6 Comments

Would be interested to hear more about the difference between men and women here.

Why is it (presumably) wrong to sexualize women but not men (or at least not as wrong)?

Is it just that women's desire to not be sexualized by certain people is massively stronger than men's? Or is there something else at play?

Expand full comment

Thank you for your comment!

My account is strictly neutral on this issue, and I think it's an advantage of my account that it recognises unwanted sexualisation of men as a serious wrong (perhaps also indicating that we tend, wrongly, to overlook this).

But, I agree that there is a presumption that the unwanted sexualisation of women is, generally speaking, a more serious issue, and I think that my account offers some resources that might justify this claim. Under "the wrong of unwanted sexualisation" above, I list a few reasons that unwanted sexualisation is a particularly serious instance of undermining a person's self-presentation. It's plausible that these apply to a greater extent in cases of unwanted sexualisation against women than in cases of unwanted sexualisation against men.

In particular,

(1) Given the rates of certain kinds of gendered violence, I think it is likely that more women than men will reasonably interpret unwanted sexualisation as constituting a threat of more serious wrongdoing.

(2) Given the prevalence of sexist biases and sexist discrimination, I think it is more likely that unwanted sexualisation of women will convey or communicate sexist messages about women than that unwanted sexualisation of men will convey or communicate sexist messages about men, where the messages conveyed in the former case might also be more harmful.

Additionally, I think it makes a difference that women are much more likely to be subjected to unwanted sexualisation, whatever we say about the wrongness of individual cases.

This is all very speculative, but is roughly how I would develop my account to accommodate the perception of gendered harms of unwanted sexualisation. Thank you for raising this!

Expand full comment
Mar 8·edited Mar 8

Thank you! I think I agree with everything you say (at least in this comment).

I guess one question is how wrong unwanted sexualization is under certainty; a second is how wrong sexualization is under _uncertainty_ as to the extent that sexualization is (un)wanted.

On the women/men thing, I just wonder if there's a slightly more mundane, hedonistic and/or desire-based thing at play, in addition to the points you raise. As a man, I conjecture that sexualization just makes women feel much more uncomfortable than it does for men, regardless of the reason for this, which is of course part environmental and part genetic. I wonder if it's sort of like being uncomfortable with spiders or cockroaches -- it just feels uncomfortable to have them crawling on your body, regardless of the reason for these emotions.

Expand full comment

In the paper, I argue that unwanted sexualisation is distinctively wrongful because it often feels much worse than other cases in which a person's self-presentation is contradicted. But, I argue that it feels worse because this is a response to something that counts as a genuine violation for other reasons.

I think you raise an important point in that we should take seriously a feeling of violation or disgust, etc., in response to unwanted sexualisation even if this isn't generated by the kinds of independent considerations I raise. If something makes someone feel uncomfortable and is unjustified (as unwanted sexualisation overwhelmingly is), then that alone is something to take seriously. Thanks for raising this!

Expand full comment

Thanks for engaging!

Expand full comment
Mar 29·edited Mar 29

When I was in about 8th grade in the P.E. locker room with a bunch of other boys my age, the topic of rape came up. One of them said something like "I don't understand what's the big deal about rape -- why not just enjoy it?". All of the 10 or so of us in the locker room (incl. myself) agreed this was quite a reasonable question and found it a mystery to which we had no answer!

Over the years, I've gained quite some new perspective (and embarrassment!) on the matter, but much like Socrates with Thrasymachus' challenge to morality, I think it's important not to underestimate the genuineness of my classmate's question.

Expand full comment