46 pages 1 hour read

Michel Foucault

The History of Sexuality: Volume 1

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1976

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Part 1

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1 Summary: “We ‘Other Victorians’”

Michel Foucault summarizes what he calls “the repressive hypothesis.” Prior to the Victorian age, humans were less inhibited about sex. The Victorian regime implemented a puritanical prudishness that dominated every aspect of society. Sexuality became more hidden and secretive; it was an act delegated to married couples only. The Victorians demoted sex to an act of reproduction. Cultural norms reflected this shift, both in speech and dress. Foucault refers to this as a form of repression or “an injunction to silence” (4). However, the Victorians recognized that there were those portions of society that would not adhere to a more stringent approach to sexuality. These individuals were expected to utilize institutions that stood on the outskirts of polite society: the brothel and the mental hospital.

Foucault aligns the emergence of repression with the development of capitalism. Although psychoanalysis and Freud helped to dismantle some of the repressive efforts of the Victorian Age, the only way to destroy repression is through a radical shift in power. The bourgeois needed to limit sexuality to ensure a stronger focus on labor. Foucault argues that sex and power cannot be separated.