Sexual desire and structural injustice

Journal of Social Philosophy 52 (4):587-600 (2020)
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This article argues that political injustices can arise from the distribution and character of our sexual desires and that we can be held responsible for correcting these injustices. It draws on a conception of structural injustice to diagnose unjust patterns of sexual attraction, which are taken to arise when socio-structural processes shaping the formation of sexual desire compound systemic domination and capacity-deprivation for the occupants of a social position. Individualistic and structural solutions to the problem of unjust patterns of sexual attraction are assessed in the context of racialised sexual aversion, racial fetishism, and the desexualisation of people with disabilities. While both forms of intervention can help in principle, some of the advantages of structural approaches are laid out. A schema for assigning political responsibilities for addressing this injustice is proposed, with some limits identified to the kinds of state and social responses that are justified. Finally, the status of the merely aesthetically unappealing is considered, with a relational egalitarian approach concluding that they are subject to structurally unjust patterns of sexual desire only when exposed to oppression or second-class citizenship as a result.

Author's Profile

Tom O'Shea
University of Edinburgh


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