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Out from the ShadowsAnalytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy$
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Sharon L. Crasnow and Anita M. Superson

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199855469

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199855469.001.0001

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Modesty as a Feminist Sexual Virtue

Modesty as a Feminist Sexual Virtue

Chapter:
(p.115) 5 Modesty as a Feminist Sexual Virtue
Source:
Out from the Shadows
Author(s):

Anne Barnhill

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199855469.003.0006

Sexual modesty is a feminist sexual virtue—in one sense, but not another. There are at least two distinct kinds of feminist sexual virtues: first, character traits that allow individual sexual flourishing given the realities of sexism within a specific social context; second, character traits related to sex that encourage feminist change. Modesty is a feminist sexual virtue in the second sense—it encourages feminist change, however minimally. More precisely, modesty is a feminist sexual virtue for those women whose sexuality is overvalued, though not for those women whose sexuality is undervalued. Regrettably, I doubt that sexual modesty is a feminist sexual virtue in the first sense; given the realities of sexism, being modest doesn’t necessarily allow individual women to flourish sexually, but might in fact put a damper on their sex lives. In identifying sexual modesty as a feminist sexual virtue for women, I find a surprising point of agreement with conservative and feminist critic Roger Scruton, though we disagree about why sexual modesty is a virtue for women. However, I put myself at odds with those feminist writers who consider women’s sexually provocative display of their bodies and their sexuality to be a feminist act.

Keywords:   sexual objectification, virtue ethics, virtue theory, gender equity, sexual virtue, sexual ethics, modesty

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