I argue that the right to sexual satisfaction of severely physically and mentally disabled people and elderly people who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases can be fulfilled by deploying sex robots; this would enable us to satisfy the sexual needs of many who cannot provide for their own sexual satisfaction; without at the same time violating anybody’s right to sexual self-determination. I don’t offer a full-blown moral justification of deploying sex robots in such cases, as not all morally relevant concerns can (...) be addressed here; rather, I put forward a plausible way of fulfilling acute sexual needs without thereby violating anybody’s sexual rights. (shrink)
Philosophers have recently expressed interest in the question as to whether there is a right to sex, a right whose justification is motivated by the existence of sexually excluded people—people who suffer from involuntary long-term sexual deprivation (owing, say, to a chronic medical condition). This paper, after offering preliminary remarks about what a right to sex and its objects might be and who might have this right, surveys seven justifications for the right: linkage arguments, need, well-being, a minimally decent life, (...) sexual activity being a basic good, injustice, and relationships. The paper argues that a right to sex does not likely exist because none of the justifications is convincing. The paper then argues that despite the lack of justification, and because sexual exclusion is a problem worthy of attention, people’s sexual needs can be addressed through the lens of goals instead of rights. This not only takes sexual exclusion seriously enough, it also avoids the crucial problems associated with rights-talk, especially that of sexual coercion. (shrink)
On a version of consent theory that tempts many, predatory sexual relations involving significant power imbalances (e.g. between professors and students, adults and teenagers, or employers and employees) are wrong because they violate consent-centric norms. In particular, the wronged party is said to have been _incapable_ of consenting to the predation, and the sexual wrong is located in the encounter’s nonconsensuality. Although we agree that these are sexual wrongs, we resist the idea that they are always nonconsensual. We argue instead (...) that it is possible for students, teenagers, employees, etc. to fully consent to sexually predatory encounters; denying as much renders survivors of predation vulnerable to compounding harms. Survivors face a dilemma: give up either their understanding of their experience as wrong, or their self-conception as an agent capable of consenting. We call the latter phenomenon _agential demotion_. (shrink)
Philosophers have rightly condemned lookism—that is, discrimination in favor of attractive people or against unattractive people—in education, the justice system, the workplace and elsewhere. Surprisingly, however, the almost universal preference for attractive romantic and sexual partners has rarely received serious ethical scrutiny. On its face, it’s unclear whether this is a form of discrimination we should reject or tolerate. I consider arguments for both views. On the one hand, a strong case can be made that preferring attractive partners is bad. (...) The idea is that choosing partners based on looks seems essentially similar to other objectionable forms of discrimination. (In particular, the preference for attractive partners is arguably both unfair and harmful to a significant degree.) One can try to resist this conclusion in several ways. I consider three possible replies. The first has to do with the possibility of controlling our partner preferences. The second pertains to attractiveness and “good genes”. The last attempts to link certain aspects of attractiveness to a prospective partner’s personality and values. I argue that the first two replies fail conclusively, while the third only amounts to a limited defense of a particular kind of attractiveness preference. So the idea that we should often avoid preferring attractive partners is compelling. (shrink)
This chapter delineates several distinct (and often problematically conflated) kinds of sexual exclusion: (1) lack of access to sexual gratification or pleasure, (2) lack of access to partnered sex, and (3) lack of social/psychological validation that comes from being seen as a sexual being. Liberman offers proposals about what our collective responses to these harms should be while weighing in on debates about whether there are rights to various kinds of sexual goods. She concludes that we ought to provide mechanical (...) assistance to those who are incapable of self-stimulation, enhance access to sexual education for everyone, and engage in a systematic effort to change the harmful social norms, stereotypes, and cultural ideals that drive exclusion from partnered sex and can lead to social invalidation. (shrink)
