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Authors: Linda Lemoncheck

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Loose Women, Lecherous Men

BOOK: Loose Women, Lecherous Men
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Page iii
Loose Women, Lecherous Men
A Feminist Philosophy of Sex
Linda LeMoncheck
New York Oxford Oxford University Press 1997
Page iv
Oxford University Press
Oxford New York
Athens Auckland Bangkok Bogota Bombay Buenos Aires
Calcutta Cape Town Dar es Salaam Delhi Florence Hong Kong
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and associated companies in
Berlin Ibadan
Copyright © 1997 by Linda LeMoncheck
Published by Oxford University Press, Inc.
198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016
Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without the prior permission of Oxford University Press.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
LeMoncheck, Linda.
Loose women, lecherous men : a feminist philosophy of sex / Linda
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-19-510555-9; ISBN 0-19-510556-7 (pbk.)
1. SexPhilosophy. 2. Sexual ethics. 3. Feminist theory.
I. Title.
HQ12.L398       1997
306.7'01-dc20     96-34477
1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2
Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper
Page v
Contemporary feminism has the potential to be the defining political movement for women coming of age in the twenty-first century. However, nowhere is feminism more controversial among women than in its role as a sexually liberating force in women's lives. Indeed, feminist politics, once regarded as synonymous with women's sexual liberation, is now perceived by many women to be its antithesis. Despite their support for women's rights, many women reject feminism in the belief that feminists are antimale, antisex moralists who define men's violence against, and victimization of, women as pervasive features of modern sexual life. Many heterosexual women enjoy sex and value their femininity but complain that feminists make them feel guilty about it. Some women define their sexual liberation in terms of the freedom to be sexually promiscuous or in finding partners whose dominance or control is sexually exciting. Yet many feminists have equated both promiscuity and sexual submission with the oppression of women. Some feminists fight male oppression by choosing other women as lovers. Other women whose sex partners have always been women wonder why their sex should be a matter of feminist politics at all.
I believe that feminism can provide all women with an informative, wideranging, and practical politics for investigating the meaning and value of women's sexuality, now and in the future. If it is to do so, however, the philosophical foundations of feminism must be structured to embrace the complexity and diversity of individual women's sexual lives. Therefore, the feminist philosophy of sex introduced in the pages that follow offers a framework for thinking and talking about women's sexuality that can negotiate the tensions and advance the dialogue among a wide ar-
Page vi
ray of perspectives on women's sexual liberation. I am deeply concerned that the absence of such a framework, particularly in light of renewed attacks on feminism from the political right, has the potential to splinter feminist ranks, thus weakening feminism's efforts to promote the sexual agency and self-definition of all women. Therefore, this book is designed to appeal not only to those already committed to feminism but also to those who are skeptical of feminism's place in their sexual lives or uncertain of whether feminism can survive internal debates among competing feminist constituencies. The book is also written for those who would like to know more about how feminism and women's sexuality can be integrated into a framework for philosophizing about sexa framework designed to encourage respect for sexual diversity in a caring community of socially responsible women and men.
Several colleagues, friends, and family members have made the writing of this enormously challenging project worth every frustrating moment. First, I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to Al Spangler and Jed Shafer, both of whom read the first long draft of this book from start to finish and took the time to offer their constructive criticisms throughout. To Robin Parks, Julie Van Camp, and Laurie Shrage, who read significant portions of the manuscript, I attribute many of the important feminist philosophical insights that would otherwise have escaped me. Robin has taught me more about the creativity and complexity of women than I ever thought possible. Alan Soble and John Miller shared their observations on feminist sexual politics with me in detailed correspondence. Carol Caraway, president of the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love, generously gave me the opportunity to read a portion of the manuscript at the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Atlanta in 1993, where I received valuable feedback. The Philosophy Department at California State University, Long Beach, also organized and advertised two colloquia in which I presented papers on sexual promiscuity and the commercial sex industry, both of which became part of the current book.
To Ann Garry, Sandra Bartky, and Rosemarie Tong, I offer my thanks for their willingness to read the manuscript for Oxford University Press should they be asked. I would like to express a particularly heartfelt thank-you to Rosie, who has given me endless encouragement to pursue what for me is one of the most difficult and elusive disciplines I have ever encountered. Ann and Sandra generously contributed incisive commentary on the manuscript at a special session of the Pacific Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Berkeley, March 1997. I also wish to extend my appreciation to Julie Van Camp for initiating this panel discussion and organizing it in her consistently efficient and responsible way. Without the support and confidence of Robert Stewart, I would never have considered my work in feminist philosophy of interest to Oxford University Press. Rob also agreed to chair the Berkeley APA special session where my work in the feminist philosophy of sex was discussed. I also wish to thank philosophy advisers Philip Kitcher and Barry Stroud and editors Angela Blackburn, Robert Miller, and Cynthia Read at Oxford University Press for their encouragement and constructive commentary on my work. Cynthia was especially helpful in negotiating and generating the finished product. Production editor Paula Wald was instrumental in bringing the manuscript to print on schedule.
Page vii
I commend my entire family for seeing me through the inevitable agony and uncertainty associated with this project without disowning me outright. I would also like to acknowledge the many wonderful friends who have consistently and conscientiously asked after the manuscript ("So Linda, how's the book!?") and supported me through the many months, now years, of its gestation. I dedicate this book to my husband Jed, whose generosity, good humor, and equanimity under stress are the envy of his wife. To all, I encourage your reflections and feedback on the discussion that follows.
L. L.
Seal Beach, California
June 1997
Page ix
What Is a Feminist Philosophy of Sex?
In Hot Pursuit of Sexual Liberation: Should a Woman Be Promiscuous?
Challenging the Normal and the Perverse: Feminist Speculations on Sexual Preference
I Only Do It for the Money: Pornography, Prostitution, and the Business of Sex
Appropriating Women's Bodies: The Form and Function of Men's Sexual Intimidation of Women
Select Bibliography
Page 3
Loose women and lecherous men have been gloriously depicted throughout history in painting, prose, poetry, and song celebrating the passions and pleasures of unbridled sexuality. Nevertheless, conservative responses to sexual permissiveness are becoming more commonplace in the industrialized West, where anxieties over teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual deviance, and sexual violence have prompted a call for the revalorization of monogamy, loving commitment, and heterosexual stability.
Feminists are also deeply troubled by the escalation of sexual violence both at home and abroad, and the feminist demand for better health care and sex education for women is designed to help young people avoid unwanted pregnancy and debilitating disease. However, many feminists have long been suspicious that moralistic rejections of sexual license in the name of restoring social harmony merely reflect a sexual double standard of male lechery and female chastity, by which dutiful women are paradoxically required to be both whore and virgin to men's promiscuous heterosexual desire. Such feminists have thus encouraged women to defy traditional norms of feminine sexuality in an effort to hasten the sexual liberation of women. Expressions of such defiance may include women's safe and consensual explorations of sexual promiscuity, bisexuality, lesbianism, transsexualism and transvestism, sadomasochism, erotic dancing and other forms of public sexual performance, pornographic posing or acting, and prostitution. All such sexual practices are self-consciously defiant of the so-called traditional family values of moral conservatives because the sex need not be monogamous, heterosexual, stable, intimate, private, or
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