46 pages 1 hour read

Michel Foucault

The History of Sexuality: Volume 1

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1976

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Important Quotes

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“A single locus of sexuality was acknowledged in social space as well as the heart of every household, but it was a utilitarian and fertile one: the parents’ bedroom.”

(Part 1, Page 3)

Michel Foucault opens the work with a detailed description of the repressive hypothesis. In this theory, power is enacted from the top down and is replicated within individual households. The household became the epicenter for sexual control. Although Foucault acknowledges that the repressive hypothesis is a myth, he maintains that the silence projected by religious and medical practitioners affected the family unit in complex ways.

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“My aim is to examine the case of a society which has been loudly castigating itself for its hypocrisy for more than a century, which speaks verbosely of its own silence, takes great pains to relate in detail the things it does not say, denounces the powers it exercises, and promises to liberate itself from the very laws that have made it function.”

(Part 1, Page 8)

In this passage, Foucault outlines his purpose—to dissect the relationship between Sex and Power. He is interested in how Western society holds two truths: the promotion of sexual silence and the expansive discourse born from it. This forms the heart of Foucault’s argument against the repressive hypothesis. Rather than repress, power produces. The knowledge-power relationship requires continuous discussion.

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“The object, in short, is to define the regime of power-knowledge-pleasure that sustains the discourse on human sexuality in our part of the world.”

(Part 1, Page 11)

The elements of this triad—power, knowledge, and pleasure—work together and are intrinsic. Foucault suggests that one cannot be separated from the other. Power is supported by knowledge and driven by pleasure, but both knowledge and pleasure need power to subsist.