In this chapter, entitled “Periodization”, a “repression” of sexuality starting in the seventeenth century and its twentieth century reversal are the theme. Through education, medical research, and social roles based on economic class, sexual identities are created and assigned to those in different social classes and situations. There were three axes (as Foucault calls them) of study, surveillance, and profiling in the seventeeth century:
that of pedagogy, having as its objective the specific sexuality of children; that of medicine, whose objective was the sexual physiology peculiar to women; and last, that of demography, whose objective was the spontaneous or concerted regulation of births. Thus the ‘sin of youth,’ ‘nervous disorders,’ and ‘frauds against procreation’ (as those ‘deadly secrets’ were later to be called) designate three privileged areas in this new technology (116)
These three areas of knowledge signify the bringing to light of things that up until this time had been more or less private, and furthermore not even objectified as focuses of discourse. By surveilling and curtailing children’s sexuality, for instance, children’s sexuality was actually constituted and objectified. Foucault sees a modified Christianity at work enforcing adherence to such surveillance, but it has become more secularized. “The technology of sex was ordered in relation to the medical institution, the exigency of normality and - instead of the question of death and everlasting punishment - the problem of life and illness. The flesh was brought down to the level of the organism” (117).
So, here we have the carceral model at work in the sexual matters of humanity. Certain sexual characters are formulated and pinned onto the bourgeois classes as well as the working classes. In the process, they have become moral articles of faith. The nature of sexuality is, in fact, created in this technique of normalization - as Foucault says, “you will have no sexuality except by subjecting yourself to the law” (128). In the twentieth century revolt against sexual repression, there is nothing more going on than a shift in technique. We have switched from the “repressive” model of surveillance to the “confessional” opening up of discourse about sex and sexuality, which Foucault sees as being another mode of the deployment of sexuality, and certainly not something which is occuring outside of it.
Quotes are taken from The History of Sexuality, Volume 1.