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Michel Foucault and The History of Sexuality

Except in a few brief instances, Foucault does not specifically address himself to feminist issues, or even to the impact on women of this obsessive discourse about sex. He is more concerned with the negative, dehumanizing, alienating impact of the "deployment of sex" on all members of Western civilization, regardless of gender. However, when he does mention women, he invariably lands squarely on the feminist side of the question being discussed. For example, he writes that in the "hysterization of women" typical of Freudian psychiatry, "sex" was defined as

that which belongs, par excellence, to men, and hence is lacking in women; but at the same time, as that which by itself constitutes woman's body, ordering it wholly in terms of the functions of reproduction and keeping it in constant agitation through the effects of that very function. Hysteria was interpreted as the movement of sex insofar as it was the . . . principle [male] and the lack [female] (153).

To those who would argue that such Freudianisms constituted a breakthrough insight into the history of sexuality and repression, Foucault argues that Freud was a direct descendant of the power-brokers who for centuries had been supplanting the actual pleasures of bodies experiencing sexuality with the fantasm of public discourse about sex which had


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Michel Foucault and The History of Sexuality. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:22, October 22, 2014, from
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