Sexual repression  

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 This page Sexual repression is part of the human sexuality series Illustration: Fashionable Contrasts (1792) by James Gillray
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This page Sexual repression is part of the human sexuality series
Illustration: Fashionable Contrasts (1792) by James Gillray
Thérèse Philosophe (1748) was a piece of enlighted pornography by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens, a subversive social commentary which targeted the Catholic Church and general attitudes of sexual repression.
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Thérèse Philosophe (1748) was a piece of enlighted pornography by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens, a subversive social commentary which targeted the Catholic Church and general attitudes of sexual repression.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Sexual repression is a state in which a person is prevented from expressing their own sexuality. Sexual repression is often associated with feelings of guilt or shame, being associated with sexual impulses. What constitutes sexual repression is subjective and can vary greatly between cultures and moral systems. Many religions have been accused of fostering sexual repression.

Some ideologies seek to repress certain forms of sexual expression, such as homosexuality, and some cultures even use violent practices such as genital modification and mutilation, honor killings, or stoning, in an attempt to regulate human sexual behavior.

Reich and Freud

Wilhelm Reich agreed with Sigmund Freud that psychosexual development was the origin of mental disorder. They both believed that most psychological states were dictated by unconscious processes; that infant sexuality develops early but is repressed, and that this has important consequences for mental health. At that time a Marxist, Reich argued that the source of sexual repression was bourgeois morality and the socio-economic structures that produced it. As sexual repression was the cause of the neuroses, the best cure would be to have an active, guilt-free sex life. He argued that such a liberation could come about only through a morality not imposed by a repressive economic structure.

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault, in his The History of Sexuality, neither refutes nor confirms what he calls the "repressive hypothesis." Instead, he says sexuality has become an important topic to understand and manipulate for the purpose of nation building. Through categorization of sexuality, the idea of repression was born. While he agrees sexuality has become much more controlled, he equates it to necessity. Furthermore, it is through psychiatric and medical discourse on sexuality that it has become repressed.

Foucault argues that religious confession as well as psychiatric procedure codify confession within as a means of extracting truth. Because the mechanisms of sex were obscure, it was elusive by nature and its mechanisms escaped observation. By integrating it into the beginnings of a scientific discourse, the nineteenth century altered the scope of confession. Confession tended no longer to be concerned solely with what the subject wished to hide but with what was hidden from himself. It had to be extracted by force, since it involved something that tried to stay hidden. This relationship of truth scientifically validated the view of the confessed which could assimilate, record, and verify this obscure truth.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sexual repression" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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