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The History of Sexuality, Foucault

“From the Christian penance to the present day, sex was a privileged theme of confession. A thing that was hidden, we are told. But what if, on the contrary, it was what, in a quite particular was, one confessed? Suppose the obligation to conceal it was but another aspect of the duty to admit to it (concealing it all the more and with greater care as the confession of it was more important, requiring a stricter ritual and promising more decisive effects)? “History of Sexuality, Scientia Sexualis (pg. 1) Based on the above quote from Scientia Sexualis, in The History of Sexuality, Foucault writes about the nature of secrecy and confession in terms of sexuality. The first sentence explains that, “from the Christian penance to the present day,” the concept of sex is one in which people keep to a confessional manner. Throughout history, when a subject was kept within the realm of “confession”, it meant that the only time that subject was discussed or talked about was during a confession period with a religious leader or symbol, such as a priest or God.

Therefore, since sex was supposed to be a subject left for confession, it was “a thing that was hidden. ” What if, as Foucault brings up, one was to confess their sexuality? Foucault writes that, since sex is expected to be concealed by people in terms of not talking about, it makes them feel more duty-bound to admit and express it. The idea of suppression and censorship often urges people to confess; “concealing it all the more and with greater care as the confession of it was more important. I agree with the point that Foucault makes. I think that the more a person is urged to not do something, the more they are actually drawn and attracted toward doing it. When talking about sex is not encouraged or deemed “off-limits”, people find a certain allure and pleasure in its confession; “Evading the truth, barring access to it, masking it: these were so many local tactics which, as if by superimposition and through a last-minute detour, gave a paradoxical form to a fundamental petition to know” (pg. 55).

Foucault continues on to reiterate his point by saying that “the transformation of sex into discourse…the dissemination and the reinforcement of heterogeneous sexualities, are perhaps two elements of the same deployment of a confession that compels individuals to articulate their sexual peculiarity” (pg. 61). Based on this reading, I believe Foucault is expressing the idea that despite society’s attempt to regulate and control the discourse of sex, the result, in turn, was actually a “petition to know”; what is “supposed” to be secret or hidden in fact “compels individuals to articulate their [sexuality]” (pg. 61).

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