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Alexander, Larry, Hurd, Heidi, Westen, Peter. Consent Does Not Require Communication: A Reply to Dougherty
2016, Law and Philosophy. 35: 655-660.
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Added by: Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore
Abstract: Tom Dougherty argues that consenting, like promising, requires both an appropriate mental attitude and a communication of that attitude.Thus, just as a promise is not a promise unless it is communicated to the promisee, consent is not consent unless it is communicated to the relevant party or parties. And those like us, who believe consent is just the attitude, and that it can exist without its being communicated, are in error. Or so Dougherty argues. We, however, are unpersuaded. We believe Dougherty is right about promises, but wrong about consent. Although each of us gives a slightly different account of the attitude that constitutes consent, we all agree that consent is constituted by that attitude and need not be communicated in order to alter the morality of another’s conduct.

Comment: The authors argue that consent is an attitude, rather than an act of communication. They give two examples to support this view where the communication of consent doesn’t occur or goes wrong somehow, but nonetheless (they claim) it is intuitively a consensual interaction.

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Banerjee, Pompi, Raj Merchant, Jaya Sharma. Kink and Feminism – Breaking the Binaries
2018, Sociology and Anthropology 6(3): 313-320
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Rosa Vince
Abstract: This paper seeks to share what Bondage-Domination-Sado-Masochism/Kink might offer to feminist understandings of sexuality, gender and power. It has been written by members of the Kinky Collective, a group that seeks to raise awareness about BDSM in India. The paper addresses four key themes. The first theme relates to the subversion of gender and sexual norms in kink from a feminist lens. It challenges popular notions of BDSM which seem to reflect heteropatriarchy, evoking images of, typically, a cisman dominating a ciswoman, making her submit to his desires. The paper argues that this assumption invisibilises male submissiveness with female dominants as well as queer/same sex kink. Even if a seemingly ‘mainstream’ submissive role is chosen by a woman, it has the capacity to be feminist as roles and dynamics are intentional, discussed, negotiated and consented to by all involved unlike in ‘real life’ where power dynamics are rarely acknowledged. Since kink is solidly in the area of playfulness and experimentation, it also makes for a safe space for gender transgressive persons. The second theme addressed by the paper related to Kink, Feminism and Desire. It argues that kink enables a paradigm shift from consent for harm reduction to consent for enabling pleasure and the exploration of desires. It offers another paradigm shift, away from false consciousness to one that brings to focus on the unconscious. In this third theme of the unconscious, the paper challenges the false binary of sexual fantasies being ‘OK’ vs. ‘not OK’. The unconscious allows for a link between the personal and political such that our politics is less judgmental. Being in that space where our desires seem to collide with our politics might help challenge the overly rational framework of feminism and help us move perhaps from a politics of certainty to a politics of doubt. The fourth theme of the paper relates to the question of Power in Kink. It argues that kink challenges binary notions of powerful and powerfulness because submission is powerful and that it is precisely because the submissive submits that the Dominant can dominate. Using these four subthemes, we argue that kink can contribute to feminist thought and praxis in India.

Comment: In courses on feminism and philosophy of sex this text will be extremely useful as it offers some key responses to the arguments that feminism and sadomasochism are incompatible.

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Bartky, Sandra Lee. Femininity and Domination
1990, Routledge.
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Added by: Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore
Publisher’s Note: Bartky draws on the experience of daily life to unmask the many disguises by which intimations of inferiority are visited upon women. She critiques both the male bias of current theory and the debilitating dominion held by notions of "proper femininity" over women and their bodies in patriarchal culture.

Comment: Chapter 4 is about what a feminist should do when they have a sexual desire which is in tension with their feminist beliefs in a way that makes them feel ashamed. There are two natural choices: to give up the shame and continue to have the desire, or to give up the desire. Bartky examines both of these choices and finds us in a tricky situation: it is sometimes apt and understandable to feel shame about a sexual desire (when it really is in tension with your principles), but she is sceptical about the view that we can change our desires at will or with therapy.

