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Michel Foucault's Claim That "Western Man Has Become A Confessing Animal".

1325 words - 5 pages

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 be the one place, where it was looked highly upon to talk about every bad sexual thing you had done. But when the Church realized that this was true, they changed the form of confession, from it's original Pastoral form, to Scientia Sexualis, so that the confessor talks in detail about how they feel, rather than their sexual misdoings. The confession has undergone many other transformations, such as: from the practice of penance, to medicine, and then even to interpersonal relationships. Foucault does state that the act of confession is still in practice in modern times, but I'm not sure if he means strictly in the sense of the Catholic Church, or just in everyday life. I'm guessing that by stating that Western man has become a confessing animal, he doesn't just mean those who go to confession regularly, but the human race, in general. One may confess anything to anyone - in public and in private. "Since the Middle ages at least, Western societies have established the confession as one of the main rituals we rely on for the production of truth." (58).The act of confession brings with it, a particular relationship of power, where the person confessing is...

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