As he argues in the opening of his seminal work, “for a long time, the story goes, we supported a Victorian regime, and we continued to be dominated by it even today . . . thus the image of the imperial prude is emblazoned on out retrained, mute, and hypocritical sexuality” (Foucault, 1990, p.1).
According to the traditional view of “repression” (one that Foucault palces firmly within a Freudian context), the Victorians were “repressed” and we in the modern age, with constant talk of sexuality and a relative openness regarding the subject, have broken free of that repression. Sexuality had power over the Victorians through its denial, the modern age is freed from these shackles. This Foucault presents as the traditional view of sexual repression, and also of power. For Foucault power is not “a general system of domination exercised by one element or one group over another, whose effect . . . traverse the entire body social . . . .”. Foucault’s view of power is one in which “the condition of the possibility of power . .. should not be sought in the primary existence of a central point . . . it is the moving based of locations of force that incessantly induce, by their inequality, states of power, but always local and unstable” (p.121-122). Foucault’s view of “power” is of a force that is not centered within a particular individual or group (however much that may appear to be the case), but rather as something that is separate from human beings and transfers between different groups, individuals, ideas, spaces and times according to a system that is essentially unstable.
This has a direct influence upon both repression and desire. The traditional view has it that when a sexuality appeared which “was not ordered in terms of generation” it would “be driven out, denied, reduced to silence . . . not only did it not exist, it had not right to exist and would be made to