email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot My ShameNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
The sixth edition of The Philosophy of Sex marks a significant change in the approach to this long-running textbook. The readings always change a good deal from edition to edition, and this means that it is not just change for changes' sake (and for publisher profits). These changes are well motived. The book is a bit bigger, with 618 pages compared to the 550 in the previous one. Not only does this edition include several worthwhile articles not previous in the older editions, but many of them were specially written for this collection, although sometimes they are just updated versions of essays that appeared elsewhere, rather than completely new papers. The preface says that it has 13 new essays, and there is more emphasis on LGBT issues and some deeper Kantian approaches to objectification and rape.
I have been following this collection through many of its incarnations, and I have taught undergraduate courses in the philosophy of sex using both the 5th and now 6th edition. The new edition contains the old standards: Thomas Nagel on Perversion, Janie Moulton's reply, Alan Goldman's bizarre effort to define sex as the fulfillment of desires for bodily contact with another person for pleasure, the well-known articles by Thomas Mappes, Howard Klepper, Robin West, Alan Wertheimer and David Benatar on the nature of sexual consent and sexual use. There's still Martha Nussbaum's classic article arguing for the legalization of prostitution. Some might regret that the editors don't include any work by Robert Solomon setting out his communicative view of sex, since many authors in the book still make reference to that view. One might question whether it is still valuable to include Nagel's historically important article. Although the view he sets out is intuitively implausible, there is not much in the way of a justification of the idea in the paper, and the paper is full of digressions which are just confusing for students, and his hesitation over whether homosexual sex should count as perverted or not is based on old-fashioned ideas of gender roles in same-sex relationships. Maybe it is time for someone to write a new defense of Nagel's view that is more useful and less confusing for lay readers. Students do invariably warm to Greta Cristina's Are We Having Sex Now or What? But since it is available on the Internet as a blog post, it's not so clear it is worth including in the book, especially since it is more a piece to provoke question than one that argues for a particular definition of sex. I have found more philosophical pieces to work well in the debate over perversion, specifically Graham Priest's skeptical article "Sexual Perversion," and Kristie Miller "On the Concept of Sexual Perversion" and I will use those to supplement the discussion when teaching the course. These and many other articles are listed in the Bibliography at the end of the book, so the editors' are certainly aware of the literature. The selection they provided is definitely a good one.
Maybe the editorial decision that stands out as particularly taking a stand is around pornography. They include just two articles, one by Joan Mason-Grant defending a view close to that of Andrea Dworkin on how to understand the harms of porn, and a rebuttal specially written by Nicholas Power. The book pays only minor attention to the growing analysis or pornography provided by Rae Langton and the responses to her work. The book also ignores the growing area know by the eyebrow-raising phrase "Porn Studies" and that makes sense since it is focused on philosophical articles, but it can help the discussion in a class to steer the discussion the nature of pornography as it actually is rather than a theoretical or dated conception of porn. So again, this is a part of the book that can be supplemented in a variety of ways.
The new section on Queer Issues is definitely the most vibrant one in the book, with some very helpful articles. The debate on same-sex marriage is very timely, and the articles work well enough. One wonders whether the best representative of a defender of the so-called "traditional" view of marriage is Stanley Kurtz; he argument that allowing gay marriage will open the doors to polygamy seems both politically unrealistic and to beg the question of what is important about marriage, if anything. Students seem wedded to the idea of marriage as involving 2 people, but they have a hard time articulating a clear defense of that idea. Cheshire Calhoun does a much better job at describing conservative view, which she then shows to be flawed. It would be good to have a more sophisticated defense of the conservative view from someone who really believes it. Claudia Card's very limited defense of same-sex marriage (premised by the conviction that marriage as a social and legal institution is evil) is certainly provocative, even if it fails to convince most readers. Kayley Vernallis' advocacy of the possibility of multiple marriages for bisexuals is similarly interesting without garnering much support. The standout piece in this section was for me William Wilkerson's discussion of sexual orientation; it argues for an important view, and moves the debate towards the politically difficult question of how to address sexual preference when it is as much of a choice rather than a genetically or psychologically fixed inclination. It is also good that the section contains two strong articles on transgender issues.
It's not surprising that students tend to prefer the less academic pieces in this collection: Susan Brison's "Surviving Sexual Violence," which is more memoir than philosophy, is an important and helpful work that enriches the collection. John Portmann's more popularly aimed defense of sex chatting in chat rooms is provocative and helps to generate discussion. Then there are the pieces that are academic but really generate controversy, such as H.E. Baber's "How Bad is Rape?" -- II" where she argues that the harm of pink collar jobs is generally worse than that of rape in the long term. It is tricky to strike a good balance between provocation and depth, especially when as a teacher of a course, one knows that it is likely that several students in a class will have experienced rape. This collection takes risks and most people who are familiar with the literature would have made some different editorial decisions. It is good that several of the articles included are recent and will challenge undergraduate students, although they can be a challenge to teach when they start to refer to technical areas of philosophy that require a good deal of background explanation.
This sixth edition of The Philosophy of Sex is a welcome change and is certainly the obvious choice for use in undergraduate courses on the topic. It will also be interesting to other readers with some background in philosophy, who are intrigued by what philosophers have to say about sex, although it may be a difficult collection to get a lot out of without the guidance of a teacher. The philosophy of sex is obviously one of the main growth areas in philosophy in terms of popularity, and this collection continues to show that it is also an area in which thoughtful and challenging philosophy is being done.
© 2013 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York