Foucault gets down to historicizing our sex life:
"At the beginning of the seventeenth century a certain frankness was still common, it would seem. Sexual practices had little need of secrecy; words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment; one had a tolerant familiarity with the illicit. Codes regulating the coarse, the obscene, and the indecent were quite lax compared to those of the nineteenth century. It was a time of direct gestures, shameless discourse, and open trasgressions, when anatomies were shown and intermingled at will, and knowing children hung about amid the laughter of adults: it was a period when bodies "made a display of themselves." But twilight soon fell upon this bright day, followed by the monotonous nights of the Victorian bourgeoisie. Sexuality was carefully confined; it moved into the home."
The History of Sexuality is Foucault's last effort to disclose how power has been shaping sexual identity and behavior in western civilization over the last centuries.
With established fields of knowledge in modern science such as psychology and medicine - singular sexual acts turned into an "identity", as an essential component of man's subjectivity.
In what circumstances sexuality comes to play such a major yet sensitive role?
How come sexual behavior add up to identity which defines us?
Why is a person's sexual preferences considered to be more fundamental than her culinary ones?
A copy of The History of Sexuality is available to download from the Files section of this group.
Suggested Reading: Part 1 - We "Other Victorians" (pp. 3 - 13). The chapter serves both as an introduction and a summary for Foucault's endeavor.