Merleau-Ponty on the Sexed Body

In: Journal of Phenomenological Psychology
Gavin Rae Universidad Complutense de Madrid Spain

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This paper engages with Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s account of the sexed body in the Phenomenology of Perception. I focus on his notion of the sexual schema to show that, contrary to a number of feminist critiques, it does not (1) posit a neutral body overcoded by culturally-contingent sexual determinations or (2) erase the feminine body, but is informed by Merleau-Ponty particular version of the phenomenological reduction whereby factic determinations are “bracketed” to permit the object under study to reveal itself as it is rather than as we wish it to be or have been conditioned to think it. I subsequently defend Merleau-Ponty against the long-standing claim that entwining sexuality with existence prevents an analytic and by extension positive conception of sexuality by arguing that he rejects the monadic logic that this charge is premised on to instead challenge us to think of sexuality in terms of its integration with an individual’s entire embodied, embedded existence. The result is an analysis that emphasizes the ambiguity, afoundationalism, individuality, and open-ended immanent expressivity of sexuality.

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