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The Distinct Wrong of Sexual Attacks

Morgan, Robert (2019) The Distinct Wrong of Sexual Attacks. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Sexual violence is morally abhorrent and occurs with appalling frequency. In this thesis, I argue that we are correct to recognise sexual violence as seriously wrongful. Specifically, I argue that sexual attacks perpetrate a wrong that is not present in non-sexual attacks. This thesis begins by raising a problem for widely held views in sexual ethics. In order to explain why sexual attacks perpetrate a distinct wrong in virtue of being sexual attacks, it seems that we are committed to the view that there is something morally special about sexual contact. The worry is that this might presuppose or entail conservative or restrictive approaches to sexual ethics and/or a traditional and misogynist view of women and women’s sexuality. I formulate this problem as the traditionalist’s challenge. My focus in this thesis is on responding to this challenge, explaining the distinct wrongness of sexual attacks without appeal to a traditional or overly moralised approach to sexual contact. I discuss a range of accounts of the wrongness of sexual attacks. These explain the wrongness of sexual attacks by appeal to the victim’s psychological suffering, the assailant’s objectification of the victim, the importance of sex to a person’s identity, and the victim’s rights over their own body. I argue that each of these accounts is not entirely successful, but that they provide resources that are useful for explaining the wrong of sexual attacks. Finally, I advance my own proposal. I develop an account of what it is for an attack to be sexual, arguing that an attack is sexual when the assailant sexualises the victim, which depends on the expressive significance of the contact imposed. I then argue that the distinct wrongness of sexual attacks can be explained by the expressive meanings attributed to this contact.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.781339
Depositing User: Mr Robert Morgan
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2019 10:16
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 20:08
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24456

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