«en speciel Art af Lidenskabelighed»: En diskursanalyse om kjønnslivet i Norge 1790-1860
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The French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) put forward a thesis that a discursive change took place in the second half of the eighteen hundreds. How Europeans talked about sexual life changed when the medical and psychological professions took interest in the subject. Unlike previous times they understood sexual life in scientifically categories, feelings, diseases and identities. In this research I have tried to find how Norwegian jurists in the first half of the eighteen hundreds talked about sexual life and justified its regulation. This examination is based on an understanding of sexual life as a social construct, and a hypothesis that it is possible to find discursive traces on sexual life in the judicial literature of this era. The purpose of this research has been to get a better understanding of the sexual discursive change that Foucault advocated. The most interesting find of this research are indications on a discursive change about what is natural, or what it will say that something is natural. The Norwegian jurists in the first half of the eighteen hundreds highlighted a distance from an understanding of nature as based on morals and God’s law, and over to a nature that was based on urges and feelings. Judicial literature reflected this discourse with feelings and urges becoming a valid argument on crimes of a sexual type. Where possible, the perpetrator’s feelings and urges could “excuse” his actions, such as sodomy, adultery and concubinage. Natural feelings and urges was advocated as a not-criminal motive. This opened for a discourse where it was perhaps possible to discuss whether certain sexual crimes should be punishable or not. This change was not absolute however, as both understandings of nature seems to have existed side by side, or even crossed in to each other. Other interesting finds show how some of the sources were comfortable in discussing unlikely or unnatural sexual acts, such as sodomy or female rape of men. This research also shows that the damage one would take from an offensive sexual act was decided by one’s gender or moral-social status. For example, some jurists claimed that a man would lose so little honour from being raped by a woman, that the crime was perhaps a violation of his freedom, rather than an illicit sexual act. A male rape of a reputable woman, where she would lose much of her honour, was a much more serious crime in comparison.