In the work of Michel Foucault, and that of the social theoreticians he
inspired: discourse describes “An entity of sequences, of signs, in that they are
enouncements. An enouncement is not a unity of signs, but an abstract matter that enables signs
to assign specific, repeatable relations to and among objects, subjects, and statements. Hence, a
discourse is composed of sequences of such relations among objects, subjects, and other
statements. The term discursive formation conceptually describes the regular communications
that produce such discourses. As a philosopher, Foucault applied the discursive formation in the
analyses of large bodies of knowledge, such as political economy and natural history.
Volume I explores Foucault's ideas regarding the "repressive hypothesis", the idea that western
society suppressed sexuality from the 17th to the mid-20th century; he argues that this hypothesis
is an false impression, and that in actuality, discourse on sexuality proliferated during this period.
He goes on to argue that at this time, experts began to examine sexuality in a scientific manner,
classifying different types of sexuality and encouraging people to confess their sexual feelings
and actions, all in the desire to learn the "truth" of sex.
In The History of Sexuality, he argues that in the Western world during the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries, people's identities became increasingly tied to their sexuality
Development of sexuality as a coherent discourse, showing how modern understanding is in fact
merely the latest repetition in a history of understanding.
Before the advent of religious leaders and doctors convincing their follower of their sexuality
sexual practises were only coherently recognized in relation to marriage.
In this prior understanding of sexual practises, one could not be a homosexual.
One can have sex with a other man but this was merely an act, an individual instance, and not a
quality of life. However with the rise of religion, medical and political discourses surrounding
sexuality in the 17 century homosexuality became a coherent classification of people. The
sodomite had been a temporary abbreviation; the homosexual was now a species.
The crux of Butler's argument in Gender Trouble is that the coherence of the categories of
sex, gender, and sexuality—the natural-seeming coherence, for example, of masculine gender
and heterosexual desire