Center for Ethics


Center for Ethics

  1. Sex Ethics and Pleasure Politics

Although sexual activity is a central part of socialization and identity formation, sexual behavior is generally considered a private matter, and is seldom examined critically in the public sphere. Universities are no exception; college students - regardless of whether they choose to have sex - are immersed in a campus culture in which ‘private’ sexual beliefs and behaviors shape the ‘public’ undergraduate social experience, and yet the uncritical attitudes that shape these beliefs and behaviors are rarely interrogated or considered within an ethical frame. The 2013-2014 Center for Ethics theme, “Sex, Ethics, and Pleasure Politics” aims to develop a comprehensive sexual ethics for the campus community: How do differing moral, political, and sociological attitudes toward sexuality shape our ethics? How do these attitudes enrich or inhibit the possibility of sexual pleasure? How do attitudes about pleasure, the body, identity, and individuality define what sorts of sexual activity will be considered permissible or impermissible? Is pleasure something that we ought to pursue and promote? What is our ethical responsibility to the pleasure of others? How might a comprehensive sexual ethics cause us to rethink our understanding of justice and interpersonal responsibility?

Through public talks and discussions, this theme will build an ethical conversation centered on interpersonal sexual behavior as well as the political, scientific, religious, aesthetic, and legal forces that shape the permissibility and impermissibility of sexual acts. Our understanding of sexuality reflects how our society at any given period is organized, how it represents and ‘naturalizes’ sex, and how it comes to define the boundary of public and private space, the moral underpinnings of intimate and/or reproductive behavior, and the essential categories of sexual identity. Therefore, the ways in which we practice sex raise deep ethical questions about how we will regulate the economic reach of sexual industries, define normative sexual ethics, respond to sexual violence, and identify and pathologize sexual deviance. This programming theme will explore how culture, race, gender, class, technology, and language can simultaneously both constrain and create greater opportunities for sexual acts, interpersonal intimacy, and pleasure-seeking.

The program is co-directed by Jeremy Alden Teissere, Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, and Cathy Marie Ouellette, Assistant Professor of History.


          1. Tuesday April 29, 2014
            7:30 PM
            Miller Forum Moyer Hall

            "Beyond Urban Myths and Sex Panics: Research with Survivors of Trafficking into Forced Labor"
            Denise Brennan
            Denise Brennan
            , Associate Professor of Anthropology, Georgetown University

          2. Most recent publication: What s Love Got to Do with It?: Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic
            Scholarly foci: sex industry in the Dominican Republic; connection between large structural forces in the globalized economy and their effects on individuals in a sex-tourist destination
            Library Resources on Denise Brennan

  1. The Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 schedule of program events can be found on the Current Program page.

The 2014-2015 academic year Center for Ethics program will focus on the theme of Civility and Disobedience. The incoming program directors will be Brian Mello, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Christine Sistare, Professor of Philosophy.

Stay up to date with Center For Ethics events through our Facebook page.

Bruce Wightman

  1. Director of the Center for Ethics
    Professor of Biology
    2400 Chew Street
    Allentown, PA 18104
    (ph) 484-664-3254

Muhlenberg College gratefully acknowledges
the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation's support
of the Center for Ethics.