When reading The History of Sexuality, the first impression is that sexuality and sex have fallen from grace. The book devalues and debases the currency of discourses on sexuality. Rather than add yet another contribution to the plethora of discourses on sexuality, it raises the problem of what it sees as an insistent urge in Western culture to talk about sexuality as if it were a hidden area of our personal existence perpetually needing to be brought to light and scrutinized in detail. For Foucault, the principal characteristic of Western culture is not that it has been, if not now then at least in the Victorian era, circumspect about sex but that it began from the beginning of the 19th century a never-ending polymorphous discourse on sexuality. Not only does The History of Sexuality draw attention to the proliferation of discourses but it also mocks that strand of discourses on sexuality which link sexual liberation with political revolution — a project popularized by Reich and repeated in one form or another since then. For the argument is that so-called repression in the field of sexuality is no more than a tactic of local significance. To talk of general sexual repression, and thus of the liberation of repressed sexuality is to be ensnared in the relations of power themselves and to mask the fact that their mechanism and functioning are quite different.
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