Michel Foucault's claim that "Western man has become a confessing animal".

Essay by JeNNa666High School, 12th gradeA+, February 2003

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The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault, is meant to be a critique of our social period, in particular, the belief that sex, especially discourses about sex, have been 'repressed'. Instead, Foucault suggests that sex was never actually 'repressed', and that's just what the Repressive Hypothesis wants us to think. His description of a discourse, is associated inexplicably to power, knowledge, and pleasure.

Scientia sexualis, is the term Foucault uses to describe the tendency of our culture to create discourse around the actual subject of sex as an objective, scientific, and biological 'truth'. Foucault describes two great procedures for producing the truth of sex. The first, which our culture is direly lacking, is called ars erotica. "Societies such as Japan, China, and India produce truth from pleasure itself derived from the erotic act" (57). With regard to this procedure, sex is seen as an art, a unique experience and not something dirty or prohibited.

Therefore, sex loses both its pleasure, and power, if talked about. The other procedure for constructing the truth of sex is Scientia sexualis, which derives truth of sex strictly from a knowledge-power relationship. As one can plainly see, these two procedures appear to be in direct opposition to one another.

In our culture, we rely on the act of 'confession' as a ritual for cleansing ourselves of our misbehaviors, including those of a sexual nature. Foucault argues that it is the ritual of confessing, which deems sex as something that needs to be hidden or repressed, not only from the confessee, but from the confessor as well. Only the fact that a discourse has been created to talk about what's hidden suggests that sex has never really been repressed at all.

Originally, in the 15th Century, up until the late 18th Century, confession used to...