Umm, what?

Why we need a new philosophy of sex

A number 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.

The question of whether I “should” or “could” do so was complicated by a number of factors. 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. But this philosophy – whichever way I turned to find it – doesn’t exist.

Engineers have, over the past few thousand years, gone from struggling over how to put the olive press together to landing men on the Moon. Philosophers are still stuck in this sort of navel gazing. Which has added more to human utility?

OK, add in that the engineers have also worked out how to clothe, feed, entertain and house us and stuff too.

Also, has the word changed meaning while I wasn’t looking? A queer woman in a relationship with a bloke? Eh?

45 comments on “Umm, what?

  1. A number of years ago, I found myself at a public sex beach in southern France for research purposes.

    Even Godfrey Elfwick would struggle to top this.

  2. “Why we need a new philosophy of sex”
    No thanks, luv. Getting on perfectly well with the old one.

  3. The question of whether I “should” or “could” do so was complicated by a number of factors. 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.

    and

    I am a reluctant academic in the field of law and sexuality. My work is radically theoretical, as well as applied. I am interested in challenging sexual ethics (both institutional and personal) with participatory research. My book for Zero Books called Fucking Law: the search for her sexual ethics, is out in 2019.

    I can’t for the life in in me think why that relationship was increasingly difficult.

  4. ” I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic. ”

    Ma’am, this is the McDonalds drive thru’ window.

  5. “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)”

    Uh huh.

  6. Take it from me, Rhoda, if it’s anything like the one along the coast from here you don’t want to know. It’s a place of infinite surprises. Not all of them welcome.

  7. ‘Why we need a new philosophy of sex.’

    Why ‘you’ need one. You are the misfit leading a mule train of all your emotional and psychological baggage. It is not the World that needs to change, just you.

    The presence of a public sex beach means the ‘philosophy of sex’ is doing just fine.

  8. Surely it’s a pisstake? If it was real, WTF would a pisstake look like?

    BiS, I understand. Any beach with sand is a no-no anyway.

  9. we need a new philosophy of sex

    “Don’t stick your dick in crazy” seems like good advice to me.

  10. Either this is an new incarnation of Titania McGrath or this lecturer in law at Westminster University (what was its maiden name?) is a very odd woman indeed. There are a lot more very odd (and humourless) women as well as earnest men in the comments.

    For those who prefer a less ethically complex activity and would sooner read on the beach, her book, Fucking Law, out in time for the summer hols, is available for pre-order on Amazon.

    Fucking Law is an urgent call for everyone, not just academics and researchers, to find inventive ways to question the ethics of sexuality. Since a sex life is full of so many diverse moments of joy and suffering, for each and everybody, the book attempts to bridge a gap between philosophical and non-philosophical questioning. Central to the book is the reality that everyone can challenge the ethics and laws of sexuality and ask questions, even where they seem frightening, or worse, even when we are told not to – by institutions and lovers alike. Non-philosophical and accessible, Fucking Law is risky, explicit and provocative as it bridges the gap between academic and every-day questioning of sexual encounters.

    Almost certainly a seminal work.

  11. Since a sex life is full of so many diverse moments of joy and suffering, for each and everybody

    Except for incels, obvs.
    But who cares? Everyone read about how much of a trollop I am and marvel.
    Look at my works, ye mighty, and despair!

  12. Westminster University was Regent Street Poly, which was initially the Young Men’s Christian Institute. Looks like it’s changed a bit.

  13. “I am a reluctant academic in the field of law and sexuality”

    Which bit is she reluctant about? Academic, law or sex?

  14. Actually, there has been some very fine philosophy perpetrated since the olive press was invented. But of course people like this won’t have read any of it. She probably started with Lacan, Foucault and Derrida with a bit of Beauvoir and Camus stuck in if we’re lucky.

  15. There’s clearly some great philosophers, but I think the problem is that once someone does the work of Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Hume, Voltaire, what else is there to say? Philosophy is generally going to be pretty broad about the human condition and humans are fairly constant.

    People still read The Prince and The Art of War because this stuff is kinda constant (OK, The Art of War doesn’t have air war, but there’s still a lot of wisdom). Even outside philosophers, the greatest stories that deal with the basics of the human condition have been around for centuries: Samson and Delilah, Pride and Prejudice, Faust, Romeo and Juliet. We refer to Achilles’ heel and Herculean tasks. We just had a giant superhero movie based around the ideas of Thomas Malthus.

  16. I am an engineer (computers) with a Philosophy degree 🙂

    Kuhn gave us The Structure of Scientific Revolution and described how we should approach macro scientific change. It is brilliant.

    Mackie gave us Ethics, a last word on dispassionate ethical and moral analysis. It is brilliant.

    Karl Popper did *tons* of work quantifying falsifiability in general science and it is vital in sorting out true and false theories properly, with numbers. It is brilliant.

    Philosophy is still useful and cool!

  17. “Fucking Law is an urgent call for everyone, not just academics and researchers, to find inventive ways to question the ethics of sexuality.”

    I’m trying to question the ethics of transsexuality and homosexuality, but I keep getting deplatformed.

  18. Someone, probably an engineer, usefully said that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato.

    But anyway, isn’t this just a screed by an easy vamp who wants everyone to pretend she isn’t an easy vamp?

