The History of Sexuality

Amongst other stand alone works, the great thinker Michel Foucault wrote a three volume thesis on sex, The History of Sexuality.  Half way through Voume One, I can report that it is a seminal work for anyone wishing to know more about why sex in the Western World is such a taboo subject.

Like many of the world’s best academic minds, Foucault writes with blazing passion, with the hatred for sexual repression coursing through every sentence. He does not mince his words and this is the great joy of reading him – it’s not a boring read at all. I’m reminded of the wildly emphatic writing of Franz Fanon when I read Foucalt, another writer who pulls every punch when it comes to his given subject – his being the failure of post-colonial Africa.

Basically, Foucault points out that since the 17th century, sex has been legallised and in doing so – standardised. Sex was made formal and legal by the church and state – and this was purely for ecomomic reasons – sex was seen as necessary only to reproduce the next generations of factory workers, canon fodder etc. The state said sex was ‘okay’ – but only between married couples. Sex was effectively given into the hands of the heterosexual monogamous couple for moral safe keeping. All other kinds of sex was made illegal, outlawed, and stigmatised. He cites the case of  a little boy who made the mistake of groping a woman in the school pay ground who was locked in an institution for the rest of his life for this perverted and unnatural act.

Today – we in the West still adhere to this model. The heterosexual couple. So strong is this ‘lawful’ and (according to the church) righteous model that we still go for it. We go and go for it despite the dismal statistics that marriage, for life, is now no longer flexible enough to accomodate the vast social changes of the las 100 years.

I have found I have caught something of Foucault’s cold outrage as I read.


~ by moniqueroffey on March 17, 2009.

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