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Question: 1. How are women today equal to men, especially in the areas of love and sexuality? 2. Why do women today remain unequal, especially in the areas of love and sexuality?

13 Nov 2023,6:37 PM


Part A: Reactions Questions
1. How are women today equal to men, especially in the areas of love and sexuality?
2. Why do women today remain unequal, especially in the areas of love and sexuality?


Part B: Reading Questions
Please read Feminist Critiques of Sex and Love posted on Blackboard. Note about readings: The readings for this week and the following week contain explicit descriptions of sex and some profanity. Although this may at times seem shocking, the authors feel that this is necessary in making their arguments and not employed gratuitously. Please get in touch with Dr. Silvermintz for an alternative assignment if you feel that this assignment is triggering for you.

1. Why does Firestone regard gender as an issue of economic class?
2. Why does de Beauvoir think of women as the “second sex”?
3. Why does Dworken compare intercourse to a political occupation?
4. What does the character in Jong's novel mean by "zipless" and why would this be liberating?
5. How does the medical student Norm in French's novel demean his girlfriend Mira?



Immanuel Kant (1724 –1804) on the Ethics of Sex

The feminist notion of objectification is based on Immanuel Kant’ssecond categorical imperative:

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”—Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals


Selection from Immanuel Kant Lectures on Ethics (Methuen, 1930)

1. We say that a person loves someone when he has an inclination towards another person. If by this love we mean true human love, then it admits of no distinction between types of persons, or between young and old. But a love that springs merely from sexual impulse cannot be love at all, but only appetite. Human love is good will, affection, promoting the happiness of others and finding joy in their happiness. But it is clear that, when a person loves another purely from sexual desire, none of these factors enter into the love. Far from there being any concern for the happiness of the loved one, the lover, in order to satisfy his desire and satisfy his appetite, may even plunge the loved one into the depths of misery. Sexual love makes of the loved person an object of appetite; as soon as that appetite has been satiated, the person is cast aside as one casts away a lemon which has been sucked dry. 

2. Sexual love, taken by itself and for itself, is nothing more than appetite. Taken by itself it is a degradation of human nature; for as soon as a person becomes an object of appetite for another, all motives of moral relationship cease to function, because as an object of appetite for another a person becomes a thing and can be treated and used as such by everyone. This is the only case in which a human being is designed by nature as the object of another’s enjoyment. Sexual desire is at the root of it; and that is why we are ashamed of it, and why all strict moralists and those who had pretensions to be regarded as saints, sought to suppress it. It is true that without intimacy a person would be incomplete; nonetheless people sought to suppress these inclinations because they degraded humankind.

3. Because sexuality is not an inclination which one human being has for another as a person, but is an inclination for the sex of another, it is a principle of the degradation of human nature, in that it gives rise to the preference of one sex to the other, and to the dishonoring of that sex through the satisfaction of desire. The desire which a man has for a woman is not directed towards her because she is a human being, but because she is a woman; that she is a human being is of no concern to the man; only her sex is the object of his desires. Human nature is thus subordinated. Hence it comes that all men and women do their best to make not their human nature but their sex more alluring and direct their activities and lusts entirely towards sex. Human nature is thereby sacrificed to sex. If then a man wishes to satisfy his desire, and a woman hers, they stimulate each other’s desire; their inclinations meet, but their object is not to respect each other’s human nature but simply sexual gratification, and each of them in so doing dishonors the human nature of the other. They make of humanity an instrument for the satisfaction of their lusts and inclinations, and dishonor it by placing it on a level with animal nature. Sexuality, therefore, exposes mankind to the danger of equality with the beasts. 

4. Since sexual desire is a part of our nature, the question arises how far we can go in satisfying this desire. How far may people allow one of the opposite sex to satisfy his or her desire? Can they prostitute themselves, ,or by some other contract allow use to be made of their sexual faculties? People cannot dispose over themselves because we are not a thing to be disposed of.  To say that people are property would be self-contradictory; for in so far as we are people we are a subject in whom the ownership of things can be vested, and if we were our own property, we would be a thing over which we could have ownership. But a person is not property and so cannot be a thing which can be owned. He is not entitled to sell a limb, not even one of his teeth. But to allow one’s person for profit to be used by another for the satisfaction of sexual desire, to make of oneself an object of demand, is to dispose over oneself as over a thing and to make of oneself a thing on which another satisfies his appetite, just as he satisfies his hunger upon a steak. But since the inclination is directed towards one’s sex and not towards one’s humanity, it is clear that one thus partially sacrifices one’s humanity and thereby runs a moral risk. Human beings are, therefore, not entitled to offer themselves, for profit, as things for the use of others in the satisfaction of their sexual propensities. 

5. The sole condition on which we are free to make use of our sexual desire depends upon the right to dispose over the person as a whole, that is, over the welfare and happiness and generally over all the circumstances of that person. If I have the right over the whole person, I have also the right over the part and so I have the right to use that person’s sexual organs for the satisfaction of sexual desire. But how am I to obtain these rights over the whole person? Only by giving that person the same rights over the whole of myself as in marriage. Matrimony is an agreement between two persons by which they grant each other equal reciprocal rights, each of them undertaking to surrender the whole of their person to the other. We can now apprehend by reason how a sexual union is possible without degrading humanity and breaking the moral laws. If one devotes one’s person to another, one devotes not only sex but the whole person; the two cannot be separated. If, then, one yields one’s person, body and soul, for good and ill and in every respect, so that the other has complete rights over it, and if the other does not similarly yield himself in return and does not extend in return the same rights and privileges, the arrangement is one-sided. But if I yield myself completely to another and obtain the person of the other in return, I win myself back. The two persons thus become a unity of will. Whatever good or ill, joy or sorrow befall either of them, the other will share in it making sex a union of human beings. 


Key Dates in the Women’s Rights Movement

1920 – 19th Amendment: women’s right to vote. 

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

1972 – Title 9: Prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions. 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

1973 – Roe v. Wade: Landmark U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing abortion.

1923 – First introduction of Equal Rights Amendment. Since its introduction in 1923, the ERA has failed to be ratified to this day.  

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any      State on account of sex.”


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