry. Whilst watching the segment for the fifth question,"What is a sex pervert?" I became interested because I have never actually known the answer to this question. I have heard the word "PERVERT" used plenty of times and feel I could even use it effectively on my own, but I have never actually heard a definition of what makes a PERVERT a PERVERT.

Lucky for me, though, in my film class, Cinema, Sex and the City 1914-1934 (not to be confused with the one mentioned in my last post), we have been reading and discussing MICHEL FOUCAULT's 1978 thesis, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, which seeks to explain how and why SEX has come to be repressed by the POWERS THAT BE in western society. In the beginning of Part 4, Chapter 3, FOUCAULT addresses how there is no "...all-encompassing strategy, valid for all of society and uniformly bearing on all manifestations of sex." In approaching this problem, FOUCAULT distinguishes four great strategic unities which he sees as "...form[ing] specific mechanisms of knowledge and power centering on sex." These unities are: a hysterization of women, a pedagogization of procreative behavior and a psychiatrization of perverse pleasure; the last one of which contributes to the discussion in this particular post.

FOUCAULT defines "PERVERT" as an instinct that is set aside as separate in physical and psychic realms. He says that "... a clinical analysis was made of all the forms of anomalies by which it could be afflicted; it was assigned a role of normalization... with respect to behavior; and... a corrective technology was sought for these anomalies." So the pervert is an anomaly in the world of sexual normalcy, such as a PEDOPHILE or FOOT-FETISHIST, which were the examples used in my class. According to FOUCAULT, these anomalies are to go into a clinical setting and come out either "cured" of their sexual demons or can at least control them in public.

My professor also brought up SIGMUND FREUD's ideas on PERVERSION. He said that FREUD uses the same sort of definition for the word (one who deviates from the sexual norm), but does not think that these deviations should be in any way "treated" or "cured." It is perfectly natural for sexual preferences and ideas to differ from one person to another and the people who should really be "on the couch" are those who fail to acknowledge this acceptibility of qualities deemed "PERVERSE" in the public eye. Let me provide full disclosure here in saying that I have no citation for these Freudian views. I am simply working on what I understand from my professor's words on the subject.

For one more view of what a makes a PERVERT a PERVERT, I consulted the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY which produced this definition of the word "PERVERSE": "Of a person, action, etc.: going or disposed to go against what is reasonable, logical, expected, or required; contrary, fickle, irrational." So, one of the most respected dictionaries in the world gives a fairly broad definition of the word that echoes FOUCAULT's definition, but also throws in the words "fickle" and "contrary," which I suppose would rope in anyone who has an unstable, fluctuating sense of sexuality and one who does the exact opposite of what is considered the SEXUAL NORM, which, I suppose, would be around HETEROSEXUAL, VAGINAL INTERCOURSE.

Now, back to the WOODY ALLEN film: the aforementioned story that comes after the question about perversion shows a black-and-white game show that features a panel of celebrities, that includes one REGIS PHILBIN, asking yes or no questions in attempt to guess the contestant's particular perversion. As it turns out, the contestant apparently GETS HIS ROCKS OFF by exposing himself in public places (pictured,left; please excuse the poor photo quality). Immediately after the game portion of the show, the host reveals the winner of a mail oriented contest in which contestants send in their fantasies and the best fantasy will then be enacted on the show. Said winner is a Hasidic Jew whose fantasy involves his wife getting on her knees and eating pork while he is scolded and chastised by a dominatrix.

So with all of these examples of SEXUAL PERVERSION, which one can we decide on as THE definition for this mysterious, yet ubiquitous, word? If PERVERSION is deviation from the SEXUAL NORM, then what is this SEXUAL NORM in the modern western world? Well, I consulted the ever-trustworthy source of WIKIPEDIA for an answer and guess what it is? WIKIPEDIA says that, "In the West, many people have relaxed the traditional definitions of normality, choosing instead to define normal sexuality as any sexual practice which does not involve what are regarded as sexual perversions." This takes us in a big circle that again gives rise to the questionm, "WHAT IS A SEXUAL PERVERT?"

In ALLEN's film, the contestant with the hidden PERVERSION appears as a kind old man who looks like he a could be a loving grandfather. The only reason he is a PERVERT is because he is on the fictional gameshow, What's My Perversion? He does not seem strange or threatening until we hear what the man's PERVERSION is. But wait, let's take the answer in two halves: "He likes to expose himself." This does not sound so bad; maybe the man just likes to show his partner his genitals and he likes to hear feedback and admiration. Okay, no big deal. But "IN PUBLIC!" This is where the old man could really upset some people. Does this mean that a PERVERT is not a PERVERT unless he or she acts upon the sexual drive and projects it on to a non-consenting partner? I think this may have something more to do with it, but what if the person in question has desires to expose his or her genitals in public, but stifles the urges. Is this person still a PERVERT in the public eye (considering that the public somehow knows about the person's urges) and can this person be accepted in society because the stifling of his or her urges creates the illusion the he or she fits into the SEXUAL NORM?

I have been writing this BLOG POST on and off all day and still feel as though I am still pretty far away from an answer to the question at hand. I would appreciate some help if anyone has any incite into what it means to be a SEXUAL PERVERT.

4 comments:

Amy said...

I think you hit on it in the last paragraph. A pervert is not a pervert unless he acts upon whatever so said fetish is without consent. A lot of people do a lot of weird shit (see Max Mosley) but with the consent of others. people who act without consent (exposure, pedaphiles, ect.)would normally be considered perverts. Normalcy is always subjective though (see NAMBLA). See now I feel perverted for commenting on this blog.

ayoungpioneer said...

Consent is an issue, but perhaps is it more about norms. Cooper was talking about it today with laws prohibiting oral sex. It used to be out of the norm to commit such a sexual act, and was considered to be 'perverse.' However, now it is not necessarily not perverse, but not considered to be outlandish. I think fetishes are more so subjected to stray from the norm as well. Even if there are more people willing to admit such interests, it does not make it not perverse or normal. Rather it just makes a group of perverts I suppose. But going back to consent, I don't think it has to do with that necessarily. Both people could just be perverts.

I feel like this is a never-ending circle of unanswered questions, but I hope I gave you something.

mark123 said...

FREUDIAN SEXUAL PERVERSION 2009
Sexual perversion. The definition of sexual perversion is anything that go's away from genital sex between a man and a woman. that's to say that Anal sex, Oral sex, Masturbation, Wearing a condom, Are sexual perversions. Anal sex, Oral sex, Between a man and man is sexual perversion. Also Anal sex, Oral sex, Between a woman and a woman is sexual perversion. As is Anal sex, Oral sex, Between a man and a woman sexual perversion. normal sexual behaviour is genital sex between a man and a woman. So there for homosexuality is a sexual perversion as is bisexuality and lesbianism. Anal sex, And oral sex, Between a man and a woman is a sexual perversion.

mark123 said...

Sexual perversion. The definition of sexual perversion is anything that go's away from genital sex between a man and a woman for the object of procreation. That's to say that Anal sex, Oral sex, Masturbation, Wearing a condom, Are sexual perversions. Anal sex, Oral sex, Between a man and man is sexual perversion. Also Anal sex, Oral sex, Between a woman and a woman is sexual perversion. As is Anal sex, Oral sex, Between a man and a woman sexual perversion. normal sexual behaviour is genital sex between a man and a woman. So there for homosexuality is a sexual perversion as is bisexuality and lesbianism. Anal sex, And oral sex, Between a man and a woman is a sexual perversion.