BDSM is no longer treated as a manifestation of the darkest twists of the human soul but rather as a sexual activity like many others. Moreover, the philosophy of sex and much of popular culture has come to embrace BDSM for its models of consent, exploration, and freedom. Yet celebrating BDSM without deeper reflection can obscure some serious moral issues. In this chapter, I present an overview of the moral issues raised by BDSM, and I argue that it is reductive (...) to see BDSM as a simple or straightforward model for how to practice egalitarian sex. Yet, BDSM communities grapple with issues of consent, autonomy, and power in important ways, which can help us think through broader issues in sexual ethics. Either way, BDSM must be understood in its full complexity. (shrink)
This book is the story of my self-deception about my “deviant” sexuality and my protracted and painful progress toward self-understanding and self-acceptance. Unavoidably, the book involves explicit descriptions of a wide range of activities often regarded as sexually deviant. It is not intended as pornographic; though some people may use it that way. It describes how I deceived myself about my sexuality as a consequence of trying to conform to the norms of my inherited culture. I hope that it will (...) be found enlightening and entertaining. I also hope that it will be helpful to people who are struggling to adjust themselves to social expectations that make unreasonable demands upon them and that it will help them to avoid the psychological crises and decades of wasted life that I suffered. (shrink)
How sexuality should be regulated in a liberal political community is an important, controversial theoretical and empirical question—as shown by the recent criminalization of possession of some adult pornography in the United Kingdom. Supporters of criminalization argue that Mill, often considered a staunch opponent of censorship, would support prohibition due to his feminist commitments. I argue that this account underestimates the strengths of the Millian account of private conduct and free expression, and the consistency of Millian anticensorship with feminist values. (...) A Millian contextual defense of liberty, however, suggests several other policy approaches to addressing the harms of pornography. (shrink)
In "Rethinking Sadomasochism," Patrick Hopkins challenges the "radical" feminist claim that sadomasochism is incompatible with feminism. He does so by appeal to the notion of "simulation." I argue that Hopkins's conclusions are generally right, but they cannot be inferred from his "simulation" argument. I replace Hopkins's "simulation" with Kendall Walton's more sophisticated theory of "make-believe." I use this theory to better argue that privately conducted sadomasochism is compatible with feminism.
The impact of Foucault's work can still be felt across a range of academic disciplines. It is nevertheless important to remember that, for him, theoretical activity was intimately related to the concrete practices of self-transformation; as he acknowledged: `I write in order to change myself.' 1 This avowal is especially pertinent when considering Foucault's work on the relationship between sex and power. For Foucault not only theorized about this topic; he was also actively involved in the S&M subculture of the (...) 1970s. Although his explicit discussions of S&M are somewhat piecemeal, in this article I will show how they provide a useful point of access into his broader conception of power relations. Having first reconstructed Foucault's quasi-Sartrean account of creative self-transformation specifically through one's sexuality I will then explain why his defence of S&M (as embodying `strategic' power) is insufficiently sensitive to the inherent ambiguities of this `game'. Key Words: consent desire identity limits pleasure power role-play subjectivity trust. (shrink)
: Although many women experience harmful behaviors that fit the legal definition of sexual harassment, very few ever label their experiences as such. I explore how psychological ambivalence expressed as sadomasochism may account for some of this gap. Following Lynn Chancer, I argue that certain structural circumstances characteristic of highly stratified bureaucratic organizations may promote these psychological responses. After discussing two illustrations of this dynamic, I draw out the implications for sexual harassment theory and policy.
Sexual perversity has traditionally been defined in terms of violating externally imposed criteria for natural or normal sex. The theory proposed here views sexual desires in terms of their own internal structure, such that perverse desires are those which are self-defeating because they are contradictory. Sadism, masochism, and certain private acts between consenting heterosexual and homosexual adults are shown to be perverse in illustrating the use of this hopefully nonideological method.