The Rock Ethics Institute


Gender & Normative Constructs

Sexual Ethics and Young Women’s Accounts of Heterosexual Casual Sex

Melanie A. Beres & Panteá Farvid
Sexualities, 13 (3): 377-393 (2010)

Drawing on Foucault’s work on sexuality and ethics we explore young women’s accounts of heterosexual casual sex experiences in Canada and New Zealand. We focus on what Foucault calls ‘rapport à soi’ (the relationship one has with one’s self) to explore reports of implied ethical (and less than ethical) practices of casual sex. To do this we conducted a theoretical thematic analysis of the women’s accounts to identify accounts of ‘care for the self’, ‘self-reflection’, and ‘care for the other’. In our analysis we draw on previous feminist theorizing on heterosexuality to demonstrate how gendered heteronormative discourses are implicated in, and at times impede, an ‘ethics of casual sex’. We argue that women’s expressions of sexual ethics are particularly constrained considering gendered power relations as they relate to heternormative sexual practices. We suggest that the cultivation of ethical sexual subjectivities offer radical potential for the subversion of dominant heterosexual discourses. Abstract retrieved from Sage Journals.

Beres Melanie A. & Farvid, Panteá (2010). Sexual ethics and young women’s accounts of heterosexual casual sex. Sexualities, 13 (3): 377-393.

A New Epistemology of Rape?

Lorraine Code
Philosophical Papers, 38 (3): 327-345 (2009)

In this essay I take issue with entrenched conceptions of individual autonomy for how they block understandings of the implications of rape in patriarchal cultures both 'at home' and in situations of armed conflict. I focus on human vulnerability as it manifests in sedimented assumptions about violence against women as endemic to male-female relations, thwarting possibilities of knowing the specific harms particular acts of rape enact well enough to render intelligible their far-reaching social-political-moral implications. Taking my point of departure from Debra Bergoffen's call for 'a new epistemology of rape', I consider what such a call can amount to within an instituted social imaginary where male domination and female subordination are taken for granted—naturalized. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Code, Lorraine (2009). A new epistemology of rape? Philosophical Papers. 38 (3): 327-345.

Cultural Memory, Empathy, and Rape

Lisa Campo-Engelstein
Philosophy in the Contemporary World, 16 (1): 25-42 (2009)

Assuming a relational understanding of the self, I argue that empathy is necessary for individual and cultural recovery from rape. However, gender affects our ability to listen with empathy to rape survivors. For women, the existence of cultural memories discourages empathy either by engendering fear of their own future rape or by provoking sympathy rather than empathy. For men, the lack of cultural memories makes rape what Arendt calls an "unreality," thus diminishing the possibility for empathy. Although empathetic listening presents gender specific challenges for both women and men, it should not be abandoned as a strategy for trauma recovery. I make two broad suggestions for promoting empathy. First, we need to teach empathy for victims and survivors. Second, we need to discredit problematic gender norms, which buttress rape culture and sexual violence. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Campo-Engelstein, Lisa (2009). Cultural memory, empathy, and rape. Philosophy in the Contemporary World, 16 (1): 25-42.

A Philosophical Investigation of Rape: The Making and Unmaking of the Feminine Self

Louise Du Toit
Routledge (2009)

This book offers a critical feminist perspective on the widely debated topic of transitional justice and forgiveness. Louise Du Toit examines the phenomenon of rape with a feminist philosophical discourse concerning women’s or ‘feminine’ subjectivity and selfhood. She demonstrates how the hierarchical dichotomy of male active versus female passive sexuality – which obscures the true nature of rape – is embedded in the dominant western symbolic frame. Through a Hegelian and phenomenological reading of first-person accounts by rape victims, she excavates an understanding of rape that also starts to open up a way out of the denial and destruction of female sexual subjectivity. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Du Toit, Louise (2009). A philosophical investigation of rape: The making and unmaking of the feminine self. New York, NY: Routledge. 

The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help

Jackson Katz
Sourcebooks Publishing (2006)

The Macho Paradox is the first book ever to comprehensively and convincingly make the case that violence against women is a men’s issue. Jackson Katz, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on this subject, takes the reader deep inside male culture to examine why so many men physically and sexually abuse women and children, including those closest to them. Abstract retrieved from the macho

Katz, Jackson (2006). The Macho Paradox: Why some men hurt women and how all men can help. Naperville: Sourcebooks Publishing.

