By Guillaume Le Blanc
What can we find in a text on Christian sexuality that was supposed to be published in 1982, then 1984, and which will finally be published in 2018? It’s strange to be reading this book today, given that it was written more than 35 years ago and was completed even before volumes 2 and 3 of The History of Sexuality. What does it means to make ourselves contemporaries of this resolutely out of sync book? Out of sync because it studies vanished historical material, a group of texts about Christian flesh between the 2nd and 5th centuries AD. Also out of sync because we readers finally have access to it in 2018, even though the book was handed in to editors at Gallimard in 1982 and Foucault was correcting the proofs when he died in 1984. All these contextual elements matter, because the reception of the book today is inextricably linked to the state of sexual questions, which I will return to in the second part of my talk.
In this seminar, the text is considered less as a source than as a resource, to use the words of Étienne Balibar. It’s not interesting simply because it’s attributed to an author, but because we can make use of it. And if the metaphor of the toolbox has plenty of critics, including in this seminar, it does at least have the merit of displacing the focus from the author to the reader, and even more so, from the reader to the user. Because the essential question might not be to know what reading is, but rather to know who is reading, in what context, with what goals, and from the perspective of which struggles and resistances.
Foucault defined his work as a form of “presentism”: in his multiple commentaries on Kant’s “What is Enlightenment?”, he explicitly stated that he was concerned with the present above all. He saw this problem of the present appear in its full radicalism in Kant’s pamphlet, along with the question of the philosopher’s own belonging to this present. “All of this, philosophy as the problematization of a present, and as an interrogation by the philosopher of this present of which he is a part and towards which he must assume an attitude, could lead us to understand philosophy as a discourse of and about modernity.” (“What is Enlightenment?”, Lecture at the Collège de France, January 5th, 1983).
To say what the present consists of in order to better transform it implies that the philosopher is at once a sort of “transcendental journalist,” to use Maurice Clavel’s description of Foucault, a thinker interested in the conditions of possibility in the present, and at the same time a militant determined to transform this present. Recall the final two questions that Foucault asks in this lecture on Kant: “What is the nature of our present? What is the current horizon of possible experiences?” And I think that it’s actually impossible to ask the first journalistic question without engaging oneself in the second, more militant question. We have to keep both questions in mind as we approach texts as historically removed as the ones Foucault analyzes in Confessions of the Flesh.
- Reading Confessions of the Flesh
Our job today is not so much to re-read Confessions of the Flesh as it is to read it since it just came out. But this means reading in the context of our current moment. Doing so leads me, in the first part of my presentation, to focus on three central ideas that are taken from their point of historical origin: first, that the subject ended up being an entirely sexual subject; second, that the subject has to speak truth of his sexuality; and third, that he has to confess his sexuality within the confines of a very particular apparatus. Sexual subject, speaking the truth of oneself, and confession are the three great theoretical operations that circulate in the text. They are three effects of a technique of the self that was constructed thanks to sexuality—through which we all became confessional creatures.
We must therefore say that sexuality is a construction, that it is in no way a mysterious access point to the self, beyond language, or a return to nature. In The Will to Knowledge, Foucault twisted the neck of the common idea that sex had been repressed and needed to be liberated, an idea defended at the time by Marcuse in an alliance of Freud and Marx. In 1969, in his lectures at Vincennes, “The Discourse of Sexuality,” Foucault had criticized the utopias of Marcuse and Reich, who thought the essential step was to get beyond capitalism to finally access a free sexuality that would be fully authentic and facilitate all sorts of new social relations. Against this idea, which supposed man had an intrinsic nature, and that sexuality had simply been repressed by the culture and the productive forces, Foucault argued that sexuality had never ceased to be constructed through discourses. Talkative sexuality rather than silent sexuality.
Thus a quick reading of The Will to Knowledge might let us believe that we live in a permissive society that invites us to expose our sexuality. To counter this reading, Foucault shows how sexuality is organized by an entire technology of power—and that it is this apparatus that confers sexuality with its allure. In a radio interview from 1977, he says, “I do not at all want to say that sexuality is not forbidden, repressed, or that it is permitted in all its forms and in all its possible conditions in our society—but rather that where the taboo functions, for example the prohibition of incest or of supple extra-marital relations, they are pieces in a much larger and more complex game in which we can say that the power relations and social controls have taken over sexuality.” In the same interview, he says, “there is an entire political technology surrounding sexuality and it is this fundamental apparatus, rather than the specific permissions and taboos, that I wanted to reconstruct.”
