Foucault and the sexuality construct

J S McNair

Michel Foucault inThe History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introductionexplains power and ultimately demonstrates that sexuality is a construct created by discourse. To begin to understand Foucault’s argument, we must start by learning why he believed that our widely held theory on sexuality was erroneous. The repressive hypothesis is a prevalent theory that analyzes how our current notions of sexuality developed. This hypothesis assumes that during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance a free and easy attitude prevailed toward sexuality. Then, in the seventeenth century the bourgeoisie repressed sexuality. The repressive hypothesis holds that the bourgeoisie was concerned with economic productivity and did not want energy wasted on sexual pursuits. Therefore, sex outside of procreative purposes was repressed. Consequently, if we want to liberate ourselves, the theory maintains we need to become free and open about our sexuality.

Foucault did not deny that with the rise of…

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