The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1

The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 Metaphors and Similes

The Ring of Prince Mangogul (metaphor)

The ring of Prince Mangogul is the central image in Denis Diderot’s anonymously-published 1748 novel Les Bijous Indiscrets (The Indiscreet Jewels). The novel follows the humorous fable of a prince who possesses a unique ring that is capable of causing the vaginas of nearby women to begin to speak on their own, narrating their sexual histories. Foucault reads this story, in the Introduction to Part 4, as a metaphor of sexuality itself. Much like the discourse of sexuality, the ring is discreet about the mechanics of its own power. It provokes other people’s “sex” (in the literal sense, by which “sex” refers to one’s sexual anatomy) to divulge a great deal of secrets about themselves, while nonetheless concealing the power that allows it to provoke so much talk. At the beginning of the Introduction to Part 4, Foucault asserts that he aims to “transcribe into history the fable of the Bijoux Indiscrets."