THE SELF IN ALTERNATIVE REALITIES
It may be something of an irony that human sexuality, frequently viewed as constant across the human record, is actually among the forms of behavior most dependent upon contextualizing contingencies. Modern societies represent an unprecedented point in social evolution where sexual desire and cultural expectations increasingly cease to mirror one another closely (Simon and Gagnon 1986).
Elias (1978) and Foucault (1978) suggest that concepts of privacy, the modern self, and the flourishing of the erotic as a widely distributed personal motive all tended to coincide as a distinctive aspect of the modern Western experience. Privacy has several dimensions. One dimension speaks to solitude, containing, as relatively distinct sub-dimensions, isolation and insulation, both having separate physical and psychological references. A second dimension speaks to the degree to which the management of the appearance of the self is required or controlled. The modern self appears with a profoundly enlarged capacity or necessity to be insincere and to deceive others as an aspect of normal human development. It is Elias (1978) who reminds us of the transformation in socialization that gives rise to the modern self, a self exemplified by a shift from the prototype of the warrior, who must be socialized to be what he appears to be—a killer, to the prototype of the courtier, who must be trained not to be necessarily what he appears to be, as well as to cope with others who may not be what they appear to be.
The sexual, in such contexts, becomes an occasion for enlarged internal dialogues as private thoughts must mesh with public behaviors that have profound social implications (Simon and Gagnon 1987; Freud 1915; Trilling 1972; Goffman 1959; Plummer 1975; Weinberg 1983). One consequence of this is that conventionalized interpersonal scripts, nonsexual and sexual, tend to be shaped by their ability to give permission for realizing subjective desires that are often not necessarily manifest in what is conventionally seen as implicit in such scripts, as metaphor links the public and private in what are often mysterious ways—mysterious even to the individual actor.
The enlargement of the scope of the erotic, as well as the amount of the social landscape it is allowed to stake a claim in, has been a major but far from
exclusive source of the empowering of psychic reality. Within such enlarged interior spaces, a self may have been in the process of discovering ways of relating to the external social world that previously may have been the experience of only an exceptional minority and for which there was little by way of shared explanation that might have “normalized” the experience.
Theories of “normal” development are invariably implicit in all explanations of “deviance” and serve, even retrospectively, to facilitate control. One of the major “tasks” of theories of deviance is to protect the legitimacy of theories of normality (Cohen 1987).