In Michel Foucault’s introduction to The History of Sexuality, he discusses the repression of sexuality that was evident during the Victorian era, and compares it to the modern world. Foucault argues that while Freud has allowed for more open discussions on sexuality, these discussions (as in the Victorian era) are still only limited to the scientific realm of psychiatry.
Furthermore, Foucault examines the topic of sexuality with regards to marriage, stating that the institution of marriage has now claimed this discourse on sexuality, “mov[ing] it into the home” (3), where couples can decide what is and what isn’t said about sexuality. Taking it a step further, Foucault touches on the discourse of sexuality and how it is used to gain power. He takes the old saying “knowledge is power,” and applies this to sexuality, inferring that whoever determines what can be talked about also determines what can be known.
This repression of sexuality has not changed much since the Victorian era. The stigma that accompanied the “Other Victorians” that Foucault discusses, those that have taken their “infernal mischief” (4) to brothels and mental institutions, has not disappeared; rather, the names have changed, and these individuals are now known to modern society as “sluts,” “tramps,” “hookers,” and “whores.” Even in today’s morally loose society and despite the willingness of recent generations to talk about sexuality, there is still a sense of taboo surrounding the topic of sex. Public discussions of sex are only considered acceptable by society when in the context of an academic setting, and even then, many parents have issues with sexual education being taught at schools, arguing that it is crude and indecent.