The CIHR Institute of Gender and Health has just launched three free online modules for researchers, funders and peer reviewers on sex and gender based analysis. Check them out here.
For an explanation of our Gendered Conference Campaign, see here.
Death and the Afterlife
22 January 2016
This symposium is an interdisciplinary exchange focused on the recent book Death and the Afterlife, by Professor Samuel Scheffler (New York University). It will bring together perspectives from social anthropology, philosophy, and political theory…It is open to scholars from all fields, and papers will be presented with a broad audience in mind.
Professor Samuel Scheffler (Department of Philosophy, New York University)
Professor Hallvard Lillehammer (Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck College, University of London)
Professor Joel Robins (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge)
Dr James Laidlaw (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Dr Jonathan Mair (School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures, University of Manchester)
Dr Paul Sagar (Deparment of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge)
There’s a great new post up over at SWS’s Gender and Society page describing a recent study of the deployment of sex and gender categories in U.S. surveys. The results are troubling and illuminating. Here’s a taste:
One surprising finding is that when these surveys are conducted face-to-face or by telephone Americans are not asked to self-identify their sex or gender at all. Instead, the survey interviewer determines the category for the people they interview. The box for “male” or “female” gets checked off based on an unstated set of criteria that could include anything from their name, their voice, their dress or physical appearance, or their relationship to other people in their household. Occasionally, interviewers are instructed to ask a direct question, but only if the person’s sex or gender “is not obvious.” Even then, it is often presumed that asking someone this question will be awkward, likely because of the belief that a person’s sex or gender should be obvious.
Does sexual activity always require the capacity to consent? I’ve started to wonder.
Suppose you and your beloved spouse, both middle-aged and abled-body, arrived home from a party and realize one of you has had too much to drink. More than either of you had realized. But, curling up in bed, both of you feel that hugs and kisses wherever they may lead are very appealing. Should the sober one refrain on the grounds that the other can’t really meaningfully consent?
There are many possible complicating factors with sexual encounters, which is why I added in marriage, age and ability. A similar scenario could quite easily become a legal nightmare. And what about a specific disability, dementia? Right now this issue may be addressed in a court:
Henry Rayhons, 78, has been charged with third-degree felony sexual abuse, accused of having sex with his wife in a nursing home on May 23, 2014, eight days after staff members there told him they believed she was mentally unable to agree to sex.
It is rare, possibly unprecedented, for such circumstances to prompt criminal charges. Mr. Rayhons, a nine-term Republican state legislator, decided not to seek another term after his arrest.
There is no allegation that Mrs. Rayhons resisted or showed signs of abuse. And it is widely agreed that the Rayhonses had a loving, affectionate relationship, having married in 2007 after each had been widowed. They met while singing in a church choir.
NOTHING. Or rather, one person was allowed to retire early and the others got a lecture.
We wrote about the 300 girls in Oxford. There are a number of other cities where young girls and women were repeatedly trafficked and raped. A report on the first of these cases has been released. From the NYTimes:
LONDON — The recent revelations that teenage girls were systematically raped and trafficked by gangs of older men over long periods of time in several British cities prompted a host of inquiries into why the authorities had seemingly turned a blind eye for so long.
This week, a police report into the first such case to be successfully prosecuted concluded that there had been a forcewide failure to address sexual abuse in the northern city of Rochdale, but that no police officer would face serious discipline.
If you are not already aware of The Toast’s captioning of pictures from Western art history, it is a thing, and it is entertaining. You can find all the articles in the series here.
In one of the most recent posts, Mallory Ortberg pokes fun at what Wikimedia Commons has labeled instances of “seduction in art.” She pulls out examples and describes how many of these cannot possibly be instances of “seduction,” unless by seduction we mean assault or harassment.
The piece does a good job of bringing out the cognitive dissonance from accepting “seduction” as aggressively pursuing someone for sex without their explicit consent, thinking that sex requires consent, and accepting seduction as a legitimate part of sex.
If you are not familiar with Ortberg’s series of posts on Western art history, you should note that some of these examples are more hyperbolic than others. She is framing many of these scenes as non-consensual where consent seems ambiguous. (Though part of her point may be, shouldn’t sex and seduction only involve people who are unambiguously excited about engaging in it?) Underneath the hyperbole and satire, Ortberg is posing a serious question: “Why does seduction look a lot like assault and not seem to require any real degree of consent? What kind of thing is seduction if these are what count as examples of it?”
She suggests, “Perhaps you have confused “pushing someone away from you” with “getting seduced.””
You can read the post here:
*A few of the pictures contain nudity.
