The History of Sexuality
|The History of Sexuality|
The 1990 Penguin Books edition
|Original title||Histoire de la sexualité|
|Published in English||1978|
The History of Sexuality (French: Histoire de la sexualité) is a three-volume study of sexuality in the western world written by the French philosopher Michel Foucault. The first volume, The Will to Knowledge (la volonté de savoir), was first published in 1976 by Éditions Gallimard, before being translated into English by Robert Hurley and published by Allen Lane in 1978. It was followed by The Use of Pleasure (l'usage des plaisirs), and The Care of the Self (le souci de soi), both published in 1984.
Volume I explores Foucault's ideas regarding the "repressive hypothesis", the idea that western society suppressed sexuality from the 17th to the mid-20th century; he argues that this hypothesis is an illusion, and that in actuality, discourse on sexuality proliferated during this period. He goes on to argue that at this time, experts began to examine sexuality in a scientific manner, classifying different types of sexuality and encouraging people to confess their sexual feelings and actions, all in the desire to learn the "truth" of sex.
Foucault was interested in the creation of the subject and how the individual was constituted. In The History of Sexuality, he argues that in the Western world during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people's identities became increasingly tied to their sexuality.
According to Foucault, by the 19th-century, when capitalism and industrialisation had allowed for the development of a dominant bourgeoisie social class, discourse on sex was not suppressed, but in fact proliferated. Bourgeois society "put into operation an entire machinery for producing true discourses" surrounding sex, perhaps believing that it harboured a "fundamental secret" that had to be learned.
Daniel Defert later recalled discussing The History of the Sexuality with Foucault on his deathbed at the Hôpital de la Salpêtrière. Defert claimed that he told his lover that "If it turns out to be AIDS, your last books are just like Les fleurs du mal, because, you know, Baudelaire wrote Les fleurs du mal about his own sexual life and syphilis." In turn, Foucault laughed and replied, "Why not?"
Three volumes of The History of Sexuality were published before Foucault's death in 1984. The first and most referenced volume, The Will to Knowledge (previously known as An Introduction in English—Histoire de la sexualité, 1: la volonté de savoir in French) was published in France in 1976, and translated in 1977, focusing primarily on the last two centuries, and the functioning of sexuality as an analytics of power related to the emergence of a science of sexuality, and the emergence of biopower in the West.
The second two volumes, The Use of Pleasure (Histoire de la sexualité, II: l'usage des plaisirs) and The Care of the Self (Histoire de la sexualité, III: le souci de soi) dealt with the role of sex in Greek and Roman antiquity. The latter volume deals considerably with the ancient technological development of the hypomnema which was used to establish a permanent relationship to oneself. Both were published in 1984, the year of Foucault's death, the second volume being translated in 1985, and the third in 1986.
In his lecture series from 1979 to 1980 Foucault extended his analysis of government to its "wider sense of techniques and procedures designed to direct the behaviour of men", which involved a new consideration of the "examination of conscience" and confession in early Christian literature. These themes of early Christian literature seemed to dominate Foucault's work, alongside his study of Greek and Roman literature, until the end of his life. However, Foucault's death left the work incomplete, and the planned fourth volume of his History of Sexuality on Christianity was never published. The fourth volume was to be entitled Confessions of the Flesh (Les aveux de la chair). The volume was almost complete before Foucault's death and a copy of it is privately held in the Foucault archive. It cannot be published under the restrictions of Foucault's estate.
Volume I: The Will to Knowledge 
Part I: We "Other Victorians" 
Part One, entitled "We “Other Victorians”", opens with a discussion of what Foucault calls the "repressive hypothesis", the widespread belief among late 20th-century westerners that sexuality, and the open discussion of sex, was socially repressed during the late 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, a by-product of the rise of capitalism and bourgeois society. Arguing that this was never actually the case, he asks the question as to why modern westerners believe such a hypothesis, noting that in portraying past sexuality as repressed, it provides a basis for the idea that in rejecting past moral systems, future sexuality can be free and uninhibited, a "garden of earthly delights".
Part II: The Repressive Hypothesis 
Proceeding to go into further depth in Part Two, "The Repressive Hypothesis", Foucault notes that from the 17th century to the 1970s, there had actually been a "veritable discursive explosion" in the discussion of sex, albeit using an "authorized vocabulary" that codified where you could talk about it, when you could talk about it, and with whom. He argues that this desire to talk so enthusiastically about sex in the western world stemmed from the Counter-Reformation, when the Roman Catholic Church called for its followers to confess their sinful desires as well as their actions. As evidence for the obsession of talking about sex, he highlights the publication of the book My Secret Life, anonymously written in the late 19th century and detailing the sex life of a Victorian gentleman. Indeed, Foucault states that at the start of the 18th century, there was an emergence of "a political, economic, and technical incitement to talk about sex", with self-appointed experts speaking both moralistically and rationally on sex, the latter trying to categorise it. He notes that in that century, governments became increasingly aware that they were not merely having to manage "subjects" or "a people" but a "population", and that as such they had to concern themselves with such issues as birth and death rates, marriage, and contraception, thereby increasing their interest and changing their discourse on sexuality.
