A Book Review On The History Of Sexuality English Literature Essay

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Michael Foucault is the French philosopher, historian, one of the most prominent and original thinkers of modern France. His research interests are focused on studying the origin and history of the human sciences.

Between the years 1976-1984 Michael Fuko created a three-volume series of books "The History of Sexuality": "The Will to Knowledge" (Histoire de la sexualité, 1: la volonte de savoir)", "The Use of Pleasure" (Histoire de la sexualite, II: l'usage des plaisirs), and "The Care of the Sel"f (Histoire de la sexualité, III: le souci de soi).

"The will to knowledge", Volume I (1976). In this book, Foucault decides to show how in Western society was formed a special historical experience of sexuality and the subject vehicle that experience. Furthermore, the author focuses on the analysis of political technologies on their depth level.  In his interpretation of the power is a kind of diffuse matter, which coincides with the area of human relations. Authorities in the modern era tends to concentrate around the maximum of the living human body and thus create a special dispositif of sexuality. Power is productive, she creates sexuality. Therefore, it can be argued that power and sexuality are not opposed to each other. The main function of government is the normalization of society. The set of discourses about sex seems to be pretty long. Before she was introduced to the medieval practice of repentance. Since the XIX century are widely distributed medicine and psychiatry. Must be increased and the number of discourses about sex. Dispositif of sexuality comes to replace the medieval dispositive marriage. The place, where implemented, this change is a bourgeois family. Sex is an illusion, particularly the speculative element, generated by contemporary political dispose of sexuality. 

" Use of pleasures " Volume II (1984). The content and nature of the second study that has already significantly different from previous work. Subject of sexuality precedes the subject wants. And the second is the study of Foucault devotes to him. He turns to the analysis of practices followed in the ancient society, those who problematize their sexual behavior by ethical reflection. In ancient times there was the experience related to their own body (dietetics), the ratio of the wife (the economy), the ratio of boys (erotica), relationship to the truth (philosophy). The concept of «ta aphrodisia», as the ancient idea of sexuality, which was problematize through practice itself. These practices resulted in the action of certain aesthetic criteria of existence, through which man was capable of building their lives, as a product. 

"Taking care of yourself", volume III (1984) . In this volume it comes to medical problematization of sexual behavior in antiquity. The main purpose of this problematization was to determine the modes of use pleasures. According to Foucault, an ancient era has given much more attention to dietetics, and food and drink on the importance of the superior sex. Modes of sexual pleasure has not had the importance that they have acquired in the Western world. Only the first centuries of our era were marked by increasing severity of the theme in all branches of ethics of sexual pleasure, and ethical practice of altruism would be ideal.

Lets take a closer look at the first work first volume of the book series that is "The Will to Knowledge", which shows the history of sexuality during the last two centuries, is the analysis of power, and sexuality is the primary technology of power. In this book Foucalt shows the history of sexuality from the ancient times, when sex was free and easy, not controlled and forbidden by religion or state. The author makes an excursion through the times and describes the process of sex perception and development over the centuries. He finishes his discourse in the 20th century, when the topic os sexuality and sex has become more open due to the liberating of views. Also the author points the idea of sexuality being a tool of distributing power from the 17th century.

One of the central ideas that are raised in the book is the idea of "repressive hypothesis" that exists from the 18th century, according to which sex is a taboo. It means that sex is a forbidden topic for discussion, and everything connected with it is concerned to be negative, indecent and rude. But it is a trick that the truth of sex is being repressed. Foucalt disagrees with this statement, to his opinion discourse about the sexuality and sex has become more intensive since the 18th century.

From this time sex has become an object of studies and knowledge, and a new scientific approach to it appeared in the 20th century, that made sex a subject of scientific investigation. On the other hand, the sex has lost it's value as an art of getting pleasure, an art of sensual performance and sensual perception. The author states that ""What is important is that sex was not only a question of sensation and pleasure, of law and interdiction, but also of the true and the false". (Michel Foucault , p. 60)

So, sexual culture in fully reflect the ethnic and religious characteristics of society and identity of the era. When attempting to determine the sexual norms, the leading criteria is often one or another moral standard. The attitude of various cultures and societies to sexuality of the individual is registered on the scale of repressive (prohibitions and convictions) - permissive (permits, and incentives). 

