PHILOSOPHY 481 Philosophy of Sex


Time: Th 2:00 - 3:20

Professor: Dr. Gary L. Angel

Office:       Britt 211

Phone:      Ext. 4343

Hours:       MWF 3:00 - 5:15





Soble, Alan, ed., Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings, 5th edition, Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.




Hartley, Nina, Thus I Refute Chyng Sun:  Feminists for Porn, hartley02022005.html, February 2, 2005. (click on title to access article)

Sun, Chyng, Gonzales: Chief Prosecutor of Porn? Revisiting the Obscenity Debate,, January 31, 2005. (click on title to access article)




Sex is almost everyone's favorite subject.  Not only do people like to have sex, they like to talk about it, tell jokes about it, and fantasize about it.  People buy sexual products, and use sex to sell products that are not generally considered sexual.  It is difficult to speak even one sentence without becoming aware of the sexual innuendo implicit in the use of everyday words.  Moreover, moral proclamations abound regarding certain kinds of sexual acts and sexual orientations.  Yet, what is clear about sex is that the nature of sex is not clearly understood.  President Clinton said that he did not have sexual relations with Monica.  Did he?  If not, was what they did in any way sexually perverse?  Can sexual perversion be sexual if it is not, in some way, a sexual relation. Is sexual perversion, by its nature, immoral?  These are important but difficult-to-answer questions.  The notion of sexual perversion is parasitic on the notion of sexual normalcy, and clarification of each is a requirement for moral judgments concerning either.


The aim of this course is to explore the conceptual and normative issues surrounding sex in order to reach the requisite clarification for understanding sexual activity, sexuality, and sexual orientation as well as for making responsible moral judgments in a sexual context.




1. Attendance is expected at every class, and students are required to demonstrate that the assigned readings have been read.  Students will, therefore, be assigned critical analyses of the assigned readings. Failure to produce a critical analysis when assigned will count the same as a missed class. Each class missed will mean the loss of half a letter grade off the final average.

2. Students will write a semester-long, ten page (or more) position paper worth 100% of the final grade. The paper will be double-spaced and typed in Arial 12 point with four margins of one inch each. The first part of this paper will be at least five pages long, and will be due, in its rough form, at the end of the sixth week. These papers should reflect adequate research, and will be read in class periodically in order to demonstrate progress in understanding the issues and to receive feedback.  The paper, in its entirety, will be due on the last day of scheduled classes and will include the following:


A. A general theory of sex which will include answers to the following three questions:

1. What is the essential distinction between having sex, and masturbation?

2. Is there such a thing as sexual perversion, and what constitutes the normal sex from which it is a deviation?

3. What is the relationship of perversion and masturbation?

4. Is perversion immoral?

B. A conceptual and ethical analysis of one of the following issues:


1. Rape and the Nature of Consent

2. Love, Sex, and Infidelity

3. Pornography

4. Prostitution

5. Homosexuality


Each paper must take into account the positions of Thomas Nagel, Alan Soble, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant, among others. In order to receive a grade of A it will be necessary to include no fewer than eight citations from the selected readings or from other research material. A grade of B will require six citations. A grade of C will require four citations. A grade of D will require three citations. Notice that these citations are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the indicated grades.