What is Intimacy?

Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Why is it more violating to grab a stranger’s thigh or stroke their face than it is to grab their forearm? Why is it worse to read someone’s dream journal without permission than it is to read their bird watching field notes? Why are gestation mandates so incredibly intrusive? Intimacy is key to understanding these cases, and to explaining many of our most stringent rights. I present two ways of thinking about intimacy, Relationship-First Accounts and the Intimate Zones Account. I argue that only the Intimate Zones Account lets us cohesively understand intimacy’s importance, and the scope of our intimate rights. I characterize our intimate zones as meeting the Hiddenness and Importance Conditions. A feature’s meeting these conditions makes it a locus of special vulnerability by which our persons can be fundamentally altered. This special vulnerability explains why our duties to respect the intimate boundaries of others are so strict.



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Jasmine Gunkel
University of Southern California

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