This article argues that access to meaningful sexual experience should be included within the set of the goods that are subject to principles of distributive justice. It argues that some people are currently unjustly excluded from meaningful sexual experience and it is not implausible to suggest that they might thereby have certain claim rights to sexual inclusion. This does not entail that anyone has a right to sex with another person, but it does entail that duties may be imposed on (...) society to foster greater sexual inclusion. This is a controversial thesis and this article addresses this controversy by engaging with four major objections to it: the misogyny objection; the impossibility objection; the stigmatisation objection; and the unjust social engineering objection. (shrink)
This article argues that political injustices can arise from the distribution and character of our sexual desires and that we can be held responsible for correcting these injustices. It draws on a conception of structural injustice to diagnose unjust patterns of sexual attraction, which are taken to arise when socio-structural processes shaping the formation of sexual desire compound systemic domination and capacity-deprivation for the occupants of a social position. Individualistic and structural solutions to the problem of unjust patterns of sexual (...) attraction are assessed in the context of racialised sexual aversion, racial fetishism, and the desexualisation of people with disabilities. While both forms of intervention can help in principle, some of the advantages of structural approaches are laid out. A schema for assigning political responsibilities for addressing this injustice is proposed, with some limits identified to the kinds of state and social responses that are justified. Finally, the status of the merely aesthetically unappealing is considered, with a relational egalitarian approach concluding that they are subject to structurally unjust patterns of sexual desire only when exposed to oppression or second-class citizenship as a result. (shrink)
A new book by Maurizio Balistreri, "Sex robot. L’amore al tempo delle macchine", is reviewed. Sex robots not only exacerbate social, ethical and cultural issues that already exist, but also come with emergent and novel ones. This book is intended to build on the recent research on both robotics and the growing scholarship on sex robots more generally, however with greater attention to the developments of the philosophical issues of how to deal with these new artefacts and steps for living (...) among these types of systems into the future. (shrink)
In this paper, I answer the following question: suppose that two individuals, C and D, have been in a long-term committed relationship, and D now has dementia, while C is competent; if D agrees to have sex with C, is it permissible for C to have sex with D? Ultimately, I defend the view that, under certain conditions, D can give valid consent to sex with C, rendering sex between them permissible. Specifically, I argue there is compelling reason to endorse (...) the following thesis: -/- Prior Consent Thesis: D, when competent, can give valid prior consent to sex with her competent partner (C) that will take place after she has dementia, assuming that D is the same person as she was when she gave prior consent, meaning that, if D, when competent, gave prior consent to sex with C, then C may permissibly have sex with D. In section I, I explain both the background and the existing literature on this issue. In section II, I outline relevant stipulations about the kinds of cases I will be examining. In section III, I defend the Prior Consent Thesis. And, in section IV, I address objections to the Prior Consent Thesis. (shrink)
Asian romantic preference is not wrong because it does not infringe on someone’s moral right. Nor is it unjust in some other way. It is not intrinsically bad because it is neither false nor does it consist of the love of evil or hatred of the good. It is not clear if it is instrumentally bad because it is not clear whether it is good for Asian women and, if it is, whether the good for them is outweighed by the (...) bad for others. People have many preferences when it comes to marriage, dating, and sex. Consider heterosexual men’s preferences for women who are thin, feminine, normal height, symmetrical, and so on. The preference to marry, date, or have sex with Asian women is morally similar to these preferences. (shrink)
Should positional sexual misconduct (sexual advances or interaction where one party is known, or should be known, to have a significant power over the other) be included in the list of morally forbidden behaviours? I explore benefits and costs of this moral reform with the help of J. S. Mill.
Ethical Sex: Sexual Choices and Their Nature and Meaning is a book-length exploration of the philosophy of sex. It engages with various approaches to the subject, covering natural law approaches and phenomenology as well as virtue ethics.
