Pre-Theoretical Assumptions in Evolutionary Explanations of female sexuality

Philosophical Studies 69 (2-3):139-153 (1993)
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My contribution to this Symposium focuses on the links between sexuality and reproduction from the evolutionary point of view.' The relation between women's sexuality and reproduction is particularly importantb ecause of a vital intersectionb etweenp olitics and biology feminists have noticed, for more than a century, that women's identity is often defined in terms of her reproductive capacity. More recently, in the second wave of the feminist movement in the United States, debates about women'si dentityh ave explicitlyi ncludeds exuality;m uch feminist argument in the late 1960's and early 1970's involved an attempt to separate out an autonomous female sexuality from women's reproductive functions. It is especially relevant, then, to examine biological arguments, particularlye volutionarya rgumentst, o see what they say about whether and how women's sexuality is related to reproduction. We shall find that many evolutionarya rgumentss eem to supportt he direct linkingo f female sexualitya nd reproductionY. et I will argue that this supporti s not well-groundedI. n fact, I think evolutionarye xplanationso f female sexuality exemplify how social beliefs and social agendas can influence very basic biological explanations of fundamental physiological processes. In this paper, I shall spend some time spelling out a few examples in which assumptions about the close link between reproduction and sexuality yield misleading results, then I shall conclude with a discussion of the consequences of this case study for issues in the philosophy of science.

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Elisabeth Lloyd
Indiana University, Bloomington


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