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Victoria Brooks does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. A of years ago, I found myself at a public sex beach in southern France for research purposes. Unsurprisingly, I experienced some ethical dilemmas. Because I was researching the ethics of sexuality, my research involved potentially having sex with men and women at the beach. I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic.

At the time, I was also in an increasingly difficult relationship with a man who was a philosopher. Given all of these complex factors, I desperately needed ethical assistance supported by philosophy that I read and revered that did not judge, and was aligned to my sexuality. Ethics is a field of philosophy that seeks out the foundations of how we should live our lives. This framework is founded on conventional Western philosophical ideas. The ethical theorist John Finnis , for example, recently argued that the ethics of homosexuality are still up for discussion.

This idea of dualism is at the roots of the philosophical canon, from Immanuel Kant, to Friedrich Nietzsche, to David Hume. Founded in the primacy of knowledge and rationality, these philosophies culminate in the idea at the heart of the liberal philosophy of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin: that for a debate to be moral, it must be capable of being rational. This is so we can use our minds to judge the actions of ourselves and others. Some Western philosophers were more radical, such as Baruch Spinoza, a contemporary of Descartes.

His major work, Ethics , opposed Cartesian dualism by unifying body and mind, God and substance. This also hugely influenced modern Western philosophy, particularly big, fashionable continental thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, John Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida, who all have sought to place the body on equal philosophical terms with the mind.

All of the names listed above are white men. There is, of course, the huge body of usually white feminist work, but this is described as feminism, not philosophy. This means that we have a philosophy built by men, put on pedestal of genius, who defined and continue to define philosophy through their rational legacy. Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party , and as a professor began an affair with his then student, Hannah Arendt. The argument is that these philosophers were not as socially enlightened as us, given their historical specificity, so we should continue to value their ideas , if not their bodies.

This Cartesian insistence that philosophy can be separate from the body that writes it, can be dangerous. Sexist, racist, powerful and sometimes abusive men have been endowed with an authority to create the foundations of how we judge sex. We endow this philosophy with authority over all bodies: women of colour, queer women, trans women, women who like to have sex in all types of ways, women whose oppression and assault maintains the authority of these philosophical geniuses.

These philosophies were not helpful for me in my ethical dilemmas, since they were not written for me, my body and my sexuality. There is the practical philosophy put forward by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy in The Ethical Slut , but this is geared towards polyamorous people. And such an explicit code could be seen as unsexy, not to mention that some people might think of themselves as monogamous sluts, or something in between. And maybe there are those who prefer to be unethical. In the present philosophical landscape, who can blame them?

So philosophically, we have not moved on. In my own ethical dilemmas, conventional ethics did not help me. In fact, they became part of the dilemma, since somehow I valued the perspective and empowered the words of my partner, because he was a philosopher.

I also sat on that beach thinking that my desires were wrong, since they did not fit within a particular category, which meant I was not entitled to ethical treatment. Also, as an academic, not only was I supposed to be objective and non-desiring, I was supposed to value ideas over bodily sensations. I was supposed to be rational and operate ethically while having my sexuality abused. Western ethics was not in favour of the strength of my body, but its destruction.

Instead, as I argue in my story of finding my own sexual ethics, we need an ethic of vivid kindness, to ourselves and others. And it needs to be founded on a wholesale, orgasmic attack: on Western philosophy. Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Victoria Brooks , University of Westminster.

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