Sexuality and Foucault

While reading “The History of Sexuality – Volume 1: An Introduction” by Michel Foucault, his words were slightly perplexing. Therefore, please bear with me through this post if I interpreted anything incorrectly.

In this reading, Foucault discusses a few concepts to further understand this idea of sex and sexuality. One idea is the repressive hypothesis, which states that the history of sexuality is a history of repression; therefore, sex is something that, besides for reproductive reasons, is considered unlawful. Foucault also states that the only way to free ourselves from this hypothesis is to be more open about sex and discuss the topic more freely. However, the author disagrees with this concept and brings up the idea that discourse about sex has become greater as well as the idea that ones sexuality says a lot about their character.

Through this reading, Foucault wonders about the relationship between sex, power, and knowledge. The author discusses how he believes power is a multi-faceted object; it is both productive as well as repressive, found everywhere working in and on everything. Therefore, sexuality is a tunnel for power to flow through, and through individuals in society, power is able to freely flow throughout society itself. In the end, Foucault describes how we as a society believe that our sexuality is what makes us who we are; however, in reality, sexuality is simply just a social construct that makes us as a population easier to control.

Again, as mentioned before, if I am interpreting Foucault’s words correctly, I would have to mainly agree with what Foucault is saying. I disagree with Foucault when he states his disagreement with the repressive hypothesis. I believe that sex, while more widely accepted today, is something that was in fact repressed in earlier societies. Therefore, I agree with his latter statement that discussion regarding the topic of sex has become greater in more recent years. Sex can be seen throughout all of our society today. Many agencies will use this idea of “sex appeal” as advertising techniques and even many movies will use the idea of sex as their main theme (Knocked Up, Friends With Benefits, and No Strings Attached, just to name a few). Foucault was most definitely correct with his ideas expressed in this reading, and I believe that they are prevalent in society today.

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2 Replies to “Sexuality and Foucault”

  1. I agree with you that the topic of sex has become more common and socially accepted, as we can see in the media. But, related to Foucault’s point that sexuality is a form of social control, I think there is still some push-back, mostly from the older generation that holds most positions in power. For example, it would be ridiculous for a professional to walk around in provocative clothing, and today’s media stars that flaunt their bodies are seen as delinquents. In the same nature, I wonder if when our generation gets older, we will enter the roles of our predecessors and move out of our rebellious “show off your body phase,” or if we will see doctors and lawyers walking around in miniskirts. When we become the older generation we will know whether the structure of power that represses sexuality is fixed, and we simply move into it as we grow older, or whether it can actually change as a result of a more progressive and open generation.

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  2. I agree that sex is used to repress people but I think it is important to call attention to who is repressed the most- women. One thing that even Liz alluded to with her professionals in miniskirts idea, is that the discourse is almost entirely around women so when Foucault expresses his concern that sex is a form of social control I couldn’t agree more- except that while this intersectionally affects women it is mostly women who are subject to the taboos (or lack there of) surrounding sex. Yes, in patriarchy there is some expectation of men and boys to deliver on the sexual prowess front, but women are the ones who are directly affected by taboos. Whether there is a taboo or not surrounding sexuality men are generally accepted for having sex and if they do not are either shamed or they can get away with just not talking about their experiences- people will still assume they have some kind of experience. The fact that when we think in terms of professionals and celebrities being promiscuous, so far all the examples discussed have been about how WOMEN professionals and celebrities dress/act.

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