- A) The subject through sexuality
At the point of departure, there is a question that is at its root the same as what we find in The Will to Knowledge: how did we become our sexuality? Through which mechanisms of power, with what knowledge and discourses did our sexuality become our selves? As Arnold Davidson writes, “we are our sexuality… we cannot think of ourselves, of our most fundamental psychological identity without thinking of our sexuality… that reveals the type of individual that we are” (The Emergence of Sexuality, 2001, p. 9). What is radical in The History of Sexuality is that sexuality has a history, which means that sexuality is not timeless and innate, but rather a construction that depends on power and discourses. From 1964, in his lecture on sexuality at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, Foucault asks for a “cultural history of western sexuality” (Sexuality, 2018, p.4).
Can we grasp the moment in this history when the subject becomes attached to her sexuality, or when what was a problem for the subject—her sexuality—becomes her truth? Confessions of the Flesh responds to this question: Foucault explains that it is in the Christian moment between the 2nd and 5th centuries AD that the two became bound. The paradox is that this binding happened precisely thanks to the “renouncement of the flesh,” to take the French title of Peter Brown’s book from 1988. This renouncement of the flesh took two forms in Christian culture: an ensemble of practices of penitence (exmologesis) through which the sinner purifies himself of his sins and dirt, and an ensemble of discourses, of confessions through which the monk tells his priest his sins, temptations, and what tortures him. We see two modalities of the subject that are both linked to truth for Foucault. Penitence is a form of truth-doing that is meant to correct a wrong-doing. Confession is a form of truth-telling. Foucault particularly wants to understand how Christian culture moved from truth-doing to truth-telling and what the implications of this move are for us.
Whatever the answer, these two practices had the paradoxical effect of linking the subject to his sexuality. Thus, when Foucault turns to the Christians, he’s trying to locate the origin point in western culture when the sexual part of each of us was revealed as the subject that we are not supposed to be but that we are and that we can escape through ascetic practices. The book examines this relation to sexuality through the practices of baptism, penitence, and confession (part I), virginity (part II), and marriage (part III). Implicit in these historical examinations that run between the 2nd and 5th centuries is an important theoretical decision: to show how Christian culture, through a whole apparatus of obedience, organized the renouncement of sex while at the same time and by that very act bound the subject to sexuality. Or to be more precise, it is in the moment when the renouncement of the flesh is formulated into an ascetic ideal of the subject that the two become indissolubly linked.
Foucault shows this precisely where we might think there is the maximum distance between the subject and sexuality, namely, virginity. I’ll cite a remarkable passage from Chapter on “Being Virgin”: “The valorization of virginity is quite different from the disqualification or the simple and pure prohibition of sexual relations. It implies a considerable valorization of the individual’s relationship to her own sexual conduct, since it turns this relationship into a positive experience… To be clear: this is not to say that Christianity positively valorized the sexual act itself. But precisely the negative value assigned to the sexual act gave it a centrality that it never attained in Greek or Roman morality. The central place of sex in western morality is already clearly expressed in the creation of the mystique surrounding virginity” (p. 201-2). A quite incredible passage, because Foucault ends up saying that the refusal of sexuality gives rise to a way of life—virginity—that reveals, in contrast, the importance of sexual activity for the subject. The obsession with the renouncement of sex is the sign of a true obsession with sex on the part of the subject. Christian morality, or even more so, the Christian technology of the flesh, literally raises sexuality to an unprecedented and unequaled importance for the subject.
Thus, it is Christian culture that made sexuality an obsession for the subject. With Christianity, subjects think of nothing else. And to be a subject is, in a sense, to think of nothing else—to the extent that sex itself acquires considerable importance, to use Foucault’s words, in the formation and development of subjectivity. And it is this importance that will be amplified in the libido that Saint Augustine constructs in his analyses of marriage, such that the putting into words of sex so characteristic of modernity, as Foucault points out, has its origins in Christian culture.
