Michel Foucault Advocates Sexual Deviency - Ch. 1 of "The History of Sexuality" by Michel Foucault
We "Other Victorians"
In so many words, Foucault's argument is that society is a power struggle which is fought through the medium of language and conversation, and therefore also censorship and manipulation. Foucault claims that a prudish view of sex began to form beginning in the late Renaissance, and was fully grown in the Victorian period. This view of sex was that it was private, something to be done for family and reproduction, as opposed to previous views which were about freedom, open and in public eye, without strict form, and embraced for every pleasure they offered. He believes that the Victorians repressed this because they were the Bourgeoise class which ran the means of production in the Industrial Revolution, and therefore wanted their workers to dedicate themselves fully to work, not wasting time in the pursuit of multifarious forms of sexual pleasure. Therefore, they manipulated the whole discourse and speech that was allowed about sex.
Foucault then, is part of the heralding revolution that has been fomenting beneath the surface, but which is now exploding to overthrow the whole system of control around sex from the Victorians. He believes that the sexual discourse needs to be open-wide. It needs to consider the past in this new light, and to pick up the fragments of true sexual indulgence which were left by non-conformists in history, and to destroy the current narrative around sex. This includes destroying the notion of sin, of teleology regarding sex (man-woman-reproductive), and most shockingly that it doesn't involve children. Yes, Foucault references the notion that children could really be sexual at their young age. You can read it below in his own words.
Personally, you can see how thinkers like Foucault laid the groundwork for the complete gender-ideology confusion (which is, indeed, seeking to sexualize children) that we are suffering right now. One final note here, in this first chapter Foucault cites ZERO sources to back up his claims. There's no footnotes. There's no endnotes.
God help us all.
The "Repressive Hypothesis"
Foucault begins his history of sexuality by focusing on the Victorian period (1837- 1901), claiming that it was at this time when a prudishness descended over the Western world which previously did not exist. He claims that in the previous two centuries, 17th and 18th centuries, people were very open with their sexuality, even around kids. "At the beginning of the seventeenth century a certain frankness was still common, it would seem. Sexual practices had little need of secrecy; words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment; one had a tolerant familiarity with the illicit. ... It was a time of direct gestures, shameless discourse, and open transgression, when anatomies were shown and intermingled at will, and knowing children hung about amid the laughter of adults: it was a period when bodies 'made a display of themselves.'"
Foucault then claims that Victorians suppressed this, confining sexuality to the home, to married men and women, and for reproduction. They sanitized their speech, and regulated the proper interaction between people in public. "And sterile behavior carried the taint of abnormality..." 1 Foucault argues that it was during this period that other sexual expressions were suppressed. He even argues that evidence that children were sexually able was not listened to. In his own words, "Everyone knew, for example, that children had no sex, which was why they were forbidden to talk about it, why one closed one's eyes and stopped one's ears whenever they came to show evidence to the contrary, and why a general and studied silence was imposed." He claims that it was the imposed silence of the time that made these previous expressions of sexuality to fade away. They were regulated to only the brothel and the insane asylum. 2 "Everywhere else, modern puritanism imposed its triple edict of taboo, nonexistence, and silence."
Foucault praises Freud as the first bit of progress in breaking the previous Victorian views on sexuality by unlocking its repression, but it was only in private spaces. A much more potent revolution would have to take place to break through the repression on the public. "...it stands to reason that we will not be able to free ourselves from it except at a considerable cost: nothing less than a transgression of laws, a lifting of prohibitions, an irruption of speech, a reinstating of pleasure within reality, and a whole new economy in the mechanisms of power will be required."
The Bourgeoise Suppressors
Then Foucault proceeds to put the blame of the repression of the Victorian Age on the advent of Capitalism and the upper classes. 3 How so? Foucault says that due to the increased working hours and conditions of the Industrial revolution that man no longer had time to explore the pursuit of the myriad of sexual pleasures. "... if sex is so rigorously repressed, this is because it is incompatible with a general and intensive work imperative. At a time when labor capacity was being systematically exploited, how could this capacity be allowed to dissipate itself in pleasurable pursuits, except in those - reduced to a minimum - that enabled it to reproduce itself?" The ownership class controlled the working class by limiting any sexual freedom or enjoyment solely to reproduction. Hence Foucault feels that in bringing the subject of sex back to the forefront, and in such an open way, that he is breaking the established Victorian and repressed order of things. 4
In so many words, Foucault is looking forward to destroying the social barriers so that he can partake in "the garden of earthly delights" freely. One will not have to pay a therapist to listen to their desires and thoughts for sex, but society will begin to hear the depth of sexual desire that the people of this revolution have. "A great sexual sermon - which has had its subtle theologians and its popular voices - has swept through our societies over the last decades; it has chastised the old order, denounced hypocrisy, and praised the rights of the immediate and the real; it has made the people dream of a New City." 5
A Revolution in Discussion
The aim of this work, Foucault says, is to lay out how we got to this state of sexual repression, where, he claims, there is so much pent up anger at society, the past, its institutions for their "sexual repression." 6 "It is certainly legitimate to ask why sex was associated with sin for such a long time ... but we must also ask why we burden ourselves today with so much guilt for having once made sex a sin." Again, it is the powerful who have done this, and they must be overthrown. "... more than one denunciation will be required in order to free ourselves from it; the job will be a long one. All the longer, no doubt, as it is in the nature of power - particularly the kind of power that operates in our society - to be repressive, and to be especially careful in repressing useless energies, the intensity of pleasures, and irregular modes of behavior." 7
He stops for a minute to challenge himself, asking if his repression hypothesis is really a historical fact, if censorship really has been an exercise of power, if by using the term repression he is really playing into the narrative of those he is trying to overthrow, and whether or not this movement itself will come to be its own powerful master. 8 He's not really worried about these objections as being serious, rather he hopes to simply uncover who has controlled the discussion sex since the budding Victorian age. "The doubts I would like to oppose to the repressive hypothesis are aimed less at showing it to be mistaken than at putting it back within a general economy of discourses on sex in modern societies since the seventeenth century. ... to account for the fact that it is spoken about, to discover who does the speaking, the positions and viewpoints from which they speak, the institutions which prompt people to speak about it and which store and distribute the things that are said. ... in short, the 'polymorphous techniques of power.'" 9
There's no real truth about sex, it's just a power game in society as to who holds the power of conversation about it, what he calls the "'will to knowledge.'" Now he, here, admits that even going back to the Classical age there have been repressions on sex, but his main concern is revealing who has had the power to tell the history of sexuality, as they have manipulated the conversation according to their own beliefs. Most importantly, he concludes chapter one by saying that despite the monopoly that the "repressives" had on the discussion of sex, there have always been those who broke through and laid a historical groundwork of a polymorphous openness and "science of sex" which Foucault wants to tie together, and thus break through the Bourgeois narrative. 10 "It is these movements that I will not attempt to bring into focus in a schematic way, bypassing as it were the repressive hypothesis and the facts of interdiction or exclusion it invokes, and starting from certain historical facts that serve as guidelines for research." 11
1 - Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality Volume I: An Introduction. (New York. Vintage Books, 1978). Pg. 3.
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