And nowadays there are plenty of studies about sexual nature of human kinds, that explain the truth about us from the point of sex as a key element. This regards for example the studies of Freud, and his approach to human psychology through sexual nature. Michel Foucault points out that the study of sexual culture of society is difficult because the first thing that the requirements and prohibitions are always heterogeneous and ambiguous with respect to different members of society. The fact that one is forgiven, it is strictly forbidden to others. As the distinguishing characteristics may be sex, age, social status, etc.

The author states: "The appearance in nineteenth-century psychiatry, jurisprudence, and literature of a whole series of discourses on the species and subspecies of homosexuality, inversion made possible a strong advance of social controls into this area of "perversity"; but it also made possible the formation of a "reverse" discourse: homosexuality began to speak in its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or "naturality" be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified" (Michel Foucalt).

Foucault explores the phenomenon which in Europe was felt in the 17th century. Reaching its full development two centuries later, the phenomenon of "sensualisation" of power.  He contrasted sexuality with the institution of marriage ("marital unit" according to Foucault ). Sexual relations, that control the relationship and the transfer of names and wealth in the family, are enabling device marriage in all societies. But this institute began to lose its value as economic and political structures have ceased to find it adequate support.

 Since the 18th century the marriage and sex began to be separated from one another, partly displacing one another, and expanding the institution of sexuality. What is a strong contrast between them? Marriage is formed around a system of rules separating permissible from the forbidden. At the base of the sexuality, in contrast, lies power. One of the challenges of the institution of marriage is the reproduction of the game of these relationships, maintaining control of the game law. Sexuality is, in contrast, focuses on the permanent expansion of areas and forms of control. For a marriage relationship certain social status between partners is important, for sexuality - only senses, the quality of pleasures, and impressions.

Foucault shows the number of consequences from this statement.  First, it rejects the "repressive hypothesis" and related periodization of "oppression" and "liberation" of sex. The author states: "We should abandon the hypothesis that modern industrial society initiated repressive in matters of sex. On the contrary, we are witnessing an explosion of heretical forms of sexuality. The main thing: the device is far from the law - even if it is locally based on the procedure of the ban - with the help of mechanisms, coupling between them, provides a flowering of a special kind of pleasure and the multiplication of various kinds of sexuality". (Michel Foucalt)

Secondly, starting from the 18th century the four key points of intersection of power and knowledge are known: 1) importance of female body, intense sexuality, placed in a family space, carrying the responsibility for children, 2) sexuality of children - a theory, under which all children are prone to early sexual activity, being unnatural, it can have undesirable consequences, and 3) a responsibility of married couples for the production of children and control of fertility.

So, the conclusion of Foucault is evident: by its nature sexuality is connected with the power , moreover, it has in this respect the tools of power relations between men and women, senior and junior, administration and population.

Foucault says about power: "It seems to me that first what needs to be understood is the multiplicity of relations of force that are immanent to the domain wherein they are exercised, and that are constitutive of its organization; the game that through incessant struggle and confrontation transforms them, reinforces them, inverts them; the supports these relations of force find in each other, so as to form a chain or system, or, on the other hand, the gaps, the contradictions that isolate them from each other; in the end, the strategies in which they take effect, and whose general pattern or institutional crystallization is embodied in the mechanisms of the state, in the formulation of the law, in social hegemonies".(Michel Foucault, p.101)

Speaking about the ethnography of Foucault, it is really complicated, but worthy of attention.

The concept of power represented in the first volume of Foucault's History of Sexuality captures its refinement. In fact, the author offers a new interpretation of the analysis for a wide class of phenomena of modern society: Foucault uses it to analyze the origin and characteristics of knowledge related to human sexuality. But the concept does not imply any fundamental limits to this understanding of power. Foucault only sets the sample, explaining the specifics of the science of human sexuality based on the consideration of power relations.


So, according to the book "The history of sexuality" by Michel Foucault, our views about sex and sexuality is informed by a "repressive hypothesis". The author studies the process of discussion of sexuality in society through centuries, how was it perceived, possessed and spoken about. The author showed that sexual culture in fully reflect the ethnic and religious characteristics of society and identity of the era, when attempting to determine the sexual norms and moral standard. 

This book also analyzes power, and shows that sexuality is a tool of power, so the author takes a deeper view into the geneology of that power. Such concepts as discourse, power and knowledge are all connected, and are linked in the author's hypothesis. Speaking about the ethnography of Foucault, it is really complicated, but worthy of attention. In his book "The History of Sexuality" the author for the first time analyzes sexuality as a social construction, and studies the origins and the development of our view of sexuality in a totally new way.