The Aesthetics and Ethics of Sexiness

In David Goldblatt, Stephanie Partridge & Lee Brown (eds.), Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy (4th ed.). London: (2017)
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All too often women are considered sexy in accordance with an externally dictated and unduly narrow conception of sexiness – one that excludes large portions of the female population from being considered sexy. In response to this, some feminists have suggested that we should give up on sexiness altogether. Since the agency, subjectivity, and autonomy of a woman being judged sexy is generally ignored, they argue, we have, in effect, an equation of sexiness with objecthood. In a recent essay entitled “Sex Objects and Sexy Subjects” Sheila Lintott and Sherri Irvin object to this strategy because they see sexuality as a crucial element of selfhood – something that one cannot simply ‘give up on’. Instead, they propose to reclaim and redefine sexiness in such a way that makes room for women as sexy subjects desiring and pursuing authentic pleasure. In this short paper, I will investigate the merits and shortcomings of their proposal and present an alternative account.

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Hans Maes
University of Kent


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