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Title: The social construction of 'Sadomasochism' : subjugated knowledges and the broader social meanings of this bodily practice
Author: Beckmann, Andrea
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2000
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The central ideas of this critical criminological thesis on the social construction of "Sadomasochism" are informed by Michel Foucault's politization of "truth" and "body" and represent an attempt to engage in politics of difference'(Sawicki, l991) in order to appreciate the contemporary expansion of the 'body practice' of consensual 'SM'. In order to avoid the traditional dualism of mind/body which 'haunts' much of feminist and deconstructionist accounts on 'sexuality', my thesis draws on Merleau- Ponty's notion of 'lived body'. The 'Spanner'-case [R. v. Brown: 1992-93] and the following decision of the European Court of Human Rights (19.2.1997) are taken as a point of departure in order to explore the relationship between legitimised concepts of 'body-practice' and the now legally restricted 'body-practice' of consensual 'SM'. The first chapter of this thesis attempts to defamiliarize the social constructions of 'sexuality' and 'Sadomasochism' as well as the 'body' and 'pain' as these are 'normalising' concepts of 'truth'. In this context the exploration of the meanings of 'body' and 'sexuality' in contemporary consumer culture is crucial as the criminalisation of consensual 'SM' which involves woundings that are not 'trifling or transient' is based on the protection of health 'of the bodies' involved. The following chapter focuses on the empirical research on consensual 'SM'-body-practice which I conducted within a mainly qualitative research-framework and an interactionist emphasis on meaning during 1996/97 in London and thus provides space for the 'subjugated knowledges' of this consensual body-practice'. The exposure of socially legitimized power relationships which are in many ways contradicted by the realities of "Sadomasochism" is the aim of chapter four of this thesis. Within this chapter I attempt to point out several contradictions of constructed meaning that the social construction of 'Sadomasochism' serves to keep hidden via its function of 'Other'. The project of deconstruction thus not only implies the deconstruction of concepts but also aims to expose: "... the problems which reside in the endeavour to keep meaning pure, to say 'just this' and not 'that', because 'just this' always depends on 'that' which it is not." (Naffine, l997, p.89). Chapter five reflects upon the empirical data and attempts to outline the potential broader social meanings of the rising interest in the consensual bodily practice'of 'SM' within contemporary 'postmodern' consumer culture. Chapter six offers an insight and exploration of the to my knowledge not yet empirically researched upon spiritual dimension of consensual 'Sadomasochism' and introduces the notion of transcendence. Apart from the evaluation of the results of a questionnaire on this topic, diverse examples of other historical spiritual practices within their socio-cultural settings are then analysed in their relevance to the current situation. The conclusion of this thesis attempts to offer an alternative reading of the 'bodily practice' of consensual 'SM' as a potential 'practice of resistance' and also explores its potential relevance in connection to Foucault's notion of the care of oneself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available