Holding Out for a Hero

Due to some scheduling changes, SPSL needs a Chair for our panel at the APA Central (Chicago 2.23 to 2.26).

The panel is during the 2 to 5PM slot on Saturday, February 26th and features two papers:

  • Jonathan Ichikawa (University of British Columbia) “A Euthyphro Problem for Consent Theory” 
  • Gary Foster (Wilfrid Laurier University) “Desire, Love, and Identity in Sartre”

Please contact me (awarmac@emory.edu) or Jordan (jordan.pascoe@manhattan.edu) if you would like to be a hero.

APA Eastern Call for Papers: Trans Erotics

The Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love invites papers that explore trans erotics for the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting in Philadelphia, January 8-11 2020.

In his 2011 poem, “How to Make Love to a Trans Person“, Gabe Moses provides an evocative description of coding, learning, loving, and pleasuring that challenge pre-existing notions of arousal, attraction, and being with through an account of the body.

Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.

In her 2014 essay “When Selves Have Sex: What the Phenomenology of Trans Sexuality Can Teach About Sexual Orientation” Dr. Bettcher offers an account “erotic structuralism”.  This account makes the case for an “eroticized self” within an “interactional account” of desire and distinguishes between attraction and arousal.  For Bettcher, a consequence of this is a “blurring” of the gender identity / sexual orientation distinction for there is a “core gender-inflected erotic self in addition to a persistent attraction to a type of gendered persons” (618).  Bodies figure it out in space and time with other bodies.

Both thinkers present both different modes of exploring trans erotics and accounts of being with others in erotic encounters.  At times in tension with each other, these accounts invite us to seriously, ethically, generously, and lovingly trouble binaries of bodies, pleasures, intimacies, and notions of the self.

SPSL takes quite seriously Dr. Bettcher’s reminder to us that “we’re talking about people—people who are in the room, people trying (and succeeding) to philosophize themselves” not things.  And so we invite papers that carefully and care-fully take up trans erotics.

We invite submissions that include but are not limited to papers that:

  • Engage with the ethics described in Moses’ poem.
    • What ethical preconditions—or responsibility to ourselves and others (and ourselves with others)—might be required in the recoding that Moses offers?
  • Take up the claims made in Dr. Bettcher’s essay
    • Do we have a “core gender-inflected erotic self”?
    • Is Bettcher using a Lordean account of the erotic in her piece?
  • Discuss the relationship (either tensions, commonalities, or both) between the erotics of other precaritized bodies.

We specifically invite work from trans thinkers (particularly trans people of colour).

Papers should be no more than 3000 words long.
Full paper submissions should be sent to: jordan.pascoe@manhattan.edu; Deadline August 2, 2019.

For more information on the APA Eastern, visit: https://www.apaonline.org/event/2020eastern

APA Eastern Call for Proposals: Teaching Philosophy of Love and Sex

Teaching Philosophy of Love and Sex (APA Eastern)

The Society for The Philosophy of Sex and Love is soliciting proposals for a panel/working session on teaching the philosophy of sex and love at the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting in Philadelphia, January 8-11 2020.

We invite papers and proposals that engage with the pedagogies of the philosophy of sex and love, from papers taking up pedagogical problems in teaching the philosophy of sex, to presentations of innovative approaches to teaching philosophy of sex and love. We particularly encourage proposals that:

  • Explore teaching the philosophy of sex and love in an intersectional, inclusive key
  • Engage the philosophy of sex and love beyond the classroom, or encourage institutional transformations around normative sex and heterosex
  • Offer philosophical engagements with sex and healthy relationship education

Proposals should be no more than 500 words.

Submissions should be sent to: jordan.pascoe@manhattan.edu; Deadline August 2, 2019.

For more information on the APA Eastern, visit https://www.apaonline.org/event/2020eastern


Love you, mean it.

I’m very saddened to find that one of my favourite blogs, Feminist Philosophers, is closing down.

The blog is one of the resources that I turned to when I made the decision to pursue a PhD in philosophy and one that I keep coming back to for a gut check on those days/weeks/semesters when grad school is just… doing the most.

I’d like to thank all of the contributors there for creating (and demonstrating) a space that helped virtually support me to create a space for myself in this discipline.

Love you, mean it.

Oh Canada!