I take issue with the view that libertarian theory does not imply any particular stand on abortion. Liberty is the absence of interference with people’s wills—interests, wishes, and desires. Only entities that have such are eligible for the direct rights of libertarian theory. Foetuses do not; and if aborted, there is then no future person whose rights are violated. Hence the “liberal” view of abortion: women (especially) may decide whether to bear the children they have conceived. Birth is a good (...) dividing line between the freedom to abort and the point at which society is permitted to take an interest. Once born, children detach from their mothers; no invasion of their bodies is necessary to separate them. Yet some ways of bringing them up can have a negative impact on society. There is a thus legitimate interest in protecting ourselves from the results of truly bad parenting. (shrink)
Criminalisation of prostitution, and minority rights for disabled persons, are important contemporary political issues. The article examines their intersection by analysing the conditions and arguments for making a legal exception for disabled persons to a general prohibition against purchasing sexual services. It explores the badness of prostitution, focusing on and discussing the argument that prostitution harms prostitutes, considers forms of regulation and the arguments for and against with emphasis on a liberty-based objection to prohibition, and finally presents and analyses three (...) arguments for a legal exception, based on sexual rights, beneficence, and luck egalitarianism, respectively. It concludes that although the general case for and against criminalisation is complicated there is a good case for a legal exception. (shrink)
Carol Pateman has said that the public/private distinction is what feminism is all about. I tend to be sceptical about categorical pronouncements of this sort, but this book is a work of feminist political philosophy and the public/private distinction is what it is all about. It is motivated by the belief that we lack a philosophical conception of privacy suitable for a democracy; that feminism has exposed this lack; and that by combining feminist analysis with recent developments in political philosophy, (...) we can meet the philosophical and political need for a distinctively democratic conception of privacy. This book then, is an effort to sketch and defend such a conception of privacy. It aims to show that while some conceptions of privacy are inconsistent with democracy, others are not. Indeed, the book asserts, the belief that privacy can be valuable and that it can justify basic legal rights, is implicit in a democratic conception of persons as free and equal beings, and a democratic conception of politics as the self-governing, or regulating, activity of such individuals. Just as we can and should reject undemocratic conceptions of the suffrage in favour of democratic ones, so the book maintains, we can and must reject undemocratic conceptions of privacy in favour of ones that reflect the moral equality of men and women, and a commitment to democratic forms of government. Democracy is often described as government by and for the people. On such a view, democracy is a political regime which can be contrasted with monarchies or aristocracies on the one hand, or with theocracies and despotisms on the other. By contrast with the former, it is a form of government that views individuals as citizens and as equal members of the agency which authorizes the use of political power. By contrast with the latter, it is a form of government whose purposes and aims are established by the common interests of individuals, conceived as free and equal citizens. It is my contention that there is a plausible and attractive conception of privacy implicit in this view of democracy. Hence, I show that individuals have fundamental interests in privacy because privacy enables them to participate in politics freely and as the equal of others and, beyond that, to lead lives that they can each affirm to be reasonable, valuable and right. As I think that the ideal of democratic government is properly associated with this latter and broader goal, as well as with the former one, I call my account of privacy a democratic conception of privacy to signal its connection to a particular ideal of politics, and to the conception of persons that makes this ideal a convincing and inspiring one. As this is a work of political philosophy, however, no effort is made to address the legal merits of competing accounts of the right to privacy, or to resolve legal dispute about the content and justification of particular constitutional rights in the United States. Thus, while I use Supreme Court decisions and works of legal theory to illustrate and support my arguments, my use of these materials is governed by philosophical concerns and my conclusions, therefore, are strictly of a philosophical, not a legal, nature. The book is divided into four chapters, moving from feminist criticisms of privacy to an engagement with the philosophical literature on privacy and an account of the right to privacy in a democratic society. It proceeds as follows. In Chapter 1, I examine feminist concerns about privacy, through a close reading of the work of Catherine MacKinnon. I argue that MacKinnon persuasively shows that protection for privacy has frequently licensed the coercion and subjection of women, and that her arguments are supported both by feminist scholarship, key Supreme Court decisions, and by familiar conceptions of privacy and equality. However, I argue, these criticisms do not imply that privacy, like slavery, can never be democratic, because wholly inconsistent with the equality of individuals. Rather, feminist criticisms of privacy suggest that privacy, like the suffrage, can be necessary to the