The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 33 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The History of Sexuality.
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The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Summary & Study Guide Description

The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The History of Sexuality: An Introduction by Michel Foucault.

The text, authored in French, is intended to serve as an introductory primer to a larger series of works which thoroughly treat the history of sexuality in Western cultures. Excepting its role as an introductory primer, the volume does stand alone as an interesting introduction to the topic, written in dense collegiate-level prose. As an introduction, therefore, the text focuses on limited primary tasks: refuting the notion that sexuality is repressed in Western culture; defining sexuality and its extents and corollaries; and establishing sexuality as a component within a historical framework.

Part 1 of the text serves as a concise statement of purpose and an outline of the remainder of the work. It offers a very brief overview of sexual custom throughout the past several hundred years and mentions significant events in the development of sexuality. Part 1 poses three specific questions as types of theses; the questions are answered in the subsequent sections of the text.

Part 2 of the text is composed of two chapters, each of which answers one of the questions presented in Part 1. Part 2, Chapter 1, considers the incitement to discourse (the constant urge to talk about sex) prevalent in our society. It examines the various mechanisms which have evolved which incite discussion and foster constant sex talk about a variety of sexual practices. Part 2, Chapter 2, considers the most-recently developed main branch of sexuality, perversion. Various perverted sexual activities are briefly discussed, but the chapter deals predominantly with the historical process whereby perversion was specified and codified into its present form.

Part 3 concludes the introductory nature of the volume by examining the history of the scientific approach to sex. Four primary methods of scientific investigation are proposed - the hysterization of women's bodies, the pedagogization of children's sexuality; the socialization of procreation; and the psychiatrization of perversion. Each of these modes subsumes certain types of sexuality, and each promotes a distinct base of power, which derives its energy from the specific sexuality defined. Part 3 concludes by responding to the initial three theses of Part 1 and convincingly concludes that sexuality is not repressed; in fact, sexuality is the principle focus of our modern society.

Part 4 marks a distinct shift in the text; instead of primarily consisting of an introduction to sexuality, Part 4 serves as a critical introduction to the remaining volumes (not here summarized) of the series. Three relatively transparent chapters detail the objective, methodology, and area of investigation of the sphere of sexuality that will be utilized and pursued in latter volumes. A fourth chapter divides the history of sexuality into distinct phases or historical periods.

Part 5 of the text serves to locate sexuality in a larger historical context of power structure development. Prior to sexuality our cultures were maintained by a power structure, which Foucault terms "alliance," fealty based on kin and political relationships. The gradual decline of this process is considered and the simultaneous rising of the power of sexuality is discussed. The principle rationale behind including this segment in the introductory text seems to be a proper consideration of sexuality in a larger historical field.

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