What Creates Sexuality?

John Storey’s book on power presents a new way to think about sexuality. We commonly associate the Victorian age with hypocritical views of sexuality that produced draconian laws, but Storey writes that the Victorians did not repress sexuality, they actually invented it (Cultural Theory and Popular Culture 130). Storey expands on his unorthodox view by explaining how suppression causes creation. Even though the Victorian era produced laws that imposed moral disapproval of certain sexual behaviors, this also created a reverse effect of the suppressed behaviors becoming a subculture of society. This is similar to the “Barbra Streisand effect”, in which by suppressing a certain behavior or bit of knowledge ends up creating greater media coverage. After Barbra Sterisand tried to hide pictures of her house, the media ended up covering the story and she got more unwanted exposure due to her actions. In a way, the power struggle of Victorian morals moved the more open sexual environment underground and made it look “cool” to engage in culturally unapproved sexual behavior.

As society exerted its power in order to educate people that sexual behavior was immoral, a power struggle sprung up in that people who were used to open sexual discussion had to go underground. The power of the state influenced sexuality by censoring speech and media that it deems obscene, but this in turn can make it all the more interesting due to the “unlawfulness” of partaking in sexual media. For example, nudity in modern day America is not as tolerated as nudity in modern day Europe. In America it is only acceptable for adults to look at genitalia, whereas in Europe you can find nudity in something as widely available as a shower ad in a weekly supermarket flyer.

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