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Bauer, Nancy. How to Do Things With Pornography
2015, Harvard Univeristy Press.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Rosa Vince
Publisher's Note: Feminist philosophers have made important strides in altering the overwhelmingly male-centric discipline of philosophy. Yet, in Nancy Bauer’s view, most are still content to work within theoretical frameworks that are fundamentally false to human beings’ everyday experiences. This is particularly intolerable for a species of philosophy whose central aspiration is to make the world a less sexist place. How to Do Things with Pornography models a new way to write philosophically about pornography, women’s self-objectification, hook-up culture, and other contemporary phenomena. Unafraid to ask what philosophy contributes to our lives, Bauer argues that the profession’s lack of interest in this question threatens to make its enterprise irrelevant. Bauer criticizes two paradigmatic models of Western philosophizing: the Great Man model, according to which philosophy is the product of rare genius; and the scientistic model, according to which a community of researchers works together to discover once-and-for-all truths. The philosopher’s job is neither to perpetuate the inevitably sexist trope of the philosopher-genius nor to “get things right.” Rather, it is to compete with the Zeitgeist and attract people to the endeavor of reflecting on their settled ways of perceiving and understanding the world. How to Do Things with Pornography boldly enlists J. L. Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, showing that it should be read not as a theory of speech acts but as a revolutionary conception of what philosophers can do in the world with their words.

Comment: This book has chapters that will be useful for feminism modules, including critiques of the pornography and silencing literature, and on objectification, and self-objectification. It also contains plenty of witty critiques of white male dominated western philosophy.

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Christina, Greta. Are we having sex now or what?
1992, Greta Christina's blog
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Rosa Vince
Abstract:

Comment: This text is essential for anyone interested in how we define 'sex', 'sexual', or 'sex acts'. It lays out the key difficulties faced in philosophy of sex in a thorough yet accessible and engaging way. Initially a blog post, but since reprinted in philosophy of sex anthologies, it is very easy to read and I recommend setting it as the first reading for a philosophy of sex course.

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Haslanger, Sally. Gender and Race: (What) Are They? (What) Do We Want Them To Be?
2000, Nous 34(1): 31-55.
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Added by: Carl Fox
Abstract: This paper proposes social constructionist accounts of gender and race. The focus of the inquiry--inquiry aiming to provide resources for feminist and antiracist projects--are the social positions of those marked for privilege or subordination by observed or imagined features assumed to be relevant to reproductive function, or geographical origins. I develop these ideas and propose that other gendered and racialized phenomena are usefully demarcated and explained by reference to these social positions. In doing so, I address the concern that attempts to define race or gender are misguided because they either assume a false commonality or marginalize some members of the group in question.

Comment: Seminal reading for modules on gender or race.

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Jenkins Ichikawa, Jonathan. Presupposition and Consent
2020, Feminist Philosophy Quarterly. 6(4).
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Added by: Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore
Abstract: I argue that “consent” language presupposes that the contemplated action is or would be at someone else’s behest. When one does something for another reason—for example, when one elects independently to do something, or when one accepts an invitation to do something—it is linguistically inappropriate to describe the actor as “consenting” to it; but it is also inappropriate to describe them as “not consenting” to it. A consequence of this idea is that “consent” is poorly suited to play its canonical central role in contemporary sexual ethics. But this does not mean that nonconsensual sex can be morally permissible. Consent language, I’ll suggest, carries the conventional presupposition that that which is or might be consented to is at someone else’s behest. One implication will be a new kind of support for feminist critiques of consent theory in sexual ethics.

Comment: Here Ichikawa argues that the language of "consent" to sex presupposes that there is a 'requester' who asks for sex and a 'consenter' who then replies yes or no. Ichikawa argues that this reinforces sexist norms of how sex works.

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Kempadoo, Kamala. Sexing the Caribbean: Gender, Race and Sexual Labour
2004, Routledge.
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Added by: Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore
Publisher’s Note: This unprecedented work provides both the history of sex work in this region as well as an examination of current-day sex tourism. Based on interviews with sex workers, brothel owners, local residents and tourists, Kamala Kempadoo offers a vivid account of what life is like in the world of sex tourism as well as its entrenched roots in colonialism and slavery in the Caribbean.

Comment: Chapter 3 is about the perceptions of sex as transactional in the Caribbean and how the definition of "prostitution" has shifted over time. It details how sex work is organised, both in brothels and in other establishments, such as hotels, nightclubs, etc. It explores the experiences and feelings of women who have experiences of various kinds of transactional sex. This chapter can be used as a case study which allows the reader to explore sex work through a variety of lenses: its interaction with broader social issues like racism and poverty; the place of transactions and intimacy in sex and sex work; sexual norms and the social meanings of sexual relationships; and freedom and choice when engaging in sex and sex work.

