The Ethics of Sex

Subject 161-518 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

Semester 1, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour lecture/seminar per week
Total Time Commitment: 2 contact hours/week, 8 additional hours/week. Total of 10 hours per week.
Prerequisites: Admission to the Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Ethics or MA in Professional and Applied Ethics, or permission from the subject coordinator.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Prof Igor Primoratz


Assoc Prof Igor Primoratz

Subject Overview: The subject explores the nature and moral significance of sex and the central issues in sexual morality. In the first part we look into the main conceptions of human sexuality: the traditional view of sex as meant for procreation, the “romantic” view of sex as bound up with love, the understanding of sex as a body language, and the hedonist or “plain sex” view. In the second part we discuss monogamy, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, sexual harassment, and rape
Objectives: Students who successfully complete this subject will
  • have developed an understanding of the major philosophical theories of sexual morality
  • be able to apply this understanding in providing a critique of social norms and policy governing sexual behaviour
Assessment: One 1,500 word assignment 30% (due early in the semester). One 3,500 essay 70% (due at the end of semester).
Prescribed Texts:
  • Ethics and Sex (Igor Primoratz) London and New York: Routledge, 1999
Recommended Texts: Baker, Robert, Kathleen Wininger, and Frederick Elliston, eds. Philosophy and Sex, 3rd edition. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1998. Finnis, John. "Law, Morality, and 'Sexual Orientation'," Notre Dame Law Review 69:5 (1994), pp. 1049-76. Jung, Patricia, and Ralph Smith. Heterosexism: An Ethical Challenge. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1993. Kant, Immanuel. Lectures on Ethics. Translated by Louis Infield. New York: Harper and Row, 1963. Nagel, Thomas. "Sexual Perversion," in Alan Soble, ed., The Philosophy of Sex, 3rd edition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, pp. 9-20. O'Neill, Onora. "Between Consenting Adults," Philosophy and Public Affairs 14:3 (1985), pp. 252-77. Plato. Symposium. Translated by Michael Joyce, in E. Hamilton and H. Cairns, eds., The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961, pp. 526-74. Posner, Richard. Sex and Reason. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992. Scruton, Roger. Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic. New York: Free Press, 1986. Soble, Alan. The Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Introduction. St. Paul, Minn.: Paragon House, 1998. Soble, Alan. Sexual Investigations. New York: New York University Press,1996. Soble Alan, ed. The Philosophy of Sex, 3rd edition. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997. Soble Alan, ed. Sex, Love and Friendship. Amsterdam, Hol.: Editions Rodopi, 1996. Soble, Alan ed. Sex from Plato to Paglia: A Philosophical Encyclopedia, Greenwood Press, 2006 Solomon, Robert, and Kathleen Higgins, eds. The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love. Lawrence. Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1991. Stewart, Robert M., ed. Philosophical Perspectives on Sex and Love. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Verene, Donald, ed. Sexual Love and Western Morality, 2nd edition. Boston, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett, 1995. Wojtyla, Karol [Pope John Paul II]. Love and Responsibility. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981.
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills: Students who successfully complete this subject will
  • have improved their ability to integrate abstract moral and conceptual considerations with relevant empirical data
  • have refined the skills necessary for original research by developing the capacity to think rigorously, imaginatively and critically about abstract topics
  • have refined the skills required for written communication of research
  • havestrengthened their ability to comprehend and evaluate complex argumentative texts
Related Course(s): Master of Arts in Professional and Applied Ethics

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