Michel Foucault

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Foucault argues that there are cultural forces that regulate sex in America. Are these the same as the forces that regulate how we eat?

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Foucault makes comparisons between societal strictures about healthy diet and healthy sexuality. Philosophers, especially Stoics, drew direct parallels between abstinence from food and drink and abstinence from sex. Overindulgence in either was unhealthy, and the ability to consciously abstain from good food, which was often described in voluptuous, sensual terms,...

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Foucault makes comparisons between societal strictures about healthy diet and healthy sexuality. Philosophers, especially Stoics, drew direct parallels between abstinence from food and drink and abstinence from sex. Overindulgence in either was unhealthy, and the ability to consciously abstain from good food, which was often described in voluptuous, sensual terms, was a test of one's control over one's body. In short, food and sex, while essential to life, were pleasures of the flesh. Early Christian thinkers sometimes argued that sex should only be undertaken for procreation, just as people should eat food for nourishment only. In modern times, similar "regulations" exist, though not, for the most part, in law. Cultural mores caution against overindulgence in sex (though these mores remain gendered in nature) and, perhaps less so, in food. But these mores exist in tension with popular culture, driven by advertising and undergirded by capitalism. People constantly interact with advertising, television programming, and internet content that promotes sex (or, more accurately, a certain kind of sex.) People are also bombarded with advertising for unhealthy foods alongside images that promote unhealthy attitudes about the body. There are very few actual "regulations" about how people eat or engage in sexual activity. But the kinds of cultural pressures that "regulate" each exist in tension with each other and with some so-called "traditional" values.

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