Why Is Sexual Assault Special?: Transactional Sex and Sacred Intuitions
Handbook of Sexual Ethics, ed. David Boonin (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2022)
Posted: 4 Apr 2022
Date Written: February 19, 2022
There is virtually no disagreement that sexual assault and sexual harassment are serious moral wrongs whose perpetrators deserve punishments sterner than those who commit non-sexual assault or harassment. The intuition undergirding this judgment is reflected in both our criminal law and the rise of the #MeToo Movement. This suggests that there is something special or sacred about sex absent from other types of encounters. On the other hand, leading cultural trends in entertainment and academia imply that sex is just another recreational activity whose moral permissibility depends exclusively on whether the parties freely consent and are satisfied by the results. This transactional view of sex, Beckwith argues, is in tension with our intuitions about the special wrongness of sexual assault and harassment.
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Keywords: sexual assault, #MeToo Movement, sexual ethics, Harvey Weinstein
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