equality of women and can have a legitimate and important place in a democratic society. In Chapter 2, I examine the philosophical literature on privacy in light of the need to distinguish democratic from undemocratic accounts of its nature and value. This literature, I show, can help us to provide an account of privacy that is sensitive both to its inegalitarian aspects and to its importance for a democratic commitment to the freedom and equality of women. However, I argue, we cannot embrace current philosophical accounts of privacy uncritically, because to a striking extent they are, themselves, indifferent to the ways that privacy has licensed sexual inequality. Thus, in Chapter 2, I set about interpreting privacy as a moral and political value, in light of the strengths and weaknesses of the philosophical literature on privacy. Their strength is that they show that there are many reasons for caring about privacy, or many ways in which we might define it as a democratic value. Their weakness is that they tend to assume that we must choose amongst these different conceptions of privacy, in order to provide a philosophically cogent account of privacy. This, I show, is a mistake and one that can be remedied by remembering that a commitment to the equality of individuals requires us to acknowledge the reasonable differences in value and interest that may characterize their relations in a democracy. When we do so, I show, it is possible to define privacy in terms of its protection for self-definition, intimacy and confidentiality, without having to choose between the three of them. For individuals may legitimately disagree about the differences between privacy and other values, even while holding that privacy is a distinctive and important democratic good; and they may also disagree about the importance of privacy compared to other goods, such as equality, without denying that self-definition, intimacy and confidentiality can be morally and politically desirable in a democracy. In Chapter 2, therefore, I show that we can provide a philosophically adequate account of what privacy is and why it is valuable without supposing that privacy is always sexually egalitarian, or denying that it has a distinctive place in a democratic conception of value. Chapter 3 then extends this account of privacy, by considering the justification for a legal right to privacy. Just as we cannot provide a democratic conception of privacy without attending to the different, though equally valid, concerns that individuals may have so, I show, we cannot provide a democratic account of privacy rights if we forget that individuals can, quite reasonably, differ in the importance that they attach to privacy. The result, I argue, is that we can distinguish two main reasons for protecting privacy by right in a democracy, the one personal and the other political. Whereas the former emphasizes the importance of self-definition, intimacy and confidentiality to the personal freedom and equality of individuals, the latter emphasizes their importance to their prospects for voluntary and equal participation in the processes of collective choice and deliberation that define a democratic government. These two justifications of privacy rights reflect the fact that in a democracy the personal can be political, as feminists have insisted, but need not be in order to merit protection by right. Indeed, I argue, we can distinguish democratic from undemocratic accounts of the right to privacy in this way: for whilst the former acknowledge the variety of individuals’ interests in personal and collective choice, the latter either collapse the political into the personal, or assume that the legitimate claims of individuals are merely a function of collective needs, interests and values. Neither of these is consistent with familiar assumptions about the nature and justification of democratic institutions and rights, nor can they be reconciled with a commitment to sexual equality. Thus, I conclude, though the fact that there are different justifications for privacy rights in a democracy means that individuals may legitimately disagree over the content and justification of basic rights, it is wrong to confuse democratic debate with moral or conceptual confusion and so, arbitrarily, to truncate our accounts of privacy, equality and democracy. Finally, in Chapter 4, I test and develop these claims by examining the justification for abortion rights in a democracy. I argue that women have legitimate interests in abortion, as well as in bearing children, because they have fundamental, and legitimate, interests in privacy and equality. Although safe and legal abortion is necessary to sexual equality, as feminists claim, I show that we can provide a convincing and democratic account of women’s claims to abortion only if we recognize women’s interests in self-definition, intimacy and confidentiality. This is because women have both personal and political interests in abortion and we will be unable adequately to identify these if we overlook their interests in privacy. Indeed, I show, the difference between democratic and undemocratic solutions to conflict over abortion lies precisely in this: that whereas the former acknowledge the importance of privacy to the personal and political equality of women, the latter overlook or deny this. As a result, the latter license both mandated abortions, although women have legitimate interests in bearing and raising children, and prohibitions on abortion that cannot be reconciled with the freedom and equality of women. That is not to say that abortion is not a politically significant matter, or that we can resolve moral conflict over abortion simply by giving women a legal right to abortion. Neither is the case. However, the chapter shows, in a democracy individuals are entitled to make morally and politically