How Men Think of Women and Sex

Hugh Hefner in his own words: “The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous. Women are sex objects. If women weren’t sex objects, there wouldn’t be another generation.”

“Women have always been seen by [heterosexual men] as their exclusive property… ”  This is philosopher Michael Foucault’s thought on how western men think of women in terms of power and sexuality.  There are some more of his ideas (in red) below.  Foucault believed that sex determined power relationships between the genders, and the reason was because Western society considered sex as a science, something to be understood, revealed,  discovered and displayed unlike the East that regarded sex as an art, something that was natural and inherently powerful.  As an art it is not something to be discovered or acquired but rather something that is comfortably enjoyed.  Foucault believed that the Eastern view of sex as art meant not just enjoying it but also keeping it a secret because that is how its inherent power was protected.

I however do not agree with Foucault’s understanding of the Eastern approach to sex. In India for instance,  during the research for my book, I found that there were many manuals written on sex, that treated it as a very precise science.  These were called the kamashatras — or the scientific studies of sex.  These books are detailed, indeed tabulated studies of differences in length, size, functions of penises and vaginas, what the sexual chemistry between different types would be, and a whole list of different methods to acquire orgasms.  These kinds of in-depth studies happened in the West only 1400 years after they were first recorded in India, and were done by the American sexologists Masters and Johnson in the 1970s! Moreover, in the East, the secrecy about sex is a very recent phenomenon — probably not more than 5-600 years old.  But all through the first millennium A.D., sex was not meant to be a hidden subject in India.  It was openly studied, discussed, and displayed everywhere — including in graphic sculptures that would outdo Playboy, and even on the walls of temples! Moreover, unlike Foucault I did find a distinct connection between sex and power in India as well! Click here. However, I do think that some of Foucault’s thoughts below, are typical of patriarchal societies, regardless of whether they are in the East or the West.

  • ‘Women have always been seen by [heterosexual men] as their exclusive property…
  •  Heterosexual men felt that if they practiced homosexuality with other men this would destroy what they think is their image in the eyes of their women.
  •  They think of themselves as existing in the minds of women as master.
  •  They think that the idea of their submitting to another man, of being under another man in the act of love, would destroy their image in the eyes of women.
  •  Men think that women can only experience pleasure in recognizing men as masters.’

Michel Foucault, ‘Sexual choice, sexual act’, in Foucault Live (Interviews, 1961-1984), New York: Semiotext(e), p. 331. French original 1982.

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