Desexualization and sexualization within phases of formalization and informalization
ASW Utrecht University Amsterdam, Netherlands
This paper discusses long-term changes in sexuality by connecting and integrating them into phases of formalization and informalization. The process of formalization of manners and disciplining of people as it proceeded until the late nineteenth century is related to and comprises a process of desexulization: controlling the dangers of sexuality by increasingly repressing sex and restricting it within marriage and by increasingly regulating sexual urges via the inner fears of a rather rigid and authoritarian conscience. This resulted in an increasingly stronger taboo on sex in public and in private, and to a large extent it was even banned from consciousness.
From the end of the nineteenth century onwards, there was an informalization of manners and an "emancipation of emotions": emotions that had been denied and repressed, including all those related to sexuality, (re)gained access to consciousness and wider acceptance in more informal social codes. In this way, the process of informalization is connected to what can be called a process of sexualization. The paper discusses the present use of this concept, which is mainly moral and loaded with negative connotations. Moral motives often result in an exaggeration of research findings of sexualization in this sense. This paper argues to interpret these findings within the framework of sexualization as a process. It comprises a polemic between the two concepts, arguing against this moral concept and in favour of a process concept of sexualization, a sexualisation that refers to the emancipation of sexuality and its integration into everyday life.