A guest post:
We are members of The Philosophers’ Ethical Non-Monogamy Alliance who are dismayed to read Robert Hanna’s article “Sexual McCarthyism, Polyamory, and the First Amendment”.
Polyamory is the practice or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. It is a form of consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy. Polyamory is not a sexual orientation towards some gender or genders, or a gender identity.
We are philosophers. Several of us are polyamorous. Others of us identify as ethically non-monogamous in other ways.
We strongly condemn sexual harassment in all its forms.
We consider it obvious, but we now clarify explicitly for the avoidance of any possible doubt, that polyamory is in no way equivalent to, or an excuse for, the sexual harassment of students or colleagues. Polyamory is neither constituted by nor an excuse for pursuing multiple relationships – whether ‘marriage-like’ or not – without concern for whether the objects of pursuit are comfortable with being thus pursued.
We find it both conceptually confused and highly offensive to associate polyamory with sexual harassment in the manner exemplified in Hanna’s article.
Rebecca Kukla, Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, Kenny Easwaran, Jeff Sebo, Duane Long, Jr., Ada Jaarsma, Ryan Carmody, Rachael Briggs, and Enzo Rossi, on behalf of the Philosophers’ Ethical Non-Monogamy Alliance.
(The PENMA is a group of philosophers interested in exploring political, personal, disciplinary, and theoretical issues surrounding ethical non-monogamy.)
A reader has asked for recommendations of work on affirmative consent policies (either at the university level or in law) for an upcoming course. Suggestions?
Is the following just a description, or in part a recommendation? In any case, it carries a lot of information about values, though just whose may not be clear. In any case, what do you think about it? definitely on the right track? Spending too much on yoga, pilates, organic food and expensive hair stylists? Some big flaws? Just wait untill she gets to 65?
When I am at a social occasion, the showstoppers are no longer the young beauties in their 20s. Rather, those who draw all the light in the room are the women of great accomplishment and personal charisma — and these are usually women in midlife. (Indeed, at events I have attended recently, cadres of conventionally beautiful young women seem now to be treated almost like wallpaper or like the catering staff.)
The change in social norms around the issue of women’s aging is immense. There is now an influential and growing demographic of educated, well-off women whose status, sense of self-esteem and sexual cachet rise rather than fall as they head toward midlife. I do not see younger women looking at accomplished women in their 40s with pity or derision: I see them looking ahead with admiration and even envy...
Because of advances in health and well-being awareness, many women I know are entering midlife feeling as good as (and looking better than) they did in college. But they also have professional success, self-knowledge, sexual magnetism and awareness, and even thriving children, admiring husbands or ardent lovers. These signs of accomplishment merely add to the allure of many midlife women — women who, when asked if they would like to be in their 20s again, think of doing so with a shudder.
So male philosophers who hit on young women in classes or conference are what? Incredibly insecure? Following the pro-creation narrative? Out of touch with the values of the cultural elite?
The meaning of sexual consent is often misunderstood in disturbing ways by young people. There’s the idea that if you wear sexy clothing you’re asking for it; that silence during a sex act equals consent; and that women are always falsely accusing men of sexual assault and rape. Surveys have shown that one in two boys and one in three girls think it is OK to sometimes hit a woman or force her to have sex. All of which suggests a new approach is necessary. We need to teach young women and men about affirmative, enthusiastic and informed consent.
Consent workshops aren’t about preaching or judging. I attended a training session earlier this year that explained how they would work, and we discussed the sorts of things in everyday life we typically ask consent for. This ranged from seeing if a chair is free, to going to the toilet during a class. It revealed that we ultimately ask for people’s consent all the time, so in sex it should be no different. We also discussed how to “check in” with your partner, to see if they consent at different stages of an encounter, and the ways in which people in ongoing relationships can negotiate an understanding of consent. When feeding back to the session, the phrase that kept being repeated was “Just ask”.
The idea of affirmative and enthusiastic consent encourages people to regard sex as a positive, willing action. It’s about teaching women and men not to be ashamed of sex, and to proceed consciously and confidently. An understanding of consent engenders respect for everyone: from those who choose to refrain from sex to those who are in relationships, and those who engage in sex in a wide variety of situations. Consent is about ensuring that people are completely comfortable in their sexual decisions, whatever those might be.
Colleges at Cambridge have taken a big step by introducing consent talks and workshops – but I’d like to see these made compulsory in all universities across the UK. The workshops bring home the difficult truth that we are all capable of violating someone else’s consent, while creating a safe space to discuss the meaning of consenting positively and enthusiastically. They are empowering, and absolutely necessary.