Katharine Jenkins, University of Nottingham
7 March 2017

The nature of sexual desire has been a topic of profound interest to feminist theorists for some time, and certainly in the latter half of the 20th century. Yet this body of work is routinely overlooked by those working on this topic within the analytic tradition, resulting in two quite separate literatures. Focussing on the work of feminist theorist Andrea Dworkin – a distinctive and polarizing figure – I argue that much is lost by this partitioning. Dworkin’s work interrogates the connections between sexuality, gender, and dominance, aspects of sexual desire that are under-explored in the analytic philosophy of sex. I first show how an analytic approach can help us get the most out of Dworkin’s intricate prose by clarifying ambiguous passages and disentangling distinct claims. I then argue that analytic work on sexual desire would benefit greatly from Dworkin’s valuable insights about the social and political nature of sexual desire. A notable exception to the tendency to overlook Dworkin’s work is Seiriol Morgan.  However, I argue that even Morgan does not account for the full implications of Dworkin’s arguments – and indeed, his work provides some especially clear examples of how her insights can be of use.

Katharine Jenkins is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nottingham. She did her PhD at the University of Sheffield with Jennifer Saul and Miranda Fricker, before which she studied philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Her research is primarily in social  philosophy, especially the ontology of social categories. She is interested in how social categories such as races and genders exist, and how these categories are bound up with systematic injustices. She also works on feminist philosophy and critical philosophy of race more broadly, on the philosophy of sex and sexuality, and on social epistemology.

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