Philosophizing About Sex
  • Publication Date: January 20, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781554810093 / 1554810094
  • 296 pages; 6" x 9"

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Philosophizing About Sex

  • Publication Date: January 20, 2015
  • ISBN: 9781554810093 / 1554810094
  • 296 pages; 6" x 9"

Ancient Greek philosophers, medieval theologians, Enlightenment thinkers, and contemporary humanists alike have debated all aspects of human sexuality, including its purpose, permissibility, normalcy, and risks. Philosophizing About Sex provides a philosophical guide to those longstanding and important debates. Each chapter takes a general issue (freedom, privacy, objectification, etc.) and shows how ongoing public discussions of sexuality can be illuminated by careful philosophical investigation. Debates over topics such as sexual assault, sexual orientation, sex education, prostitution, and “sexting” involve larger questions about morality, law, science, and politics and cannot be intelligently discussed in isolation from broader issues. By asking deceptively simple questions, this book shows how difficult but important it is to arrive at satisfying answers.

This title is also available in a package with Beyond the Binary: Thinking About Sex and Gender by Shannon Dea for the discounted price of $50.95. Please click here for more details or contact Customer Service.

For an excerpt from Philosophizing About Sex, please see our blog post: Philosophizing About Sex: Teenage Sexting.


“The book is beautifully written, managing the difficult task of being accessible, friendly to the non-philosopher or beginner, judicious in its treatment of the various arguments, comprehensive and up to date in its awareness of the range of writing on any topic, and yet philosophically robust and rich. … the best available introduction to the philosophy of sex.” — David Archard, The Philosophical Quarterly

“In equal measures comprehensive and conversational, substantive and subtle, Philosophizing About Sex is a welcome introduction to the field. Philosophers of every tradition, age, and persuasion—as well as scholars from a variety of disciplines—are put into conversation to illuminate such complex issues as privacy, violence, identity, and law, always with the goal of clarifying, rather than resolving, central questions. Shrage and Stewart’s book makes classroom discussions regarding philosophy and sex an inviting prospect.” — Ann Cahill, Elon University

“Shrage and Stewart cover a comprehensive range of topics throughout the domain of human sexuality and sexual activity, including a host of recent newsworthy subjects, such as ‘cybersex,’ trans-gender issues, polyamory, ‘sexting,’ ‘revenge porn,’ BDSM, and female genital mutilation. The writing is philosophically rich, but crisp and easily readable. In short, this book shows the wisdom that comes from the authors’ having taught through this material many, many times.” — Scott A. Anderson, University of British Columbia

“Finally, we have a first-rate introduction to the philosophy of sex and love. While providing a comprehensive overview, Philosophizing About Sex manages to balance attention to important introductory philosophical topics with a full engagement with much of the best of the core literature. And it does so with a genuine concern for making both available to the new reader. Fortunately, as we find in excellent textbooks, some ideas are wisely left open for further investigation where others are treated more provocatively, inviting critical engagement by more experienced readers. Enjoy!” — Helga Varden, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“A superb new text in the philosophy of sex! Shrage and Stewart review the central issues and classic texts along with the newest issues arising as law, technology, and mores change (for instance: cyber-rape). A first-rate overview of the literature, both historical and contemporary, and a riveting discussion of conceptual and ethical issues. The book is clearly written and accessible, with plenty of rich examples as well as philosophical depth—I am looking forward to using it in class!” — Elizabeth Brake, Arizona State University

“Shrage and Stewart provide a sorely needed textbook on timely topics of great philosophical interest.” — Matt L. Drabek, Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy

“Overall, Shrage and Stewart have created a well-written and accessible introduction to current issues in philosophizing about sex. Their book offers an invaluable tool for anyone looking to bring some of the many conversations about sexual violence and harassment on campus in general (and in philosophy in particular) into the learning environment, and as such should be a welcome addition to core reading lists across a range of courses.” — F. Vera-Gray, Durham University, APA Newsletter


Chapter 1 Defining Sex

What Is a Sexual Act?
How Many People Does It Take to Have Sex?
Is Cybersex Genuine Sex?
Does Sex Have a Purpose?

Chapter 2 Sexual Attraction

Do Opposites Attract?
How Are a Person’s Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation Related?
Are We Born Gay or Straight?

Chapter 3 Sexual Objectification and Autonomy

Is It Wrong to Sexually Objectify Someone?
Is Consent a Sufficient Condition for Moral Sex?
Is It Wrong to Pay, or Be Paid, for Sex?
What Does It Mean to Have Sexual Autonomy?
What Is the Connection between “Exoticizing” and “Eroticizing” Someone?

Chapter 4 Sex and Violence

Are Laws Prohibiting Sexual Offenses Effective and Just?
Why Do Some Governments Take Steps to Eradicate Sexual Harassment?
Are Sexual Assaults More Injurious than Other Kinds of Assaults?
Is Cyber-rape a Form of Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, or Offensive Speech?
Is Rape a Byproduct or a Weapon of War?
Is Manipulative Sexual Seduction Fair Play?

Chapter 5 Sexual Perversion and Sodomy Laws

How Do We Distinguish “Normal,” Weird, Unnatural, Perverted, and Harmful Sex?
Should There Be Laws against Sodomy?
Is Perverse Sex Morally Bad?
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Solitary Sex?

Chapter 6 Sex and Marriage

Must Marital Partners Be Sexual Partners?
Who Should Be Allowed to Marry?
Should Adulterers Be Subject to Criminal or Civil Penalties?
Does Arranged Marriage Violate Sexual Autonomy?
Is Virginity Valuable in a Potential Spouse?

Chapter 7 Sex and Children

What Should Children and Adolescents Be Taught about Sex?
Who Should Provide Sex Education: Parents, Schools, or Health-care Providers?

Do Public Sex-education Programs Serve the Public Good?
Is Sex Always Harmful for Children?

Chapter 8 Sexual Speech and the Freedom of Expression

How Is Child Pornography Harmful?
Are Child and Adult Pornography Significantly Different?
Are Stripping and Lap-dancing Art Forms, and Should They Be Protected Forms of Self-expression?
Why Does the Topic of Sex Make Us Laugh?
Does Sexual Speech in a Workplace Generally Involve Sexual Harassment?

Chapter 9 Sexual Privacy

Why Is Sexual Privacy Important?
Is It Wrong to Force Someone “Out of the Closet”?
When Does “Sexting” Violate a Person’s Privacy?
How Should Violations of Sexual Privacy Be Treated and Punished?

Chapter 10 Sex and Responsibility

What Should We Be Required to Disclose about Ourselves to Our Sexual Partners before Engaging in Sex?

Can Sex or Porn Be Addictive?
Should Fatherhood Be a Choice?
Are We Responsible for the Fetuses We Unintentionally Create?
Do Committed Relationships Entail Special Moral and Sexual Duties?

Chapter 11 The Scientific and Medical Study of Sex

Can Sex Be Studied Scientifically?
Is Sexology a Science?
Why Does the Female Orgasm Puzzle Scientists?
What Are the Criteria of Sexual Dysfunction and When Is Medical Intervention Appropriate?

Chapter 12 Sex and the Limits of Tolerance in Secular Democratic Societies

Should We Care about the Sexual Improprieties of Our Political Leaders?
Should Genital Cutting Practices Be Tolerated?
Should BDSM Be Restricted?


Laurie J. Shrage is Professor of Philosophy and of Women’s and Gender Studies at Florida International University. Robert Scott Stewart is Professor of Philosophy at Cape Breton University.

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