- B) Truth-telling about one’s sexuality
In the interior of this Christian moment in which sexuality becomes bound to the subject, Foucault intends to trace the path to the point where the subject is constituted by its obligation to tell the truth of her sexuality in the confines of relations of obedience defined by the Church. The relation between the self and the truth is at the center of Confession of the Flesh: What does it mean to tell the truth of oneself? What price does the individual pay by telling this truth, and moreover what does it take for her to consider that telling the truth of hierself is the very condition of a true relation to the self?
This is a point of great importance for us today: Foucault revealed the desire for truth since antiquity, except that the Greeks and the Romans did not link this desire for truth with sexuality. Sexuality was about a good usage of pleasures, an ideal of control and energy. That the desire for truth became linked to the part of us called sexuality implied that sexuality had, in a sense, become our truth. And I think, as I will show in the second part of my talk, that we still have not escaped this vision.
The first tome of The History of Sexuality, The Will to Knowledge, had come to a similar conclusion but through a different route. The book had fundamentally overturned certain assumptions about modernity: in short, where we thought the modern subject constituted herself by quieting her sexuality, Foucault showed us that our sexuality only exists to the extent we put it into a discourse, in an endless loop of knowledge, with the consequence that it was sexuality itself that constituted our truth as subjects. We can go back to the starting point of our reflection, back to Arnold Davidson and the emergence of an imperative to “be your sexuality!” The creation of a “scientia sexualis” attached the subject to her sexuality. As in psychoanalysis, it made sexuality the revelation of our most profound essence.
Here, the general project of The History of Sexuality becomes clear: to undertake a genealogy of the man of desire in which the obligation to tell truth of his desires, his impulses, his penchants, his obsessions, ends up as the essential rupture of the whole endeavor. It is precisely this rupture that leads to the development of the Christian pastoral between the second and fifth centuries. And we understand why Foucault wanted this work to appear after his books on the Greeks and Romans.
One needs to first show how sexual practices and pleasures were codified in antiquity before taking place in a culture of austerity (The Use of Pleasures). From there, we have to study its inflections in a way of life dominated by a preoccupation with the self in the first two centuries AD (The Care of the Self). Only then are we ready to confront the rupture we find in Confessions of the Flesh, the moment in our genealogy of desire when the Christian Fathers link the flesh to the purification from desire. And it is here that we see the entirely new obligation to tell the truth not only of oneself, but of one’s sexuality. Of course, one has to tell the truth about all sorts of sins, but essentially it is our sexual desires that lead us to sin.
Foucault formulates his question on page 98: “Why, when he have ‘done wrong,’ do we need to bring forth the truth, not only of what we did, but of who we are?” We can make several points: first the replacement of penitence with confession—truth-doing with truth-telling. Second, that the truth is only valuable when it bursts open into the sunlight; it is not enough to admit to oneself; one must say it to another through a technology of submission and obedience. And finally, by saying what I did, I reveal who I am: “Why do we have to reveal the truth not only of what we did but of what we are?” Our subjective being is revealed by the truth-telling about our sexuality.
- C) The Confession
Foucault leads a final pertinent reflection on how the structure of the confession itself tends to be constitutive of being a subject, from which he draws major lessons about the relations between the self, sexuality, wrong doing, and truth-telling. Confessing can be understood from the point of view of the confessor, replacing the director of conscience from antiquity, who was only there to direct action and not to pronounce his verdict on the subject. Foucault shows how this confession is an integral part of the pastoral government of individuals: this obligation to tell the truth of oneself and of one’s wrongdoing becomes a mode of government. It is by confessing one’s acts that one receives the possibility of salvation—but at the price of total submission to one’s confessor. The obligation to tell the truth of one’s sins is no longer a simple question of truthfulness as it was in antiquity, but rather a technology to assure a certain power over one’s subjects.
This is what Foucault identifies in the two grand strategies: penitence as truth-doing and confession as truth-telling. In both practices the underlying question is: how to lead a true Christian life, dedicated to the salvation of one’s soul through an ensemble of constantly repeated practices to purge the wrongdoing? We have to understand here that the ancient technique of baptism becomes insufficient to purge us of sin, because man continues to carry the weight of original sin within him. And thus we need a new technique made of penitential practices (exomogolesis) and also exams, admissions, confessions of one’s sins (exagoresis) to allow the individual to reach salvation.