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Kukla, Quill R.. A Nonideal Theory of Sexual Consent
2021, Ethics, 131(2): 270-292.
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Added by: Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore
Abstract: Our autonomy can be compromised by limitations in our capacities, or by the power relationships within which we are embedded. If we insist that real consent requires full autonomy, then virtually no sex will turn out to be consensual. I argue that under conditions of compromised autonomy, consent must be socially and interpersonally scaffolded. To understand consent as an ethically crucial but nonideal concept, we need to think about how it is related to other requirements for ethical sex, such as the ability to exit a situation, trust, safety, broader social support, epistemic standing in the community, and more.

Comment: Kukla uses this paper to describe a view of consent which is relational. This means that rather than asking questions about what each person individually consented to or not, the question is how the people having sex communicated. If they communicate sufficiently well then the sex is consensual, and if they do not it is not. We can use this to challenge a view of consent which has been implicit in most of the readings so far. This paper is used to discuss blameworthiness and responsibility for wrongful sex, and to ask questions about what the real world obligations of agents are, given their lack of complete information

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Liberto, Hallie. The Problem with Sexual Promises
2017, Ethics, 127(2): 383-414.
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Added by: Emma Holmes, David MacDonald, Yichi Zhang, and Samuel Dando-Moore
Abstract: I first distinguish promises with positive sexual content (e.g., promises to perform sexual acts) and promises with negative sexual content (e.g., promises to refrain from sexual acts—as one does when making monogamy promises). I argue that sexual content—even positive sexual content—does not cause a promise to misfire. However, the content of some successful promises is such that a promisee ought not to accept the promise, and, if she does accept, she ought then to release her promisor from the promise. I argue that both positive and negative sexual promises have content of this kind.

Comment: Liberto argues that promises to have sex, and promises not to have sex, are a special type of promise that it is morally wrong to make. She does this by first arguing why promises to have sex are “overextensive”. This means that sexual promises promise something too important: sex. After she concludes that promises to have sex are overextensive she spends the second half of the paper arguing why promises not to have sex (i.e. monogmany promises) are not disanalogous to promises to have sex, and thus are also overextensive.

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Mac, Juno, Molly Smith. Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights
2018, Verso Books
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Rosa Vince
Publisher's Note: Do you have to think that prostitution is good to support sex worker rights? How do sex worker rights fit with feminist and anti-capitalist politics? Is criminalising clients progressive—and can the police deliver justice? In Revolting Prostitutes, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring a fresh perspective to questions that have long been contentious. Speaking from a growing global sex worker rights movement, and situating their argument firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism, and resistance to white supremacy, they make clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.

Comment: This text is essential for any course in feminism, philosophy of sex, oppression and resistance, epistemic injustice, which discuss sex work or labour rights movements.

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Nussbaum, Martha. Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law
2004, Princeton University Press.
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Back matter: "Should laws about sex and pornography be based on social conventions about what is disgusting? Should felons be required to display bumper stickers or wear T-shirts that announce their crimes? This powerful and elegantly written book, by one of America's most influential philosophers, presents a critique of the role that shame and disgust play in our individual and social lives and, in particular, in the law. Martha Nussbaum argues that we should be wary of these emotions because they are associated in troubling ways with a desire to hide from our humanity, embodying an unrealistic and sometimes pathological wish to be invulnerable. Nussbaum argues that the thought-content of disgust embodies ""magical ideas of contamination, and impossible aspirations to purity that are just not in line with human life as we know it."" She argues that disgust should never be the basis for criminalizing an act, or play either the aggravating or the mitigating role in criminal law it currently does. She writes that we should be similarly suspicious of what she calls ""primitive shame,"" a shame ""at the very fact of human imperfection,"" and she is harshly critical of the role that such shame plays in certain punishments. Drawing on an extraordinarily rich variety of philosophical, psychological, and historical references--from Aristotle and Freud to Nazi ideas about purity--and on legal examples as diverse as the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Martha Stewart insider trading case, this is a major work of legal and moral philosophy".

Comment: Particularly useful for teaching on the non-rational motivators of moral reasoning and justifications of punishment, and on how emotions can be misleading and unreliable as a guide for law and ethics.

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Nussbaum, Martha. Objectification
1995, Philosophy and Public Affairs 24(4): 249-291.
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Added by: Simon Fokt
Introduction:  Sexual objectification is a familiar concept. Once a relatively technical term in feminist theory, associated in particular with the work of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, the word "objectification" has by now passed into many people's daily lives. It is common to hear it used to criticize advertisements, films, and other representations, and also to express skepticism about the attitudes and intentions of one person to another, or of oneself to someone else. Generally it is used as a pejorative term, connoting a way of speaking, thinking, and acting that the speaker finds morally or socially objectionable, usually, though not always, in the sexual realm. Thus, Catharine MacKinnon writes of pornography, "Admiration of natural physical beauty becomes objectification. Harmlessness becomes harm."' The portrayal of women "dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities" is, in fact, the first category of pornographic material made actionable under MacKinnon and Dworkin's proposed Minneapolis ordinance.2 The same sort of pejorative use is very common in ordinary social discussions of people and events.

