What purpose does it serve dominant social groups to control the sexual choices and lives of people?

What purpose does it serve dominant social groups to control the sexual choices and lives of people?


To my students… (I am a teacher and so I
will sound like a lecturer here, forgive me for that, I can’t speak any other way,
too many lectures I have given in my life) I teach the origins of Patriarchy to my students; as a scholar of women studies. Therefore this question fascinates me.
The question of the ‘how’ and the ‘why’. What purpose, what function, what role,
does it serve ruling classes, dominant social groups and governments, to control, to regiment the sexual choices and lives of people. How is this…
we might call it, “a sexual regime of control”; how is it linked to political rule;
how is it linked to economic changes; in other words, what we call the political economy. How is this expressed in culture and sanctioned by religion? I won’t go into that part now,
that will be for the second part of my talk. So, I am going to take a leaf out of my teaching. This is what I always tell my students that there is (and you will see) the parallels
with the oppression of alternative sexual choices and lives. And that there is nothing “natural”
about the subordination of women. It is not pre-ordained or biological.
But it is socially constructed always. Although, of course, the forms it has taken
have been changing over the periods of time. But every time it takes a particular form,
it creates a myth that it has always existed, that it has always been so
and that this is the “natural”. Nature therefore, is always called upon,
it is invoked to validate an oppressive code of sexual control. So, it could be ruling classes or Governments
who use arguments from Nature and say, “it is Nature.” And so, in a sense, Nature becomes this battleground,
it’s being invoked in this battle. So, the outlines… the bare bones of the argument I make… by now it is well known. why and when
did women’s sexuality come to be controlled historically. This happened at a far-earlier period in our civilizational histories. The purpose of this control was: a) to ensure that property is passed from father to son. b) that the purity of the family name (so to speak) is maintained. Therefore, Property->A), Patriliny ->B),
which is the inheritance of property & name from father to son (it’s also the name of the clan or the caste.) And Progeny ->C). So, in a sense, it’s these 3 P’s in sociology – property, progeny and patriliny. If you understand that,
you pretty much understand the dynamic of social control in India. And before agriculture and livestock emerged
as the sources of wealth, when people were still hunters-and-gatherers
and there was no wealth to control, it was not necessary for an individual man
to know that this child in my tribe is my child. That It’s a fruit of my loins (so to speak). It was not necessary because there was no property
that I needed to hand-down to my child. Therefore, there was no need for me to control or police the sexuality of the women of my family or my clan. What would happen then is that the children of a tribe… (I am talking about the tribes that are migratory,
there is no agriculture yet) … [the children of a tribe] …
would be looked after by all the adults in that tribe without it being necessary for a man in that tribe
to know that this child was my child. The link then between the mother and the child,
was far stronger in this case. Now this change is gradually over a period of time
when agricultural societies start, when livestock also becomes a form of wealth,
when women begin to be confined within the home (there is a restriction or policing of women’s mobility outside the home and the women’s sexual freedoms and sexual choices.) Now why does this happen? This restriction alone can ensure the sexual purity of women
and ensuring the sexual purity of women alone can ensure that there is the certainty of knowledge that
‘this child is my child’. So, in other words,.. please, let us imagine there was a period of time
when it was not necessary to say “en pulla, en rattam, en saadi, en sottu”
(my son, my blood, my caste, my property) So, when that comes into being,
then it becomes necessary to confine women of certain classes within the home
and to police their sexuality. If we could not have done this in history, if women could have moved freely
across caste and class groups, then neither caste nor class would have been sustained. And this is a fundamental truth. This confinement,
this sexual subordination of women, this sexual control,
this division of the women into good women and bad women, the chaste wife and the whore/vamp/slut or whatever you call her, that control is essential, it’s one of the building blocks
by which a certain social order is sustained – whether it is on the basis of caste
or on the basis of class. In fact, Periyar would use a very nice word to refer to this. He called this “GarbhAaTchi)”. He would say it is a regime of control over
women’s reproductive lives and sexual choices. ‘AaTchi’ as you know is ‘form of government’. And whenever there is a resistance by women to women’s choices (as happened recently when women choose partners across castes,
especially if they are from the oppressed castes) then the kind of anxiety and the ‘backlash’ that we see
is something more, it’s something very deep. In fact what it is
is an attempt to reconstruct these boundaries. It is an attempt to raise the boundaries again. It’s an attempt to rebuild, re-affirm these boundaries
precisely when these boundaries have been challenged. So, the point I have made so far is that there is – gradually across human history and civilization – a deep distrust of any sexual self-expression
that is not conducted for the purpose of procreation, that is not tied to the reproductive function,
and that is therefore not performed within the bounds of the family. That distrust has started…
that distrust has its origins in the subordination of women. This is consolidated with the age of
(what we know as) industrial capitalism and it becomes even more necessary
to ensure that property is passed on. This is also the period when there is a very interesting separation
between the home and the workplace. workplace becomes the factory. The home is no longer a unit of production,
the independent artisan, craftsman, tool-person. The home becomes the site of consumption and of reproduction. What happens within families –
a lot of production is unpaid work. women are doing work without receiving wages. Women are reproducing labor power
for the next generation to go into factories and work. So, there is biological reproduction as well. And there is ideological transmission of values. That ideology is constantly telling us…
that ideology is transmitted within the family through schools, religious institutions…
but the family is the primary mode where it is translated. And that ideology is telling us constantly
that this is how it’s always been, although it was only about 200 years ago. And that this is ‘Natural’,
this is how it has always been. It’s never changed. This is the divinely ordained way of being. When that family form becomes central in what sociologists call
a capitalist society or a bourgeois society, then any sexual relationship either by men or by women
that is outside the bounds of that family, which does not serve the social needs of industrial capitalism,
that sexual relationship is threatening. That sexual relationship questions this regime of control. This is also why historically if you see, it is only over the last 200 years that in many parts of Western Europe and North America, a very repressive regime towards homosexuality
has actually emerged. You can actually map it and you can look historically
at the making of industrial capitalism, the ideal of the bourgeois family and the stamping out of any other alternate sexuality
that does not serve its purpose. Subtitles by the Amara.org community

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