In the chapter “We ‘Other Victorians’” Michael Foucault explores the historical context behind the repression of discussing and having pleasurable sex confidently in society. He claims that there was a shift from the 17th century, where sex was openly accepted as a far of life, to the Victorian bourgeois where “Sexually was carefully confined; it moved into the home” (3). Unless one was in a mental institution or a brothel sex was “taboo, nonexistence, and silent.” (4). This change in ideology around sex is accredited to the power systems the bourgeois society created and also capitalism.
Foucault emphasises the importance of recognizing the relationship between sex, repression, and power. He questions the systems which led us to question sex, shine it in a negative light, and reject our positive relationships with sex. An important question he asks is why did we, or do we equate sex with sin? He answers that abuses of power have created this complicated relationship. It will take an honest, open discussion about sex over a long period of time to start to unravel these preconceived notions of impurity surrounding sex. In a culture of repressing pleasure it will take years to have conversations of this unprecedented nature because of our history of avoiding sex as a subject. His focus becomes more clear at the end of the essay when he asks many questions and then answers them himself. His questioning of “The way in which sex is ‘put into discourse’” (11) raises important points such as who talks about it? How do they talk about? How are they controlling the conversation around sex? What are their underlying motivations? This piece hinted at many of these answers but I’m really interested in hearing a more detailed account of these systems of power and repression.