Entering the second chapter of this section, "The Perverse Implantation", Foucault argues that prior to the 18th century, discourse on sexuality focused on the productive role of the married couple, which was monitored by both canonical and civil law. In the 18th and 19th centuries, he argues, society ceased discussing the sex lives of married couples, instead taking an increasing interest in sexualities that did not fit within this union; the "world of perversion" that included the sexuality of children, the mentally ill, the criminal and the homosexual. He noted that this had three major effects on society. Firstly, there was increasing categorisation of these "perverts"; where previously a man who engaged in same-sex activities would be labeled as an individual who succumbed to the sin of sodomy, now they would be categorised into a new "species", that of the homosexual. Secondly, Foucault argues that the labeling of perverts conveyed a sense of "pleasure and power" onto both those studying sexuality and the perverts themselves. Thirdly, he argues that bourgeoisie society exhibited "blatant and fragmented perversion", readily engaging in perversity but regulating where it could take place.
Part III: Scientia Sexualis 
Part three, "Scientia Sexualis", explores the development of the scientific study of sex, the attempt to unearth the "truth" of sex, a phenomenon which Foucault argues is peculiar to the west. He furthermore argues that this scientia sexualis has repeatedly been used for political purposes, being utilised in the name of "public hygiene" to support state racism. Returning to the influence of the Catholic confession, he looks at the relationship between the confessor and the authoritarian figure that they confess to, arguing that as Roman Catholicism was eclipsed in much of Western and Northern Europe following the Reformation, the concept of confession survived and became more widespread, entering into the relationship between parent and child, patient and psychiatrist and student and educator; by the 19th century, he maintains, the "truth" of sexuality was being readily explored both through confession and scientific enquiry. Foucault proceeds to examine how the confession of sexuality then came to be "constituted in scientific terms", arguing that scientists began to trace the cause of all aspects of human psychology and society to sexual factors.
Part IV: The Deployment of Sexuality 
|This section requires expansion. (May 2012)|
Part four, "The Deployment of Sexuality," explores the question as to why western society wishes to seek for the "truth" of sex. Chapter one, "Objective", lays out Foucault's argument that we need to develop an "analytics" of power through which to understand sex. Highlighting that power controls sex by laying down rules for it to follow, he discusses how power demands obedience through domination, submission and subjugation, and also how power masks its true intentions by disguising itself as beneficial. As an example, he highlights the manner in which the feudal absolute monarchies of historical Europe, themselves a form of power, disguised their intentions by claiming that they were necessary to maintain law, order and peace. As a leftover concept from the days of feudalism, Foucault argues that westerners still view power as emanating from law, but he rejects this, proclaiming that they must "construct an analytics of power that no longer takes law as a model and a code", and announcing that a different form of power governs sexuality.
The second chapter, "Method", explores what Foucault means by "Power", explaining that he does not mean power as the domination or subjugation exerted on society by the government or the state, but instead remarks that power should be understood "as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate". In this way, he argues, "Power is everywhere... because it comes from everywhere", emanating from all social relationships and being imposed throughout society bottom-up rather than top-down.
Part V: Right of Death and Power over Life 
Part five, "The Right of Death and Power over Life," asserts that the motivations for power over life and death has changed. As in feudal times the "right to life" was more or less a "right to death" as sovereign powers were able to decide when a person died. This has changed to a "right to live" as sovereign states are more concerned about the power of how people live. Power becomes about how to foster life. For example, a state decides to execute someone as a safe guard to society not as justified, as it once was, as vengeful justice. This new emphasis on power over life, is called Bio-power, and comes in two forms. First, Foucault says is "centered on the body as a machine: its disciplining, the optimization of its capabilities, the extortion of its forces, the parallel increase of its usefulness and its docility, its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls." The second form, Foucault says emerged later and focuses on the "species body, the body imbued with the mechanics of life and serving as the basis of the biological processes: propagation, births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy and longevity, with all the conditions that cause these to vary. Bio-power it is argued is the source of the rise of capitalism, as states became interested in regulating and normalizing power over life and not as concerned about punishing and condemning actions.
See also 
- Foucauldian discourse analysis
- Greek love
- Grotesque body
- History of human sexuality
- Pierre Hadot
- State racism
- Foucault, Michel: The subject and power, 1982 in Critical Inquiry, Vol 8, No. 4 pages 777,778
- McGee, R. Jon and Richard L. Warms 2011 Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History. New York, McGraw Hill.
- Foucault 1976. p. 69.
- Miller 1993. p. 34.
- Michel Foucault, edited by Jeremy R. Carrette (1999). Religion and culture: Michel Foucault. pp. 47, 34. ISBN 0-415-92362-X.
- Foucault 1976. pp. 1–14.
- Foucault 1976. p. 49.
- Foucault 1976. pp. 15–36.
- Foucault 1976. pp. 37–49.
- Foucault 1976. pp. 53–73.
- Foucault 1976. p. 77–91.
- Foucault 1976. p. 92–102.
- Foucault 1976. p. 139.
- Foucault 1976. p. 139.
- Foucault, Michel (1979 ). The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction. Robert Hurley (translator). London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-1094-1.
- Macey, David (1993). The Lives of Michel Foucault. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 978-0091753443.
- Miller, James (1993). The Passion of Michel Foucault. New York City: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0671695509 Check
- Mills, Sara (2003). Michel Foucault. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415245692.
- Smart, Barry (2002). Michel Foucault. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415285339.
- Foucault, Michel.  (1998). The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge. London: Penguin.
- Foucault, Michel. (1992). The History of Sexuality Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure. London: Penguin.
- Foucault, Michel.  (1990). The History of Sexuality Vol. 3: The Care of Self. London: Penguin.