SPSL Session at the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association, April 17-20, 2019, Vancouver, British Columbia

Topic: Engaging with Kate Manne’s Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny

  • Ann J. Cahill (Elon University, North Carolina): The Impossibility and Necessity of Resistance Against Misogyny: Filling the Jails
  • Qrescent Mali Mason, (Haverford College, Pennsylvania): I Wanna be Down, Girl: Misogyny is an Intersectional Key
  • Angelique Szymanek, (Hobart & William Smith Colleges, New York): ’My Cunt is Wet with Fear’: Misogyny and Desire in the Art of Tracy Emin
  • Dianna Taylor, (John Carroll University, Ohio): Misogyny in the Era of #MeTooOh

Interview with Fanny Söderbäck

We are very happy to relaunch our Interview Series with an interview with Fanny Söderbäck! 

fanny-söderbäck.pngFanny Söderbäck is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University. She holds a PhD in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research, and taught philosophy for several years at Siena College. Her book Revolutionary Time: On Time and Difference in Kristeva and Irigaray, which treats the role of time as it appears in the work of French feminist thinkers Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray, is forthcoming with SUNY Press. Fanny has edited Feminist Readings of Antigone (SUNY Press, 2010) and is a co-editor of the volume Undutiful Daughters: New Directions in Feminist Thought and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). She is also the editor of a special issue of philoSOPHIA: A Journal of Continental Feminism on the topic of birth. Her work has appeared in scholarly journals such as Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Journal of French and Francophone PhilosophyJournal of Speculative Philosophy, and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Current research projects include a monograph on the Italian feminist thinker Adriana Cavarero, and a project that puts into conversation Julia Kristeva and Gloria Anzaldúa around issues of foreignness and strangeness. Fanny is the co-founder and co-director of the Kristeva Circle. 

ADWarmack: What role do you think the philosophy of sex and love play in your work on motherhood, Irigaray, and Kristeva?  How do you understand the operation of intimacy or the intimate in your work?  What do you understand the role of the erotic to be in your work and your interests? 

FS: You speak here of sex, love, intimacy, the intimate, and the erotic. For me, these all have registers of their own, and play different roles in my work. As a feminist, sex and sexuality have always been central fields of inquiry, although more so in my teaching than in what I write. Right now, I teach a course called “Issues in Sex and Gender,” and I told students on the first day of class that this would be a course on the relationship between sex and gender more so than a course on sexuality. But of course, this distinction collapses upon itself, and despite my initial remark, we have touched on issues having to do with sex and sexuality all along. How could we not? What would it mean to consider gender identity without reflecting on the myriad ways in which that’s always wrapped up in social norms and expectations having to do with desire, pleasure, sexual relations, and so on? How speak of masculinity without an analysis of heteronormativity and homophobia? How broach the current medical practice of “correctional surgeries” on intersex infants without naming the telos of hetero-penetration as that which, literally, shapes our views about what counts as a “normal” or “functional” penis or vagina (at the expense, for example, of clitoral pleasure)? 

Love, more broadly construed, plays a central role in my scholarly work, and as you put it, also has a role to play specifically in my work on motherhood, Irigaray, and Kristeva. I recently finished a piece on motherhood in Kristeva that reads her as attending very carefully to the paradoxes and ambiguities of so-called maternal love, such that it comes to include feelings of disgust and repulsion as integral to maternal passion. I have another article forthcoming that explores Irigaray’s attempts to develop a non-appropriating erotic model that moves beyond the all-too-common trope of a lover-subject who desires their beloved-object in a manner that reproduces all kinds of problematic and binary assumptions about activity and passivity, which in turn serve to reproduce binary gender roles and structures of subordination and submission. My reading of Irigaray takes place in conversation with Plato, and ultimately seeks to develop an intersubjective, non-appropriating ethics of irreducibility, grounded in love.  

As for intimacy, or the intimate, I think my work has always in some sense been concerned with our capacity – or incapacity – to establish proximity across difference, in non-reductive ways. This can manifest in the ways in which we make sense of pregnant embodiment as an experience that involves unique ways of navigating proximity and difference, in a way that fundamentally complicates and challenges commonly held views about identity, selfhood, relationality, and otherness. Or it can manifest in our attempts to build political coalitions across geographical distance and sexual, racial, and colonial difference. But I also think about this a lot from a pedagogical perspective, in terms of classroom dynamics. Intersubjectively as well as in relation to the texts we read, there is always a question of intimacy and trust – not of an erotic kind of course but in terms of making proximity across differences take place. How offer a close reading of a text that was written 2,000 years ago, in a culture different from our own? How create a space where students will have the trust (in me, in each other) to bring deeply personal experiences to bear on the texts that we are engaging? In my mind philosophical dialogue is best – as in most profound and most radical – when it comes from a place of intimacy. 