controversial decisions for themselves not simply because this is expedient or useful, but because this is right. To overlook this feature of democracy, I argue, is to make moral and political conflict utterly intractable by democratic means. Thus, while controversy over abortion has been held to show that privacy is an incoherent and undemocratic right, this chapter argues that it shows the reverse: for controversy over abortion makes clear that privacy is essential to democracy, and why this should be so. This overview of the book, I hope, makes clear that its concerns are methodological as well as substantive, and moral as well as political. Thus, its central methodological claim is that we cannot reconcile privacy with the equality of individuals unless we make a deliberate effort to do so. Its central moral and political claims are that privacy is compatible with the equality of individuals, and sufficiently important to the latter that, in a democracy, the privacy of individuals merits legal protection by right. However, this summary of the book also exposes its limitations. Chief amongst these, I fear, is that it provides no sustained discussion of the place of property on a democratic conception of privacy, and that the latter, itself, is rather a broad preliminary sketch than a polished and detailed portrait. I regard these limits on the scope and arguments of the book as limitations, albeit ones that I hope to be able to remedy before too long.However, limited though the book clearly is, I believe that it lays out the essential components of a democratic conception of privacy and that, by analysing and synthesizing several diverse bodies of literature, it may help those who are interested in the relations between privacy, equality and democracy. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that orgasm-faking is permissible. My essay consists of three parts. First, I provide a background sketch of the psychology of orgasm-faking. Second, I argue that it is permissible. Third, I consider other arguments that might be made for the permissibility of faking it.
The public discourse surrounding sex and severe disability over the past 40 years has largely focused on protecting vulnerable populations from abuse. However, health professionals and activists are increasingly recognising the inherent sexuality of disabled persons and attempting to find ways to accommodate their intimacy needs. This essay explores several ethical issues arising from such efforts.
Sexual fantasy is a non-perceptual thought that is sexually arousing. It has several paradigmatic features. The structure of a fantasy involves an agent taking pleasure in an object that is often a visual depiction of an event. The fantasy is under the agent’s control and has a semantic content. Since mere sexual fantasizing about someone respects the individual who are depicted in the fantasy, the rightness of a sexual fantasy depends on whether consequentialism is true and, if so, whether the (...) particular fantasy brings about better results an alternative activities. Sexual fantasies can be intrinsically good or bad depending on whether the pleasure is malicious and whether the fantasy contains a false statement. The vast majority are not intrinsically bad since they neither involve an unfitting attitude toward something that is itself bad nor commit the subject to a falsity. Hence, if one rejects consequentialism, then most sexual fantasies, including many of the most violent ones, are neither wrong nor intrinsically bad. (shrink)
This article argues that people have legitimate interests in privacy that deserve legal protection on democratic principles. It describes the right to privacy as a bundle of rights of personal choice, association and expression and shows that, so described, people have legitimate political interests in privacy. These interests reflect the ways that privacy rights can supplement the protection for people’s freedom and equality provided by rights of political choice, association and expression, and can help to make sure that these are, (...) genuinely, democratic. Feminists have often been ambivalent about legal protection for privacy, because privacy rights have, so often, protected the coercion and exploitation of women, and made it difficult to politicise personal forms of injustice. However, attention to the differences between democratic and undemocratic forms of politics can enable us to meet these concerns, and to distinguish a democratic justification of privacy rights from the alternatives. (shrink)
This paper contrasts two prominent positions in contemporary Western feminist discourse about prostitution. The first is radical feminism, which emerged in the early 1970s; the second is libertarian feminism, which emerged in the late 1980s. The paper analyses the underlying assumptions and public policy recommendation of each position; it argues that each illuminates important aspects of the situations of some prostitutes but ignores or denies others. An approach to prostitution capable of providing an adequate guide to public policy must be (...) less dogmatic or “essentialist” than either radical or libertarian feminism; it should investigate how the sex trade operates in specific locations and the varying meanings it has in different cultural, contexts. Such investigations must be feminist not only in their commitment to ending the subordination of women but also in their respect for choices made by women who already must often endure not only exploitation but also stigmatization, discrimination and exclusion. In this paper, I sketch two prominent positions in contemporary Western feminist discourse about prostitution, discuss the strengths and inadequacies of each, and conclude by indicating an approach—as opposed to a substantive analysis—that I find more promising. (shrink)