Comment: Seminal paper distinguishing seven features of sexual objectification. An excellent introduction to any class on feminism.

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Nussbaum, Martha. Sex and Social Justice
1999, Oxford University Press.
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Back matter: What does it mean to respect the dignity of a human being? What sort of support do human capacities demand from the world, and how should we think about this support when we encounter differences of gender or sexuality? How should we think about each other across divisions that a legacy of injustice has created? In Sex and Social Justice, Martha Nussbaum delves into these questions and emerges with a distinctive conception of feminism that links feminist inquiry closely to the important progress that has been made during the past few decades in articulating theories of both national and global justice. Growing out of Nussbaum's years of work with an international development agency connected with the United Nations, this collection charts a feminism that is deeply concerned with the urgent needs of women who live in hunger and illiteracy, or under unequal legal systems. Offering an internationalism informed by development economics and empirical detail, many essays take their start from the experiences of women in developing countries. Nussbaum argues for a universal account of human capacity and need, while emphasizing the essential role of knowledge of local circumstance. Further chapters take on the pursuit of social justice in the sexual sphere, exploring the issue of equal rights for lesbians and gay men. Nussbaum's arguments are shaped by her work on Aristotle and the Stoics and by the modern liberal thinkers Kant and Mill. She contends that the liberal tradition of political thought holds rich resources for addressing violations of human dignity on the grounds of sex or sexuality, provided the tradition transforms itself by responsiveness to arguments concerning the social shaping of preferences and desires. She challenges liberalism to extend its tradition of equal concern to women, always keeping both agency and choice as goals. With great perception, she combines her radical feminist critique of sex relations with an interest in the possibilities of trust, sympathy, and understanding. Sex and Social Justice will interest a wide readership because of the public importance of the topics Nussbaum addresses and the generous insight she shows in dealing with these issues. Brought together for this timely collection, these essays, extensively revised where previously published, offer incisive political reflections by one of our most important living philosophers.

Comment: Chapter 'Judging Other Cultures: The Case of Genital Mutilation' can be particularly useful in illustrating the debate on universality vs relativity of ethical norms and values, and in discussing the legitimacy of imposing cultural norms of one culture upon another.

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Okin, Susan Moller. Is multiculturalism bad for women?
1999, Princeton University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt

Publisher's Note: Polygamy, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, punishing women for being raped, differential access for men and women to health care and education, unequal rights of ownership, assembly, and political participation, unequal vulnerability to violence. These practices and conditions are standard in some parts of the world. Do demands for multiculturalism — and certain minority group rights in particular — make them more likely to continue and to spread to liberal democracies? Are there fundamental conflicts between our commitment to gender equity and our increasing desire to respect the customs of minority cultures or religions? In this book, the eminent feminist Susan Moller Okin and fifteen of the world’s leading thinkers about feminism and multiculturalism explore these unsettling questions in a provocative, passionate, and illuminating debate.

Okin opens by arguing that some group rights can, in fact, endanger women. She points, for example, to the French government’s giving thousands of male immigrants special permission to bring multiple wives into the country, despite French laws against polygamy and the wives’ own bitter opposition to the practice. Okin argues that if we agree that women should not be disadvantaged because of their sex, we should not accept group rights that permit oppressive practices on the grounds that they are fundamental to minority cultures whose existence may otherwise be threatened.

In reply, some respondents reject Okin’s position outright, contending that her views are rooted in a moral universalism that is blind to cultural difference. Others quarrel with Okin’s focus on gender, or argue that we should be careful about which group rights we permit, but not reject the category of group rights altogether. Okin concludes with a rebuttal, clarifying, adjusting, and extending her original position. These incisive and accessible essays — expanded from their original publication in Boston Review and including four new contributions — are indispensable reading for anyone interested in one of the most contentious social and political issues today.

The diverse contributors, in addition to Okin, are Azizah al-Hibri, Abdullahi An-Na’im, Homi Bhabha, Sander Gilman, Janet Halley, Bonnie Honig, Will Kymlicka, Martha Nussbaum, Bhikhu Parekh, Katha Pollitt, Robert Post, Joseph Raz, Saskia Sassen, Cass Sunstein, and Yael Tamir.

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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