Sexual repression

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Sexual repression is a state in which a person is prevented from expressing their sexuality. This is very common in countries where the age of consent is particularly high . Sexual repression is often associated with feelings of guilt or shame being associated with sexual impulses.[1] What constitutes sexual repression is subjective and can vary greatly between cultures and moral systems. Many religions have been accused of fostering sexual repression.


Sigmund Freud was the first to use the term widely, and argued that it was one of the roots of many problems in Western society.[2] Freud believed that people's naturally strong instincts toward sexuality were repressed by people in order to meet the constraints imposed on them by civilized life. However, Freud's ideas about sexual repression have not been without their critics. According to sex therapist Bernard Apfelbaum, Freud did not base his belief in universal innate, natural sexuality on the strength of sexual desire he saw in people, but rather on its weakness.[3]

In religion[edit]

Some analysts have suggested that some right-wing forms of Christianity repress homosexuality.[4]

Conservative forms of Islam are said to have strict sexual codes which include banning homosexuality, demanding virginity before marriage accompanied by a ban on fornication, and can require modest dress-codes for men and women (during prayer).[5]


Some researchers have hypothesized a relationship between sexual repression and rape. However, they have been unable to find any support for this hypothesis - whether the tremendous difficulty of measuring sexual repression is to blame, or whether the theory is simply false, is unknown.[6]

Sexual repression is viewed as a key problem in nearly all forms of feminism, especially radical feminism.[7]

Michel Foucault[edit]

Michel Foucault, in his The History of Sexuality, neither refutes nor confirms what he calls the "repressive hypothesis." Instead, he says sexuality has become an important topic to understand and manipulate for the purpose of nation building. Through categorization of sexuality, the idea of repression was born. While he agrees sexuality has become much more controlled, he equates it to necessity. Furthermore, it is through psychiatric and medical discourse on sexuality that it has become repressed. [8]

Foucault argues that religious confession as well as psychiatric procedure codify confession within as a means of extracting truth. Because the mechanisms of sex were obscure, it was elusive by nature and its mechanisms escaped observation. By integrating it into the beginnings of a scientific discourse, the nineteenth century altered the scope of confession. Confession tended no longer to be concerned solely with what the subject wished to hide but with what was hidden from himself. It had to be extracted by force, since it involved something that tried to stay hidden. This relationship of truth scientifically validated the view of the confessed which could assimilate, record, and verify this obscure truth.[9]

Repression in various countries[edit]

Many countries have developed a much more liberal attitude towards sexuality, but in some it has become less so:


Reproduction-based sex was urged by Mao Zedong, but later politicians instituted a one-child policy. In a country where atheism is popular, the restriction cannot be ascribed to religion but to nationalist motives.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Karen A. McClintock, Sexual Shame: An Urgent Call to Healing, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. (ISBN 0800632389) (2006).
  2. ^ Wilf Hey. "Sigmund Freud: Psychoanalysis and Sexual Repression",
  3. ^ B. Apfelbaum. "Sexual Reality and How We Dismiss It."
  4. ^ liberal media Free Lance-Star retrieved 27 January 2012
  5. ^ Sex and Society Volume 3 - Page 722
  6. ^ Mary E. Odem, Jody Clay-Warner, Confronting rape and sexual assault, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998, p. 104.
  7. ^ [1] Alix Kates Shulman, "Sex and Power: Sexual Bases of Radical Feminism", Signs, Vol. 5, No. 4, Women: Sex and Sexuality. (Summer, 1980), pp. 590-604.
  8. ^ re[2], Michel Foucault - Biography
  9. ^ Michel Foucault (14 April 1990). The history of sexuality. Vintage Books. pp. 65–66. ISBN 978-0-679-72469-8. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Yuehong Zhang, Everett (September 2005). "Rethinking Sexual Repression in Maoist China: Ideology, Structure and the Ownership of the Body". Body & Society 11 (3). doi:10.1177/1357034X05056188.