The ethics of sex and power asymmetries


The recent #metoo movement has turned public attention to the problem of sex under conditions of power inequality. Is consent impaired, when you have plenty to lose (e.g. a great professional opportunity) from saying “no” to a sexual advance? And even if consent is valid, is this a morally acceptable situation, especially if one party is aware that their position of relative power will influence the other’s decision to have sex? Such situations bring to the fore not only the issues of coerced sex and quid pro quo harassment (asking for sex in exchange for benefits), but the much more controversial question of whether sex between unequal but otherwise competent consenting adult partners is in principle OK—and whether institutions such as companies, universities, or the state itself should be in the business of regulating such relations. In what follows, I will outline the central concept of power asymmetry and its ethical relevance (section 2). I will then distinguish two main views about the ethics of sexual interaction under conditions of power asymmetry: a Kantian view, which categorically condemns such interactions, and a Millian view, which justifies at least some such interactions (section 3). I then briefly consider three contexts, which raise difficult questions about sex between unequals: the workplace, the university (section 4), and voluntary prostitution (section 5). Section 6 provides a short conclusion.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

  • Only published works are available at libraries.

Similar books and articles

Power in the Structure of Power Relations.Ivan Buraj - 2010 - Filozofia 65 (5):417-427.
Facetten der Macht.Peter Koller - 1991 - Analyse & Kritik 13 (2):107-133.
Mill and sexual reform.Francesco Orsi - 2018 - Think 17 (50):101-112.
Reflections on Human Rights and Power.Pablo Gilabert - 2018 - In Adam Etinson (ed.), Human Rights: Moral or Political? Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 375-399.
Collective informed consent and decision power.Jukka Varelius - 2009 - Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (1):39-50.
The ethics of omission.Gregory Schwartz - 2019 - Think 18 (51):117-121.
Agonistic Pluralism and Stakeholder Engagement.Cedric Dawkins - 2015 - Business Ethics Quarterly 25 (1):1-28.
A global tradition? Power and historicity.Krzysztof Ziarek - 2004 - Research in Phenomenology 34 (1):103-120.
The Power of Power—Questions to Michel Foucault.Norbert Ricken - 2006 - Educational Philosophy and Theory 38 (4):541-560.
The Patient's Work.Leonard C. Groopman, Franklin G. Miller & Joseph J. Fins - 2007 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 16 (1):44-52.


Added to PP

873 (#15,560)

6 months
240 (#8,936)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Francesco Orsi
University of Tartu

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references