Body Matters: Essays on the Sociology of the Body

By Sue Scott; David Morgan | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2

'With My Body I Thee Worship'; The Social Construction of Marital Sex Problems

David Clark

We are often reminded of the countless procedures which Christianity once employed to make us detest the body; but let us ponder all the ruses that were employed for centuries to make us love sex, to make the knowledge of it desirable and everything said about it precious. Let us consider the stratagems by which we were induced to apply all our skills to discovering its secrets, by which we were attached to the obligation to draw out its truth, and made guilty for having failed to recognize it for so long. These devices are what ought to make us wonder today. Moreover, we need to consider the possibility that one day, perhaps in a different economy of bodies and pleasures, people will no longer quite understand how the ruses of sexuality, and the power that sustains its organisation, were able to subject us to that austere monarchy of sex, so that we became dedicated to the endless task of forcing its secret, of exacting the truest of confessions from a shadow. (Foucault, 1984:159)

The subject of this chapter, the history and development of 'marital' sex therapy, might easily be seen within commonsense versions to represent one of the ways in which, during the course of the twentieth century, a particular realm of interpersonal problems was liberated from the shrouds of secrecy, anxiety and repression. Some accounts of the development of sex therapy and the knowledge base which underpins it therefore emphasize a sea change from thinking about sexual activity as procreation, to seeing it as recreation, and give considerable prominence to the extent to which this new science is capable of increasing the sum of human happiness. In a recent self-help guide, Masters, Johnson and Kolodny, for example, make the following claim:

…we believe that learning about sexuality in an objective fashion will enable our readers to examine important sexual issues-some intensely personal, some social, some moral-and emerge with deeper insights into themselves and others. We also believe that sexual knowledge can lead to reasoned, responsible inter-personal sexual behaviour and can help make important personal decisions about sex. In short, learning

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