Sex Under Pressure: Jerks, Boorish Behavior, and Gender Hierarchy

Scott A. Anderson
Res Publica, 11 (4): 349-369 (2005)

Pressuring someone into having sex would seem to differ in significant ways from pressuring someone into investing in one’s business or buying an expensive bauble. In affirming this claim, I take issue with a recent essay by Sarah Conly (‘Seduction, Rape, and Coercion’, Ethics, October 2004), who thinks that pressuring into sex can be helpfully evaluated by analogy to these other instances of using pressure. Drawing upon work by Alan Wertheimer, the leading theorist of coercion, she argues that so long as pressuring does not amount to coercing someone into having sex, her consent to sex answers the important ethical questions about it. In this essay, I argue that to understand the real significance of pressuring into sex, we need to appeal to background considerations, especially the male-dominant gender hierarchy, which renders sexual pressuring different from its non-sexual analogues. Treating pressure to have sex like any other sort of interpersonal pressure obscures the role such sexual pressure might play in supporting gender hierarchy, and fails to explain why pressure by men against women is more problematic than pressure by women against men. I suggest that men pressuring women to have sex differs from the reverse case because of at least two factors: (1) gendered social institutions which add to the pressures against women, and (2) the greater likelihood that men, not women, will use violence if denied, and the lesser ability of women compared to men to resist such violence without harm. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Anderson, Scott A.  (2005). Sex under pressure: Jerks, boorish behavior, and gender hierarchy. Res Publica, 11 (4): 349-369.

Rethinking Rape

Ann J. Cahill
Cornell University Press (2001)

Rape, claims Ann J. Cahill, affects not only those women who are raped, but all women who experience their bodies as rapable and adjust their actions and self-images accordingly. Rethinking Rape counters legal and feminist definitions of rape as mere assault and decisively emphasizes the centrality of the body and sexuality in a crime which plays a crucial role in the continuing oppression of women. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Cahill, Ann J. (2001). Rethinking rape. Cornell University Press. 

Foucault, Rape, and the Construction of the Feminine Body

Ann J. Cahill
Hypatia, 15 (1): 43-63 (2000)

In 1977, Michel Foucault suggested that legal approaches to rape define it as merely an act of violence, not of sexuality, and therefore not distinct from other types of assaults. I argue that rape can not be considered merely an act of violence because it is instrumental in the construction of the distinctly feminine body. Insofar as the threat of rape is ineluctably, although not determinately, associated with the development of feminine bodily comportment, rape itself holds a host of bodily and sexually specific meanings. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Cahill, Ann J. (2000). Foucault, rape, and the construction of the feminine body. Hypatia, 15 (1): 43-63.

Loose Women, Lecherous Men: A Feminist Philosophy of Sex

Linda LeMoncheck
Philosophical Studies, 89: 369-373 (1998)

Linda LeMoncheck introduces a new way of thinking and talking about women's sexual pleasures, preferences, and desires. Using the tools of contemporary analytic philosophy, she discusses methods for mediating the tensions among apparently irreconcilable feminist perspectives on women's sexuality and shows how a feminist epistemology and ethic can advance the dialogue in women's sexuality across a broad political spectrum. She argues that in order to capture the diversity and complexity of women's sexual experience, women's sexuality must be examined from two equally compelling perspectives: that of women's sexual oppression under conditions of individual and institutional male dominance; and that of women's sexual liberation, both in terms of each woman's pursuit of sexual agency and self-definition, and in terms of women's sexual liberation as a class. Loose Women, Lecherous Men sheds crucial new light on such much-debated topics as promiscuity, adultery, sexual deviance, prostitution, pornography, sexual harassment, and sexual violence against women. Her book supports a dialogue that encourages both women and men to take up a feminist perspective in exploring the meaning and value of sexuality in their lives. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Linda Lemoncheck (1998). Loose women, lecherous men: A feminist philosophy of sex. Philosophical Studies, 89: 369-373. 

Deconstructive Strategies and the Movement Against Sexual Violence

Renee Herbele
Hypatia, 11 (4): 63-76 (1996)

This essay considers the social effects of the strategy of "speaking out" about sexual violence to transform rape culture. I articulate the paradox that women's identification as victims in the public sphere reinscribes the gendered norms that enable the victimization of women. I suggest we create a more diversified public narrative of sexual violence and sexuality within the context of the movement against sexual violence in order to deconstruct masculinist power in feminine victimization. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Herbele, Renee (1996). Deconstructive strategies and the movement against sexual violence. Hypatia, 11 (4): 63-76. 

An Immodest Proposal: Foucault, Hysterization, and the “Second Rape”

Laura Hengehold
Hypatia, 9 (3): 88-107 (1994)

This article places Foucault's 1977 suggestions regarding the reform of French rape law in the context of ongoing feminist debates as to whether rape should be considered a sex crime or a species of assault. When viewed as a disciplinary matrix with both physical and discursive effects, rape and the rape trial clearly contribute to the "hysterization" of women by cultivating complainants' confessions in order to demonstrate their supposed lack of self-knowledge. Abstract retrieved from philpapers.

Hengehold, Laura (1994). An immodest proposal: Foucault, hysterization, and the ‘second rape’. Hypatia, 9 (3): 88-107.