    Or maybe she was really an undercover rozzer looking for rough trade with soap-dodgers.

  19. I suspect that the word “queer” now has little to do with who you instinctively want to have sex with and more to do with a desperate attempt at appearing interesting and to posture.

    You may have all the supposed benefits of “white privilege” but you have that longed-for victim hood of being “queer”.

  20. Fucking Law is an urgent call for everyone, not just academics and researchers, to find inventive ways to question the ethics of sexuality.

    First World Problems. Will they ever end?

  21. “supported by philosophy … that did not judge”: what in God’s name did she mean by that?

  22. Fucking Law …. ways to question the ethics of sexuality

    Isn’t it a standard bit of law-making that laws should be kept away from ethics, as otherwise you end up codifying some person’s personal hang-ups into law. It was certainly my experience in Licensing: “The Licensing Board is not about you applying your personal ethics, it is about you applying the law”.

  23. “All philosophy is a footnote to Plato” was said by A N Whitehead – mathematician, logician and philosopher.

    ‘Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation’ by Roger Scruton is all this silly woman needs.

  24. Theo: ‘Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation’ by Roger Scruton is all this silly woman needs.

    Roger Scruton be blowed – she needs innumerable bouts of ethical slap & tickle among the dunes.

  25. “Karl Popper did *tons* of work quantifying falsifiability in general science and it is vital in sorting out true and false theories properly, with numbers. It is brilliant. Philosophy is still useful and cool!”

    And there’s tons of philosophy that gets into the deep technical guts of mathematics, physics, and computing. It’s extremely important and useful.

    To say that philosophy isn’t useful is like saying that welding isn’t useful because some modern artist welded together a bunch of old refrigerators and called it ‘art’.

    “Isn’t it a standard bit of law-making that laws should be kept away from ethics, as otherwise you end up codifying some person’s personal hang-ups into law.”

    Law is the codification of society’s collectively agreed ethics, and it is indeed to avoid the problems that arise when individuals within a society have different ethics, (different personal hang ups,) to make sure everyone knows in advance of acting by what ethical standard their actions will be judged.

    Law bears the same relationship to ethics that a ‘grammar and style guide’ bears to the way real people speak and write the language. They’re supposed to be the same, but in practice are necessarily different.

  26. – “I desperately needed ethical assistance supported by philosophy (that I read and revered) that did not judge, and was aligned to my sexuality.

    That’s not the way philosophy works, love.

    You’re looking for a fig-leaf and permission.

  27. “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. ”

    Pull out the irrelevant details (woman, professor, queer) what she really wants is societal approval of having an affair. Or, not just approval, but *justification*.

  28. Progressive opinion is now extreme sexual licence combined with a fanatical policing of thought, belief and even what you can eat.

  29. She is looking for some verbal bullshit to ease what passes for her “conscience” over whatever sex antics or acts of bad faith she wants to engage in.

    That is all.

  30. “Few hold that position about the relation between law and morality. In common law jurisdictions, the most widespread view is the legal positivism of H L A Hart.”

    And the most common criticism of Hart’s legal positivism is that it “fails to give morality its due”. I agree that the two are not identical – it’s perfectly possible to have immoral laws and illegal morality. But to say there is no connection at all, despite all the arguments around what the law should be and our duty to obey it being couched in the language of morality, seems to take that too far.

    There is, sometimes, a view that morality is to be identified with law, (and vice versa). That disobeying the law is immoral by definition. That the law is moral by definition. Courts tend to take that view, as when debating topics like jury nullification. And if Hart was making his point in constrast to that position, then I agree. Law is intended to codify morality, but usually fails. That’s partly because instinctive morality is extremely complicated, and hard to codify precisely, and partly because everyone operates a slightly different morality (sometimes radically different) and it mutates slowly over time. It can only be at best an incomplete approximation of those parts society holds in common, and feels significant enough to introduce involuntary constraints on. They are distinct. And in principle it’s possible could be completely opposed. But when things are working properly, will generally be closely aligned.

    I’m dubious about your contention that ‘few’ hold the view – I’d like to see survey data on that. But ‘ad populam’ argument holds no weight with me. I have heard no argument explaining why the many think they’re not related. Can you help with that?

  31. Whether I “should” or “could” do so was complicated by a number of factors.

    Should? I’m going to have a stab for Victoria’s sake.

    Pros: rocks off, might be fun, need to write about something, ideally with some sort of dilemma.
    Cons: do you want to piss off your partner, or get involved in lying to them, or can you guilt them into being ok with it so you can write a book and its promise of revenue and or academic recognition.
    Back to Pros- might find a better,more understanding, partner.
    Back to Cons: sand.
    Back to Pros: you can harness human desperation to justify getting rocks off to birth a new philosophical school (the possesive cake eaters) which will suss out neo-platonic materialist dinosaur of your boyfriend, and you can achieve the nirvana of stomping out of the room thinking you have won an argument.

  32. “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.”

    In the words of Basil Fawlty…”Otherwise OK?”

  33. Philosophy & Law.
    The sole purpose of law is to keep the rulers ruling. Any other benefits are purely accidental.

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