Nussbaum on Sexual Instrumentalization

Criminal Law and Philosophy 10 (1):1-16 (2016)


In “The Wrongness of Rape”, Gardner and Shute argued that the English offence of rape primarily targets the wrong of objectification. They tie objectification closely to instrumentalization—to the “conversion of subjects into instruments or tools”. In doing so, they explicitly purport to follow Nussbaum’s understanding of what is morally problematic about objectification. In this paper, I want to explore more closely just what Nussbaum understands by instrumentalization, focusing in particular upon the meaning and role of mutuality in her analysis. Doing so gives us insight into why sexual touching in three broad contexts may not be considered instances of instrumentalization: spontaneous sexual touching in a romantic context; non-spontaneous sexual touching in the context of intimate relationships; and prostitution. The last point may be most controversial given Gardner and Shute’s own stated view that prostitution involves instrumentalization. Even when we look to sexual touching in intimate relationships, however, Nussbaum seems to introduce ideas of implied consent that appear nowhere in Gardner and Shute’s paper

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Rethinking the Wrong of Rape1.Karyn L. Freedman - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):104-127.

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