Michel Foucault’s introduction to The History of Sexuality grounds his examination in the repression of sexuality during the Victorian era. Foucault questions whether we are truly unshackled from these same expectations of discretion and silence regarding the discussion of sexuality, likening us to the “other victorians,” or those individuals like “the prostitute, the client, and the pimp, together with the psychiatrist and the hysteric,” who accepted sex in spaces hidden from society (4). By titling his essay “We ‘Other Victorians,’” Foucault suggests that we still tend to abide by this concealment of sexuality in the public sphere, yet questions whether we are truly “repressed,” or arbitrarily consider ourselves to be so. Foucault examines sexuality’s relationship with power, its presence in modern discourse, and our own guilt regarding our previous prohibition of sexuality in the public sphere in order to outline the rest of his book. He stipulates that he does not wish to base his examination of the history sexuality solely in terms of its repression; rather, he wishes to track how knowledge and discourse about sexuality disseminates and who has control over such information.
Foucault’s article is the introduction to the rest of his book, so some of his arguments are rather general. Much of the article explains his goals in examining the history of sexuality rather than actually examining them, making his tone appear more ruminative than argumentative. However, he does make several observations about our modern discussion of sexuality, such as our own fixation on our sexual repression and the effects of the Victorian era’s rejection of sexuality. I found the article to move in many different directions at times, but overall I would be interested to hear what Foucault has to say in some of his more concrete examinations of the history of sexuality.