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November 15, 1995

The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain

JAMA. 1995;274(19):1562-1563. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530190076041

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"This book," write its authors, "is the first scholarly survey of the rise of English-language treatises of sexual knowledge and guidance, and it closely scrutinizes teachings about sexual functions and disorders, physical and moral tenets about sexual activity, prescribed and proscribed coital positions, and views about sexual pleasures and properties.... The Facts of Life aims to examine the underlying politics of sexual knowledge: the structures of authority and subjection, permission and prohibition within which sexual knowledges were articulated, and the key debates that raged on such matters."

The last sentence indicates what the authors subsequently confirm (p 8, p 39), namely that they are adherents of the postmodernist philosophy of social constructionism currently in vogue among historians and social scientists who follow the precepts of the late French philosopher-historian, Michel Foucault (but Porter and Hall disagree with Foucault's dismissal of the repressive hypothesis, p 9). One of the main tenets

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