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
When it comes to introductory books about the philosophy of sex, there is not much of a selection. There are a few that make the cut such as Alan Soble's Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Introduction in its second edition and Raja Halwani's Philosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An Introduction. And then there are anthologies such as the thickThe Philosophy of Sex in its sixth edition which was edited by Alan Soble, Raja Halwani, and Nicholas Power, as well as Philosophy and Sex in its fourth edition which was edited by Robert B. Baker and Kathleen J. Wininger and Talk About Sex edited by Robert Scott Stewart. The anthologies can be a bit much for students who are introduced to philosophy, let alone the philosophy of sex, which leaves Halwani's or Soble's text as the next available options. The difference between those two and this new book by Shrage and Stewart is that the latter focuses primarily on sex whereas the former looks at marriage as well as love.
The book is divided into twelve chapters with each chapter focusing on a particular topic. Some of the topics are what you would expect in a philosophy book about sex (e.g. objectification, perversion, and defining sex), but Shrage and Stewart fill in many lacunae that one does not see very often in an introduction to the philosophy of sex, such as sexual privacy, cyber-rape, teledildonics, street harassment, and medical studies of science. The book not only uses academic journal articles to discuss the topics, but there are many references to articles that one can easily access and is for a general audience such as HuffPost, Alternet, NYtimes, and NPR.
A nice benefit to this book is that the authors provide historical context to show how an issue became important. For example, with new technology coming out, sexting has become an issue, especially among teenagers. But the laws reflect a time when no one was sending naked pictures through a phone. Sending nude photos of people who are minors is considered a criminal offense and may have to register as a sex offender. And yet, when teenagers do it, it seems that the laws are too strict to enforce two teenagers to register as sex offenders, not only because one possess the photo of the sender, but because the sender is also not of age and so the sender possess a naked photo of him/herself which, under the law, constitutes as child pornography. By giving adequate background, the authors nicely sum up the details which helps the readers explain what the issue is.
The style of the book covers certain ideas and briefly presents what some of the positions are, although it would be nice if the arguments were explicated in more detail, which is one flaw of the book. I'm not sure if this is a pedagogical purpose so that the reader can decide what to make of the idea, but for a philosophy book, I would expect to have more rigorous justifications, logic, and arguments to explain the ideas. However, the authors nicely explain what is at stake and why the issue is important, but I mostly got a sense of once they explained the issue, I was left wanting. Perhaps it is my own personal style, but I wanted more. Instead, the authors present the issues, and mostly leave it to the reader to decide how to proceed from there. In some issues, the authors do make their own case displaying their own cards on the table. For the most part, however, they leave the issue up to the reader to pursue one's own inquiry. This is not to say it is a bad thing; it is definitely enough to whet your appetite to the ideas presented, and it is up to the reader to either read the primary article that the author's cite, or—and I think this is part of the benefit of the book—the readers must think through the issues themselves and formulate their own ideas surrounding the issue. Nevertheless, the book would benefit by having more developed arguments supplementing the issues presented.
There are a few spots where the authors do develop an argument by relying on philosophers to make their point. To give an example, most lay people would argue that consent is enough to make sex moral. The authors cite Seiriol Morgan to show that consent is not enough, and that having good intentions makes the sexual act necessary, but not sufficient, condition. This discussion, then, leads to what more is needed, which discusses autonomy. It's a brief discussion, but it certainly leads one to think more about autonomy and how it relates to consent. As one is thinking through these issues, the authors eventually lead into objectification. As such, the authors usually do not make their own conclusions, but they do agree with some of the authors they cite, and they usually do so by refuting the other side.
What is refreshing is they discuss issues that are currently relevant. I will mention just a few of these issues. The first is polyamory, but they do not just merely mention it as if it was a fringe that is not worthy of further discussion. Rather, they detail the intricacies of the issue by citing many philosophers and authors. They look at both sides of the issue by citing evidence from evolutionary biology, history, the law, and op-ed pieces. In a later chapter, they investigate Dan Savage's "monogamish" claim by analyzing whether we have special obligations to help our partners achieve sexual fulfillment, even if part of the fulfillment cannot come from us. The second is sex education by looking at the historical beginnings, which leads to the questions of who should be teaching sexuality to children and adolescents. The third is sexual humor by looking at various theories of humor and scrutinizing whether certain sexual jokes are funny, offensive, or both. The fourth, which they dedicate a whole chapter to, is sexual privacy, which includes whether one ought to "come out" and issues around sexting.
Sexual responsibility was a particular nice chapter that captured the major issues and the authors presented them in a nice, narrative fashion. For example, do people have a responsibility to reveal their sexual past to their partners, particularly if one has HIV? Being infected with HIV can seriously affect one's life, but with the advancement of drug therapies, the problem is that if the law is involved, those infected with HIV can be stigmatized and discriminated against those who have a serious but manageable health condition. Because criminalization can create fear, and does nothing to prevent the transmission of HIV, the authors argue that "there is no reason our laws should single out people who are HIV-positive, rather than treat all people with serious and incurable infectious diseases alike" (197).
Overall, this book is a nice introduction to the philosophy of sex. If one is using this as a route to get engaged in the philosophy of sex, it will help one get introduced to the issues, but there are no heavy arguments. They do engage with a lot of material, but in the end, one will end up reading the primary sources if one is inclined to delve further into the issue. In terms of using this book for teaching, one can use this as a stand alone book to discuss some topics, or as a supplement, depending on one's teaching style.
© 2015 Shaun Miller
Shaun Miller is in the PhD philosophy program at Marquette University.