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Foucault and Freud

There is a concentration on the physical manifestations of desire and also an attempt to somaticize the psychological aspects of sex.

Foucault's third commentary on scientific commentary on sexuality is that the scientist extracts "the truth of sex through the technique of confession" not only because the social strictures that surround sex set up taboos that can only be broken down and broken through by the act of confession but also because for most people "the ways of sex were obscure". Dora cannot talk about sex in the beginning of her therapy not necessarily because she is ashamed of it. In fact, we do not see that she is fundamentally ashamed of it; the sense of shame and guilt that manifests itself in hysteria is not something that we divine from our firsthand observation of her symptoms but rather from Freud's summation of them. From our later historical vantage point (and with the advantage of knowing something about feminist discourse) we might well argue that Dora's hysteria is not the hysteria at all and certainly does not arise from any shame over sexuality but rather from her social imprisonment in a patriarchy. Dora seems in fact to know at least something about sex (for example, she seems to know what oral sex is); rather it is Freud's assessment of her knowledge and condition that deny a knowledge of human sexuality. It is this aspect of the case study of Dora that leads us to Foucault's fourth point, which is that the "truth" of the sexual confession lies not so much in the confession itself but in the interpretation (by the scientist, by the expert) of that confession.

Finally, Foucault argues that there is a "medicalization" of the effects of the confession. Freud sees Dora's symptoms as symptoms, her condition as treatable. While we have now normalized this idea into the widespread practice of therapy, in fact the idea that sexuality is something to be cured indicates a fundamental medicalization of desire.


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Foucault and Freud. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:59, September 21, 2017, from
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