That confession soon eclipses penitence indicates clearly and irrevocably an ever-closer link between admission and confession that Foucault notes in The Will to Knowledge: “Admission was and remains today the general matrix that presides over the production of truth discourses about sex” (The Will to Knowledge, p. 84). Foucault sees perfectly how penitence is already a form of admission and publicly admitted fault. But he also underlines that it takes on a whole new dimension when it becomes a question of confessing one’s sins. Because admission now convokes the subject in his deepest interior: “It is no longer a question of saying what has been done—the sexual act—and how, but rather to reconstruct around this act and within it the thoughts that doubled the fault, the desires and accompanying obsessions” (p. 85).
Thus, through historical investigations that span three centuries and take in baptism, confession, virginity, and marriage, Foucault’s goal is to reconstruct the Christian techniques that make an individual confess his most intimate thoughts and most secret desires. For us today, I think it’s essential to underline what I would call the emergence of mental sexuality. The libidinization of sex that Foucault analyzes in the work of Saint Augustine from the 5th century, implies that the libido triumphs not only over the body but over the soul as well. What is this libido? The surging of an involuntary movement “in place of [something] voluntary” (p. 333). Saint Augustine discovered before Freud that sex is a mental affair: “It is in the soul itself that Saint Augustine seeks to place the principle of concupiscence and the involuntary point of departure that passes through” (p. 341). Which is to say, if the libido resides in the soul, one has to watch and scrutinize it in order to purge all bad thoughts. We are left with an infinite task of self-observation and interpretation, which makes confession to a priest a necessary form of admission.
- Confessions of the Flesh today?
- A) The dimorphism of truthfulness and lawfulness
Two elements are of central importance: truth and the law. They become two historically distinct entry points into the experience of sexuality. Foucault presents these entry points when discussing the differences between monastic life and matrimony in Christian culture. The difference is very important for the diffusion of Christianity: the monastic ideal places the monk outside the world; matrimony codifies a Christian way of living within the world—and it is thus vital that the first not become the norm of the second. It also means that we can’t just focus on the monastic ideal and must figure out a way of living within the world. This separation between the house of God (the monastery) and the home leads to two different relations to sexuality that Foucault presents from the perspective of truth (truthfulness) and from the perspective of a form of life (lawfulness).
On the one hand, everyone in the monastery has an obligation to tell the truth about his desires and thoughts. Monastic asceticism consists in “practices of constant self-surveillance, the deciphering of one’s own secrets” (p. 281): the subject has an obligation to truthfulness in the deciphering of his own flesh. As a form of life, however, it is the institution of marriage that fixes the boundaries of Christian life for everyone. In this perspective, marriage implies an ensemble of reciprocal debts between the man and woman that thus become a form of jurisdiction: “the theme of debt will give rise to a constant work of codification and to a long reflection on jurisprudence.”
What is remarkable in Foucault’s analysis is that he doesn’t try to unify these two great experiences of sexuality—telling the truth of oneself, and placing oneself in a juridical economy of sexuality (Saint Augustine?). He maintains the difference, which he calls dimorphism: the experience of sexuality is reflected in two distinct forms. For Foucault, the separation between these two forms is central to our experience of sexuality, and he argues that it is precisely this difference that constitutes the sexual culture in the West that has remained to this day. I’ll cite a crucial passage that follows an analysis of dimorphism in one of the Church fathers, Chrysostomis, in the 4th century: “The dimorphism will become more and more pronounced and will profoundly mark our way of thinking and policing sexual behavior in the West: in terms of truth (but in the form of a secret at the center of the self that needs to be infinitely elucidated if we want to be saved), and in terms of the law (but in the form of debts and obligations as much as in the form of prohibition and transgression). This dimorphism is far from disappearing, or at least its effects are far from exhausted” (p. 282). Thus, we see two very different points of entry into sexuality.
- B) Sexuality-psychology and sexuality-practice: the continuation and conclusion of dimorphism
And today? Our experience of sexuality is marked by a search for truth and legality. On the one hand, the truth-telling has not disappeared at all. It is simply no longer articulated as a confession of one’s sins, but rather as a declaration of one’s sexual style; more than ever, it is organized in the form of a narration of the self in which each of us presents her/him/them/itself as a sexual subject of a certain style: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, aromantic, graysexual, semisexual, semiromantic, lithromantic, pansexual, polysexual, skoliosexual. The structure of the address hasn’t disappeared—and thus neither has the admission—but it now takes multiple forms, which are also modes of exposing the self—including on the Internet, as Bernard Harcourt has shown. There are also narrations of the self addressed to medical institutions in order to change one’s sex as part of psychiatric therapy, which are amplified operations of truth-telling. And of the law, since the fight for rights has now emphatically extended to this realm: the right to marriage for homosexual couples, the right to adoption, medically assisted procreation, surrogacy, etc.