ADWarmack: What projects are you working on now?  How might time play a role in philosophies of sex and love (or the philosophy of sex and love)? 

FS: In my forthcoming book on revolutionary time – which examines the role of temporality in the works of Kristeva and Irigaray – I offer an analysis of the present that frames Irigaray’s critique of the metaphysics of presence through an appeal to love understood as co-presence. As much as concepts such as “Being” and “Presence” are fraught in a host of ways – and especially so for marginalized folks in cisheteropatriarchal culture – I am still interested in the question of what it means to be-with in a manner that allows for being-present-with. Especially erotic relations are so burdened with appropriative logics that end up objectifying the other. That’s why, for Irigaray, even a seemingly affirmative expression such as “I love you” in fact runs the risk of repeating sexist-capitalist-colonial tendencies to reduce the other to an object; and that’s also why desire so easily gets confused with ownership. To suggest, like Irigaray does, that we instead say “I love to you” is an attempt to seek out the possibility for erotic relations between subjects, whose co-presence or becoming-with are marked by indeterminacy, proximity in difference, and attention to the irreducible mystery of those we love (that they must remain strangers). In praxis, this is extremely hard, because we are so habituated to seek identification through appropriation, to eliminate the distance or difference between us and devouring what we desire. I struggle a lot with this in relation to the people I love. How to carve out an asymptotic path of approximation rather than a teleological project of identification? Those are questions that keep me up at night… 

Moving forward, I am articulating a project that seeks to read Kristeva and Anzaldúa together around issues of foreignness and strangeness. And I am just starting a new book project on Cavarero’s philosophy of singularity. Both the strange and the singular are, for me, conditions of possibility for intimacy. So, while neither of these projects are explicitly or primarily about love or sex, I guess in some sense they might be construed as such. 

ADWarmack: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers? 

FS: I have the word LOVE in Hebrew (AHAVA) tattooed on my shoulder. It’s been with me since I was fourteen. And I am currently engaging in a very peculiar form of loving relation, namely pregnancy. There is something intensely strange about feeling so much love towards and intimacy with someone who you have yet to actually meet. 

Biting the Big Apple

SPSL Session at the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association, January 9, 2019, New York, New York

  • Doug Ficek (University of New Haven): Laughing at the Toxic Male: Two Readings of How Philosophers Pick Up, a Thing that Exists
  • Shaun Miller (Marquette): A Three-Tiered View of Sexual Consent
  • Caleb Ward (SUNY Stonybrook): Responsibility and Responding to Sexual Consent
  • Andrea Dionne Warmack (Emory): Home: A Phenomenological Account of Homing as a Practice of Self-Love

Happy New Year!

…at least for those people filing birth certificates in New York City.

New York City’s new non-binary gender option—gender “X”—is officially in effect. New Yorkers can now change their birth certificates to reflect their gender preferences, and parents can choose “X” for their newborns.

The new law brings NYC in line with California, Oregon and Washington D.C.; a similar provision will be enacted in New Jersey in February.


Sex Machine

Turns out that Kinky Robots are positioned to have better–more nuanced, negotiating, and thoughtful–sexual ethics than sitting Supreme Court Justices.

The foundations of healthy, happy, satisfying, and pleasurable sexual experiences are trust, effective communication, and of course, consent between people. The role of consent for the human in any situation is physical and psychological safety. At the same time, human sexuality includes many behaviors that rely on someone’s interior life and what uniquely excites them, and for some people that includes role playing and other creative interactions that sometimes involve testing and teasing physical and emotional limits of the body with their trusted partner(s), or practicing things that society may consider taboo. However, in this case we are discussing scenarios between a (let’s say non-sentient) robot and human(s), so the idea of consent should be human-centered, as in the Laws.

Would a BDSM Sex Robot Violate Asimov’s First Law of Robotics?

Perhaps the first rule for human pleasure ethics should also be, that one should not “injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm”.**



**The underlying claim here is that ethically negotiated and practiced kinky relationships do not rise to “injury” or “harm”.