Daniel Hammer's Reviews > The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction

The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 by Michel Foucault
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's review
Apr 07, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read from April 07 to 27, 2011

A classic work. I'll be teaching a course on Human Sexuality again this summer (it is a lot of fun) and decided to give this book the thorough read-through that it deserved. Foucault's book is widely regarded as having shifted the entire landscape for how sexuality is approached academically. He persuasively demonstrates that the attendant ideas which Western society packages in the concept of sexuality (sexual identity, orientation, repression, guilt, perversion, and so on) are not part of a 'natural' sphere of what we know as human sexuality, but are ideas and discourses which have developed over time in conjunction with religious doctrines, psychological experts, physicians, changing so morals and the like. The argument that he weaves this around is the commonplace idea that the Victorian era was one of sexual repression. He argues that far from being a period of repression (in the sense that sexuality was pushed to the margins) that in fact the need to discourse about, confess about, fret over, seek expert opinions on and more, show that sexuality was becoming more of a central focus for self and society than ever before.
This book is classic. Foucault's writing is not always crystal clear...but this is nothing new for continental philosophy. The ideas he develops here can be easily applied to other sociological topics. Well worth reading.

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