Without a doubt this intertwining of the self and sexuality is one of the most interesting aspects of Foucault’s book from 1982 published in 2018, as it forces us to ask: what do we mean by our experience of sexuality today? And here I think we can take leave of Foucault’s dimorphism between the two great forms of sexuality, monastic and matrimonial. In part this is of course due to our secularization, which is not without paradoxical effects and remainders reminiscent of the revolution counter-revolution dynamic. The sexual revolution that started in the 60s provoked a counterrevolution that took the form of a return to religious codifications of sexuality. Nonetheless, things changed, and what changed profoundly, despite the counterrevolution, is that sexuality has become our own business. This doesn’t mean—source of many misunderstandings—that the basic dimorphism, truthfulness and lawfulness, has disappeared. And how could it, given the extent to which sexuality is a social and cultural formation? But if these two entry points into sexuality—truthfulness and lawfulness—don’t disappear, they tend, in my opinion, to become one. It is precisely this unification that renders sexuality each person’s business.
If this analysis is correct, it means that we are seeing re-articulations of what we are as sexual subjects that specify how we are to live our sexuality. The disassociation of sexual life in Christian marriage—whose goal was not procreation, Foucault points out, but rather a right inherent in marriage—this dichotomy between what one may and may not do, is being reabsorbed in a new mode: we are now supposed to deduce our ideal sexual practices from an excavation and presentation of our true sexuality.
To understand this major change, we have to bring it back to its origins in the egalitarian struggles of women and sexual minorities. The schema of a dimorphism of the flesh in Christian culture is a gendered schema written in advance by and for men who see in women a piece of property, and only abolishes this relation in marriage, where each has the right to the other’s body. The History of Sexuality and this fourth volume do not escape this schema, and it is in this sense a masculinist history of sexuality in which the counter-history of sexuality of women barely appears—hence the critiques of American feminists on the entire project and The Will to Knowledge in particular. This also explains why the book, which appears to us 37 years after it was written, is at once both so familiar and so strange.
Familiar, because despite the extreme Christian renouncement of the flesh, it is nonetheless our psychological subject that was created through this process (of which Freud was one endpoint), in which the great task was to decipher oneself starting with one’s desires. And yet strange, because this idea of desires as an interpretation of the self takes place within the framework of extreme inequality of the sexes that is no longer imaginable. That is no doubt the crucial point: the erasure of female voices and thereby of all marginalized sexualities in the constitution of a sexual self.
If we are situated in an egalitarian framework, it is because we are situated within a whole new episteme of sexuality in which each of us makes her own sexuality from a certain truth of one’s sex. Truthfulness and lawfulness have not disappeared but rather coagulated and been almost absorbed in the same ensemble. To ask the truth of the self of a certain gender (truthfulness) and to access legitimate practices of sexuality (lawfulness) are intertwined processes. The obligation to say the truth of one’s sexuality corresponds to the right to exercise one’s sexuality correctly, or truly. Thus it is no longer the relationship between wrongdoing and truth telling of the old Christian culture, but rather a new relationship between doing well and telling truth, which becomes, if not the norm, then at least the experience of sexuality.
To be more precise, one could say: from the moment we consider truth-telling about our sexuality to be a fundamental experience of subjectivity, we can start articulating a whole new category of rights. From the moment I say what I am sexually, when I have the courage to come out of the closet, something like a right to a true sexuality becomes plausible and legitimate. Homosexual demands, made since the closets have opened, led to marriage for all. In other words, we tell the truth of our sexuality in part to open up a certain number of rights. Truthfulness becomes the necessary condition of lawfulness. This leads to a new culture of the self in which we move from the injunction to admit one’s desires to the confessor to the desire to publicly announce what one is sexually in order to fully live one’s life.
This seems like a new episteme at work, in which the subject links herself differently to the forms of knowledge and power that now rest entirely on the equality of partners and above all on the presumption of equality. The question is: what to do of sexuality within equality? We can see that the Christian episteme was heavily marked by the inequality between men and women—with the exception, for Foucault, of the very detailed framework of ideal marriage or certain moments around procreation when the rights to the body of the other are equal. Whereas now, we have completely abandoned this episteme with a strong affirmation of the equality of sexual partners and the assumption that this equality must be taken as the prerequisite for any and all sexual activity, which leads us to the idea of mutual consent and the idea that it is precisely by remaining owners of our bodies that we can enjoy the sexual act.
In this perspective, we see that movements like Me Too in the United States are implicitly fighting against this older episteme, against domination and the idea of power hierarchies in sexuality. Our era is thus particularly interesting and must be interrogated through the following question: what sexuality in a context of radical equality?
This coincides with the growing demand for lawfulness as understood through the importance of consent and its translation into legal recourse. With the notion of consent, the entire spectrum of sexual practices is covered by the law—and depends again on the assumption that each of us will be fully recognized in the singularity of her own relationship to sexuality. Thus, we are moving towards a common culture of good and authorized sexualities. These good sexualities no longer lead to a distinction between normal and pathological, healthy and deviant, but rather are based on the common demand that each of us be the author of her own sexuality. And by a common culture of sexuality, one must understand that the realization of the sexual subject now passes through the politicization of sexuality: the activism of a fully active subject who is fighting for a new sexual collectivity.
All of this is of course not foreign to the Big Bang that Bernard Harcourt spoke of in the third seminar dedicated to Beauvoir. Isn’t Big Bang just another name for a sexual revolution that started with the denaturalization of sexuality, which Beauvoir undertook in The Second Sex, and of which Foucault’s History of Sexuality (and also Gender Trouble) are the amplification?
Whereas sexuality seemed to be ruled by a natural law, these books showed that it was actually a social construct, which opened the door to the dichotomy between sex and gender—the uncoupling of one from the other and eventually the uncoupling of sexuality from procreation. But this also allowed a more radical uncoupling, which underlined that sex itself is a construction of gender and fully opened up the possibilities of gender expression. One can say that Butler achieved this overthrow in Gender Trouble with a strong, militant gesture: thinking gender as a horizon rather than as a law, thereby opening all the possible combinations.
The condition of this reasoning, and I will conclude here, is radical equality. If, for a long time sexuality was thought of from a basis of inequality of being, status, and culture, which required a strong distinction between the sexual journey in the psychic economy of a subject (truth-telling) and its codification in the marital realm, today, when sexuality is a terrain of equality, sexuality can only express itself in practices of equality (and not of domination), and this has fundamental repercussions on who we are and what we can experience as sexual subjects. We see the results in the extension of marriage rights, Me Too, and the denunciation of harassment, violence, and rape: something of the inequality of the Christian worldview has been broken, no doubt definitively, and has given way to a new and radically egalitarian economy of sexual subjects. This means that all the forms of domination that for centuries assured women’s submission to men and simultaneously precluded all other relations are now, in theory at least, illegitimate.
Does this mean that Foucault’s entire episteme concerning the relations between subject, sexuality, power, and knowledge, must be razed? I don’t think so, and for a reason that is related to the historical linking of our obligation to say the truth of ourselves and of our sexuality. The idea that the subject does not have to answer for her sexuality and what lies within it, is to us—still today, and perhaps more than ever today—foreign and almost incomprehensible. And this has positive as well as negative repercussions. Positive, for if sexuality is the essential part of the self, then any violence committed against people in the name of their sexuality becomes a negation of the self. Negative, perhaps, because having to admit who we are is eventually considered as that which we have to honor in our own sexuality.
Foucault already said it in The Will to Knowledge: “From the age of Christian penitence until today, sex has been a privileged part of confession. It is what we hide, or so they said. But what if, to the contrary, it was precisely that which we confess?” (The Will to Knowledge, p. 82). It follows that everything that passes in silence, every erotology of our practices seems shot through or even negated by this obligation to tell the truth of ourselves to someone else who will confirm who we are, either by certifying the normality of our sexuality (medical structures), or by codifying our sexuality (judicial structures). No doubt it is from here that we should take up Foucault’s challenge to “invent new forms of subjectivity.”
Translated by Xavier Flory